c. 1045 BC | Fenghao

View from the Top

Great, indeed, is the mandate of heaven.

King Wen is on high,
Oh, he shines in heaven!
Zhou is an old people,
but its mandate is new.
The leaders of Zhou became illustrious,
was not God’s mandate timely given?
King Wen ascends and descends
on the left and right of God.

August was King Wen,
continuously bright and reverent.
Great, indeed, was the mandate of heaven.
There were Shang’s gandsons and sons,
Shang’s grandsons and sons.
Was their number not a hundred thousand?
But the high god gave his mandate,
and they bowed down to Zhou.

The mandate is not easy to keep;
may it not end in your persons.
Display and make bright your good fame,
and consider what Yin had received from heaven.
The doings of high heaven
have no sound, no smell.
Make King Wen your pattern,
and all the states will trust in you.

© 1999 by Columbia University Press. Used with permission of Columbia University Press.

About This Text

From the Book of Odes. The first known anthology of Chinese poetry, this book is one of the Five Classics that together form the basis of the Confucian canon. Confucius is said to have compiled the collection himself. The founder of the Zhou Dynasty, King Wen was considered the model ruler.