Records of the Grand Historian 史記 《殷本紀》 Annals of Yin
Qi of Yin’s mother was Jian Di, who was one of the daughters of Yousong and the secondary wife of Emperor Ku. She was going with her two sisters to bathe, when she saw a dark bird drop its egg. Jian Di picked it up, and swallowed it, and thus being with child gave birth to Qi. When Qi grew up, he was successful in assisting Yu to control the flood, and the Emperor Shun, directing Qi, said: The people are wanting in affection for one another, and do not observe the five orders of relationship. You, as Minister of Instruction, should reverently inculcate the lessons of duty belonging to those five orders, but do so with gentleness. He held in fief the principality of Shang, and was given the surname of Zi (son). Qi flourished in the reigns of Yao, Shun, and the great Yu. His services were manifest to the people, who were accordingly at peace.
Qi (documents) died, and his son Zhaoming (luminous) succeeded him. Zhaoming died, and his son Xiangtu (view land) succeeded him. Xiangtu died, and his son Chang Ruo (bright-like) succeeded him. Chang Ruo died, and his son Cao Yu (cattle-pens) succeeded him. Zao Yu died, and his son Ming (obscure) succeeded him. Ming died, and his son Zhen (shake) succeeded him. Zhen died, and his son Wei (diminutive) succeeded him. Wei died, and his son Baoding (report D) succeeded him. Baoding died, and his son Baoyi (report B) succeeded him. Baoyi died, and his son Baobing (report C) succeeded him. Baobing died, and his son Zhuren (lord I) succeeded him. Zhuren died, and his son Zhu gui (lord J) succeeded him. Zhu Gui died, and his son Tian Yi (Heaven B) or Tang the Completer succeeded him.
From Qi to Tang the Completer there were eight changes of the capital. Tang at first dwelt in Bo, choosing the residence of the first king, and the ‘Emperor’s Announcement’ was written.
When Tang made an expedition against the princes, the chief of Ge was not offering the proper sacrifices, and Tang began by punishing him. Tang said: ‘I observe that if a man looks at the water he sees his reflection; if he seeks to make an impression on the people, should he not know how to govern?’ Yiyin said: ‘That is clear! If you say that you will listen to reason you may offer yourself as ruler of the State. Whether the people do right or not depends entirely on the king and his ministers. Rouse yourself to action!’ Tang said: ‘If you cannot respect my commands, I will inflict upon you the extreme penalty death. You will not obtain forgiveness.’ The punitive expedition of Tang was written.
Yiyin’s name was A-Heng. A-Heng wanted to meet Tang, but had no opportunity of doing so; he therefore became cook to the prince of Xin, and while bringing Tang dishes to taste urged him to perfect himself in the way of the ancient kings. Some say that when Yiyin was living in retirement Tang sent five times to invite him to a meeting before he would obey him, and talk about matters connected with the guileless king and the nine rulers. Tang promoted Ren to the administration of affairs. Yiyin went from Tang to Xia. Being indignant with the sovereign of Xia, he returned to Bo, and as he entered by the north gate met Rujiu and Rufang, and the ‘Rujiu’ and ‘Rufang’ were written.
Tang went out and saw a rustic, who was spreading nets in every direction, and vowing that every bird in the sky should go into his net. Tang said, ‘What! all?’ Then, taking away the nets on three sides, he vowed that those which wanted to go to the left should go left, and those which wanted to go right should go right, and that only those which were the victims of fate should be caught in the net. The princes, hearing of it, said, ‘Tang’s kindness is extreme, and extends even to birds and beasts.’
At this time Jie of Xia was oppressive, and his rule dissipated, and one of the princes Kunwu rebelled, so Tang, levying an army, put himself at the head of the princes. Yiyin followed Tang, who, grasping a halberd, marched against Kunwu, and then attacked Jie. Tang said: Come, ye multitudes of the people, listen ye all to my words. It is not I, the little child, who dare to raise a rebellion. The ruler of Xia has committed many crimes. I have indeed heard the words of you all, but the Xia ruler is an offender, and, as I fear the Supreme god, I dare not but punish him. Now, as the Xia ruler has committed many crimes, Heaven has charged me to destroy him. Now, ye multitudes, you are saying, ‘Our sovereign does not compassionate us; he disregards our husbandry, and his government is a cruel one.’ You say, ‘As to his crimes, what remedy have we?’ The king of Xia does nothing but exhaust his people’s strength, and treat the kingdom of Xia oppressively. His people have all become idle, and are not in harmony with him, saying, ‘When will this sun set? We shall all perish together.’ Such being the conduct of the sovereign of Xia, I must advance. If you help me, the one man, to carry out the punishment decreed by Heaven, and I will greatly reward you. On no account disbelieve me. I will not retract my words. If you do not carry out the words of my speech, I will put you and your children to death; you shall not be pardoned. This being announced to the army, the speech of Tang was written. Tang then said, ‘I am very warlike’; and he was styled the ‘warlike king.’
Jie was defeated in the wilds of Yousong, and fled to Mingtiao. The army of Xia being entirely defeated, Tang smote Sanzong, where he captured the precious jewels. Yibo and Zhongbo wrote the ‘Statutes and Jewels.’ When Tang had conquered Xia, he wished to remove the altars to the spirits of the land, but was unable to do so, and the ‘Altar of Xia’ was written. Yiyin made a report, and the princes being satisfied, Tang ascended the Imperial throne, and tranquillized the country within the four seas.
When Tang returned he came to Taijuantao, and Zhonglei wrote his announcement. Having made an end of the sovereignty of Xia, Tang returned to Bo and wrote the ‘Announcement of Tang.’ In the third month the king came himself to the eastern suburb and made the following announcement to the princes and nobles: ‘If you do not perform meritorious service for the people and be diligent in your business, I shall inflict the extreme punishment of death. Do not murmur against me.’ He also said: ‘Formerly Yu and Gaoyao laboured long in distant regions. They performed meritorious service for the people, who dwelt in peace. On the east there was the Great river, on the north the Ji, on the west the Yellow river, and on the south the Huai. These four streams were kept within bounds, and the people dwelt in safety. Prince Millet told them how to sow and cultivate the various kinds of grain. These three chiefs all performed meritorious service for the people, and were therefore ennobled. Formerly Chiyou and his officers raised a rebellion among the people but the [Yellow] Emperor disapproved, and his crimes were exposed. The words of the former kings cannot but rouse you to action. If you are unprincipled you shall not rule in the State. ‘Do not murmur against me.’ Thus he directed the princes. Yiyin wrote the book ‘Both possessed pure Virtue,’ and Jiudan wrote the ‘Illustrious Abode.’
Tang altered the day of the New Year, and changed the colour of the dresses, white being uniformly worn at State functions.
After the demise of Tang his eldest son, Taiding (Great D), died before he could come to the throne; and so Taiding’s younger brother Waibing (Outer C), that is Emperor Waibing, came to the throne. Emperor Waibing reigned three years, and died, and his brother Zhongren (Middle I), that is Emperor Zhongren, came to the throne. Emperor Zhongren reigned four years, and died. Yiyin then set Taiding’s son, Taijia (Great A), on the throne. He was Tang the Completer’s eldest legitimate grandson. This was Emperor Taijia. In the first year of Emperor Taijia, Yiyin wrote the ‘Instructions of Yi,’ the ‘Declaration of the Appointment of Heaven,’ and the ‘Deceased Sovereign.’
After Emperor Taijia had been on the throne three years, he proved unintelligent and cruel. He did not obey Tang’s laws, and his conduct was disorderly, so Yiyin placed him in the Dryandra (palace). For three years Yiyin administered the government, and as ruler of the State gave audience to the nobles.
After the Emperor Taijia had dwelt in the Dryandra palace for three years, he repented of his errors, blamed himself, and amended his ways. Whereupon Yiyin met the Emperor Taijia and resigned to him the reins of government. Emperor Taijia became virtuous, the princes all returned to the Yin capital, and the people were tranquil. Yiyin praised him, and wrote the ‘Instructions to Taijia’ in three books. Commending Emperor Taijia, he honoured him with the title of ‘Great Master.’
‘Great Master’ died, and his son Woding (Glossy D) came to the throne. In Emperor Woding’s reign, Yiyin died. When they had buried Yiyin at Bo, Jiu Dan set forth as lessons the doings of Yiyin; and the ‘Woding’ was written.
Wuting died, and his brother Taigeng (Great G), that is Emperor Taigeng, came to the throne. Emperor Taigeng died, and his son Emperor Xiaojia (Little A) came to the throne. Emperor Xiaojia died, and his brother Yongji (Harmonious F), that is Emperor Yongji, came to the throne. The influence of the Yin dynasty beginning to decline, the princes occasionally neglected to come to court.
Emperor Yongji died, and his brother Taiwu (Great E), that is Emperor Taiwu, came to the throne. In his reign Yizhi became prime minister, when there were omens in Bo, for a mulberry tree and a stalk of grain grew up together in the court. They attained full size in one evening, and Emperor Taiwu, being alarmed, questioned Yizhi on the subject. Yizhi said: ‘I, your servant, have heard that virtue is not overcome by evil omens. There may be defects in your Majesty’s government, but let your Majesty cultivate virtue.’ Taiwu followed his advice, and the ominous mulberry withered away. Yizhi consulted with Xian the wizard, who governed the king’s household admirably, and wrote the ‘Xian-ai’ and the ‘Taiwu.’ Emperor Taiwu spoke on the subject with Yizhi in court, and said he was disloyal. Yizhi gave up his post, and wrote the original commands. Yin prospered again, and the princes gave their allegiance to the Emperor, who was called Middle Master.
Middle Master died, and his son Emperor Zhongding (Middle D) came to the throne. Emperor Zhongding removed to Ao. Hedanjia lived in Xiang. Zuyi removed to Geng. Emperor Zhongding died, and his brother Wairen (Outer I), that is Emperor Wairen, came to the throne. The omissions in the book ‘Zhongding’ were not supplied. Emperor Wairen died, and his brother Hedanjia (River Truth A), that is Emperor Hedanjia, came to the throne. In his time the influence of Yin again began to wane.
Hedanjia died, and his son Emperor Zuyi (Ancestor B) came to the throne. In Emperor Zuyi’s time Yin again prospered, and the wizard Xian held office.
Zuyi died, and his son Emperor Zuxin (Ancestor H) came to the throne. Emperor Zuxin died, and his brother Wojia (Glossy A), i.e. Emperor Wojia, came to the throne. Emperor Wojia died, and Zuding (Ancestor D), that is Emperor Zuding, who was Wojia’s elder brother, was put on the throne. Emperor Zuding died, and his brother Wojia’s son, Nangeng (South G), that is Emperor Nangeng, was put on the throne. Emperor Nangeng died, and Emperor Zuding’s son Yangjia (Male A), that is Emperor Yangjia, was put on the throne. In his reign the power of the Yins declined.
Ever since the reign of Zhongding the legitimate heir had been set aside, and junior scions put on the throne instead. These used to fight and displace each other. For the last nine generations there had been anarchy, and the princes neglected to come to court.
Emperor Yangjia died, and his brother Pangeng (Plate G), that is Emperor Pangeng, came to the throne. In his reign the Yins had their capital on the north of the Yellow river, but Pangeng crossed to the south of the river, and reoccupied the old palace of Tang the Completer. This made the fifth change of capital, and, as they had no fixed place of abode, the people of Yin murmured and repined, for they did not like moving about. Pangeng made the following announcement to the princes and ministers: ‘Formerly our exalted sovereign Tang the Completer, in conjunction with your ancestors, decided what laws and regulations of the empire should be attended to or set aside, but if you do not make an effort how can you attain perfection?’ He then crossed over to the south of the river, set up his capital at Bo, and having adopted Tang’s system of government, the people were thereby tranquillized, and the fortunes of Yin were again in the ascendant. The princes came to court, and were influenced by the virtues of Tang the Completer.
Emperor Pangeng died, and his brother Xiaoxin (Little H), that is Emperor Xiaoxin, came to the throne. In his reign the power of Yin was again on the wane. The people remembered Pangeng, and 1the ‘Pangeng’ in three parts was written. Emperor Xiaoxin died, and his brother Xiaoyi (Little B), that is Emperor Xiaoyi, came to the throne.
Emperor Xiaoyi died, and his son Emperor Wuding (Martial D) came to the throne. When Emperor Wuding was on the throne, he pondered how the Yin dynasty could be revivified, but as he had not obtained an assistant he did not speak for three years, government affairs having to be conducted by the prime minister, who examined into the customs of the country. Wuding dreamed one night that he had found a holy man named Yue, and, in order that he might secure the man he had seen in his dream, he passed under review his officers and ministers of State, but not one of them was the right man. He then made all his officers search for him in the wilds, and Yue was discovered at the crag of Fu. At this time Yue was a clerk, not a builder at the crag of Fu. He had an audience of Wuding, who said, ‘That is the right man.’ Having talked with him, and finding that he really was a holy man, Wuding promoted him to be his prime minister. The kingdom of Yin was well governed in consequence, and he was named after the crag of Fu, being called Fu Yue.
Wuding was sacrificing to Tang the Completer the next day, when a pheasant flew up, lighted on the ear of a tripod, and crowed. Wuding was alarmed, but Zuji (Ancestor F) said the king should not be anxious; he must first rectify the administration of affairs. Zuji accordingly lectured the king, saying, ‘In its superintendence over men below, Heaven pays special regard to their proper behaviour, and bestows on them accordingly length of years or the reverse. Heaven does not cut short men’s lives; they bring them to an end themselves. Some men may not have conformed to virtue, and will not acknowledge their crimes; Heaven then charges them to correct their conduct, but they say, ‘What shall we do?’ Ah! the king should continuously treat the people with respect. Are they not Heaven’s descendants? Be constant in sacrificing, and do not worship with the rites of a discarded religion.’ Wuding instituted a government reform, and practised virtue. The whole nation rejoiced, and the fortunes of Yin again flourished.
Emperor Wuding died, and his son Emperor Zugeng (Ancestor G) came to the throne. Zuji commended Wuding for considering the omen of the pheasant as a ground for practising virtue, and conferred on him the posthumous title of ‘exalted ancestor,’ and the ‘Day of the Supplementary Sacrifice of Gaozong’ and the ‘Instructions [to Gaozong]’ were written.
Emperor Zugeng died, and his brother Zujia (Ancestor A), that is Emperor Jia, came to the throne. He was dissipated, and the fortunes of Yin again waned.
Emperor Jia died, and his son Emperor Linxin (Granary H) sat on the throne. Emperor Linxin died, and his brother Gengding (G. D), that is Emperor Gengding, sat on the throne. Emperor Gengding died, and his son Emperor Wuyi (Martial B) sat on the throne. The Yins again left Bo, and crossed to the north bank of the river.
The Emperor Wuyi was unprincipled and made images, which he called ‘Heavenly gods.’ With these he played chess, ordering some one to make the moves for them; and when the ‘celestial gods’ did not win he abused them, and making a leather bag, filled it with blood, threw it up and shot at it. This he called shooting at Heaven. While Wuyi was hunting between the Yellow and Wei rivers, there was a clap of thunder, and Wuyi was struck dead by lightning. His son Emperor Taiding (Great D) came to the throne. Emperor Taiding died, and his son Emperor Yi (B) sat on the throne. In his reign the fortunes of Yin declined still further.
Emperor Yi’s (B) eldest son was Qi, viscount of Wei. Qi’s mother being of low caste, he could not be heir to the throne. His younger son was Xin (X), whose mother was the principal consort, and so he became the heir-apparent. Emperor Yi died, and his son Xin sat on the throne. Emperor Xin was called by everybody in the empire Zhou (the tyrant).
Emperor Zhou’s discrimination was acute, his hearing and sight particularly good, his natural abilities extraordinary, and his physical strength equal to that of a wild beast. He had cunning enough to evade reproofs, and volubility enough to gloss over his faults. He boasted that he was above his ministers on the ground of ability, and that he surpassed the people of the empire on account of his reputation. He indulged in wine, women, and lusts of all sorts. His partiality for Taji (Actress F) caused him to carry out whatever she desired, so that his ministers had to devise new forms of dissipation, the most depraved dances and extravagant music; he increased the taxation in order to fill the Stag tower with money, and to store the granary at ‘Big bridge.’ He made a collection of dogs, horses, and curiosities, with which he filled his palaces; and enlarging his parks and towers at Shaqiu, procured numbers of wild beasts and birds and put them therein. He slighted the spirits, assembled a great number of play actors at Shaqiu, made a pond of wine, hung the trees with meat, made men and women chase each other about quite naked, and had drinking bouts the whole night long.
The people murmured, and when the nobles rebelled Zhouxin increased the severity of his punishments, instituting the punishment of roasting. He appointed Chang Chief of the West, the prince of Jiu, and the prince of E his three principal ministers. The prince of Jiu had a beloved daughter who was sent in to the emperor, and when she disapproved of his debaucheries the tyrant killed her in his rage, and made mincemeat of her father. The prince of E objected, and vehemently remonstrated with him, whereupon he was sliced to pieces. Chang Chief of the West, hearing of all this, sighed furtively, but ‘Tiger’ the prince of Chong, being aware of it, informed the tyrant, who thereupon cast Chief of the West into prison at Youli. His servant Hongyao and others procured a pretty girl, rare curiosities, and fine horses, which they presented to the tyrant, who thereupon pardoned Chief of the West. The latter went forth and gave the country to the west of the Luo river to the tyrant, and begged that he would abolish the punishment of roasting. The emperor agreed to this, and gave him bows, arrows, axes, and halberds, with a commission to start on a warlike expedition. He was appointed Chief of the West, and Feizhong was employed in the government. Feizhong was fond of flattery and greedy of gain, so the men of Yin were not attached to him. The tyrant also gave Elai an appointment, but Elai was fond of vilifying persons, so the princes became more and more estranged from the court.
Now Chief of the West, on returning from his expedition, secretly cultivated virtue, and was charitable; many of the princes revolted from the tyrant and gave their allegiance to Chief of the West, who from this time gained in influence, while the tyrant rather lost his authority. The monarch’s son Bigan remonstrated with his father, but he was not listened to. Shangrong praised his worth, and the people loved him, but the tyrant set him aside. Chief of the West marched against and conquered the Ji State, and the tyrant’s minister Zu-yi heard of it, and blaming [the house of] Zhou hurried off in alarm to report it to the tyrant. He said: ‘Heaven is bringing to an end the destiny of our dynasty of Yin; great men and the ancient tortoise do not venture to foretell good fortune. It is not that the former kings do not aid us men of this later time; but you, O king, by your dissoluteness and oppression are cutting yourself off. Heaven has therefore rejected us; we do not eat our meals in peace, we do not consider our heavenly nature, we do not follow and observe the statutes. Our people are now all longing for the destruction of the dynasty, saying, Why does not Heaven send down its awe-inspiring authority? Why is not its great decree manifested? What remedy is there against the present king?’ The tyrant said: ‘Is not my life secured by the decree of Heaven?’ Zu-yi returned, and said, ‘The tyrant cannot be remonstrated with.’ Chief of the West having died, King Wu of Zhou in his march eastward arrived at the ford of Meng. The princes revolted, and 800 princes of the house of Zhou having assembled declared that the tyrant ought to be attacked. King Wu said, ‘You know nothing of Heaven’s decree,’ and retired.
The tyrant abandoned himself all the more to lust and dissipation, and the viscount of Wei remonstrated with him several times, but he would not heed, so having consulted with the senior and junior tutors the viscount of Wei withdrew from court. Bigan said, ‘A minister cannot but argue to the death’; he accordingly remonstrated vehemently with the tyrant, who in a rage said, ‘I have heard that the heart of a holy man has seven apertures,’ and cut Bigan open to look at his heart. The viscount of Ji, in terror, then feigned himself mad, and became a slave, and the tyrant again imprisoned him. The senior and junior tutors of Yin, accordingly, taking the sacrificial and musical implements, hastened to the Zhou State, and King Wu of Zhou upon this marched at the head of the princes to attack the tyrant, who also sent out an army to withstand him in the plain of Mu. On the day Jiazi the tyrant’s troops were beaten, and he himself fled to the Stag tower, which he ascended, and, putting on his gorgeous robes and jewels, burnt himself to death. King Wu of Zhou then cut off the tyrant’s head and exhibited it on a pole; he also slew Daji, released the viscount of Ji from prison, raised a tumulus over the grave of Bigan, and made a eulogy to the memory of Shangrong. His sons, Wugeng and Lufu, were appointed to continue the sacrifices to the Yins. He restored Pangeng’s mode of administration, and the people of Yin were greatly rejoiced. Whereupon King Wu of Zhou became Son of Heaven (emperor). His descendants abolished the title of Di (divine emperor), and called themselves kings (Wang); and the descendants of the Yins were made princes subordinate to the house of Zhou.
After the death of King Wu of Zhou, Wugeng, Guanshu, and Caishu rebelled. King Cheng ordered the duke of Zhou to execute them, and the viscount of Wei was established in the Song State to continue (the ancestral worship as) a descendant of the Yins.
Source: Chinese Text Project http://ctext.org/shiji Partial translation adapted from Herbert J. Allen’s “Ssŭma Ch’ien’s Historical Records” (Royal Asiatic Society, 1894).