Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 3

Abuse of Proprieties in Ceremonies and Music

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Confucius alluded to the head of the Ki family, and the eight lines of posturers before their ancestral hall. The Chief of the Ki clan was virtually the Duke of Lu, under whom Confucius for a time held office.

These posturers were mutes who took part in the ritual of the ancestral temple, waving plumes, flags, etc. Each line or rank of these contained eight men.

Only in the sovereign’s household should there have been 8 lines of them.

  • A ducal family like the Ki should have had but 6 lines
  • A great official had 4
  • A lower official had 2

These were the gradations marking the status of families. Confucius’s sense of propriety was offended at the Ki’s usurping in this way the appearance of royalty.


The Ki allowed himself to go to that extent. To what extent will he not allow himself to go?

During the Removal of the sacred vessels after sacrifice, the Three Families were in the habit of using the hymn which drew Princes to worship Heaven’s Son, the great and dread.

How can such words be appropriated in the ancestral hall of the Three Families?

Where a man does not have the proper feelings, how will he stand as regards the Rules of Propriety?

In such a case, what shall we say of his sense of harmony*?

*Three great families related to each other, in whose hands the government of the State of Lu then was, and of which the Ki was the chief

The Rules of Propriety were based on what radical idea?

Ah! that is a large question.

In areas where extravagance is likely, the rules demand economy.

In areas that relate to mourning, and those which are easily satisfied, it wants real sorrow.

During the disorderly times, the North and East barbarians had Chieftains when we in this great country had none. We had lost these distinctions!

Confucius alluded to the Chief of the Ki family worshipping on Tai-shan which is one of the five sacred mountains, worshipped on only by the sovereign.

Confucius to Yen Yu:

Cannot you save him from this?
It is beyond my power.

Does it mean that the spirits of T’ai-shan have not as much discernment as Lin Fang?

The superior man has no contentiousness. He is very competitive, as in archery competitions. Yet he will be courteous and bow and go up for the forfeit-cup, and come down again and give it to his competitor.

In his very contest he is still the superior man."

What inference might be drawn from the lines?

Dimples playing in witching smile. Beautiful eyes, so dark, so bright! Oh, and her face may be thought the while Colored by art, red rose on white!

Coloring requires a pure and clear background."

Then it means the rules of ceremony require to have a background!

You caught the drift of my thought. You may well introduce a discussion on the Odes.

I can describe the ceremonial adopted and enforced by the Hi dynasty. Although their own descendants in the State of Ki are unable to justify its use there.

I can also describe the ceremonial of the Yin dynasty. Although none of the Sung people can explain why it should continue amongst themselves.

Why not?

Because they have not enough documents, nor enough learned men. If had, I could refer them to them in support of their usage.

When I am at the great quinquennial sacrifice to the manes of the royal ancestors, from the pouring-out of the oblation onwards, I have no one to look on.

What was the purport of that great sacrifice?

I do not know. The Emperor might know.

When he offered sacrifices to his ancestors and other spirits, he used to act as if they were in front of him.

If I myself do not take part in my offerings, it is all the same as if I did not offer them.

What does ‘Better to court favor in the kitchen than in the drawing-room’ mean?
It is better to say: ‘He who has sinned against Heaven has none other to whom prayer may be addressed.’

Confucius’ Obsession with Ceremonies

The Chow Dynasty looks back on 2 other dynasties. What a rich possession it has in its records of those times! I follow Chow!"

On his first entry into the grand temple, he asked about every matter connected with its usages. Someone thereupon remarked:

Confucius does not understand ceremonial.

Confucius heard this:

What I did is part of the ceremonial! In archery, the great point to be observed is not simply the perforation of the leather; for men have not all the same strength. That was the fashion in the olden days.

He saw that his disciple Tsz-Kung wanted the ceremonial observance of offering a sheep at the new moon to be disregarded.


Ah! you grudge the loss of the sheep; I grudge the loss of the ceremony.

To serve one’s ruler nowadays, fully complying with the Rules of Propriety, is regarded by others as toadyism!

How should a prince deal with his ministers? How should they in turn serve their prince?
A prince should observe the proprieties in dealing with his ministers. A minister should observe the duty of loyalty when serving his prince.
The First of the Odes was mirthful without being lewd, and sad also without being painful.
Tsai Wo, what are the places for sacrificing to the Earth?

The Family of the Great Yu, of the Hi dynasty, chose a place of pine trees.

The Yin founders chose cypresses

The Chow founders chose chestnut trees, solemn and majestic, to inspire the people with feelings of awe.

Never an allusion to things that have been enacted in the past! Never a remonstrance against what is now going on! He has gone away without a word of censure."

Kwan Chung was a renowned statesman, regarded as a sage, who flourished 200 years before Confucius’s time. He wrote a philosophical work on law and government. Confucius thinks he lacked needful propriety.

Kwan Chung was a small-minded miserly man.
He married 3 times and restricted his official business to too few hands. How could he be miserly?
He knew the Rules of Propriety, I suppose?"

He saw that the feudal lords planted a screen at their gates, he too would have one at his!

He saw that when any 2 of the feudal lords met in friendly conclave they had an earthenware stand on which to place their inverted cups after drinking, he must have the same!

If he knew the Rules of Propriety, then everyone knows the rules


Confucius was in a discourse to the Chief Preceptor of Music at the court of Lu


Music is an intelligible thing.

When you begin a performance, let all the various instruments produce as it were one sound (inharmonious). Then, as you go on, bring out the harmony fully, distinctly, and with uninterrupted flow, unto the end.

The warden of the border-town of I requested an interview with Confucius.

When great men have come here, I have never yet failed to obtain a sight of them." The followers introduced him; and, on leaving, he said to them, “Sirs, why grieve at his loss of office? The empire has for long been without good government; and Heaven is about to use your master as its edict-announcer.

Confucius compared the music of the emperor Shun with the music of King Wu:


The music of Shun is beautiful throughout, and also good throughout.

That of Wu is all of it beautiful, but scarcely all of it good


How should I look on when:

  • high stations are occupied by men who have no large and generous heart
  • ceremonial performed with no reverence
  • duties of mourning engaging the attention, where there is absence of sorrow

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