Custom Search

Duke Ai Criticized the King of Lu for Accepting the Caldron of Kao

(A historical event around 710 B.C.)

Tzuoo's Interpretation of Spring-Fall

    In April, the beginning of summer, the King of Country Lu accepted the worshipping caldron 1 of Country Kao from Country Sung. On the 20th, he placed it in his ancestral temple. The decision to display the bribe in public was improper.

    Duke Ai advised, "A king demonstrates virtue and opposes evil when addressing his court officials. He still worries that his country may suffer moral deterioration, so he emphasizes virtue when teaching his offspring. Consequently, he uses thatch to build the roof of his temple, paves the road with large leaves for his carriage, cooks meals without sauces and seasonings, and eats coarse rather than refined rice. He does all this in order to demonstrate frugality. Colorful clothes, hats with jade pendants, courtier tablets 2, belts, pants, puttees, hat trappings, and hairpins are used to show social propriety. The colored patterns on clothes and scarves, as well as decorations on sheathes, family flags, and a horse's reins follow esthetic principles. The embroidered dragons or fire on clothes, as well as the pattern of swords, axes and bows on pants symbolize the splendor of wisdom. Six colors that symbolize directions 3 are used to describe the character of a tangible object. The sound of bells on a horse's harness, on a carriage, and on family flags symbolizes rhythm and harmony. The embroidered sun, moon, stars, tigers, and dragons on flags symbolize enlightenment.

    "To help court officials gain virtue, a king must be frugal and adhere to social standards, understand gain and loss with wisdom, distill thoughtful writings and historical lessons into moral codes, and promote virtue using music or teachings. As a result, the court officials will be alert and careful. They will not dare to violate the law. Now you have accepted a bribe, established a rebel general as the king, put the bribe in your ancestral temple, and displayed it to the public. If the officials follow your example of accepting a bribe, how could you reproach them? The deterioration of a country starts from the corruption of its officials. The loss of their virtue is due to the encouragement of bribes and the practice of favoritism. Is there anything that would encourage more crime than putting the caldron of Kuo in the temple? After Emperor Wu conquered the Shang dynasty (1751 B.C.-1111 B.C.), he moved the worshipping caldron of Shang to City L instead of leaving the evil symbol at the capital. Despite their approval of sending the caldron away from the capital, there were some virtuous critics who reproached him for keeping the evil symbol at all. Considering this, how can you put a caldron symbolizing a bribe in your ancestral temple?"

    The king ignored Duke Ai's criticism. The Official Historian of the Emperor of Chou heard the story and said, "Duke Ai had a great vision of Country Lu's future. Although the king violated the law, the duke did not forget to admonish him by emphasizing moral principles."

1 The rebel general, Hua, of Country Sung killed his king and declared himself king. The King of Lu united his army at City C with those of the King of Country Chyi, the King of Country Chen, and the King of Country Cheng. They attempted to crush the rebellion. General Hua bribed each of the above kings. The King of Lu accepted the caldron as a bribe. Utimately, the above kings all agreed to establish the rebel general as the King of Country Sung.

2 A courtier tablet is a tablet about three feet long, made of ivory, jade, wood, or bamboo, held before the breast by courtiers in audience before the emperor.

3 Deep red represents heaven, yellow represents earth, greens represents east, white represents west, red represents south, and black represent north.