The Epitaph Honoring Ji Zi 1

Liu, Zong-Yuan (773 A.D.-819 A.D.)

    A great man loves to suffer for virtue, shows his emperor the guiding principles of governing, and teaches people how to improve their lives.

    Ji Zi of the Shang dynasty, Emperor Zhou's uncle, was a virtuous man who possessed these qualities and used them to establish his reputation. Therefore, Confucius frequently quoted the stories of Ji Zi to illustrate important points in the Six Bibles. During Emperor Zhou's reign, the government's policies were unreasonable and chaotic. Zhou was a tyrant who was indifferent even to God's mighty omens. It was futile for virtuous men to admonish him. Bi Gan, Emperor Zhou's uncle, was sentenced to death because his advice offended the emperor. Bi Gan was a virtuous man, but his death did not serve God's purpose. Therefore, Ji Zi did not follow his lead. Wei Zi, Emperor Zhou's brother, offered his advice many times, but the emperor did not accept it. As a consequence, Wei Zi left his country. He saved his life to serve God. It can be said that Wei Zi was a virtuous man; however, his action was equivalent to abandoning his country to destruction. Therefore, Ji Zi did not have the heart to follow Wei's path. Thus, it can be said that Ji Zi was the only one of these men who promoted God's principles and also showed love for his country.

    In order to serve God, Ji Zi protected his body from Emperor Zhou's persecution. He pretended to be insane and followed crowds whether they floated or dove. His strategy was to hide his talents and endure the shame of being a prisoner and slave. Although he could not realize his dream during Emperor Zhou's reign, he kept his virtue. Despite his failure, he made a sustained effort toward his goal. Consequently, the Bible of Change says, "Ji Zi was the one who could pursue virtue even as he suffered imprisonment during a tyrant's reign." That is, Ji Zi loved to suffer for virtue.

    After the Shang dynasty was destroyed, Emperor Wu established the Zhou dynasty. China's politics were on the right track. At this time, Ji Zi showed Emperor Wu the principles of governing and became his mentor. As a consequence, people of the Zhou dynasty used ethics to guide their lives and established the codes of great law. Consequently, the Bible of Journalism explains that "this was because Ji Zi returned to compile the codes of law by synthesizing the experiences of wise emperors." That is, Ji Zi showed Emperor Wu the guiding principles of governing.

    After Ji Zi became the King of Korea, he set moral standards for the local customs and popularized virtue. No matter how poor or remote a place, he taught its people to follow moral codes. Thus, he continued the Shang dynasty’s service to God 2, taught virtue to local people, and improved their lives. Ji Zi was the one who embodied all these virtues. No matter how the world changed, he remained a virtuous man. It can be said that he truly was a great man.

    As you recall, after Bi Gan died and Wei Zi left the country, there was a brief period before the Shang dynasty ended and the Zhou dynasty was established. If Tyrant Zhou had died during this period, before his evil had fully developed, Wu-Gen 3 would have become emperor. If as emperor, Wu-Gen had worried about the devastation his father had wrought, and had tried to revive the country, who could have helped him govern? In view of human affairs, it was quite possible that this could have happened. Ji Zi hid his talent and endured shame because he saw this possibility and wanted to be able to help Wu-Gen.

    During the Tang dynasty, a temple to Ji Zi was established in Ji Country. People honored him on his birthday every year. I was impressed that Confucious singled him out as an example in the Bible of Change. Consequently, I wrote this eulogy to praise him.

1 Ji Zi of the Shang dynasty (1600 B.C.-1046 B.C.) was Emperor Zhou's uncle. The emperor put him into prison because he found Ji Zi's advice offensive. There, to protect his life, Ji Zi mingled with slaves and pretended to be insane. After Emperor Wu destroyed the Shang dynasty, Ji Zi showed him the principles of governing. He then led 5000 people in an escape to Korea, and became its king. Emperor Wu treated him as a king rather than his official. Today, Ji Zi's tomb in Pyongyang, North Korea is the historical evidence of his exodus. In the Chinese version, Ji Zi is considered the ancestor of the Koreans.

2 The emperors of the Shang dynasty were required to report what they had accomplished for God's purpose in an annual worship service.

3 Wu-Gen was the son of Emperor Zhou. Later, Prince-Regent Zhou of the Zhou dynasty, offered him the title of duke to recognize his status as an heir of the previous dynasty.