The Stone Tablet in The Temple of Loe-Tzee, by Sid Doe Hung of Tsoyd Dynasty


Translated into English by James Legge, 1891


After the Thai Gic (or Primal Ether) commenced its action, the earliest period of time began to be unfolded.

The curtain of the sky was displayed, and the sun and moon were suspended in it; the four-cornered earth was established, and the mountains and streams found their places in it. Then the subtle influences (of the Ether) operated like the heaving of the breath, now subsiding and again expanding; the work of production went on in its seasons above and below; all things were formed as from materials, and were matured and maintained. There were the (multitudes of the) people; there were their rulers and superiors.

As to the august sovereigns of the highest antiquity, living as in nests on trees in summer, and in caves in winter, silently and spirit-like they exercised their wisdom. Dwelling like quails, and drinking (the rain and dew) like newly-hatched birds, they had their great ceremonies like the great terms of heaven and earth, not requiring to be regulated by the dishes and stands; and (also) their great music corresponding to the common harmonies of heaven and earth, not needing the guidance of bells and drums.

By and by there came the loss of the Tao, when the Virtue took its place; and then the Virtue were lost, there came the Benevolence. Under the Sovereigns and Kings that followed, now more slowly and anon more rapidly, the manners of the people, from being good and simple, became bad and mean. Thereupon came the Literati and the Mohists with their confused contentions; names and rules were everywhere diffused. The 300 rules of ceremony could not control men's natures; the 3000 rules of punishment were not sufficient to put a stop to their treacherous villanies. But he who knows how to cleanse the current of a stream begins by clearing out its source, and he who would straighten the end of a process must commence with making its beginning correct. Is not the Great Tao the Grand Source and the Grand Origin of all things?

The Master Loe was conceived under the influence of a star. Whence he received the energy (of life) we cannot fathom, but he pointed to the (plum-) tree (under which he was born), and adopted it as his surname (LEY); we do not understand whence came the musical sounds (that were heard), but he kept his marvellous powers concealed in the womb for more than seventy years. When he was born, the hair on his head was already white, and he took the designation of 'The Old Boy' (or Loe-tzee). In his person, three gateways and two (bony) pillars formed the distinctive marks of his ears and eyes; two of the symbols for five, and ten brilliant marks were left by the wonderful tread of his feet and the grasp of his hands. From the time of Foc-Hey down to that of the Tzao dynasty, in uninterrupted succession, dynasty after dynasty, his person appeared, but with changed names. In the times of kings Marn and Moe he discharged the duties, (first), of Curator of the Royal Library, and (next), of the Recorder under the Pillar. Later on in that dynasty he filled different offices, but did not change his appearance. As soon as Hs¨šen-Ney(Confucius) saw him, he sighed over him as 'the Dragon,' whose powers are difficult to be known. Whun, keeper of the (frontier) gate, keeping his eyes directed to every quarter, recognised the Real Person as he was hastening into retirement. (By Whun-Hey he was prevailed on) to put forth his extraordinary ability, and write his Book in two Parts (Tao Scripture & Virtue Scripture), -- to lead the nature (of man) back to the Tao, and celebrating the usefulness of 'doing nothing.' The style of it is very condensed, and its reasoning deep and far-reaching, The hexagram which is made up of the flying dragon is not to be compared with it in exquisite subtlety. (The Zo Kwan) which ends with the capture of the Lin, does not match it in its brightness and obscurity. If employed to regulate the person, the spirit becomes clear and the will is still. If employed to govern the state, the people return to simplicity, and become sincere and good. When one goes on to refine his body in accordance with it, the traces of material things are rolled away from it; in rainbow-hued robes and mounted on a stork he goes forwards and backwards to the purple palace; on its juice of gold and wine of jade he feasts in the beautiful and pure capital. He is lustrous as the sun and moon; his ending and beginning are those of heaven and earth. He who crosses its stream, drives away the dust and noise of the world; he who finds its gate, mounts prancing up on the misty clouds. It is not for the ephemeral fly to know the fading and luxuriance of the Great Spring, or for a Fong-Yi to fathom the depth of an Arm of the sea. Vast indeed (is the Tao)! words are not sufficient to describe its excellence and powers!

Tzorng-Tzao(Chuang Tzu) tells us, that, 'when Loe Tam died, Tsorn-Yud went to condole (with his son), but after crying out three times, immediately left the house.' This was what is called the ceremonial for his escaping to the Heaven , and although it appears as one of the metaphorical illustrations of the supercilious officer, yet it is also like a cicada's casting off its exuviae.


(A long paragraph is omitted)


Back in the depths of ancient time;
Remote, before the Tis began;
Four equal sides defined the earth,
And pillars eight the heaven sustained.
All living things in classes came,
The valleys wide, and mighty streams.
The Perfect Tao, with movement wise,
Unseen, Its work did naturally.

Having correspondence with the five essences,
and the succession of the three Subtleness
Shepherd and Lord established were,
And in their hands the ivory bonds.
The Tis must blush before the Hwangs;
The Worng must blush before the Tis.
More distant grew Tao's highest gifts,
And simple ways more rare became.

The still placidity was gone,
And all the old harmonious ways.
Men talents prized, and varnished wit;
The laws displayed proved but a net.
Wine-cups and stands the board adorned,
And shields and spears the country filled.
The close-meshed nets the fishes scared:
And numerous bows the birds alarmed.

Then did the Real Person get his birth,
As 'neath the Bear the star shone down.
All dragon gifts his person graced;
Like the stork's plumage was his hair.
The complicated he resolved, the sharp made blunt,
The mean rejected, and the generous chose;
In brightness like the sun and moon,
And lasting as the heaven and earth.

Small to him seemed the mountains five,
And narrow seemed the regions nine;
About he went with lofty tread,
And in short time he rambled far.
In carriage by black oxen drawn,
Around the purple air was bright.
Grottoes then oped to him their sombre gates,
And thence, unseen, his spirit power flowed forth.

The village near the stream of Ko
Traces of him will still retain;
But now, as in the days of old,
With changed times the world is changed.
His stately temple fell to ruin
His altar empty was and still;
By the nine wells dryandras grew,
And the twin tablets were but heaps of stone.

But when our emperor was called to rule,
Most divine and sage was he.
Earth's bells reverberated loud,
And light fell on the heavenly mirror down.
The universe in brightness shone,
And portents all were swept away;
(All souls), or bright or dark, revered,
And spirits came to take from him their law.

From desert sands and where the great trees grow,
From phoenix caves, and from the dragon woods,
All different creatures came sincere;
Men of all regions gave their hearts to him.
Their largest vessels brought their gifts,
And kings their rarest things described;
Black clouds a thousand notes sent forth;
And in the fragrant winds were citherns heard.

Through his transforming power, the tripods were made sure;
And families became polite and courteous.
Ever kept he in mind (the sage) beneath the Pillar,
Still emulous of the sovereigns most ancient.
So has he built this pure temple,
And planned its stately structure;
Pleasant, with hills and meadows around,
And lofty pavilion with its distant prospect.

Its beams are of plum-tree, its ridge-pole of cassia;
A balustrade winds round it; many are its pillars;
About them spreads and rolls the fragrant smoke;
Cool and pure are the breezes and mists.
The Immortal officers come to their places;
The Plumaged guests are found in its court,
Numerous and at their ease,
They send down blessing, bright and efficacious.

Most sacrosanct, unfathomable,
(Tao's) principles abide, with their symbolism attached.
Loud is Its note, but never sound emits,
Yet always it awakes the highest echoes.
From far and near men praise It;
In the shades, and in the realms of light, they look up for Its aid;
Reverently have we graven and gilt this stone
And made our lasting proclamation thereby to heaven and earth.

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