The Shr Poems
There were at least three ways of regarding the Shr in the Warring States period. All have left traces in the Analects. In order of their appearance, they are:
(1) Political. The poems of the Fvng or folksong section of the Shr were thought to reflect the political morality of the states from which they were drawn, and thus the chance that those states might become politically dominant in an essentially moral world. Attention to the value of "vulgar" folklore is hinted at, and rebuked, in LY 6:13 (c0460). The idea that folk morality was indicative of the political soundness of a state appears fully developed in the Dzwo Jwan (Syang 29), from c0312. For these purposes of making judgements about sound and unsound polities, it was of course necessary to include some morally reprehensible material in the original collection.
(2) Social. Some poems were written by elite individuals as vehicles for personal expression. The earliest quote from such a poem is Dzvngdz's dying allusion to one of them in LY 8:3 (0436). Such a quotation presumes general familiarity with at least this portion of the Shr, in court circles. The merging of folk and elite poems into one repertoire is hinted at in 9:15 (c0405). Elite use of the resulting composite Shr is illustrated at many points in the Dzwo Jwan (c0312), by which time knowledge of the whole Shr repertoire, regardless of its moral value or original expressive intention, had evidently become a social and diplomatic necessity for the career officer.
(3) Moral. The Shr were also seen as a repertoire of moral examples. It is in this way that Shr 57 is expounded in 3:8 (0342). This approach can use only morally positive material, or material that can be positively interpreted without undue strain. It is thus in conflict with #1 above, which for its own purposes seeks to include some morally negative material in the collection. The depraved Jvng songs (Shr 75-95) are the great embarrassment for any general theory of moral value in the Shr. The idea that the lesson of the Shr is an injunction against impure thoughts is asserted in 2:2 (c0317), but it is easily refuted by quotation from the Shr itself, and it was evidently not a tenable position. The Jvng songs are complained of in *15:11(15a), from c0301, and in 17:16 and possibly also 17:8a, both from c0270.
After its last stand on the high ground of Approach #3, represented in 2:2 (c0317), the Lu school seems to have given up on that approach, and to have viewed the Shr thereafter as a socially necessary skill (Approach #2), in which aspiring gentlemen needed to train themselves, but not as a textbook of morals. The Shr are so treated in 16:1 (c0285), and again, with a gesture at their moral value, in 17:8a (c0270). It is notable that the Shr are never quoted in the late Analects. The last Shr quotation in the book, *14:39(18) from c0262, is not by Confucius but by a critic of Confucius. Confucius himself responds by calling it "vulgar." The Analects school was apparently not prepared to use any Shr unless all Shr could be expounded as morally positive.
Yen Hwei passes out of the Analects at the end of the 04c, only to reappear as a hero of the 03c Jwangdz text. In the same way, the Shr as a mainstay of moral explication vanish from the Analects to reappear as the standard authority cited by the 03c philosopher Sywndz, whose learned explications defined the style of Shr interpretation which is still dominant at the present moment. In all these matters, we see the Analects group at the turn of the century losing momentum, and texts, and key personalities, to younger and more imaginative movements which had their roots in more recent traditions. This is the deep historical meaning of the observation of Tswei Shu, that the end of the Analects, LY 16-20, is somehow disorganized and even demoralized in comparison to the earlier material, LY 1-15.
This Supplement is Copyright © 2001- by E Bruce and A Taeko Brooks
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