“Order of posthumous names” (Shifa 謚法)

Chapter 53 of the Yi Zhou shu 逸周書

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In its present form, “Shifa” is a multi-layered text, compiled from two earlier sources during the medieval period. Its composite character is evident from its structure, because the tabular and non-tabular parts overlap and contradict in contents. The concluding note explicitly acknowledges that the text was created from two earlier ones. This final note is only preserved in the version of the text recorded in the Shiji zhengyi 史記正義 (Correct Meanings of the Shiji) composed by Zhang Shoujie 張守節 in 736. In addition, the version of Shiji zhengyi preserves the initial tabular arrangement of the text, which has been lost in the received Yi Zhou shu, leading to chaotic and illogical arrangement of records. For these reasons, the the Shiji zhengyi version is adopted as the base text for this translation.

1. Contextual setting.
The introduction describes the circumstances of the text’s initial composition by the Duke of Zhou 周公 and the Grand Duke 太公 at the moment when they were about to bury the body of King Wen 文王. This imaginary account serves to boost the text’s respectability by connecting it to the early Western Zhou, the time when China’s most essential cultural institutions were believed to have been established.

惟周公旦、太公望開嗣王業,建功于牧野,終將葬,乃制謚、遂敘謚法。

Duke of Zhou Dan and Grand Duke Wang approached the succession of kingly affairs. [The king] had completed a military achievement at the field of Mu. Finally, as they were about to bury [the king], they regulated the posthumous names and then put forth the order of [conferral of] posthumous names.

2. Theory of posthumous names.
The section describes posthumous names as “the trace left by the deeds”. This is influenced by the traditional understanding of posthumous names as results of a moral evaluation of the deceased soon after his death.

謚者,行之迹;號者,功之表;車服者,位之章也。是以大行受大名,細行受細名,行出於己,名生於人。

Posthumous names are the trace left by the deeds [during the lifetime]. Bynames are the demonstration of the achievements. Chariots and clothes are the manifestation of the position. Therefore, [the one] who commits great deeds receives a great name, [and the one] who commits petty deeds receives a petty name. The deeds originate from the self, but the name [by which a person is known] is given by the others.

3. Main tabular catalogue.
The main part of the text consists of a tabular catalogue. The first few entries contain interpretations of aristocratic titles (not strictly related to posthumous names as such), followed by the most reputable names related to the early Western Zhou kings. The catalogue tends to arrange the positively laden names at its front part, and the negative ones at the end. The position of the name Shen 神 (Divine) at the very beginning is possibly influenced by the medieval practice of putting this character at the beginning of multi-character imperial posthumous names.

民無能名曰神 一德不懈曰簡 The one whom nobody among the people can name is called Divine (Shen). The one who makes himself one with virtue and is never lenient is called Simple (Jian).
靖民則法曰皇 平易不訾曰簡 The one who quietens the people and observes the norms is called August (huang). The one who is easy-going and does not reproach is called Simple (Jian).
德象天地曰帝 尊賢貴義曰恭 The one who in his virtue is akin to Heaven and Earth is called Emperor (di). The one who esteems the wise and values the upright is called Pious (Gong).
仁義所往曰王 敬事供上曰恭 The one towards whom the humane and upright direct themselves is called king (wang). The one who is reverent in affairs and provides for the ruler is called Pious (Gong).
立志及眾曰公 尊賢敬讓曰恭 The one who, having established his will, reaches out to the multitudes is called duke (gong). The one who esteems the wise, is reverent and deferring is called Pious (Gong).
執應八方曰侯 既過能改曰恭 The one who, in administration, responds [to the needs of the people of] the eight directions, is called marquis (hou). The one who, having committed a mistake, is able to change his ways, is called Pious (Gong).
賞慶刑威曰君 執事堅固曰恭 The one who is generous in rewards and awe-inspiring in punishments is called lord (jun). The one who, in direction of affairs, is firm and steady, is called Pious (Gong).
從之成羣曰君 愛民長弟曰恭 The one whose followers gather in flocks is called lord (jun). The one who is merciful towards the people and behaves duly towards the senior and the junior is called Pious (Gong).
揚善賦簡曰聖 執禮御賓曰恭 The one who exalts the good and bestows gifts on the simple is called Sage (Sheng). The one who practices ritual and is hospitable to guests is called Pious (Gong).
敬賓厚禮曰聖 芘親之闕曰恭 The one who is reverent towards guests and solid in comportment is called Sage (Sheng). The one who covers the flaws of his relatives is called Pious (Gong).
照臨四方曰明 尊賢讓善曰恭 The one whose light shines upon the four cardinal directions is called Bright (Ming). The one who esteems the wise and defers to the good is called Pious (Gong).
譖訴不行曰明 威儀悉備曰欽 The one who does not act according to slander and accusations is called Bright (Ming). The one whose capacity to inspire awe and respectable demeanor are fully furnished is called Esteemed (Qin).
經緯天地曰文 大慮靜民曰定 The one who far and wide penetrates Heaven and Earth is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who is greatly concerned about the tranquility of the people is called Established (Ding).
道德博聞曰文 純行不爽曰定 The one whose way and virtue are broadly known is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who is pure in actions and has no blemish is called Established (Ding).
學勤好問曰文 安民大慮曰定 The one who is diligent in study and likes questioning is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who comforts the people and is greatly concerned is called Established (Ding).
慈惠愛民曰文 安民法古曰定 The one who is magnanimous and is merciful towards the people is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who comforts the people and models himself after antiquity is called Established (Ding).
愍民惠禮曰文 辟地有德曰襄 The one who grieves for the people, is graceful and courteous is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who expands his lands and has virtue is called Cultivating (Xiang).
賜民爵位曰文 甲冑有勞曰襄 The one who bestows titles and positions on the people is called Illustrous (Wen). The one who in military affairs has achievements is called Cultivating (Xiang).
綏柔士民曰德 小心畏忌曰僖 The one who conciliates the officers and the people is called Virtuous (De). The one who is careful and cautious is called Prudent (Xi).
諫争不威曰德 質淵受諫曰釐 The one who is not intimidating during remonstrances and debates is called Virtuous (De). The one who is profound in essence and accepts remonstrance is called Prosperous (Xi).
剛彊直理曰武 有罰而還曰釐 The one who is firmly resolute and straight in reasoning is called Martial (Wu). The one who starts a military campaign and returns in safety is called Prosperous (Xi).
威彊敵德曰武 溫柔賢善曰懿 The one who inspires awe in his resoluteness and follows the virtue is called Martial (Wu). The one who is warm and tender and intelligently kind is called Gallant (Yi).
克定禍亂曰武 心能制義曰度 The one who is able to settle calamities and turmoils is called Martial (Wu). The one who, in his heart, is able to establish rightness is called Commensurate (Du).
刑民克服曰武 聰明叡哲曰獻 The one who punishes the people and is able to subdue is called Martial (Wu). The one who is clever and astute is called Eminent (Xian).
夸志多窮曰武 知質有聖曰獻 The one who is unrestrained in intentions and multiplies privations is called Martial (Wu). The one who knows the essence and possesses sagacity is called Eminent (Xian).
安民立政曰成 五宗安之曰孝 The one who comforts the people and establishes the government is called Accomplished (Cheng). The one who comforts the relatives of five degrees of relationship is called Filial (Xiao).
淵源流通曰康 慈惠愛親曰孝 The one whose sources are profound and who flows throughout is called Blissful (Kang). The one who is magnanimous and merciful towards the relatives is called Filial (Xiao).
溫柔好樂曰康 秉德不回曰孝 The one who is warm and tender and favours joy is called Blissful (Kang). The one who adheres to virtue and does not turn back is called Filial (Xiao).
安樂撫民曰康 協時肇享曰孝 The one who, in comfort and joy, consoles the people is called Blissful (Kang). The one who initiates sacrificial offerings in accordance with time is called Filial (Xiao).
合民安樂曰康 執心克莊曰齊 The one who joins the people in comfort and joy is called Blissful (Kang). The one who directs his heart and is capable of austerity is called Wholesome (Qi).
布德執義曰穆 資輔共就曰齊 The one who promulgates the virtue and adheres to rightness is called Solemn (Mu). The one who provides material assistance and succeeds together [with those he helps] is called Wholesome (Qi).
中情見貌曰穆 甄心動懼曰頃 The one whose inner feelings become manifest in outer appearance is called Solemn (Mu). The one who shapes his heart and is fearful in actions is called Attentive (Qing).
容儀恭美曰昭 敏以敬慎曰頃 The one who, in his air and comportment, is pious and comely is called Radiant (Zhao). The one who is reverently cautious with nimbleness is called Attentive (Qing).
昭德有勞曰昭 柔德安眾曰靖 The one who emanates the virtue and has achievements is called Radiant (Zhao). The one who is soft in virtue and comforts the multitudes is called Quiet (Jing).
聖聞周達曰昭 恭已鮮言曰靖 The one whose fame, derived from his sagacity, reaches throughout is called Radiant (Zhao). The one who is pious by himself and has few words is called Quiet (Jing).
治而無眚曰平 寬樂令終曰靖 The one who, in governing, does not commit blunders is called Even (Ping). The one who, in magnanimity and comfort, finishes his days peacefully is called Quiet (Jing).
執事有制曰平 威德剛武曰圉 The one who, in direction of affairs, has orderliness is called Even (Ping). The one who is awe-inspiring in virtue and firm in martiality is called Harnessing (Yu).
布剛治紀曰平 彌年壽考曰胡 The one who promulgates the basic principles and governs with discipline is called Even (Ping). The one who, saturated with years, finishes his life in respected age is called Long-lived (Hu).
由義而濟曰景 保民耆艾曰胡 The one who, departing from the sense of rightness, offers aid is called Brilliant (Jing). The one who protects the elderly among the people is called Long-lived (Hu).
耆意大慮曰景 追補前過曰剛 The one who, in his predilections and intentions, has great concerns is called Brilliant (Jing). The one who strives to amend past mistakes is called Firm (Gang).
布義行剛曰景 猛以剛果曰威 The one who promulgates rightness and acts according to the basic principles is called Brilliant (Jing). The one who is fierce in his determination is called Awe-inspiring (Wei).
清白守節曰貞 猛以彊果曰威 The one who is unblemished and preserves chastity is called Innocent (Zhen). The one who is fierce in his daringness is called Awe-inspiring (Wei).
大慮克就曰貞 彊義執正曰威 The one who has greatly concerns and is able to succeed is called Innocent (Zhen). The one who is strong in rightness and administers in rectitude is called Awe-inspiring (Wei).
不隱無屈曰貞 治典不殺曰祁 The one who does not conceal and has no falsehood is called Innocent (Zhen). The one who does not diminish the foundations of government is called Abundant (Qi).
辟土服遠曰桓 大慮行節曰考 The one who reclaims lands and subdues the remote people is called Stout (Huan). The one who is greatly concerned and acts chastily is called Probing (Kao).
克敬動民曰桓 治民克盡曰使 The one who commands respect and sets the people in motion is called Stout (Huan). The one who, in governing the people, can be exhaustive, is called Inducing (Shi).
辟土兼國曰桓 好和不爭曰安 The one who reclaims lands and annexes states is called Stout (Huan). The one who loves agreement and does not contend is called Comforting (An).
能思辯眾曰元 道德純一曰思 The one who is talented in thinking and prevails upon multitudes is called Prior (Yuan). The one who is pure and wholesome in moral principles is called Thoughtful (Si).
行義說民曰元 大省兆民曰思 The one who acts according to rightness and persuades the people is called Prior (Yuan). The one who greatly understands the multitudes of people is called Thougtful (Si).
始建國都曰元 外內思索曰思 The one who commences the construction of the state capital is called Prior (Yuan). The one who, both in official responsibilities and family affairs, is judicious is called Thoughtful (Si).
主義行德曰元 追悔前過曰思 The one who gives priority to rightness and acts according to the virtue is called Prior (Yuan). The one who strives to repent in past mistakes is called Thoughtful (Si).
聖善周聞曰宣 行見中外曰𢡱 The one whose sagacity and kindness are known throughout is called Glorious (Xuan). The one whose actions are manifest both internally and externally is called Sincere (Que).
兵甲亟作曰莊 狀古述今曰譽 The one who repeatedly deploys the troops is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who describes the past and narrates on the present is called Famous (Yu).
叡圉克服曰莊 照功寧民曰商 The one who is astute in defence and able to subdue is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who is radiant in achievements and pacifies the people is called Consenting (Shang).
勝敵志强曰莊 克殺秉政曰夷 The one who overcomes the enemy and is strong in his intentions is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who is able to kill to maintain government is called Leveling (Yi).
死於原野曰莊 安心好靜曰夷 The one who dies in the open field is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who is comforted in heart and is fond of quiet is called Leveling (Yi).
屢征殺伐曰莊 執義揚善曰懷 The one who repeatedly organizes punitive campaigns is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who administers in rightness and exalts the good is called Cherished (Huai).
武而不遂曰莊 慈仁短折曰懷 The one who is belligerent but makes no advance is called Stern (Zhuang). The one who is charitable and humane but whose life is interrupted early is called Cherished (Huai).
柔質慈民曰惠 述善不克曰丁 The one who is mild in essence and charitable towards the people is called Graceful (Hui). The one who follows the good but does not succeed is called Stately (Ding).
爱民好與曰惠 有功安民曰烈 The one who pities the people and is fond of giving is called Graceful (Hui). The one who has accomplishments and comforts the people is called Fiery (Lie).
夙夜警戒曰敬 秉德尊業曰烈 The one who, from morning till night, is alert and vigilant is called Reverent (Jing). The one who holds on to virtue and respects occupations is called Fiery (Lie).
合善典法曰敬 剛克為伐曰翼 The one who brings together the good and honours the norms is called Dignified (Jing). The one who is firm in military campaigns is called Winged (Yi).
剛德克就曰肅 思慮深遠曰翼 The one who, being firm in virtue, is able to achieve, is called Strict (Su). The one who is profound and far-reaching in his thoughts and plans is called Winged (Yi).
執心決斷曰肅 外內貞復曰白 The one who directs his heart and is resolute in decisions is called Strict (Su). The one who revives chastity in official duties and home affairs is called Pure (Bai).
不生其國曰聲 不勤成名曰靈 The one who was not born in his own country is called Reputed (Sheng). The one who, having not laboured, becomes famous, is called Spiritual (Ling).
愛民好治曰戴 死而志成曰靈 The one who is merciful towards the people and is fond of order is called Extolled (Dai). The one whose will accomplishes after dying is called Spiritual (Ling).
典禮不愆曰戴 死見神能曰靈 The one who, honouring the ritual, does not commit mistakes is called Extolled (Dai). The one who manifests divine powers in his death is called Spiritual (Ling).
未家短折曰傷 亂而不損曰靈 The one who, before having married, died prematurely is called Dolorous (Shang). The one who does not suffer any losses in chaos is called Spiritual (Ling).
短折不成曰殤 好祭鬼怪曰靈 The one who died prematurely and did not succeed is called Prematurely Departed (Shang). The one who is fond of sacrificial services to the spirits of the dead and mysterious things is called Spiritual (Ling).
隱拂不成曰隱 極知鬼神曰靈 The one who concealed and withdrew himself and did not succeed is called Concealed (Yin). The one who perfectly knows the spirits of the dead and divine spirits is called Spiritual (Ling).
不顯尸國曰隱 殺戮無辜曰厲 The one who covertly operated his country is called Concealed (Yin). The one who exterminates the innocent is called Severe (Li).
見美堅長曰隱 愎很遂過曰剌 The one who manifested beauty persisting for a long time is called Concealed (Yin). The one who is obstinate and persists in mistakes is called Impudent (Li).
官人應實曰知 不思忘愛曰剌 The one who [selects] officials according to their real abilities is called Knowledgeable (Zhi). The one who does not reflect and forgets about mercy is called Impudent (Li).
肆行勞祀曰悼 蚤孤短折曰哀 The one who impudently performs laborious sacrifices is called Sorrowful (Dao). The one who early becomes an orphan and dies prematurely is called Piteous (Ai).
年中早夭曰悼 恭仁短折曰哀 The one who, in the prime of his years, succumbed prematurely is called Sorrowful (Dao). The one who, being pious and humane, died prematurely, is called Piteous (Ai).
恐懼從處曰悼 好變動民曰躁 The one who is followed by terror and fear in every place is called Sorrowful (Dao). The one who loves changes and puts the people in motion is called Irascible (Zao).
凶年無穀曰荒 不悔前過曰戾 The one whose reign coincided with barren years without grain is called Deserted (Huang). The one who does not repent past mistakes is called Cruel (Li).
外內從亂曰荒 怙威肆行曰醜 The one who, in official duties and family affairs, follows in path of chaos is called Deserted (Huang). The one who selfishly uses authority to act obstinately is called Repulsive (Chou).
好樂怠政曰荒 壅遏不通曰幽 The one who is fond of entertainment and is negligent in government is called Deserted (Huang). The one who, having encountered barriers, does not go through is called Tenebrous (You).
在國遭憂曰愍 蚤孤鋪位曰幽 The one who, being in his country, encountered trouble is called Lamentable (Min). The one who, having been orphaned early, inherits the ruler’s position is called Tenebrous (You).
在國逢難曰愍 動祭亂常曰幽 The one who, being in his country, is faced with hardships is called Lamentable (Min). The one who interrupts sacrifices and disrupts conventions is called Tenebrous (You).
禍亂方作曰愍 柔質受諫曰慧 The one in whose reign calamities and chaos occurred constantly is called Lamentable (Min). The one who is mild in essence and receives remonstrance is called Clever (Hui).
使民悲傷曰愍 名實不爽曰質 The one who causes the people to grieve and suffer is called Lamentable (Min). The one whose fame is substantiated and unfailing is called Genuine (Zhi).
貞心大度曰匡 溫良好樂曰良 The one who is chaste in heart and great in his measure is called Rectifying (Kuang). The one who is mildly kind and fond of joy is called Kind (Liang).
德正應和曰莫 慈和徧服曰順 The one who is upright in virtue and reacts agreeably is called Conciliatory (Mo). The one who, being gracious and agreeable, [achieves] universal submission is called Entaming (Shun).
施勤無私曰類 博聞多能曰憲 The one who is diligent in benefaction and has no self-interest is called Worthy (Lei). The one who is broadly informed and jas many talents is called Exemplary (Xian).
思慮果遠曰明 滿志多窮曰感 The one whose thoughts and concerns have far-reaching consequences is called Bright (Ming). The one who is fully satisfied in many privations is called Incited (Gan).
嗇於賜與曰愛 思慮不爽曰厚 The one who is reluctant in conferring and giving is called Merciful (Ai). The one who, in his thoughts and plans, does not fail is called Solid (Hou).
危身奉上曰忠 好內遠禮曰煬 The one who, putting himself in danger, serves his ruler is called Loyal (Zhong). The one who is fond of his harem and distances himself from ritual is called Scorching (Yang).
克威捷行曰魏 去禮遠眾曰煬 The one who is capable of inspiring awe and act deftly is called Lofty (Wei). The one who rejects ritual and distances himself from the multitudes is called Scorching (Yang).
克威惠禮曰魏 內外賓服曰正 The one who is capable of inspiring awe, is graceful and courteous is called Lofty (Wei). The one who, in the family and official affairs, is truly obeyed is called Rectified (Zheng).
教誨不倦曰長 彰義掩過曰堅 The one who, in instructions and reprimands, does not grow weary is called Senior (Zhang). The one who evinces rightness and covers mistakes is called Adamant (Jian).
肇敏行成曰直 華言無實曰夸 The one who, having planned promptly, accomplishes his affairs is called Direct (Zhi). The one who is flowery in words but has no substance is called Boastful (Kua).
疏遠繼位曰紹 逆天虐民曰抗 The one who, having come from afar, inherits the ruler’s place is called Succeeding (Shao). The one who stands against Heaven and tyrannizes the people is called Obstinate (Kang).
好廉自克曰節 名與實爽曰謬 The one who is fond of temperance and restrains himself is called Moderate (Jie). The one whose fame does not stand the check of reality is called Errant (Miu).
好更改舊曰易 擇善而從曰比 The one who is fond of changes and amends the old is called Changeable (Yi). The one who selects the good and follows after them is called Aligning (Bi).
愛民在刑曰克 The one whose mercy towards the people is [manifest] in punishments is called Valiant (Ke).
除殘去虐曰湯 The one who removes cruelty and rejects violence is called [Cheng] Tang.

4. Fragmentary non-tabular catalogue.
The fragmentary non-tabular catalogue contains several entries that provide interpretations for the characters already covered in the main catalogue. Judging from the nature and size of this section, it was likely compiled from the chapter 56 of an unpreserved alternative recension of the Zhou shu (the so-called “Modern Script” Zhou shu), which is known to have contained only ten-odd entries.

隱、哀也。景、武也。

Concealed is [similar to] Piteous. Brilliant is [similar to] Martial.

施德為文,除惡為武;辟地為襄,服遠為桓;剛克為僖。

The one who grants virtue is Illustrous (Wen); the one who eliminates the evil is Martial (Wu). The one who expands the lands is Cultivating (Xiang); the one who subjugates the remote is Stout (Huan). The one who is firm in valiance is Prudent (Xi).

施而不成為宣,惠無內德為平,亂而不損為靈,由義而濟為景。餘皆象也。

The one who practices benefaction but does not succeed is Glorious (Xuan). The one who is graceful but lacks the internal virtue is Even (Ping). The one who, being in chaos, does not suffer losses is Spiritual (Ling). The one who offers aid out of his sense of rightness is Brilliant (Jing). All the rest [are interpreted] in the like way.

5. Glosses to individual characters.
The concluding part of the text consists of glosses to individual characters used in the explanations to the entries in the main catalogues. Although these glosses are interesting in terms of tracing the history of the text and its several layers of commentaries, they do not convey new information regarding the interpretation of posthumous names. Considering their subordinate funciton, they do not necessitate translation.

和、會也。 勤、勞也。 遵、循也。 爽、傷也。 肇、始也。 怙、恃也。 享、祀也。 胡、大也。 秉、順也。 就、會也。 錫、與也。 典、常也。 肆、放也。 康、虛也。 叡、聖也。 惠、愛也。 綏、安也。 堅、長也。 耆、彊也。 考、成也。 周、至也。 懷、思也。 式、法也。 布、施也。 敏、疾也、速也。 載、事也。 彌、久也。

6. Note about the text’s composition.
This final note, written in small characters, is not preserved in the transmitted version of the Yi Zhou shu, but is included in the Shiji zhengyi. The explicit acknowledgement of the text’s compilation from two earlier sources helps to explain the confusing discrepancies between the tabular and non-tabular parts: most likely, they initially belonged to two independent texts put together by an anonymous medieval compiler.

以前周書謚法。周代君王並取作謚,故全寫一篇以傳後學 。

“The text above is the”Order of Posthumous Names” from the Zhou Scriptures. The rulers of the Zhou period consulted both when assigning posthumous names, therefore, I copy them as one chapter in order to transmit it to future scholars”.