Exemplarious translation of The Book of Songs
Examples of lyrics or songs from each of the four sections. The first song of the Shijing is probably the most famous and most commented poem of old China. The Great and Small Preface to this song are translated too, as well as the begin of the Tang time Wujing zhengyi 五经正义 commentary.
风，风也，教也。风以动之，教以化之。诗者，志之所之也。在心为志。发言为诗。情动于中，而形于言。 言之不足，故嗟叹。嗟叹之不足，故永歌之。永歌之不足知，手之，舞之，足之，蹈之也。情发于声，声成文，谓之音。 治世之音安以乐，其政和。乱世之音怨以怒，其政乖。亡国之音哀以思，其民困。故正得失，动天地，感鬼神，莫近于诗。先王以是经夫妇，成孝敬，厚人伦，美教 化，移风俗。
"Air" means "wind" or "educating". The airs move people and make them better. Songs are, where the mind is going to. In the heart, it is called "mind", spoken out, it is called "song". The motion is moved in the heart and takes shape in words; if words are not sufficent, sighing can be better; if sighing is not sufficient, songs can be better; if songs are still not sufficient, motions can be expressed with hands, by dancing, with feet, by springing. Motions are expressed by voice; if voice forms words, it is called tone. The tone regulating the world, pacifies by music, its rule is harmonious. The tone disturbing the world, heates the anger, its rule is obstinate. The tone destroying a country is sad in thoughts, its people is in difficulties. Correct behaviour receives the lost, it moves heaven and earth, it makes sympathetic all ghosts and deities. To acheive this, nothing is better than songs. The old kings employed songs to have guidelines for the matrimony, to complete filialty and reverence, to enforce human relationships, to beautify cultivation, and to make better people's customs.
There are six different kinds of songs: airs (feng), rhapsodies (fu), comparisons (bi), moods (xing), odes (ya) and hymns (song). The ruling people use the airs to ameliorate their subjects, the subjects use the airs to criticize the ruling. They rely on words to admonish with some small hints. The speakers thus are not to be blamed, and the auditors are enabled to change their behaviour. This is why these songs are called "wind". When the way of the kings has become weak, when rites and etiquette are thrown away, when politics and education missed their target, when the state has altered its government, when the families have given up their good customs, this is, when airs and odes have to change and make things better.
The scribes of the states enlighten cases of lost virtue, of damaging human relationships, of giving up penal law and government; they chant and sing of motions and good character to educate the rulers. If it has come so far that things alter, people already weep for their old rules and customs. Therefore, the changing airs begin in the motions and reach to the rites and etiquette. Starting with motions means, that they come from the people. Reaching to rites and etiquette means, that the airs are the reflected glory of the old kings. If the affairs of one state are bound to every single person, songs are called "airs", and if all affairs under heaven are built up from the airs of all states, songs are called "odes".
"Ode" means, "to rectify". It gives the reason why moods in a ruler's government is thrown away. There are great and small matters in government, and adequately we find Maior and Minor Odes. "Hymn" means, to beautify the description of a flourishing virtue. It declares the success of a virtuous government to the deities.
These are the four beginnings, and where songs have its aim. The educational target of the "Guan the ospreys cry" and "Unicorn's hoofs" airs is the king, and they are connected to the duke of Zhou. "South" means, that education goes from north to south. The airs "Magpie's nest" and "The zouyu tiger" are written for the feudal lords and were used by the former kings for educational purposes. They are connected to the Duke of Shao. The airs of the chapters "South of Zhou" and "South of Shao" are the way of the correct begin, they are the base for an ideal government.