T HERE are three categories of people that all human beings should respect. They are the sovereign, the teacher, and the parent. There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.
Confucianism describes the Three Sovereigns, the Five Emperors, and the Three Kings, whom it calls the Honorable Ones of Heaven. These men are depicted as the heads of the government officials and the bridges for the populace. In the age before the Three Sovereigns, people were no better than birds and beasts in that they did not even know who their own fathers were. But from the time of the Five Emperors on, they came to know who their fathers and mothers were, treating them according to the dictates of filial piety. Thus Chung-hua1 served his father with reverence, though the latter was stubborn and hardheaded. Also, the governor of Pei,2 after he became the emperor, continued to pay great respect to his father, the Venerable Sire. King Wu of the Chou dynasty made a wooden image of his father, the Earl of the West,3 and Ting Lan fashioned a statue of his mother.4 All of these men are models of filial piety.
The high minister Pi Kan, seeing that the Yin dynasty was on the path to
ruin, strongly admonished the ruler, though it cost him his head. Hung Yen, finding that his lord, Duke Yi, had been killed, cut open his own stomach and inserted the dukes liver in it before he died. These men may serve as models of loyalty.
Yin Shou was the teacher of Emperor Yao, Wu Cheng was the teacher of Emperor Shun, Tai-kung Wang was the teacher of King Wen,5 and Lao Tzu was the teacher of Confucius.6 These teachers are known as the four sages. Even the Honorable Ones of Heaven bow their heads to them in respect, and all people press their palms together in reverence. Sages such as these have left behind writings that run to over three thousand volumes in such works as the Three Records, the Five
Canons, and the Three Histories. But
all these writings in the end do not advance beyond the three mysteries. The first of the three mysteries is Being. This is the principle taught by the Duke of Chou and others. The second mystery is Non-Being, which was expounded by Lao Tzu. The third is Both Being and Non-Being, which is the mystery set forth by Chuang Tzu. Mystery denotes darkness. Some say that, if we ask what existed before our ancestors were born, we will find that life was born out of the primal