Speech of the Marquis of Qin


'The decline and fall of a state may arise from one man. The glory and tranquillity of a state may also arise from the goodness of one man.'

Shang Shu "Speech of the Marquis of Qin"《尚書》・「秦誓」
Translated by James Legge

The Shang Shu 尚書, otherwise known as the Shu Jing 書經 or Classic of History, is a canonical Classical Chinese text detailing some of the earliest records of Chinese history. It is a compilation of numerous texts from various periods, but at the very least there were citations of it found in the Guodianchu 郭店楚 bamboo slips (mid 4th to early 3rd century BCE), so we know some form of the text was in use before the Qin unification of China (221-207 BCE).

As with many early Classical Chinese texts it is written with the state in mind and matters of statecraft are prominently written about. The language of the text is either genuinely archaic or authors from a later period intentionally trying to sound archaic.

Being that it was one foundational text of several for literate East Asian civilization for over two-thousand years it would not at all be a waste to read through it.

The whole text and James Legge translation can be viewed here.