天命靡常 – Chinese philosophy and culture

tiān mìng mí cháng 天命靡常

Heaven-bestowed Supreme Power Is Not Eternal.

上天的命令没有恒常不变的受命者。“天命靡常”之说出自《诗经·大雅·文王》。古人相信,上天的命令决定着人世中至高无上的王权的归属。但天命所赐予的王权并不是恒常不变的,殷周的更迭就是由于天命发生了改易。而天命的改易遵循着固定的法则,君主有德则授命,失德则剥夺天命。因此,“天命靡常”的观念警醒着统治者,时刻修养自身的德行以保有天命。

This term first appears in The Book of Songs. It means that there is no one who can forever remain a recipient of the bestowed supreme power by the Ruler of Heaven. The ancients believed that the heavenly order determined to whom the supreme royal power belonged. However, the choice of the recipient of such a conferment was not forever. Replacement of the Yin Dynasty by the Zhou Dynasty was brought about by the change of the recipient of Heaven’s bestowal of the mandate to rule. However, the change of the recipients of the mandate followed a fixed principle: such bestowal could fall only on a ruler who was virtuous. Once he had lost virtue, the mandate to rule would be withdrawn from him. Therefore, the concept of the change of the recipient of Heaven’s mandate served as a warning to the ruler, who must constantly cultivate his virtue in order to keep his rule.

引例 Citations:

◎侯服于周,天命靡常。殷士肤敏,祼(ɡuàn)将于京。厥作祼将,常服黼(fǔ)冔(xǔ)。王之荩(jìn)臣,无念尔祖。(《诗经·大雅·文王》)

(于是殷人臣服于周,天命没有恒常不变的受命者。归顺的殷人优美而敏捷,到京师行祼礼助祭,他们穿旧黼衣、戴旧冠。今周王任用臣下,不应该感念祖先的德行吗?)

Thus the officials of the Yin became the subjects of the Zhou. This follows the rule that there is no one who can forever remain the recipient of Heaven’s mandate to rule. The Yin officials, healthy and agile, wearing costumes embroidered with black-and-white designs and traditional caps, came to the capital to assist in the ritual ceremonies. Shouldn’t they, now appointed by the Zhou as officials, be grateful for the virtue of their ancestors? (The Book of Songs)

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