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The story of Po Yi and Shu Ch'i

Po Yi and Shu Ch'i were elder and younger sons of the ruler of Ku-chu. Their father wished to set up Shu Ch’i as his heir but, when he died, Shu Ch’i yielded in favor of his elder borther Po Yi. Po Yi replied that it had been their father’s wish that Shu Ch’i should inherit the throne and so he departed from the state. Shu Ch’i like wise, being unwilling to accept the rule, went away and the people of the state set up a middle brother as ruler. At this time Po Yi and Shu Ch’i heard that Ch’ang, the Chief of the West, was good at looking after old people, and they said, “Why not go and follow him?” But when they had gone they found that the Chief of the West was dead and his son, King Wu, had taken up the ancestral tablet of his father, whom he honored with the posthumous title of King Wen, and was marching east to attack the emperor of the Yin dynasty. Po Yi and Shu Ch’i clutched the reins of King Wu’s horse and reprimanded him, saying, “The mourning for your father not yet completed and here you take up shield and spear—can this conduct be called filial? As a subject you seek to assassinate your sovereign—can this conduct be called humane?” The king’s attendants wished to strike them down, but the king’s counselor, T’ai-kung, interposed, saying, “These are righteous men,” and he sent them away unharmed.

After this, King Wu conquered and pacified the people of the Yin and the world honored the house of Chou as its ruler. But Po Yi and Shu Ch’i were filled with outrage and considered it unrighteous to eat the grain of Chou. They fled and hid on Shouyang Mountain, where they tried to live by gathering ferns to eat. When they were on the point of starvation, they composed a song:

We climb this western hill
and pick its ferns;
replacing violence with violence,
he will not see his own fault.
Shen Nung, Yü, and Hsia,
great men gone so long ago—
whom shall we turn to now?
Ah—let us be off,
for our fate has run out!

They died of starvation on Shou-yang Mountain.


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