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A Record of the Temple Which Honours the Writing of the Eternal Reason
Tenney, Charles Daniel

[top]Kaifeng Tablet of A.D. 1513

It has been said that the Sacred Writings are for the
purpose of embodying Eternal Reason (Tao), and that Eternal
Reason is for the purpose of communicating the Sacred Writ­
ings. What is Eternal Reason? The principle which is in dai­
ly use and constant practice; and which has been generally
followed out by men of ancient and modern times. It is
present in everything, and the same in all seasons; in fact
there is no place in which Eternal Reason does not reside.
But Eternal Reason without the Sacred Writings cannot be
preserved; and the Sacred Writings without Eternal Reason
cannon be carried into action; for men get into confusion,
and do not know whither they are going, until they are car­
ried away by foolish schemes and strange devices; hence the
doctrines of the Sages have been handed in the six classics,
in order to convey the knowledge to future generations, and
to extend its benefits to the most distant period.
With respect to the religion of Israel, we find on
enquiry that its first ancestor Adam (A-tan) came originally
from India (Tien-chuh), and that during the Chow state
[left]x(B.C.111-B.C.242) the Sacred Writings were in existence.
The Sacred Writings, embodying Eternal Reason, consist
of fifty-three sections. The principles therein contained
are very abstruse, and the Eternal Reason therein revealed
is very mysterious, being treated with the same veneration
as Heaven. The founder of this religion is Abraham, who
is considered the first teacher of it. Then came Moses who
established the Law and handed down the Sacred Writings.
After his time, during the Han Dynasty (B.C.200-A.D.226)
this religion entered China.
In the
In the first year of Lung-hing, of the Sung Dynasty
(A.D.1164) a synagogue was built at Pien (Kaifeng). In
the 16th year of the Chih-yuen, of the Yuen Dynasty (A.D.1296),
the old temple was rebuilt, as a place in which the Sacred
Writings might be deposited with veneration.
Those who practice this religion are to be found in
other places besides Pien; but wherever they are met with
throughout the whole world, they all without exception
honour the Sacred Writings, and venerate Eternal Reason.
The characters in which the Sacred Writings are penned,
differ indeed from those employed in the books of the learn­
ed in China, but if we trace their principles up to their
origin, we shall find that they are originally none other
than Eternal Reason, which is commonly followed by mankind.
Hence it is that when Eternal Reason is followed by
rulers and suggests, rulers will be respectful, and subjects
faithful. When Eternal Reason is followed by parents and
children, parents will be kind, and children filial. When
Eternal Reason is followed by elder and younger brothers,
the former will be friendly and the latter reverential.
When Eternal Reason is followed by husbands and wives, husb­
ands will be harmonious and wives obedient. When Eternal
Reason is followed by friends and companions, then they will
severally become faithful and sincere.... In Eternal Reason
there is nothing greater than benevolence and rectitude,
and in following it out men naturally display the feeling
of compassion and a sense of shame. In Eternal Reason
there is nothing greater than propriety and wisdom, and in
following it out men naturally exhibit the feeling of res­
pect and a sense of rectitude. When Eternal Reason is fol­
lowed in fasting and abstinence, me necessarily feel re­
verential and awe-struck. When Eternal Reason is followed
out in
out in sacrificing to ancestors, men necessarily feel
filial and sincere. When Eternal Reason is followed in
Divine worship, men bless and praise high Heaven, the
producer and nourisher of the myriad of things, while in
their demeanor and carriage, they consider sincerity and
respect as the one thing needful. With respect to widows
and orphans, the poor and the destitute, together with
the sick and maimed, the deaf and dumb, these must all be
relieved and assisted, that they may not utterly fail. When
poor men wish to marry and have not the means, or when
such wish to inter their relatives and are not able to ac­
complish it, the necessary expenses for such must be duly
provided. Only let those who are mourning for their friends
carefully avoid rich viands and intoxicating liquors, and
those who are conducting funeral ceremonies not be emulous
of external pomp. Let them in the first place avoid comply­
ing with superstitious customs; and in the second place not
make molten or graven images; but in everything follow the
ceremonies that have been introduced from India (Judaism).
Let there be no false weights and measures employed in
trade, with the view of defrauding others. Looking around
us, on the professors of this religion, we find that there
are some who strive for literary honours, aiming to axalt
their parents and distinguish themselves; there are some
who engage in government employ, both at court and in the
provinces, seeking to serve their prince and benefit the
people; while some defend the country and resist the enemy,
thus displaying their patriotism by their faithful conduct.
There are others again who in private stations cultivate
personal virtue, and diffuse their influence over a whole
region; others there are who plough the waste lands, sus­
taining their share of the public burdens; and others who
attend the merchanical arts, doing their part towards sup­
porting the state; or who follow mercantile pursuits, and
thus gather in profit from every quarter; but all of them
should venerate the command of Heaven, obey the royal laws,
attend to the five constant virtues, observe the dutien of
the human relations, reverently follow the customs of their
ancestors, be filial towards their parents, respectful to
their superiors, harmonious among their neighbours, and
friendly with their associates, teaching their children and
descenndants, thus laying up a store of good works, while they
repress trifling animosities in order to complete great
affairs; the main idea of all the prohibitions and commands
consists in attending to three things. This in fact is
the great object set forth in the Sacred Writings, and the
daily and constant duties inculcated by eternal Reason.
Thus the command of Heaven influencing virtuous nature,
is by this means carried out to perfection; the religion
which inculcates obedience to Eternal Reason is by this
means entered upon; and the virtures of benevolance, rectit­
ude, propriety and wisdom, are by this means maintained.
Those however, who attempt to represent Him by images, or
to depict Him in pictures, do but vainly occupy themselves
with empty ceremonies, alarming and stupifying men's eyes
and ears, indulging in the speculations of false religionn
ists, and showing themselves unowrthy of imitation.
But those who honour and obey the Sacred Writings,
know the origin of all things, and that the Eternal Word
and the Sacred Writings mutually sustain each other in
stating from whence men sprung. From the beginning of the
world our first father Adam handed down the doctrine to
Abraham; Abraham handed it down to Isaac (I-si-ho-gih);
Isaac handed it down to Jacob (Ya-ho-chue-wu); Jacob handed
it down to the twelve partiarchs; and the twelve patriarchs
handed it down to Moses; Moses handed it down to Aaron
(Ya-ho-lien); Araaon handed it down to Joshua (Yue-shu-wo);
and Joshua handed it down to Esra (Yeh-tzi-la); by whom
the doctrines of the holy religion were first sent abroad,
and the letters of the Jewish (Yu-tai) nation first made
plain. All those who profess this religion aim at the
practice of goodness and avoid the commission of vice,
morning and evening performing their devotions, and with
a sincere mind cultivating personal virtues.
They practice fasting and absitnence on the prescribed
days, and bring eating and drinking under proper regulations.
They make the Sacred Writings their study and their rule,
obeying and believing them in every particular; then may
they expect that the blessing of Heaven will abundantly
descend, and the favour of Providence be unfailingly con­
ferred; every individual obtaining the credit of virtuous
conduct, and every family experiencing the happiness of
Divine protection. In this way perhaps our professors will
not fail of carrying out the religion handed down by their
ancestors, nor will they neglect the ceremonies which they
are bound to observe.
We have engraved this on a tablet, placed in the
synagogue, to be handed down to distant ages,that future
generations may carefully consider it.
This tablet was erected by the families Yen, Li, Kao,
Chao, Chin, Er, ( ) and Chang, at the rebuilding of the synagogue, in the first month of autumn, in the 7th year
of Cheng-teh, of the Ming Dynasty (A.D.1512).
Another stone, practically quite undecipherable, was
erected in the 18th year of Kang-hsi (A.D.1679), the ins­
cription at the top reading, "Ssu tang shu gu pai gi", ­
"The record tablet of the Ancestral Temple describing
the Ancients" or "The record of the Ancestral Temple nar­
rating (the contents of) the Ancient Tablets".
Another inscription, now disappeared but rubbings
of which are extant, was inscribed in the 2nd year of Fang­
hsi (A.D.1663), and is headed, "Record of the rebuilding of
the Temple of Purity and Truth".
[bottom] [illegible: [The Kaifeng Tablet ] This text is written in pen backwards which may indicate that it is a transfer from another sheet
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