Story of Po-i and Shu-khi (伯夷、叔齐轶事)
Formerly, at the rise of the Kau dynasty, there were two brothers who lived in Kû-kû, and were named Po-i and Shu-khi. They spoke together and said, 'We have heard that in the west there is one who seems to rule according to the Right Way; let us go and see.'
Accordingly they came to the south of mount Khî; and when king Wû heard of them, he sent (his brother) Shû Tan to see them, and make a covenant with them, engaging that their wealth should be second only to that of the king, and that their offices should be of the first rank, and instructing him to bury the covenant with the blood of the victim after they had smeared the corners of their mouths with it.
The brothers looked at each other and laughed, saying, 'Ah! How strange! This is not what we call the Right Way. Formerly, when Shan Nang had the kingdom, he offered his sacrifices at the proper seasons and with the utmost reverence, but without praying for any blessing. Towards men he was leal-hearted and sincere, doing his utmost in governing them, but without seeking anything for himself. When it was his pleasure to use administrative measures, he did so; and a sterner rule when he thought that would be better. He did not by the ruin of others establish his own power; he did not exalt himself by bringing others low; he did not, when the time was opportune, seek his own profit. But now Kâu, seeing the disorder of Yin, has suddenly taken the government into its hands; with the high it has taken counsel, and with those below employed bribes; it relies on its troops to maintain the terror of its might; it makes covenants over victims to prove its good faith; it vaunts its proceedings to please the masses; it kills and attacks for the sake of gain:-- this is simply overthrowing disorder and changing it for tyranny. We have heard that the officers of old, in an age of good government, did not shrink from their duties, and in an age of disorder did not recklessly seek to remain in office. Now the kingdom is in a state of darkness; the virtue of Kâu is decayed. Than to join with it and lay our persons in the dust, it is better for us to abandon it, and maintain the purity of our conduct.'
The two princes then went north to the hill of Shâu-yang, where they died of starvation. If men such as they, in the matter of riches and honours, can manage to avoid them, let them do so; but they must not depend on their lofty virtue to pursue any perverse course, only gratifying their own tendencies, and not doing service in their time:-- this was the style of these two princes.