An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhou Period Literature

Oct 26, 2018 © Ulrich Theobald

The Ancient Classics

The Western Zhou period 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE) witnessed the emergence of several text corpora later called "Classics" (jing 經) because they were during the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) adapted by the Confucians and made the core of their canon. These are the books Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs", a collection of airs, hymns, and odes, the Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", a collection of documentary reports and speeches, and the divinatory book Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes". Apart from these three classical texts, written in a language called Early Archaic Chinese (shanggu Hanyu 上古漢語), a parallel to the Shangshu has survived, called Yizhoushu 逸周書.

Martin Kern's (2009) analysis of bronze inscriptions resulted in the finding that from the mid-Western Zhou period on, inscriptions in bronze vessels were increasingly written in the style of poems, with tetrasyllabic verses and end rhymes or word reduplications. The ductus of such inscriptions much resembles the royal announcements in the Shangshu.

Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs"

The Shijing 詩經 is a collection of 300 texts of songs of three different genres played in different contexts and quite probably accompanied by different musical arrangements. Airs (feng 風) were sung by the people and at the courts of the regional states and in the royal domain. The Greater Hymns (daya 大雅) were played at the royal court, the Lesser Hymns (xiaoya 小雅) at those of the regional rulers. The Odes were performed in the ancestral temples of the Zhou and Shang 商 (17th-11th cent. BCE) dynasties and of the lineage of the regional state of Lu 魯, descendants of the Duke of Zhou 周公.

Thes odes of Zhou and the Greater Hymns originated in the early Western Zhou period, the lesser hymns in the late Western Zhou and the early Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE), and the airs and the odes of Lu and Shang are products of the mid-Spring and Autumn period.

Some of the Greater Hymns (like 245 Shengmin 生民, 250 Gongliu 公劉, 237 Mian 緜, 241 Huangyi 皇矣, 255 Tang 蕩, or 236 Daming 大明) reflect the early history of the Zhou people, and express, for instance, the hope that the Lord of Millet 后稷 might bring better harvest, that the new settlement in Bin 豳 might promise a better environment than earlier dwellings, or narrate how King Wu 周武王 and his supporters vanquished the Shang dynasty.

Many of the odes of Zhou were created during the peaceful reign of the kings Cheng 周成王 and Kang 周康王, and therefore describe the work of peasants. Most famous are the many airs of the states which reflect customs and habits of the common folks and their environment of life: farming (154 Qiyue 七月), marriage (1 Guanju 關雎, 42 Jingnü 靜女, 58 Mang 氓), and service to the authorities (36 Shiwei 式微, 156 Dongshan 東山, 62 Boxi 伯兮, 66 Junzi yu yi 君子于役).

Quotation 1. Air "Of fair girls" (42 Jingnü 靜女) from the Airs of Bei (Beifeng 邶風)
Of fair girls the loveliest, / Was to meet met at the corner of the wall. / But she hides and will not show herself; / I scratch my head, pace up and down.
Of fair girls the prettiest, / Gave me a red flute. / The flush of that red flute / Is pleasure at the girl’s beauty.
She has been in the pastures and brought for me rush-wool, / Very beautiful and rare. / It is not you that are beautiful; / But you were given by a lovely girl.
Transl. by Waley 1996. The second colums presents the end rhymes in Ancient Archaic Chinese according to Baxter/Sagart.

The air Jingnü consists of three stanzas of four verses, each of which is four-syllables long, with the exception of two verses, in which two particles prolong the verse. They are "superfluous" in so far as they are grammatically not obligatory (the verb 於 "to be in, at" in v. 2; and the adjunct particle 之 in v. 11).

As far as the reconstruction of Archaic Chinese allows, one can see that the rhymes are not quite regular in each stanza. Quite typical is the partial repetition of the first verse of each stanza, with the change of only one word, namely jing nü qi shu 靜女其姝, and jing nü qi luan 靜女其孌. The position of the word wo 我 "I, me" is the same stanzas I and II. Stanza III deviates from this pattern.

Other odes and hymns are literary forms to cement the legend of King Wu's conquest of the Shang which was only possible because of the superior mode of virtue by which the chieftains of the Zhou ruled (see Zhou philosophy).

Many scholars have studied literary aspects of the airs. Han-period writers discerned between several figures of speech, namely xing 興 (animation), bi 比 (comparison, antithesis), and fu 賦 (narrative). All three aspects can be found in the air Mian 緜 "Long strings" from the Greater Hymns.

Quotation 2. Ode "Long strings" (237 Mian 緜)
The young gourds spread and spread. / The people after they were first brought into being / From the River Tu 土 [Wei 渭] went to the Qi 漆. / Of old Danfu 亶父 the duke, / Scraped shelters, scraped holes; / As they had no houses.
Of old Danfu the duke, / At coming of day galloped his horses, / Going west along the river bank / Till he came to the foot of Mount Qi 岐. / Where with the lady Jiang 姜 / He came to look for a home.
The plain of Zhou was very fertile, / Its celery and sowthistle sweet as rice-cakes. / "Here we will make a start; / here take counsel; here notch our tortoise." / It says, "Stop," [the divination] says, "Halt. / Build houses here." / [...]
Then he summoned his Master of Works, / Then he summoned his Master of Lands / And made them build houses. / Dead straight was the plumb-line, / The planks were lashed to hold the earth; / They made the Hall of Ancestors, very venerable.
They tilted in the earth with a rattling, / They pounded it with a dull thud, / They beat the walls with a loud clang, / They pared and chiseled them with a faint fengfeng. / The hundred cubits all rose; / The drummers could not hold out. / [...]
The peoples of Yu 虞 and Rui 芮 broke faith, / And King Wen harried their lives. / This I will say, the rebels were brought to allegiance, / Those that were first were made last. / This I will say, there were men zealous in their tasks, / There were those that kept the insolent at bay.
Transl. by Waley 1996.

The ode has nine stanzas, of which six a shown here. The stanzas are absolutely regular, with six four-syllable verses. The only exception are the last two stanzas (only the last one shown here), in which nearly all verses are prolonged by one syllable, in order to build up attentiveness. The rhythm and composition of the last stanza (5 syllables) differs from the others thematically and goes over to political matters. The last verses are parallel and express, in a repetitive mode (yu yue you 予曰有 "I say there is ..."), what the speaker defines as the correct mode of King Wen to bring order into the kingdom.

The first verse can be seen as the literary device of animation (xing). It speaks of gourds on a long twine, a topic which at first sight has nothing to do with the rest of the ode, but it might be a metapher (bi) for the many generations which profited from the measures of Duke Danfu.

Rhymes are not used in a regular way, but become most apparent as epanaleptic (repetition) and onomatopoetic (imitation of sounds) words in stanza V: rengreng 陾陾, honghong 薨薨, dengdeng 登登, fengfeng 馮馮. These words describe the sounds of the construction work of the people which work so fast that even the drummers goading them are unable to beat with the same velocity. Yet repetitions for the purpose of intensification of syllables occur also in other places, mostly by using adjective verbs, like mianmian 緜緜 "long and twined", wuwu 膴膴 "fertile", or yiyi 翼翼 "venerable".

Anaphers within verses are quite common, like tao fu tao xue 陶復陶穴, yuan shi yuan mou 爰始爰謀, or such in parallel verses, like nai zhao sikong, nai zhao situ 乃召司空,乃召司徒.

Quotation 3. Hymn "The Hallowed Temple" (266 Qingmiao 清廟)
於穆清廟! Solemn the hallowed temple,
肅雝顯相, Awed and silent the helpers,
濟濟多士, Well purified the many knights
秉文之德。 That handle their sacred task.
對越在天, There has been an answer in Heaven;
駿奔走在廟。 Swiftly [the ancestral spirits] flit through the temple,
不(=丕)顯不承。 Very bright, very glorious,
無射於人斯! Showing no distaste toward men.
Transl. by Waley 1996.

The hymn Qingmiao is an example of self-reference by which the song describes details of the ceremony that is to be carried out (Kern 2009: 197). Such duplication of chant and performance can be observed in quite a few odes and hymns, as well as in bronze inscriptions.

Even if there are no rhmyes or parallelism in the verses of the Qingmiao hymn, each one had a fix length of 4 syllables, barring two exceptions (vv. 6 and 8), in which the content is stressed by construction (augmentation of the predicative concent 駿 "gallop" + 奔 "hurry") or by addition of an emphatic particle (斯). The only verse showing a kind of parallism is the anapher pi xian pi cheng 不顯不承 in v. 7. It emphasized the sacred character of the ceremony. Very typical for Ancient Archaic Chinese is the epanalepsis (repetition) of adjectives, like jiji 濟濟 in v. 3.

The songs of every genre operate with stanzas, verses, and rhymes, and show a rich and diverse language. Confucius (quoted in Lunyu 論語, ch. Yanghuo 陽貨) recommended the study of the Shijing:

Quotation 4. Confucius' recommendation to study the "Odes"
《詩》,可以興,可以觀,可以群,可以怨。邇之事父,遠之事君;多識於鳥獸草木之名。 The "Odes" serve to stimulate the mind. They may be used for purposes of self-contemplation. They teach the art of sociability. They show how to regulate feelings of resentment. From them you learn the more immediate duty of serving one's father, and the remoter one of serving one's prince. From them we become largely acquainted with the names of birds, beasts, and plants.
Transl. by Legge 1895.

Shangshu 尚書

The Shangshu 尚書 is only preserved in a fragmentary form of 58 chapters which was reconstructed during the Han period. It includes mainly speeches, but also some narrative chapters, part of which allegedly date from the Xia period 夏 (21th-17th cent. BCE) or earlier. While the Shijing included folk songs and chants of religious content, the texts of the Shangshu are concerned with politics. The part dealing with the Zhou period (Zhoushu 周書) is the longest one and consists of 32 chapters. Quite a few of them represent announcements (gao 誥) by the king of the Duke of Zhou to subordinates or in the ancestral temple. The aim of the Zhoushu was to instruct the king and his functionaries to govern in a moral way.

Many chapters have historiographical value. Some chapters include statements about the time, place and general condition under which a certain announcement was made, for instance, the eve of the battle of Muye 牧野 in the chapter Mushi 牧誓. King Wu explains that the king of Shang was ruling in a wrong way, and that Heaven therefore had given the Zhou the charge to punish the Shang.

The chapter begins with a date (grey dawn of the day jiazi 甲子昧爽, see calendar) and a description how the king took a ceremonial posture with a golden battle-axe (huangyue 黃鉞) in his left and a white banner (baimao 白旄) in his right, announcing a speech by addressing his highest generals, functionaries, and allies.

He starts with a proverb, saying "The hen does not announce the morning. The crowing of a hen in the morning indicates the subversion of the family". This proverb fitted to the political situation at the Shang court, where King Shou 受 (also known as Zhou 紂) followed the word of his consort Da Ji 妲己. The results of this attitude were the neglection of ancestral sacrifices, of regular exchanges with his allies, and of holding up good relations with the members of the royal house. Instead, King Shou honoured, exalted and promoted "vagabonds from all quarters, loaded with crimes" (sifang zhi duo zuo bu tiao 四方之多罪逋逃). These unworthy persons "tyrannized over the people, and exercised their villainies in the settlements" (transl. Legge 1865).

King Wu is convinced that he is an instrument of Heaven for punishing the king of Shang. Yet he is also sure that he needs a disciplined army to overcome that of the Shang, and gives concrete instructions to be energetic (Xu zai fu zi 勗哉夫子!; he later resumes this sentence two times) and display a martial bearing like panthers and tigers, but not to rush forward heedlessly. He also appeals to his warriors and allies not to be vengeful, but to receive those who want to submit so that they could serve "our western land". Any other behaviour, he warns, would bring destruction on the army of Zhou.

In the chapter Wuyi 無逸 "Against luxurious ease", the Duke of Zhou admonishes King Cheng not to indulge in luxurious ease. The text, even if constructed as a coherent and logical unity, is divided into seven parts that each begin with the words "The Duke of Zhou said:", each time the instructions begin with the exclamatory words wuhu 嗚呼 "Oh! Alas!", invoking the attention of the lectured king. The Duke's instruction sets in with a postulating definition: "The superior man rests in this, that he will indulge in no luxurious ease", and then gives reasons for this claim, namely that the painful toil of the husbandman nourishes the court, while some of their children dispise this work and their parents as outdated and naïve.

The Duke then reports what he "had heard", namely that the earlier, good kings of the Shang were grave, humble, reverential, and timorously cautious. They measured themselves with reference to the decree of Heaven (wei tian ming zi du 畏天命自度, see Zhou philosophy), and cherished a reverent apprehension in governing the people, not daring to indulge in useless ease.

In order to bolster such moral requirements, the Duke brings forward a very physical benefit, namely long live: "It was thus that King Zhongzong 中宗 (Zu Yi 祖乙) enjoyed the throne seventy and five years." King Gaozong 高宗 (Wu Ding 武丁) of the Shang even went further: When he acceded to the throne, he toiled at first away from the court, was among the lower people, and did not speak for three years; afterward, his words were full of harmonious wisdom. This brought him a reign of 59 years. Similar correlations are then told about King Zujia 祖甲, but not about his successors, who enjoyed ease from their birth, did not know the painful toil of sowing and reaping, and instead sought for nothing but excessive pleasure – and yielded a reign of just a few years.

Also the royal ancestors of the Zhou, Taiwang 周太王, Ji Li 季歷, and King Wen 周文王 dressed meanly, gave themselves to the work of tranquillization and to that of husbandry, cherished and protected the inferior people, did not dare to go to excess in excursions or hunting, showed a fostering kindness to the wifeless men and widows, and did not allow themselves leisure to eat. Heaven rewarded the Zhou for this austerity and benevolent rule with the Heavenly Mandate to rule. King Wen ruled for fifty years.

Based on these examples, the Duke then admonishes King Cheng to rule in the same way, otherwise he could not "secure the favour of Heaven" (fei tian you ruo 非天攸若). Another consequence would be that men would imitate the king and practise evil. The Duke warns King Cheng: "Become not like Shou [Zhou] the king of Yin 殷 [Shang], who went quite astray, and, became abandoned to drunkenness!"

The Duke also warns the king not to disregard his instruction, referring to the ministers in anquity which had warned and admonished their kings, with positive results. Ignoring the ministers' warning resulted in bad governance, beginning with the king, and going down all levels of administration, so that in the end, the people disobeyed, rebelled, and cursed the king.

The solution to such prevent dangers is presented immediately: When the virtuous kings of old heard of discontent among the people, they paid great and reverent attention to their conduct, and not confusedly punish the guiltless, and put the innocent to death. In order to make his argument more lively, the Duke quotes the complaints of the suppressed people in a direct way, as if they were already speaking to the king. In his last appeal, the Duke of Zhou urges the king to ponder about this matter.

Quotation 5. Final paragraph of the chapter Wuyi 無逸 "Against luxurious ease"
周公曰:「嗚呼!自殷王中宗及高宗及祖甲,及我周文王,茲四人迪哲。厥或告之曰:『小人怨汝詈汝!』則皇自敬德。厥愆,曰:『朕之愆,允若時。』不啻不敢含怒。此厥不聽,人乃或譸張為幻。曰:『小人怨汝詈汝!』則信之。則若時,不永念厥辟。不寬綽厥心,亂罰無罪,殺無辜,怨有同,是叢于厥身。」 The Duke of Zhou said, "Oh! those kings of Yin 殷, Zhongzong 中宗, Gaozong 高宗, and Zujia 祖甲, with king Wen of our Zhou 周文王, these four men carried their knowledge into practice. If it was told them, 'The lower people murmur against you and revile you,' then they paid great and reverent attention to their conduct; and with reference to the faults imputed to them they said, 'Our faults are really so,' thus not simply shrinking from the cherishing of anger. If you will not listen to this, when men with extravagant language and deceptive tricks say to you, 'The lower people are murmuring against you and reviling you,' you will believe them. Doing this, you will not be always thinking of your royal duties, and will not cultivate a large and generous heart, You will confusedly punish the guiltless, and put the innocent to death. There will be a general murmuring, which will be concentrated upon your person."
Transl. by Legge 1865.

An analysis of the last part of the Wuyi chapter shows which stylistic elements the text uses: The plaints of the common people are recited twice, with exactly the same words (Xiao ren yuan ru li ru 小人怨汝詈汝). Many sentences are compiled in parallel form, either with the same grammatical structure and partially the same words (ze xin zhi, ze ruo shi 則信之。則若時; or bu yong nian jue bi, bu kuan chuo jue xin 不永念厥辟。不寬綽厥心; or fa wu zui, sha wu gu 罰無罪,殺無辜), or as short phrases with identical syntax (bu chi, bu gan 不啻不敢). Rhythmic speech can also be attested even if no parallelism can be seen (zhen zhi yan, yun ruo shi 朕之愆,允若時; or fa wu zui, sha wu gu, yuan you tong 罰無罪,殺無辜,怨有同).

The Archaic Chinese of the Shangshu is quite particular in contrast to the classical language that emerged during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). It is believed that part of these linguistic peculiarities originated in the mode of oral transmission, which resulted in the use of colloquial expressions, or in the use to put the object in front of the predicate in case of questions or negation (Liu 1994: 141). Brevity in language is general phenomenon in Classical Chinese, but the language is even more terse in the Shangshu, for instance, by ellipsis of the object or of adjuncts actually necessary to understand the context.

Another grammatical phenomenon is the inversion of predicate and object which in Classical Chinese only occurs in questions or negations. The Shangshu regularly makes use of this "negative polarity" (Dobson 1962), like in wo bu er dong 我不爾動 "we did not move you", or shi chong, shi chang, shi xin, shi shi 是崇是長,是信是使 "these [evildoers King Zhou does] honour and exalt, employ and trust".

Typical archaic expressions are the pronouns yi 台 (a special reading) and ang 卬 for "I, me, my", chou 疇 for "who?", jue 厥 for "he, his", or zhen 朕 for "me" (also of ordinary persons, and not just the ruler, as in Classical Chinese).

While the multiplicity of meaning of characters is common in Classical Chinese, the archaic language of the Shangshu also knows this phenomenon. The word zai 在 (usual meaning "to be somewhere"), for instance, means "to extend one's regard", "to complete", or "to investigate". A phenomenon common also in Classical Chinese is the lending of a character for a word pronounced identically or very similarly. The word kao 考, usually meaning "to test, to investigate" is used for lao 老 "ancestor, forebear".

Also, the use of characters is not yet standardized, and some are used as loan-characters for other words, like /pə/ 不 "not" for /pʰrə/ 丕 "grand", /dzˤə/ 才 "talent" for /dzˤəʔ/ 在 "to be in, to reside", or /tsʰAʔ/ 且 "and" for /tsˤaʔ/ 祖 "ancestor".

Yijing 易經

The Yijing 易經 is a corpus of divinatory practice with the help of milfoil stalks that were counted out according to certain rules and resulted in numbers that were transferred to one of sixty-four images (hexagrams, gua 卦) consisting of six lines (yao 爻) of two types, either solid (━), or broken (╍). Concerning the philosophical background, see Zhou philosophy.

These images and the six individual lines of each were interpreted in a brief manner. The core text of the Yijing was called Zhouyi 周易 "Changes of the Zhou", called so because some of the individual lines might change into its contrary, and result in a different image or hexagram. Several additional commentaries and interpretations, called the ten "wing commentaries" (yi 翼) were added to this core text, resulting in the Classic Yijing.

Apart from the metaphysical or religious use, the text of the Yijing can be seen from the viewpoint of literature. The highest level of literary meaning is that each of the hexagram stands for an abstract situation in a person's life or the political condition a ruler finds himself, yet each of the images is taken from a concrete situation in daily life. Accordingly, the explanatory text of each hexagram line elucidates its meaning by using a concrete object, like the role of a person, a part of the body, animals, plants, tools, buildings, geographical features, or celestial phenomena.

The lines of the hexagram Qian ䷀ 乾, for instrance, describe the movements of an auspicious dragon in certain environments and under specific condititions, and so gives hints under which preconditions one might fare better. The dragon is a metaphor for a person, and in particular, the ruler. Its movements symbolize activities needed to achieve success, be it quick or slow action, or repose and patience.

Quotation 6. The hexagram Qian ䷀ 乾 and its individual lines
乾:元亨,利貞。 Qian: great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm.
初九:潛龍勿用。 1st line, nine (=undivided): The dragon is lying hid [in the deep]. Not the time for active doing.
九二:見龍在田,利見大人。 2nd line, nine: The dragon appearing in the field. Advantageous to meet with the great man.
九三:君子終日乾乾,夕惕若厲。无咎。 3rd line, nine: The superior man active and vigilant all the day, and in the evening still careful and apprehensive. Dangerous, but there will be no mistake.
九四:或躍在淵,无咎。 4th line, nine: [The dragon] leaping up, but still in the deep. There will be no mistake.
九五:飛龍在天,利見大人。 5th line, nine: The dragon on the wing in the sky. Advantageous to meet with the great man.
上九:亢龍,有悔。 6th line, nine: The dragon exceeding the proper limits. Occasion for repentance.
Transl. according to Legge 1882.

The lines of the hexagram describe how one has to wait until a situation becomes favourable. He is "lying hid" in the deep and remains inactive, yet in a vigilant state and careful. In the right situation he "leaps up" and then soars up "into the sky" until he reaches the "limits".

The use of methaphers in the Yijing might have influenced later texts like Mengzi 孟子, Zhuangzi 莊子, Hanfeizi 韓非子, Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋, and Zhanguoce 戰國策, which all make abundant use of parables and metaphers. Traditional Chinese scholars call such metaphers "comparisons" (bi). The stylistic device of xing, which attracts the listener's or reader's attention by evoking moods in a field totally different from the topic of the text, is likewise employed in the Yijing, like in the hexagram Daguo ䷛ 大過, where the text first speaks of withered poplars bearing buds, and then compares this situation with an old man who marries a young bride.

In the same text, it can be seen that the phrases of the Yijing operate with rhymes and equal length of verses, and are thus not unsimilar to lyrics. Lines 2 and 5, for instance, are repated with almost the same words:

Quotation 7. Parallel sentences from the hexagram Daguo 大過 ䷛
九二:枯楊生稊,老夫得其女妻,无不利。 2nd line, nine: A decayed willow producing shoots, or an old husband in possession of his young wife. There will be advantage in every way.
九五:枯楊生華,老婦得其士夫,无咎无譽。 5th line, nine: A decayed willow producing flowers, or an old wife in possession of her young husband. There will be occasion neither for blame nor for praise.
Transl. according to Legge 1882.

The text of the Zhouyi is composed of prose (sanwen 散文) and rhymes (yunwen 韻文). The length of sentences is generally very short, but there are such with 7 or 8 characters length, and some consisting of only a few characters or only one (like "is auspicious"). Parallel sentences (dui'ouju 對偶句) in which one or several characters are identical, occur frequently.

In some instances, narrative passages can be found, like in the hexagram Xiaoxu ䷈ 小畜 which describes the depencence of man and women from each other: "[when] the rain has fallen, and the onward progress is stayed - so must we value the full accumulation of the virtue. But a wife exercising restraint, however firm and correct she may be, is in a position of peril, and like the moon approaching to the full. If the superior man prosecute his measures in such circumstances, there will be evil." Or hexagram Zhongfu ䷼ 中孚 describing the situation of a couple of lovers: "The subject having met with his mate beats his drum, and now he leaves off. Now he weeps, and now he sings."

A combination of many literary elements can be found in the hexagram Kui ䷥ 睽.

Quotation 8. The hexagram Kui ䷥ 睽 and its individual lines
《睽》小事吉。 Kui: In small matters there will be good success.
初九:悔亡。喪馬,勿逐自復。見惡人无咎。 1st line, nine (=undivided): [Occasion for] repentance will disappear. He has lost his horses, but let him not seek for them - they will return of themselves. Should he meet with bad men, he will not err [in communicating with them].
九二:遇主于巷,无咎。 2nd line, nine: Happening to meet with one's lord in a bye-passage. There will be no error.
六三:見輿曳,其牛掣,其人天且劓,无初有終。 3rd line, six (=divided): One's carriage is dragged back, while the oxen in it are pushed back, and oneself is subjected to the shaving of the head and the cutting off of the nose. There is no good beginning, but there will be a good end.
九四:睽孤,遇元夫,交孚,厲无咎。 4th line, nine: Being solitary amidst disunion. One will meets with the good man [see 1st line], and they blend their sincere desires together. The position is one of peril, but there will be no mistake.
六五:悔亡。厥宗噬膚,往何咎? 5th line, six: [Occasion for] repentance will disappear. With his relative [one unites closely and readily) as if one was biting through a piece of skin. When one goes forward, what error can there be?
上九:睽孤,見豕負塗,載鬼一車,先張之弧,後說之弧,匪寇,婚媾。往遇雨,則吉。 6th line, nine: Solitary amidst disunion. [In the subject of the third line, he seems to] see a pig bearing on its back a load of mud, [or fancies] there is a carriage full of ghosts. He first bends his bow against him, and afterwards unbends it, [for he discovers] that he is not an assailant to injure, but a near relative. Going forward, he shall meet with [genial] rain, and there will be good fortune.
Transl. according to Legge 1882.

Not only do the lines describe complex processes in a narrative way. Many sentences show parallel structures, even if there is not the phenomenon of anaphers or other forms of repetition. For instance, line 3 begins with two 3-syllable verses, and line 4 consists of the rhythmic pattern of 2 - 3 - 2 - 3 syllables. Line 6 consists of the sequence 2 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 4 - 2 - 2. Finally, there are several rhymes in the individual lines of the hexagram, namely (tentatively) in line 1 /pruks/ 復 and /gruʔ/ 咎, in line 3 [lat] 曳, /tips/ 掣, and /ŋrats/ 劓, line 4 /kʷˤa/ 孤 and [mbru] 孚, line /pra/ 膚 and /gruʔ/ 咎, and in line 6 /lˤa/ 塗 and /gʷˤa/ 弧, as well as /kʰˤros/ 寇 and /kˤros/ 媾.

Inscriptions of vessels (jinwen 金文)

While rhyme and tetrasyllabic meter occur among the earliest Western Zhou inscriptions, these features become increasingly regular from the periods of kings Gong 周共王 and Yi 周懿王 onward, as do the calligraphy and overall visual layout (linear arrangement, spacing between graphs, etc.) of the inscriptions (Kern 2009: 194-195).

Quotation 9. The inscription of the Xing ren Ning zhong 邢人佞鐘 bell
井(=邢)人{二/女}(=佞)曰。佞盄(=淑)文且(=祖)。皇考。 A Ning 佞 from Xing 邢 says: [My] illustrious and gentle cultured ancestors and august late father
克(=可)質(=哲)厥德。 A Were able to give substance to their virtuous power.
得屯(=純)用魯。 x They obtained purity and used generosity,
永冬(=終)于吉。 B Forever ending in auspiciousness.
佞不敢弗帥 B Ning does not dare to disobey them.
用文且皇考。 A Using his cultured ancestors and august late father [as his model],
穆穆秉德。 A He respectfully, respectfully holds on to their virtuous power.
佞𡩜𡩜聖(=爽)。 C Ning is elated, elated about their sagely brightness,
(=疐)處宗室。 B Approaches their place in the ancestral hall.
(=肆) 佞乍(=作)龢父大󱮍(=林)鐘。 C Thus, Ning has made for father He 龢 a grand linzhong[-bell];
用追孝。 A Use it to sacrifi ce in commemoration,
侃歬(=前)文人。 D To delight the former cultured men.
歬文人 D The former cultured
其嚴才(=在)上。 C may solemnly reside above!
󰚕(=豐pʰĭuŋ)󰚕󱎫(=㲋/泉)󱎫。 x Ding, dong, ding, dong -
降余厚 A They bestow on me rich rewards,
多福無彊。 C Manifold blessings without limit!
佞其萬年。 D May Ning have a myriad years!
子子孫孫 D May sons of sons, grandsons of grandsons
永寶用亯(=享)。 C Forever treasure and use [this bell] to make off erings!
Transl. by Kern 2009: 196.

Apart from the fact that a substantial number of verses consists of four syllables, there is a great number of end rhymes. Martin Kern makes out the following ones (see letters A-D above): /kr̥ˤuʔ/ 考, /tˤək?/ 德, /qʰˤruʔs/ 孝, and /Cəgˤroʔ/ 厚; /Cqit/ 吉, /sruts/ 帥, and /sti[t]/ 室; /l̥eŋs/ 爽, /toŋ/ 鐘, /Cədaŋʔ/, 上, /kaŋ/ 彊, and /qʰaŋʔ/ 享; as well as /niŋ/ 人, /Cnˤiŋ/ 年, and /sˤun/ 孫. The distribution of rhymes over the whole text shows some regularities, namely the use of rhyming couplets which follow in alternating sequence (AA - BB - AA - CC), but not througout the text.

Dobson, W.A.C.H. (1962). Early Archaic Chinese: A Descriptive Grammar (Toronto: University of Toronto Press).
Kern, Martin (2009). "Bronze Inscriptions, the Shijing and the Shangshu: The Evolution of the Ancestral Sacrifice during the Western Zhou", John Lagerwey, Marc Kalinowski, ed. Early Chinese Religion, Part One, Shang through Han (1250 BC–220 AD) (Leiden/Boston: Brill), 143-200.
Waley, Arthur, transl. (1996 [1937]). The Book of Songs (New York: Grove).