Teacher Tang Yuling will accompany you to read The Analects
57. Book 3 Ba Yi (The Eight-row Dance), Chapter 16
The Master said, “In archery it is not going through the leather which is the principal thing -- because people's strength is not equal. This was the old way.”
Highlights of this lecture include:
1. Emphasizing the true spirit of sportsmanship rather than skills
Nowadays, many kinds of sports focus on physical strength and skills. But the crucial consideration should be about sportsmanship. In ancient China, ritual archery matches took place in different occasions, such as the archery grandeur before the emperor (大射Dashe), the courtesy archery locale (鄉射Xiangshe) at ministerial level, the archery matches as greeting to honorable guests (賓射Binshe), and the archery matches among vassal lords at banquets (燕射Yanshe). The matches emphasized on skills and on archers’ manners and etiquette. The players’ personality, graciousness and virtuous character manifested were closely observed and serious accounted for whether they were qualified to partake in the formal worshipping ceremonies at grand temple. Or, they could be handpicked to serve in the officialdom. As a matter of fact, ritual archery didn’t mean a simple match to win.
2. Piercing through the leather target was not a must
Archery can be divided into two types, military and literati archery. Military archery武射 required not only to hit the mark but also to penetrate the hard leather target. Instead, the literati archery文射emphasized on archers’ virtues and manners rather than piercing through the leather target; as the level of strength required was not of the same as that for military archers. Such was the rule of yore. The crucial consideration of the days of yore were archers’ character, virtues, graciousness and decorum.
3. All walk of life have a blissful way to go.
Archery has developed its values to follow. The same is true in all walks of life and principles, such as sado (Japanese tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arrangement), business, medical profession and all kinds of sports. In contests, players were obliged to follow the codes of conduct, upheld ones’ integrity and good sportsmanship. More respects will go to players of good propriety. A virtuous player would able to seek the cause in oneself, would not proud with his prize won nor daunted by a defeat. By living out this, a player of virtues can embark upon a spectacular life.