Lorianne – I think Snyder accepted the pious reading of the poem — I don’t see any evidence to suggest otherwise — but I am intrigued by the idea that procreation might be hinted at in the Shi Jing poem. It seems likely that loss of virginity and impregnation would have been closely linked in Zhou-era notions of marriage ceremonies, so if the hatchet is a synecdoche for the narrator, perhaps he is thinking not just of his penis here but also his male heir.

David – Perhaps so. With Confucius, as I understand it, the cosmos can be brought into order if each individual governs himself properly; proper treatment of others flows naturally from proper treatment of oneself. In the concluding section of the chapter, he gives examples for each of the Five Relationships, such as, you should treat your younger brother the way you would want to be treated by an older brother. So it’s reciprocity within a hierarchical framework. Elsewhere in the book, he says, “The administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler’s own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.”