Budo/Martial Arts · Kyudo · Kyudo Books · Reigi - Etiquette

Deeper Understanding of the Shaho-Kun and Raiki-Shagi Part IV: Source of the Raiki-Shagi, the “Book of Rites”

This is Part IV in a series about two very important texts in the kyudo world: the “Raiki-Shagi” and the “Shaho-Kun.” This series is based on information gleaned from the book “Michi no Yumi” (“道の弓”) written by Iwao Matsui Sensei. In this post I will talk about invaluable background information on the Raiki-Shagi, a little more on Confucianism, and a little more about the book, “Michi no Yumi”.

In Part I the two important texts of the Raiki-Shagi and Shaho-Kun were introduced along with the book that inspired these discussions, “Michi no Yumi.” In Part II the outline and main sections of “Michi no Yumi” were introduced, and in Part III a background of the history of the Raiki-Shagi was introduced along with some discussions on the concept of “Rei” (礼) which could be understood as “courtesy”, “etiquette”, “propriety.”

And then …


Like lightning bolts from the gods, I received comments!!!

(Endless thanks and cyber beers go to Kirin and Al!)

Rare gifts indeed. And not just any mere comments, but ones with some absolutely invaluable information to this discussion. Like …

The Raiki-Shagi is in fact not from the Analects, but from “the Book of Rites” (Liji).

Here is a link to the wikipedia article which should be checked out because it gives some basic information about the Book of Rites along with a list of all the other chapters (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Rites).

But for all you lazy bums who won’t check it out right this second, here is some basic info taken from Wikipedia:

The Book of Rites or Liji, literally the Record of Rites, is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty as they were understood in the Warring States and the early Han periods. The Book of Rites, along with the Rites of Zhou (Zhouli) and the Book of Etiquette and Rites (Yili), which are together known as the “Three Li (San li),” constitute the ritual (li) section of the Five Classics which lay at the core of the traditional Confucian canon (Each of the “five” classics is a group of works rather than a single text). As a core text of the Confucian canon, it is also known as the Classic of Rites (Lijing), which some scholars believe was the original title before it was changed by Dai Sheng.”

Wait for it …


Another bolt strikes!

Here is a site with the English translation of the original Raiki Shagi, or rather the “She Yi” version from Chinese.


All hail Kirin the commenter!

This is amazing because:

・It gives us the whole version of the Shagi, not just the parts selected for the version we see in kyudo.

・It gives English translations that are different from that in the kyudo version for another perspective (since any translation is not “perfect”, but rather one subjective interpretation, especially when dealing with characters that use images like those found in Chinese characters)

・It reveals the great traditions of Chinese archery, which I for one am not very informed about.

・And it finally makes sense to everything about the “banquets” and so on I read in “Michi no Yumi”.

So, I think what I read in Michi no Yumi was a version of the original (that can be found in the link), which to say the least, was like trying to decipher Latin or Shakespearean English. Basically my eyes glazed over, my imagination was stretched, and only here and there could I pick out specific things I understood, while it felt like generally floating out in the open ocean.

And all that stuff about banquets finally make sense!!!!

So, if you’ve been good and checked the links I’ve given, or are already familiar with this stuff, you’ll see that these archery tests were performed by nobles in ancient China during banquets. These banquets held different events, and were enjoyed with feasts and booze. The picture of these banquets is made much more clear after reading the whole of the Shagi, and here I’d like to point out a couple parts I found particularly interesting.

From Part 2 (found in the link to the She Yi original Raiki-Shagi):

“The archers, in advancing, retiring, and all their movements, were required to observe the rules. With minds correct, and straight carriage of the body, they were to hold their bows and arrows skilfully and firmly; and when they did so, they might be expected to hit the mark. In this way (from their archery) their characters could be seen.”

This is one part that’s contained in the first part of the Raiki-Shagi. The current version goes as:

“The shooting, with the round of moving forward or backward can never be without courtesy and propriety (Rei).

After having acquired the right inner intention and correctness in the outward appearance, the bow and arrow can be handled resolutely.

To shoot in this way is to perform the shooting with success, and through this shooting virtue will be evident.”

I feel like I’m looking at the back of my head for the first time.

From Part 3:

“The Zou-yu is expressive of joy that every office is (rightly) filled; the Li-shou is expressive of the joy at audiences of the court; the Cai-pin is expressive of the joy in observing the laws (which have been learned); and the Cai-fan is expressive of the joy in being free from all failures in duty. Therefore the son of Heaven regulated his shooting by keeping in his mind the right feeling of all officers; a feudal prince, by keeping in his mind the times of his appearing before the son of Heaven; a dignitary, being a Great officer, by keeping in his mind the observing of the laws (which he had learned); and an officer, by keeping in his mind that he must not fail in the duties of his office. In this way, when they clearly understood the meaning of those regulating measures, and were thus able to avoid all failure in their services, they were successful in their undertakings, and their character and conduct were established. When their characters were established, no such evils as oppression and disorder occurred; and when their undertakings were successful, the states were tranquil and happy. Hence it is said that ‘the archery served to show the completeness of (the archer’s) virtue.'”

This is long, and at first I kind of skimmed over it, but I think this is one big explanation of Rei (礼) and a chance to us to find some examples of this abstract and vague term that is often defined as “courtesy”, “propriety”, and “etiquette.” Here, the text shows that it’s important for everyone to do their particular “duty”, and if done so properly and well, then the whole of the group can benefit, revealing virtue. We don’t know exactly what “duties” these nobles were expected of, but how they were handled, and by handling them successfully, Rei is realized and translates into virtue. Hopefully here we begin to see that Rei is about doing something “right,” and that something is going to have a specific way of doing so. In kyudo, Rei will be expressed through specific movements that may differ greatly from other arts, but should still express the original idea of Rei, which very simply put, is doing something “correctly.” (And with the proper “intention.)

From Part 6:

“Hence it is said in the ode (now lost), ‘The long-descended lord Presents your cups of grace. His chiefs and noble men Appear, all in their place; Small officers and Great, Not one will keep away. See them before their prince, All in their full array. They feast, and then they shoot, Happy and praised to boot.’ The lines show how when rulers and their officers earnestly devoted themselves together to archery, and the practice in connexion with it of ceremonies and music, they were happy and got renown. It was on this account that the son of Heaven instituted the custom, and the feudal lords diligently attended to it. This was the way in which the son of Heaven cherished the princes, and had no need of weapons of war (in dealing with them); it furnished (also) to the princes an instrument with which they trained themselves to rectitude.”

First of all, I think this excerpt paints a very expressive image of what these banquets may have looked like. What we find are not tests solely based on shooting alone and hitting the target, but a massive event were more importance is based on atmosphere of the “whole,” with everyone as a group being merry. This doesn’t mean that hitting the target isn’t important, but that it is something that happens after the proper mentality has been acquired, and that proper mentality is dependent on the situation with which you are in, and more importantly, the others that are involved. This could be considered another example of Rei, I think.

Secondly, in the last line, the bow is revealed not as a base weapon, but “an instrument with which they trained themselves to rectitude.” Sure the bow can pierce and kill, but that is one tiny little facet of this great instrument whose full potential is far larger. Kyudo is about the bigger picture, and that contains all the smaller parts completely.

From Part 8:

To shoot means to draw out to the end, and some say to lodge in the exact point. That drawing out to the end means every one unfolding his own idea; hence, with the mind even-balanced and the body correctly poised, (the archer) holds his bow and arrow skilfully and firmly. When he so holds them, he will hit the mark. Hence it is said, ‘The father (shoots) at the father-mark; the son, at the son-mark; the ruler, at the ruler-mark; the subject, at the subject-mark.’ Thus the archer shoots at the mark of his (ideal) self; and so the Great archery of the son of Heaven is called shooting at (the mark of) the feudal prince. ‘Shooting at the mark of the feudal prince’ was shooting to prove himself a prince.”

This part shows how one’s shooting reveals their inner character, or in other words, is an expression of the self. We are all different, and so all of our shooting will reflect that difference. Shooting in accordance with ourselves is most important. This can be interpreted as remarkable technical, advising us not to merely copy others, but find our own shooting. What works for someone else may not work for us, and what works for us may not work for someone else. This is everyday kind of stuff in learning about kyudo technique.

I believe this part also contains that which is included in the modern Japanese version:

(Taken from the excerpt above) “hence, with the mind even-balanced and the body correctly poised, (the archer) holds his bow and arrow skilfully and firmly. When he so holds them, he will hit the mark.”

This is only partly addressed in the current English version for kyudo, but better understood when reading the Japanese version. In later posts I hope to go in more detail about the discrepancies between the modern English translation and the Japanese version.

From Part 11:

“Archery suggests to us the way of benevolence. (The archer) seeks to be correct in himself, and then discharges his arrow. If it miss the mark, he is not angry with the one who has surpassed himself, but turns round and seeks (for the cause of failure) in himself. Confucius said, ‘The student of virtue has no contentions. If it be said that he cannot avoid them, shall this be in archery? (But) he bows complaisantly to his competitor, ascends (the hall), descends (again), and exacts the forfeit of drinking. In his contention, he is still the superior man.'”

This is where another part of the modern kyudo Raiki-Shagi is taken:

“Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue. In the shooting, one must search for rightness in oneself. With the rightness of self, shooting can be realized.

At the time when shooting fails, there should be no resentment towards those who win. On the contrary, this is an occasion to search for oneself.”

I had a talk over some drinks with a couple other kyudo buddies (it seems alcohol and the bow are linked no matter what age you live in!) and one of them made the point of how amazing it is that 2,500 or more years ago, people were talking about the idea that “If you fail, you shouldn’t blame those around you, but rather look to yourself.” Here we are, 2,500 years later, and how far have humans evolved? With all our fancy tools and gadgets, many of us are still cursing each other and pointing the finger while running away from our problems. The human species appears to be unchanged!!! However, this shouldn’t make us depressed about the fate of man, but rather rejoice, that our fate lies inside of ourselves. We have the potential to change ourselves, and thus, the universe, with our mental stance and proper action. Perhaps I go too far, but these are just some of the interesting ideas that spring from this ancient text.

From Part 12:

Confucius said, ‘How difficult it is to shoot! How difficult it is to listen (to the music)! To shoot exactly in harmony with the note (given) by the music, and to shoot without missing the bull’s-eye on the target – it is only the archer of superior virtue who can do this! How shall a man of inferior character be able to hit the mark?”

Confucius … you are the man. If it is not clear from this very short section that kyudo is not just a modern manifestation of bow and arrow warfare, but an ancient tradition that has it’s roots at least as far back as 2,500 BC in China … then I don’t really know what to tell you.

Perhaps I go too far again … but if you’re looking for an answer as to why the Raiki Shagi is so important to kyudo … this is it. Kyudo, or simply the act of shooting a bow and arrow is so difficult, how can you possibly expect to handle the bow and arrow if you cannot handle yourself?

From Part 13:

“It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, viii, ode 6, 1), ‘”Now shoot,” he says, “and show your skill.” The other answers, “Shoot I will, And hit the mark;–and when you miss, Pray you the penal cup to kiss.”‘ ‘To pray’ is to ask. The archer seeks to hit that he may decline the cup. The liquor in the cup is designed (properly) to nourish the aged, or the sick. When the archer seeks to hit that he may decline the cup, that is declining what should serve to nourish (those that need it).”

So, when you hit, you’re the winner, and when you lose, you get to drink?

I think this is the coolest drinking game I’ve ever heard of.

There I am getting excited and saying something foolish. Please excuse my lack of Rei, but this is so interesting and reminds me of when I first started kyudo and was talking to my teacher about drinking and competition and kyudo.

I finished my first tournament, and of course did horribly, hitting 1 or none out of 8. I can’t even remember it was so bad. Feeling slightly depressed I jokingly asked my teacher, who is also a fan of imbibing alcohol, “So, when you fail in kyudo, should you go home and drink? Or abstain?” I can’t remember what he said, but I assume he probably said just do whatever you want. Here in this document it is clear that those who lost were given a drink while the winner abstained. There is room for a lot of discussion here, but I will rest and simply say that this is very interesting.

And that’s it!

I need to take a break just to let all this new information soak in …

but before that I’ll quickly mention a couple other things I wanted to say.

Thank you again Kirin for the comment in the last post supplying me with this invaluable information.

And thank you Al! For giving some more information about Confucianism and the existence of the Confucius museum in Taipei in the comment section of the last post! (Link here: http://www.ct.taipei.gov.tw/en-us/C/Sage/Confucius/1/1/5.htm)

After all this talk about Confucius … I’m just thinking about how I can get to this museum as fast as possible.

There is a lot of information about Confucianism, and I think the unfortunate thing is that simply reading it all quietly in our minds makes a lot of these abstract thoughts really difficult to understand, and not necessarily interesting. For us kyudo folk, who choose to spend our time in action shooting arrows from the mark instead of locked away in dark libraries (though that can be fun, too) all of this valuable information on Confucianism can seem difficult to absorb.

So, what better way than to see, touch, and feel this ancient tradition through a museum that looks as wonderful as this.

Thank you again Al.

As for some information on the book “Michi no Yumi”, from which all this talk here on the blog originally spawned from, I went to the teacher’s dojo from who I borrowed the book and found out some extra information:

There seems to be an English translation of the section about how Japanese culture effects kyudo, and budo as a whole in what I think is titled (forsake my forgetful mind), “Thoughts on Budo” written of course by Iwao Matsui. I’m kind of full on the subject for now, but maybe I’ll give it a read in English soon. If it’s the version that’s in the back of Michi no Yumi, then that is great, and of course a must-read for kyudo enthusiasts … but I can’t help but feel that there is already a lot of information about Japanese culture and budo, but so little valuable information about the Raiki-Shagi and Shaho-Kun, like with what is presented in the rest of the book Michi no Yumi.

Unfortunately, my teacher thinks that Iwao Matsui Sensei has passed away.

But I’m still not sure.

Thank you for your patience and making it to the end of this post!

Stay tuned for more information gleaned from the book “Michi no Yumi” on the Raiki-Shagi and Shaho-Kun.







3 thoughts on “Deeper Understanding of the Shaho-Kun and Raiki-Shagi Part IV: Source of the Raiki-Shagi, the “Book of Rites”

  1. Glad you enjoyed that tidbit of information 😀

    The statement “Confucius said, ‘How difficult it is to shoot! How difficult it is to listen (to the music)! To shoot exactly in harmony with the note (given) by the music, and to shoot without missing the bull’s-eye on the target – it is only the archer of superior virtue who can do this! How shall a man of inferior character be able to hit the mark?” will probably make a lot more sense after you watch these two videos.

    It looks like traditional Chinese archers literally had to shoot to the beat of the music, so you can guess there was no hanare 😀 Interestingly enough, this form of ceremonial shooting is called 射禮/射礼, aka sharei. Again this is based on my own research, but given the connection between kyudo and Confucianism as you’ve mentioned, I have to believe there’s also a connection between Chinese archery sharei and kyudo sharei. If you can ask a sensei whether this is true that would be great.

    Obviously, there isn’t much similarity between the two “forms” of sharei superficially but you can see a fair bit of “philosophical similarity” for a lack of a better word in terms of rei, notably how archers interact with each other and to their guests/judges.

  2. Again you’ve dropped golden gems in my path! Thank you very much for these very long videos! I’m afraid I didn’t give them the full run through (certainly will soon with more time), but from the sections I watched, it’s interesting to fit a real life modern action to the words in the Book of Rites. Simply put, as you said, many similarities, seemingly in ideas and feelings of Rei, and many many differences in form. I will certainly ask around about any opinions or knowledge in the kyudo community, but this is the first I’ve ever heard/seen about Chinese traditional archery, and I assume that will be the same with most archers in Japan. Worth the try though. Thank you again for the valuable resources.

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