The Mandate of Heaven


The material below will be used with the class presentation on The Mandate of Heaven, a mandate given by the Jade Emperor (God) to the rulers of China. It is important because the ancient city in China is the greatest physical manifestation of that mandate, and the means by which it is directed and enforced.

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The Jade Emperor, who rules the world from his Pole Star kingdom, gives the Mandate of Heaven to the just ruler, who is called the Son of Heaven. The ruler retains the Mandate of Heaven as long as his rule is just. When the just ruler dies, the Mandate passes to his male heir. When his government becomes corrupt, and thus unjust, the ruler looses the Mandate of Heaven. If he is overthrown by war or rebellion, that fact alone demonstrates that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Read more about the Mandate of Heaven.


The Halo of Godliness was often used in images of Mao to conote his status as the Son of Heaven. This particular representation reveals two important things. (1) It depicts Mao as a young man long before he became the leader of China, indicating that he had even then been anointed as the Son of Heaven. (2) This image fronts Mao's ancestral residence, which is the core of the Shaoshan Mao Zedong Memorial Museum in Hunan. It represents the way the great masses of Chinese people view both Mao and the "Communist Dynasty," which currently holds the Mandate of Heaven.

View a more conventional "halo" image of Mao.

Capture of Dali, capital of the Pingnan Sultanate, 1873


Rebellions were most often defeated, thereby confirming heaven's mandate in the rulers of China. This painting, housed in the collection (records) of the Palace Museum in Beijing, dates from the end of the Panthay Rebellion. It records the fall of the capital of Pingnan Guo (Ping-nan Kuo) Sultanate (1856 - 1873) of the Hui Muslims of Yunnan.
   There were four large-scale Muslim rebellions during the 19th century. What implications do you think these have for China today?

Learn more about the Panthay Rebellion.

Get Outlaws of the Marsh


Outlaw and Hero. A popular Chinese saying states "The winner becomes king, the loser becomes outlaw." The Water Margin, variously lengthened to Outlaws of the Water Margin and Heros of the Water Margin, has been one of China's most popular books for over 800 years.
  Why are rebels who do terrible things considered heros? Because rebels are sometimes an instrument of the Jade Emperor, a way of telling the Son of Heaven that he is not dealing with corruption effectively and may, therefore, loose the Mandate of Heaven. The outlaws of the Water Margin are led by 108 Stars of Destiny consisting of 36 Heavenly Spirits and 72 Earthly Fiends, all incarnated as living men with no knowledge of their spiritual past. It is their destiny to purge the empire of many evils, but in the end corruption is only held a bay, leaving the Mandate of Heaven in tact and the Son of Heaven very much aware of his duty.

Read more about the Water Margin.

Read more about the 108 Stars of Destiny.

Read more about the Leader Star, Song Jiang (Timely Rain), Protector of Righteousness.


Corruption is, according to most Chinese philosophical traditions, the natural outcome of human weakness and selfish proclivities. Governing is a sacred task required by God to elevate human beings and force them to adopt correct behavior.
   Here we have Shi Chong of Jin gazing upon the beauty of Lu Zhu, a beautiful flute player he purchased for five bushels of pearls. One of the wealthiest men in the history of China, Shi Chong is the epitome of human corruption. Handsome, scholarly, an acclaimed poet and a self-made man, this outward appearance veiled an evil persona that would do anything for wealth and power.
  In China, all imperial dynasties eventually become corrupt and loose the Mandate of Heaven. It is only a matter of when. This includes the Chinese Communist dynasty. If it becomes too corrupt, it will loose the support of it's huge population, it will fall in revolt and loose the Mandate of Heaven. This is the ultimate source of the current campaign against corruption in the Communist Party.


April 20, 2016. President Xi Jinping inspecting the Central Military Commission (CMC), a newly created anti-graft unit of the People's Liberation Army.

Read more about the CMC

Explore the wider problem of corruption in China


The 2013 public humiliation of high ranking officials in Chongqing, including a member of the Politburo and Party Chief of Chongquig, the Vice minister of Public Security, and a former Chairman of the National Petroleum Corporation.

Read more about corruption in Chongqing

View the entire Nine Dragon Scroll here.      The inscriptions and seals are annotated here.

Messengers from Heaven. The Jade Emperor delegates the management of humans to the Son of Heaven, but he manages the rest of the universe, including earth, through his prodigious heavenly bureaucracy. He also uses this system to keep the Son of Heaven in line and to meddle in human affairs.
   As an example, let us consider dragons. Dragons are a good choice because the dragon represents the primordial energy of the universe and the male aspect of generative power. Dragons control everything on earth that has to do with water and wind, and so are the chief conduit for chi, the power that animates the world, underlies the laws of fengshui, and powers the Mandate of Heaven. The symbol of empire and the emperor is a dragon. He who occupies the Dragon Throne has the job of using chi to implement the Mandate of Heaven.

Above we have the copper dragon who lives in my humble abode. He is from deep in the earth where aquifers carry chi from below to nourish the world.


Water Dragons. Let us take water dragons as an example. Every river, every lake, every pond, each harbor, water gate, bridge, well and spring, each formation of clouds, every fog bank and every lightening display has it's particular dragon. Weather is ordained in heaven.
   For example, the order for a particular rain storm will be written down on a plaque at the direction of the Spiritual Dragon in Heaven and taken by messenger down to the Dragon King of earth to be passed on through the dragon bureaucracy to the particular dragon responsible for rain in a particular place. The plaque will say exactly this much rain at this time in this place. Provide such and such village with a double rainbow to indicate our approval of their recent behavior. Take three lightening dragons with you and have them put on a real show for thus and such a magistrate, but smite the plumb tree in his inner compound to show that heaven knows exactly what he is up to.
   Since rain is provided at the pleasure of Heaven, a draught is clear message of Heaven's displeasure. People suffering from a draught wonder if this is a sign that the Jade Emperor is about to withdraw the Mandate of Heaven from the Son of Heaven. Hence, draught may justify rebellion.

Go the the course presentation on Dragons.

Learn about Dragon hierarchies here.


Tokens of the Mandate of Heaven. From time to time, the Jade Emperor gives the Son of Heaven a token that physically represents the Mandate of Heaven. A good example is found in the Cloud Pillars bestowed upon the Tang at the founding of the White Cloud Temple in Beijing in the 8th Century. The Cloud Pillar became a symbol of the Mandate of Heaven and was appropriated by the Ming after the fall of the Tang. In due course the Ming erected a Cloud Pillar at the entrence to the Forbidden City to signify they held the Mandate of Heaven. When the Qing captured the Forbidden City, they also captured the Mandate of Heaven, as did the republicans and the Communists who followed them.
   The Communists have made repeated use of the Cloud Pillar to suggest they have the Mandate of Heaven.

History of the White Cloud Temple.


Opera staged before the party congress in the mid 1970s, commemorating the May the 4th Movement, which began with a massive student protest in Tienamen Square on May 4, 1919, in protest of the 21 conditions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. Notice the cloud pillar on the right invoking the approval of heaven.


The actual May the 4th, 1919, demonstration is at the left and a later propoganda poster at the right. The Cloud Pillar plays a prominent role in each.

Go to the May the 4th Movement.



May 9, 1989, four days after the shooting stopped, tanks guard the entrence to the Forbidden City. The cloud pillar remains unscathed, as they have since the first appeared at the White Cloud Temple in 739.


Distributing the Mandate of Heaven. There are many versions of this history, but it is commonly believed by Chinese that Emperor Yu, founder of the Xia Dynesty, after many miraculous deeds, united China and divided it into nine provinces. He compelled each province to provide an enormous metal tribute and with these tributes, using his divine knowledge, created nine sacred bronze Ding, like the late Shang Dynasty example pictured here. However, these were giant Ding requiring at least 3,000 soldiers to lift each. Each encapsulated the provence that it commemorated. These were the sacrificial vessels of the Empire, used to communicate with Heaven and with the ancestors of the Emperor's family. Thus they embodied and contained the Mandate of Heaven.
   Officials of the Empire used their own personal Ding in the sacrifices for which they were responsible. The Emperor was permitted 9 Ding, a Duke allowed 7, a Baron 5, and a nobleman 3. This distributed The Mandate of Heaven throughout the Xia government, making it manifest to humans, the ancestors and earthly spirits.

Learn about Chinese ritual bronzes.

When the Xia were overthrown and the Shang came to power, the Shang siezed the nine sacred ding and moved them to their own capital, claiming and distributing the Mandate of Heaven. The Jade Emperor permitted this and in this way the Mandate of Heaven passed to the Shang. When the Shang were overthrown, the Zhou took the nine sacred vessels to their capital and were blessed with the Mandate of Heaven. When the Zhou were finally defeated, the Qin captured the sacred vessels, but lost them when they fell into the River Si and could not be retrieved. Thus, the Mandate of Heaven was withdrawn. No doubt, the Si River Dragon had orders from on high.


Two later Qin Emperors searched for the Nine Caldrons in the Si River without success. Over the past 2,000 years, several emperors have recast the Nine Caldrons in an effort to solidify their claim to the Mandate of Heaven. In 2006, the PRC had its National Museum recast the Nine Ding, which have been placed at strategic points in Beijing, officially as tourist attractions. Of course, more Chinese citizens see them than do tourists and their true significance is obvious to them. The Communist Dynesty is bolstering its own claim to the Mandate of Heaven.

The Jade Emperor, himself, used who were so enfeoffed to instruct the Son of Heaven and the Chinese people in correct thought and behavior, which he expected lest the Mandate of Heaven be withdrawn. The intertwined cases of Confucius and Mencius provide a striking example of this sort of heavenly management.

The caldrons from a Chinese point of view. [PDF]

Go to a detailed history of the caldrons.

Using Enfeoffment to Conserve the Mandate of Heaven. A feoff is an hereditary estate, usually landed and complete with a peasnatry. It is enforced at the will of the Emperor and passed down in the male line. When the Shang defeated the Xia and and sought to secure the Mandate of Heaven, they faced a problem. Many of the noble officials who possessed sacrificial Ding and actually administered the Mandate of Heaven had survived the rebellion with the evident approval of the Jade Emperor. If allowed to live, they might become the focus of a counter revolution. But if slain, this might seriously undermine the Mandate of Heaven. The solution was to enfeoff them so that they became nobles of Shang, bringing with them their bit of the Mandate of Heaven.
   When the Zhou overthrew the Shang, they too enfeoffed the surviving Shang nobles. When the Qin overthrew the Zhou and lost the physical Mandate of Heaven in the River Si, China was divided among several competing kingdoms, some of which moved to enfeoff surviving Zhou nobles and recognize the earlier Shang and Zhou feoffs. These competing kingdoms then offered official positions to holders of such feoffs. It was thought that, if you could attract enough of them to your kingdom, you might credibly claim the mandate of heaven.

The Lineage of Confucius.      Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge. Older brothers on left; younger brothers on right. Dotted line = adoption.

  This diagram represents the concept of the "Chain of Being" and the practice of "Enfeoffing" as applied to the lineage of Confucius and the "Mandate of Heaven". At the top, there is Di Ku (God-Emperor Ku) a semi-mythological figure one of whose sons, Xie, was the ancestor of the kings of the Shang dynasty. Thirteen generations later, Xie's descendent defeats the Xia and becomes the first Shang Emperor. The surviving nobels of Xia are Enfeoffed because they once held the Mandate of Heaven in their hands. When the Shang are overthrown by the Zhou, the Zhou enfeoffed the surviving Shang nobels, making them Dukes of Yansheng, thus recognizing their connection with the Mandate of Heaven. In a similar fashion, the Zhou were enfoeffed. Thereafter, enfoeffment continued but, because the nine sacred vessels were lost when the Zhou fell, those hereditary lines subsequently enfoeffed do not carry the Mandate of Heaven.
  After many more generations, Confucius is born in the direct male line descended from Emperor Xie, and becomes the Duke of Yansheng. Does the Jade Emperor choose to speak through him to instruct the kingdoms of men? Many think so. Many think the Mandate of Heaven is made manifest through the life and teachings of Confucius.

Seventy-eight generations later, Kung Tsuio-chang becomes today's Duke of Yansheng in a sacred ceremony in the high "Temple of Confucius" in Taiwan. As such, he is a chief advisor to the President of the Republic of China and it's also chief Fengshui officer. Is this because he is a great sage or a surpassingly subtle practitioner of Fengshui? Oh no. It is because he is an important vessel for the Mandate of Heaven.

Depiction of Confucius from a Western Han dynasty tomb (202 BC - 9 AD)


Confucius was born in 551 BC during the Waring States Period when China was not united and no single kingdom could claim the Mandate of Heaven. He was born in Liu State into the Shi Class, situated between the aristocracy and common people and the source of lower ranked military officers and government officials. His full ancestry was only revealed later.
   Confucius was born Kong Qui, but when he became a teacher with a following, he was called Kongzi, which means "Master Kong." He held a number of minor bureaucratic position in Liu State and, at the age of 50, was appointed Governor of a town because his teachings were advantageous to the state. Thereafter, he rose in the government, achieving the rank of Minister of Crime and becoming a highly placed advisor.
   Kongzi attempted to pub his political philosophy into practice through clever diplomacy and political manipulation. He was partially successful, but eventually found himself on the wrong side of power and went into exile, traveling from one royal court to another expounding his political beliefs, but was unable to get them adopted. Eventually he returned to Liu, where he taught a following of more than 70 disciples.

Learn more about Confucius.


Zisi (Kong Ji, 481-402 BC) was the only grandson of Confucius and made several important contributions to Confucian doctrine, most especially the Doctrine of the Mean. One of his students, Shi Shou, is believed to have been an important teacher of Mencius.

Under Zisi's leadership of the Confucian school, students were trained who became officials in many of the royal courts of China. Although they were influential, they did not succeed in getting Confucian principles widely practiced in any kingdom.

Learn more about Zisi.


Two centuries after Confucius and the Analects, Mencius became his most important follower, consolidating the Confucian view of the ideal of Chinese culture and human relations. Although Confucius had decipels who were more steadfast and produced arguments as cogent as those of Mencius, who had something that these others did not.
   Mencius embodied the Mandate of Heaven. But unlike Confucius, whose enfeoffment went back to the rulers of the Shang Dynasty, Mencius traces his ancestry all the way to the beginning of the Xia Dynasty and thus to the very source of the Mandate of Heaven. He was a direct descendent of Bo Qin, son of the Duke of Zhou and founder of the state of Lu. The Duke of Zhou, who is credited with writing the I Ching and establishing the Rites of Zhou, traces his ancestry to Houji, the Xia Dynasty culture hero who brought millet to humanity. Houji is thought to have been the fourth Son of Emperor Yu or possibly of divine birth. In any case, when his wife stepped into the footprint of the supreme god Shangdi, she gave birth to the ancestor of Mencius. Hence Mencius carried the Mandate of Heaven in a special and direct manner.

Learn about Mencius in brief.
Get a more detailed picture here.

Through Mencius, the teachings of Confucius became widely established and officially recognized in many of the Waring States, but was only very selectively implemented. Nevertheless, it became a part of the software of Chinese cluture, influencing proper individual behavior in society, family life and religious worship, and the conduct of officials, high and low - thus providing the standard against which the Mandate of Heaven might be measured and tested.


Confucius meets Lao Tzu ~ H H Kung signature at right ~ Click to enlarge.

We now jump to modern times. This is Kong Xiangxi, commonly known as H. H. Kung (K'ung Hsiang-hsi). He is a 75th generation descendent of Confucius, but in a collateral line not shown in the diagram above.
   H. H. Kung held numerous high positions in the governance of China from 1911 to 1949 and was the Minister of Finance and a Governor of the Central Bank of China for 11 years. His family was one of the four most powerful in China. He was a committed Christian but also an ardent follower of of Confucius. As Governor of the Central Bank of China, he introduced Confucian-themed bank notes many of which bear his signature. He worked closely with Kong Decheng, as described below.

Learn more about H. H. Kung
   Learn more about H. H. Kung at the Central Bank of China


Kong Decheng was a 77th generation descendant of Confucius in the main line of descent (diagram above) and the last Duke Yansheng. In 1935 the government of China abolished this feoff and replaced it with the position of Sacrificial Official to Confucius. At this time Decheng was living at the hereditary estate next to the Temple of Confucius in Qufu. In 1938, the Japanese overran the estate and Decheng fled to Hankou where he was greeted by then Premier H. H. Kung, who groomed him for the political role he was to play in the Republic of China. From 1946 onward, he held a number of important positions. He helped draft the 1947 constitution of the republic, was a member of the National Assembly and a senior advisor to the President of the Republic of China from 1948 to 2000. These positions flowed directly from his position as Sacrificial Official to Confucius and the Mandate of Heaven that is associated with it.

Learn more about Kong Decheng


The grave of Confucius at Qufu.
   In 1961 the Communist Government adopted legislation that protected the Confucian cemetery, temple and mansions in Qufu and put in place a unit to carry out this policy. That was all turned up side down in November, 1966. For ten months during the Cultural Revolution, buildings, gates and monuments were raised to the ground and burned, nearly 4,000 burials dug up and looted, bodies desecrated, and sacred groved destroyed. Confucian temples throughout China were attacked in like fashion, and Confucian writings of all kinds burned in their hundreds of thousands. The goal was to destroy Confucianism, itself, together with all other cultural practices that held back the Communist Revolution.
   This attempt, which employed tens of thousands of Red Guards, did not succeed. In the shocking aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Government has worked for decades to restore the temples, cemeteries and residential buildings that were destroyed. More slowly, Confucianism, itself, has been restored and officially adopted as state policy. The story is fascinating.

Learn about the cemetery of Confucius at Qufu

Read about the 1966/67 destruction of the cemetery at Qufu


This is a plan view of the Temple of Confucius at Qufu published in 1912, provided for comparison with the images below, which were taken from the air of the temple as it exists today.
   Notice how this plan combines 3 different perspectives. First, there are a series of horizontal and vertical lines that reflect the allocation of space on the ground and define a series of rectangular compounds that are separated by walls. Second, in some cases inner rectangular compounds are shown in oblique views with vanishing points along the centerline of the temple complex. Third, important gates and buildings are shown in vertical elevation as an architect might render them.
   This system of courtyards and buildings conforms to the mingtang system based on the field well system of spatial allocation that was revived and championed by Confucius.

Bring up the section on mingtang design.

Bring up the section on the field well system.


In 1966/67, the Confucian Temple at Qufu, the very heart of Confuciusism in China, was raised to the ground. In 1975, Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Chunqiao (one of the Gang of Four) was compelled to urge that the class struggle against Confucius not slacken. Yet, by 1980, the movement to reinstate Confucius began, and, by 1993, the Confucian sites in Qufu had been rebult and re-equiped to such an extent that it was feasible to apply to the United Nations to obtain World Heritage status. It is difficult to find reliable estimates for the financial cost of this undertaking, but it is known that they spent over $1,000,000 in the reconstruction of the Temple and Cemetery, which were opened in September, 1984, with hundreds of scholars in attendance.
   If you compare this photo with the 1912 drawing, above, you will see that the reconstruction of the temple complex is evidently faithful and complete.

Learn more about the Temple of Confucius

Read about the early rehabilitation of Confucius

Compare with the Temple of Confucius in Taipei


Another view of the Temple of Confucius in Qufu. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see a crown of 18+ people in the lower right corner - a scale to appreciate the size of even the smallest buildings in the Temple.

Qufu Temple of Confucius via Google

Now click on the link above for a snapshot from Google Earth. In this view, you can see the Kong family mansion, which is just to the right of the main temple compound and consists of several "small" walled rectangles.

Learn about the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu


November 30, 1966. This giant plaque was taken from the Temple of Confucius to the Kong Cemetary in Qufu and turned. The plaque bears the inscription of the emperor Qing Kangxi (1654-1722): "Teacher of Ten-thousand Generations." Emperor Kangxi outlawed Christian missions in China when Pope Clement XI issued Ex illia die, the papal bull that condemned Confucian rites and forbad Christians from engaging in them. His plaque was meant to reinforce Confucianism at a time when it was under attach. Burying the plaque at the Cemetery was a symbolic act designed to relegate Confucianism to the "Cemetery of History."

Learn more about the Emperor Kangxi.


Here are two before-and-after examples from the Temple of Confucius in Qufu. Upper left is the inner shrine as photographed in the early 1900s. Upper right is the shrine photographed in the early 2000s. At the left is a close-up of the statue of Confucius in the modern version of the shrine. Certain things, like the drapes, have changed, but the important bits, such as the dragon pillars, are faithfully replicated.

Below is the entrence to the inner temple compound. Again, there is a high degree to fidelity in the reconstruction. The most important component is the dragon way leading up to the central entry. The dragon way is reserved for the Emperor of China, the Son of Heaven. Its presence in the Temple of Confucius suggests that Confucius is the equal of the Son of Heaven. The Emperor may be charged with the Mandate of Heaven, but Confucius is Heaven's messenger who enunciates the rules by which that Mandate is to be administered. Deviation too far from these rules for too long a period may cause the Sone of Heaven to loose his Mandate to rule. By rehabilitating Confucius, the Communist government of China implicitly accepts this constraint upon its rule.


In 1994, the Temple, family residence and cemetery of Confucius in Qufu became UNESCO World Heritage Site No. 704. This is noteworthy because of the ongoing requirements. To achieve this status, the Chinese government had to acknowledge and support the cultural importance of Confucius. They had to agree to reconstruct the site accurately, further develop and maintain the site to specified standards, and guarantee continuity of the site going forward.

Go to the World Heritage Site No. 704 review.


In 2004, The Chinese government created the Confucius Institute to showcase Chinese language and culture around the world. The Institute partners with local universities and colleges to offer courses in Chinese language and culture, and Confucian philosophy at the high school and college levels. Today, there are more than 400 worldwide. We have a Confucius Institute of the State of Washington formed in 2009 and operated in partnership with the University of Washington, Seattle Public Schools and the Alliance for Education. Through such institutes, Confucius has become the face of China - the ideal it wishes to project to the world at large.

Learn more about the Confucius Institute.

Visit the Confucius Institute in Seattle.


In 2008, Confucius opened the Olympics in China with a greeting to all and a display of 3,000 of his followers reciting his work. The number 3,000 is significant. Remember how it took 3,000 soldiers to lift a single sacred vessel cast by Emperor Yu? Here we have 3,000 decipels elevating and advancing the enormous scroll that reveals the divine-inspired thoughts of Confucius.

Read what the People's Daily had to say.


In 2011, the Chinese erected a massive 9.5-meter-high statue of Confucius in Tianamen Square, signaling the adoption of Confucian values and doctrine by the state. After one month, it mysteriously disappeared with different parts of the state apparatus offering different explanations. It has not reappeared to this day, but, of course, it lives eternally on the internet.

Read more about Confucius in Tianamen.


Although Xi Jinping favored the adoption of the Confucian world view, he needed to tred softly after the resistance encountered in 2011. Accordingly, he appointed Wang Qishan, seen here at the left, head of his anti-corruption campaign and the continued restoration of Confucian thought.

Read more about Wang Qishan.

Learn about Wang Qishan and Confucius.


In 2013, speaking to a group of Chinese officials, Xi Jinping said: "He who rules by virtue is like the North Star. It maintains its place, and the multitude of stars pay homage." Flowery nonsense? Not at all. The North Star is the home of God, the Jade Emperor - the place from which he rules the universe and the source of Qi, which animates the world and is the foundation of the Mandate of Heaven. "He who rules" is Xi Jinping, who, by making this bold statement, is accepting the Mandate of Heaven and acknowledging that he is the Son of Heaven.
   Of Confucius, Xi said: "The Classics should be set in students' minds so they gecome the genes of Chinese national culture."

Learn more about Xi Jinping

Confucianism and the Chinese Communist Party


Now let us return to the line of Confucius, the his 79th generation descendant, Kong Chuichang, the grandson of Kong Decheng. Kong Chuichang is the current Sacrificial Official to Confucius. Because of this, he has also become a Senior Advisor to the President of the Republic of China.

Learn more about Kong Chuichang

An interview with Kong Chuichang


777 Votes

From Carrie Lam's victory speech: "Hong Kong, our home, is suffering from quite a serious divisiveness. ... My priority will be to heal the divide and to ease the frustration, and to unite our society to move forward."

Why did Carrie Lam win with 777 votes? , the number 7, symbolizes togetherness. The Double 7 Holiday, July 7th, is the Chinese valentine's day. means "arise." Q is the heavenly breath that carries with it the Mandate of Heaven. Hence, a Tripple 7 is also a Tripple Qi and means that we are very fortunate and will arise out of our difficulties together, unified, fulfilling the Mandate of Heaven.