According to what Tse Wei said, Heaven is high, but hears what is low. The prince having spoken three maxims of a superior man, Heaven would confer three graces upon him.
Heaven has a body, and in this respect does not differ from earth. In all creatures possessed of a body, the ears are joined to the head, and it does not happen that the ears and the body are separated. As to Heaven’s height, it is many ten thousand Li distant from us. Now, in case the ears be attached to Heaven, hearing words at the distance of several ten thousand Li, it would be unable to understand them. If a man, sitting on a high tower, were to look out for the ants on the ground, he could not distinguish their forms ; and how should he hear their sounds ? The simple reason is that the bodies of ants are so minute and not so big as the human, and that their sounds cannot transcend the vast expanse of air. Now the altitude of Heaven is quite a different thing to that of a tower, and the proportion of the human body, compared to Heaven, not merely like that of ants and man. They say that there is no such relation between man and Heaven as between ants and man, and urge that Heaven hears what man says and, according to its quality, sends good or bad luck. That is a misconception.
When the Savages from the four quarters come to China, they must use interpreters, to make themselves understood. Although they are similar to the Chinese in body and mind, their speech is unintelligible. Even the Five Emperors and the Three Rulers could p2.156 not do without interpreters, and understand the savages alone 1. Now fancy Heaven with a body quite other than the human ; must not its speech be different as well ?
Man is not cognisant of Heaven’s proceeding ; how should Heaven know what man is about ? If Heaven has a body, its ears are too high and far away, to hear what men say, and if it be air (air like clouds and fog), how could such hear human speech ?
The phenomenalists assert that man lives between heaven and earth as fish in the water. By his actions he can affect heaven and earth, just as fish beat and agitate the water. The fish moving, the water is shaken and the air stirred up.
This is not true. Should it really be so, human influence would not reach up to Heaven. A fish, a foot long, moving in the water, would only stir up the water by its side in a circumference of several feet. If it were only as big as a man, the waves caused by it would not proceed farther than a hundred steps. Beyond a Li, the waters would remain tranquil and unruffled, owing to the distance.
If human activity affect the air far and near, it must be similar to that of the fish, and the air thus affected and responsive to the impetus, would be like the water. A tiny corporeal frame of seven feet 1 and in this frame a subtle breath 2 would hardly be more powerful than the fire rising from a sacrificial vessel, and should it, ascending from the earth, have any influence upon august Heaven with its tremendous height ?
Furthermore, Duke Ching was but a worthy. Worthies in their dealings do not come up with sages above, nor do they pass the line of wickedness below 3. Of all the ages none were truer sages than Yao and Shun, and none greater criminals than Chieh and Chou. The proceedings of Yao and Shun were full of excellence, yet they had not the effect of moving the planet Mars. The government of Chieh and Chou was very wicked, but they overthrow the argument that Duke Ching escaped misfortune. Provided that, because of Duke Ching’s three excellent sentiments, his life time was increased by 21 years, then Yao and Shun ought to have obtained a thousand years, and Chieh and Chou ought to have died early. That was not so ; they all completed their full span. Yao p2.157 and Shun as well as Chieh and Chou became nearly a hundred years old. Consequently Tse Wei’s remarks are altogether without foundation, and what he says about the lengthening of life, is erroneous.
TseWei also stated that Mars was Heaven’s agent, that Sung was the territory on earth corresponding to the Heart, and that misfortune was awaiting its sovereign. Under these circumstances Heaven would have employed Mars to inflict calamity upon Duke Ching, but how could it be diverted upon the premier, the year, or the people ?
Heaven uses Mars as the king does the chief of the princes. When a feudal lord has been guilty of a capital crime, the king sends the chief of the princes, to besiege his State and take possession of it. The prince, then, is tried before the king’s deputy, who knows that the guilt lies upon the prince 1. He may, however, try to turn it off upon one of his own ministers or his subjects. Should a prince, following the counsel of a minister, instruct him to turn the guilt upon the State, would the chief of the princes, upon hearing of this, be inclined to entertain such a proposal ? Would he absolve the sovereign of all guilt and shift it upon his subjects ? The chief would not consent, because the guilt is the sovereign’s and not the people’s. Since he would not consent, the prince’s guilt being too evident, how should Mars agree to divert the calamity upon the people ? Therefore Tse Wei’s view is wrong.
Let us presume that Duke Ching had listened to the counsel of Tse Wei, how could he have affected Heaven by so doing ? Would, in case a prince disregarded the advice of his minister and took all the guilt upon himself, the chief of the princes, hearing of his resolution, acquit the culprit and dismiss him ? He would not condone his crime ; why then should Mars consent to pass through three solar mansions ?
Listening and not listening have nothing to do with luck and merit 2. The alleged movement of the planet can therefore not be taken as a fact.
Heaven and man have the same law, in which good and evil do not differ. If something is impossible by human law, we know that it would not come into effect under heavenly law either.
p2.158 Sung, Wei, Ch‘ên, and Chêng were simultaneously afflicted with a conflagration 3. A change in the air could be observed in the sky. Tse Shên4, foreseeing the disaster, asked Tse Ch‘an whether it might be averted, but Tse Ch‘an took no notice. The law of Heaven had to be fulfilled, and human endeavour was powerless against it. Would the four States have got rid of the calamity in case Tse Ch‘an had listened to Tse Shên ?
At the time when Yao met with the great flood, his ministers, no doubt, were no less clever than Tse Shên or Tse Wei, still they could not avert it. Yao had the same feeling as Tse Ch‘an.
According to Tse Wei’s statement Mars was Heaven’s agent, the Heart had its corresponding place in Sung, and misfortune was threatening its sovereign. If these were facts, the disaster could not be avoided, and the planet not be averted.
Whenever heat and cold are anomalous, or wind and rain unseasonable, the philosophers on government hold that some fault has been the cause, and that good government and virtuous acts are apt to bring about the normal state again.
If, when Mars takes its position within the Heart, death and ruin are sure to follow, how can they be avoided, and how can administrative and moral reforms avert them ? Good government and virtuous acts cannot ward them off, and to say that the utterance of three inane sentences averted the planet, turned off the disaster, increased the years of life, and procured the enjoyment of a long time of bliss, is a mistake. According to TseWei’s reply Duke Ching spoke of the calamity, which was threatening from Mars. That has no reference to heat and cold, wind or rain, but was an omen implying death and the end of life.
When a State is about to perish, or an individual to expire, a strange air is perceived in the sky, and a peculiar look in the face, and this look of the face no righteous deeds can wipe off, for it is the sign of death, which thus becomes visible. Since that expression on the face cannot be got rid of by words, how should the strange phenomenon on the sky be removed by government ?
When a sick man is at the point of death, that peculiar expression is seen on his face, of which people sometimes say that it is the mark of certain death. Nevertheless it might be transferred on the neighbours or the slaves. But would that look of p2.159 the dying man, who just cannot speak any more, be wiped off by some appropriate words, or his life, which comes to a close, be lengthened ? That expression cannot be done away with, and his life does not admit of any prolongation. Therefore, how could the planet Mars be averted, and how the years of Duke Ching be added to ?
Ergo, when Mars stood in the Heart, we do not know what happened that Duke Ching did not die.
Then it is said that the planet passed through three solar mansions. What does that mean ? Did the star three times transcend one mansion, or did it at once pass through three mansions ?
TseWei said that the prince had spoken three maxims worthy of a superior man, wherefore Heaven would certainly bestow three favours upon him. That very night the planet would transcend three mansions, and, in fact, the star went through three solar mansions. Now Duke Ching put forward three precious arguments at one sitting, whereupon the planet moved through three mansions. Provided that he had uttered ten excellent thoughts, would the star tien have gone through ten mansions ?
Mars occupying the Heart, reverted owing to the excellent sentiments ; if, conversely, Duke Chinghad enunciated three bad ones, would Mars then have eclipsed the Heart ? Good words made it revert, and bad ones, proceed ; in case the speech of the duke had been neither good nor bad, would it then have remained quiet and motionless ?
Sometimes when Mars stands in the Heart, a drought, but not the death of the duke is imminent, and Tse Wei, ignorant of this, took it for an ill omen of death, trusting like common people in the efficiency of perfect sincerity 1.
It just so happened, no doubt, that Mars had to leave its position of itself, and that Duke Ching was not to die. The world then imagined that Tse Wei’s words were true and that Duke Ching touched Heaven by his sincerity.
Or perhaps Tse Wei was aware that the planet in its course was just about to move, and he gave himself the air of knowing personally that this movement was the result of the prince’s selflessness in regard to his subjects. Seeing that the number of stars was seven, he then called seven stars a mansion and obtained 21 years, computing the number of years from stars and mansions.
p2.160 His case is analogous to that of the Great Diviner of Ch‘i. [Duke Ching of Ch‘i, asked the Great Diviner, what he could do with his wisdom. The other returned that he could shake the earth. When Yen Tse called upon the duke, he said to him,
— I have asked the Great Diviner what his art availed him, and he replied that he could shake the earth. The earth is steady, can it be shaken ?
Yen Tse remained silent and made no reply. He went out, met the Great Diviner and said,
— Formerly I have observed that, when the Hook star is between the House and the Heart, an earthquake is imminent.
The Great Diviner assented. When Yen Tse had left, the Great Diviner went to see the duke.
— Your servant, said he, cannot shake the earth. It is steady and will move of its own accord.] 2
TseWei’s allegation as to the progress of the planet is like the Great Diviner’s remark on the earthquake. The earth, being steady, moves of its own accord, yet the Great Diviner contended that he could move it. The planet is likewise steady and shifts its position of itself, but Tse Wei maintained that the prince could move it. If Yen Tse had not said that the Hook star was between the House and the Heart, the artful reply of the Great Diviner would not have been detected. In Sungthere was no officer with Yen Tse’s knowledge, therefore this one utterance of Tse Wei was afterwards held to be true.
In the chapter HsüCh‘inof Tse Wei’s Shu-lu, 3 we also have the notice that Tse Wei said,
— The prince spoke three excellent maxims, and Mars was liable to move. He then waited for this event, and, in fact, it left the solar mansion.
Nothing is said about three. Perchance the planet was bound to move, and Tse Wei took it for a corroboration of his view. It really withdrew from one mansion, of which, by exaggeration, people made three mansions. As they carelessly magnified the number of solar mansions, they likewise invented the 21 additional years.
p2.161 At the time of the emperor Kao Tsung of the Yin dynasty a mulberry and a paper-mulberry tree 1 grew together in his court 2. After seven days, they were so thick already, that they would take two hands to span them. Kao Tsung summoned his physiognomist and asked him about it. The physiognomist replied that, though he knew, he could not tell it. Then Tsu Chi was questioned, who said,
— The mulberry and the paper-mulberry are wild plants ; their growing in the court denotes the down-fall of the dynasty.
Kao Tsung terrified began to practise virtue with stooping body. He would ponder over the government of former kings, illustrate the principle of feeding the old, regenerate extinguished States, re-establish the succession of extinct princely houses, and raise obscure scholars. Upon this the two trees died. Three years later, the princes of six States appeared at his court with interpreters 3, and subsequently he enjoyed a hundred years of happiness 4.
Kao Tsung was a wise sovereign. Alarmed at the growth of the two trees, he interrogated Tsu Chi. Following his counsel, he reformed his administration and personally changed his proceedings. The prodigy of the two trees then disappeared, the princes offered their allegiance, and he reigned many years. Owing to the earnestness of his reforms, plenty of lucky auguries and blessings came down upon him. This is a fiction.
Tsu Chi declared that the down-fall of the dynasty was impending. The ruin of a dynasty is like the death of an individual. p2.162 A man being about to die, miracles appear. When a dynasty is on the verge of ruin, its time is up, and when a man expires, his fate is fulfilled. After his death he does not live again, nor does he continue to exist after his departure. How could Tsu Chi’s reference to the government have averted the ruin, or how could Kao Tsung’s reforms have helped to avoid the disaster ? A private person, beholding horrid signs, does not obtain luck by doing good ; how then should Kao Tsung, on perceiving the prodigy, be able to avert the misfortune by changing his government ? It being impossible to avert misfortune, how can the six States have been attracted, and how the king’s life been prolonged up to a hundred years ?
Human life and death depend on the length of the span, not on good or bad actions, and so is the subsistence and decay of a State determined by the duration of its time 1, not by the management or mismanagement of affairs. Tsu Chi explained the mulberry and paper-mulberry as an augury of decay. When this sign of ruin had already appeared, the discharge of filial duties was of no avail. What evidence can we adduce ?
Under Duke Chao of Lu a mainah appeared and built its nest 2. ShiChi traced up a queer ditty of boys of the time of Wên and Ch‘êng referring to the mainah, and seeing that now it really had come and built its nest, he explained it as a bad omen. Subsequently Duke Chao was expelled by the Chi family and retreated to Ch‘i. His dukedom in fact became empty and desolate, and his capital deserted. The appearance of the wild bird, which built its nest, was in Shi Chi’s opinion indicative of misfortune, and so he explained it.
If Duke Chao, upon hearing Shi Chi’s interpretation, had reformed and improved his administration, following Kao Tsung’s example, he would, after all, not have succeeded in breaking the spell, because the portent of the queer saying concerning the mainah had already appeared, and the calamity of the duke’s flight was already completed, for this portent of the mainah had become manifest during the time of Duke Wên and Ch‘êng. If a branch has leaves, why should it not blossom ? And if a spring pours out its water, why should it not grow ? 3p2.163 But this event is of comparatively recent date and may not suffice to bear out our thesis. When the downfall of the Hsia dynasty was imminent, two dragons fought together in the court. They spat their saliva and vanished. The king of Hsia preserved it in a casket. The Hsia were destroyed and succeeded by the Yin, and the Yin were destroyed and succeeded by the Chou. They all did not open the casket, until under king Yu4 it was opened and inspected. The saliva oozed out in the court and was transformed into a black lizard, which slipped into the seraglio, where it had commerce with a woman. This, later on, resulted in the birth of Pao Sse1.
When Pao Sse was introduced into the palace of Chou, King Li2 became stultified by her, and the State went to rack and ruin. The time from the age of Kings Yu and Li to the Hsia epoch was more than a thousand years 3 ;when the two dragons struggled, Yu,Li, and Pao Sse were not yet born. The presage of the destruction of the Chou dynasty already appeared long before it came to pass.
When a bad augury comes forth, the calamity cannot but be completed, and when a lucky sign appears, felicity is sure to arrive. If the two dragons, at the time of their contest, said that they were two princes of Pao, this was a proof of the future birth of Pao Sse. The dragons bearing the name of Pao, Pao Sse could not help being born, and she being born, King Li could not help being depraved, and he being depraved, the State could not avoid being ruined. The signs were there, and even if the Five Sages 4and the Ten Worthies had interceded to remove them, all their endeavours to blot them out would have been in vain.
Good and evil are similar so far. When good omens come forth, a State is sure to flourish, and when evil ones become visible, a dynasty must needs perish. To say that evil portents can be removed by good actions, is like affirming that good auspices can be wiped away by bad government.
p2.164 The Yellow Riversprings from the K‘un-lun, and then branches off into nine channels. Should Yao and Yü have attempted to turn the waters back by their excellent administration, they would have been utterly powerless to make them revert, for such is the nature of water, that human force cannot stop it. The springs of the Yellow River could not be stopped, and the two dragons not be removed. Accordingly, it was impossible to prevent the mulberry and the paper-mulberry trees from growing.
A king’s life about to prosper is like the breath of spring becoming summer, and his death like the autumnal air becoming winter. Beholding the leaflets of spring, one knows that in summer there will be stalked leaves, and viewing the dropping fruit in autumn, one foresees the dried branches of winter. A propos of the growth of the mulberry and the paper-mulberry, it is also quite plain that they must be like the vernal leaves and the autumnal fruit. How could they be removed by a thorough overhauling of the government and personal reforms ?
Now, the presage of the down-fall of the Chou dynasty appeared already in the Hsia epoch ; how do we know but that the growth of the two trees was denoting the fall of King Chou? Perhaps Tsu Chi believed in the explanation of wild plants which he gave, but did not estimate the distance of time correctly. Kao Tsung, having questioned Tsu Chi, took to doing good, his body bent down, and accidentally the princes of the six States arrived at his court. Kao Tsung’s life was naturally long and not yet near its close ; then people said that, after the inquiry concerning the two trees, he changed his government, reformed his own conduct, and enjoyed a hundred years of happiness.
The mulberry and paper-mulberry grew most likely for Chou’s sake, or perhaps they were lucky and not inauspicious, wherefore the Yin dynasty did not decline, and Kao Tsung’s life lasted long. Tsu Chi, however, trusting in his interpretation that they were wild plants, declared them to be signs of an impending catastrophe.
At the time of the Han emperor, Hsiao Wu Ti, a white unicorn was caught. It had two horns, but they touched. The gentleman-usher ChungChün was called upon to give his opinion.
— It is a wild animal, he said, its horns joined together as the land under heaven unites and forms one whole 1.
p2.165 The unicorn is a wild animal, and the mulberry and paper-mulberry trees are wild plants. Both being wild, what difference is there between the animal and the plants ? Chung Chün pronounced the animal to be auspicious, but Tsu Chi held the wild plants to be inauspicious.
When KaoTsung was sacrificing in the temple of Ch‘êng T‘ang, a pheasant came flying along, alighted on the tripod, and screamed. Tsu Chi saw in it the announcement of the arrival of men from distant lands 2. The commentators of the Shuking, on the other hand, regard pheasants as inauspicious. Both views are conflicting. According to Tsu Chi’s statement the arrival of pheasants is propitious.
Pheasants hide amidst wild plants, which screen the bodies of wild birds. If people live in a straw hut, can they be said to be auspicious, but their cottage to be inauspicious ? When such people go into the capital, they are not held to be inauspicious 3. Why then cannot wild plants growing in a court be propitious ? Pheasants must, in this respect, be treated like men 1.
If living creatures with blood in their veins are held to be auspicious, then the arrival of a tall Ti2 would be so as well, why then call it unlucky ? Should all that comes from the I and the Ti3 not be auspicious, the visit of Ko Lu of Chieh4 at court must have been unlucky. If, however, plants and trees are believed to be unpropitious, then the appearance of the ‘vermilion grass and of the ‘monthly plant’ were not auspicious.
The vermilion grass and the monthly plant are both herbaceous ; they should grow in the country and, if they grow in court, it is not auspicious. Why then are they looked upon as lucky omens ? According as a wild growing thing comes or goes, it is treated either as lucky or unlucky. If the vermilion grass and the monthly plant are believed to be auspicious, owing to their excellence, then the presage depends on goodness or badness, and their quality is not influenced by the site of their growth, whether it be in the capital or in the country.