The rulers of the Chou dynasty who received Heaven’s command are Wên Wang and WuWang, in the Han time there are Kao Tsu and Kuang Wu Ti, but the miracles happening at the investiture of Wên Wang and WuWang are inferior to the auguries attendant on the accession of KaoTsu and Kuang Wu Ti, and the omens of HsiaoHsüanTi and HsiaoMing Ti are more conspicuous than those of the Chou sovereigns Ch‘êng, K‘ang, and HsüanWang. The portents of HsiaoHsüanTi and HsiaoMing Ti may be said to have been the finest since the days of Yao and Shun.
When our present emperor came to power he took over the State in perfect order with everything in abundance : The Four Seas 2 were united, the empire well settled, the omens were of the highest order, and mankind submitted to the glorious institutions. The black-haired people of the time of T‘ang lived in harmony, and at present, likewise, benevolence is practised throughout the empire. When the year is not prosperous and the trop fails, yet we do not see the principles of morality trodden down in distant regions, or out-of-the-way places infested by bands of desperadoes. Under the Chou dynasty the Yüeh-ch‘ang presented a white pheasant 3, in our time the Hsiung-nu, the Shan-shan4, and the Ai-lao5 bring cattle and horses as tribute. The domain of the Chou was confined to less than five thousand Li, the Han territory is so vast, that it extends beyond the uncultivated dependencies.
Cattle and horses are more valuable than white pheasants, and things near at hand not like the productions of distant countries. The territory of the ancient Jung and the Ti now forms part of China, the former Naked People now use court dress, the bare-headed people put on the caps, and the bare-footed people wear the shoes of the Shang dynasty. Barren and stony ground has been transformed into fertile soil, and truculent bandits have become law-abiding citizens. The roughness of the savages has been p2.200 smoothed down, and rebels have become peaceful people. If this is not universal peace, what else is it ?
As far as the transformations effected by virtue are concerned, the Chou do not outvie the Han, in the matter of omens and presages, however, the Han surpass the Chou dynasty. If their respective territories be measured, that of the Chou is much more limited than that of the Han ; why then should the Han not be equal to the Chou ? They pretend that the Chou had more sages, and that their administration brought about universal peace. The Literati in speaking of sages go much too far, placing them so high, that they leave no traces behind. They, likewise, make too much of government, so that they cut off universal peace, a continuation of which thus becomes an impossibility.
p2.201 [YenYuan, in admiration of the Master’s doctrine, sighed and said,
— The more I looked up to it, the higher it appeared to me, and the deeper I penetrated into it, the harder it became. ] 1
This means that Yen Yuan having studied with Confucius month after month and year after year, found the doctrine becoming deeper and deeper. In the chapter entitled ‘Praise of the Han Dynasty’ 2 we have given the Han precedence over the Chou and endeavoured to show that the Han outrivalled the Chou, but our investigations were not yet exhaustive. If we expand them to the utmost limit, we shall acquire a still clearer conception of the greatness of the Han dynasty.
When a Classic is most thoroughly explained, all its remarkable beauties become visible. So an exhaustive treatise on a State brings out all its admirable features. From these additional remarks on the Han era it will become plain that it ranks above all other ages. My reasons are the following :
Huang Ti had to fight at Cho-lu3, and Yao led his troops to Tan-shui. In Shun’s time the Yu Miao4 did not submit ; at the commencement of the Hsia dynasty the Hu rebelled. Kao Tsung invested the ‘Devil country’ 5 and destroyed its people after three years. Under the régime of King Ch‘êng of Chou there was an insurrection in Kuan and T‘sai6, andChou Kung had to undertake an expedition to the east. All this happened under the former dynasties.
p2.202 We do not hear of similar occurrences during the Han time. During the reign of Kao Tsu, Ch‘ên Hsi1 revolted and P‘êngYüeh2 rebelled, but then peace was secured. When in the time of HsiaoChingTi,Wu and Ch‘u levied troops against him, the emperor vented his resentment against Ch‘aoTs‘o3. The Hsiung-nu were constantly making trouble and the calendar did not reach them 4, but the emperor did not infest their naturally barren country with his soldiers. At present they all tender their allegiance and offer oxen and horses as tribute, because the power of the Han is so imposing, that they do not venture any opposition.
When Chou committed the greatest atrocities, the whole empire took up arms against him. King Wu enlisted troops all anxious to fight forthwith, and eight hundred feudatory princes appeared uninvited 5.
HsiangYü displeased with the inferiority of his title, collected troops and rose simultaneously with Kao Tsu. Their power had not yet been balanced. As to the strength of HsiangYü, the breaking iron is much more difficult than breaking wood. Kao Tsu destroyed HsiangYü and broke his iron. WuWang in defeating Chou merely broke wood. Consequently, the strength of the Han surpassed that of the Chou by far.
The annihilation of one foe is comparatively easy, that of two, an arduous task, however. T‘ang and Wu defeated Chieh and Chou, one enemy each. Kao Tsu, on the other hand, destroyed Ch‘in and killed HsiangYü, vanquishing the two houses at the same time. His strength therefore must have been double that of T‘ang and Wu6.
WuWang was chief of the west to Yin. He served Chouas a subject, and as a subject attacked his sovereign. Such was the p2.203 disgust of Po Yi and Shu Ch‘i at this conduct, that, leading their homes behind them, they made remonstrances. But WuWang declined to hear them. Lest they should eat the millet of Chou, they died of starvation at Shou-yang. Kao Tsu was not a minister of Ch‘in, nor was Kuang Wu Ti an officer of Wang Mang. The punishment of a depraved sovereign and the annihilation of a vicious ruler do not call for the criticisms of Po Yi, and, in this respect, the moral standard of the two emperors may be declared higher than that of their Chou predecessors 1.
It is easy to rise high from hills and mountains and easy to dive deep in abysses and gullies, but it is an arduous task to rise from low and humble spheres without any stepping-stone. Contrariwise, it is very convenient to inherit a title and succeed to an estate, noble ancestors having laid the foundation of one’s fortune.
Yao came to the throne as a marquis of T‘ang, and Shun succeeded to Yao as minister of finance when the latter abdicated. Yü followed Shun, on account of his merits, as minister of works. T‘ang was in possession of an estate of seventy Li, Wên Wang had a hundred Li, and WuWang was margrave of the west and heir to WênWang’s dignity in the metropolitan district 2. The rise of these Five Monarchs and territorial lords had its good reasons and was easy because they had the necessary power.
KaoTsu began his career as a headborough. Brandishing his sword three feet long, he conquered the empire. Kuang Wu Ti started from Po-shui3and exerted his prowess within the four seas. He did not call one foot of land his own, or hold any position, but immediately received Heaven’s decree and merely followed the trend of events. This was like rising from an abyss or a gully, or like diving from a hill or a mountain. Whose reigns were more remarkable, those of the Five Monarchs or those of these two sovereigns ?
We learn from several historical works that when WuWang was going to supersede Chou, T‘ai Kung had devised a secret plan. He gave a small boy cinnabar to eat, so that his body turned red, and when he had grown up he taught him to say : The Yin are ruined’. The people of Yin beholding the red body of the small p2.204 boy, took him for a heavenly spirit , and, when he said that the Yin were ruined, they all believed that the Shang would perish.
When the soldiers arrived at the plain of Mu, at dawn they carried tallow-candles 4. These artful devices deceived the people, and WuWang availed himself of Chou’sunpreparedness. The Chou conceal this, but the world calls it imposture. When the Han conquered the empire, they did not use such false pretences.
In the chapter ‘Completion of the War’ it is related that when the Chou defeated Chou, pestles were swimming in blood. This being recorded in the aforesaid chapter, the story about feeding a boy with cinnabar and lifting tallow-candles at dawn is probably true also.
When the Han smote the doomed HsinHuang Ti1, Kuang Wu Ti had five thousand men under his command. Wang Mang dispatched two dukes at the head of thirty thousand men. When they were fighting at K‘un-yang2 it thundered and rained, and all was wrapped in obscurity, so that the front and the rear-ranks could not see each other. The soldiers of Han issued from the city of K‘un-yang and attacked the armies of the two dukes. One man stood for ten, and the troops of the two dukes were routed 3. Heaven helped the Han with thunder and rain to overpower their enemies ; was not that quite something different from carrying tallow-candles and taking in the Yin by human tricks ?
Some say that when WuWang had defeated Chou, the latter threw himself into a fire and died. WuWang personally with a halberd cut off his head and hung it up on a great white standard 4. King Hsüan of Ch‘i pitied an ox whose blood was to be smeared on a bell, because he saw it trembling 5. King Chuang of Ch‘u condoned the guilt of the viscount of Chêng, on beholding his bare p2.205 flesh and his emaciated body 6. A superior man hates the wicked, but not his body. The sight of the corpse of Chou in the flames must have been a dismal one, much worse than the trembling of the ox or the emaciated person. How could WuWang bear to sever the head with a halberd and hang it up ?
When Kao Tsu entered Hsien-yang, YenYüeh had executed ErhShih Huang Ti, and HsiangYü had killed Tse Ying7. Kao Tsu entered Ch‘in with a placid look and did not mutilate the two corpses. At the arrival of Kuang Wu Ti in Ch‘ang-an, LiuShêngKung8 had already killed Wang Mang, but although he had his soldiers in readiness to punish the guilty, he did not lift his sword against the dead body. Which is greater, the barbarity of him who cut off the head of a corpse burned in fire or the clemency of sparing a body already cut to pieces ? Was this WuWang’s revenge for Yu-li ?The imprisonment of a subject by his lord was not as blamable as the dethronement of the Chou by the Ch‘in dynasty or the poisoning of P‘ingTi1by Wang Mang. In regard to the depravity of Chieh and Chou,Tsou Po Ch‘iis of opinion that it was not as bad as that of doomed Ch‘in, and that doomed Ch‘in was not as bad as Wang Mang. Yet in spite of his minor guilt the Chou punished King Chou so cruelly, and in spite of the more serious nature of their crimes the Han dealt so leniently with Ch‘in and Wang Mang. Where was the greater generosity and where the greater narrow mindedness ?
When the mother of KaoTsu was enceinte, a scaly dragon appeared above her, and in her dreams she met with a spirit. Her son was very fond of wine and would drink it on credit in a wine-shop. Forgetting to pay, he drank till he was intoxicated and fell asleep. Then always some portent would appear above him. Walking at night, he killed a snake, and the mother of the snake cried most lamentably. Together with LüHou he often repaired to a field-cottage and used to hide. Then a brilliant fluid would shine forth, so that LüHou knew his where-abouts. Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti p2.206 perceived the fluid of a son of heaven in the south-east , and the Five Planets rose and assembled at the Eastern Well 2. When the people of Ch‘in looked out for the army of Han the clouds showed all sorts of tints.
At the birth of KuangWu Ti a phœnix alighted on the city, and a blade of auspicious grain grew in an apartment. At midnight, when no candles were burning, his deceased mother appeared floating in the air in a stream of light 3. At first Su Po A observed that the air at Ch‘un-ling was condensed and concentrated 4, and when Kuang Wu Ti, on his progress, passed an old cottage, he beheld a wavering fluid going up to the sky.
No such phenomena have been recorded in connexion with the birth and the rise of the Five Emperors and the Three Rulers. The mother of Yao was moved by a red dragon, but no miraculous signs are reported attending his accession. The mother of Yü swallowed pearl-barley, and before she gave birth to her son obtained a black jade bâton. The mother of Hsieh consumed a swallow’s egg, and when T‘ang put in an appearance, a white wolf carried a hook in its mouth. The mother of Hou Chi stepped into the foot-prints of a giant 5. When Wên Wang came to the front he obtained a red bird, WuWang got a fish and a crow 6, but in no case could they compete with the prodigies indicative of universal peace under the Han emperors.
In the times of Huang Ti,Yao and Shun, a phœnix was seen once, but very few were those of the numerous portents which became visible twice. Han Wên Ti had a yellow dragon and a jade staff, Wu Ti, a yellow dragon, a unicorn, and joined trees, under HsüanTi a phœnix came five times, besides there were a unicorn, spiritual birds, sweet dew, wine springs, a yellow dragon, and a supernatural glamour. P‘ingTi could boast of a white and black pheasant, HsiaoMing Ti had a unicorn, spiritual birds, sweet dew, wine springs, a white and a black pheasant, felicitous boletus, joined trees, and auspicious grain, signs as wonderful as those of Hsüan Ti1. Then there was a supernatural tripod and gold found p2.207 in a miraculous manner 2. So numerous and unceasing were the omens corresponding to the emperor’s accomplishments. In view of the illustrious virtue of the Han dynasty, these auspicious auguries were so numerous.
After the demise of HsiaoMingTi our present Lord 3 ascended the throne. In the time between the first and second year 4 of his reign, the blessings of his virtue were felt everywhere. In his third year, five felicitous boletuses grew in Ling-ling5 ; in his fourth year, sweet dew fell in five districts, and in his fifth year boletuses grew again. In the sixth year, yellow dragons made their appearance, altogether eight, big and small ones 6. When in former ages dragons had shown themselves, they never came in pairs, and two boletuses never grew together. Sweet dew did not fall but in one place. At present, eight dragons came forth simultaneously, and of boletuses there grew as many as eleven, and sweet dew poured down on five districts 7. The excellence of the Han was so abundant and conspicuous, that auguries happened in such numbers. Which of the ancient emperors and rulers ever attained to this ?
The Literati urge that sovereigns, after having developed their virtue, receive the decree of Heaven. In the chapter ‘Heaven’s Original Gift’ 8of the Lun-hêng we have maintained that rulers are already endowed with the heavenly fate at their birth, but it is difficult to know life.
In case we assume two endowments, then wine and food given twice are more abundant than given once. As the scholars say, the Five Monarchs received the decree of Heaven but once each, only the Han received it twice, consequently the fate granted them must be richer than that of their predecessors. If the statement of the Lun-hêng be correct, and the spontaneous fluid be received at birth, then likewise the quantity received by the house of Han must be greater. Having been cut off , they were again restored, and having died, they revived again. In the world, persons that after death come to life again, are usually looked upon as p2.208 genii. The reign of the Han had been cut off and was renewed. The fact that Kuang Wu Ti regained the lost throne is something very remarkable.
WuWang defeating Chou availed himself of the savages of Shu1, who helped him in the battle of Mu-yeh. In the time of Ch‘êngWang, the Yüeh-ch‘ang2 presented a pheasant, and the Japanese brought odoriferous plants as tribute. When the power of Yu and Li3 was shattered, the Jung and the Ti made an attack on the capital of Chou, and King P‘ing proceeded eastward 4,in order to avoid their aggressions, but under the Han dynasty the four kinds of savages all appeared at court with tributes. In the first year of Yuan-shih of the emperor P‘ing Ti, the Yüeh-ch‘ang appeared with interpreters for two languages 5 and offered one white pheasant and two black ones. Owing to the excellence of Ch‘êngWang and Chou Kung’s assistance, they had presented one pheasant, but P‘ingTi received three.
Subsequently, in his fourth year, the Ch‘iang tribes 6, LiangCh‘iao, Ch‘iao Chung, and LiangYuan7 and others outside the fortifications of Chin-ch‘êng8offered their fish-ponds and their salt-land, and desired to become subjects of the Han. Afterwards, the Han even got possession of the stone house of Hsi WangMu, and established there the circuit of the ‘Western Sea’ .In the Chou era p2.209 the Jung and the Ti attacked the king, in the Han period they became subjects of the empire, and offered their valuable land. The State of Hsi WangMu lies outside the farthest limits of the world, yet the Han annexed it. Whose virtue is greater and whose territory larger, that of the Han or the Chou ?
At present the Ai-lao and the Shan-shan are willing to tender their allegiance and to revert to virtue. Owing to the constant disturbances of the Hsiung-nu, generals were sent to chastise them, who captured thousands and ten thousands of their cattle.
Yü, the Hsia emperor, went naked into the country of the people of Wu, and T‘ai Po, gathering medicinal herbs, cut off his hair and tattooed his body . With reference to the territory of Yao and Shun, Wu ranked as an uncultivated dependency. The Yüeh were counted among the Nine Savages 1. They wore woollen cloth and wrapped a sash round their heads 2. Now they are all Chinese subjects wearing long dresses and using shoes. The people of Pa, Shu3, Yüeh-sui4, Yü-lin5, Annam, Liaotung, and Yo-lang, in the Chou time, wore their hair long and in tufts with hair-pins, now they wear fur-caps. In the Chou era they required two interpreters, now they chant the Shiking and the Shuking.
The Ch‘un-ch‘iu puts forward the principle that [the relations of sovereigns ought not to harbour wicked designs, and that if they do they deserve death.] 6 The king of Kuang-ling, Ching was led astray by a mischievous magician, and Ying, king of Ch‘u, was beguiled by a mean fellow. Several times their plans became manifest, but HsiaoMingTi pardoned them three times. The two kings then swallowed poison 7. Chou Kung executing Kuan and T‘sai went much farther than this.
p2.210 The relations of King Ch‘u from his mother’s side, the Hsü family, conspired with him. HsiaoMing Ti said,
Thus his holy heart forgave them and did not treat them according to law.
The marquis Fu of YinChiang posted a letter in the market and in the villages, slandering the holy government. Our Lord regretting his treachery, deprived him of his title and his territory. Hating a man one dislikes his adherents left behind. Yet the emperor raised the sons of the two kings and thus pacified Ch‘u and Kuang-ling, and allowed the younger brother of Chiang, Yuan to continue the sacrifices to the Yin family 1. The two kings were of imperial blood, and as feudatory princes, and kings, the equals of Kuan and Ts‘ai. Yet the descendants of the latter were extinguished, whereas for the two kings their posterity was reinstated into all their honours, an act of clemency deserving the highest praise. YinChiang had another family name than the emperor, but out of respect for his ancestors the sacrifices were preserved.
The righteousness shown by raising WuKêng2and the kindness displayed in allowing Lu Fu to continue the sacrificial rites is not so very great, for the Yinwere emperors as well as the Chou, who levied troops to fight them, coveting the grandeur of the empire, and thus cut off the reign of Ch‘êngT‘ang. This was not an act of justice worthy of a holy sovereign, nor in accordance with Heaven’s command. YinChiang, on the other side, was but a subject, and the reign of the Han was firmly established. The extinction of the Yin family would not have been contrary to justice, and its preservation, nevertheless, was due to the boundless kindness of HsiaoMing Ti. His favours showered down on his own kindred within and on other families without. How could the liberality of Yao or the generosity of Shun exceed this ?