The dealings of Huan Tou were such, that he was at home with glib-tongued people and employed the perverse. Kung Kung p2.211 intrigued with him and was, therefore, recommended to Yao. San Miao was an artful and cunning man, or as some say it was a guilty country. Kun could not regulate the waters, being at his wits’ end. All were personally guilty and could not shift their guilt upon the emperor. Therefore Yao and Shun banished them, and they died in regions devoid of vegetation . All those who maliciously plotted against the emperor, who resenting the strong hand of government revolted, who having to investigate something did not speak the truth, who injured the State or killed its officers, and whose offences were much graver than those of the above-named four criminals, all those were by HsiaoMing Ti most graciously merely sentenced to banishment into the border-lands. Our present Lord in his utmost kindness caused them to return to their native places. Since the dawn of civilisation no similar mercy was ever shown.
Yen Tse said that, the Hook Star being between the House and the Heart, the earth would be moved 3. An earthquake is naturally determined by time and not the result of government, but the emperor was terror-stricken 1and attributed the event to his administration all the same, minutely investigating its merits and good qualities, and inquiring into its defects and shortcomings. Kao Tsung stooped down , and Ch‘êng of Chou opened the trunk 2. Thus far did their zeal lead them. When grain grows and the year is normal, even a common ruler, by merely following his fate, is able to establish a virtuous government, but when calamities and dangers abound, only the sagest and wisest are successful in their efforts to reform. Thus every ordinary doctor knows how to deal with a small disease, but none but a Pien Ch‘io can cope with a virulent attack 3.
In the first year of the Chien-ch‘u period 4, a pernicious current arrived, causing all the diseases of the year, which was much worse than a drought and a want of rain, when the cattle die and the people are driven from their homes. The emperor exhibited his p2.212 virtue : the best and worthiest men were in office, and the five presidents of the board of work supported the State in its troubles, sending about grain and giving relief. Although those left starving were not a few, yet the empire admired the emperor’s virtue, and in spite of all those difficulties it did not revolt. The people were destitute of grain, but replete with principles and virtue, their bodies were roving about on the roads, but their hearts, returning to their native villages. Therefore no traces of robbery were to be found on the highways, and in hidden and out-of-the-way places no acts of violence were committed. Danger was changed into security, and distress into comfort. Which of the Five Emperors and Three Rulers would have been fit to bring about such a state of things ?
p2.213 It was in the eleventh year of Yung-p‘ing1. The inhabitants of the Huan marquisate 2in Lü-chiangwere then in possession of a lake. There were two small boys in Huan, named Ch‘ên Chüo and Ch‘ên T‘ing, both over ten years old, who together went angling on the banks of the lake. Ch‘ên T‘ing was the first to go. Ch‘ên Chüo arrived later, and asked his comrade whether he had caught anything. Upon Ch‘ên T‘ing replying in the affirmative, he went home to fetch his rod and fishing-line. At a distance of 40 stops from Ch‘ên T‘ing he beheld a wine amphora of a bright yellow colour that had fallen into the water near the edge of the lake. Ch‘ên Chüo mistook it for copper. He waded through the water to get hold of it, but it was so slippery and heavy, that he was unable to lift it. — T‘ing seeing this from afar shouted,
— What have you got ?
— It is copper, but I cannot lift it.
T‘ing came to his assistance and entered the water, but before he had seized the amphora it quite suddenly was transformed into a covenant vessel, sank into the deep through the movement, and again became invisible. But T‘ing and Chüo who kept their eyes on it perceived something of bright yellow colour like so many coins, hundreds and thousands of pieces. They pushed and raised it, and with their hands full they went home and told their families.
The father of Ch‘ên Chüo was a retired official of the State whose style was ChünHsien. He inquired, full of amazement, where he had found this, and Chüo gave a description. ‘It is gold’, quoth ChünHsien and forthwith, along with Chüo, he hastened to the place of discovery, where there was still much left in the water. He himself entered the water and seized it. When the neighbours of Chüo and T‘ing had heard the news, there was a general rush, and they together obtained upwards of ten pounds. ChünHsien personally acquainted a minister who advised the prefect, and the prefect p2.214 sent his officers to receive the gold and instructed his private official Ch‘êngKung to take it over and present it to the throne, stating how he had got the gold. An imperial edict was issued to the effect that, if it was, as stated in the memorial, all was right, but if it was not, then capital punishment would be meted out. With this edict Ch‘êngKung returned to the prefect, who with his subordinates took cognisance of it. They had the impression that the emperor doubted the veracity and believed that something had been concealed and that the report had been unduly embellished. For this reason the prefect sent in a new report, stating that the gold had been discovered exactly as reported previously. Therewith the matter closed.
In the 12th year, ChünHsien and his associates addressed the emperor stating how they had found the gold in the water of the lake, that the chief of the circuit had presented it to the throne, and that as yet no compensation had been received. In the imperial rescript to the authorities of Lü-chiang it seemed as if His Majesty was not willing to grant ChünHsien and his associates the price of the gold, for the prefect had reported that the gold found by ChünHsien and others came from a public lake, and not from the private waters of these persons. Consequently no compensation was given. In the 12th year, however, an edict appeared commanding the payment of the value of the gold to ChünHsien and the others according to the actual market price of gold .
The auspicious portents of the Han were manifold. The discovery of gold being very strange, it was put on record. The precious things, gold and jewels are divine, therefore their appearance is something extraordinary 1. Something of a golden colour first appeared in the shape of a wine amphora and afterwards became a covenant vessel and, being moved, sank into the deep. Was not this a miracle ? 2p2.215 When the Hsia dynasty was flourishing distant countries made pictures of their produce, and the nine tribes offered gold as tribute. Yü regarded it as propitious and cast it into tripods. The Nine Tripods of the Chou3 were the gold of these distant countries. No matter whether it was brought by people as tribute or whether it issued spontaneously from the water, it was the same after all and in both cases the upshot of conspicuous virtue and an omen for a sage emperor.
A golden and pearless age is accompanied with gold and gems. In the time of WênTi there appeared a gem flail. Gold and gems are the choicest omens. The sound of gold and the colour of gems are most appreciated by mankind.
In the Yung-ch‘ang circuit 1 there was gold as well. The smallest lumps were as big as a grain of millet. In the sand of the banks of rivers people found five shu2 of gold every day. Its colour was a uniform yellow. Earth produces gold, and the colour of earth is yellow. The ruling element of the Han dynasty is earth, which accounts for the production of gold 3. Of metal there are three kinds 4.
When yellow is continually seen it becomes a lucky augury. The old man of the Ch‘i bridge transmitted to ChangLiang5a book which turned into a yellow stone. This essence of the yellow stone became a charm. Stones belong to the same category as gold, their substance is different, but their colour the same, both are presages of earth.
In the third year of Chien-ch‘u, suddenly five stalks of boletus grew in the soil of the house of a woman from Ch‘üan-ling in Ling-ling6of the name of Fu Ning. The longest measured a foot and p2.216 4 to 5 inches, the shortest 7 to 8 inches. Stalks and leaves were of a purple colour ; it was, in fact, the purple boletus. The prefect ShênFêng deputed his private officer YenShêng to present these plants to the emperor, who was exceedingly pleased and gave him money, dresses, and food in return. He then summoned all the presidents, ministers, governors, shang-chi, officers, and people and made known the boletus to the empire. When the empire heard the news, officialdom and citizens rejoiced, well knowing that, the excellence of the Han being so perfect and universally acknowledged, felicitous omens were sure to happen.
In the fourth year, sweet dew fell in the five districts of Ch‘üan-ling, Ling-ling, T‘ao-yang7, Shih-an1, and Lêng-tao2 soaking all the leaves of the elm, cypress, cherry, and plum trees, which bending under its weight, caused it to trickle down. The people drank it and found that it tasted like sweets and honey.
In the fifth year, boletus — viz. six — grew again on the house of a man of Ch‘üan-ling, Chou Fu. In colour and shape they resembled those of the third year. Together with the former ones there were eleven in all 3.
Where the river Hsiang4is 7 Li distant from the city of Ch‘üan-ling there are masses of rocks above the river bearing the name of Yen-shih mountain. The mountain approaches the river from both sides, narrowing its passage. Under a protruding cliff the water disappears and forms an unfathomable abyss. There two yellow dragons put in an appearance. They had a length of over 16 feet and were bigger than horses. To those who looked sharply at them they appeared like those dragons painted in pictures. The people of Yen-shih-ch‘iu all saw them at a distance of some ten steps. They further perceived some animals shaped like colts, bigger and smaller ones, six altogether. They issued from the water and roamed about and played on the shore, being, no doubt, p2.217 the children of the two dragons. Along with these they were eight in all. After they had stayed out of the water for some time, they again returned to it 5.
Under the reign of HsüanTi, a phœnix alighted on the city of P‘êng6, which gave notice of it. HsüanTi summoned the shih-chung7SungWêngYi who said,
— A phœnix comes down on the capital and alights in the precincts of the son of Heaven. This phœnix having alighted far away in P‘êng–ch‘êng cannot be admitted 8, for one must not have dealings with second-class birds.
The emperor replied,
— At present the empire forms one family, and there is no difference whether the phœnix alights in P‘êng-ch‘êng or in the capital 1. Why do you say that one must have nothing to do with second-class birds ?
And he called upon his attendants who were versed in the Classics to argue the point with SungWêngYi. The latter, pressed very hard, took off his cap, made obeisance and excused himself.
The time of HsüanTi does not differ from the present, and the alighting of the phœnix, and the appearance of the yellow dragons is similar. The distance of P‘êng-ch’êng and Ling-ling is the same 2, for, as regards the extension of the emperor’s mansions, the four frontiers of the empire form the boundary lines within which Ling-ling is situated, so that it even may be considered near 3.
Kung-Sun Ch‘ên of Lu declared, in the time of HsiaoWênTi, that, the ruling element of the Han being earth, a yellow dragon should appear as corresponding omen. Subsequently, it was seen 4in Ch‘êng-chi whose distance from the capital equalled that of Ling-ling. Under the régime of Hsiao Wu Ti as well as of Hsiao Hsüan Ti dragons made their appearance, and four times yellow dragons become visible in this place, which proves that earth p2.218 was indeed the element of the Han dynasty 5. ChiaYi was the first who in the court of WênTi proposed that as the colour of the Han yellow should be adopted, and that they should choose five as their number. From this circumstance that ChiaYi, an official of extensive erudition, declared himself in favour of the yellow colour and of number five 6, it is evident that earth is the element of the Han7.
Boletus grows in earth. The fluid of earth being congenial, the boletus grows in it. Earth produces cereals ; cereals are sweet, therefore sweet dew descended 8.
In former ages, dragons were not seen in pairs, only when the Hsia dynasty was at its height two dragons appeared in the court 1. Since the two dragons which came forth in the present time agree with those of the Hsia dynasty in number, the present government must also be conformable to that of the Hsia.
When, formerly, dragons came out, very seldom their children were seen. Now six young dragons came out simultaneously, roaming about and playing like the six children of Heaven and Earth 2, a sign of a numerous progeny.
In the era of Yao and Shun all the animals danced, at present the eight dragons likewise played and gambolled for a long while. Boletus is eaten by immortals, in order to prolong their lives. In former ages only one or two grew, now there are altogether eleven pieces indicating a longer duration of life ; and grain as high as a fir-tree was produced. When formerly sweet dew came down, it did so but in one place, now it poured down in five districts conformably to the number of earth, the power of which prevails everywhere.
The frequent occurence of imperial omens is not in vain ; they always are illustrative of something, and correspond to some p2.219 virtue. Confucius said,
[— The knowing are cheerful, and the benevolent live long.] 3
Our emperor is a holy man, consequently the boletus pointed to long life. If yellow things be produced they have the colour of earth, and its place is the centre 4. Therefore did HsienYuan5, whose virtue was excellent, use yellow as his epithet. Our emperor is so kind and merciful, that his virtue approaches that of the ‘Yellow Emperor’, whence the colour of the dragons was yellow to show the identity of their virtue.
The east is called benevolent, and the dragon is the animal of the eastern region 6. The emperor being a sage, benevolent omens appeared. Benevolence implies a taste for feeding and nursing. The emperor in his benevolence and kind-heartedness loved the black-haired people, therefore the sweet dew poured down 7and dragons, that like to conceal themselves, publicly appeared, attracted from their rocks and caverns by the emperor’s sagehood.
When portents appear they usually follow an excellent man, and lucky auguries always adhere to some fortunate person. The principle of Heaven being spontaneity, there must be some coincidence. The omens obtained by a holy sovereign surpass those of common worthies. The ruler being enlightened, and his minister judicious, everything prospers. When WênTi and Wu Ti received their decree, their strength was like that of the Dukes of Chou and Shao.
p2.220 The rulers and sovereigns of antiquity having accomplished memorable deeds, wanted some able pen to eulogise and chronicle their achievements. Thus their deeds were made public, and all ages heard of them. If we ask the commentators of the Shuking who said the words following the passage [‘He was reverential, intelligent, accomplished, and thoughtful’] ,they will reply : the editor, and who is the editor ? Confucius. Consequently the able writer is Confucius. [It was after his return from Wei to Lu1that he arranged the Odes, when the festive songs and panegyrics got their places.] His great literary activity falls in this time.
Some maintain concerning the Shang-shu (Shuking) that shang means superior 2 : — what the superiors have done is written down by the inferiors. And who are these inferiors ? The officers. Ergo the officers commit to writing the actions of the superiors.
If we inquire of the scholars why rites are said to be instituted and songs to be composed, their reply will probably be that the rites are instituted by the superiors and therefore called institutions, whereas songs being composed by the inferiors are, on that account, termed compositions. When the empire enjoys perfect peace, panegyrics and tunes are composed. At present there is universal peace throughout the empire ; might panegyrics, odes, songs, and tunes be composed ? The scholiasts would not know it and deserve to be called pedants.
In view of the inscription on the tripod of K‘ungK‘ui3of Wei the officers of Chou admonished one another, and because the emperor HsiaoHsüan Ti praised the prefect of Ying-ch‘uan, Huang Pa1 for his excellent service and bestowed a hundred pounds of gold on him, the Han officers exerted themselves in the administration. Thus a ruler of men praises his officers, and the officers should extol their sovereign. That is in accordance with propriety.
When under Shun the empire was at peace, K‘üei2 sang the virtue of Shun. The kindness of King Hsüan3was so perfect, that the Shiking extols his doings. Lord Shao performed his duties in such a way, that in Chou they sang the song on the sweet-pear tree 4. Thus there are 31 eulogies of Chou, 5 of Yin, and 4 of Lu, 40 in all in which the poets sing the praises of exalted persons 5. Whence it is plain that subjects should eulogise their sovereigns.
The scholars contend that the Han have no sage emperors, and that their administration has not brought about universal peace. In our chapter entitled ‘Praise of the Han Dynasty’ 6 we have shown that the Han have holy emperors, and that their government has led to perfect peace, and in the chapter ‘Further Remarks on the State’ 7we have investigated into the excellence of the Han and found out that it is extraordinary and far surpassing that of all the other dynasties.
To illustrate virtue, and praise merits, and to extol and panegyrise rulers, is nothing more than the eulogistic allusions of the Shiking and a duty of noble officers. It cannot be accounted virtue, should somebody forget his own family and look to other people’s houses, or despise his own father, and speak in high terms p2.222 of the old gentlemen of strangers. The Han are the family now embracing the whole world, and compared to the present sovereign, people and officers, the former emperors are like the old gentlemen. To know the virtue of a monarch and praise his excellence, to see the greatness of a State and glorify its deserts is much better than to doubt and suspect them of incapacity.
— Great indeed was Yao as a sovereign ; it is only Heaven that is grand, and only Yao corresponded to it. The people could find no name for it. ]
Some one of fifty was beating clods of earth on the road. An observer remarked,
— Grand indeed is the virtue of Yao !
The man who was playing with earth replied,
— At sunrise I begin my work, and at sunset I take my rest. I dig a well to drink, and labour my field to eat. What sort of energy does Yao display ? 1
Confucius by saying ‘Great indeed was the virtue of Yao’ showed that he knew him. To be coeval with a sage and not to know the holy ruler, is like being blind and incapable of distinguishing between green and yellow, and to know such a holy ruler, but not to praise him, is like being dumb and unfit to discourse on right and wrong.
The present blind and dumb literati are no more gifted than the people of T‘ang beating the earth. Confucius and the man of T‘angwho spoke of Yao’s greatness were both aware of his virtue. It was paramount, and by inquiring how Yao’s capacity was, the peasant beating the earth proved his ignorance of his virtue 2 ?
When at night a candle is lifted the space illuminated by its light may be measured, but when the sun shines over the world the places near and far, big and small reached by its rays are hard to be limited. Navigating on the Huai and the Chi3, all people know their windings and turnings, but on the eastern Sea they cannot make out north and south. The square-mensuration of very great planes offers many difficulties, and great depths are hard to be fathomed by wading through with tucked-up clothes. The excellence of the Han is as extensive as the sunlight reaching p2.223 beyond the ocean. The knowing know it, whereas the unintelligent have no idea of their grandeur.
The Han writers mostly go back as far as the Yin and Chou dynasties, and the various scholars working together all treat of other matters and have not a word of praise for the Han dynasty, which the Lun-hêng has. The State eulogies in the Shiking are called eulogies of Chou ; they bear a resemblance to the Han eulogies offered by TuFu and Pan Ku4.
Under the reign of HsüanTi portraits were painted of the entire body of Han officers. If some were left out, their descendants, later on, felt abashed that their ancestors had not been found worthy to be painted. A eulogy is much more than a simple picture. If after many generations people conversant with classical literature will find there nothing in praise of the Han dynasty, later ages must wonder at this omission. Formerly, officers well versed in the Classics were in the habit of recording the glorious feats of their rulers on bamboo and silk and of engraving encomiastic inscriptions regarding their illustrious virtue on tripods. Contemporaries of literary abilities would exert themselves on this behalf. If the fame of the Han falls short of that of the Six Reigns, it is owing to the incompetence of those writers.