Some hold that Shun and Yü, while controlling the floods, had no resting-place, and that, therefore, Shun died in Ts‘ang-wu, and Yü in Kuei-chi. By their toils they displayed merit, therefore p2.247 Heaven recompensed them ; and they were far away from China, therefore it pitied them.
Now, if Heaven rewarded Shun and Yü, making the crows labour and the elephants till, what profit did Shun and Yü derive from it ? In order to requite Shun and Yü, Heaven should have caused Ts‘ang-wu and Kuei-chi to offer sacrifices to them in perpetuity, however it made birds and beasts work, and did not cause the people to sacrifice. Oblations would have been made on the tombs of Shun and Yü, whereas the cultivation of fields benefitted other people only. How could Heaven, shedding its blessings on the Sages, be so inconsistent, that it did not do them any good ?
These reasons must convince us that it is not correct to regard the labouring of the crows and the tilling of the elephants as special blessings conferred upon Shun and Yü. The facts are that Ts‘ang-wu was a country where elephants abound 1, and that in Kuei-chi hosts of birds used to alight. We learn from the Yü-kung that [the P‘êng-li2 being confined to its proper limits, the wild geese had places to settle on.] 3The nature of Heaven and Earth finds expression in the doings of birds and beasts. Elephants stamp the ground of their own accord, and so do birds pick out plants. When the earth has thus been pounded, and the weeds are destroyed, it looks like a tilled field, and, when the soil has been loosened and the clods have been turned, man can forthwith proceed to plant.
There is a common saying that for Shun and Yü a grave was cultivated at Hai-ling. A field tilled by a deer 4 is like one tilled by elephants, but how could the emperors have been buried in Hai-ling ?
It has been recorded that the king of Wu, Fu Ch‘ai, put Wu Tse Hsü to death, had him cooked in a cauldron, sewed into a p2.248 leathern pouch, and thrown into the River 5. Wu Tse Hsü incensed, lashed up the waters, that they rose in great waves, and drowned people. At present, temples for him have been erected on the Yangtse of Tan-t‘u1in Kuei-chi as well as on the Chekiang river of Ch‘ien-t‘ang, for the purpose of appeasing his anger and stopping the wild waves. The allegation that the king of Wu put Wu Tse Hsü to death and threw him into the River, is reliable, but it is absurd to say that, out of spite, Wu Tse Hsü lashed the waters, that they rose in waves.
Ch‘ü Yuan full of disgust threw himself into the Hsiang2, but the waves of the Hsiang did not swell. ShênT‘uTi3jumped into the Yellow River and died, but the billows of the river did not rise. People will certainly object that as to violence and wrath Ch‘üYuan and ShênT‘uTi did not equal Wu Tse Hsü. Now, in Wei, Tse Lu was pickled, and P‘êngYüeh was cooked in Han. The valour of Wu Tse Hsü did not exceed that of Tse Lu and P‘êngYüeh. Yet these two men could not vent their anger, when they were in the tripod and the cauldron, they did not bespatter the bystanders with broth from the cooked flesh, or with sauce from the minced meat.
Moreover, Wu Tse Hsü first was put into the cauldron, and subsequently thrown into the river. Where was his spirit, when he was in the cauldron ? Wherefore was it so timorous in the broth of the cauldron, and so bold in the water of the river ? Why was his indignation not the same at these different times ?
Furthermore, when he was thrown into the river, which river was it ? There is the Yangtse of Tan-t‘u, the Chekiang river of Chien-sang, and the Ling river of Wu-t‘ung. Some maintain that he was thrown into the river near Tan-t‘u, but the Yangtse has no great waves. Should any one say that he was thrown into the p2.249 Chekiang river of Ch‘ien-t‘ang, it must be borne in mind, that not only the Chekiang river, but also the Shan-yin and the Shang-yü4 rivers have waves.
For human hatred there is still some justification, as long as the deadly enemy is alive, or some of his descendants are still left. Now the Wu State is destroyed since long, and Fu Ch‘ai has no scions. Wu is the present Kuei-chi, which has been transformed into a prefecture. Why does the spirit of Wu Tse Hsü still resent the wrong once done him, and never cease to excite the waves ? What does he demand ?
At the time of Wu and Yüeh, they had divided the Kuei-chi circuit, so that Yüeh was governing Shan-yin1, whereas Wu had built its capital in the present Wu. South of Yü-chi2, all the land belonged to Yüeh, north of Ch‘ien-t‘ang, to Wu. The river of Ch‘ien-t‘ang formed the frontier between the two kingdoms. Shan-yin and Shang-yü3were both situated in the territory of Yüeh. When Wu Tse Hsü in the river of Wu caused the waves, they ought to have come into the Wu territory ; why did they enter the land of Yüeh ? That Wu Tse Hsü, harbouring a grudge against the king of Wu, wreaked his malice on the Yüeh river, is contrary to reason, and not the act of a spirit.
Besides, it is difficult to excite the waves, but easy to move men. The living rely on the strength of their nerves, the dead must use their soul. Alive, Wu Tse Hsü could not move the living, or take care of his body, and himself caused its death. When the strength of his nerves was lost and his soul evaporated and dispersed, how could he still make waves ?
There are hundreds and thousands in the predicament of Wu Tse Hsü, who, crossing a river in a boat, did not reach the other shore. But the body of Wu Tse Hsü alone was boiled in hot water in a cauldron. When his bones and his flesh had been cooked soft and become a stew with broth, could he still do any harm ?
King Hsüan of Chou killed his minister, the Earl of Tu, and Viscount Chien of Chao, his officer Chuang Tse Yi. Subsequently, the p2.250 Earl of Tu shot King Hsüan, and Chuang Tse Yi smote Viscount Chien. These events seem to be true, and yet they are fictitious. Now not having his body intact, Wu Tse Hsü could not have acted like the Earl of Tu or Chuang Tse Yi, taking his revenge upon the king of Wu. How can the rolling to and fro of the waves be considered a revenge or a proof of Wu Tse Hsü’s consciousness ?
Popular legends though not true, form the subjects of paintings, and, by these pictures, even wise and intelligent men allow themselves to be mystified 4.
The earth has numerous rivers just as man, his veins and arteries. The blood flowing through them, these arteries throb and pulsate, and have their own times and measures. So it is with the rivers. Their flowing forwards and backwards in the morning and the evening 1, is like human respiration i. e., the inhalation and exhalation of air.
The nature of heaven and earth has remained the same from the oldest time. The Classic says,
[« The Yangtse and the Han pursued their common course to the sea.] 2
So it was previous to Yao and Shun already. When the waters fall into the ocean, they merely accelerate their course, but, upon entering the three rivers 3, they begin to roar and foam in their channel, which is usually shallow and narrow, and thus rise as great waves.
The Ch‘ü river of Kuang-ling4 has such great waves. A poet wrote the verse :
« How majestic rolls the Yangtse, and lo ! the billows of the Ch‘ü ! 5
They are caused by the narrow passage. If, after having been murdered in Wu, Wu Tse Hsü’s spirit was producing the great waves at Kuang-ling, this would certainly not be a sign of its intelligence 6.
p2.251 In deep channels the water flows quietly, but where there are shallows, sands, or stones, it rushes through, swells, and forms rapids. Billows and rapids are identical. If, as they say, Wu Tse Hsü is responsible for the great waves, who lives in the torrents to cause their rapids ?
When the billows enter the three rivers, they boil and wallop against the banks 7, while in the middle no sound is produced. If Wu Tse Hsü is held to be the originator of these waves, then his body must lie extended in the deep water of the banks.
The rising of the waves follows the growing and waning, the bigness and smallness, the fullness and extinction of the moon 8. If it is Wu Tse Hsü who causes the waves, his anger must be regulated upon the phases of the moon 1.
Sometimes a storm excites the waters of the three rivers, that they drown people. Consequently Wu Tse Hsü’s spirit must likewise cause the wind.
When Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti was about to cross the Hsiang river, he was overtaken by a storm. He inquired, which deities were sacrificed to on Mount Hsiang. His attendants replied, the daughter of Yao and the wife of Shun. Ch‘in Shih Huang Ti, in a fit of rage, ordered three thousand criminals to cut down the trees on Mount Hsiang and trample upon it 2. The assertion that Wu Tse Hsüs spirit caused the waves, is on a level with this statement that the ghosts of the two women produced the wind.
The books say that, when Confucius was buried on the shore of the river Sse, its waters flowed backwards ’. This is meant to intimate that the virtue of Confucius was so excellent, that it made p2.252 the waters revert and not sweep away parts of the tomb. The world puts faith in this, and in consequence the Literati in their discussions hold that the descendants of Confucius should be appointed to office, basing this claim on the alleged flowing backwards of the Sse. But a careful consideration reveals the absurdity of such utterances.
How can Confucius dead be the same as alive ? While alive, he could in his practices follow up the right principles and conform to Heaven. But after death his actions ceased. Heaven rewards the highest virtue, therefore the Five Emperors and the Three Rulers attracted lucky presages, which they kept during their lifetime, but not after their death. Confucius met with rebuffs during his life, and no one wanted his services, wherefore he said, with a sigh,
— The phœnix does not come ; the River sends forth no Plan : it is all over with me ! 3
Alive, he did not find favour, and after death, he was rewarded ? The death of Confucius does not differ from that of the Five Emperors and the Three Rulers, on whom Heaven did not bestow its blessings. If Confucius was done the recipient of Heaven’s grace after death, his soul must have been holy, and the genius of the Five Emperors did not possess such excellence 4.
The river Sse was not endowed with intelligence, that it might flow backwards for Confucius’ sake. If the Spirit of Heaven made it do so, why did this Spirit not induce mankind to honour Confucius, while he was alive 1 ?If, by the flowing backwards of the Sse, Heaven wanted to secure appointments for the posterity of Confucius, why did it not appoint Confucius himself, while alive, whose merit and virtue were in accordance with Heaven, and desired these appointments for his descendants ?
That the Sse flowed backwards, is a hazard and a natural phenomenon. It happens that rivers revert in their course, for streams at times change their channels, or take a new course, which is the same as flowing backwards . Therefore the flowing backwards of the Sse cannot be looked upon as a prodigy.
p2.253 Some records extolling the virtue of a prince of Wei, relate that his kindness was not only bestowed upon scholars, but that it even embraced birds and beasts. Once he was dining with some guests, when a hawk pounced upon a pigeon. The latter escaped under the prince’s table, but the hawk pursued and killed it before his eyes. The prince was shocked, and called upon his men to spread nets everywhere. Several dozen hawks were caught. The prince charged them with the crime of having hit a pigeon. The one hawk which had done it bowed its head, and did not dare to look up. Upon this, the prince killed it. The world, by way of glorification, says that the prince revenged a pigeon, but that is idle talk.
A hawk is a creature whose feelings are other, and whose speech is different from ours. A sage would not be able to induce birds and animals to a moral conduct. Who is this prince, that he could cause a hawk to bow its head and accuse itself ? Such birds as hawks are counted by thousands, how could one single hawk, which, having previously hit upon a pigeon, had flown away, be caught again ?
If it bowed its head and acknowledged its guilt, it must have been a sage bird. Understanding the words of the prince, it must have known his ways as well, and knowing his ways, it would not have pounced upon a pigeon in his presence.
Even men cannot mend their faults. Birds differ from men ; to pretend that they can repent, is a prejudice of common people and a misapprehension of the real nature of the various classes of creatures.
Perhaps the prince really caught the hawk. Expecting that some one would get hold of its head, it violently turned its neck aside, which caused it such pain, that it inclined its head, and therefore could not look up. Since the prince was a kind and just man, people, by saying that the hawk admitted its guilt, meant to belaud him. In the course of conversation many empty compliments are made, and real deserts usually are embellished by all sorts of fictions.
It has been recorded that Duke Huan of Ch‘i1 married his seven cousins. That cannot be true, for it would be incest and a violation of the laws of consanguinity 2. It is the nature of birds p2.254 and beasts not to take heed of the relation between ascendants and descendants, therefore they mix, unconscious of the laws of relationship. Duke Huan united all the feudal princes and set the empire right, guiding the masses with virtue, and ruling them with authority. For this reason the lords followed him, and nobody dared to disobey. This would not have been the case, if his private life had been so flagitious, that he imitated the instincts of beasts and birds.
He prevailed upon the princes to do homage to the royal house, for it was distasteful to him that the king should be deprived of his power, and his subjects disrespectful to him. If before the world he resented a want of decorum so much, how could he degrade himself at home by such utter disregard of propriety ? If there had been such a discrepancy between his public and his private life, he would never have distinguished himself or won any influence 3.
As to the depravity of Chieh and Chou, they are not charged with incestuous intercourse with their kin. Sober-minded critics are of opinion that the wickedness of Chieh and Chou was less than that of doomed Ch‘in, and that the crimes of doomed Ch‘in fell short of those of Wang Mang. Incest has never been laid at their charge. Had Duke Huan married his seven cousins, his viciousness would have left behind that of Chieh and Chou and be worse than that of Ch‘in and Wang Mang.
The Ch‘un-ch‘iu commends the smallest merit and condemns the slightest wrong. For what reason then did it not condemn the great crime of Duke Huan ? WênChiang of Lu was a sister to Duke Hsiang of Ch‘i, who had intercourse with her, for we read in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu under the second year of Duke Chuang :
[« In winter, the (deceased duke’s) wife, the Lady Chiang, had a meeting with the marquis of Chi in Kao.] 1
Why was the Ch‘un-ch‘iu so hard upon Duke Hsiang, recording his lewdness, and why so lenient to Duke Huan, concealing his crime and having no word of reproof for it ? Should the passage have been lost in the Classic, wherefore do the commentators, Tso Ch‘iu Ming, Kung Yang, and KuLiang all hush it up ?
The fault of Duke Huan consisted in his too great condescension towards the ladies of his harem. Six concubines enjoyed his special p2.255 favour, and five princes contended to become his heirs 2. Ch‘i was thrown into confusion, and, when the duke died, it was not until three months later that his death was officially announced 3. People hearing of these six favourites, and that no distinction was made between the sons of his wife and his concubines, then said that he misbehaved himself with his seven cousins.
There is a notice in some books to the effect that Duke Huan of Ch‘i carried his wife, when he received the feudal princes in audience. This would show that the duke’s lust reached the last degree of indecency. If Duke Huan carried his wife on his back at great audience, how could he have outdone this feat at the wildest Bacchanal ?
He had refined the manners of the scholars, inspiring them with awe and reverence by his majesty, — how could he, with his wife on his back, have led on the princes to do homage to the royal house ?
At the meeting of K‘uei-ch‘iu4, Duke Huan was very proud and elated. The Heads of nine States then revolted from him. His angry looks could not prevent the revolt of the nine States. Now fancy the duke carrying his wife and affording them such a spectacle of lascivity ; would that have induced them to stand by him ?
Some say that Kuan Chung informed the princes that his master had ulcers on his back, which would not heal without the wife’s assistance. The princes believed Kuan Chung and therefore did not rebel.
[Now in all places of ten families 1an honest man like Confucius can be found.] At that time, the princes had assembled over a thousand men. There was, doubtless, one among them experienced in the art of curing ulcers, so that the services of the duke’s wife could be dispensed with.
p2.256 Kuan Chung concealed the duke’s fault. Well aware that Kuan Chung, by doing so, deceived the princes, the latter would, no doubt, have become angry and revolted. How could the duke, under these circumstances, have presided over their meetings for long, or been successful as their leader ?
Some hold that in reality Duke Huan was unprincipled, but using able men and making Kuan Chung his minister, he acquired supremacy.
An unprincipled man is not better than a tyrant. He would believe slanderers, remove the virtuous, and injure the benevolent and the righteous. How could such a one employ a man like Kuan Chung, or keep officers to serve under him ?
Chieh killed KuanLungFêng, and Chou murdered the son of the king 2, Pi Kan. An unprincipled sovereign cannot employ wise men. Provided that Kuan Chung was wise, then Duke Huan could not employ him, and if he did employ him, then Duke Huan cannot have committed all those excesses.
When the sovereign is virtuous and intelligent, he has pure and honest ministers. Virtuous ministers presuppose an enlightened ruler. How, then, can Duke Huan be accused of wantonness ?
An opponent might say that Duke Ling of Wei3was a sovereign without principles, who, all the same, knew virtuous ministers, and whom Kuan Chung assisted. Then from what does it follow that Duke Huan was not wanton ?
Duke Ling was unprincipled indeed, but the fact that he employed three able men, merely sufficed to preserve his life ; he did not achieve anything grand. Duke Huan honoured the arithmeticians and raised Ning Ch‘i4 from his cart. To punish Ch‘u for not having sent its tribute of reeds and grasses, he invested it with all his forces 1. He united the feudal barons, and, quite alone, set the empire in order. He is such a hero as appears only once in a p2.257 thousand generations. That he should have carried his wife on his back, is nonsense.
The scholiasts to the Shuking relate that Duke Chou as a regent wore the silken ribbons of the emperor and his hat, and that, his back turned upon a screen and facing the south, he gave audience to the princes.
A partition between the door and the window is called a screen (i)Facing the south indicates the high dignity. If in sitting one turns the back upon the screen and looks southward, the screen is behind. Now, when Duke Huan held an audience of all the princes, he was perhaps sitting with his face turned to the south, and his wife stood behind. This has given rise to the popular tradition that he carried his wife on his back. It is like the story that K‘uei had but one leg, or that Duke Ting of Sung, in digging a well, found a man in it.
At the time of Yao and Shun, K‘uei was a great officer. He was by nature a great musician, and the tunes he played were most plaintive and beautiful. People then used to say that playing like K‘uei was full perfection. Of this popular tradition made the phrase that K‘uei had but one leg 2.
The emperor Shun was seeking everywhere a candidate for the post of president for sacrificial worship. Every one recommended Po Yi, [but he made obeisance and declined in favour of K‘uei and Lung] 3.
p2.258 The office of a minister of ancestral worship would correspond to that of a tsung-chêngof the Han time. The cutting of one leg would be an abnormity of the legs, and how could a man move about with only one leg ?
The Hsia emperor K‘ung Chia was once hunting on the Tung-ming mountain, when it began to rain and to become very dusky. The emperor entered a private house, where the mistress was just nursing a baby. Some said that a child to which an emperor had come would be noble, but others urged that a child not born for grandeur must needs remain mean. K‘ung Chia said,
— If it becomes my son, who will make it mean ?,
and he took the child with him. Once, when the boy was carving rafters, the axe cut his legs, and he finally became a doorkeeper 1. Since K‘ung Chia wished to ennoble him as his son, he had the greatest expectations, nevertheless, when he had cut his legs, he was of no use and therefore made a doorkeeper.