Wang ch‘ung lun-hêng miscellaneous essays Traduits et annotés par Alfred forke



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XI. It cannot be said that the fluid of clouds and rain is more intelligent than that of flying kites. Anglers make fishes out of wood, the bodies of which they cover with red varnish. Going to a current, they throw them into the water, where they rise in the stream and move. The fish take them for real ones, and all gather round them. A piece of red wood is not a real fish, for fish have blood and possess knowledge. Still they allow themselves to be duped by a semblance. The knowledge of clouds and rain cannot be greater than that of fish. How could they have misgivings, on beholding a clay dragon ?

XII. However, these are fish whose intelligence falls short of that of mankind. The Hsiung-nu were in respectful awe of the power of Chih Tu 3. A figure of him was carved in wood. The Hsiung-nu shot at it, arrow after arrow, but could not hit it once. We ignore the fact whether the spirit of Chih Tu was residing in the figure, or whether, since he was dead, the spirits of the Hsiung-nu, doing homage to his ghost, were in the wood. If the mind of Chih Tu was in the statue, the spirit of the heavenly dragon must likewise be in the clay dragon, and in case the spirits of the Hsiung-nu clung to the wood, then the minds of those offering the rain sacrifice must be in the clay dragon as well. p2.354

XIII. Chin Wêng Shu was the heir-prince of the King of Hsiu Ch‘u 1. Together with his father he went to submit to the Han. His father having died on the road, he went with his mother, and received the rank of an imperial prince (chi-tu-yü). When his mother had died, Wu Ti caused her portrait to be painted in the Kan-ch‘üan palace with the inscription : Consort of King Hsiu Ch‘u, née Yen 2. Chin Wêng Shu, accompanying the emperor, went up to the Kan-ch‘üan palace. There he stood paying his respects, and turned towards the pictures, he wept, that his tears moistened his garment. It was a long while before he went away. The portrait was not his mother in person, yet, when he saw her features, his tears burst forth. At the thought of his beloved parent, his feelings were touched, and he did not expect reality. A clay dragon is like the picture of the Kan-ch‘üan palace. Why should clouds and rain, on perceiving it, not be moved ?

XIV. But this was the story of a savage only. Yu Jo 3 resembled Confucius. After the decease of Confucius, his disciples would sit together, affectionately thinking of their master. Yu Jo occupied his seat. The disciples were aware that Yu Jo was not Confucius, still they sat together, and did homage to him. In case the intelligence of clouds and rain equals that of the disciples, their thoughts would be touched, although they knew that it was a clay dragon, and not a veritable one, and they would make their appearance.

XV. The disciples of Confucius had their doubts about the features of Yu Jo, and therefore merely said that he resembled Confucius. The emperor Wu Ti was very fond of his consort, Lady Li. When she died, he pondered whether he could not see her figure again. The Taoists made an artificial figure of the lady, which passed through the palace-gate. When the emperor beheld her, he did not ignore that she was not real, albeit yet he was p2.355 so moved, that, full of joy, he went near her 4. If the fluids of clouds and rain be like the heart of Wu Ti, their tender passion is roused, and they appear in spite of their knowledge of the unreality of the clay dragon.

 In addition to these fifteen arguments, there are still four analogies :

I. At the beginning of spring, when the ground is tilled in the east, they mould clay figures, a man and a woman, both holding a plough and a hoe in their hands, or they set up a clay ox 1. These cannot labour the ground, but they correspond to the season, and agree with the time, and are to exhort the common people to be industrious. Now, although it is obvious that a clay dragon cannot attract rain, it likewise accords with the summer time, and by its category favours a change of weather, the same idea which has led to the moulding of clay men and clay oxen.

II. According to the Rites the tablets in the ancestral temple are made of wood, one foot and two inches long, to represent a deceased ancestor 2. A dutiful son, entering the hall, worships them with all his soul. Although he knows that these wooden tablets are not his parents, he must show them the greatest respect, and they call for his veneration. A clay dragon is like a wooden tablet ; even though it is not genuine, it exercises such an influence, that the image must be taken notice of.

III. Sages are cognisant of the uselessness of mud carts and straw figures 3, but since they symbolise life, they do not dare to dispense with them. Putting up a clay dragon, one knows that it cannot cause rain, but it is symbolical like the mud carts and the straw figures, and has effect.

IV. The son of Heaven shoots at a bear, the princes at an elk, ministers and high officers at a tiger and a leopard, officers at a stag and a wild boar 4, to illustrate the subjugation of the p2.356 fierce. A piece of cloth is called target (hou) implying that unprincipled princes are to be shot 5. Pictures of bears and elks are painted on the cloth, which is styled target (hou). It is right to appreciate these symbolical images and to choose names full of meaning. A clay dragon is like a cloth target upon which a bear and an elk are painted.

There are fifteen proofs, based on affinity, and four analogies, explaining the meaning by other customs. Tung Chung Shu’s insight was immense, and his institutions are not inconsiderate. For putting up a clay dragon he had his good reasons. When a dragon suddenly emerges from the water, clouds and rain appear. Of old, as long as there used to be a dragon keeper and a master of the dragons, there were no clouds and no rain. It is like an unexpected meeting of old friends, who have been separated by a great distance. In their joy, they sing and laugh, or they turn sad, shed tears, and, for a while, are down-spirited. Their doings appear to be quite abnormal 1.

The Yiking says that clouds follow the dragon, but not that the dragon follows the clouds. On the cloud goblet, thunder and clouds were carved, but did the dragon deign to come down ? The scholiasts cannot explain this, so that Huan Chün Shan could urge his objections, which Liu Tse Ch‘ün was unfit to meet. Owing to this inability, the remarks of Tung Chung Shu on dragons remained fragmentary. The Lun-hêng has supplemented them, ‘A Last Word on Dragons’ denoting a supplement.

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CHAPTER XXXIII

The Tiger Trouble

48. XVI, II. Tsao-hu



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p2.357 The phenomenalists aver that the devouring of men by tigers is a consequence of the misdeeds of the high commissioners, their idea being that as the high commissioners are the chiefs of the officers, so tigers are the fiercest of beasts. The commissioners do mischief by fleecing their subordinates, therefore tigers devour men to accord with this idea.

Tigers eat men, but it likewise happens that men kill tigers. If they contend that, as tigers eat men, the commissioners plunder the officials, do the latter extort money from the commissioners, when men eat the tigers ?

In our age, there is not one unselfish and undefiled officer among a hundred, and all high commissioners have wicked designs 1. By good connexions and old friendship one succeeds, and bribes of all sorts, big and small, are always welcome. If tigers are considered to correspond to high commissioners, tigers in the country always destroy people. Tigers come out at certain times, as dragons appear at fixed periods. The Yin creatures appear in winter, whereas Yang animals come out in summer 2. Their appearance corresponds to their fluid, which prompts its corresponding species.

Orion and its sword come forth in winter, the ‘Heart’ 3 and the ‘Tail’ 4 become visible in summer. Orion and its sword are the constellation of tigers, the ‘Heart’ and the ‘Tail’, the heavenly signs of dragons. When these signs are visible, the creatures make their appearance, and the fluid supervening, the respective species is affected. Such is the nature of Heaven and Earth.

Those who move about in forests and marshes just fall in with tigers, which assault them and tear them to pieces. Tigers are endowed with fierceness. When they are greedy and hungry, and encounter a man arriving of his own accord, why should they p2.358 not eat him ? Human muscles and sinews are weak and powerless, and man lacks agility, therefore meeting a tiger, he is sure to perish. If Mêng Pên ascends a mountain, or Mrs. Fêng 1 enters a wood, they do not succumb.

When Confucius was walking through a forest in Lu, a woman cried most mournfully. He sent Tse Kung to inquire, wherefore she cried so sadly. The woman replied,

— Last year a tiger devoured my husband, and this year it devoured my son, hence my lamentation.



Tse Kung rejoined,

— Why do you not leave the place under these circumstances ?

— Because, said the woman, I like the government which is not oppressive, and the officials who are not tyrannical.

Tse Kung went back, and reported what he had heard to his master. Confucius said,

— Remember, my disciples, that an oppressive government and tyrannical officials are worse than tigers. 2

That tigers kill men has ever been the case. Government not being oppressive, and the officers not being tyrannical, the effects of virtue are apt to avert tigers. Nevertheless, those two individuals were eaten in two successive years, ergo the beasts in the forest did not conform to goodness. There being no such correspondence in the case of unselfish officials, it cannot be expected for depraved ones either.

Some say that tigers comport with the perversity of high commissioners, but that the so-called inoppressive government is not equivalent to these commissioners. The woman was under the rule of unselfish officers. but how could good government operate upon tigers ? 3

In Lu there were no high commissioners, who are nothing else than ministers of State. The ministers of Lu were not Confucius or Mê Ti, but members of the three families 4. Their proceedings as ministers cannot have been recommendable. All power and influence being invested in persons devoid of virtue, their doings must have been wicked, and there can be no question of disinterestedness. If the depravity of ministers induces tigers to devour men, then those in the wilds of Lu must always have eaten men.

p2.359 The destruction in the water does not reach the hills, and the fluid on the hills does not enter into the water. All creatures fall a prey to their enemies which are near. Thus fish, caught by the fisherman, do not die on the mountains, and animals, chased by the hunter, do not dive into the pond 1. If people like to rove through the mountain woods, to spy out obscure caverns, and intrude into the tiger’s den, it cannot be a matter for surprise that the tiger pounces upon and devours them 2.

Duke Niu Ai of Lu, during a sickness, was changed into a tiger, which attacked and devoured his elder brother 3. People do not wonder at this simultaneous metamorphosis ; why then be surprised that in mountain forests, jungles, and marshes people are killed by tigers ? Snakes and vipers are very fierce, and likewise injurious to mankind. If somebody meets with a snake in a marsh, to which class of officials does it respond ? Wasps and scorpions hurt people, and so do poisonous exhalations, water, and lire. If a person is stung by a wasp or a scorpion, infected by poisonous air, burned in fire, or drowned in water, who has been the cause ?

Provided that there be a sort of relation between wild animals and officers or government, then all those animals living on mountains or in forests, such as elks, stags, wild boar, oxen, elephants, brown and spotted bears, wolves, and rhinopithecus, kill men. But should a correspondence be assumed only in case they eat men, then fleas, lice, mosquitoes, and gadflies all feed on men, yet the human body being so strong and big, it does not occasion its death. In times of famine, when food is dear, and the people starved, they go even the length of eating one another. Such an atrocity is far worse than tigers, but phenomenalists do not ascribe this to oppressive government.

Moreover, tigers do not only eat men : birds with blood in their veins, and animals with bodies, all afford them food. If a man eaten is believed to testify to the wickedness of the high commissioners, to which functionaries do other birds and animals refer, when devoured ? The tiger is a hairy mammal, and man a p.2360 naked one. If a hairy mammal in its hunger eats a naked one, why must this be accounted an extraordinary phenomenon ?

Beyond the countries of the four classes of savages 4, the Giants devour the Pigmies. The nature of tigers is like that of the Man and the Yi. 5

Plains and large cities are not resorts for tigers. They thrive in mountain forests, jungles, and marshes. Supposing that a tiger’s devouring a man is a correlate of the depravity of high commissioners, then in the districts of the plain with large cities, the commissioners must always be excellent, whereas in territories covered with mountains, woods, and marshes they are always culpable. Accordingly, the tiger’s eating a man in the country, has its counterpart in the viciousness of the commissioners. But, when it happens that a tiger enters a city, and walks about among the people, do, at that time, the commissioners saunter about through lanes and alleys ? 1

As a matter of fact, the killing of a man by a tiger in the country has nothing to do with government, but its appearance in a big city is a prodigy, for the tiger is a wild beast of the mountains and woods, and not domesticated. It lives in jungles, and cannot be tamed, and bears some resemblance to the common rat, which is not always visible, as it usually hides itself, and seldom comes out. As long as people live in happiness and tranquillity, rats do not stir, but scarcely is their felicity destroyed, and are dangers impending, when rats by their agitation indicate an extraordinary calamity 2. The same holds good for tigers. While cities and districts enjoy peace and happiness, and the high officers have no trouble, tigers do not leave their hiding places, but no sooner are the high officers on the road to ruin, than tigers enter the cities, and wander about among the populace. The glory of the high officers being extinguished, their towns and cities sink to the level of a wilderness 3.

Proceeding on this line of argument, we arrive at the conclusion that, when a man is eaten by a tiger, fate and time come p2.361 into play. Fate being exhausted 4, and time out of gear, the lustre of the body fades away, the flesh appears as a corpse, consequently the tiger eats it. It is a fortuitous coincidence according to the principles of Heaven that a tiger happens to eat a man, and that the high officers are just wicked. Thus, what is looked upon as an extraordinary phenomenon, is in harmony with the laws of Heaven.

In ancient and modern times all kinds of wild animals have served as inauspicious auguries, not tigers alone. Before the upper story of the Ying palace of the king of Ch‘u was completed, a stag walked over its terrace. Some time after, the king expired. — Duke Chao of Lu going out one morning, a ‘mainah’ arrived, and began building its nest. Subsequently the Chi family expelled the duke, who fled to Ch‘i, where he afterwards died without returning to his own country 5.

Chia Yi was privy councillor to the king of Ch‘ang-sha. A screech owl perched on his house 6. He opened his book and divined that he was going to leave his master, and, later on, he was transferred to be councillor to the king of Liang. King Huai 1 was fond of riding, but was thrown from his horse, and breathed his last. Chia Yi took this death so much to heart, that he contracted a disease and died likewise. — In the time of the king of Ch‘ang-yi 2, an exotic partridge alighted under a palace hall, and was shot by the king, who questioned the steward of the palace, Kung Sui 3. Kung Sui replied that the entering of an exotic partridge, a wild bird, into the palace was an augury of death. Subsequently, the king of Ch‘ang-yi in fact, lost his life.

The magistrate of Lu-nu 4, T‘ien Kuang conjointly with Kung-Sun Hung 5 and others planned an insurrection. When it was about to be discovered, a wild cat mewed on the roof of his house. T‘ien Kuang felt disgusted. Afterwards the intrigue was discovered, and he suffered execution. — In the time of Li Wên Po, the p2.362 commander of the eastern part of Kuei-chi, a sheep lay down in his reception hall. Subsequently he was promoted and appointed prefect of Tung-lai 6. When Wang Tse Fêng was commander, a deer entered his residence, and afterwards he rose to the rank of a prefect of Tan-yang 7.

Good and bad luck can both be ascertained, promotion and dismission both have their prognostics. When they all point to desolation and death, the vital force disperses and vanishes. Thus, when a man is about to die, wild birds intrude into his home, and when a town is to be deserted, animals from the prairies enter its precincts. These affinities are very numerous, and similar events, constantly met with. I have selected some conspicuous ones, to prove the truth of such prognostics.

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CHAPTER XXXIV

Remarks on Insects

49. XVI, III. Shang-ch‘ung



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p2.363 The phenomenalists maintain that the eating of grain by insects is caused by the officials of the various departments. Out of covetousness they make encroachments, which results in the insects eating the grain. Those with black bodies and red heads are called military officers, those with black heads and red bodies, civil officers. If these officers related to insects be punished, the insects desist from their ravages, and are seen no more.

If those red heads are supposed to be produced by military officers, and the black heads, by civilians, sometimes insects have red heads and white bodies, or black heads and yellow bodies, or their heads as well as their bodies are yellow, or both are green, or both white, as is the case with worms in fish or meat. To which officials do these correspond ?

Sometimes influential citizens disturb officials, interceding for those who are to be tortured. Their ascendancy is greater than that of office-bearers, and their usurpations are more varied than those of officers. How are their corresponding insects shaped ?

Insects are usually destroyed by wind and rain, but at that time the officials are not necessarily subjected to punishment.

On dry land there are always mice, and in paddy fields, fish and crabs, which all injure the grain. Either they seldom come out and suddenly cause damage, or they are always there, doing mischief. Their kinds are very numerous. To which officers are they related ?

Duke Hsüan of Lu levied the land tax on each acre, when simultaneously larvae of locusts were born 1. Some say that they resemble winged ones. When locusts appear, they obscure the sky, falling down on the earth like a shower of rain. They eat everything, making no difference between grain and other plants. Judging by their heads and bodies, which class of officials do they represent ? With which do they tally in the opinion of the phenomenalists ?



p2.364 In the thirty-first year of Chien-wu 1, locusts rose in the T‘ai-shan circuit 2. They went to the south-west, passing Ch‘ên-Liu 3 and Ho-nan 4, and then entered the country of the I and Ti. In hundreds and thousands of districts and villages they alighted, but the officers of these places had not all measured the fields for taxation 5. Locusts eat grain and grass, and, in a few days, reach the end of their life. Either they proceed on their journey, or they stop, dry up, and die. But at that time the local authorities are not all liable to punishment.

The insects’ eating of grain has its term, as the silkworms’ feeding on mulberry leaves has a limit. Their breeding takes a number of days, and they die after a number of months. Having completed their span, they are transformed, and do not always remain grubs. If the sovereign does not punish his officers 6, the insects die nevertheless, of their own accord.

Insects are produced by the fluid of wind. Ts‘ang Hsieh knew it, and therefore formed the character fêng (wind) of fan (all) and ch‘ung (insects). Having received their fluid from wind, they are bred in eight days 7.

p2.365 The insects of spring and summer either live on the Five Grains, or on other herbs. As they eat the Five Grains, officers collect money and grain, but what manner of things do they exact, when the insects feed on other herbs ?

Among the three hundred naked animals man takes precedence, consequently he is an animal also. Man eats the food of insects, and insects likewise eat what man lives on. Both being animals, what wonder that they eat each other’s food.

Were insects endowed with intelligence, they would scold man. saying,

— You eat the produce of Heaven, and we eat it as well. You regard us as a plague, and are not aware that you are yourself a calamity to us. Inasmuch as all animated beings like the taste of something, their mouths and bellies are not different. Man likes the Five Grains, and detests the insects for eating them, he is himself born between Heaven and Earth, and detests the coming forth of insects.

Thus the insects would censure man, if they could speak, and he would be unable to refute their charges. The existence of insects amongst other creatures is nothing wonderful for the knowing, and that they eat so many things, the latter do not consider an exceptional calamity.

In fragrant and succulent plants there are always insects in great numbers. Therefore of all kinds of grain millet has most insects, rice has them at times, wheat and beans never. If the officials be always made responsible for the existence of insects, the departmental officers of villages growing millet would invariably be culpable.

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