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Some one may object that those three Sages bear no relation to the three oaths. Their hearts were desireless, consequently there was no reason for the manifestation of omens of celestial protection. Heaven helps man, as one lends a utensil to somebody : unless he asks for it, one does not give it.

I reply that, when the heir-prince was desiring that Heaven might send an omen, no words were spoken, it being merely the wish of his heart. When T‘ang was imprisoned in Hsia-t’ai, and Wên Wang detained in Yu-li, their hearts were likewise yearning for a release, and Confucius, distressed between Ch‘ên and T‘sai, was craving after food. Wherefore did Heaven not let the locks of the gates in Hsia-t‘ai and Yu-li be spoiled, that T‘ang and Wên Wang could make their escape, or rain grain in Ch‘ên and T‘sai for Confucius, to appease his appetite ?

The Grand Annalist remarks,

« People say of prince Tan that he induced Heaven to rain grain and make the horses grow horns. All this is most likely idle talk 1.

The Grand Annalist is a man who writes the truth about the Han time. His expression ‘idle talk’ is all but synonymous with untrue.


We learn from historical books that the wife of Ch‘i Liang cried, turned towards the city wall, which collapsed in consequence. This intimates that on Ch‘i Liang not returning from a military expedition, his wife, in her despair, cried in the direction of the city-wall, and so heart-felt were her sorrow and her laments, that her feeling affected the wall, which tumbled down in consequence 2. That the woman cried, turned towards the wall, may be true, but the subsequent collapse of the city-wall is an invention.

There has never been a man whose tears and cries were more pathetic than those of Yung Mên Tse. When he cried in the presence p2.178 of Mêng Ch‘ang Chün 3, the latter choked with emotion 4. By the sincerity of grief those present are moved to sympathy. Now, Yung Mên Tse could touch the heart of Mêng Ch‘ang Chün, but not affect his dress, for garments are insensible of pity and proof against human feelings. The city-wall is of earth, and earth, like cloth. Being devoid of a heart and intestines, how could it be moved by sobs and tears and fall down ? Should the sounds of genuine grief be apt to affect the earth of a wall, then complaints uttered among the trees of a forest, would tear the plants and break the trunks.

If somebody should weep, when turned towards a water or a fire, would the water boil up, or the fire go out ? Plants, trees, water, and fire do not differ from earth, it is plain therefore that the wife of Ch‘i Liang could not be answerable for the délabrement of the wall.

Perhaps the wall was just going to tumble down of itself, when the wife of Ch‘i Liang happened to cry below. The world is partial to fictions and does not investigate the true cause of things, consequently this story of the down-fall of the city-wall has, up till now, not faded from memory.


The histories record that Tsou Yen was confined in Yen, though he was innocent. In the fifth month of summer he looked up to Heaven, heaving a sigh, whereupon Heaven sent down a shower of hoar-frost 1. This is on a level with the wife of Ch‘i Liang’s subverting a city-wall by her wails. The statement that he was kept in jail without any guilt, and that in summer he sighed, looking up to Heaven, is true, but the assertion as to Heaven raining frost, a mere invention.

Ten thousand persons raising their voices and emitting their moans and sighs simultaneously still fail to touch Heaven, how then could Tsou Yen, one single individual, by his passionate sighs over his ill-treatment call the hoar-frost down ? His wrongs were not worse than those of Tsêng Tse and Po Ch‘i. Tsêng Tse being suspected, hummed 2, and Po Ch‘i, on being banished, sang. Suspicion p2.179 and imprisonment are alike 3, and humming and singing are similar to sighing. Tsêng Tse and Po Ch‘i were unable to attract cold ; who was Tsou Yen, that he alone could make the frost fall ?

Banishment is perhaps not yet sufficiently painful to be taken into consideration, but Shên Shêng 4 fell upon his sword, and Wu Tse Hsü had to cut his own throat 5. The one being exceedingly dutiful to his father, was doomed to die, and the other, the most loyal subject, had to suffer capital punishment. When they were near their end, they doubtless made complaints, and these complaints are nothing else than the sighs of Tsou Yen towards Heaven. If Heaven felt no sympathy for these two men, being moved only by Tsou Yen, his captivity must have given it great pain, whereas it did not commiserate the blood-shed. The innocent suffering of Po Ch‘i was of the same sort, but it had not the same effect on Heaven.

Provided you light a candle and try to heat a cauldron full of water with it, then, after a whole day, it will not yet be hot. Or take a lump of ice, a foot thick, and place it into the kitchen : after a whole night the room will not yet have become cooled. The reason is that small and tiny things cannot affect big and huge ones. Now the sighs of Tsou Yen were but like a candle or a lump of ice, and the grandeur of majestic Heaven is not merely on a par with that of a water kettle or a kitchen.

How easy is it to move Heaven, and how easily does hoar-frost descend, if a sigh towards Heaven suffices to cause a fall of frost ! Pain is to be compared with pleasure, and joy is the counterpart of anger. Provided that, by the expression of his sorrow, Tsou Yen prompted Heaven to send frost down, would he be able to make Heaven warm in winter time, if, on receiving an unexpected kindness, he laughed to it ?

The phenomenalists contend that, when a ruler rewards in autumn, the weather becomes warm, and, when he punishes in summer, it turns cold. But unless coldness is joined with the proper season, frost does not descend, and unless warmth comes together with the proper days, ice does not melt. How easy would be the change of temperature and how facile a revolution of the p2.180 seasons, if, upon one man in his distress giving one sigh, Heaven did at once send frost. Heat and cold have their natural periods, which does not agree with the view of the phenomenalists.

If we argue on their lines, perhaps the king of Yen enjoyed inflicting punishments, consequently cold weather had to set in. Then Tsou Yen sighed in jail, and at that very moment hoar-frost chanced to come down of itself. But the people remarking that frost just happened to fall, when he sighed, took it for the effect of Tsou Yen’s sighing.


Historical works report that, when the music-master K‘uang played the air ‘White snow’, wonderful creatures descended, and a storm with rain broke loose. Duke P‘ing began to pine away henceforward, and the Chin State became parched up and barren. Another version is that, when K‘uang first played a tune in A major, clouds rose in the north-west. When he played again, a tempest came, accompanied by torrents of rain. The tents were rent to pieces, the plates and dishes smashed, and the tiles of the verandah hurled down. The guests fled in all directions, and Duke P‘ing was so frightened, that he fell down under the porches. The Chin State was then visited with a great drought. For three years the soil was scorched up. The duke’s body began to pine away thereafter 1.

‘White snow’ and A major are perhaps only different names for the same melody, for the misfortune and havoc wrought was in both cases identical. The chroniclers have recorded it as genuine, and ordinary people reading it, have reposed confidence in this narrative. But he who tests its authenticity, must become aware that it is illusive.

What manner of a tune is A major to bring about such a result ? A major is the sound of ‘wood’, accordingly it causes wind, and if wood makes wind, rain comes along with it 1. How does a piece of wood three feet long 2and the sound of some chords possess the wonderful faculty of affecting Heaven and Earth ? p2.181 That would be like the délabrement of the city wall by tears, or the fall of frost through a sigh.

The ability of the music-master K‘uang to thrum A major must have been acquired and cannot have been an innate faculty. When he first studied it, he practised night and day and not only once or twice. Provided that what the chronicles relate be true, then, when the music-master was studying A major, wind and rain ought to have set in.

Some books narrate that, while Hu Pa  was playing the lute, the fish in the ponds came out to listen  , and when the music-master K‘uang was touching the guitar, the six kinds of horses looked up from their fodder 3. According to another version about K‘uang’s performing in A major, when he played the first part, two times eight black cranes came from the south, and alighted on the top of the exterior gate. When he played again, they formed themselves into rows, and when he played the third part, they began crowing, stretching their necks and dancing, flapping their wings. The notes F and G were struck with the greatest precision, and their sound rose to heaven. Duke P‘ing was enraptured, and all the guests were enchanted 4.

The Shuking says,

« [I smite the music-stone, I strike the stone, and the various animals begin dancing together.] 5

This we can believe in spite of its strangeness, for birds and beasts are partial to sentimental music, and their ears are like the human. Seeing man desirous of eating something, they likewise wish to have it, and why should they not be jubilant, on hearing him rejoicing ? That the fish listened, the horses looked up, the black cranes stretched their necks, and the various animals began dancing, are facts therefore, but that wind and rain set in, and that the Chin State was visited with a great drought, that its soil was scorched up for three years, and Duke P‘ing pined away, is most likely fictitious.

p2.182 Perchance, when A major was struck, it happened to blow and to rain, and, after this shower, the Chin State met with a drought. Duke P‘ing being too fond of music and immoderately indulging in fun and frolic, accidentally was afflicted with marasmus. Consequently the writers put faith in the story, and the people witnessing all these circumstances, believed in it. Yet, as a matter of fact, the musical sounds cannot be productive of such a result, which we prove as follows : When wind and rain set in with great vehemence, there is a confusion of the Yin and the Yang. If music can confound them, it must also be able to set them in order. For what reason, then, do the rulers rectify their persons, improve their conduct, and far and wide exhibit their righteous administration ? Provided it suffices to play a song adjusting the Yin and the Yang, then harmony comes of itself, and universal peace of its own accord.


It is being reported that, after T‘ang had been afflicted with a drought for seven years, he prayed personally in a mulberry grove, impeaching himself with the Six Crimes, when Heaven sent down rain. Some speak of five years. The prayer was couched in these terms :

— If I alone am guilty, may my guilt not affect the ten thousand people, and if the guilt be theirs, may it fall on me alone.

Since, because of one man’s folly, Heaven employed God and the spirits 1 to injure people’s lives, T‘ang cut his hair and bound his hands, offering himself as a victim. In such a way he begged happiness of God, who was so pleased, that rain fell at once 2. — That T‘ang personally prayed in the mulberry grove, and his self-indictment was as mentioned, that he cut his hair and bound his hands, thus offering himself as a victim, and that he implored God, all this is true, but the statement that the rainfall was owing to T‘ang’s self-impeachment and personal supplication seems to be a fallacy.

[Confucius being very sick, Tse Lu asked leave to pray for him. He said,

— May such a thing be done ?

Tse Lu replied,

— It may. In the Eulogies it is said, ‘Prayer has been made for thee to the spirits of the upper and lower worlds’.

The Master said,

— It is a long time, since I prayed.] 1

p2.183 The Sage rectified himself and regulated his conduct, and the days when he used to pray were long gone. Heaven and Earth and the spirits knew him to be faultless, hence he could say that it was a long time since he prayed.

We read in the Yiking,

[« The great man equals Heaven and Earth in virtue, the sun and the moon in brightness, the four seasons in regularity, and the ghosts and spirits in happiness and misfortune.] 2

That means to say that a sage displays his virtue in the same manner as Heaven and Earth or ghosts and spirits. Should prayer be required to secure happiness, this would not be the same. T‘ang as well as Confucius were sages, and the time when they were wont to pray had long passed. Confucius would not have Tse Lu pray to cure his disease, — how then could T‘ang obtain rain through prayer ? In spite of Confucius’ regular prayers, he was taken seriously ill. T‘ang would likewise pray, and yet years of great drought ensued.

Inundations and droughts of Heaven and Earth are like human maladies. A serious ailment cannot be expelled by self-indictment, and so it is plain that floods and droughts are not to be removed by prayers and penitence. Had T‘ang caused the drought by his faults, he would not have equalled Heaven and Earth in virtue 3, and unless he had caused the drought by his guilt, his self-accusation and craving for mercy was likewise of no use.

Man’s bodily frame measures but seven feet, and within this frame there reside the Five Virtues and eventually consumption. Yet though fixing all the guilt upon one’s self, one cannot cure it. Now fancy immense Heaven 4 !If at the time of a natural calamity, like a flood or a drought, T‘ang with his body of seven feet and his earnest purpose residing in it had impeached himself and prayed for mercy, how could he have obtained rain ?

When a man stands on the top of a high building of many stories, and another below prostrates himself and asks for something on the building, the one on the top hearing his words may, out of compassion, grant his request. In case, however, he does not understand what the other says, the latter never obtains his end p2.184 in spite of the greatest sincerity of his feelings. Now the distance from Heaven to man is not only like the height of a storied building. How could Heaven, although T‘ang took the responsibility upon himself, become aware of it and send him the rain ?

A drought is a phenomenon of heat, as an inundation is an exceptional state of the water. The Great Flood which Yao encountered may well be termed an inundation. Still Yao did not impeach himself or personally offer prayers. The flood was to be regulated by Shun and Yü, and he knew that such a state of water required regulation. An inundation is not removed by prayers, and a drought must be treated in the same way. Consequently the prayers of T‘ang could not bring down the rain.

Perhaps the drought had been lasting for a long time, when rain fell of itself, and T‘ang likewise just happened to lay the long duration of the drought to his charge. The people of that period, observing the fall of rain just consequent upon T‘ang’s self-indictment, then considered that T‘ang had obtained the rain by his invocations.


Some books relate that, [when T‘sang Hsieh invented the art of writing, Heaven rained grain, and the ghosts cried during the night]  . This signifies that, when writing was invented, by degrees disorder broke out, whence the supernatural apparitions : Heaven raining grain, and the ghosts crying. What they say about Heaven raining grain and the ghosts crying during the night is true, but the affirmation that this was in response to T‘sang Hsiehs invention of writing, is wrong.

The Plan put forth by the Yellow River and the Scroll emerging from the Lo  were lucky auguries for sage emperors and enlightened kings. There is no difference between the signs of the Plan and the Scroll and those characters, which were invented by T‘sang Hsieh. Heaven and Earth produced the Plan and the Scroll, while T‘sang Hsieh invented the written characters. His proceeding was like that of Heaven and Earth, and his idea agreeing with that of ghosts and spirits. What wrong was there and what evil to cause such prodigies as the raining of grain and the weeping of ghosts ? If Heaven and Earth and the spirits resented that man had written books, then their production of the Plan and the Scroll was p2.185 unjustifiable, if, on the other hand, Heaven did not grudge mankind the possession of writing, what wrong was there in its invention to lead to such monstrosities ?

Perhaps Ts‘ang Hsieh just happened to make his invention, when Heaven rained grain, and the ghosts chanced to weep during the night. The raining of grain as well as the laments of the spirits had their cause, but people seeing them take place as if in response to the invention, imagined that the writing had produced these revolutionary signs, and that they were occasioned by the event. A propos of the raining of grain the critics claim that it fell down from Heaven as the product of an extraordinary phenomenon, but, if our discussion starts from clouds and rain, this phenomenon cannot be deemed supernatural for the following reason :

The rain from clouds originates on hills and mountains. Descending and spreading, these clouds become rain. Beholding it falling down from above, people are under the impression that it is Heaven which rains water. On a summer day, rain is water, whereas in winter, when Heaven is cold, it freezes and turns into snow. Under all circumstances, it comes from cloudy vapours on hills and mountains, and it is evident that it cannot descend and gather on earth from heaven above 1.

When it rains grain, the clouds likewise scatter it, and it also rises from the earth. Having been carried away by a strong wind and blown up to heaven, it falls down again to the earth. Noticing its descent from heaven, people then speak of Heaven raining grain.

In the 31st year of Chien-wu 2, it rained grain at Ch‘ên-liu 3, and the grain descending covered the ground. Upon examining the shape of the grain, they found it to be like tribulus, but black, and it bore resemblance to the grains of panic grass. Perhaps this grain had grown in the country of the I and Ti. These tribes not eating corn, this grain had grown in the country and, when ripe, had perhaps fallen upon the ground. Meeting with a strong gale, it had been hurriedly carried off, blown away and flying along with the wind, until, the wind subsiding, it had alighted and descended in China. The Chinese becoming aware of it, then spoke of the raining of grain. My reasons are the following :

p2.186 When a wild-fire burns the hills and marshes, the leaves of plants and trees in them are all reduced to ashes, which, carried away by a gale, are blown aloft as high as heaven, but, when the wind relaxes, these leaves come down upon the roads. Now the grain from heaven is like the burned leaves of plants and trees, which fly about and fall down, but people regard it as rain, and the authors look upon it as a wonderful prodigy.

Heaven confines itself to emitting its fluid, whereas Earth governs the growing of things. All plants with leaves and eatable fruit are a produce of Earth, and not made by Heaven. Now, grain is not produced by the fluid and requires earth for its development. Although they call it a miracle, miracles are bound to certain species. Provided that things growing from the earth could conversely descend from heaven, could celestial things likewise issue from the earth ? The productions of Earth are like the stars of Heaven. The stars do not change their nature and grow from Earth, why then should grain alone grow from Heaven ?


Some books contain a notice that, [when Po Yi 1made a well, a dragon mounted a black cloud, and the spirits alighted on the K‘un-lun . This means to say that the dragon was injured by the well, which was the reason of the phenomenon of the dragon and the spirits.

The allegation that the dragon mounted a black cloud is trustworthy, but the remark concerning the spirits alighting on Mount K‘un-lun, and ascribing the rise of the dragon and the flight of the spirits to the building of a well, is unreliable.

Wells are made for the purpose of drinking, and fields are planted for the sake of food, which amounts to the same. If Po Yi, by making a well, caused such extraordinary events, why do such phenomena not appear, when the soil is first tilled ?

Shên Nung 2shaped a crooked stick into a plough, and taught people how to till. Then they first began eating grain, and grain was first sown. The tilled ground becomes a field, and a dug out hole, a well. From the well comes water to slake the thirst, and on the field grows grain to appease the hunger. Heaven and Earth, p2.187 ghosts and spirits are all agreed on this. Wherefore then does the dragon rise on a black cloud, and the spirits alight on the K‘un-lun ? The mounting of a dragon on a black cloud has happened in olden as well as modern times, and it did not only commence to do so when Po Yi dug his well.

At present, in midsummer, when thunder and rain appear simultaneously, dragons frequently rise on clouds. There being a certain relation between clouds and dragons, the dragon rides on clouds and rain  . Things of the same class attract one another, but there is no purpose in this.

In Yao’s time a man 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

Accordingly, in Yao’s time, wells must have been known.

Under the reign of Yao and Shun, dragons were reared and domesticated and always kept at court. When towards the end of the Hsia dynasty, the government degenerated, the dragons concealed themselves 2, and it was not only when Po Yi had dug his well, that they rose on clouds.

And who are those spirits that are mentioned ? It must be the hundred spirits 3. For what reason should these hundred spirits resent so much that men made wells ? If the spirits are similar to men, they must also have a desire to drink, and, with such a craving, to detest wells and run away would be self-contradictory. Even if Po Yi had not dug the well, the dragon would not have mounted a cloud on account of the digging of some well, nor would the spirits have alighted on the K‘un-lun for that reason. This is a misconception of some writers and of their invention.

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