Miscellaneous essays Traduits et annotés

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Provided that the spirit of the house dislike an annex to the west, a spirit resembles man, and every man would gladly see his residence enlarged ; for why should he dislike it ? Supposing that the spirit of the house dislikes the trouble caused by the alteration, then all annexes on the four sides ought to be ill-omened.

The experts in the various arts and professions, in explaining omens, specify the different cases. The house builders state that in erecting a house mischievous spirits may be met with, in removing one’s residence care should be taken to avoid the spirits of the year and the months, in sacrificing, certain days may be encountered when bloodshed is to be shunned, and in burying one may fail against the odd and even days. In all these instances these prohibitions are given in view of ghosts and spirits, and evil influences. Those who do not avoid them, fall sick and die, but as for building an annex in the west, what harm is there, that it is held to be inauspicious, and how does the subsequent calamity manifest itself ?

Properly speaking, this prohibition of something inauspicious is based on reason, and not to be observed on account of good or bad luck : The west is the region of elders and the seat of the honoured. The honoured and the elders being in the west, the inferiors and youngsters are in the east. The superiors and elders are the masters, the inferiors and youngsters, their assistants. Masters are few, and assistants many. There can be no two superiors above, but there are a hundred inferiors below. When in the west an addition is made to the master 1, whereas the assistants are not p2.378 increased, there are two superiors, but not a hundred inferiors (for each). That is contrary to justice, and therefore called unpropitious 1. Being unpropitious it should not be done. Yet though being contrary to justice, it is not of ill omen for the following reason :

A tomb is a place where a dead man is interred ; a field one whence man gets his food and drink ; and a house the place where man lives. In respect to auspiciousness these three places are the same for man. Now, an annex to a house in the west is considered inauspicious, whereas nobody pretends the same of an annex made in the west of a tomb or a field. A tomb, being the residence of a dead man, is somewhat neglected and treated with indifference, and in a field which is not inhabited by man, the distinction between superiors and inferiors is not drawn. In a house old and young live together, therefore great care is taken to carry out this idea, and the prohibition is insisted upon. The rule is diligently observed in houses, but great laxity prevails in regard to graves and fields.


The second thing to be avoided is that a convict having suffered corporeal punishment ascends a tumulus. People merely know that this should not be allowed, but do not understand the reason of this interdiction, and if you inquire of those insisting upon this prohibition, they ignore the meaning of this avoidance ; nor do those complying with this advice trouble much about it. One imitates the other ; this goes so far, that when the father and the mother of a culprit die, he does not bury the dead, and being near their tomb, does not venture to approach and inter them. He does not even condole, and looks upon the coffin as if it belonged to a stranger.

A good man, being convicted, after having suffered corporeal punishment is called a convict 2. Such a one may ascend a tumulus. The two parents after their death are said to be deceased. What difference is there between a house and a tomb, or between living and deceased parents ?

If convicts be reproved by their ascendants for having suffered punishment, then they ought not to enter their home, or see their parents either, and if, on the other hand, convicts be not allowed p2.379 to have commerce with the dead, then, when their parents have expired in their hall, they should not cry by their coffins. If, in fine, convicts be not permitted to ascend a tumulus, then they should not be allowed to mount hills or mountains either.

Which reasons have those people to give who enforce this prohibition ? As a matter of fact, there are two reasons why convicts do not ascend a tumulus ; the injunction is based on these causes, and there can be no question of any avoidance of unlucky influences :

The convicts are aware that their ancestors have generated them complete, and that the descendants should also return their bodies complete. [Wherefore Tsêng Tse being ill called to him the disciples of his school, and said,

— Uncover my feet, uncover my hands. . . . . . Now and hereafter, I know my escape, my young friends.] 1Tsêng Tse was so considerate, that before his end he wanted to show that his body was intact, and he was glad that he had escaped all bodily injury. Confucius said,

— The body, the hair, and the skin, we received them from our parents, and dare not impair them 2.

A dutiful son dreads falling into the clutches of the law : the cutting and branding of the body as well as the disfiguring and scathing of the hair and the skin, are the upshot of a lack of virtue, of unworthy dealings, and carelessness. A criminal is ashamed of having suffered the disgrace of a punishment, and most earnestly reproaches himself. It is for this reason that he does not ascend a tumulus.

According to the ancient rites, the sacrifices to ascendants were performed in temples, the modern custom is to offer them at the grave. Consequently, a convict does not ascend a tumulus out of shame lest he should cause displeasure to his ascendant. That is the first reason.

A tomb is the abode of ghosts and spirits. As regards the place of sacrifice and the sacrificial rites, it is of the utmost importance that there should be penance and absolute purity. Now, people that have suffered punishment are disgraced, and not fit to attend at an offering, or to worship their ascendants. Their modesty and reverence demand that they should retire and humiliate themselves, for their ancestors, remarking that their descendants have p2.380 suffered punishment, would commiserate them, and feel unhappy, and most likely, at the sacrifice, not be able to enjoy the offering. This is the second reason why the former do not ascend a tumulus.

In times of old, T‘ai Po noticed that Wang Chi had a holy son, Wên Wang, and he knew that T‘ai Wang wished to raise him to the throne. Therefore he repaired to Wu, where he collected medicinal herbs, cut off his hair, and tattooed his body, to follow the customs of Wu. At the decease of T‘ai Wang, T‘ai Po returned, and Wang Chi intended to yield the supreme power to him. T‘ai Po again declined, but Wang Chi would not hear of it. So he declined three times, saying,

— I went to Wu and Yüeh, and, in accordance with their customs, cut off my hair, and tattooed my body. I am like a man who has been subjected to torture, and cannot be the chief of the ancestral temple and of the altars of the land and grain.

Wang Chi admitted that it was impossible, and, much against his will, accepted his resignation 1.

A convict not ascending a burial mound is like T‘ai Po declining the royal dignity, which means that he is unqualified to perform the sacrificial rites, but not, to conduct the funeral, when a coffin is to be buried.

At the burial of a descendant the ancestors are grieved, and the aspect of a convict fills them with sorrow. When such a person, worthy of pity, buries somebody whose death is a cause of grief to his ascendants, the latter, provided that they are conscious, would feel grieved at the death, and commiserate the disgrace of their descendant, wherefore then should he be abashed ? Should they be unconscious, then the burial mound is nothing but a piece of uncultivated land, and there is still less any occasion for shame.

These convicts are said to stand abashed before their ascendants, because their body is mutilated by torture and not like that of other people. Anciently, by torture the body was in fact, racked, and did not remain intact, which may have rendered it unfit. But, at present, the penalties are merely symbolical 2, the gravest consisting in shaving the head and in an iron collar. The lesser delinquents whose punishments are less than forced labour at building a wall, may wear coloured silk dresses and caps and girdles different to those worn by common people, why should they be unfit for a funeral ? The public believes them all to be obnoxious, and p2.381 carries its error to the length of not allowing such persons to condole at the death of a fellow-villager, or to ascend the tumulus of a stranger ; a great mistake this.


The third thing to be shunned is a woman who, having born a child, is believed to bring ill-luck. Those who have some lucky undertaking in hand, go far away into mountains and forests, traversing streams and lakes, and have no intercourse with such a woman. They even avoid coming near her house, and only, after having passed a month in the huts on burial grounds and on the roads, they return. The unexpected sight of the woman appears to them very unlucky.

If we study the question carefully, on what is this dislike based ? When a woman gives birth to a child, it comes into the world, filled with the original fluid. This fluid is the finest essence of Heaven and Earth, how could it be harmful and detestable ? Man is an organism, and so is a child. What difference is there between the birth of a child and the production of all the other organisms ? If human birth be held to be baleful, is the creation of the myriads of organisms baleful too ?

The new-born issues with the placenta. If the placenta be deemed foreshadowing evil, the human placenta is like the husk 1 of fruits growing on trees ; wrapped round the infant’s body, it comes out with it like the egg-shell of a young bird. What harm is there to justify people’s aversion ? Should it be due to its supposed inauspiciousness, then all organisms with husks and shells ought to be detestable.

There is such a plethora of organisms, that I am at a loss where to begin with my deductions : Human birth does not distinguish itself from that of the Six Domestic Animals 2. They are all of them animated beings with blood, that breed and bring forth their young not otherwise than man. Yet the aversion applies to human birth only, and does not include that of animals. Is it perhaps in view of the bigness of the human body and of the quantity of its vital fluid and its blood ? But the size of an ox or a horse is much greater than that of man.

p2.382 If, with reference to distasteful objects, there is no equality, and only one singled out, irrespective of its similarity to all the others, the case becomes rather doubtful. Now, the Six Animals are hardly different from man, and they produce their young in the same way. That, (notwithstanding this similarity between the Six Animals and man), the latter is avoided, and not the former, proves the ignorance of the people.

Supposing they could make a distinction between the birth of a child and the breeding of the Six Animals, I would admit their avoidance, but in case they are unable to draw a line, I must say that this popular avoidance is unreasonable.

There is certainly nothing more loathsome for man than putrescence and fetor ; putrid and fetid smells make one sick. The nose smelling stench, and the mouth eating something rotten, people feel their stomach turn, make a wry face and begin spitting and vomiting. Privies 3 may be said to be fetid, and dried fish to be putrid meat, yet there are persons that put up with privies even, and do not shudder at them 4, and for many dried fish are a relish from which they do not recoil. That which the mind does not turn to, is thought of as disgusting, and its good or bad qualities are left out of account.

Now, as for detestable things, (such as black varnish bespattering one’s body) 5, after the eyes have seen, and the nose has smelled them, and they have passed, everything is over. Why still abhor them, when they have vanished, and are no more to be seen ?

If going out on the road, we behold a man carrying a pig on his shoulders, or remark some foul stuff in a ditch, we do not take this for evil omens, because the filth is on somebody else’s body, and not on our own. Now, a woman bearing a child, carries it with her, why then must people be so scrupulous as to shun her ?

North of the Yangtse, they do not leave the house when a child is born, knowing that there is no harm in it, but when a bitch whelps, they place her outside the house, which is likewise an absurdity. North of the Yangtse, they are afraid of a dog, but not of a human being, south of the Yangtse, they recoil p2.383 from a human being, but not from a dog. In either case the superstitious attempts to avert evil are not the same, but what difference is there between a human being and a dog, or a place within or without the house ? What the one detests, the other does not, and what people of this side stagger at, the other side does not fear. After all, there is no principle in all these popular precautions.

As regards the darkening of the moon, a month is counted from each conjunction of the sun and the moon in a solar mansion. When, on the eighth day of a month, the moon is cut in two halves, it is called a ‘crescent’, when, on the fifteenth, sun and moon face each other, it is called the ‘facing moon’, and on the thirtieth, when sun and moon are conjunct in a mansion, it is called the ‘dark moon’.The dark moon, the crescent, and the facing moon are in reality the same. On the last day of the month, the moonlight is no other than on the first day of the following month. Why is this light called auspicious after the commencement of the next month ? If it be really ill-boding it cannot be said to be auspicious in the next month, and if it really be so it would make no difference that the new month had not yet begun.

As a matter of fact, the injunction to keep aloof from newborn infants and puppies, is intended as an incentive to self-purification, preventing people from polluting themselves with filth and sordid things. When they are clean in their bodies, their minds are pure, and their minds being pure, their proceedings are undefiled. These irreproachable dealings are the basis of honesty and unselfishness.


The fourth thing to be shunned is the bringing up of children born in the first or the fifth months, because such children are supposed to kill their father and mother, and therefore on no account can be reared. Father and mother having perhaps died through some calamity, this assertion has found credence and is taken for certain. Now, wherefore should children of the first or the fifth months kill their father and mother ?

The human embryo, filled with the fluid, remains in the womb, where it develops ten months, when it is born. All are imbued p2.384 with the same original fluid ; what difference is there between the first and the second months, and what diversity between the fifth and the sixth, that an ill omen might be found in them ?

This opinion has long spread in the world, and all those who cling to destiny dare not act against it. If men of vast erudition and great talents carefully go into the question, and minutely examine the difference between good and bad omens, they must arrive at a clear understanding.

Of old, [a humble concubine of T‘ien Ying, minister of Ch‘i, had a son, whom she named Wên. As Wên had been born in the fifth moon, T‘ien Ying told his mother not to bring him up, but the mother clandestinely reared him. When he had grown up, the mother took her son Wên together with his brothers, and introduced him to his father.

T‘ien Ying, very angry, said to her,

— I ordered you to do away with this son, how did you dare to keep him alive ?

Wên bowed his head, and interfering in the discussion, said,

— What is the reason that Your Honour does not want to rear a fifth month child ?

— Because, replied T‘ien Ying, a fifth month child grows as high as a door, and will do harm to his parents.

Wên rejoined,

— Does the fate which man receives at his birth depend on Heaven, or does it depend on a door ?

T‘ien Ying made no reply.

— No doubt, said Wên, it depends on Heaven. Then, why are you dissatisfied ? Should fate be received from a door, and the child become as high as a door, who could attain to that ?

T‘ien Ying acquiesced and said,

— Leave off, my son.]

[Subsequently, he entrusted him with the superintendence of his household and the reception of guests. Their numbers increased daily, and T‘ien Wên’s name became known to all the princes.]  He grew higher than a door, but T‘ien Ying did not die.

According to the reasons put forward by T‘ien Wên and corroborated by the fact that his father did not die, the common dread is baseless. T‘ien Ying was an ordinary father, but T‘ien Wên an exceptional son, the former trusted in the general prejudice, and did not inquire into its reasons, whereas the latter confided in fate, and did not admit the avoidance. As their parts were different, ordinary and exceptional, so were their actions. p2.385 T‘ien Ying’s name is obscure and unknown, while his son’s fame spread far and wide, and never faded.

Still this common avoidance has also its reason : The first month is the beginning of the year, and in the fifth the Yang reaches its acme. A child being born in one of these months, its original nature is fiery and impetuous and weighs heavily on its parents. Not being strong enough to offer resistance, they must come to grief 1.

This idea has gained ground, and no one contradicts it. It is an unfounded assertion, and there is no proof of a real misfortune. The world suffers itself to be imposed upon and to fall into the greatest errors. Things to be avoided are manifold, but always some prodigy is put forth, and if really somebody should happen to die, then the public is convinced of the truth of the assertion, and abides by it.

As to what is to be dreaded and shunned, different views prevail everywhere. I shall give some instances of universal customs, which I trust will be considered. There are innumerous minor rules and observances, all meant to induce to virtue and to exhort to particular carefulness 2. Nothing is to be feared from ghosts and spirits, and no calamities are due to mischievous influences :

In making bean-sauce people dislike very much to hear thunder 3. One person did not eat the sauce in order to induce people to hasten its preparation, and not to allow the stuff to lie about in their premises up to spring time 4.

One avoids grinding a knife over a well — lest it fall into the well, or, as some say, because the character hsing (capital punishment)  is composed of ching (a well) and tao (a knife) . Grinding a knife over a well, the knife and the well face each other, and one apprehends suffering capital punishment (hsing 1.

p2.386 One must not sit under the eaves of a house — a tile might fall down and hit one on the head.

One must not hang up a cap upside down — for it would resemble the garments of a dead man, or, as some say, it should not be turned, lest it be filled with dust.

One must not lie down flat — for one would be like a corpse 2. One must not receive chopsticks from anybody — because they are not solid. 3

One must not expect others to sweep the ground for one — for a man building a grave might request one to sweep for him 4.

All these ‘One must not’ are to induce people to exert particular cautiousness, and to exhort them to do good. The Liki says,

[« One must not roll the rice into a ball, and one must not slobber.] 5

These are prohibitions regarding propriety and righteousness, and not spoken in reference to good or bad fortune.



False Charges against Time

69. XXIII, IV. Lan-shih

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p2.387 When people dig up the earth for the foundation of a building, the year-star and the moon will swallow something 1, and, on the land which they consume, a case of death occurs. If e. g. the planet Jupiter is in the sign tse2 the year-star swallows up some land in the sign yu 3, and if the moon in the first month stands in yin 4, it consumes some land in the sign sse 5. Some building being erected on land situated in tse and yin, people living in yu and sse are swallowed up, and being about to be thus injured, they have recourse to charms to counteract these influences, using objects made of the Five Elements, and hanging up metal, wood, water, and fire. Should, for example, Jupiter and the moon infest a family in the west, they would suspend metal 6, and should those luminaries be going to devour a family in the east, this family would suspend charcoal 7. Moreover, they institute sacrifices with a view to averting the evil, or they feign to change their residence, in order thus to eschew the calamity. There is unanimity about this, every one doing like the others. A careful consideration, however, reveals the utter futility of this mistake. How ?

The spirits of Heaven and Earth must have equal minds. People misconducting themselves are liable to punishments and penalties. In this respect the spirits cannot have two minds or different feelings, and their former ideas cannot be opposed to the later ones. When, in moving their residence, people do not take heed of the year-star and the moon, both resent this disregard of p2.388 their opposition, and are irritated with the delinquents 8. Now, people, doing some building, likewise move the body of the earth, and their misdemeanour is the same as that committed in moving one’s residence. Therefore, those builders should be swallowed by the year-star, wherefore then, contrariwise, has the soil of the signs sse and yu to suffer for their guilt ? If the spirits of the year-star and the moon take exception to the moving, and find fault with building, how is it that their judgment is so inconsequent ? 1

Ghosts and spirits call the sinners to account as a district magistrate reprimands and punishes. The ways in which people infringe the laws are many. In small cases the penalty is remitted, and only great viciousness entails capital punishments. But it does not happen that the innocent suffer. If they are subject to punishment, without any guilt, the world calls it injustice.

Now, the people of sse and yu have not offended against the moon or the year-star, yet while in tse they are building houses, they are eaten without any reason. Thus the year-star would be cruel to innocent persons.

Just when Jupiter stands in tse, the houses in tse would be safe, and those in wu 2 be injured. One must not commence building, or do any work, but though remaining idle and inactive, one is nevertheless visited with disasters. In the matter of the swallowing by the year-star and the moon, as soon as a tse house 3begins to be stirred, sse and yu have hard times.

Jupiter is the spirit of the year and the moon. If its penalties and ravages are different on various occasions, one cannot expect Heaven to follow the excentricity of the spirit of the year and the moon.

As for the spirit of the year-star and the moon, the year-star in reality is Jupiter. When it has its position on the horizon in the sign tse, and some edifice is constructed in one of the provinces of China, say in Yang-chou  in the south-east — according to the view of Tsou Yen who takes China for one continent only, it would also p2.389 be in the south-east : — then the year-star consuming some ground in the sign yu  , ought to swallow the soil of the western Ch‘iang 4 ; how could the land in the south-east suffer any damage ? In case Jupiter stays amidst men 5, and a house in the west lies in yu, in the house of the family, erecting some building there, there must likewise be a yu region, why then does Jupiter not swallow this yu quarter in the house in question, and injure another family instead ?

Besides, who really is it that swallows ? If it really be Jupiter and the moon, these two are attending spirits of Heaven : their eating and drinking, therefore, must resemble that of Heaven. Heaven does not eat men, therefore at the suburban sacrifices 1, they are not immolated as victims. If the two stars are not celestial spirits, they cannot eat men either.

Respecting the food of the numerous spirits between Heaven and Earth, the Sage says that they must be treated like men. The dead are to be worshipped after the manner of the living, and ghosts, as if they were men. Consequently, at the offerings made to the various spirits all sorts of things are used, but not men.

Tigers and wolves are man devouring brutes ; do the spirits of Jupiter and the moon grow from the essence of tigers and wolves ? In a time of famine, when there is a scarcity of grain and food, men, out of hunger, devour one another. Are the spirits of Jupiter and the moon imbued with the fluid of those men-eaters ?

If Jupiter and the moon have spirits, the sun must likewise have a spirit. Jupiter swallows land, and the moon does ; why should the sun not do the same ?

A number of days makes up a month, a number of months forms a season, several seasons, a year, 1,539 years are a t‘ung 2 period, and 4,617 years a yuan period 3. These are multiplied and involved numbers, and the names of fractions and full numbers. How could ghosts and spirits have anything to do with them, p2.390 or felicity and misfortune depend on them ? If the year and the month, as full numbers, must have spirits, then the four seasons would have them, and the t‘ung and yuan periods as well.

Three days of the moon are po (the first quarter), eight days are the crescent, and fifteen, full-moon 4. What difference is there with a full year or a full moon ? If the year and the moon have spirits, the first quarter and the crescent must have spirits too.

One day is divided into twelve hours. When dawn is during the yin hour (3-5 a. m.), the sun rises during the mao time (5-7 a. m.). The twelve moons rest in yin and mao, consequently the yin and mao times are added to the twelve moons 5. The sun receives the twelve hours and does not swallow land, the moon, however, resting in the twelve signs, does. Has the sun no spirit in spite of this addition, whereas the moon has owing to this relation ? How is it that the moon alone, being thus related, consumes land, and that the sun, although connected with the hours, does not ? If the sun has no spirit, notwithstanding this connexion, it is not proper to decide the question by a reference to hours, and if the addition of hours gives spirituality, it is not right that one star should not eat.

The mouth and the stomach of a spirit must be like those of man. Being hungry, he eats, and being satiated, he stops. He does not take a meal each time a building is erected. Provided that the spirits of Jupiter and the moon eat when there is a building in course of construction, buildings are few ; do the two spirits suffer hunger then ?

p2.391 During a famine, people quit their homes, which remain desolate and abandoned. Every building activity ceases. Do the spirits of the year-star and the moon starve then ?

Moreover, fields no less than houses are put in order by men ; the force displayed in these works and the efforts made are identical. In building a house, the earth is dug up, and wooden beams are erected, on the field, they cut a ditch and raise dykes. Beams and dykes are equally raised, and the digging and cutting the ground are the same. If, in case a house be erected, Jupiter and the moon eat the ground, but do not do so, when a field is put under cultivation, are they hungry, when the house is building, and have they no appetite, when the land is cultivated ? How is it possible that under similar circumstances, and the proceedings being the same, eating and drinking are different ?

Those maintaining the encroachments of the two celestial bodies, will measure the bulk of the work done and calculate the distance by steps. If e. g. some construction 3 feet high be built, the eating would take place within one step, if the height exceed 100 feet, the eating would extend over more than a Li. According as the work is big or small, the calamity would reach far or near.

Mêng T‘ien built the Great Wall for the Ch‘in dynasty, the length of which was half that of the empire 1. The misfortune caused thereby ought to have affected tens of thousands of people, but while the construction of the Great Wall was going on, the deaths among the people of Ch‘in were comparatively few.

When the Duke of Chou was building Loyang, great works were carried out. At that time the two stars should have swallowed lots of land, and the Sage foreseeing this, ought to have moved from the place thus menaced to a favourable site, because, unless he avoided a collision, many hardships would have befallen the people. In the Classics and Records, Sages and Worthies should have criticized this proceeding. Now, we hear that the people building Loyang flocked together from the four quarters, but we are not told that after the work was completed, and everything finished, many died. Therefore, the statements about the year-star and the moon are probably baseless and untrue.

Besides, if the two stars really eat, a feeling of hunger in their mouths and bellies like that of men, must have been the cause. Now, suppose, in the sse and yu quarters, they employ charms paralyzing their influences ; would they be afraid of a p2.392 metal blade, or dread a dead charcoal, and therefore shut their mouths, not daring to eat ? Really, to be afraid there ought to be some equilibrium of the antagonistic quantities. The Five Elements overcome one another, but the forces of things must be equally balanced. If a cupful of water be thrown on the burning mountain of Ch‘in, or if a handful of earth be employed to stop a breach of the Yellow River, a thousand Li in width, would they master those elements ? The relation of the elements remains the same, but the dimensions and quantities are not proportionate.

The nature of Heaven and Earth is such, that, as regards the strength of human beings, a little cannot overpower much, or a small force vanquish a great one. Let a big army be equipped with wooden staves only, and a single warrior, armed with a sword, try conclusions and exert his strength, he is sure to be killed. Metal, by its nature, subdues wood ; if, in this case, wood gets the better, and metal succumbs, it is due to the great amount of wood and the small quantity of metal. If metal be heaped up in mounds, and a charcoal fire approached, to light and burn them, it is obvious that the metal does not melt. The principles of the Five Elements are not violated, but there is too much metal and too little fire, and the disproportion of dimensions and quantities is too great.

A boy five feet high, fighting with Mêng Pen, could not gain the victory, not because of his cowardice, but of his inadequate strength. Wolves, in packs, eat men, and men, crowded together, eat the wolves. In all contests depending on strength and courage, very seldom the small overcome the great, and that, in struggles and competitions, the minority beats the majority is of very rare occurrence. According to the laws of Heaven, among human beings the small cannot vanquish the great, and the few do not subdue the many. How could evil influences be suppressed and averted, or the calamities, caused by the year-star, be removed by means of a blade of metal or a charcoal fire ?



Slandering of Days

70. XXIV, I. Chi-jih

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p2.393 As people trust in the time of the year, so, in their proceedings, they also place reliance on days. If there be some sickness, death, or other calamities, in a serious case, they speak of having offended against the year or a month, in minor ones, of having neglected a forbidden day. Books on forbidden days enjoy no less popularity than tracts on the year and the month. Common people repose implicit confidence in them, and even scholars able to reason cannot solve the problem. Consequently, when taking any steps, people do not examine their hearts, but conform to some days, and unconcerned with their intentions, they expect everything from time.

Works on time and days exist in great numbers, and a short inquiry into their general tenor will disclose what they are worth, and induce those believing in Heaven and time to have some doubt, and repudiate such ideas.

Happiness and misfortune accompany prosperity and decay 1, alternating and passing away. At all proceedings people will say that the unlucky must be afraid of their bad luck which will come to pass, and, concerning the lucky, they pretend that the luck which they hope for will be realised. When happiness and misfortune have arrived of their own accord, they attribute them to former good or bad luck in order to frighten and caution their hearers. That is the reason why, for many generations, people have not had any misgivings about the calendar, and why for such a long time the truth has not dawned upon them.


The calendar for burials prescribes that the nine holes and depressions of the earth 2, as well as odd and even days, and single and paired months are to be avoided. The day being lucky and innocuous, oddness and evenness agreeing, and singleness and parity p2.394 tallying, there is luck and good fortune. The non-observance of this calendar, on the other hand, conduces to bad luck and disaster.

Now, burying means concealing the coffin, and shrouding, concealing the corpse. Shortly after death, the corpse is concealed in the coffin, and, after a while, the coffin is concealed in a tomb. What difference is there between a tomb and a coffin, or between shrouding and burying ? In placing the body into the coffin, unlucky auguries are not avoided, solely in interring it, good luck is sought.

If the grave be made much of, the grave is earth, and the coffin, wood. In respect to the nature of the Five Elements, wood and earth resemble each other 1. Wood is worked to receive the corpse, and earth is dug up to inter the coffin. Working and digging are similar proceedings, and a corpse and a coffin are very much the same. Should the digging up of earth injure the body of Earth, then in trenching ditches or tilling a garden, a special day should be chosen as well. If people are able to make a distinction between these two things 2, I am willing to admit their prohibitions, but unless they can do so, I am not in a position to accept this avoidance.

When the day is not injurious, they still require that it be odd or even, and oddness and evenness being in harmony, they still demand the singleness or parity of the month. When the day is odd or even, and the month single or paired, in accordance with the burial calendar, by combining these dates with lucky auguries, they always find out some correspondence. How can we explain this ?

In the ‘Spring and Autumn’ period sons of Heaven, princes, and high officers died by hundreds and thousands, but their burial days were not always conformable to the calendar. It is further said that an interment could not take place because it rained, and that it was performed at mid-day on a kêng-yinday  . Provided that the Duchess of Lu 3died on an odd day, then the burial might have been on a chi-ch‘ou day, when oddness and evenness

would have been in harmony, and this being the case, the day would have been propitious  . She could not be buried to avoid p2.395 the rain, but if the day was a good one it ought not to have been rejected barely because of the rain, for rain may have been inconvenient, but the disregard of odd and even could result in the most serious calamities and disasters. To seek their convenience and thereby entail calamities could not have been the intention of the people of Lu or according to the view of a diligent officer. Now, they paid no attention to odd and even, and waited for the kêng-yin day, taking the sunshine on this day for a good presage 1.

The Liki states that the Son of Heaven is interred in the seventh month, the princes of a State in the fifth, the ministers, great officers, and officers in the third month 2. If e. g. the Son of Heaven expires in the first month he is buried in the seventh, if he dies in the second he is buried in the eighth 3.The same applies to the princes, ministers, great officers, and officers. According to the calendar for burials the month of the interment of the Son of Heaven, and the princes would be either even or uneven throughout  .

Degenerate ages have great faith in these sorts of laws, and depraved princes are bent on seeking happiness. The ‘Spring and Autumn’ time was very degenerate, and that between Duke Yin and Duke Ai was the worst, yet they did not take any precautions for the days of interment, because they did not shun bad luck.

Under the reign of King Wên of Chou, laws and institutions were perfect. The intellect of Confucius was very acute, and the arguments of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu were very subtle. If, by neglecting lucky auguries, people were afflicted, or if, by their heedlessness, they had incurred misfortune, some few words and some slight attempts at criticism would not have been out of place. Now we find nothing of the kind, consequently there exist no fixed rules for the time of burials.

p2.396 The calendar of sacrifices has its favourable and inauspicious presages as well. Thus, a day when bloodshed is to be avoided, and when the month is baleful, always bodes evil. If sacrifices are offered with animals slaughtered on such days, some catastrophe will ensue.

Now, sacrificing is feeding the ghosts, and the ghosts are the essence of dead men 4. If they are not, people cannot have seen them eating and drinking. The service of the dead is analogous to that of the living, and the worship of ghosts, corresponding to that of men. Since we behold the living eating and drinking, they must do the same after they have died and become ghosts. Affection for other beings, and remembrance of dear relatives are the main springs of sacrifices. As for the offerings to other spirits, and the numerous ghosts, although they are not dead men, yet the ritual of their worship is identical with that of the deceased. As we never see their shapes, we only think of them in the form of living men. The living have no fixed days for their eating and drinking, wherefore then must spirits and ghosts have such days ?

In case ghosts and spirits really are conscious and not different from men, it is unnecessary to select days for sacrifices 1. If, however, they are unconscious, they cannot partake of food and drink, and though days be selected or shunned, of what use would it be ?

In reality, there are no ghosts for the diverse sacrifices, and the departed do not possess any knowledge. The various sacrifices are performed in appreciation of great services, to show that virtue has not been forgotten, and the dead are treated as though they were alive, for the purpose of avoiding the appearance of ingratitude. Sacrifices do not bring happiness, and their omission does not entail calamities. Since sacrifices and the omission thereof neither cause happiness nor misfortune, how can lucky and unlucky days be of advantage or harmful ?

If bloodshed be avoided, and the baleful days of the month shunned, because, when animals are slaughtered, blood is spilled, the living, eating the Six Animals, should likewise take these precautions. In the many slaughter-houses throughout China, several thousand animals are killed daily, no distinction being made between p2.397 lucky and unlucky ones, but the butchers do not die an untimely death for that reason. As regards capital punishment, those criminals, beheaded every month, also count by thousands. When they are executed in the market-place, no auspicious day is chosen, yet the judges are not visited with misfortune.

When the meat supply is exhausted, animals are slaughtered, and when a case is settled, the culprits are decapitated. The decapitation of convicts, and the slaughter of animals are both bloodshed indeed. Why do victims, immolated at sacrifices, receive a different treatment, and why is a calendar established for sacrifices alone ? Why are butchers and judges left out of account ? The world adopts an opinion, without considering analogous cases. It sacrifices, though there are no ghosts, and believes in things to be avoided, though they do not exist. Attempting to secure happiness, by means of these two non-entities, it does not obtain it.


In writings on baths we are informed that, if anybody washes his head on a tse day, he becomes lovely, whereas if he does so on a mao day, his hair turns white.

A man is liked or disliked according as his features are handsome or ugly, whereas the black and white colour of his hair depend upon his age and the number of his years. If a woman as plain as Mu Mu 1 were to wash her head on a tse day, would she excite love thereby ? Or if a girl of fifteen were to do the same on a mao day, would her hair turn white ?

Moreover, mu () signifies to remove the impurity of the head, hsi () to remove that of the feet, kuan () to remove that of the hands, and () to remove that of the body. All these manners of washing aim at cleansing the same body, and resemble each other. For washing the feet, the hands, and the body no days are selected, only for washing the head there are certain days. If the head be deemed the noblest part of the body, in bathing () the face is included and the face belongs to the head also. If the hair be considered the noblest, there ought to be chosen a day for combing the hair as well.

p2.398 For combing one uses wood 2 and for washing, water. Water and wood both belong to the Five Elements. Now, in using wood one does not shun anything, only in using water certain days are appointed. Should water be nobler than wood, then whenever water is used a day should be selected.

Besides, water is less noble than fire 3 ;if different degrees of nobility must be admitted, then, in all cases when fire is used, a day ought to be chosen.

Further, provided that a person, washing his head on a tse day, becomes the object of love, and that, by washing it on a mao day, his hair turns white, who is the cause of all this ? The nature of tse is water, and of mao, wood  . Water cannot be loved, and the colour of wood is not white. The animal of tse is the rat, and that of mao is the hare. The rat cannot be loved, and the fur of the hare is not white 4. Who is it that renders the person, bathing on a tse day, lovable, and causes the hair of another, bathing on a mao day, to take the colour of hoar-frost ?

Consequently 5, bathing days are not lucky or unlucky, and it is not admissible to establish a special bathing calendar.


There are books for tailors, giving auspicious and inauspicious times. Dresses, made on an inauspicious day, bring misfortune, made on a lucky day, they attract happiness.

Clothes as well as food serve to support the human body : — food supports it within, and clothes protect it from without. For food and drink no days are chosen, whereas, in tailoring, certain days are tabooed. Are clothes of greater importance because they cover the body ? Of things appreciated by humanity there is none more urgently needed than food. Therefore the first of p2.399 the Eight Objects of Government 1 is food, the second commodities. Clothes fall under commodities. Should they rank higher, for being on the body, then nothing, worn on the body, is more important than the hat 2. In manufacturing it, no restrictions are to be observed, whereas tailoring is beset with prohibitions. The more valuable object is thus treated with indifference, and much care is bestowed on the meaner.

Besides, washing removes the impurity of the head, and hats are used as head-gear ; baths take away the dirt from the body, and clothes protect it from cold. For washing there are prohibitions, but for hats there are no restrictions ; for baths no good or bad auguries exist, clothes, on the other hand, have good or bad influences. All there things are alike and refer to the same body, but some are held to be good, others to be bad, and the taboo is not the same. Common people, with their shallow knowledge, cannot grasp the truth.

Moreover, clothes are less valuable than a chariot and horses. The first of the Nine Gifts of Investiture 3are a chariot and horses, the second, robes of State. Cartwrights do not seek a propitious time, and tailors alone look out for a lucky day. By their prejudices, people lose the true estimate of what is important and not.


For commencing the building of a dwelling and the construction of a house the selection of a day is requisite.

A house covers the human shape, and a dwelling harbours the human body ; how could they be liable to the evil influences of the year and the moon, that the aforesaid selection becomes necessary ? If the spirits dislike them because they cover and shield the human body, then for building a carriage, and constructing a ship, for making a canopy, and manufacturing a hat, a propitious day ought to be chosen as well. In case the spirits be p2.400 displeased, because the earth is moved, and the soil dug up, then, for making a trench or tilling a garden, a good day should be appointed also. Provided that the spirit of Earth be molested by the turning up of the soil, it might well forgive man, for he has no bad intentions, and merely desires to shelter his body and find a resting place. The holy mind of a spirit would not be irritated thereby, and, under this condition, even the omission to select a day would not have evil consequences. If, however, the spirits of the soil could not pardon man, and irreasonably hated him, in view of the vexations caused by his disturbing the earth, of what avail would be the selection of a propitious day ? 

The imperial law forbids murder and the wounding of man. All murderers and those who have wounded others, are liable to punishment, and, though they should select a day for transgressing the law, they would not escape. In default of such a prohibition, even wilful manslaughter would not be atoned for.

The jurisdiction of a district magistrate is like the sway of ghosts and spirits, and the crime of throwing up and piercing the soil, analogous to killing and wounding. For killing and wounding the selection of days is of no use, wherefore then should there be those prohibitive rules concerning the construction and the erection of houses and dwellings ?


In studying books the ping days are eschewed, because they say that Ts‘ang Hsieh 1 expired on a ping day. The rites prescribe that on tse and mao days no music should be made, for the Yin and Hsia dynasties perished on a tse and a mao day 2. If people study on a ping day, or make music on a tse and mao day, they are not necessarily visited with misfortune. Out of regard for the death day of former emperors, and out of sympathy with their sufferings, people cannot bring themselves to undertake anything. The system of tabooed days is related to these customs connected with the ping, tse, and mao days. Although something be shunned there is no fear of any disaster or calamity 3.

p2.401 A great variety of spirits are referred to in the calendarsembracing Heaven and Earth, but the Sages do not speak of them  , the scholars have not mentioned them, and perhaps they are not real. The laws of Heaven are hard to know, but provided that spirits exist, then what benefit could be derived from shunning a day on which they display their activity, or what adversity could accrue from a non-avoidance ? If a king undertakes something on such and such a day, and the people also choose this day, the king, on hearing it, would not mete out punishments, for he would not be angry that his subjects did not shun him. Wherefore then should the spirits of Heaven alone be so cruel ?

The State law inquires whether a thing be permissible or not according to human ideas, but does not concern itself with prognostics. Confucius said that one puts up a dwelling after having taken its forecast 1. Regarding the sacrifices of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, he does not allude to the divination of days. The Liki says that domestic affairs are settled on an even day and outside matters, on an odd day. Odd and even are observed with regard to inside and outside matters, but do not refer to good or bad luck, or indicate happiness and misfortune.



Questions about the Year Star

73. XXIV, IV. Nan-sui

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p2.402 Common people have a feeling of uneasiness, and are prone to believe in defences and prohibitions. Even the wise become doubtful, and are at a loss how to settle these questions. Consequently, artisans carry the day, and scholars and well informed people submit to them. Books on auguries outshine the Classics and Canons, and the utterances of artisans have more weight than the words of scholars and students. Now, I propose to inquire a little into this question, that others may see for themselves, weighing right and wrong, and that people in general may be roused.

Concerning the moving of one’s residence, they say that to encounter T‘ai-sui 1 is unlucky, and that to turn one’s back upon it likewise bodes evil. The encounter of T‘ai-sui is termed ‘Jupiter’s descent’, and the moving in opposite direction to it, ‘Jupiter’s destruction’, wherefore both are attended with misfortune.

In case T‘ai-sui is in chia-tse, people on earth must not move in a northerly or a southerly direction. Building a house and marrying, they should avoid this as well. When they move to the east or the west, or in one of the four intermediate directions, these configurations are all lucky. Why ? Because then they do not collide with the T‘ai-sui, nor meet its shock.

Let us ask what this avoidance of T‘ai-sui really means. Does it object to people’s moving altogether ? Then all moving would entail calamities. Or does T‘ai-sui not prevent people from moving, but resent their collision ? Then all people going north or south on the roads would be visited with misfortunes.

The feelings of T‘ai-sui would be like those of a high officer. When a high officer is on a road, and somebody runs against p2.403 the carts and horses of his men, he would fly into a passion. Why should T‘ai-sui chastise only those who, carrying their furniture and transporting their things, in changing their domicile run against it ?

Of yore, when on a trip, the Emperor Wên Ti 1 was crossing the Pa-ling bridge, there was an individual on the road who, falling in with the cortège, jumped down from the bridge. Trusting that the carriages of the emperor had already passed, he suddenly emerged again, and frightened the carriage-horses. The emperor, very angry, handed him over to the sheriff Chang Shih Chih 2 for trial. Provided that the spirit of T‘ai-sui 3 travel like Wên Ti, then those who fall in with it would resemble the man emerging from below the bridge.

At present, many wayfarers are unexpectedly drowned, or fall down dead. How do we know but that they also encountered T‘ai-sui on its journeys ?

Those moving their residence cannot stay in their former home. Unable to stay there, they ignore whether they will meet with the Year Star or not, and not knowing this, they cannot make up their minds what to do.

Moreover, in case the spirit of T‘ai-sui really travels about, then perhaps it proceeds along a crooked line, and not necessarily along a straight one, south or northwards 4, as with high officers, leaving their houses, it happens that they take a crooked road. Should it, as a spirit of Heaven, take the straight road, and not a crooked one 5, then people moving from east and west and in the four intermediate directions, would also run against it 6. A high officer proceeding southward and northward, and people moving from east to west, the configuration of these intermediate directions would be like that leading to a collision. If T‘ai-sui does not go straight south and north, how could people, moving in these directions, fall in with it ?

p2.404 If T‘ai-sui did not move at all, then it might perhaps stay in its palace and behind its walls without meeting anybody ; how then were man to encounter it ?

Supposing T‘ai-sui had no body like high officers and, shaped like vapours, clouds, or a rain-bow, stretched straight across the firmament, reclining at its extremities in the south and the north on tse and wu 7, then people, moving east and west as well as those taking an intermediate line, would also run against it, just as men of our time, encountering an extensive fog and malarial exhalations, no matter whether they moved straightways or sideways, backward or forward, would all be affected 1. If T‘ai-sui were really like air, people ought to meet it and even, without moving, they would have to suffer from it.

Further T‘ai-sui is another spirit of Heaven resembling the Green Dragon 2. The body of the latter does not exceed several thousand chang 3. Let us suppose that the size of our spirit is exceptional, and measures several ten thousand chang, and that this body covers the north. Then we ought to say that T‘ai-sui stands in the north, but not in tse. East of tse is ch‘ou, (N.N.E.) and west of it, hai (N.N.W.). If it be shown that T‘ai-sui does not cover the whole north, it is owing to the great distance between the extreme eastern and western limits of the north. But if it be held to be just in the tse point, and colliding with people on earth, only those settled in tse and wu regions should not move south and north ; why should those living eastward as far as ch‘ou (N.N.E.) and sse (S.S.E.), or westward as far as hai (N.N.W.) and wei (S.S.W.) refrain from doing so ?

Provided that the inhabitants of the ch‘ou and hai regions move up and down on the right or the left side of T‘ai-sui southward and northward, or east and west, they are quite safe. Ch‘ou being east and hai west of tse, the people of these quarters moving simply east and west 4, must come into collision with the position of T‘ai-sui, and those of the sse and wei regions moving east and west, be afraid lest they suffer destruction by the planet.

p2.405 The Literati considering the Nine Provinces ‘under Heaven’ 5 hold that they cover the entire length and breadth of the earth, north, south, east, and west. These Nine Circuits comprise five thousand Li which alone form the country of the Three Rivers 6, i.. e., the centre of the earth. With reference to the Duke of Chou, consulting the tortoise, about his new residence the Classic says, [Let the king come here as the vicegerent of God, and labour in the centre of the earth.] 7 Consequently Lo is the centre of the earth.

Tsou Yen, arguing on the subject, maintains that of the Nine Continents the five thousand Li form only one Continent, situated in the east and called Ch‘ih-hsien 8. Of continents, each comprising nine circuits, there are nine. Nine times nine gives eighty-one, consequently there are altogether eighty-one circuits. This view is probably imaginary, but it is difficult to know the shape of the earth. Should it be as described, there would also arise one difficulty.

In case all land under Heaven forms Nine Circuits as the Literati conceive it, then merely the circuits due south from Lo-yi and north from the Three Rivers viz. Yü-chou, Ching-chou, and Chi-chou could be frequented by T‘ai-sui. How could it be between Yung and Liang-chou, in Ch‘ing-chou, Yen-chou, Hsü-chou, and Yang-chou 1

Should Tsou Yen’s view be correct, and the Nine Circuits of the empire occupy the south-eastern corner of the earth, and not be lying exactly in tse or wu, how could T‘ai-sui be present ?

If T‘ai-sui did not keep its position at the confines of Heaven and Earth, and were wandering about among the people, then the house of every family might harbour it, and although a person did not move south or north, it would come across it all the same. Moving from an eastern to a western village, it would find T‘ai-sui there, and should it move from an eastern into a western building, T‘ai-sui would be in the western dwelling too. It would be east or west, north or south of the person in question, just as, walking on a highway, one falls in with other people in the east or the west, the north or the south.

Provided that the space filled by T‘ai-sui measures several thousand, ten thousand, or hundred thousand chang, and that all mankind under heaven by moving entails some adversity, then p2.406 how can their moving be regulated ? If T‘ai-sui stands in the interstice between Heaven and Earth, it has a similar position to a king in the midst of his country. People in the eastern part of it, bending their bows and shooting westward, would not be supposed to have wounded the king, because their bows do not carry as far as the king’s capital ; they merely shoot in their own place. Now, how could people moving proceed as far north as where T‘ai-sui has its resting-place ? Moving no farther than perhaps a hundred steps, how could they be charged with having hurt T‘ai-sui ?

Moreover, people moving their residence, are warned to go south or north, because T‘ai-sui is held to stay in the tse point ; tse breaks wu 2, and those moving north or south, receive the shock, which is called a calamity. Now, in order to smash something, one requires a hammer. If there really be such a tool, then all people, even those not stirring, would be smashed and destroyed with it, but how could they be smitten in default of such a tool ?

Thunder is the heavenly fluid. When in mid-summer it strikes, it splits trees and rends mountains, and, at times, suddenly kills a man. If the blow of T‘ai-sui should be like a thunderbolt, there ought to be a crashing sound also, and death ensue instantaneously, for, otherwise, there could not be destruction either.

If the knocking together, and the falling foul of each other be said to cause destruction, how can the knocking and striking have this effect ? The meeting of east and west is called knocking together, and the coming into contact of south and north, falling foul. Provided that knocking and running foul be calamitous, then east and west must be always baleful, and south and north always fatal 1.

In case a collision with T‘ai-sui proves disastrous only because of its being a spirit, it should be borne in mind that there are no spirits more powerful than Heaven and Earth. If Heaven and Earth meeting, dashed one against the other, no human life would be possible between Heaven and Earth.

Perhaps there are Twelve Spirits above, Têng-ming, Tsung-k‘uei and the like 2, which the artisans declare to be all celestial spirits. They always occupy tse, ch‘ou, and the other cardinal points, and p2.407 are endowed with a fluid rushing and dashing against whosoever crosses their way. Though in spiritual force not equal to T‘ai-sui, still they must do some minor damage, and those moving their residence, although they may eschew the perils of T‘ai-sui, would, nevertheless, fall a prey to the attacks of the Twelve Spirits. Therefore, whenever they are going to move they should be prevented.

The winter air is cold and corresponds to water, which has its position in the northern quarter. The summer air is hot and corresponds to fire, whose place is in the south. Autumn and winter are cold, spring and summer are warm ; that applies to every place throughout the empire, and water and fire are not solely encountered in southern and northern regions. Now, T‘ai-sui stands in tse only, but it is formed all over the world, and it is not merely encountered in tse and wu. Should really the position alone be decisive, then in wu there would be a hot summer and in tse, a hard winter. Would those moving south and north, in winter and summer, still meet with disasters ?

In the beginning of spring, kên represents the king, and chên, the minister, sun is the embryo, and li means annihilation, k‘un death, and tui imprisonment, ch‘ien disgrace, and k‘an tranquillity 3. The king incurring death, and the minister imprisonment, king and minister have knocked against the respective positions 4, and elicited the fluids of death and imprisonment.

Ch‘ien, k‘un, and their six sons 5embody the true laws of nature which Fu Hsi and Wên Wang have illustrated to govern the world thereby. These texts are written in the Classics, and the principles are believed by all the sages. They are evidently much more certain than what we know about T‘ai-sui.

If, at the commencement of spring, people should move to the north-east, they would come under the diagram kên  , but not suffer any injury. When T‘ai-sui stands in tse, and from the northeast they move to k‘un 1, this diagram would be near wu 2, as when k‘un is changed for kên, they would strike against the tse point. Why would the latter fact alone entail misfortune ? 3

p2.408 The first moon resting in yin 4 is destructive in shên 5, but the moving between yin and shên is not attended with disasters in its course. Although T‘ai-sui does not point to wu, they wrongly maintain that the year breaks wu. As a matter of fact, there is no adversity to be apprehended, and the prohibition to move south and north is inane and unreasonable.

Twelve months make a year and, when the four seasons are completed, and the fluid of the yin and yang reaches a certain limit, again a year is formed, which is but another name of days and months joined together. Why should it be taken for a spirit, supposed to stand in the tse point ? By dissolving this combination we get days, the addition of days forms a month, several months become a season, and a number of seasons, a year, which therefore, is something similar to a day, a month, and a season.

If the year possess a spirit, have days, months, and seasons spirits also ? 1,539 years form a t‘ung period, 4,617 a yuan period. A year is like a t‘ung or a yuan period 6. A year having a spirit, have the t‘ung and yuan periods spirits likewise ? Critics deny it, but should they have them, for what reason would they injure mankind ? No spirits surpass Heaven and Earth, and Heaven and Earth do not hurt mankind. People speak of the Hundred Spirits, but they do not injure them either. Why should the fluid of T‘ai-sui, being the essence of Heaven and Earth, be so inimical to men as to strike and hurt them ?

Further, the text says that in chia-tse one must not move. This may denote that chia and tse are different directions ; but T‘ai-sui, having its position in tse, cannot stay in chia 7. In case persons moving proceed there (to tse), and again settle in chia, taking that course, but finally staying in chia, those fixing the time for moving ought likewise to hinder them from moving eastward or westward 1. Provided that chia and tse are combined, their calamities should be the same too. Not shunning chia, but avoiding tse, those persons fixing the time talk at random and deserve no confidence.

p2.409 People living somewhere cannot but change their residence, and changing their residence, they cannot but come into collision with the Year Star. Even if they do not, they cannot avoid dying at their time. Artisans noticing people’s death at present, ascribe this misfortune to a change of residence in a former time. Common folk are very timid in their minds, there are always people passing away, and the consequence is that the story about T‘ai-sui is handed down from generation to generation and never dies out.



Criticisms on Certain Theories

74. XXV, I. Ch‘i-shu

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p2.410 The theory of drawing plans of houses teaches us that there are eight schemes, and that houses are numbered and classed according to the names of the cycle of the six chia 1. Their position having been fixed, and their names being established, kung, shang 2, and the other sounds manifest their difference. Houses have the Five Sounds 3, as the surnames (of the owners) are provided with the Five Tones. When the houses do not accord with the surnames, and the latter disagree with the houses, people contract virulent diseases and expire, or pay the penalty of some crime and meet with adversity 4.

I beg to offer the following criticism : in this world man is the noblest of all creatures. His houses resemble the nests of birds and the dens of wild beasts. If his houses be held to bear the cyclical signs chia, yi, &c., have nests and dens these signs as well ? Why do the spirits of chia, yi 5 solely stay in men’s houses, but not among birds and brutes ?

Men have their houses as they have their fields. From these fields they derive their food and drink, and their houses serve as dwellings. For people, I should say, food is of paramount importance, therefore do the fields rank first, and the houses come after, the fields being of greater consequence. To the paths crossing the fields from north to south and from east to west, the eight schemes might be applied. By joining together lots of land, fields are formed, which might be numbered chia, yi. Why is the chia, yi system merely used for houses, and not transferred to fields ?

In courts and public buildings the residences of officers are connected, and not of a shape different from that of other houses. How do the places inhabited by officers distinguish themselves from p2.411 those of laymen ? Yet they are not counted by the cycle of ten, which is merely employed for houses. For what reason ?

The dwellings of the people may be contiguous to the office of the head-borough, and conterminous to his land, but this calculation does not apply to his office, being restricted to the houses of the people. Wherefore do the spirits of chia, yi merely stay in the houses of the people ?

The system of numbering houses is applied to market inns ; streets and alleys there being marked with chia, yi, &c. But having passed through the market gate, and turning round, one again finds streets and alleys  . During the day and at night, people stay in their homes, but in the morning and in the evening, they are in the habit of sitting in the market-place, which is the same as sitting at home 1. Why then are the booths and bazaars in the market not included in this computation with the cycle of ten ? 2

Provinces and circuits are equally inhabited, and districts and cities are crowded with people ; they do not differ from streets and alleys, or houses. Wherefore then are provinces and circuits, districts and cities not reckoned by chia, yi ?

Does this cycle of ten exist since the creation of Heaven and Earth, or did it originate with the subsequent rulers ? If it existed from the time of creation, in remote antiquity people would seek shelter in nests and caverns, and had no dwellings to live in, nor were there regular streets or alleys ; where then were the spirits of chia, yi staying at that period ?

If, for expressing the situation of houses, the cycle of ten is made use of, the physicists concerned with the Five Elements must count the days by this cycle likewise 3. Chia and yi are contained in the Ten Stems and Twelve Branches, and these symbols are added to the hours 4. There being a special agreement between hours and symbols, there is luck, whereas their antagonism augurs ill. But in the last case only something is to be avoided, and sorrow or shame are not a necessary consequence. All depends on the p2.412 question whether a person be right or wrong, and so the penalties inflicted, are heavy or mild. The high commissioners try the merits of the case with impartiality. There is no evidence of the Stems and Branches causing luck or misfortune, and it is obvious that the persons affected thereby are in the right or in the wrong. What have the champions of the Stems and Branches to say against this ?

Wu Wang won a victory on a chia-tse day, and Chou succumbed on the same day. Both leaders chose the same time : their armies met, and their flags and standards were in view of one another, all on the same day. The one survived, and the other fell. Besides there was a special harmony between chia and tse 1. The hour of early dawn bore the sign yin 2, which was not at variance with chia and yi 3, yet Wu Wang destroyed Chou under these signs all the same. Why ?

The sun is fire : in the sky it is the sun, and on earth it is fire. How shall we prove it ? A burning glass being held up towards the sun, fire comes down from heaven. Consequently fire is the solar fluid.

The sun is connected with the cycle of ten 4, but fire is not. How is it that there are ten suns 5 and twelve constellations 6 ?The suns are combined with these constellations, therefore chia is joined to tse  . But what are the so-called ten suns ? Are there ten real suns, or is there only one with ten different names ?

Provided that there be ten real suns, and that chia, yi be their names, why are they not simply designated by the cycle of ten and must the duodenary cycle be employed too ? 7

p2.413 In the drawings of the court of the sun 8 the Ten Stems have their positions, and so have the Twelve Branches assigned their places. All have their own departments, being arranged in the five directions. It is like a king’s castle, where he stays, without moving. Now the genuine sun passes through the middle, rising in the east every morning, and setting in the west every evening, always moving on and never stopping. It is widely different from the court of the sun, why then denote this sun with the names chia, yi, &c. ?

The house experts will retort by saying that the chia, yi, &c. of the, days, of course, are spirits of Heaven and Earth, displaying their activity by turns, changing every day, that, therefore, they are designated by the cycle of ten, and that their preponderance and defeat 9determine good and bad fortune. — These names have no connexion with the true sun. Under these circumstances, the physicists treating of the Five Elements, should only make use of the cycle of ten, to find out fate ; why do they still speak of adding hours ? For hours being added, the real sun comes into play   ;how could it be potent or weak ?


The experts of the Five Sounds articulate the surnames, personal names, and styles with their mouths, using the surname to fix the personal name, and the personal name to determine the style. By opening and closing the mouth, they produce outward and inward tones, and thus fix the Five Sounds, and modulate kung and shang in the proper way  .

Now, men have received their surnames from Heaven. Does Heaven produce these surnames by the fluid of the Five Elements inherent in it, or are they the result of the opening and shutting of the mouth, and of outward and inward tones ? If they are originally obtained from Heaven, they are like the fluid pervading the Five Grains and other productions 1, what necessity would there be still for opening the mouth, shutting out sounds, and thus producing the right modulations of the voice without and within ?

p2.414 In ancient times, surnames used to be given with reference to the birth of the person in question 2. According to the manner in which he was born a surname was bestowed upon him. For example, the ancestor of the Hsia dynasty was engendered by the swallowing of some pearl-barley, whence he received the surname Sse. The Shang dynasty owes its origin to a consumed swallows-egg, whence its surname Tse, and the house of Chou grew from the treading upon the foot-steps of a giant, and thus received the surname Chi 3.

Personal names are given from some pre-intimation, from some auspice, from some appearance, from some other object, or from some similarity. When a child is born with a name on it, that is a pre-intimation. So Yo, Prince of Lu, had the character Yo on his hand, when he was born 4. When the name is derived from some virtue this is called an auspice. Thus Wên Wang was called Ch‘ang 5, and Wu Wang, Fa 6. A name from some resemblance is a name from appearance. Confucius e. g. was called Ch‘iu 7. A name taken from some other object is borrowed ; a duke of Sung, for example, was named Ch‘u-chiu (Pestle and Mortar) 1, and when the name is taken from the father it is a name from similarity, there being some resemblance to the father 2.

A style is given by expanding the personal name and finding a similar meaning. The personal name being T‘se, the style was Tse Kung, and the name being , the style was Tse Wo.

Accordingly, a surname is given with reference to the circumstances of the birth of the person, a personal name is taken from p2.415 some pre-intimation, some auspice, some appearance, some other object, or from some similarity, and a style determined from the personal name, by expanding it and finding a similar meaning. There is no need for opening and closing the mouth, or for articulating outward and inward tones, and thus producing kung and shang ; on what then do the advocates of the Five Sounds theory base their view ?

The ancients had proper surnamesand clan surnames. T‘ao  and T‘ien  are clan surnames intimating the occupation of the bearer, Shang-Kuan 3 and Sse-Ma 4 are clan surnames indicative of some office, and the clan surnames Mêng and Chung 5 are derived from the style of the deceased grandfather 6. Thus we have three classes of clan surnames, either describing the occupation, or the office of the bearer, or referring to the style of his deceased grandfather. Proper surnames are connected with a person’s birth, whereas clan surnames refer to the occupation, the office, or the style of the deceased grandfather. What room is there still left for articulating these surnames by opening and closing the mouth ?

With the Hsiung-nu it was customary to have only a personal name and no surname or style. Although these names did not harmonise, the Hsiung-nu reached an old age. How about good and bad luck then ?

The Rites prescribe that in case the surname of a bought concubine be unknown, it should be ascertained by divination 7. Those ignoring it do not know the proper surname of the concubine, for, at all events, she bears the family surname of her parents. By this divination the surname of her father and mother must necessarily be changed, and a wrong one be substituted, but since the Rites are very strict, as regards the marriage of a woman of the same surname 1, this divination of the surname cannot be p2.416 dispensed with. If merely by correct pronunciation the surname and the family name could be set right, why would the Rites still require that the name of a purchased concubine be determined by divination ?


The theory of drawing plans of houses enjoins that the doors of a house of a family with a shang 2 surname should not face the south, and that the doors of a house belonging to a family with a chih 3surname should not be turned to the north. For shang corresponds to metal, and the south, to fire ; chih is equal to fire, and the north, to water. Water conquers fire, and fire injures metal. The fluids of the Five Elements may be hostile, wherefore, in the dwellings of families with the five classes of surnames, the doors should have their proper bearings. The bearings being correct, wealth and happiness, luck and prosperity are the consequences, whereas improper bearings are fraught with poverty and ignominy, disgrace and ruin.

Now, is there any difference between gates and halls ? To the gates of families with the five kinds of surnames halls must correspond, why are their bearings of no consequence ? Gates closing some place are less important than halls and rooms. During the day, and at night, people stay in their halls, and not at the gates, therefore the experts calculating happiness and misfortune, ought to base their computations on the halls.

Since gates merely serve as entrances and issues, the inner doors should be dealt with in the same manner. Confucius said,

[— Who can go out without passing through the door ?]  .

He speaks of the inner door, and not of the gate. The Five Sacrifices 4are equally offered to the gate and the door. If it be necessary to rectify the bearings of the gate, ought not the inner doors to correspond to the gate ?

Moreover, in the dwellings of the officials joined together in public buildings, the doors often face the south or the north, and in the temporary residences of high officers, the gateways may look eastward or westward. Among high officers there are certainly many with a kung or a shang surname, and many of the p2.417 houses of officials are marked chih or  1. Those functionaries who live at peace, or are promoted, need not of necessity bear a chio 2surname, or their gate face the south, and those who lose their office, and are degraded, have not always a shang surname, nor is their gate turned northward. Some live at ease, and are promoted, whereas others lose their positions, and are degraded. How is this ?

As the surnames are connected with the Five Sounds, so, in human characters, the Five Elements also play an important part. If, among people related to the Five Sounds, a person with a shang surname is not allowed to have a gate facing the south, then can a man imbued with a metal nature sit down facing the south, or walk in a southerly direction ?

There is another objection : To the gates combined with the Five Sounds men endowed with one of the Five Elements must correspond. Provided that there be five such living men, all bearing a shang surname, then each of them should have his peculiar colour. The one imbued with the element wood would be green, the one filled with fire, red, the water man would be black, the metal man, white, and the one endued with the element earth, yellow. These men of five colours passing through a gate facing the south, some would become unhappy, others happy, some would die early, others live long. The miserable and short-lived would not necessarily be white  , nor would the happy and longlived be yellow 3. How do these theorists solve this dilemma with their Five Elements ? What is the real cause of the gate facing the south injuring people bearing a shang surname ?

The south is fire. Provided that a calamity resulting from fiery air be like a real fire, burning and spreading, and that it come straight from the south, then even gates facing the north would be involved in the catastrophe. Should, on the other side, this fiery air be like the heat of a summer day, diffused over all the four quarters, then everything between Heaven and Earth would be affected by this air, for wherefore should families with gates facing the south alone have to suffer ?

p2.418 The south is fire, which has its place in the south. To this an objection may be urged : This air spreads over all the four quarters, the south is not alone in possession of fire, nor are the other quarters devoid of it, just as water has its seat in the north, and yet all the four quarters have water. Fire fills the world, and water is dispersed over all the four quarters, it may be south of us, or it may be north of us. To contend that fire can only be in the south, would be like maintaining that the east cannot have any metal, and that in the west there cannot be any wood 1.




The numbers in brackets refer to the pages of the translation. I denotes Vol. I, II is Vol. II. L. means Legge’s translation of the Classics and of the Yiking and the Liki in the Sacred Books viz. Vols. XVI, XXVII, XXVIII.

Latin figures serve to designate the books of a work and Arabic, the page except in the Analects where they denote the number of the chapter.

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