p.2.001 Fate holds sway over happiness and misfortune, being a spontaneous principle and a decree to meet with certain incidents. There is no alien force, and nothing else exercises an overwhelming influence or affects the final result.
The world speaks of Tse Hsü1 falling upon his sword, and of Ch‘üYuan2 drowning himself. Tse Lan and Tsai P‘i had slandered them to the princes of Wu and Ch‘u, and they died innocently. It just so happened that the lives of the two were to end, that Tse Lan and Tsai P‘i defamed them, and that King Huai3 and Fu Ch‘ai4 put faith in their trumped up charges. It so happened that these princes were short-sighted, so that their officers could be slandered. The lives of the two unfortunate men chanced to be naturally of short duration. It world seem as if there were two chances and three coincidences 5, but, as a matter of fact, there is but fate and nothing else.
When the Hsia and Yin dynasties were just on the verge of ruin, the crimes of Chieh and Chou happened to be rife, and when the stars of the Shang and Chou6 were just in the ascent, the virtues of T‘ang and Wu7 happened to be flourishing.
Kuan Lung Fêng8 met with a violent death, and Chi Tse9 and Pi Kan10 both expired in jail. At that time the corruption of Chieh and Chou was at its height, and the spans of the two men were to terminate. The words of Yi Yin11 were listened to, and the advice of p2.002 Lü Wang12 was accepted. That was the period, when T‘ang and Wu were going to rise, and the time, when the two statesmen were to be employed.
The destiny of a subject may be lucky or unlucky, and a virtuous or a vicious sovereign meets with him. Wên Wang’s time was to be glorious, and it was LüWang’s fate to become exalted. Kao Tsung’s 1 reign was to be peaceful, and Fu Yüeh’s 2 virtue to chime in with it. Not that Wên Wang and Kao Tsung were born for their two subjects, or that LüWang and Fu Yüeh were created for their two sovereigns. The sovereign being wise, and the minister virtuous, they heard of each other’s fame. Everything being adjusted above, and well ordered below 3, their lots came to be linked together.
When Yen Yuan4died, the Master said,
— Heaven is destroying me 5,
and at the death of Tse Luhe exclaimed,
— Heaven has cursed me.
These were expressions of the grief of Confucius and not in accord with the true principle. Confucius was not predestinated to become an emperor, and the lives of his two disciples were not to be long. The fate allotted to them viz. not to become an emperor and not to live long, was not the same, but their lots coincided, and just happened to be connected.
The wonder of the two dragons had to appear, just when King Li of Chou happened to open the box, and when Pao Sse had to destroy the Chou State, it so happened that the nature which King Yu had obtained proved to be wicked 6. The two dragons did not induce King Li to commit crimes, nor did Pao Sse beguile King Yu. All these were merely chances and coincidences, which came together of themselves.
The weird ditties of children turned out true, when the extraordinary cockfight took place by hazard 7,and the prophecy by p2.003 the mainah was fulfilled, when the calamity happened to befall Chao of Lu8. Those ditties did not cause the fighting, nor did the mainah bring about the misfortune of the prince : the date of these events came of itself, and human activity coincided by chance.
It was Yao’s fate to yield the empire to Shun, and Tan Chu’s, to be unprincipled, and when the power over Yü 1 had to pass over to the Hsia dynasty, Shang Chün’s conduct had to be flagitious. The two sons were not induced to wickedness, in order to procure the empire to Shun and Yü 2. Goodness and badness, right and wrong came together by hazard.
As regards the rising and setting of Mars and the Pleiades, Mars comes out, when the Pleiades are down, and hides, when the Pleiades are visible. It is not the nature of fire 3 that it should counteract the Pleiades, but by chance their times are not the same, and their courses are different.
When the first moon rests in the cyclical sign yin, the constellation K‘uei4of Ursa major is opposed to the sign shên. It is not the establishment of yin which causes the ejection of shên, but the revolutions of the two constellations happen to be thus balanced.
p2.004 When the father dies, the son succeeds him and, when the mother-in-law expires, the daughter-in-law takes her place 5.The succession of son and daughter are not the causes of the decease of father and mother, but the years of old and young people follow each other of themselves.
They say that autumn’s breath blights grain and grass. They cannot stand it, and fade away and die. This idea is wrong : Plants germinate in spring, grow in summer, and ripen in autumn. Then they just wither and die spontaneously. The Yin fluid then happens to be in abundance and falls in with them. Whence do we know this ?
Some plants do not die in autumn, their vitality not yet being exhausted. Man lives a hundred years ere he breathes his lest, and plants live one year before they die. If people aver that at death the Yin fluid destroys them, what kind of fluid does man encounter when his life ceases ? Some perhaps may return that ghosts kill him. If, when man expires, ghosts appear, and when plants die, cold air supervenes, all this would be mere accident. Men see ghosts before their end, but some perceive them without dying. Plants meet cold when they die, but it happens also that they encounter cold and yet do not wither.
Those who are crushed by a falling building, or buried under a collapsing bank, are not killed by the essence of the house or the fluid of the bank. The house was old, and the bank in decay. Unfortunate men happened to be on the spot just at the moment when the down-fall took place.
The moon fades in heaven, and shells shrink in the sea 1. The wind follows the tiger, and the clouds accompany the dragon 2. Belonging to the same sort and permeated by a similar fluid, their natures can mutually affect one another. When, however, creatures p2.005 and things fall in together, and good or bad luck happen simultaneously, there is no influence exercised by one fluid upon another.
The worst penalty which can be inflicted on a murderer, is capital punishment. The punishment of the murderer must be heavy, and the life of him who has to die, must be cut off. Therefore the destruction coming down from above, first aims at the life of the criminal. When, however, a holy emperor displays his virtue, those having good luck first enjoy it. And then, if a kind edict be issued in the palace, the culprit who has still long years to live comes out of jail. In that case Heaven has not prompted the holy emperor to issue such an edict for the sake of the culprit whose time of death has not yet come. The holy emperor happened to promulgate an act of grace, and the prisoner by chance escaped death.
It is like man’s sleeping at night, and rising in the morning. At night the light of the moon fades, it is impossible to work, and man’s forces are likewise exhausted, so that he desires rest. When the morning sun shines brightly, he awakes from his slumbers, and his power is restored as well. Heaven does not make him work during the day, and repose at night. Working goes along with the day, and rest corresponds to the night.
The wild geese assemble at Kuei-chi3, having left the cold region of Chieh-shih4. When they arrive they find the fields of the people just ready. Walking about them, they feed on grass and corn. When the corn has been eaten, and the food been used up, the spring rains then just set in. Then they leave the hot climes for the north, returning again to Chieh-shih.
The elephants tilling the tumulus acted in the same manner 1.It is on record that Shun was buried in Ts‘ang-wu2, and that elephants became his labourers, and that Yü was interred at Kuei-chi, and had crows as tenants 3. This is an untruth and an absurd statement.
When a husband has the physiognomy of a short-lived man, the wife he marries must soon become a widow, and when p2.006 such a woman who is soon to be widowed marries, she falls in with a husband who dies young. There is a common belief that, in case males and females die prematurely, the husband injures his wife, and the wife does harm to the husband. There can be no question of mutual injury, it is all the outcome of fate, which works spontaneously.
Provided that a flame be quenched by water, then we are justified in speaking of water injuring fire. But when fire just goes out of its own accord, and water happens to pour down on it spontaneously, we must say that both have destroyed themselves and did not injure one another. Now the untimely death of males and females is not analogous to the quenching of fire by water, but may be compared to the two elements extinguishing and pouring down of themselves.
The son injuring his father and the younger brother ruining the elder are on the same line. Since they are living under the same roof, their fluids come into contact. They become weak and sickly and pine away until they give up their ghost, but how can this be called injury ? It also happens that somebody dies abroad, more than a thousand Li away, by sword or fire, crushed or drowned. There cannot have been a collision of fluids ; how could any harm have been produced ?
The aunt of Wang Mang, Lady Chêng, was bespoken in marriage to two gentlemen, who both died, and when she was on her way to Chao, its prince also passed away. Before her fluid could have reached them, she destroyed three persons from afar, what a pity ! 4
Huang Ts‘e Kung married the daughter of a sorcerer in the neighbourhood, after a soothsayer had pronounced her mien to be noble. Therefore Huang Ts‘e Kung rose to the rank of a prime minister. As a matter of fact, this was not so. Huang Ts‘e Kung was predetermined to become a nobleman, when, on a journey, he encountered the woman. She was likewise to be exalted, therefore she entered Huang Ts‘e Kung’s house. It was a coincidence, and they met at the proper time 5.
Luckless people make no profit as merchants, and as agriculturists reap no grain. Their nature does not spoil the merchandise, but their fate prevents the grain from growing. Predestinated p2.007 for poverty, they deal in unprofitable goods, and hampered with bad luck, they plant seed which does not bear fruit.
The world says that dwellings are propitious or unpropitious, and that in moving, special attention should be paid to the year and the month 1. This is not a correct statement of facts. The ways of Heaven are difficult to know, but provided that an unlucky fellow, or a doomed family build a house, they simply will select a site of ill omen, and when they change their residence, they just happen to choose a calamitous year or month which should be avoided. When an entire family thus rushes into disaster, so that its ten odd members all perish, unable to do anything against it, they all must be persons whose prosperity is shattered and whose fate put an end to them.
The same reasoning holds good concerning the promotion and translation of officials. When the time of their removal has come, their sovereign lends an ear to slanderous reports, and when it is time that they should advance, some excellent man recommends them. When a scholar is about to take office, some superior man assists virtue, and when he is going to be dismissed, some villain has defamed talent.
Kung-Po Liao2impeached Tse Lu to Chi Sun3. Confucius said,
— It is fate 4.
Tsang Ts‘ang5of Lu slandered Mencius in the presence of Duke P‘ing, and Mencius remarked that it was Heaven 6. As long as the time for a new doctrine has not yet come, one meets with backbiters, and before Heaven lends its help, the talk of malicious people prevails. Therefore Confucius spoke of fate, and did not cherish enmity against Kung-Po Liao ; and Mencius referring to Heaven did not bear a grudge against Tsang Ts‘ang. They clearly saw that time and fate must be spontaneous.
This is true of the success of a ruler introducing reforms as well. If he is to become illustrious, there happens to be a time of peace, and when there is to be a time of rebellion, his prosperity will be ruined. The time of peace and revolution, victory and defeat is like the progress and the reverses, the good and bad fortune of an individual, which are encountered by chance.
The appearance of wise and sage men at various times falls under the same law. A pious emperor soars up like a dragon all p2.008 at once, and an able help-mate is found out and instated in the very nick of time. People imagine that because Han Hsin and ChangLiang supported the king of Han, Ch‘in was wiped out and Han came to power, insomuch as Kao Tsu won the crown. It was Han Kao Tsu’s destiny to become emperor by himself at a time, when Han Hsin and ChangLiang were to flourish by themselves. Thus both sides met. If they had sought each other on purpose, and for this reason Han Kao Tsu rose in Fêng and P‘ei1, among the young folks there many had physiognomies indicative of wealth and honour, yet Heaven did not aid Kao Tsu through them.
Whether fate and physiognomies be grand or mean, there is only a casual coincidence. Viscount Chien of Chao deposed his heir-son Po Lu and raised WuHsü, the son of a concubine. WuHsü happened to be intelligent, and he was predestined to become prince of Chao to boot 2. People say that Po Lu was depraved and not equal to WuHsü. Po Lu was doomed to baseness, moreover his mind was muddled.
The scholar Han An Kuo rose to be Minister of State. They say that he owed this to I K‘uan, but that is not the case 3. High honours were in store for the Minister, and by hazard he fell in with I K‘uan.
ChaoWu4 hidden in the pantaloons did not cry the whole day. Nobody shut his mouth or prevented him from giving a round, but it was his lot to live, therefore he chanced to escape by sleeping.
Thus marquises who have won laurels on the battle-field must needs cut the heads of those slain in battle, and merchants of wealthy houses will snatch away the property of poor families. As regards those noblemen who are deprived of their land and degraded, or officers and ministers who are dismissed, their guilt is made public when their income is highest. Noxious air always infects those people whose fates are short 5, and in a year of dearth the indigent have to suffer starvation 6.
p2.009 The world is convinced that, when in ancient times the monarch was wise, truth and virtue were practised, and that when they were practised success was achieved and the government well ordered. When the ruler of men was degenerate, truth and virtue declined, and, in consequence of this decline, all success was lost and government thrown into confusion. All thinkers of ancient and modern times hold this view, for they notice that the wisdom of Yao and Shun brought about universal peace, whereas the lawlessness of Chieh and Chou resulted in rebellion and in their destruction. But if we thoroughly go into the question we find that fate has its proper time, which comes spontaneously, and that virtue has no influence upon it 1.
All officials, those with an income of more than a hundred piculs as well as those living on less than a pint 2, while in office, govern the people. They exercise their authority, instruct, and admonish, but whether these instructions have any effect, and whether the people are well governed or in revolution, depends on fate.
Some persons may have great talents and lead a pure life, but when called to office, they soon are cashiered, whereas others with very little knowledge and a scandalous conduct govern the people and remain in office. In remote antiquity promotion and degradation of able and incompetent men was merely based on success. Rewards were bestowed on the successful, and penalties inflicted on the unsuccessful. Much consideration was shown for fate, and a great partiality to fortune, but neither were talents investigated nor capacities much appreciated.
Dialecticians use this method of inquiring into the achievements, and determine people’s virtue by their success. Thus they hold that the tranquillity of the people, and the peace of the State are p2.010 due to a wise ruler, and that rebellions and other dangers of a country are the upshot of his depravity. Therefore, when revolutions and other calamities unexpectedly break out, these critics bring them home to the sovereign, charging him with misrule. The prince acquiesces and takes the guilt upon himself. Sorrow and pain shake his body, but the difficulties are not removed thereby. Without reason they harass the mind of the ruler, and overwhelm an enlightened monarch with undeserved reproaches. These ideas are being transmitted and universally accepted 1.
A wise ruler may govern a people who are to live in peace, but he cannot reform an age destined to revolt. A physician clever in using his needles 2and medicines, is successful with his methods, if he happens to find a patient whose end has not yet arrived, and comes across a disease which is not mortal. If the man’s life is ended and his sickness fatal, he can do nothing even though he be a second PienCh‘io 3. A worn-out life and a fatal disease are incurable as a people in rebellion cannot be pacified. The action of the drugs cures a disease as admonitions serve to pacify the people. Both cases are subject to destiny and time, and cannot be forced at all cost.
[The Kung-po Liao, having slandered Tse Luto Chi Sun, Tse Fu Ching Po informed Confucius of it . . . . . Confucius said,
— If my principles are to advance, it is so ordered. If they are to fall to the ground, it is so ordered.] 4
Consequently, the advance of the doctrine no less than the peace of the people depend on fate and time, and not on human force. Revolutions, the opposition of the citizens, and the danger of the State are commonly caused by calamities which come down from Heaven above. The virtue of a wise ruler is unfit to cope with, and disperse them.
It is mentioned in the Shiking5that King Hsüan met with a great drought. The words are, ‘[Of the remnant of Chou, among the black-haired people, there will not be half a man left.]’ That means that not a single person was left, but was affected by this p2.011 disaster. King Hsüan6 was a wise man who regretted the insufficiency of his virtue.
There has never been anybody more benevolent and kind-hearted than Yao and T‘ang. But Yao met with the Great Flood, and T‘ang fell in with a great drought 7. Inundations and droughts are the worst calamities. Since the two Sages were visited with them, were they brought about by their administration ? No, the fixed periods of Heaven and Earth made it so.
From the inundation and the drought of Yao and T‘ang we draw the conclusion that the calamities of other kings are not caused by their virtue. That being the case, their happiness and felicity cannot be the result of their virtue either.
A wise ruler’s government of his State is like a kind father’s administration of his family. The latter gives his instructions to all equally and issues his commands, thus making his sons and grandsons dutiful and virtuous. His descendants being dutiful and virtuous, the family flourishes. When all the citizens live in peace, the State prospers. But prosperity is always succeeded by a decay, and progress, attended by a decline. As prosperity and progress are not brought about by virtue, decline and decay cannot be due to virtue either. Prosperity and progress, decay and decline are all dependent on Heaven and time.
This is the real nature of goodness and badness, but we have not yet spoken of the manifestations of joy and sorrow. A family is not at peace, nor are its members cheerful unless there be sufficient wealth, and ample means to supply its wants. Affluence is the outcome of a generous fate and not to be obtained through wisdom and benevolence. Everybody knows that affluence, peace, and contentment are consequences of a happy destiny, but ignores that the tranquillity of a State, and the success of its institutions are but lucky circumstances.
Consequently good government is not the work of worthies and sages ; and decay and disorder, not the result of viciousness. When a State is doomed to fall to pieces, worthies and sages cannot make it thrive, and when an age is to be well governed, no wicked people can throw it into disorder. Order and disorder depend on time, and not on government ; the tranquillity and the troubles of a State are determined by its destiny, and not by its culture. Neither a wise nor an unwise ruler, neither an enlightened nor an unenlightened government can be beneficial or deleterious.
p2.012 The world praises the era of the Five Rulers, when the whole empire was enjoying peace, people had provisions for ten years, and every one behaved like a man of honour. It may be that this was not the case and merely an exaggeration of the time, or it was really the effect of the then government, but how can we know ?
What are the causes of disorder ? Are they not the predominance of robbery, fighting, and bloodshed, the disregard of the moral obligations by the people, and their rebellion against their ruler ? All these difficulties arise from a want of grain and food, in so far as people are unable to bear hunger and cold. When hunger and cold combine, there are few but violate the laws, and when they enjoy both warmth and food, there are few but behave properly 1.