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



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[It breaks through the atones one or two inches thick, and gathers. That in one day’s time it spreads over the whole Empire is only the case with the T‘ai-shan.] 2 From the T‘ai-shan it rains over the whole Empire, from small mountains over States and cities. Such being the case, is the great Rain Sacrifice an offering to the mountains perhaps ? Were it really so, it would be ineffectual for the following reason : Water in different rivers and differing in height by some inches or lines, does not run together, unless led through artificial channels, nor mix, unless, by digging, a common water-level be produced. Suppose that a ruler of men were to pray and sacrifice on the banks of a river, would it be in his power to cause water of a higher level to mix with other water below ?

Even in the case of visible water of but slightly different level the prayers of a sovereign would be of no avail at all, and how about rain, which has no apparent form, hidden as it is in the depths of high mountains ? How could the rain sacrifice of a ruler elicit it ?

Rainy moisture is amidst heaven and earth, as tears are in the human body. If some one were to place wine and food before a kind-hearted person imploring him to shed tears, which he had not yet done, that kind-hearted gentleman would on no account p2.331 comply with this request, because tears do not issue forth on being commanded. How then could rain be procured by supplication ?

The laments of Yung Mên Tse moved the prince of Mêng Ch‘ang to tears 3, and in consequence of the sorrowful speech of Su Ch‘in and Chang Yi in the cavern, the tears of Kuei Ku Tse dropped down on his coat 4. Is it possible then to affect Heaven by laments like those of Yung Mên Tse, or by words like those of Su Ch‘in and Chang Yi ? The ears and the eyes of Heaven are very far away, and the fluid of sound does not reach it.

The wife of Ch‘i Liang also cried pitifully, but, instead of raining, the city wall crumbled down. Then how can rain be produced, and which method do those performing the rain sacrifice employ to impress Heaven ?

When the moon proceeds on the northern way, and approaches the northern part of the Hyades, it nearly always rains. Accordingly, the Hyades must be situated on the northern way. But would this constellation of the northern way be willing to send down rain, in response to a rain sacrifice ?

When Confucius was going out, and calling upon Tse Lu to get his rain apparel ready, there certainly was no rain sacrifice offered in Lu simultaneously, and, notwithstanding, torrents of rain came down spontaneously, and without any prayer there was bright sunshine again of itself. Thus fine weather and rain have their times. In the course of a year, sunshine and rain alternate. When there is to be rain, who must pray for it, and, when there is to be sunshine, who can stop it ?

A ruler who listens to supplications and, to please his people, shows clemency, is not virtuous. Heaven possesses the highest degree of virtue. If, before the proper time for rain has come, somebody unreasonably prayed for it, and if then Heaven recklessly sent it down, it would be on a level with a prince yielding to solicitations.

Phenomenalists do not argue or investigate the question by analogies, and setting forth their preposterous theories, they deceive the sovereigns. Either the time of rain has not yet come, and a virtuous prince prays for it in vain, or it just must rain of its own accord, and a wicked prince praying for rain just hits upon the right moment. Then the virtuous ruler receives unjust reproof, and the bad one gains undeserved praise.



p2.332 The world considers sages to be perfect, whereas worthies have their imperfections. The dealings of perfect men are irreproachable, and being irreproachable, their government is faultless. Among the sage rulers of all the ages none can vie with Yao and T‘ang. Yet Yao was visited with the Great Flood, and T‘ang with the Great Drought. If this be regarded as the outcome of their government, then Yao and T‘ang must have been two iniquitous rulers, if, however, their government be not answerable, then it was mere luck. Luck has its time, and cannot be prayed for.

People reasoning on these subjects, pretend, in regard to the Flood and the Drought of Yao and T‘ang, that they were the result of the season, but that small droughts and floods are due to government. Provided that this view be correct, what is to be done to procure a rainfall ? If it is really caused by government, a recourse to prayer instead of mending the defects of the administration could not bring about a change. If, on the other hand, the Flood and the Drought of Yao and T‘ang were the effect of the revolution of the celestial fluid, and not the upshot of government, as they say, then the time of this revolution cannot but be spontaneous, and any sacrifices or prayers would be of no advantage whatever.

There is another report that T‘ang, having prayed in a mulberry grove, acknowledging five faults, forthwith obtained rain 1. Believing in the revolution of the fluid, one cannot uphold the story of the mulberry grove, and maintaining the truth of this story, one must discard the notion of a revolution of luck. How can those holding either of these views escape from this impasse, and which means should be taken to avert water or dryness ?

Of these calamitous changes there are two kinds, I should say : calamities in consequence of bad government and disasters without any guilt. In case of calamities of the first kind, one must search for the cause and try to remove it, and though these endeavours prove ineffectual, they at least show the compassion of the sovereign, his kind solicitude for his people, and his inability to help. Such is the conduct of a loving father towards his son and of a dutiful son towards his parent. Though knowing that in case of a sickness it is useless to immolate to the spirits, and that against great pains medicines are in vain, and though aware that a disease is incurable, and all treatment of no avail, yet they do not let things go and await the end ; they still consult the p2.333 tortoise and milfoil, inquire after evil influences, and call persons qualified to prepare medicines. Their compassionateness and affectionate devotion makes them still hope for a result.

When death has come, and life is extinguished, so that there remains nothing to be done, they climb upon the ridge of their house, and with a garment beckon to the departed to revert 2. In their sorrow and deep love, they will not give up the hope that the dead may become aware of it. The feelings of those who make oblations for rain are like the sentiments of a loving father or a dutiful son.

Of calamities without any guilt people know nothing, and lay them to the charge of the ruler. Those governing, in order to comply with the wishes of the people, in this case offer sacrifice likewise.

A question as to the difference of a calamity caused by government and a disaster without anybody’s guilt I should answer thus : When virtue is flourishing 3, and the government well ordered, and a disaster happens all the same, no one is responsible for it. When virtue is declining, and government disorganised, and some catastrophe takes place, the government is responsible. In the last instance, there is a sacrifice without and reforms within, to make good the damage. In the former instance, the old style of government is continued within, and the sacrificial rites are discharged without, to comfort the people.

Undeserved ill-luck has happened in all ages. When it comes one must remain faithful to one’s principles, and not change the government. How do we know ? We learn it from the words, addressed by the Duke of Chou to King Ch‘êng, concerning the establishment of government.

[« Sometimes things will interfere. Then stick to your words and your speech, and let us be thinking of officers of complete virtue, to regulate the people whom we have received.] 1

The establishment of the government by the Duke of p2.334 Chou must be admitted to be most considerate. He was aware that extraordinary accidents are not to be avoided by liberality. Therefore he admonished the king to stick to his word and, since the administration was unimpeachable, not to introduce any changes. Extraordinary events might interfere, but they were not caused by any recklessness.

The wet fluid interfered with Yao, and the dry one, with T‘ang. King Hsüan of Chou 2, generous as he was, met with a long drought, and at the commencement and the end of the Chien-ch‘u period 3, all the northern provinces had to suffer from a continued drought. The cattle died, the people were famished and driven from their homes, reduced to poverty. The views of our sage Lord occupying the Imperial Throne, were most liberal and enlightened, and under him the officials all discharged their duties. It was obviously a time of universal peace, and not the slightest deficiency was to be discovered in the government. And yet the dry fluid rushed in. The wise ruler understood the state of affairs, and did not change the mode of government, but he sent about grain, to be distributed among the poor, and he used his affluence, to help the indigent. This displayed his clear insight, and thus those charged with the relief work did all they could.

Duke Wên of Lu was visited with a great drought one year 4. Tsang Wên Chung 5 suggested that he should repair the inner and outer walls, making economies by reducing his expenses, practising frugality, and calling upon the people to contribute. Tsang Wên Chung was alive to the fact that government was not responsible for the drought, hence he confined himself to building the walls, without altering the administration.

The phenomenalists witnessing a sudden change, do not hesitate to ascribe it to government, paying no regard to its innocence, and viewing an extraordinary event, in their alarm and confusion, they change their proceedings, and, by changing what should not be altered, they merely bring down misfortune upon themselves.

On what do they base their affirmation that the rain sacrifice is necessary ? They contend that respecting the great rain sacrifice of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu the commentators Kung Yang as well as Ku Liang, p2.335 in their comments, have no word of criticism, whence it is obvious that the rain sacrifice must be performed.



Tsêng Hsi in reply to a question of Confucius as to his wishes said,

[— At the eve of spring, when the spring dress is ready, along with five or six young men who have assumed the cap, and six or seven boys, I would dash through the Yi, carol among the dancing performers of the rain sacrifice 1, and with songs make my offering 2.



Confucius replied,

— I agree with Tien.] 3

In Lu they used to hold the rain sacrifice on the banks of the Yi. The ‘eve’ is synonymous with late. Spring denotes the fourth moon ; that the spring dress is ready means to say that the dress for the fourth moon is ready. Young men with caps and boys are those gamboling at the rain sacrifice. To dash through the Yi signifies to wade through its water in imitation of dragons rising from the water 4. To carol among the dancing performers of the rain sacrifice is the same as to sing. With songs to make offerings means to sing hymns, and make some oblation for the sacrifice i. e., to sing and sacrifice.

Some critics are of opinion that (to dash) means to bathe in the Yi river, and fêng (to carol) to dry the body. The fourth month of the Chou dynasty corresponds to the second month of the corrected year 5. Then it is still cold, and no proper time for bathing or drying the body in the wind. Consequently wading through water, but evidently not bathing was a part of the rain sacrifice.

In Tso Ch‘iu Ming’s commentary to the Ch‘un-ch‘iu it is said that, when the torpid insects begin to stir, it is time for the rain sacrifice, and also that, when the Dragon appears, the rain sacrifice p2.336 is offered 6. The insects begin to move, and the Dragon becomes visible in the second month. The second month of spring is the time for the rain sacrifice, and the eighth month of autumn likewise. In spring they sue for grain rain, and in autumn, that the grain may bear fruit. Our present worship of the Ling constellation is the autumnal rain sacrifice. The vernal sacrifice has fallen into desuetude, and only the autumnal one remains. Thus the invocation of the Ling constellation is the yearly rain sacrifice 7.

Confucius said ‘I agree with Tien’. He approves of his wish to offer the rain sacrifice and harmonize the Yin and Yang. In this he concurs with him. If the rain sacrifice had not been proper, and Tien wished to have it performed, Confucius would have been obliged to reprove him instead of giving his assent.

Fan Ch‘ih rambling with the master, was impressed by the rain sacrifice and asked the pertinent question why in Lu they did not exalt virtue, and merely cared for the rain sacrifice 1. This sacrifice is of very old origin, for the Liki says that the rain sacrifice is an offering made in times of inundation and drought. Consequently it is based on custom. Confucius did not criticize it, and it was set forth by Tung Chung Shu. The rain sacrifice is an established rite. In the same manner as the rain sacrifice is based on custom, in case of high water drums are beaten, and animals immolated at the altars of the land, also an old custom. There being such a ceremony, it cannot be wrong 2. This is the first justification of the rain sacrifice.

It is customary to sacrifice. We acknowledge the merits of the spirits of the land which produce all things. But the earth is of great extent, and it becomes difficult to sacrifice everywhere. Therefore the altars of the land have been erected as centres of devout worship. Floods and droughts are the fluids of the Yin and Yang. Since they spread everywhere, it is difficult to sacrifice to all. Whence altars have been built to represent them, where they are implored with the greatest reverence. The worship is analogous to that of the spirits of the land, and with a view to removing calamitous events.

The dead are worshipped like the living, and ghosts, as though they were men. If the original fluid of the Yin and the p2.337 Yang be like living man, can it eat and drink ? Under this supposition they are presented with perfumes, and offered the choicest dishes, all with the greatest care, with the hope that these offerings will be requited. This analogy with the sacrifices to the spirits of the land is the second justification for the rain sacrifice.

While the fluids of the year are in harmony, no calamities ensue ; still they prepare the rain sacrifice. The worship of the ‘Ling’ constellation is a very ancient custom, moreover the fluid of the year may suddenly change, and freshets and droughts are not subject to time, which accounts for the extreme fear of the ruler of men. Therefore, in addition to the oblations made to the ‘Ling’ constellation, they still offer the rain sacrifice with the idea that, should the former rites have been unsufficient, the deficiency may be supplemented by repeating the sacrifice on a second day, and with a view to making good again the disaster caused by the calamity, and being rewarded with an abundant harvest. This is the third reason.

At a religious ceremony the heart feels distressed, and, when music is made, it is cheerful. The distressed disclose their sentiments by offering jewels and brocade, and the cheerful give expression to their feelings with bells and drums. The prayers at the rain sacrifice testify to the sincerity of the sovereign, but this sincerity resides in the heart, and does not become manifest without. Therefore all the alarm and anxiety is manifested by the rain sacrifice, and the previous sincerity of the heart thus revealed, which is the meaning of jewels and brocade, bells and drums 1. This is the fourth argument.

A subject having offended against his sovereign, and a son having failed against his father, reform, when they are punished, and, moreover, acknowledge their guilt. Provided that droughts, which cause such an alarm, be brought about by government, then it would be like the offence of a subject, or the guilt of a son. If then the administration were quietly changed, and the proceedings stealthily altered, it would not appear without, and Heaven’s anger could not be appeased. Therefore the rain sacrifice is necessary to show the anxiety. That is the fifth argument.



p2.338 The Han established the office of scholars of great learning who were to teach the youth the art of disputation with the object of probing every question to the bottom, and exposing the right and wrong principles. They were not to raise unnecessary difficulties, nor always to acquiesce, neither were they to be lavish of bitter criticisms, nor to give a sweet reply, whatever they heard. They guide the talents of their disciples, now bending them down, now raising them up, but for their benefit. Grinding a sword, we do not cut the whetstone, our only wish being to make it pointed 2. By expounding the meaning of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, we endeavour to elucidate the rain sacrifice, examining the view of Confucius, and scrutinising the ideas of Tung Chung Shu. Since Confucius is no more, and Tung Chung Shu is also dead, to whom in the world can we apply for instruction ? None but disciples of Confucius and followers of Tung Chung Shu 3 are qualified to give a satisfactory answer.

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CHAPTER XXXI

Gentle Drums

46. XV, IV. Shun-ku



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p2.339 According to the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, [in time of high water the drums were beaten, and animals immolated at the altars of the spirits of the land] 1. The expositors of the Classic hold that the drums symbolise an attack or compulsion, which is equivalent to an attack. The Yang 2 being paramount, the spirits of the land are attacked, to deliver people from the calamity.

Some one might object that an attack upon the spirits implies victory and defeat, and that such a measure cannot be in accordance with justice. A ruler of men honours Heaven like his father and Earth like his mother. In case the kindred of his mother had done mischief, would he attack his mother, in order to help his subjects ? He whose government is deficient and who throws the Yin and the Yang into disorder, is the sovereign. If, to restore order, instead of attacking himself, he violated all laws, and offended against august Heaven and Earth, would they bring him relief ?

Provided that an inundation injured Heaven, but that it were not injured by Earth, then the water might be warded off ; but now things have to suffer from the water. All the various things together are much inferior to Earth, and to violate her sacred body would be contrary to all principles 3. The critics of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, however, are unable to raise these objections.

Rain issues from mountains and flows into rivers 4. Mountains and rivers are, therefore, nearly related to inundations. Yet when high water causes disaster, they do not attack mountains or rivers.

The altars of the land are earth. As regards the nature of the Five Elements, water and earth are quite dissimilar. When p2.340 water does evil, earth is attacked. Earth is stronger than water. This is the idea underlying the attack upon the spirits of the land.

Is it not like the workmen of our time using a hammer and a chisel ? With the hammer they beat the chisel, and make it enter the wood. Now, by attacking earth, do they cause it to subdue water ?

Furthermore, the object of attacking the spirits of the land is to assault the kindred of the Yin 1. Suppose that A is a robber who has wounded people. A is there and has not fled, but the injured let him go and attack B. Would they stop A from committing more crimes in this way ? Rain is water, and the water is there, but in lieu of assaulting water, they attack the spirits of the land.

When Heaven is going to rain, the mountains first emit clouds, which gather and become rain. The rain flows and becomes water. Thus the mountains are the parents, and water is their progeny. In capital punishment even relatives are implicated, but does the punishment attain ascendants and descendants only, or even the friends of the criminal ? If mountains and water as well as the altars of the land are held to be related to rain, which of them are the nearest relatives 2 ? The altars of the land are earth. The fluids of the Five Elements are different and vary very much 3.

In the time of T‘ai Mou of the Yin dynasty a mulberry and a paper-mulberry grew together. Some say that Kao Tsung terrified began to practise virtue with stooping body. He would ponder over the government of former kings, illustrate the principle of feeding the old, regenerate extinguished States, re-establish the succession of extinct princely houses, and raise obscure scholars. Upon this the two trees died, and he enjoyed his government for a long time. This story was universally known in the ‘Spring and Autumn’ period. Floods are not different from the extraordinary phenomenon of the mulberry trees, yet the king of Yin changed his government, whereas in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu era they attacked the spirits of the land. The two methods are conflicting ; which of them must be followed ?

In the time of King Ch‘êng of Chou, a tempest broke loose over the empire, with thunder and rain. The grain lay down, p2.341 trees were up-rooted, and the damage was enormous. King Ch‘êng opened the book from the metal-bound coffer, to inquire what was to be done, and about the merit of the Duke of Chou. He held the book in his hands with tears in his eyes, and lo ! the rain ceased, and the wind stopped. The grain rose again, and the big trees were raised up again 4.

Great rain and continual floods are of the same nature. King Ch‘êng changed his faults, and in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu period they attacked the spirits of the land. Since the views of the two Classics disagree, what is to be done ?

When insects eat the grain of the crops, those well versed in the calendar, cause the officers, whom they liken to the insects, to be flogged and maltreated, for the purpose of removing the calamity 1. If we thoroughly go into the question, we find that this is not right, but it is done out of regards to the public feeling.




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