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

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Now, is it the government which brings about the rain, or the officers ? If neither the government is changed, nor the officers are punished, and merely the spirits of the land attacked, how can this put a stop to the rain ?

Provided that the same kind must be attacked, then the moon is the essence of all the Yin. When we hold up a moon-mirror towards the moon, water comes down 2. The moon approaching the Hyades or leaving the constellation of the ‘House’ from the north, it nearly always inevitably rains 3. The animals in the moon are the hare and the toad 4. Their counterparts on earth are snails and corn-weevils. When the moon is eclipsed in the sky, snails and corn-weevils decrease on earth, which proves that they are of the same kind 5. When it rains without ceasing, one attacks all that belongs to the Yin. To obtain a result one ought to hunt and kill hares and toads, and smash snails and corn-weevils.

When locusts appear, they either pass flying or they alight, and wherever they alight, all grain and grass wither and die. The officers and underlings direct the people to draw furrows and dig moats, and with rattles to drive the locusts into them. There they p2.342 scrape together heaps of locusts, thousands and thousands of bushels, but, although they attack the locusts themselves, they cannot stop them. Now, what would be the effect of an attack upon the kind of the Yin ? How could rain be checked thereby ?

We read in the Shang-shu ta-chuan 6 :

« When there are inauspicious vapours, and the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth are neglected, mountains and rivers not prayed to, wind and rain not in season, and frost and snow fail to come down, the minister of Heaven is held answerable. When officers frequently assassinate their prince, and illegitimate sons murder their progenitor, the five relationships being in discord, the minister of Men is made responsible. When the city walls are not refitted, and ditches and moats in bad repair, the springs not flowing, and the people visited with floods, then the minister of Earth bears the responsibility.

The king as well as the three ministers 7 all have their functions, and the princes, lords, and high officers all have their special duties. Now floods are not laid at the charge of lords and high officers, but drums are beaten, and the spirits of the land attacked. How do we know but that this is wrong and that Lu acted contrary to the rites ? Confucius writing the Classic mentioned the incident as a warning against malpractices. Kung Yang Kao 1 could not fathom it, and Tung Chung Shu, not determine its meaning, so that, p2.343 at present, the idea of attacking the spirits of the land is again being put forward.

If Kung Yang Kao were still alive, and Tung Chung Shu not dead, we might nonplus them with the following argument : When, after a long rain, the waters rise and flow over, who is responsible for it ? If it be the ruler, then he must change his government, and amend his dealings, to stop them. If it be his ministers, they must suffer the penalties of their crimes, to appease Heaven. Should it be neither the sovereign nor his ministers, but the fluids of the Yin and Yang viz. their fortuitous revolutions, of what use would be the beating of drums and the attacking of the spirits of the land ?

In the ‘Remarks on the Ch‘un-ch‘iu’ 2 it is said :

« The sovereign boiling over, causes droughts, plunged in dissipation, he causes floods.

Accordingly, in times of drought, one must commit acts of dissipation, and, in case of floods, proceed in a hot-headed way. Why then attack the spirits of the land ? This attack is inexplicable. Besides they draw round red silk, which is likewise unaccountable 3. They endeavour to explain it by the supposition that the altars correspond to the Yin, and red to the Yang. Water, being Yin, becomes surrounded by the colour of Yang, which cooperates with the drums in bringing relief.

If a big mountain catches fire and is sprinkled with water from a pool, every one knows the uselessness of such a measure, because the fire is much too intense, and the water too little to quench the flames. Now, the inundation of a State is like a big mountain on fire. To draw such a silken thread round the altars of the spirits of the land for help, would be like sprinkling a big mountain with water from a pool.

To understand the mind of Heaven, one takes human thoughts as a starting point, and to form an idea of Heaven’s government, one considers human actions 4. At a battle, victory cannot be won, unless the combatants try conclusions man to man, and measure swords. Now, if in a State suffering from floods they really wished to attack the Yang, in order to extinguish the fluid, and if they sent forth all their men, armed with spears, and swords in hand, p2.344 to smite it, as at the end of the year, they expel sickness, then perhaps a success might be achieved. When in the struggle between Ch‘u and Han 1 and in the time of the Six States, they flew to arms, the stronger held the field, and the weaker were defeated. If one man alone assaults the spirits, beating the drum, without force of arms, what can he do against the rain ?

Sunshine and rain are like day and night, and met with as Yao and T‘ang encountered the flood and the drought. They are also like summer and winter. Should anybody desire to sacrifice to them, according to human custom, in order to check their changes, trying to turn winter into summer, or night into day, would he be successful ? In case that it rains uninterruptedly, and that the sovereign quietly reclines on his high couch, the rain stops, all the same, of itself, and after having stopped for a long time, so that a great dryness has been the consequence, it also begins to rain afresh, spontaneously, even though the sovereign remains inactive on his pillows. Why ? Because the Yang having reached its climax, suddenly turns into the Yin, and the Yin having gone to extremes, again turns into the Yang.

How do we know but that the floods of heaven and earth are like the ‘water sickness’ of mankind, and whether a drought is not like jaundice among men ? By prayers and supplications for happiness they are not to be cured, and a change of conduct or reforms are of no avail. By using a physician and taking medicines, they may perhaps still be cured, but, when life is at an end, and one’s time is up, no doctor and no medicine can help.

The Great Flood, which Yao fell in with, is the high water of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu. The wise ruler understood its nature, and did not invoke the spirits, or change his government, but he employed , to regulate the water and make all the rivers run eastward. Yao’s employment of for the regulation of the water is like a dropsical man’s recourse to a doctor. The Great Flood of Yao, therefore, is the ‘water sickness’ of heaven and earth, and Yü, regulating the water, was the clever doctor of the Great Flood. Wherefore did the critics change all this ? The attack on the spirits of the land is not justified by facts.

In case of incessant rain, they sacrifice to Wa 2. The Rites know nothing of this. Fu Hsi and Wa were both sages ; that, p2.345 omitting Fu Hsi, Nü Wa is to be sacrificed to, is not stated in the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, on what then does Tung Chung Shu base his suggestion ? 3

The Classic of the ‘Spring and Autumn’ speaks of drums only ; why does that mean to attack ? The critics reading the word ‘drums’, imagine that it means attacking, but drums need not necessarily refer to an attack. This view of the critics is erroneous.

[The head of the Chi family was richer than the duke of Chou had been, and yet Ch‘iu collected his imposts for him, and increased his wealth. Confucius said,

— He is no disciple of mine. My children, you may beat the drum and scold 1 him.] 2

Scolding means reproving, and reproving, recriminating. From the mutual armed attacks of the Six States an objection cannot be derived here 3. But this course would likewise be improper 4. For a mean person to reprove an exalted one, is impertinent 5. But may be that in reproving he acts under instructions from Heaven. The emperor treats Earth as his mother. A mother having committed some fault, can her son be charged by his father to reprove her ? As to explanations of that sort between inferiors and superiors, a subject has solely the right to remonstrate, whereas the ruler may reprove and recriminate. Why then violate all the rules of propriety ?

It is a human custom to reinforce cries and intensify shouts by drums. Of old, when a ruler was about to go out, belle were struck and drums beaten, to frighten and warn off low class people 6. If drums were really beaten for the purpose of assailing the spirits of the land, then the sound of bells and the roll of drums would mean an aggression and an onslaught on the highest powers.

At inundations, drums are most likely used to address the spirits of the land a second time. When the Yin is in its apex, the rain pours down unceasingly, Yin reigns supreme, and Yang is p2.346 weak. This is not the proper course of things. Since oral supplications are inadequate, drums are employed, to assist the prayers in the same manner as, at an eclipse of the sun, drums are beaten and animals sacrificed at the altars of the land 7. All this is done, to inform the spirits of the urgent need, and to show the undue preponderance of the Yin.

In important and urgent matters bells and drums are used, in small and indifferent ones, jingles and fives 8. They make known what has happened, announce the urgency, and help the voice of the petitioner. Great principles are difficult to know. Provided that great floods and long inundations be occasioned by government, the urgent need is announced first nevertheless. But this is a government affair. When robberies are rife, the proceeding is the same. Robberies are likewise the upshot of government. As soon as the loss has been ascertained, in this case also an announcement is first made. The beating of drums and immolating of the animals at the altars of the land is the publication. The spirits of the land are the chiefs of all the Yin, therefore they are informed by the beating of drums.

Those who maintain that drums imply an attack, attack a mother. Such an impiety is the consequence of this view. Now, if we say that it is an announcement of the preponderance of the Yin and the impotence of the Yang, the difficulty of assaulting a venerable being does not arise. Moreover, an announcement agrees well with the offering of an animal, but a sacrifice does not tally with an assault. To immolate an animal, while making an announcement, is according to the rites, but is there any rule prescribing the combination of an attack and a sacrifice ?

Red silk in the shape of a cord points to heat. Because the hot fluid is exhausted, one uses such a small thing. By driving in a needle one inch long, and by rubbing a bail of moxa over a vein, a violent disease may be cured. Red silk is like a needle an inch long and a ball of moxa.

Wu attacked and defeated Ch‘u 1. King Chao fled, and Shên Pao Hsü 2 took an opportunity to walk afoot to Ch‘in. With plenty p2.347 of tears he asked for help, and finally obtained auxiliary troops with which he repulsed Wu and saved Ch‘u. How does a drummer beat the drum ? Provided that he be as upright as Shên Pao Hsü, then one single person may eventually suffice to beat the drum. If one man beat the drum, then it might be possible to prevail upon the spirits of the land, that they feel the same pity as the king of Ch‘in, and with earth overcome the power of water, averting and stopping the clouds and the rain. The fluids of clouds and rain cause fears like that of Wu. When they disperse, reverting into the mountains, the harrassed people are blessed with sunshine and repose, enjoying the peace of the kingdom of Ch‘u.

[‘When a strong wind blows, and the thunderclaps quickly follow each other, a superior man will be deeply moved. Though it be night, he will rise, don his clothes and cap and sit up’,] 3 apprehending an untoward accident. Water and drought are like thunder and storm. Though it be natural phenomena, subject to certain laws, it would show a want of sympathy for the troubles of the people, if the sovereign were to recline apathetically on the bulging pillows of his bed-chamber, awaiting a change.

Yao did not immolate, which was perhaps owing to the simplicity of primitive times. T‘sang Hsieh invented writing, and Hsi Chung wrought carts. Can the inventions of later generations be condemned, on the plea that in former ages writing and carts were unknown ? When the times are the same, but doings differ, difficulties may arise. Different ages, however, have different customs, which do not exclude each other 1.

People painting pictures of Wa, make a likeness of a lady and give it the appellative (woman). In accordance with the view of Tung Chung Shu, the name Wa was first introduced as designation for a lady and a ruler of ancient times. Yang is male, and Yin female. Since the Yin fluid causes disasters, Wa is sacrificed to, to implore her protection.

There is a tradition that Kung Kung, fighting with Chuan Hsü for the imperial dignity, was vanquished, and, in his wrath, knocked against Mount Pu Chou, causing the ‘Pillar of Heaven’ to break and the confines of the earth to be smashed. Wa melted five-coloured stones, and repaired the blue sky, and having cut the legs of a sea-turtle, erected them at the four poles 2. When p2.348 Tung Chung Shu sacrificed to Wa, this tradition first became current. Originally, their was a goddess who repaired the blue sky and erected the four poles. Provided that, the fluid of Heaven being in disharmony and the Yang principle vanquished, Wa with her spiritual force helped a wise emperor, would she be able to check the rain showers ?



Last Word on Dragons 1

47. XVI, I. Luan-lung


p2.349 Tung Chung Shu explained the rain-sacrifice of the Ch‘un-ch‘iu and set up a clay dragon to attract rain, his idea being that clouds and dragons affect each other. The Yiking says that the clouds follow the dragon, and wind, the tiger 2. With a view to this sympathetic action, he put up the clay dragon. Yin and Yang follow their species, and clouds and rain arrive as a matter of course.

Scholars might raise the following question : The Yiking, speaking of clouds following the dragon, means a real dragon ; how can it be a clay dragon ?

The Duke of Shê in Ch‘u 3 was very partial to dragons. On all his walls, panels, plates, and dishes he had them painted 4. If these semblances must be looked upon lire genuine ones, then there must have been a continual rainfall in the State of the Duke of Shê.

The Yiking also says that wind follows the tiger, that means that, when the tiger howls, wind blows from the valley 5. There being likewise a sympathetic fluid between wind and the tiger, would a clay figure of a tiger, set up in a valley, also attract wind ? If a clay tiger cannot attract wind, how could a clay dragon bring down rain ?

In ancient times, they used to rear dragons, which they yoked to their carriages. Hence there was a dragon-keeper and a master p2.350 of the dragons. In the palace of the Hsia emperors there were always two dragons, but in the last year of this dynasty, when its downfall was impending, they absconded 6. Even so long as real dragons were on earth, there were no clouds and no rain. What can be expected of fictitious semblances then ?

According to the Book of Rites the shape of thunder was represented on an ornamented thunder-goblet 1, but we do not hear that this thunder-goblet could attract thunder. How then should a clay dragon occasion a rainfall ? Amber 2 takes up straws, and a load-stone attracts needles, but under condition that they are genuine, for they cannot borrow from other species. Other species, resembling them, cannot take up or attract things. Why ? Because the nature of the fluid being different, no mutual influence is possible.

Liu Tse Chün 3 directed the rain sacrifice and took care of the clay dragon. Huan Chün Shan also took exception, on the ground that amber and the loadstone could not take up needles or raise straws, unless they were genuine. Liu Tse Chün was at a loss for an answer. He was a Han scholar of vast erudition and a prolific writer, yet he was embarrassed. That does not prove that the proposed sacrifices were a mistake, but solely that he did not know their real reason. I say :

I. The objection that the dragon was not genuine, is all right, but it is wrong not to insist on relationship. When an east wind blows, wine flows over, and [when a whale dies, a comet appears.] 4 The principle of Heaven is spontaneity, and does not resemble human activity, being essentially like that affinity between clouds and dragons. The sun is fire, and the moon is water. Fire and water are always affected by genuine fluids. Now, physicists T cast p2.351 burning-glasses wherewith to catch the flying fire from the sun, and they produce moon-mirrors to draw the water from the moon 5. That is not spontaneity, yet Heaven agrees to it. A clay dragon is not genuine either, but why should it not be apt to affect Heaven ?

 II. With a burning-glass one draws fire from Heaven. In the fifth month, on a ping-wu day at noon, they melt five stones, and cast an instrument with which they obtain fire. Now, without further ceremony, they also take the crooked hooks on swords and blades, rub them, hold them up towards the sun, and likewise affect Heaven 6. If a clay dragon cannot be compared with a burning-glass, it can at least be placed on a level with those crooked hooks on swords and blades.

III. Prince Mêng Ch‘ang of Ch’i wished to pass through the gate of Ch‘in during the night, but the gate was not yet open. A companion of his imitated the cock-crow, and a veritable cock responded 7. Since a cock could be roused by a false crow, rain can also be caused by fictitious effigies.

IV. When Li Tse Chang was at the head of the government, he wished to see clear in criminal affairs. He, therefore, caused a human figure, resembling a criminal, to be made of wu-tung wood. A pit was dug in the earth, a coffin made of rushes, and the wooden criminal placed into it. Whenever the punishment of a criminal was just, the wooden criminal did not move, but, when he had to complain of unjust and cruel treatment, the wooden figure moved and came out. Did the spirit of the criminals enter the wooden figure, or did the spiritual fluid operate upon it ? 1 At all events, the spirit affected the wooden criminal 2 ; why then should a clay dragon not have the same effect ?

V. When Shun with his holy virtue went into the wilds of the big mountain forests 3, tigers and wolves did not hurt, and snakes and serpents did not injure him. cast metal tripods, on which he shaped the figures of a hundred objects. These tripods were carried into the mountain woods, where they averted noxious influences 4. Many critics contend that this is not true, but those times of p2.352 highest antiquity are long ago, and the spirits of the Chou tripods must have existed 5. Metal and earth both belong to the Five Elements. Provided that the virtue of him who forms the clay dragon equals that of , it must also have the power to attract clouds and rain.

VI. Amber takes up straws. The horse-shoe magnet resembles it, but a magnet is not amber. Both can attract small things. A clay dragon is not real either, but it must be compared and be classed with a horse-shoe magnet.

VII. The duke of Shê in Ch‘u had a penchant for dragons : on walls, panels, vases, and goblets he had pictures of dragons painted. A genuine dragon heard of it and came down. Dragons, clouds, and rain are of the same fluid, wherefore they can mutually affect each other, following their species. By making pictures, the duke of Shê succeeded in bringing down a real dragon. Why should it not be possible, now, to attract clouds and rain ?

VIII. Spirits speak to men by images, and not by realities. While asleep, they perceive these images in their dreams. When things are going to be lucky, lucky images arrive, and, when they are going to be unlucky, inauspicious signs appear. The fluid of spirits is of the same class as that of clouds and rain 6.

IX. Spirits show the truth by images ; wherefore can clay dragons alone not attract the real by what is unreal ? In remote antiquity, there were two brothers, Shên Shu and Yü Lü, possessing the power to dominate ghosts. They lived on the Tu-so Mountain in the eastern Sea, where, under a peach-tree, they looked after the hundred ghosts. The reckless ones who maliciously caused human misfortune, were bound by Shên Shu and Yü Lü with cords of reeds, and thrown before tigers, to be devoured. Therefore, the district magistrates of our time are in the habit of having peach-trees cut down and carved into human statues, which they place by the gate, and they paint the shapes of tigers on the door-screens 1. Peach-wood men are not Shên Shu and Yü Lü, nor painted tigers, such as devour ghosts. These carvings and paintings of images p2.353 are intended to ward off evil influences. Now, clay dragons are not real dragons attracting rain either. But people believe only in peach-wood men and painted tigers, and know nothing of clay dragons.

X. True, these are but arguments from ancient books, for which no strict proofs are to be found. However, Lu Pan and Mê Tse carved wooden kites which could fly three days without alighting, very ingenious inventions indeed 2. If the formers of clay dragons have the talents of Lu Pan and Mê Tse, their productions can be similar to these wooden kites, flying without alighting. The fluid of flying kites is the fluid of clouds and rain, an air which causes the wooden kites to fly. Why should it not be able to follow a clay dragon ?

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