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



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2 See p. 145, Note 3.

3 Government as a whole could be bad, even though the local officials were good.

4 The three noble families, Mêng, Shu, and Chi which in the time of Confucius were the real rulers of Lu, the reigning duke being more or less dependent upon them.

1 The catching of fish is what Wang Ch‘ung denotes by ‘destruction in the water’, and the hunting of animals what he calls the ‘fluid, i. e. destructive, on the hills’.

2 Remaining in their own places, where the destructive fluid of mountain forests viz. tigers do not intrude, people would be safe.

3 Cf. Vol. I, p. 326, Note 2.


4 The barbarians living towards the four Quarters of China.

5 The savages in the south and the west, here meaning savages in general.

1 Provided that there be always a correspondence between the doings of tigers and high commissioners.



2 The Han-shu relates that, when the kings of Kuang-ling and Yen were going to stir up an insurrection, rats were observed dancing in their palaces. Even with us rats are credited with some kind of prescience, for we say that rats leave a ship which is going to be wrecked.

3 For this reason they are visited by tigers.

4 Fate is looked upon as something material of which there may be greater or smaller quantities.

5 Cf. p. 162.

6 Cf. p. 313, Note 4.

1 King Huai of Liang in Honan was a son of the emperor Wên Ti. He died in 169 B. C.

2 A place in Shantung.

3 A celebrated official of the 2nd and 1st cent. B. C.

4 The modern Ting-chou in Chili.

5 Originally a poor scholar, later on a privy councillor of the emperor Han Wu Ti, who died in 121 B. C.

6 The present Lai-chou-fu in the province of Shantung.

7 A circuit in Kiangsu and Anhui.

1 In 594 B. C. Duke Hsüan introduced a new tithing system. Cf. Ch‘un-ch‘iu, Duke Hsüan 15th year [Couvreur]. Tso Ch‘iu Ming condemns this measure as contrary to rule. The locusts are regarded by Wang Ch‘ung as a retribution for this unjust mode of taxation.

1 55 A. D.

2 The present T‘ai-an-chou in Shantung.

3 A circuit comprising the modern K‘ai-fêng-fu in Honan.

4 Ho-nan-fu.

5 Therefore the locusts could not be considered a punishment for unjust taxation.

6 For those offences for which the insects are supposed to have made their appearance.

7 This explanation is forced and certainly erroneous. It would be to the point, if the character designated some insects, and not wind, for to whom would the two components ‘all’ and ‘insects’ suggest the idea of wind ? The explanation given by Wieger, Rudiments 12, Leçons étymologiques p. 77 is not satisfactory either. He submits that the ancient character was composed of sun, movement, and expansion, and that this combination suggests the atmospheric currents produced by the action of the sunbeams. I suppose that in the character is the phonetic, and the radical. is a crawling animal, a reptile, and describes the crawling, the undulating of the currents of air. Some ancient forms of are formed of , a current, instead of , a reptile, and from the antique form we infer that and, occurring in other characters, were originally connected : , and are nothing else than a viper with a big head, a synonym for a reptile=.

1 A method still followed to the present day.

2 A recluse of the Chou epoch, celebrated for his purity. Tse Kung is said to have blamed him for living in a country the government of which he condemned, and under a prince whom he despised. Pao Chiao took these words so much to heart, that he withered up into dead wood.

3 Another hermit. Cf. Vol. I, p. 427, Note 4.

1 My translation is a conjecture. Perhaps the latter character ‘an ulcer’ is spurious.

2 I have omitted translating [], some insect or reptile not mentioned in the dictionaries.

3 When a man passes through marshes, leeches may stick to his feet, and suck his blood.

4 [] for which the dictionaries only give the meaning ‘to wriggle’. Here it must be a substantive.

1 Shiking Part II, Book VII, Ode 5 (Legge, Classics Vol IV, Part II, p. 394) [Couvreur].

2 This story is narrated in the biography of the king of Ch‘ang-yi, Ch‘ien Han-shu, chap. 63, p. 18r. The king was a grandson of the emperor Han Wu Ti.


1 These arguments of the Mêhists are refuted in Vol. I, chap. XV.

2 This is Wang Ch‘ung’s opinion at least.

3 Cf. Vol. I, p. 202, Note 2.

4 A practice still prevailing in our time.

1 We learn from the ‘Family Sayings’ that, when a member of the Chi family had died, they were going to put cat’s-eyes into his coffin, as is customary for princes, and to bestow pearls and jade upon him. Confucius, just then governor of Chung-tu, hearing of it, ascended the steps and interfered saying, ‘To inter a man with precious stones is like exposing a corpse in the open plain, and thus affording people an opportunity of gratifying their wicked designs’. Chia-yü IX, 16r.

On the old custom of filling the mouths of deceased princes with jade and other precious objects see De Groot, Religious System Vol. I, p. 269 seq.



2 They could afford to put precious things into the grave.

1 Or the diviner Hsien who lived under the Yin dynasty and is mentioned in the Preface of the Shuking. Cf. Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. I, p. 191, Note 1.

2 In Hades.

3 Therefore they treat them, as if they were still alive and together with the living.

4 Two prominent disciples of Confucius.

1 Cf. Liki, T‘an-kung p. 52r. (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 173) [Couvreur].

2 This was not likely, for, historically speaking, human sacrifices precede, but do not follow the use of dummies buried together with the dead.

3 Real vessels are, likewise, antecedent to the so called ‘spirit vessels’, made of straw or clay, and merely symbolical and commemorative of an ancient custom that had fallen into desuetude.

4 The State became impoverished by extravagant funerals.

5 Cf. p. 47.

1 De Groot in his Religious System Vol. II, p. 659 speaks at great length of the reaction against expensive funerals, but does not mention Wang Ch‘ung as an advocate of economy. He calls attention to two chapters of the Lü-shih-ch‘un-ch‘iu, recommending simplicity in burials, and to the disquisitions of Wang Fu of the 2nd cent. A. D. Later on, Chu Hsi was in favour of plain funerals, but the exaggerated ideas on filial piety have counteracted all reasonable arguments.

1 494-468 B. C.

2 Quoted from Huai Nan Tse XVIII, 18v.


3 Common people believe in these superstitions.

1 I. e., when a new building is erected in the west for the use of a second master. The other possibility that the new building is destined for the one master to enlarge his dwelling, is not taken into account.

2 The Fêng-su t‘ung, quoted in the Pei-wên-yün-fu, gives a similar reason : The west is the seat of the superiors, and a new building in this direction would be hurtful to them.

1 Even a good man may innocently suffer punishment and thus become a convict.

1 Analects VIII, 3 [Couvreur].

2 See Liki, Chi-yi (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVIII, p. 229) [Couvreur].

3 Cf. Vol. I, p. 120 and 131, where Wang Chi is called ‘king Chi’ or Chi Li.

1 Vid. p. 81.

2 This meaning is not found in the dictionaries.

1 The horse, the ox, the goat, the pig, the dog, and the cock.


2 A term strangely corresponding to the German word ‘toilet’ = privy.

3 Most Chinese privies are so horrid, that even Chinese try to avoid them.

4 Chinese varnish is so poisonous, that its smell alone suffices to produce a cutaneous eruption.

1 Quotation from the Shi-chi chap. 75, p. 2r. the biography of T‘ien Wên. Cf. also Vol. I, p. 161, where, in line 10, ‘He replied’ should be written for ‘She replied’, and, in line 13, ‘He rejoined’ for ‘She rejoined’.


2 This reason may be in accordance with Wang Ch‘ung’s system, to us it appears inane.

1 This is Wang Ch‘ung’s opinion. The belief of his countrymen is that many actions, apart from their qualities, entail misfortune, and solely for this reason are to be shunned.

2 Perhaps the electricity caused the sauce to spoil, as milk becomes sour when the air is charged with electricity. Wang Ch‘ung does not know this.

3 The first thunder-storms are in spring. This single case, Wang Ch‘ung seems to intimate, was the reason that, subsequently, people always liked to have their bean-sauce ready before the first peal of thunder was heard viz. before the beginning of spring.

4 Similar ‘avoidances’ have come down to our own rational times. E. g. one must not thank any one for a knife or a pair of scissors, otherwise they would cut the friendship. A young lady avoids cutting a fresh pat of butter, otherwise she is sure not to marry during the year.

5 This rule goes back to Confucius, who in bed, did not lie like a corpse. Analects X, 16 [Couvreur].

6 This may be an allusion to the frailty of the body or of friendship.

7 A man making such a request would be like one having somebody to bury. The very sensible reasons given for these various customs are Wang Ch‘ung’s.

8 Liki, Ch‘ü-li p. 18r. (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 80) [Couvreur].

1 This must not be taken literally. It seems to mean to cause damage or misfortune.

2 The North.

3 The West.

4 East-north-east.

5 South-south-east.

6 The element metal corresponds to the west.

7 The element of the east is wood, that of the south where the inimical luminaries are placed, while menacing the family, is fire. Charcoal is a combination of wood and fire.

8 On the collision with the year-star = Jupiter of people moving their residence see chap. XXXIX.

1 In one case they punish those who collide with them, in the other, those living in quite a different direction viz. a quarter to the right or the left of their stand-point.

2 We ought to read yu, as above, I suppose.

3 Perhaps we should add ‘and a yin house’.


4 A province under the Han comprising Kiangsu, Anhui, Kiangsi, Fukien, and Chekiang.

5 In the west.

6 Tibetan tribes.

7 Jupiter was first supposed to stay in the north, outside of China, now it is placed amidst men, in the interior.

1 The suburban sacrifices were offered to Heaven.


2 Three t‘ung are one yuan.

3 These periods may be of Taoist origin. Some reckon a yuan at 129,600, others at 24,192,000 years, something like a geological period. The Taoists like the Indians are fond of big numbers. According to one authority 3,276,000 years have elapsed from the creation of the world to 481 B. C.

4 Cf. also p. 383, Notes 1 and 2.

5 The twelve hours of the day are denominated after the twelve cyclical signs yin, mao, &c., marking that place of the horizon over which the sun stays during each double hour. In the same way, every month of the Chinese calendar is connected with that cyclical sign in which the moon rests during that month. In the course of twelve months the moon has passed through all the twelve constellations or cyclical signs. Wang Ch‘ung is not correct in saying that the yin and mao ‘times’ are added to the twelve months, they are not times in this case, but constellations corresponding to those of our zodiac. The twelve [], to which belong yin and mao, are those places of the firmament through which the sun passes in twelve double hours, and the moon in twelve months. For this reason they are made use of to designate the twelve hours as well as the twelve months. Moreover, the course of the planet Jupiter through these signs of the zodiac, which is completed in 12 years, affords a means of denoting the consecutive years, on which cf. Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. III, p. 655 seq.

1 Cf. Vol. I, p. 167.

1 Prosperity and decay are the events and circumstances making people happy or miserable.


2 These seem to be geomantic terms.

1 Both are elements.

2 Digging a grave, and making ditches or tilling a garden.

3 Quoted from the Ch‘un-ch‘iu, Duke Hsüan 8th year [Couvreur, § 10].

4 The Duchess of Lu was Ching Ying.

5 Originally the duchess was to be buried on a chi-ch‘ou day, but the rain prevented it. Chi-ch‘ou, being the 26th combination of the cycle of sixty, would have been an even day, and as such in harmony with the uneven day of the death of the duchess. The kêng-yin day, the 27th combination, was an odd day again and not tallying with the odd day of death.

1 The Tso-chuan, commenting upon the above quoted passage, states that to delay the interment owing to rain was according to rule. The Liki (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 223) [Couvreur] informs us that common people did not suspend the interment because of rain, and this rule seems to prevail at present, a rain-fall during a burial being regarded as very propitious. Cf. De Groot, Religious System Vol. I, p. 213.

2 Liki eod.

3 In adding seven, five, or three, the month of death is included.

4 I. e., it would correspond to the month of death, being even in case the latter was even, and uneven if the latter was.


5 In general belief, here only used as an argument, for Wang Ch‘ung does not share it. See Vol. I, chap. 15 and below.

1 Because men do not choose propitious days for eating and drinking.

2 Cf. Vol. I, p. 473, Note 3.

1 The Chinese still use wooden combs to-day, a fact illustrated by the character for comb .

2 Fire, the Yang fluid, the producing force of nature is nobler than water, the Yin fluid, which is regarded as passive or destructive.

3 According to the theory of the Five Elements, elaborated in the Han epoch, of the Twelve Branches hai and tse are related to water, and yin and mao, to wood. Cf. Appendix I p. 467.

4 The prescription cannot be explained by the fanciful theory on the elements and their correlates.

5 We have to insert the answer to the preceding rhetorical question : nobody.

1 The Eight Objects of Government, enumerated in the Shuking, viz. food, commodities, sacrifices, works, instruction, jurisdiction, entertainment of guests, and warfare. [Couvreur]

2 Its importance lies not so much in its usefulness — in this respect a coat or a cloak are more important — as in its covering the head, the noblest part of the body.

3 These Nine Gifts were symbols of authority, anciently bestowed upon vassals and ministers. They were : a chariot and horses, robes of State, musical instruments, vermilion coloured entrance doors, the right to approach the sovereign by the central path, armed attendants, bows and arrows, battle-axes, and sacrificial wines. Mayers’ Manual Pt. II No. 284.

1 The disturbance would be the same, whether the day be auspicious or not.

2 The inventor of writing.

3 These dynasties were celebrated for their music.

4 Some days are shunned out of respect for great men that died on these days, but not because they forebode evil.

5 Confucius admits the existence of ghosts and spirits, and that they be sacrificed to, but avoids speaking of them and answering any questions about their nature.


6 Quotation from the Hsiao-ching (Pei-wên-yün-fu).

1 A fictitious point, also called sui-yin, ‘the opposite of Jupiter’, used for designating the year by means of the cycle of sixty. (See Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. III, p. 654). The term chia-tse would correspond to the north. Then Jupiter itself would have its position due south.


2 179-157 B. C.

1 Cf. Giles, Bibl. Dict. No. 105 and p. 144, Note 5.
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