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衛石駘卒，無適子，有庶子六人，卜所以為後者，曰：「沐浴佩玉則兆。」五人皆沐浴佩玉。石祁子曰：「焉有執親之喪而沐浴佩玉？」不沐浴佩玉，石祁子兆。衛人（卜）以龜為有知也。龜非有知，石祁子自知也。祁子行善政，有嘉言，言嘉政善，故有明瑞。使時不卜，謀之於眾，亦猶稱善。何則？人心神意同吉凶也。 此言若然，然非卜筮之實也。 夫鑽龜揲蓍自有兆數，兆數之見，自有吉凶，而吉凶之人，適與相逢。
世人言卜筮者多，得實誠者寡。論者或謂蓍龜可以參事，不可純用。夫鑽龜揲蓍，兆數輒見。見無常占，占者生意。 吉兆而占謂之凶， 凶數而占謂之吉，吉凶不效，則謂卜筮不可信。
夫蓍筮龜卜，猶聖王治世；卜筮兆數，猶王治瑞應。瑞應無常，兆數詭異。詭異則占者惑，無常則議者疑。疑則謂平未治， 惑則謂吉不良。何以明之？夫吉兆數，吉人可遭也；治遇符瑞、聖德之驗也。周王伐紂，遇烏魚之瑞，其卜曷為逢不吉之兆？使武王不當起， 出不宜逢瑞；使武王命當興，卜不宜得凶。由此言之，武王之卜，不得凶占，謂之凶者，失其實也。
Chapter XIV. On Divination (Pu-shih).
The world believes in divination with shells and weeds. The first class of diviners question Heaven, they say; the second, Earth. Milfoil has something spiritual, tortoises are divine, and omens and signs respond, when asked. Therefore they disregard the advice of their friends, and take to divination, they neglect what is right and wrong, and trust solely to lucky and unlucky portents. In their belief, Heaven and Earth really make their wishes known, and weeds and tortoises verily possess spiritual powers.
As a matter of fact, diviners do not ask Heaven and Earth, nor have weeds or tortoises spiritual qualities. That they have, and that Heaven and Earth are being interrogated, is an idea of common scholars. How can we prove that?
Tse Lu asked Confucius saying, "A pig's shoulder and a sheep's leg can serve as omens, and from creepers, rushes, straws, and duckweed we can foreknow destiny. What need is there then for milfoil and tortoises?"
`That is not correct,' said Confucius, `for their names are essential. The milfoil's name means old, and the tortoise's, aged. 1 In order to elucidate doubtful things, one must ask the old and the aged.'
According to this reply, milfoil is not spiritual, and the tortoise is not divine. From the fact that importance is attached to their names, it does not follow that they really possess such qualities. Since they do not possess those qualities, we know that they are not gifted with supernatural powers, and, as they do not possess these, it is plain that Heaven and Earth cannot be asked through their medium.
Moreover, where are the mouths and the ears of Heaven and Earth, that they may be questioned? Heaven obeys the same laws as man. To form a conception of Heaven, we must start from human affairs. When we ask anybody, we cannot learn his opinion, unless we see him ourselves before us, and personally address him. If we wish to ask Heaven, Heaven is high, and its ears are far away from us. Provided that Heaven has no ears, it is incorporeal, and being incorporeal, it is air. How could air like clouds and fog speak to us?
By milfoil they ask the Earth. Earth has a body like man, but, as its ears are not near us, it cannot hear us, and not hearing us, its mouth does not speak to us. In fine, if they speak of questioning Heaven, Heaven being air cannot send omens, and, if they address themselves to Earth, the ears of Earth are far, and cannot hear us. What reliable proofs are there for the assertion that Heaven and Earth speak to man?
We are living between Heaven and Earth, as lice do on the human body. If those lice, desirous of learning man's opinion, were emitting sounds near his ear, he would not hear them. Why? Because there is such an enormous difference of size, that their utterances would remain inaudible. Now, let us suppose that a pigmy like a man puts questions to Heaven and Earth, which are so immense; how could they understand his words, and how become acquainted with his wishes?
Some maintain that man carries the fluid of Heaven and Earth in his bosom. This fluid in the body is the mind, I daresay. When man is going to divine by weeds and shells, he puts questions to the milfoil and the tortoise. The replies which he hears with his ears, his mind regards like its own thoughts. From the depth of the bosom and the stomach the mind hears the explanation. Thus, when the tortoise is cut to pieces 2 and the divining stalks grasped, omens and signs appear. Man thinks with his mind, but when in his thoughts he cannot arrive at a decision, he consults the milfoil and the tortoise. In case their omens and signs harmonize with the thoughts, the mind may be said to have been a good adviser.
Yet it happens that the heart regards something as feasable, but the omens and signs are inauspicious, or these are felicitous, but the heart considers them as unlucky. Now, the thoughts are one's own spirit, and that which causes the omens and signs is also one's spirit. In the bosom, the spirit of a body becomes the mental power, and outside the bosom, omens and signs. It is, as if a man enters a house, and sits down, or goes out through the door. The walking and sitting makes no difference in his ideas, and entering or issuing does not change his feelings. Provided that the mind produces omens and signs, they would not be opposed to man's thoughts.
Heaven and Earth have a body, therefore they can move. In so far as they can move, they are like living beings, and being alive, they resemble man. To ask a living man, we must use a living person, then we can be sure of a reply. Should we employ a dead man for this purpose, we would certainly not obtain an answer. Now, Heaven and Earth are both alive, and milfoil and tortoises are dead. How could we elicit a reply by asking the living through the dead? The shell of a dried tortoise and the stalk of a withered weed are supposed to question living Heaven and Earth! Ergo the common assertion that Heaven and Earth respond is quite erroneous.
If milfoil and tortoises be like tablets, omens and signs would represent the written characters thereon, and resemble the instructions emanating from a prince. But where would be the mouths and the ears of Heaven and Earth, that such instructions might be possible? "How can Heaven speak?" said Confucius. "The four seasons roll on, and the various things are produced." 3
Heaven does not speak, nor does it hear what men say. Heaven's nature is said to be spontaneity and non-interference. Now, if people question Heaven and Earth, and they respond, this response would require that interference be coupled with spontaneity.
According to the text of the I-king, the art of grasping the straws consists in sorting them into two parcels to resemble Heaven and Earth, in grasping, them by fours in imitation of the four seasons, and in returning the superfluous straws as an emblem of an intercalary month. 4 These resemblances are marked with the object of forming the necessary number of diagrams, and not a word is said about Heaven and Earth conjointly replying to man. It is usual among men to answer, when asked, and not to reply, unless there be any question. Should anybody knock at other people's door without any reason, not wishing anything, or make a useless discourse in their presence, without asking their opinion, the master of the house would laugh, but not reply, or he would become angry, and not give an answer. Now, let a diviner perforate a tortoise shell in sheer play, or sort the milfoil for nothing, and thus mock Heaven and Earth, he would obtain omens and signs all the same. Would Heaven and Earth then reply indiscriminately? Or let a man revile Heaven, while divining by shells, or beat the Earth, while drawing the lots, which is the height of impiety, he would obtain omens and signs nevertheless. If omens and signs are the spirit of Heaven and Earth, why do they not extinguish the fire of the diviner, 5 burn his hand, shake his fingers, disturb his signs, strike his body with painful diseases, and cause his blood to freeze and to boil, instead of still showing him omens and sending signs? Do Heaven and Earth not fear the bother, and not disdain to take this trouble? Looking at the problem from this point of view it becomes plain to us that the diviners do not ask Heaven and Earth, and that omens and signs are not the replies of the latter.
Besides, those who divine are sure to be either lucky or unlucky. Some are of opinion that good and bad luck correspond to the good and the bad actions of mankind. Thus bliss and felicity would accompany goodness, and calamitous changes follow in the rear of badness. Good or bad government is the result of goodness or badness, but I doubt that Heaven and Earth purposely reply, when questioned by diviners. When a lucky man cuts up a tortoise, he finds auspicious omens, whereas an unlucky one, grasping the milfoil, obtains contrary signs. This will be shown by the following examples.
Chou was the worst of rulers; during his reign there was an abundance of calamitous events. Seventy times the tortoise was consulted, and the replies were always unlucky. Therefore Tsu Yi6 said, "Excellent men and the great tortoise dare not know anything about happiness. The worthy are not called to office, and the large tortoise does not give good omens. A catastrophe is impending." 7
When King Wu of Chou received the heavenly appointment, and Kao Tsu ascended the dragon throne, Heaven and men conjointly lent them their aid, and there were great numbers of wonders and miracles. The sons of Fêng and P`ei8 divined by shells, and they likewise received propitious replies. The omens which a lucky man attracts by his personality are invariably good, whereas those brought about by the doings of an unlucky person are always bad.
When Shih T`ai9 of Wei died, he had no rightful heir, but six illegitimate sons. 10 They divined, who would be the successor, and made out that bathing and the wearing of gems would afford an omen. Five of the sons took a bath, and adorned themselves with precious stones, but Shih Ch`i Tse11 said, "Who, being in mourning for a parent, can bathe and wear gems?" Hence he did not bathe, nor wear any gems. It was he who hit the omen. The men of Wei divining confided in the wisdom of the tortoise, 12 but it did not possess any wisdom, the wise one was Shih Ch`i Tse himself. He governed his State well, and what he said was excellent, hence the felicitous auguries. Had no recourse been taken to divination at that time, and the people alone be consulted, they would nevertheless have declared in his favour. Why? Because the heart and its feelings are nothing else than luck and mishap. If this be true, it disposes of the truth of divination. While the shells are being cut in pieces, and the straws sorted, omens and signs take place spontaneously, and while they appear, happiness and misfortune happen of their own accord, and the lucky as well as the unlucky fall in with them by chance.
The lucky meet with good omens, whereas the unlucky encounter bad signs. Thus wherever the lucky pass, things are pleasant to them, and wherever they look, they behold felicitous objects. Yet those pleasant things and felicitous objects are not special auguries for the lucky. In a similar manner the unlucky encounter all sorts of hardships on their way. These good and bad things are not the response of Heaven, it is by chance that they fall to the lot of the good and the bad. The lucky and unlucky omens obtained by cutting the tortoise and drawing the milfoil are like the happiness and the unhappiness which we experience. This much we gather from the following instances.
When King Wu of Chou was down-spirited, the Duke of Chou consulted three tortoises, and said that he would meet with success. 13 When the minister of Lu, Chuang Shu,14 had got a son, Mu Shu,15 he drew the lots with the help of the Yi-king and encountered the 36th diagram, 16 which became the 15th. 17 In regard to the divination with shells the term to meet18 is used, and the expression to encounter is applied to the drawing of straws. Thus, as a matter of fact, the replies were obtained by mere chance, and were not the outcome of goodness or badness.
The good meet with happiness, and the wicked encounter misfortune. The law of Heaven is spontaneity, it does nothing for the sake of man. The happiness attending the government of a ruler must be judged by the same principle. When a prince chances to be virtuous, it just so happens that there is peace and joy, and that many wonderful and auspicious things appear. Contrariwise, when there happens to be a degenerate ruler, all this is reversed.
There are many people discoursing on divination, but very few who understand its real meaning. Some hold that divination must not be practised by itself, but that circumstances are to be taken into account. The tortoise being cut, and the milfoil grasped, omens and signs appear. Seeing unusual signs, the diviners resort to their imagination: auspicious omens they explain as disastrous, and unlucky signs as auspicious. If in such a case luck and mishap do not become manifest, people say that divination is not to be trusted.
When King Wu of Chou destroyed Chou,19 the interpreters put a bad construction upon the omens, and spoke of a great calamity. T`ai Kung flung the stalks away, and trampled upon the tortoise saying, "How can dried bones and dead herbs know fate?"
In case the omens and signs obtained by divination do not correspond to happiness and misfortune, there must have been a mistake. When the soothsayers are unable to ascertain fate, it is thrown into confusion, and owing to this confusion T`ai Kung disparaged divination.
Divination by shells and stalks bears a resemblance to the administration of a wise emperor, and the omens of divination are like the auspicious portents during the reign of such an emperor. These portents are unusual, and the omens are extraordinary and marvellous. It is for this reason that the diviners fall into error, and it is the unusual which blindfolds the emperor's advisers to such a degree, that in their blindness they declare a peaceful government to be mismanaged, and in their error call bad what is auspicious. Lucky omens a lucky man can fall in with, and, when during a reign auspicious portents are met with, it is a manifestation of the virtue of a wise ruler. When the King of Chou destroyed Chou, he encountered the omens of a bird and a fish, why did his diviners regard these as unlucky omens? Had King Wu's elevation not been predestinated, he ought not to have met with portents, when going out. Provided that it was Wu Wang's fate to rise, the diviners should not have thought it inauspicious. Thus, since the divination for King Wu could not be unlucky, but was declared to be so, this interpretation was erroneous.
When Lu was going to attack Yüeh, the diviners by milfoil gave their verdict to the effect that the tripod had broken its leg. Tse Kung explained this as evil. Why? Because the tripod had its leg broken, and for moving on one uses the legs. Consequently he considered it unlucky. Confucius, on the other hand, explained it as lucky, saying, "The people of Yüeh are living on the water; to reach them one requires boats, not legs." Therefore he called it lucky. Lu invaded Yüeh, and in fact defeated it.
Tse Kung explained the breaking of the leg of the tripod as evil, just as the interpretation of the diviners of Chou was adverse. But in spite of this adverse comment there was certainly luck, and in accordance with the right explanation of the broken leg Yüeh could be invaded. In Chou there were many persons who could give a straightforward interpretation like Tse Kung, but very few gifted with the same subtle reasoning power as Confucius. Consequently, upon viewing an unusual omen, they were unable to catch the meaning.
Because Wu Wang had no fault, when the divining took place, and nevertheless got a bad omen, people think that divination must not be practised by itself, and is but of little service in government. But it serves to show that there are spiritual powers, and that a plan is not merely the production of somebody's brain. 20
Writers and chroniclers have collected all sorts of events, as Han Fei Tse for instance, who in his chapter on the embellishment of false doctrines 21 examines the proofs of those manifestations. There he depreciates divination by shells, stigmatises that by weeds, and condemns the common belief in their usefulness. As a matter of fact, divination can be made use of, yet it happens that the diviners are mistaken in their interpretations. In the chapter Hung-fan we read concerning the investigation of doubts that, as regards exceptional portents explained by divination, the son of heaven must be asked, but that sometimes the ministers and officials are also able to offer a solution. 22 Owing to this inability to give a correct explanation, omens and signs often do not prove true, hence the distrust in the usefulness of divination.
Duke Wên of Chin was at war with the viscount of Ch`u. He dreamt that he was wrestling with King Ch`êng,23 who gained the upper hand, and sucked his brains. This was interpreted as inauspicious, but Chin Fan24 said, "It is lucky. Your Highness could look up to heaven, while Ch`u was bending down under the weight of his guilt. Sucking your brains means softening and craving for mercy." 25 The battle was fought, and Chin was in fact victorious, as Chin Fan had prognosticated.
The interpretation of dreams is like the explanation of the signs of the tortoise. The oneirocritics of Chin did not see the purport of the visions, as the diviners of Chou did not understand the nature of the omens of the tortoise-shell. Visions are perfectly true, and omens perfectly correct, but human knowledge is unsufficient, and the reasoning therefore not to the point.
There is still another report, according to which King Wu, when attacking Chou, consulted the tortoise, but the tortoise was deformed. 26 The diviners regarded this as very unpropitious, but T`aiKung said, "The deformation of the tortoise means bad luck for sacrifices, but victory in war." King Wu followed his advice, and at length destroyed Chou. If this be really so, this story is like the utterances of Confucius on the diagrams, and Chin Fan's interpretation of the dream. Omens and signs are true by any means, if good and bad fortunes do not happen as predicted, it is the fault of the diviners who do not understand their business.
1. A gratuitous etymology, of which the Chinese are very fond. Shih ### = milfoil and kuei ### = tortoise have nothing whatever to do with ch`i ### = old and kiu ### = aged.
2. From Chuang Tse chap. 26, p. 4v. it appears that for divining purposes the tortoise shell used to be cut into 72 pieces or divining slips.
3. Analects XVII, 19.
4. Yi-king, Chi-t`se I (Legge's transl. p. 365).
5. Which he uses in burning the tortoise shell.
6. The minister of Chou.
7. Cf. Shu-king, Hsi po k`an Li and Shi-chi chap. 3 (Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. I, p. 204).
8. The countrymen of Kao Tsu, who was born in Fêng, in the sub-prefecture of P`ei in Kiangsu.
9. The Li-ki writes Shih T`ai Chung.
10. From his concubines.
11. A feudal lord in Wei, mentioned in the Tso-chuan, Duke Chuang 12th year (681 b.c.), as influencing the policy of his native State.
12. So far the story is culled from the Li-ki, T`an Kung Il (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 181).
13. The Duke of Chou had built three altars to his three ancestors, whom he consulted on the fate of his sick brother Wu Wang. He probably had one tortoise for each altar. (Cf. Shi-chi chap. 33, p. lv. and p. 205.)
14. Shu Sun Chuang Shu or Shu Sun Tê Chên. When he died in 603 b.c., he received the posthumous name Chuang.
15. The same as Shu Sun Mu Tse mentioned in Chap. XVII. His clan name was Shu Sun, Mu being his posthumous title.
16. The diagram Ming-i.
17. The diagram Ch`ien. Wang Ch`ung here quotes a passage from the Tso-chuan, Duke Ch`ao 5th year (Legge Vol. V, Pt. II, p. 604) where the expression "encountered" ### is used.
19. The last emperor of the Shang dynasty, Chou Hsin ###.
20. Those in power win the people over to their views by showing that the omens are favourable, and that the spirits causing them give their approval.
21. Chapter XIX of Han Fei Tse's work.
22. Cf. Shu-king, Hung-fan, Pt. V, Bk. IV, 20 (Legge Vol. III, Pt. II, p. 334).
23. The viscount of Ch`u, who styled himself king.
24. The Tso-chuan calls him Tse Fan.
25. Quotation from the Tso-chuan, Duke Hsi 28th year (631 b.c.).
26. I surmise from the context that the character must denote some deformity of the tortoise. Kang-hi says in the appendix that the meaning is unknown.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|