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Man is (the product of) the attributes of Heaven and Earth, (by) the interaction of the dual forces of nature, the union of the animal and intelligent (souls), and the finest subtile matter of the five elements 1.

Heaven exercises the control of the strong and light force, and hangs out the sun and stars. Earth exercises the control of the dark and weaker force, and gives vent to it in the hills and streams. The five elements are distributed through the four seasons, and it is by their harmonious action that the moon is produced, which therefore keeps waxing for fifteen days and waning for fifteen 2.

The five elements in their movements alternately displace and exhaust one another. Each one of them, in the revolving course of the twelve months of the four seasons, comes to be in its turn the fundamental one for the time.

The five notes of harmony, with their six upper musical accords, and the twelve pitch-tubes, come each, in their revolutions among themselves, to be the first note of the scale.

The five flavours, with the six condiments, and the twelve articles of diet, come each one, in their revolutions (in the course of the year), to give its character to the food.

The five colours, with the six elegant figures, which they form on the two robes, come each one, in their revolutions among themselves, to give the character of the dress that is worn.

Therefore Man is the heart and mind of Heaven and Earth, and the visible embodiment of the five elements. He lives in the enjoyment of all flavours, the discriminating of all notes (of harmony), and the enrobing of all colours 3.

Thus it was that when the sages would make rules (for men), they felt it necessary to find the origin (of all things) in heaven and earth; to make the two forces (of nature) the commencement (of all); to use the four seasons as the handle (of their arrangements); to adopt the sun and stars as the recorders (of time), the moon as the measurer (of work to be done), the spirits breathing (in nature) as associates 4, the five elements as giving substance (to things), rules of propriety and righteousness as (their) instruments, the feelings of men as the field (to be cultivated), and the four intelligent creatures as domestic animals (to be reared) 5.

The origin of all things being found in heaven and earth, they could be taken in hand, one after the other. The commencement of these being found in the two forces (of nature), their character and tendencies could be observed. The four seasons being used as a handle, (the people) could be stimulated to the business (of each). The sun and stars being constituted the measures of time, that business could be laid out in order. The moon being taken as the measure (of work to be done), that work could be accomplished successfully. The spirits breathing (in nature) being considered as associates, what is done will be maintained permanently. The five elements being considered as giving substance (to things), what has been done could be repeated. Rules of propriety and righteousness being viewed as the instruments, whatever was done would be completed. The feelings of men being the field to be cultivated, men would look up (to the sages) as to their lords. The four intelligent creatures being made to become domestic animals, there would be constant sources of food and drink.

What were the four intelligent creatures 6? They were the Khî-lin, the phoenix, the tortoise, and the dragon. When the dragon becomes a domestic animal, (all other) fishes and the sturgeon do not lie hidden from men (in the mud). When the phoenix becomes so, the birds do not fly from them in terror. When the Khî-lin does so, the beasts do not scamper away. When the tortoise does so, the feelings of men take no erroneous course.


1. Callery's translation of this paragraph is the following:--'L'homme émane, (pour le moral), de la vertu du Ciel et de la Terre; (pour le physique il émane) de la combinaison des (deux principes) Yin et Yang; (pour la partie spirituelle, il émane) de la réunion des esprits et des Dieux; et pour la forme qui lui est propre, il émane de l'essence la plus subtile des cinq éléments.' To this he subjoins the following note:--'Il m'est difficile de croire que les Chinois eux-mêmes aient jamais rien compris à ces théories androgénésiques, dont tout le mérite gît dans le vague de l'énoncé.' The Khien-lung editors say:--'The characteristic attributes of Heaven and Earth are blended and hid in the two forces of nature; and this is called the truth that is unlimited. If we speak of those forces in their fundamental character, we call them the Yin and Yang. If we speak of them as they develop their power, we call them Kwei and Shan. If we speak of them as they become substantial, we call them the five elements. And this is what is called the essence of what is meant by the second and fifth lines of the Khien hexagram,' &c. &c.

2. Callery says here:--'C'est toujours l'application de la théorie des affinités naturelles dont nous avons parlé (see note, p. 281) et dont il importe de bien se pénétrer lorsqu'on veut comprendre quelque chose aux dissertations philosophiques des Chinois.' But after the student has done his best to get hold of the theory, he will often be baffled in trying to follow the applications of it. For example, I cannot get hold of what is said here about the genesis of the moon. Much of the next four paragraphs is very obscure. A little light seems to flash on them from parts of different sections of Book IV, but it is neither bright nor steady.

3. For this paragraph M. Callery gives:--'L'homme est donc le coeur du Ciel et de la Terre, la fine essence des cinq éléments, et vit en mangeant des choses sapides, en distinguant les sons, et en s'habillant de différentes couleurs (contrairement à la brute, dont les goûts sont grossiers, et les instincts sans raison).' Of course the first predicate about man, and, we might almost say, the second also, are metaphorical. 'La fine essence' is not a correct translation of the text in the second predicate, the Chinese character so rendered is different from the two characters in paragraph 1. On the former predicate Hsiang An-shih (Sung dynasty) says:--'The heart of Heaven and Earth is simply benevolence. The perfect benevolence of Heaven and Earth is lodged in man. Given the human body, and forthwith there is the benevolent heart. Hence it is said (Mencius VII, ii, 16), "Man is benevolence;" "Benevolence is the heart of man." Moreover, the heart of Heaven and Earth is seen in the very idea of life, so that the heart (or kernel) of all fruits is called Zan (仁) or benevolence, which is again a name for man (仁者人也).'

4. Callery has for this:--'Les Esprits et les Dieux pour compagnons;' Medhurst, 'the Kwei Shins, as the associates.' Kang and Khung say that by Kwei Shan are to be understood 'the hills and streams of last section,' paragraph 12, for 'those help the respiration of the earth.'

5. See paragraph 10.

6. Callery calls these four creatures 'le cerf, l'aigle, la tortue, et le dragon;' and says:--'D'après la mythologie historique des Chinois, ces quatre animaux ne se montrent sur la terre que sous le règne des empereurs d'une vertu extraordinaire. Alors, la plus grande paix règne dans l'univers; tous les hommes sont heureux; personne ne manque de rien:--C'est l'âge d'or, moins les idées poétiques des Grecs et des Latins.' All the four excepting the tortoise are fabulous animals, and even Confucius believed in them (Ana. IX, 8). The lesson drawn from the text by many is that men's goodness is the pledge of, and the way to, all prosperity.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia