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南郡極熱之地，其人祝樹樹枯，唾鳥鳥墜。巫咸能以祝延人之疾、愈人之禍者，生於江南，含烈氣也。 夫毒、陽氣也，故其中人，若火灼人。或為蝮所中，割肉置地焦沸，火氣之驗也。四方極皆為維邊，唯東南隅有溫烈氣。溫烈氣發，常以春夏。 春夏陽起。東南隅、陽位也。
火日之變也。 天下萬物，含太陽氣而生者，皆有毒螫。毒螫渥者，在蟲則為蝮、蛇、蜂、蠆，在草則為巴豆、冶葛，在魚則為鮭與、，故人食鮭肝而死，為、螫有毒 。魚與鳥同類，故鳥蜚魚亦蜚，鳥卵魚亦卵，蝮、蛇、蜂、蠆皆卵，同性類也。
土地有燥濕，故毒物有多少；生出有處地，故毒有烈不烈。蝮、與魚比，故生於草澤。蜂、蠆與鳥同，故產於屋、樹。江北地燥， 故多蜂、蠆；江南地濕，故多蝮、。生高燥比陽，陽物懸垂，故蜂、蠆以尾刺。生下濕比陰，陰物柔伸，故蝮、以口齰。毒或藏於首尾，故螫齰有毒， 或藏於體膚，故食之輒懣；或附於脣吻，故舌鼓為禍。
毒螫之生，皆同一氣，發動雖異，內為一類。故人夢見火，占為口舌；夢見蝮、蛇，亦口舌。火為口舌之象，口舌見於蝮、， 同類共本，所稟一氣也。 故火為言，言為小人，小人為妖由口舌。口舌之徵，由人感天。故五事二曰言，言之咎徵，「僭恆（暘）〔陽〕若」。「僭」者、奢麗，故蝮、 蛇多文。文起於陽，故若致文。「（暘）〔陽〕若」則言從，故時有詩妖。
美酒為毒，酒難多飲；蜂液為蜜，蜜難益食；勇夫強國，勇夫難近；好女說心，好女難畜；辯士快意，辯士難信。故美味腐腹， 好色惑心，勇夫招禍，辯口致殃。四者、世之毒也。 辯口之毒，為害尤酷。何以明之？
Chapter XXIII. On Poison (Yen-tu).
Sometimes the following question is considered:---Between heaven and earth there are the ten thousand beings with their characteristic nature. In the animal kingdom we find adders and vipers, bees and scorpions, which are poisonous. When their bite or sting has hurt a human body, the sickness which they cause must be most carefully treated, for without timely help, the virus spreads through the whole body. In the vegetable kingdom we have croton oil beans and wild dolichos, which, when eaten, cause a stomach-ache, and in large doses kill a man. What manner of fluid have these created beings received from heaven? The ten thousand beings, when created, are endowed with the original fluid. Is there any poison in the original fluid?
Poison is the hot air of the sun; when it touches a man, he becomes empoisoned. If we eat something which causes us such a pain in the stomach, that we cannot endure it, that which proves so unendurable is called poison. The fiery air of the sun regularly produces poison. This air is hot. The people living in the land of the sun are impetuous. The mouths and tongues of these impetuous people become venomous. Thus the inhabitants of Ch`u and Yüeh1 are impetuous and passionate. When they talk with others, and a drop of their saliva happens to fly against their interlocutors, the arteries of the latter begin to swell and ulcerate.
The Southern Circuit2 is a very hot region. When the people there curse a tree, it withers, and, when they spit upon a bird, it drops down. Wizards are all able to make people ill by their prayers as well as to avert their misfortunes. They hail from Kiang-nan,3 and are imbued with the hot fluid. Poison is the fluid of the sun, therefore it burns like fire, when somebody is aspersed by it. When people bitten by a viper cut out the flesh, as sometimes they do, and put it on the ground, it burns and bubbles up, which shows that there is a hot fluid in it. At the four cardinal points are border-lands, but the south-eastern corner alone has broiling hot air, which always comes forth in Spring and Summer. In Spring and Summer the sun rises in the south-eastern corner, which is the proper sphere of the sun.
When the air of other things enters into our nose or eyes, they do not feel pain, but as soon as fire or smoke enter into our nose, it aches, and, when they enter into our eyes, they pain us. This is the burning of the hot air. Many substances can be dissolved, but it is only by burning fire that they are scorched.
Eating sweets is not injurious to man, but, when for instance he takes a little too much honey, he has symptoms of poisoning. Honey is a secretion of the bee, and the bee is an insect belonging to the Yang fluid.
If a man without having hurt himself against anything in his movements feels a sudden pain in his body, for which there is no apparent reason, and if those parts of his body which pain him show marks of flogging so to speak, he suffers from lumbago. This lumbago, they say, is caused by devils who are beating the person. Devils are supernatural apparitions produced by the sun. If the disease be less acute, one calls it sciatica, and uses honey and cinnabar to cure it. Honey and cinnabar are substances belonging to the Yang fluid. This cure is homeopathic. As an antidote against a cold one uses cold, and against fever one uses heat. Since to cure sciatica they take honey and cinnabar, it shows us that sciatica is the effect of the Yang fluid and of the diffusion of a poison.
Poisonous air is floating between heaven and earth. When a man comes into touch with it, his face begins to swell, a disease which people call a sun-stroke.
Men who have seen ghosts, state that they have a red colour. The supernatural force of the sun must, of course, have this colour. Ghosts are burning poison; the man whom they assault, must die. Thus did Earl Tu shoot King Hsüan of Chou dead. 4 The paraphernalia of these demons of death are like the fire of the sun. The bow as well as the arrow of Tu Po were both red. In the south they term poison "small fox." The apparition of Earl Tu had a bow in his hand, with which he shot. The solar fluid was kindled simultaneously, and, when it was thus intensified, it shot. Therefore, when he hit the king, he seemed provided with bow and arrow.
When heat is pent up, and the temperature increased, the poison in the blood is stirred up. Therefore eating the liver of a race horse will cause a man's death, the fluid pent up in the liver having been chafed. During the dog-days, when a scorching heat prevails, people die by insolation; the extreme heat has been turned into poison. We perspire, while running, near a stove, in the sunshine at noon, and, when we are feverish. The four causes have been different, but they all engender perspiration. The heat is the same, and it has been equally pent up.
Fire is a phenomenon of the sun. All created beings of the world are filled with the solar fluid and after their creation contain some poison. Reptiles and insects possessing this poison in abundance become vipers and adders, bees and scorpions, plants become croton seeds and wild dolichos, fishes become porpoises and "to-shu" 5 fish. Consequently men eating a porpoise liver die, and the bite of a "to-shu" is venomous. Fishes and birds are related, therefore birds can fly, and fishes too; birds lay eggs, and fishes also. Vipers, adders, bees, and scorpions are all oviparous and have a similar nature.
Among mankind bad characters take the place of these creatures. Their mouths do mischief. The bad men of the world are imbued with a poisonous fluid. The poison of the wicked living in the land of the sun is still more virulent, hence the curses and the swearing of the people of southern Yüeh produce such wonderful results.
A proverb says, "Many mouths melt metal." The mouth is fire. Fire is the second of the five elements, and speech the second of the five actions. 6 There is an exact correspondence between speech and fire, therefore in speaking of the melting of metal one says that the mouth and the tongue melt it. They do not speak of pulling out wood and burning it, but expressly refer to the melting of metal. Metal is overcome by fire, fire and mouth belong to the same class. 7
Medicinal herbs do not grow in one place only. T`ai Po left his country and went to Wu.8 The melting of metal does not take place in one foundry alone. People speak very much of T`ang-chi in Ch`u.9 The warm air on earth has its regions. One dreads to go into the southern sea, for the secretary falcon lives in the south, and he who drinks anything that has been in contact with it, must die. 10
Shên appertains to the dragon and ssĕ to the snake. Shên and ssĕ11 are placed in the south-east. The dragon is poisonous, and the snake venomous, therefore vipers are provided with sharp teeth, and dragons with an indented crust. Wood engenders fire, and fire becomes poison. Hence the "Green Dragon" holds the "Fire Star" in its mouth. 12
Wild dolichos and croton seed both contain poison, therefore the dolichos grows in the south-east, and croton in the south-west. The frequence of poisonous things depends on the dryness and the humidity of the soil, and the strength of the poison is influenced by the locality, where they have grown. Snakes are like fish, therefore they grow in the grass and in marshes. Bees and scorpions resemble birds and are born in houses and on trees. In Kiang-pei13 the land is dry; consequently bees and scorpions abound there. In Kiang-nan the soil is wet, hence it is a breeding place for great numbers of snakes.
Those creatures growing in high and dry places are like the male principle. The virile member hangs down, therefore bees and scorpions sting with their tails. 14 The creatures living in low and wet places resemble the female principle. The female organ is soft and extensible, therefore snakes bite with their mouths. 15 Poison is either concealed in the head or the tail, whence the bite or the sting becomes venomous, or under the epidermis so that the eating causes stomach-ache, or it lies hidden in the lips and the throat, so that the movement of the tongue does mischief. 16
The various poisons are all grown from the same fluid, and however different their manifestations, internally they are the same. Hence, when a man dreams of fire, it is explained as altercation, and, when he sees snakes in his dreams, they also mean contention. Fire is an emblem of the mouth and the tongue; they appear in snakes likewise, which belong to the same class, have sprung from the same root, and are imbued with the same fluid. Thus fire is equivalent to speed, and speech to bad men. When bad men say strange things, it is at the instigation of their mouths and their tongues, and the utterances of mouth and tongue are provoked by the influence heaven has exercised upon the persons in question. Consequently the second of the five actions is called speech. "The objectionable manifestation of speech is presemptuous error, symbolized by constant sunshine." 17 Presumptious error is extravagant and shining. In the same manner snakes are gaudily ornamented. All ornaments originate from the Yang, which produces them, as it were. Sunshine is followed by talk, which accounts for the weird songs so often heard. 18
The magical force engenders beauty, but the beautiful are very often vicious and depraved. The mother of Shu Hu19 was a beauty. Shu Hsiang's20 mother knew her, and would not allow her to go to the chamber of her husband. Shu Hsiang remonstrated. "In the depths of mountains and in vast marshes dragons and snakes really grow," said his mother. "She is beautiful, but I am afraid, lest she give birth to a dragon or a snake, which would bring mishap upon you. 21 You are of a poor family. In the States great favours are sometimes given, but what can the recipient of such favours do, when he is being slandered by malicious people. How should I be jealous of her?"
She then allowed her to go to her husband's couch, and she begot a son, named Shu Hu. Owing to his beauty and hero-like strength Shu Hu became a favourite of Luan Huai Tse;22 however, when Fan Hsüan Tse expelled Luan Huai Tse,23 he killed Shu Hu, and so brought misfortune upon Shu Hsiang.
The recesses of mountains and vast marshes are the places where dragons and snakes breed. Shu Hu's mother was compared to them, for under her charms the poison lay hidden. She bore a son, Shu Hu, whose beauty consisted in his hero-like strength. This strength grew from his beauty, and the disaster came from his strength.
Fire has splendour, and wood has a pleasant appearance. Dragons and snakes correspond to the east. Wood contains the essence of fire, hence its beautiful colour and graceful appearance. The gall being joined to the liver, courage and strength are produced. The force of the fire is violent, hence the great courage; wood is hard and strong, hence the great strength. When there is any supernatural apparition produced, it is through beauty that it brings about misfortune, and through courage and strength that it injures like poison. All is owing to beauty.
Generous wine is a poison; one cannot drink much of it. The secretion of the bees becomes honey; one cannot eat much of it. A hero conquers an entire State, but it is better to keep aloof from him. Pretty women delight the eyes, but it is dangerous to keep them. Sophists are most interesting, but they can by no means be trusted. Nice tastes spoil the stomach, and pretty looks beguile the heart. Heroes cause disasters, and controversialists do great harm. These four classes are the poison of society, but the most virulent poison of all is that flowing from the mouths of the sophists.
When Confucius caught sight of Yang Hu,24 he retreated, and his perspiration trickled down, for Yang Hu was a glib-tongued man. The poison from a glib tongue makes a man sick. When a man has been poisoned, he dies alone, whereas a glib tongue ruins a whole State. Thus we read in the Shiking:25 ---"Endless are the slanderous reports. They threw four States 26 into confusion." Four States were thrown into confusion, how much more would be a single individual. Therefore a man does not fear a tiger, but dreads the calumniator's mouth, for his mouth contains the worst poison.
1. Hukuang and Chekiang.
3. The country south of the Yangtse, now the provinces Kiangsu, Kiangsi, and Anhui.
4. Cf. p. 202.
5. Kang-hi quotes this passage, but does not say what kind of a fish the "to-shu" is. It may be a variety of the shu, which seems to be a kind of sturgeon.
6. Cf. Shuking (Hung-fan) Pt. V, Bk. IV, 5-6.
7. Another instance of Chinese symbolism, which they mistake for science.
8. Cf. p. 120.
9. A place in Honan celebrated for its foundries. Vid. p. 377.
10. Chên = secretary falcon has become a synonym for poison.
11. The fifth and the sixth of the Twelve Branches (Duodenary Cycle of symbols).
12. The "Green Dragon" is the quadrant or the division of the 28 solar mansions occupying the east of the sky. The "Fire Star" is the Planet Mars. Mars in the quadrant of the "Green Dragon" forebodes war i. e. poison; nothing but inane symbolism. (Cf. Shi-chi chap. 27, p. 6v.)
13. The country north of the Yangtse, now the northern parts of the provinces Kiangsu and Anhui.
14. Which hang down likewise.
15. Which are soft and extensible.---To such ineptitudes even the most elevated Chinese minds are led by their craze of symbolisation.
16. The mischief done by the tongue in speaking, which is not only compared to, but identified with poison.
17. Shuking (Hung-fan) Pt. V, Bk. IV, 34.
18. Cf. p. 246 and above p. 300.
19. A half-brother of Shu Hsiang. His mother was a concubine of Shu Hsiang's father.
20. An officer of Chin.
21. Being an exceptional woman by her beauty, she would give birth to an extraordinary son---a dragon, and it would be dangerous for an ordinary man like her son Shu Hsiang to be a blood relation of such an extraordinary person, since fate likes to strike the exalted.
22. Quoted from the Tso-chuan, Duke Hsiang, 21st year (551 b.c.).
23. Two noblemen of Chin, cf. p. 206.
24. A powerful, but unworthy officer in Lu.
25. Shiking Pt. II, Bk. VII, 5.
26. Modern commentators explain the expression as meaning "the four quarters of the empire."
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|