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論說之家著於書記者皆雲：“天雨穀者凶。”傳書曰：“蒼頡作書，天雨穀，鬼夜哭。”此方兇惡之應。和者，天用成穀之 道，從天降而和，且猶謂之善，況所成之穀從雨下乎！極論訂之，何以為凶？夫陰陽和則谷稼成，不則被災害。陰陽和者，穀之道也，何以 謂之凶？
Chapter XVI. Fictitious Prodigies (Yi-hsü).
At the time of the emperor Kao Tsung of the Yin dynasty a mulberry and a paper-mulberry tree 1 grew together in his court. 2 After seven days, they were so thick already, that they would take two hands to span them. Kao Tsung summoned his physiognomist and asked him about it. The physiognomist replied that, though he knew, he could not tell it. Then Tsu Chi was questioned, who said, "The mulberry and the paper-mulberry are wild plants; their growing in the court denotes the down-fall of the dynasty."
Kao Tsung terrified began to practise virtue with stooping body. He would ponder over the government of former kings, illustrate the principle of feeding the old, regenerate extinguished States, re-establish the succession of extinct princely houses, and raise obscure scholars. Upon this the two trees died. Three years later, the princes of six States appeared at his court with interpreters, 3 and subsequently he enjoyed a hundred years of happiness. 4
Kao Tsung was a wise sovereign. Alarmed at the growth of the two trees, he interrogated Tsu Chi. Following his counsel, he reformed his administration and personally changed his proceedings. The prodigy of the two trees then disappeared, the princes offered their allegiance, and he reigned many years. Owing to the earnestness of his reforms, plenty of lucky auguries and blessings came down upon him. This is a fiction.
Tsu Chi declared that the down-fall of the dynasty was impending. The ruin of a dynasty is like the death of an individual. A man being about to die, miracles appear. When a dynasty is on the verge of ruin, its time is up, and when a man expires, his fate is fulfilled. After his death he does not live again, nor does he continue to exist after his departure. How could Tsu Chi's reference to the government 5 have averted the ruin, or how could Kao Tsung's reforms have helped to avoid the disaster? A private person, beholding horrid signs, does not obtain luck by doing good; how then should Kao Tsung, on perceiving the prodigy, be able to avert the misfortune by changing his government? It being impossible to avert misfortune, how can the six States have been attracted, and how the king's life been prolonged up to a hundred years?
Human life and death depend on the length of the span, not on good or bad actions, and so is the subsistence and decay of a State determined by the duration of its time, 6 not by the management or mismanagement of affairs. Tsu Chi explained the mulberry and paper-mulberry as an augury of decay. When this sign of ruin had already appeared, the discharge of filial duties was of no avail. What evidence can we adduce?
Under Duke Chao of Lu a mainah appeared and built its nest. 7Shi Chi traced up a queer ditty of boys of the time of Wên and Ch`êng referring to the mainah, and seeing that now it really had come and built its nest, he explained it as a bad omen. Subsequently Duke Chao was expelled by the Chi family and retreated to Ch`i. His dukedom in fact became empty and desolate, and his capital deserted. The appearance of the wild bird, which built its nest, was in Shi Chi's opinion indicative of misfortune, and so he explained it.
If Duke Chao, upon hearing Shi Chi's interpretation, had reformed and improved his administration, following Kao Tsung's example, he would, after all, not have succeeded in breaking the spell, because the portent of the queer saying concerning the mainah had already appeared, and the calamity of the duke's flight was already completed, for this portent of the mainah had become manifest during the time of Duke Wên and Ch`êng. If a branch has leaves, why should it not blossom? And if a' spring pours out its water, why should it not grow? 8
But this event is of comparatively recent date and may not suffice to bear out our thesis. When the downfall of the Hsia dynasty was imminent, two dragons fought together in the court. They spat their saliva and vanished. The king of Hsia preserved it in a casket. The Hsia were destroyed and succeeded by the Yin, and the Yin were destroyed and succeeded by the Chou. They all did not open the casket, until under king Yu9 it was opened and inspected. The saliva oozed out in the court and was transformed into a black lizard, which slipped into the seraglio, where it had commerce with a woman. This, later on, resulted in the birth of Pao Sse.10
When Pao Sse was introduced into the palace of Chou, King Li11 became stultified by her, and the State went to rack and ruin. The time from the age of Kings Yu and Li to the Hsia epoch was more than a thousand years; 12 when the two dragons struggled, Yu, Li, and Pao Sse were not yet born. The presage of the destruction of the Chou dynasty already appeared long before it came to pass.
When a bad augury comes forth, the calamity cannot but be completed, and when a lucky sign appears, felicity is sure to arrive. If the two dragons, at the time of their contest, said that they were two princes of Pao,13 this was a proof of the future birth of Pao Sse. The dragons bearing the name of Pao, Pao Sse could not help being born, and she being born, King Li could not help being depraved, and he being depraved, the State could not avoid being ruined. The signs were there, and even if the Five Sages 14 and the Ten Worthies 15 had interceded to remove them, all their endeavours to blot them out would have been in vain.
Good and evil are similar so far. When good omens come forth, a State is sure to flourish, and when evil ones become visible, a dynasty must needs perish. To say that evil portents can be removed by good actions, is like affirming that good auspices can be wiped away by bad government.
The Yellow River springs from the K`un-lun, and then branches off into nine channels. Should Yao and Yü have attempted to turn the waters back by their excellent administration, they would have been utterly powerless to make them revert, for such is the nature of water, that human force cannot stop it. The springs of the Yellow River could not be stopped, and the two dragons not be removed. Accordingly, it was impossible to prevent the mulberry and the paper-mulberry trees from growing.
A king's life about to prosper is like the breath of spring becoming summer, and his death like the autumnal air becoming winter. Beholding the leaflets of spring, one knows that in summer there will be stalked leaves, and viewing the dropping fruit in autumn, one foresees the dried branches of winter. A propos of the growth of the mulberry and the paper-mulberry, it is also quite plain that they must be like the vernal leaves and the autumnal fruit. How could they be removed by a thorough overhauling of the government and personal reforms?
Now, the presage of the down-fall of the Chou dynasty appeared already in the Hsia epoch; how do we know but that the growth of the two trees was denoting the fall of King Chou?16 Perhaps Tsu Chi believed in the explanation of wild plants which he gave, but did not estimate the distance of time correctly. Kao Tsung, having questioned Tsu Chi, took to doing good, his body bent down, and accidentally the princes of the six States arrived at his court. Kao Tsung's life was naturally long and not yet near its close; then people said that, after the inquiry concerning the two trees, he changed his government, reformed his own conduct, and enjoyed a hundred years of happiness.
The mulberry and paper-mulberry grew most likely for Chou's sake, or perhaps they were lucky and not inauspicious, wherefore the Yin dynasty did not decline, and Kao Tsung's life lasted long. Tsu Chi, however, trusting in his interpretation that they were wild plants, declared them to be signs of an impending catastrophe.
At the time of the Han emperor, Hsiao Wu Ti, a white unicorn was caught. It had two horns, but they touched. The gentleman-usher Chung Chün was called upon to give his opinion. "It is a wild animal," he said, "its horns joined together as the land under heaven unites and forms one whole." 17
The unicorn is a wild animal, and the mulberry and paper-mulberry trees are wild plants. Both being wild, what difference is there between the animal and the plants? Chung Chün pronounced the animal to be auspicious, but Tsu Chi held the wild plants to be inauspicious.
When Kao Tsung was sacrificing in the temple of Ch`êng T`ang, a pheasant came flying along, alighted on the tripod, and screamed. Tsu Chi saw in it the announcement of the arrival of men from distant lands. 18 The commentators of the Shuking, on the other hand, regard pheasants as inauspicious. Both views are conflicting. According to Tsu Chi's statement the arrival of pheasants is propitious.
Pheasants hide amidst wild plants, which screen the bodies of wild birds. If people live in a straw hut, can they be said to be auspicious, but their cottage to be inauspicious? When such people go into the capital, they are not held to be inauspicious. 19 Why then cannot wild plants growing in a court be propitious? Pheasants must, in this respect, be treated like men. 20
If living creatures with blood in their veins are held to be auspicious, then the arrival of a tall Ti21 would be so as well, why then call it unlucky? Should all that comes from the I and the Ti22 not be auspicious, the visit of Ko Lu of Chieh23 at court must have been unlucky. If, however, plants and trees are believed to be unpropitious, then the appearance of the "vermilion grass" and of the "monthly plant" were not auspicious.
The vermilion grass and the monthly plant are both herbaceous; they should grow in the country and, if they grow in court, it is not auspicious. Why then are they looked upon as lucky omens? According as a wild growing thing comes or goes, it is treated either as lucky or unlucky. If the vermilion grass and the monthly plant are believed to be auspicious, owing to their excellence, then the presage depends on goodness or badness, and their quality is not influenced by the site of their growth, whether it be in the capital or in the country.
During the Chou period, universal peace reigned throughout the empire. The Yueh-ch`ang24 presented the Duke of Chou with pheasants. Kao Tsung likewise obtained one, which he regarded as lucky. A pheasant is also a creature living in the grass and in the country, for what reason is it considered to be a good omen? If it is on account of a portion of the character chih (pheasant) 25 bearing a resemblance to shih (a scholar), 26 then there is also a likeness between a deer, chün,28 and a superior man, chün.29
Kung-Sun Shu30 got a white stag; wherefore did he explain it as an unlucky augury? Ergo we come to the conclusion that it is impossible to know whether a pheasant be propitious or not, nor can we prove whether the meaning of a mulberry and a paper-mulberry be good or bad.
Perhaps they were something good, intimating that scholars from afar would walk into the temple of Kao Tsung, therefore the latter obtained luck and happiness, which he enjoyed ever so long.
Those arguing on calamitous prodigies stand convinced that Heaven makes use of calamitous phenomena for the purpose of rebuking the emperor. When the emperor has faults, prodigies appear in the State. If he does not change, calamities become visible on plants and trees, if he does not change then, they manifest themselves on the Five Grains, and should he not reform even then, they attain his own person. 31
The "Spring and Autumn" of Tso Ch`iu Ming says that there are few States which have not five harvests, when they are going to perish. Calamities become visible on the Five Grains; how then can they grow ripe? Their not ripening is a sign of impending ruin, for ruin is likewise a feature of calamity, to which the not ripening of the Five Grains corresponds. When Heaven does not mature them, this may be a calamity or a blessing, 32 happiness and misfortune are therefore difficult to distinguish, and what is said about the mulberry and the paper-mulberry cannot be correct.
The theorists all write in their books 33 and their notes that, when Heaven rains grain, this is an ill omen, and in various books and chronicles we read that, [when Tsang Hsieh invented writing, Heaven rained grain, and the ghosts cried during the night.] 34 This must be accounted a lugubrious prodigy; why did Heaven use something so harmonious to produce it? The production of grain is a kind gift from Heaven, very harmonious and also looked upon as something excellent. And the grain produced came down following upon rain? If we thoroughly go into the matter, for what reason must it be an ill omen? When the Yin and the Yang harmonise, the harvest grows, otherwise it is spoiled by calamities and disasters. The harmony of Yin and Yang resulting in the production of grain, how can it be called inauspicious?
Raw silk is wrought into pongees, and of hempen threads cloth is made. To present a man with silk and hemp is already conferring a valuable gift upon him, but how much more precious would be silken fabrics and woven cloth? Silk and hemp correspond to the Yin and the Yang, pongees and cloth are like the ripe grain. A present of pongees cannot be called bad, why then should grain, this heavenly gift, be considered unlucky? Since the good or bad presage of raining grain cannot be made out, the statement about the mulberry and the paper-mulberry must also remain doubtful.
If "fragrant grass" grew in the Chou epoch, at times of universal peace people would have brought presents of this grass with them. It also grows in the open country exactly like the mulberry and the paper-mulberry. If the I and the Ti had presented it, it would have been lucky, but should it have grown in the court of Chou, would it also have been deemed good?
Fragrant grass can be used for the distillation of spirits, its perfume being very intensive. By pouring out this perfumed wine at sacrifices, the spirits are called down. Provided that this grass had spontaneously grown in the court of Chou, it would not have been different from auspicious grain, vermilion grass, or the monthly plant. 35
Furthermore, mulberry trees feed the silk-worms, which make silk. This silk is worked into pongees, and these pongees, into dresses. Clad in these robes, people enter the ancestral temple, using them as court-dresses. The evolution is similar to that of the fragrant grass, why then are those trees held to be a bad augury?
When the heir-son of Duke Hsien of Wei36 arrived at the Spirit Tower, a snake wriggled round the left wheel of his chariot. The charioteer said to him, "Prince descend and pay your respects. I have heard say that, when a snake curls round the left cartwheel of the son of the chief of a State, he will soon be seated on the throne." --- But the Prince did not descend and returned to his residence.
The charioteer called upon him, and the prince said, "I have heard say that a man's son lives in perfect accord with his master. He does not cherish selfish desires and receives his commands with reverence and awe. He does nothing which might impair the health of the sovereign. If I now come into possession of the State, the sovereign must lose his health. To see only the lustre of the crown and forget the welfare of the ruler is not what a son ought to do. That I prostrate myself, in order to come to the dukedom, would hardly be according to the sovereign's wishes. He who disobeys the duties of a son, is undutiful, and he who acts contrary to the wishes of his sovereign, is not loyal. And yet you desire me to do it? The dangers of my wishing to assume the reins of government are evident enough."
Then he tried to commit suicide by jumping down from the palace. His charioteer attempted to stop him, but in vain. He threw himself into his sword and gave up his ghost. 37
If the curling of a snake round the left wheel really implied the speedy accession of the prince, he ought not to have died, and Duke Hsien should have expired at once. Now the duke did not die, but the crown-prince fell into his sword. Therefore the explanation of the charioteer was the idle talk of common people.
Perhaps the snake foreshadowed the imminent death of the prince, and the charioteer, placing confidence in the popular interpretation, failed to grasp the real meaning of the portent. The growth of the mulberry and paper-mulberry resembles the snake curling round the left wheel. As a matter of fact, its arrival was unlucky, but the charioteer fancied it to be lucky, and so the two trees were in fact auspicious, but Tsu Chi thought them of ill omen.
[When Yü, on his journey south, crossed the Yangtse, a yellow dragon carried his boat on its back. The men in the boat turned pale as ashes, 38 but Yü was amused and said laughing, "I have received the decree of Heaven and harrass myself to succour the thousands of people. My life lasts awhile, and death is a return. It being but a return, how can it upset my serenity? I look upon a dragon as a lizard." Then the dragon disappeared.] 39
In ancient and modern times the arrival of a dragon is commonly regarded as something very lucky, Yü alone declared a yellow dragon to be a bad presage, and when they saw it lifting the boat, the men in the boat took fright.
The mulberry and the paper-mulberry may be compared with the dragon, for, though their auguries be reversed, there is still a similarity. Wild plants growing in court are held to be unlucky, but, there being an extraordinary case like the yellow dragon carrying the boat, they became lucky, and the Yin dynasty did not perish.
Duke Wên of Chin was going to try issues with King Ch`êng of Ch`u at Ch`êng-p`u,40 when a "broom star" 41 proceeded from Ch`u, which held its stick. 42 The matter was referred to Chiu Fan,43 who replied, "In fighting with brooms he who turns them round wins."
Duke Wên dreamt that he was wrestling with King Ch`êng, who gained the upper hand, and sucked his brains. Chiu Fan being questioned, rejoined, "Your Highness could look up to Heaven, while Ch`u was bending down under the weight of its guilt. The battle will prove a great victory." 44
The duke followed his advice and completely defeated the army of Ch`u. Had Duke Wên consulted an ordinary officer previously, he would certainly have denied the possibility of a victory, for a broom star is inauspicious, and the upper hand in wrangling not an adverse prognostic.
The mulberry and the paper-mulberry were pronounced ill-omened, as the fact of Chin being opposite to the besom and the duke's succumbing in the struggle, were deemed bad auguries. These trees were significant of luck all the same, like the curious phenomena of being over against the broom star and looking up to Heaven, whence Kao Tsung's long reign and the salvation of the Yin dynasty.
If Duke Wen had not asked Chiu Fan, if the latter had not been aware of the lucky augury, and if then a great victory had been won, the people would have urged that, by virtue of his extreme wisdom, Duke Wên had worsted iniquitous Ch`u, and that, in spite of the prodigy appearing in the sky and of the horrible dream, the adverse presage and the unfavourable portent were wiped out and dispersed, and happiness secured. The Yin could not boast of a man with Chiu F`an's extraordinary knowledge, having only their Tsu Chi, who shared the common prejudices. Accordingly the narrative of the two trees has been handed down without ceasing, and up to the present day the notion that misfortune can be transmuted into happiness has not yet been rectified.
1. . For the last character, Giles No. 6229, (Giles 6228) = Broussonetia papyrifera should be written.
2. Cf. Vol. I, p. 328, Notes 1 and 2.
3. They were non-Chinese States requiring interpreters to offer their submission.
4. The same legend is referred to in the Preface to the Shuking, 22 (Legge, Classics Vol. III, Part I, p. 6), in the Bamboo Annals, and in the Shi-chi chap. 3, p. 7r. and chap. 28, p. 2r. But in all these texts the phenomenon is said to have happened under the reign of T`ai Mou, 1637-1563 b.c. who consulted his minister Yi Chih. In the Shi-chi the two trees got a circumference of two spans in one evening.
5. Ed. B.: , ed. A. and C. have: .
6. Which is fixed beforehand.
7. See p. 3, Note 1.
8. The queer ditty portending the duke's disaster had developed, so to speak, and become realised as naturally as leaves blossom, and water flowing from a spring swells and grows.
9. This seems to be a mistake. The Shi-chi writes king Li (Chavannes Mêm. Hist. Vol. I, p. 282). He reigned from 878-828 b.c., king Yu from 781-771.
10. Cf. Vol. I, p. 321.
11. This must be king Yu, whose favourite Pao Sse became.
12. That is not quite correct. The Hsia dynasty came to a close in b.c. 1766.
13. See Vol. I, p. 230, Note 5.
14. The Five Sages are:---Yao, Shun, Yü, T`ang, and Wên Wang.
15. Ten Worthies are mentioned in Chinese literature but for more recent times, and we do not know whom Wang Ch`ung had in view.
16. , the last ruler of the Hsia dynasty.
17. Cf. chap. XXVIII.
18. See chap. XXVIII.
19. Pheasants cannot be looked upon as inauspicious because they hide among wild plants, as men do not become so, by living in a cottage and in the country.
20. They are not to be taken for bad omens.
21. Cf. Vol. I, p. 486, Note 3.
22. Wild tribes in the West and the North.
23. Cf. p. 122, Note 2. The homage of this chieftain to the Duke of Lu was, on the contrary, believed to be a good augury.
24. See Vol. I, p. 505, Note 2, where this people is called instead of .
26. . There being no resemblance of shape, Wang Ch`ung presumably means to say that the two phonetics and , both = shih27 , are similar.
30. A Han general of the 1st cent. b.c. who conquered Ssechuan and proclaimed himself emperor of Shu, and took white as his imperial colour.
31. This theory is explained and combatted in the chapter "On Reprimands" in Vol. I, p. 119 seq.
32. Five harvests being foreboding the ruin of a State, the not ripening of cereals ought to be a lucky augury; conversely, an impending calamity affects the grain, so that is does not ripen. Then its not ripening is a bad augury as well. Such contradictions should have shown Wang Ch`ung the futility of such researches.
33. (Ed. B.) better than (Ed. C.).
34. See Vol. I, p. 244, Note 3. The passage is quoted from Huai Nan Tse VIII. 5r.
35. All these plants pass for auspicious portents.
36. 576-559 b.c.
37. This story is referred to in the Hsin-hsü of Liu Hsiang (T`aip`ing-yü-lan).
39. Quoted from Huai Nan Tse VII, 8v. See also Vol. I, p. 352, Note 1. Huai Nan Tse has the following conclusion: "He did not change countenance. Then the dragon dropped its ears, wagged its tail, and fled".
40. The site is not certain. It was either in the prefecture of K`ai-fêng-fu (Honan) or in Ts`ao-chou-fu (Shantung). The battle took place in b.c. 632. Cf. Ch`unch`iu, Duke Hsi 28th year.
41. , a comet.
42. I. e., the stick or the tail of the comet was turned towards the kingdom of Ch`u.
43. An officer of Chin.
44. Cf. Vol. I, p. 189, Note 6.
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