1 he principal data of Wang Ch'ung's life are furnished by his autobiography and by the biographical notice in chapter 79 p. 1 of the Hou Han-shu, the History of the Later Han Dynasty, which was written by Fan Yeh in the 5th cent. a.d. and commented on by Prince Chang Huai Hsien of the T'ang dynasty. There we read:
" Wang Ch'ung, whose style was Chung Jen, was a native of Shung-yü in Kuei-chi. His forefathers had immigrated from Yuan- ch'êng in the Wei circuit. As a boy he lost his father and was commended in his village for his filial piety. Subsequently he repaired to the capital, where he studied at the academy.
The book of Yuan Shan Sung says that Wang Ch'ung was a very precocious youth. After having entered the academy, he composed an essay on six scholars on the occasion of the emperor visiting the Imperial College.
His teacher was Pan Piao from Fu-feng. He was very fond of extensive reading, but did not trouble much about paragraphs or sentences. His family being poor, he possessed no books. Therefore he used to stroll about the market-place and the shops in Loyang and read the books exposed there for sale. That which he had once read, he was able to remember and to repeat. Thus he had acquired a vast knowledge of the tenets of the various schools and systems. Having returned to his native place, he led a very solitary life as a teacher. Then he took office in the prefecture and was appointed secretary, but in consequence of frequent remonstrances with his superiors, disputes, and dissensions with his colleagues, he had to quit the service.
Wang Ch'ung had a strong penchant for discussions. At the outset, his arguments would often appear rather queer, but his final conclusions were true and reasonable. Being convinced that the ordinary savants stuck too much to the letter, and thus would mostly lose the true meaning, he shut himself up for meditation, and no longer observed the ceremonies of congratulation or condolence. Everywhere near the door, the windows, and on the walls he had his knives and pens placed, with which he wrote the Lun-hêng in 85 chapters containing over 200,000 words.
Yuan Shan Sung says in his book that at first the Lun-hêng written by Wang Ch'ung was not current in the central provinces. When T'sai Yung came to Wu, he discovered it there, and used to read it secretly as a help to conversation. Afterwards Wang Lang became prefect of K'uei-chi, and likewise got into possession of the book. On his return to Hsu-hsia his contemporaries were struck with the great improvement of his abilities. Some one remarked that, unless he had met with some extraordinary person, he must have found some extraordinary book. They made investigations, and found out that in fact it was from the Lun-hêng that he had derived this advantage. Thereupon the Lun-h'êng came into vogue. Pao P'u Tse relates that his contemporaries grudged T'sai Yung the possession of a rare book. Somebody searched for it in the hiding place behind his curtains, and there in fact found the Lun-hêng. He folded some chapters together in order to take them away, when Ts'ai Yung proposed to him that they should both keep the book, but not divulge its contents.
He explained the similarities and the diversities of the different classes of things, and settled the common doubts and errors of the time.
The governor Tung Ch'in made him assistant-magistrate. Later on he rose to the rank of a sub-prefect. Then he retired and returned home. A friend and fellow-countryman of his Hsieh I Wu addressed a memorial to the throne, in which he recommended Wang Ch'ung for his talents and learning.
In the book of Hsieh Ch'eng it is stated that in recommending Wang Ch'ung, Hsieh I Wu said that his genius was a natural gift and not acquired by learning. Even Mencius and Sun Ching in former times, or Yung Hsiung, Liu Hsiang, or Sse ma Ch'ien more recently in the Hun epoch could not surpass him.
Su Tsung commanded a chamberlain to summon Wang Ch'ung into his presence, but owing to sickness, he could not go. When he was nearly seventy years of age, his powers began to decline. Then he wrote a book on " Macrobiotics " in 16 chapters, and refraining from all desires and propensities, and avoiding all emotions, he kept himself alive, until in the middle of the Yung-yuan period, when he died of an illness at his home."
By his own testimony Wang Ch'ung was born in the third year of the Chien-wu cycle, i. e. in a.d. 27, in Shang-yü-hsien, the present Shao-hsing-fu of the province of Chekiang. His family had originally been residing in Yuan-ch'eng = Ta-ming-fu in Chihli. His father's name was Wang Sung. Owing to their violent temper his ancestors had several times been implicated in local feuds, which are still now of frequent occurrence in Fukien and Chekiang, and were compelled to change their domicile. Wang Ch'ung's critics are scandalized at his coolly telling us that his great-grandfather behaved like a ruffian during a famine, killing and wounding his fellow-people.
If Wang Ch'ung's own description be true, he must have been a paragon in his youth. He never needed any correction neither at the hands of his parents nor of his teachers. For his age he was exceptionally sedate and serious. When he was six years old, he received his first instruction, and at the age of 8 he was sent to a public school. There the teacher explained to him the Analects and the Shuking, and he read 1,000 characters every day. When he had mastered the Classics, one was astonished at the progress he made, so he naively informs us. Of his other attainments he speaks in the same strain and with the same conceit. The Hon Han-shu confirms that he was a good son.
Having lost his father very early, he entered the Imperial College at Loyang, then the capital of China. His principal teacher was the historian Pan Piao, the father of Pin Ku, author of the History of the Former Han dynasty. In Loyang he laid the foundation of the vast amount of knowledge by which he distinguished himself later on, and became acquainted with the theories of the various schools of thought, many of which he vigorously attacks in his writings. His aim was to grasp the general gist of what he read, and he did not care so much for minor details. The majority of the scholars of his time conversely would cling to the words and sentences and over these minutiæ quite forget the whole. Being too poor to buy all the books required to satiate his hungry for knowledge, he would saunter about in the marketplace and book-shops, and peruse the books exposed there for sale, having probably made some sort of agreement with the booksellers, who may have taken an interest in the ardent student. His excellent memory was of great service to him, for he could remember, even repeat what he had once read. At the same time his critical genius developed. He liked to argue a point, and though his views often seemed paradoxical, his opponents could not but admit the justness of his arguments.
Having completed his studies, Wang Ch'ung returned to his native place, where he became a teacher and lived a very quiet life. Subsequently he took office and secured a small position as a secretary of a district, a post which he also filled under a military governor and a prefect. At last he was promoted to be assistant-magistrate of a department. He would have us believe that he was a very good official, and that his relations to his colleagues Mere excellent. The Hou Han-shu, on the other hand, tells us that he remonstrated so much with his superiors and was so quarrelsome, that he had to leave the service. This version seems the more probable of the two. Wang Ch'ung was much too independent, much too outspoken, and too clever to do the routine business well, which requires clerks and secretaries of moderate abilities, or to serve under superiors, whom he surpassed by his talents. So he devoted himself exclusively to his studies, he lived in rather straitened circumstances, but supported his embarrassments with philosophical equanimity and cheerfulness. "Although he was poor and had not an acre to dwell upon, his mind was freer than that of kings and dukes, and though he had no emoluments counted by pecks and bushels, he felt, as if he had ten thousand chung to live upon. He enjoyed a tranquil happiness, but his desires did not run riot, and though he was living in a state of poverty, his energy was not broken. The study of ancient literature was his debauchery, and strange stories his relish." He had a great admiration for superior men, and liked to associate with people rising above mediocrity. As long as he was in office and well off, he had many friends, but most of them abandoned him, when he had retired into private life.
In A.D. 86 Wang Ch'ung emigrated into the province of Anhui, where he was appointed sub-prefect, the highest post which he held, but two years only, for in 88 he gave up his official career, which had not been a brilliant one. The reason of his resignation this time seems to have been ill health.
So far Wang Ch'ung had not succeeded in attracting the attention of the emperor. An essay which he had composed, when the Emperor had visited the college of Loyang, had passed unnoticed. In the year 76, when parts of Honan were suffering from a great dearth, Wang Chung presented a memorial to the Emperor Chang Ti in which he proposed measures to prohibit dissipation and extravagancies, and to provide for the time of need, but his suggestions were not accepted. He did not fare better with another anti-alcohohc memorial, in which he advocated the prohibition of the use of spirits. When finally the Emperor became aware of Wang Ch'ung, it was too late. A friend and a countryman of his, Hsieh I Wu recommended him to the throne for his talents and great learning, saying that neither Mencius or hsüm Tse nor in the Han time Yang Hsiung, Liu Hsiang or Sse Ma Ch'ien could outshine him. The Emperor Chang Ti (76-88 a.d.) summoned him to his presence, but owing to his ill-health Wang Ch'ung had to decline the honour. His state had impaired so much, that already in 89 he thought that his end had come. But the next two years passed, and he did not die. He found even the time to write a book on " Macrobiotics," which he put into practice himself, observing a strict diet and avoiding all agitations in order to keep his vital fluid intact, until he expired in the middle of the Yung-yuan period (89-104) about the year 97. The exact year is not known.
Wang Ch'ung's last work, the Yang-Hsing-shu or Macrobiotics in 16 chapters, which he wrote some years before his death, has been mentioned. His first productions were the Chi-su-chieh-yi " Censures on Common Morals " in 12 chapters and the Chêng-wu, a book on Government, both preceding his principal work, the Lun-hêng, in which they are several times referred to in the two biographical chapters.
Wang Ch'ung wrote his "Censures" as a protest against the manners of his time with a view to rouse the public conscience. He was promoted to write this work by the heartlessness of his former friends, who abandoned him, when he was poor, and of the world in general. To be read and understood by the people, not the literati only, he adopted an easy and popular style. This appears to have been contrary to custom, for he thought it necessary to justify himself (p. 71).
The work on government owes its origin to the vain efforts of the Imperial Government of his time to administer the Empire. They did not see their way, being ignorant of the fundamental principles (p. 70). From the Chêng-wu. the territorial officials were to learn what they needed most in their administration, and the people should be induced " to reform and gratefully acknowledge iIm' kindness of the government "" (p. 90).
These three works: the Macrobiotics, the Censures on Morals, and the work on Government have all been lost, and solely the Lun-hêng has come down to us. Whereas the Chi-su-chieh-yi censures the common morals, the Lun-hêng = Disquisitions tests and criticises the common errors and superstitions, the former being more ethical, the latter speculative. Many of these errors are derived from the current literature, classical as well as popular. Wang Ch'ung takes up these books and points out where they are wrong. He avoids all wild speculations, which he condemns in others, so he says (p. 91). The Lun-hêng is not professedly a philosophical work, intended to set forth a philosophical system, but in confuting and contesting the views of others, Wang Ch'ung incidentally develops his own philosophy. In this respect there is a certain resemblance with the Theodicee of Leibniz, which, strictly speaking, is a polemic against Bayle. Wang Ch'ungs aim in writing the Lun-hêng was purely practical, as becomes plain from some of his utterances. " The nine chapters of the Lun-hêng on Inventions, and the three chapters of the Lun-hêng on Exaggerations, says he, are intended to impress people, that they must strive for truthfulness." Even such high metaphysical problems as that of immortality he regards from a practical point of view. Otherwise he would not write, as he does: — "I have written the essays on Death and on the False Reports about Death to show that the deceased have no consciousness, and cannot become ghosts, hoping that, as soon as my readers have grasped this, they will restrain the extravagance of the burials and become economical " (p. 90).
From a passage (Chap. X.XXVIII) to the effect that the reigning sovereign was continuing the prosperity of Kuang Wu Ti (25-57a.d.) and Ming Ti (58-75) it appears that the Lun-hêng was written under the reign of the Emperor Chang Ti viz. between 76 and 89 A.D. From another remark that in the Chiang-Jui chapter (XXX) the auspicious portents, of the Yuan-ho and Chang-ho epochs (84-86 and 87-88) could not be mentioned, because of its being already completed, we may infer that the whole work was finished before 84. Thus it must date from the years 76-84 a.d.
The Lun-hêng in its present form consists of 30 books comprising 85 chapters or separate essays. Ch'ien Lung's Catalogue (Sse-k'u-chüan-shu-tsung-mu chap. 120 p.1) shows that we do not possess the Lun-hêng in its entirety. In his autobiography Wang Chung states that his work contains more than a hundred chapters (p. 78), consequently a number of chapters must have been lost. The 85 chapters mentioned above are enumerated in the index
preceding the text, but of the 44th chapter " Chao-chih " we have merely the title, but not the text so, that the number of chapters really existing is reduced to 84. The chapters exceeding 85 must have already been lost in the first centuries, for we read in the Hou Han-shu of the 5th cent. a.d. that Wang Ch'ung wrote the Lun- hêng in 85 chapters.
Some interesting data about the history of the text are furnished in another History of the Later Han Dynasty, the Hou Han-shu of Yuan Shan Sung of the Chin epoch (265-419 a.d.), who lived anterior to Fan Yeh, the author of the officially recognised History of the Later Han. Yuan Shan Sung's History was in 100 books (cf. Li tai ming hsien lieh nü shih hsing pu chap. 44, p. 35 v.), but it has not been incorporated into the Twenty-four dynastic Histories. Yuan Shan Sung, whose work is quoted by several critics, informs us that at first the Lun-hêng was only current in the southern provinces of China where Wang Chung had lived. There it was discovered by T'sai Yung (133-192 a.d.) a scholar of note from the north, but instead of communicating it to others, he kept it for himself, reading it secretly " as a help to conversation " i. e. he plundered the Lun-hêng to be able to shine in conversation. Another scholar, Wang Lang of the 2nd and 3d cent. a.d. is reported to have behaved in a similar way, when he became prefect of K'uei-chi, where he found the Lun-hêng. His friends suspected him of having come into possession of an extraordinary book, whence he took his wisdom. They searched for it and found the Lun-hêng, which subsequently became universally known. The Taoist writer Ko Hung of the 4th cent, a.d., known as Pao F u Tse, recounts that the Lun-hêng concealed by T'sai Yung was discovered in the same way. At all events T'sai Yung and Wang Lang seem to have been instru mental in preserving and transmitting the Lun-hêng.
In the History of the Sui dynasty (580-618 a.d.), Sui-shu chap. 34 p. 7v., an edition of the Lun-hêng in 29 books is mentioned, whereas we have 30 books now. The commentary to this passage observes that under the Liang dynasty (502-556 a.d.) there was the Tung-hsü in 9 books and 1 book of Remarks written by Ying Feng, but that both works are lost. They seem to have been treatises on the Lun-hêng, of which there are none now left. The Catalogue of the books in the History of the Tang dynasty (Ch'ien T'ang-shu chap. 47 p. 8) has the entry: — " Lun-hêng 30 books."
At present the Lun-hêng forms part of the well known collection of works of the Han and Wei times, the Han Wei tsung-shu dating from the Ming dynasty. The text of the Lun-hêng contained
in the large collection of philosophical works, the Tse shu po chia, is only a reprint from the Han Wei tsug-shu. In his useful little biographical index, Shu-mu-tang wên, Chang Chili Tung records a separate edition of the Lun-hêng printed under the Ming dynasty. I have not seen it and do not know, whether it is still to be found in the book-shops, and whether it diflers from the current text. In the many quotations from the Lun-hêng of the T'ai-ping Yi'i Ian (9th cent, a.d.) there is hardly any divergence from the reading of our text. A commentary to the Lun-hêng has not been written.
In the appreciation of his countrymen Wang Ch'ung does not rank very high. Chao Kung M'u (I2th cent, a.d.) opines that the Lun-hêng falls short of the elegant productions of the Former Han epoch. Another critic of the 12th cent., Kao Sse Sun is still more severe in his judgment. He declares the Lun-hêng to be a medley of heterogeneous masses, written in a bad style, in which morality does not take the place it ought. After his view the Lun- hêng would have no intrinsic value, being nothing more than a "help to conversation." Wang Fo Hou and others condemn the Lun-hêng on account of the author's impious utterances regarding his ancestors and his attacks upon the Sage Confucius. That he criticised Mencius might be excused, but to dare to find fault with Confucius is an unpardonable crime. That mars the whole work.
In modern times a change of opinion in favour of Wang Ch'ung seems to have taken place. In his Prefatory Notice to the Lun- hêng, Yu Chun Hsi pours down unrestricted praise upon him. "People of the Han period, he remarks, were fond of fictions and fallacies. Wang Ch'ung pointed out whatever was wrong: in all his arguments he used a strict and thorough method, and paid special attention to meanings. Rejecting erroneous notions he came near the truth. Nor was he afraid of disagreeing with the worthies of old. Thus he furthered the laws of the State, and opened the eyes and ears of the scholars. People reading his books felt a chill at first, but then they repudiated all falsehood, and became just and good. They were set right, and discarded all crooked doctrines. It is as if somebody amidst a clamouring crowd in the market-place lifts the scale : then the weights and prices of wares are equitably determined, and every strife ceases."
To a certain extent at least the Ch'ien Lung Catalogue does him justice, while characterising his strictures on Confucius and Mencius and his disrespect towards his forefathers as wicked and perverse, its critics still admit that in exposing falsehoods and denouncing what is base and low. he generally hits the truth, and
that by his investigations he has done much for the furtherance of culture and civilization. They conclude by saying that, although Wang Ch'ung be impugned by many, he will always have admirers.
I presume that most Europeans, untrammelled by Chinese moral prejudices, will rather be among his admirers, and fall in with Mayers speaking of Wang Ch'ung as "a philosopher, perhaps the most original and judicious among all the metaphysicians China has produced, . . . who in the writings derived from his pen, forming a work in thirty books, entitled Critical Disquisitions ' Lun- hêng,' handles mental and physical problems in a style and with a boldness unparallelled in Chinese literature" [Readers Manual N. 795).
The first translator of the two chapters on Confucius and Mencius and of the autobiography, Hutchinson, says of the Lun- hêng: — "The whole book will repay perusal, treating as it does of a wide range of subjects, enabling us to form some idea of the state of the Chinese mind at the commencement of the Christian era.
The subjects (treated) are well calculated to enlist the interest of the student and would most probably shed much light upon the history of Chinese Metaphysics" (China Review vol. Vll, p.40)
In my opinion Wang Ch'ung is one of the greatest Chinese thinkers. As a speculative philosopher he leaves Confucius and Mencius, who are only moralists, far behind. He is much more judicious than Lao Tse, Chuang Tse, or Mê Ti. We might perhaps place him on a level with Chu Hsi, the great philosopher of the Sung time, in point of abilities at least, for their philosophies differ very much.
In most Chinese works Wang Ch'ung is placed among the Miscellaneous Writers or the Eclectics '' Tsa Chia,'' who do not belong to one singly school, Confucianism, Mehism, or Taoism, but combine the doctrines of various schools. Wang Ch'ung is treated as an Eclectic in the histories of the Sui dynasty and the T'ang dynasty, in Ch'ien Lungs Catalogue, and in the Tse-shu-po-chia. Chang Chih Tung, however, enumerates him among the Confucianists, and so does Faber (Doctrines of Confucius p. 31). Although he has not been the founder of a school, I would rather assign to him a place apart, to which his importance as a philosopher entitles him. it matters not that his influence has been very slight, and that the Chinese know so little of him. His work is hardly read, but is extensively quoted in dictionaries and cyclopedias. At any rate Wang Ch'ung is more of an Eclectic than a Confucianist. The Chinese
qualify as ''Tsa Chia'' all those original writers whom they cannot place under any other head. Wang Ch'ung seems to regard himself as a Confucianist. No other philosopher is more frequently mentioned by him than Confucms, who, though he finds fault with him here and there, is still, in his eyes, the Sage. Wang Ch'ung is most happy, when he can prove an assertion by quoting the authority of Confucius. This explains how he came to be classed by others with the Confucianists.
At first sight Wang Ch'ung's philosophy might seem dualistic, for he recognises two principles, which are to a certain extent opposed to each other, the Yang and the Yin fluid. But, although the former, which is conceived as forming heaven as well as the human mind, be more subtle than the latter, from which the earth has been created, yet it is by no means immaterial. Both these principles have been evolved from Chaos, when the original fluid became differentiated and split into two substances, a finer one, Yang, and a coarser one, Yin. We do not find a purely spiritual or transcendent correlate to these two substances such e. g. as Tao, the all-embracing mystical force of the Taoists, or Li " Reason," which in Chu Shi's system rules over Matter "Ch'i." and thus makes this system truly dualistic. Even Fate, which takes such a pro- minent place in Wang Ch'ung's philosophy, has been materialised by him, and it is hardly anything more than a sort of a natural law. We cannot be far wrong, if we characterise his philosophy as a materialistic monism.
Compared with western thought Wang Ch'ung's system bears some resemblance to the natural philosophy of Epicurus and Lucretius. In the East we find some kindred traits among the Indian mate- rialists, the Charvâkas.
Epicurus attaches great importance to physics. The knowledge of the natural causes of things shall be an antidote against super- stitions. Wang Ch'ung likewise takes a lively interest in all physical problems, and tries to base his arguments on experience, as far as possible. He wishes to explain all natural phenomena by natural causes. His method is quite modern. If he often falls into error nevertheless, it is not so much owing to bad reasoning as to the
poor state of Chinese science at his time. He regards many things as proved by experience, which are not, and in spite of his radicalism lhas still too much veneration for the sayings of old classical authors. Wang Ch'ung's views agree, in many respects, with the Epi- curean Physics. But not with its Eudæmonology and Sensualism, liis Ethics being totally different. Ethical Epicureanism has its representative in China in the pre-Christian philosopher Yang Chu, who seems to have concerned himself with Ethics exclusively, whereas Wang Ch'ung has especially devoted himself to the study of meta- physical and physical questions. The professed aim of the philo- sophy of Epicurius is human happiness. By delivering them from errors and superstitions he intends to render people happy. Wang Ch'ung likewise hopes to do away with all inventions, fictions, and falsehoods, but in doing so he has truth, and not so much happi- ness in view.
The pivots of Wang Ch'ung's philosophy are Heaven and Earth, which have been formed of the two fluids, Yang and Yin. " The fluids of the Yin and Yang, he says, are the fluids of Heaven and Earth " (Chap. XXX). These two principles are not of Wang Ch'ung's invention, they are met with in ancient Chinese literature, in the Yiking and the Liki for instance (see Tchou Hi, Sa Doctrine et son influence, par S. Le Gall, Chang-hai 1894, p. 35).
Earth is known to us, it has a material body like man (p. 93), but what are we to understand by Heaven? Is it a spirit, the Spirit of Heaven or God, or merely an expanse of air, the Blue Empyrean, or a substance similar to that of Earth? Wang Ch'ung considers all these possibilities and decides in favour of the last. " Men are created by heaven, why then grudge it a body? " he asks. " Heaven is not air, but has a body on high and far from men " (Chap. XIX). " To him who considers the question, as we have done, it becomes evident that heaven cannot be something diffuse and vague." His reasons are that heaven has a certain distance from earth, which by Chinese mathematicians has been calculated at upwards of 60,000 li, and that the constellations known as the solar mansions are attached to it. These arguments seem strange to us now, but we must bear in mind that the Greeks, the Babylonians, and the Jews held the similar views, regarding heaven as an iron or a brazen vault, the '' firmament " to which the sun, the moon, and the stars were fixed, or supposing even quite a number of celestial spheres one above the other, as Aristotle does.
With regard to the origin of the universe Wang Ch'ung simply adopts the old creation theory, on which he writes as follows: — " The commentators of the Yiking say that previous to the separ- ation of the primogenial vapours, there was a chaotic and uniform mass, and the books of the Literati speak of a wild medley, and of air not yet separated. When it came to be separated, the pure elements formed heaven, and the impure ones, earth. According to the expositors of the Yiking and the writings of the Literati the bodies of heaven and earth, when they first became separated, were still small, and they were not far distant from each other " (loc. cit.). In conformity with this view Heaven and Earth were originally one viz. air or vapour. This theory must be very old, for it is already alluded to in the Liki, and the Taoist philosopher Lieh Tse of the 5th cent, b.c, who gives the best exposition of it, seems to refer it to the sages of former times. The passage is so interesting, that I may be permitted to quote it in full: —
"The teacher Lieh Tse said: — The sages of old held that the Yong and the Yin govern heaven and earth. Now, form being born out of the formless, from what do heaven and earth take their origin? It is said: — There was a great evolution, a great inception, a great beginning, and a great homogeneity. During the great evolution, Vapours were still imperceptible, in the great inception Vapours originate, in the great beginning Forms appear, and during the great homogeneity Substances are produced."
" The state when Vapours, Forms, and Substances though existing were still undivided, is called Chaos, which designates the conglomeration and inseparability of things. ' They could not be seen though looked at, not be heard though listened to, and not be attained though grasped at,' therefore one speaks of (incessant) evolution. Evolution is not bound to any forms or limits."
" Evolution in its transformations produces one, the changes of one produce seven, the changes of seven produce nine. Nine is the climax, it changes again, and becomes one. With one forms- begin to change."
" The pure and light matter becomes the heaven above, the turbid and heavy matter forms the earth below. The mixture of their fluids gives birth to man, and the vitalizing principle of heaven and earth creates all beings " (Lieh Tse I, 2).
In the Liki we read: — "Propriety must have sprung from the Great One. This by division became Heaven and Earth, and by transformation the Yin and the Yang'' (Legge's Liki. Vol. I, p. 386).
It is curious to note the similarity of the Epicurean cosmogony with that of the ancient Chinese. Lucretius sings: —
" Quippe etenim primum terrai corpora quæque, propterea quod erant gravia et perplexa, coibant in medio atque imas capiebant omnia sedes; quæ quanto magis inter se perplexa coibant, tam magis expressere ea quae mare sidera solem luamque efficerent et magni moenia mundi: omnia enim magis hsec e levibus atque rotundis seminibus multoque minoribu' sunt elementis quam tellus, ideo, per rara foramina, terrae partibus erumpens primus se sustulit æther ignifer et multos secum levis abstulit ignis."
and further on: —
" Sic igitur terræ concreto corpore pondus constitit, atque omnis mundi quasi limus in imum confluxit gravis et subsedit funditus ut fæx ; inde mare, inde aër, inde æther ignifer ipse corporibus liquidis sunt omnia pura relicta et leviora aliis alia, et liquidissimus aether atque levissimus ærias super influit auras, nee liquidum corpus turbantibus aeris auris commiscet."
(Liter. Y, 439-449; 485-493.)
The principle of division is the same: — the light primary bodies Wang Ch'ung and the Chinese cosmogonists term Yang, the heavy ones they designate by Yin. Only in respect of the line of demarcation the Epicureans and the Chinese differ, for, whereas the former regard earth alone as heavy and water, air and ether as light matter, the Chinese comprise earth and water under the term Yin, and air and fiery ether under Yang. From various utter- ances of Wang Ch'ung it would appear that he conceives the Yang as a fiery and the Yin as a watery element, in short that Yang is fire and Yin water. This would tolerably well account for the formation of the universe. Fire forms the sun, the moon, and the other luminaries of Heaven, while from water and its sediments Earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere are developed. "The solar fluid is identical with the heavenly fluid" (('hap. XVI II), says Wang Ch'ung, and: — " Rain is Yin, and brightness Yang, and conversely cold is Yin. and warmth is Yang'' (Chap. XXI).
The other attributes given by Wang Ch'ung to the Yang and the Yin principles are merely the qualities of fire and water. The
Yang, the fiery ether or the solar fluid, is bright, i. e. light (Chap. XX), warm (Chap. XXI), dry (Chap. XVIIl), virifying, and creative (Chap. XXI). The Yin, rain or water, is dark, cold, wet, and destructive (p. 111). By itself water possesses neither light nor warmth, and may well be called dark and cold.
There is not a strict separation of the fluids of Heaven and Earth, they often mix and permeate one another. Heaven as well as Earth enclose air (Chap. XIX). The immense mass of air forming the gaseous part of Heaven, which, as we have seen, is credited with a body, is called sky (p. 113).
Now, whereas Earth rests motionless in the centre of the world. Heaven revolves around it, turning from east to west. This movement is explained as the emission of the heavenly fluid which, however, takes place spontaneously. Spontaneity is another corner-stone of Wang Ch'ung's system. It means that this move- ment is not governed by any intelligence or subservient to the purposes of any spiritus rector, but is solely regulated by its own inherent natural laws. The same idea is expressed in Mâdhavâcharya's Sarca-Darsana Sangraha :
"The fire is hot, the water cold, refreshing cool the breeze of morn. By whom came this variety? From their own nature was it born."
(Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha, translated by E. B. Cowell and A. E. Gough, London 1882, p. 10.)
Wang Ch'ung admits that he has adopted the principle of spontaneity from the Taoists, who however, have not sufficiently substantiated it by proofs (p. 97). He shows that Heaven cannot display a conscious activity like man, because such activity is evoked by desires and impulses, which require organs: — the eye, the mouth, etc. The heavenly fluid is not a human body with eyes and ears, but a formless and insensible mass (p. 93). The observation of the natural growth of plants and of the regularity of other natural phenomena precluding the idea of special designed acts, has confirmed our philosopher in his belief in spontaneity. "The principle of Heaven is inaction," he says. ''Accordingly in spring it does not do the germinating, in summer the growing, in autumn the ripening, or in winter the hiding of the seeds. When the Yang fluid comes forth spontaneously, plants will ger- minate and grow of themselves and, when the Yin fluid rises, they ripen and disappear of their own accord " (p. 99),
The movement of the Yin fluid is spontaneous likewise. " Heaven and Earth cannot act, nor do they possess any know-
ledge" (p. 101). They are not inert, but their activity is uninten- tional and purposeless. Thus spontaneity is the law of nature.
From this point of view Wang Ch'ung characterises the fluid of Heaven as ''placid, tranquil, desireless, inactive, and unbusied" (p. 93), all attributes ascribed by the Taoists to their Mundane Soul, Too.
At all times Heaven has been personified and deified. With the Chinese as well as with us Heaven has become a synonym for God. Wang Ch'ung notices that human qualities have been attributed to him. We see in him the Father of Mankind, the Chinese an emperor, the " Supreme Ruler," Shang Ti. He lives in heaven like a king in his palace, and governs the world (Chap. XXC) meting out rewards and punishments to mankind, rewarding the virtuous (p. 160), and punishing the wicked (p. 1()4). He reprimands the sovereigns on earth for their misrule by means of extraordinary natural phenomena, and, unless they reform, visits them and their people with misfortune (p. 126). Thunder is his angry voice, and with his thunderbolt he strikes the guilty (Chap. XXII).
Regarding Heaven as nothing else than a substance, a pure and tenuous fluid without a mind, Wang Ch'ung cannot but reject these anthropomorphisms. Heaven has no mouth, no eyes: it does not speak nor act (p. 183), it is not affected by men (p. 110), does not listen to their prayers (p. 113), and does not reply to the questions addressed to it (p. 184).
By a fusion of the fluids of Heaven and Earth all the organ- isms on earth have been produced (p. 104). Man does not make an exception. In this respect Heaven and Earth are like husband and wife, and can be regarded as the father and the mother of man- kind (Chap. XX). The same idea has been enunciated by Lucretius: —
"Postremo pereunt imbres, ubi eos pater æther in gremium matris terrai prsæcipitavit : at nitidæ surgunt fruges, ramique virescunt arboribus, crescunt ipsæ fetuque gravantur."
(Lucr. I, 250-253.)
and further on: —
" Denique cælesti sumus omnes seniine oriundi: omnibus ille idem pater est, unde alina liquentis umoris guttas mater cum terra recepit, feta parit nitidas fruges arbustaque læta, et genus humanum parit, onmia sercula ferarum, pabula cum præbet, quibus omnes corpora pascunt et dulcem ducunt vitam prolemque propagant; quapropter merito maternum nomen adeptast."
(Lucr. n, 988-995.)
Wang Ch'ung compares the creation of man to the freezing of ice. He is the produce of the mixture and concretion or cry- stallization of the two primary fluids: — "During the chilly winter months the cold air prevails, and water turns into ice. At the approach of spring, the air becomes warm, and the ice melts to water. Man is born in the universe, as ice is produced so to speak. The Yang and the Yin fluids crystallize, and produce man. When his years are completed, and his span of life comes to its end, he dies and reverts to those fluids " p. 196).
The Yin forms the body, and the Yang produces the vital spirit and the mind. Both are identical, Wang Ch'ung does not discriminate between the anima and the animus: — "That by which man is born are the Yang and the Yin fluids: the Yin fluid produces his bones and flesh, the Yang fluid the vital spirit. While man is alive, the Yang and Yin fluids are in order. Hence bones and flesh are strong-, and the vital force is full of vigour. Through the vital force he has knowledge, and with his bones and flesh he displays strength. The vital spirit can speak, the body continues strong and robust. While bones and flesh and the vital spirit are entwined and linked together, they are always visible and do not perish" (Chap. XVIII)."
Man is imbued with the heavenly or vital fluid at his birth. It is a formless mass like the yolk of an egg, before it is hatched, showing in this respect the nature of the primogenial vapours, from which it has been derived (p. 199). There is no difference between the vital forces of man and animals. They have the same origin. The vital fluid resides in the blood and the arteries, and is nour- ished and developed by eating and drinking (p. 194). It has to fulfil two difficult functions, to animate the body and keep it alive, and to form its mind. All sensations are caused by the vital fluid: — "When the vital fluid is thinking or meditating, it flows into the eyes, the mouth or the ears. When it flows into the eyes, the eyes see shapes, when it flows into the ears, the ears hear sounds, and, when it flows into the mouth, the mouth speaks something" (Chap. XVIII). Wang Ch'ung imagines that all sensations are produced in their organs by the vital fluid, which must be the mental power as well, since it thinks and meditates. Insanity is defined as a disturbance of the vital force (end.). There are no supernatural mental faculties and no prophets or sages knowing the future or possessing a special knowledge derived from any other source than the vital force (p. 61). It is also the will, which causes the mouth to speak. As such it determines the character,
which in Wang Ch'ung's belief depends upon its quantity (Chap. XXXI). As vital energy it modifies the length of human life, which ceases, as soon as this energy is used up (Chap. XXVII).
From what our author says about ghosts and spirits in parti- cular, which consist of the Yang fluid alone without any Yin, we can infer that he conceived of the human soul also as an aura, a warm breath identical to a certain extent with the solar fluid.
It is easy to see, how the Chinese came to denote the body as Yin and the soul as Yang — I believe that these notions were al- ready current at Wang Ch'ung's time, who only took them up. The body is formed of a much coarser stuff than the soul, consisting as it does of solid and liquid matter. Therefore they presume that it must have been produced from the heavier and grosser substance, the Yin, while the purer and lighter Yang formed the soul. A living body is warm, warmth is a quality of the Yang fluid, consequently the vital force must be Yang. The mind en- lightens the body, the Yang fluid is light as well, ergo the mind is the Yang fluid. The last conclusion is not correct, the mind not being a material light, but a Chinese would not hesitate to use such an analogy: their philosophy abounds with such symbolism.
The ideas of the Epicureans on the nature of the soul agree very well with Wang Ch'ung's views. According to Epicurus the soul is a tenuous substance resembling a breath with an admixture of some warmth, dispersed through the whole organism: — ή ψυχή σώμά έστι λεπτομερές, παρ όλου τό άξροισμα παρσπαρμένον, προσεμΦέστατυ δέ πνεύματι ξερμού τινα κράσιν έχοντι (Diog. Lacert. X, 63) .
Elsewhere the soul is described as a mixture of four sub- stances: a fiery, an aeriform, a pneumatical, and a nameless one, which latter is said to cause sensations: — κράμα έκ τεττάρων， έκ ποιού πνρώδους，έκ ποιού άερώδνς， έκ ποιού πνενματικού， έκ τετάρτου τινός άκα τουμάστου IV, 3).
Lucretius says that the soul consists of much finer atoms than those of Mater, mist or smoke, and that it is produced, grows, and ages together with the body (Lucr. Ill, 425-427, 444-445). When a man dies, a fine, warm, aura leaves his body (III, 232).
As regards man's position in nature Wang Ch'ung asserts that he is the noblest and most intelligent creature, in which the mind of Heaven and Earth reach their highest development (Chap. XLllI); still he is a creature like others, and there exists no fundamental difference between him and other animals (p. 202). Wang Ch'ung likes to insist upon the utter insignificance of man, when com- pared with the immense grandeur of Heaven and Earth. It seems
to have given him some satisfaction to put men, who are living on Earth, on a level with fleas and lice feeding upon the human body, for we find this drastic simile, which cannot have failed to hurt the feelings of many of his self-sufficient countrymen, repeated several times (p. 183, Chap. XXVI). In short, according to Wang Ch'ung man does not occupy the exceptional position in the world which he uses to vindicate for himself. He has not been created on purpose, as nothing else has, the principle of nature being chance and spontaneity (p. 103). The world has not been created for the sake of man. " Some people," remarks Wang Ch'ung, " are of opinion that Heaven produces grain for the purpose of feeding mankind, and silk and hemp to clothe them. That would be tantamount to making Heaven the farmer of man or his mulberry girl, it would not be in accordance with spontaneity " (p. 92). As an argument against the common belief that Heaven produces his creatures on purpose, he adduces the struggle for existence, for says Wang Chimg: — " If Heaven had produced its creatures on ])urpose, he ought to have taught them to love each other, and not to prey upon and destroy one another. One might object that such is the nature of the five elements that, when Heaven creates all things, it imbues them with the fluids of the five elements, and that these fight together and destroy one another. But then Heaven ought to have filled its creatures with the fluid of one element only, and taught them mutual love, not permitting the fluids of the five elements to resort to strife and mutual destruction" (p. 104).
Here again Wang Ch'ung is in perfect accord with the Epi- cureans. Epicurus asserts that nothing could be more preposterous than the idea that nature has been regulated with a view to the well-being of mankind or with any purpose at all. The world is not as it ought to be, if it had been created for the sake of man, for how could Providence produce a world so full of evil, where the virtuous so often are maltreated and the wicked triumph? (Zeller, Philosophie der Griechen, HI. Teil, 1. Abt., 1880, pp. 398 sec[. and 428.)
The same sentiment finds expression in the following verses of the Epicurean poet: —
" Nam quamvis rerum ignorem primordia quæ sint, hoc tamen ex ipsis cæli rationibus ausim confirinare aliisque ex rebus reddere multis, nequaquam nobis divinitus esse creatam naturain mundi: tanta slat prædita culpa."
(Lucr. n, 177-181 and V, 185-189.)
Although man owes his existence to the Yang and the Yin fluids, as we have seen, he is naturally born by propagation from his own species. Heaven does not specially come down to generate him. All the stories of supernatural births recorded in the Classics, where women were specially fecundated by the Spirit of Heaven, are inventions (p. 48). Human life lasts a certain time, a hundred years at most, then man dies (p. 46). A prolongation of life is impossible, and man cannot obtain immortality (p. 50): — "Of all the beings with blood in their veins, says our philosopher, there are none but are born, and of those endowed with life there are none but die. From the fact that they were born, one knows that they must die. Heaven and Earth were not born, therefore they do not die. Death is the correlate of birth, and birth the counter- part of death. That which has a beginning must have an end, and that which has an end, must necessarily have a beginning. Only that which is without beginning or end, lives for ever and never dies " (Chap. XXVHI).
To show that the human soul is not immortal and does not possess any personal existence after death Wang Ch'ung reasons as follows: — During life the Yang fluid, i. e. the vital spirit or the soul, adheres to the body, by death it is dispersed and lost. By its own nature this fluid is neither conscious, nor intelligent, it has no will and does not act, for the principle of the Yang or the heavenly fluid is unconsciousness, inaction, and spontaneity. But it acquires mental faculties and becomes a soul by its temporary connection with a body. The body is the necessary substratum of intelligence, just as a fire requires a substance to burn. By death " that which harbours intelligence is destroyed, and that which is called in- telligence disappears. The body requires the fluid for its mainten- ance, and the fluid the body to become conscious. There is no fire in the world burning quite of itself, how could there be an essence without a body, but conscious of itself " (p. 195). The state of the soul after death is the same as that before birth. " Before their birth men have no consciousness. Before they are born, they form part of the primogenial fluid, and when they die, they revert to it. This primogenial fluid is vague and diffuse, and the human fluid a part of it. Anterior to his birth, man is devoid of con- sciousness, and at his death he returns to this original state of unconsciousness, for how should he be conscious? " (p. 194.)
Wang Ch'ung puts forward a number of arguments against immortality. If there were spirits of the dead, they would certainly manifest themselves. I hey never do, consequently there are none
(p. 193). Other animals do not become spirits after death, where- Ibre should man alone be immortal, for though the most highly organised creature, still he is a creature and falls under the general laws (p. 191). The vital spirit or soul is affected by external in- tluencos, it grows by nourishment, relaxes, and becomes unconscious by sleep, is deranged and partly destroyed by sickness, and the climax of sickness, death, which dissolves the body, should not affect it at all? (p. 196.)
At all times the dogma of immortality has been negatived by materialistic philosophers. The line of arguments of the Greek as well as the Indian materialists is very much akin to that of Wang Ch'ung. Epicurus maintains that, when the body decays, the soul be- comes scattered, and loses its faculties, which cannot be exercised in default of a body:— καί μήυ καί διαλνομέυου τού όλου άξρίσματος ή ψυχή διασπείρεται καί ούκέτι έχει τάς αύτάς δυνάμεις ούδέ κινειται, ώστ ούδ αίσζησιν κέκτηται. ού γάρ οίον τε νοείν αύτήν αίσζανομένην, μή έν τούτω τώ συστήματι καί ταίς κινήσεσι ταύταις χρωμένην, οταν τά στεγάζοντα καί περιέχουτα μή τοιαϋτ ή οίς υύυ ούσα έχει ταύτας τάς κυήσεις (Diog. Laert. X, 65-66).
He adds that an immaterial essence can neither act nor suffer, and that it is foolish to say that the soul is incorporeal: — τό δέ κύτε ποιήσαι ούτε παζείν δύναται …. οί λέγοντες άσώματου είαι τήν ψυχήν ματαίζουσιν.
From the fact that the vital fluid is born with the body, that it grows, develops, and declines along with it, Lucretius infers that the fluid must also be dissolved simultaneously with the body, scattered into the air like smoke: —
" ergo dissolvi quoque convenit omnein animal naturam, ceu funius, in altas aeris auras; quandoquidem gigni pariter pariterque videmus crescere et, ut dociu, simul ævo fessa fatisci."
(Lucr. in, 455-458.) What Wang Ch'ung asserts about the influence of sickness on the soul (p. 196), Lucretius expresses in the following pathetic verses: — " Quin etiam morbis in corporis avius errat sæpe animus: denientit enim deliraque fatur, interdumque gravi lethargo fertur in altum æternumque soporeni oculis nutuque cadenti; unde neque exaudit voces nee noscere voltus ilforum potis est, ad vitam qui revocantes circum slant lacrinus rorantes ora genasque, (juare aninium quoque dissolvi fateare necessest, quandoquidein penetrant in earn contagia morbi."
(Lucr. m, 463-471.)
The interaction of body and mind, which thrive only, as long as they are joined together, and both decay, when they have been separated, the poet describes as follows: —
" Denique corporis atque animi vivata potestas inter se coniuncta valent vitaque fruuntur: nee sine corpore enim vitalis edere motus sola potest animi per se natura nec autem cassum animi corpus durare et sensibus uti."
(Lucr. m, 556-560.)
As the tree does not grow in the sky, as fish do not live on the fields, and as blood does not run in wood, thus the soul cannot reside anywhere else than in the body, not in the clods of earth, or in the fire of the sun, or in the water, or in the air (Lucr. V, 133-134) and, when the body dies, it must become annihilated likewise.
" Denique in æthere non arbor, non æquore salso nubes esse queunt, nec pisces vivere in arvis, nee cruor in lignis neque saxis sucus inesse. certum ac dispositunist ubi quicquid crescat et insit. sic animi natura nequit sine corpore oriri sola neque a nervis et sanguine longiter esse."
(Lucr. III, 781-786.)
" quare, corpus ubi interiit, periisse necessest confiteare animam distractam in corpore toto."
(Loc. cit. 795-796.)
Of the Chârvâkas it is said by Sankara that " seeing no soul, but body, they maintain the non-existence of soul other than body." — " Thought, knowledge, recollection, etc. perceptible only where organic body is, are properties of an organized frame, not appartaining to exterior substances, or earth and other elements simple or aggregate, unless formed into such a frame."
" While there is body, there is thought, and sense of pleasure and pain, none when body is not, and hence, as well as from self- consciousness it is concluded that self and body are identical." (H. T. Colebroke Miscellaneous Essays, vol. II, p. 428 seq.)
The dictum that everyone is the child of his time applies to Wang Ch'ung also, free-thinker though he be. He has thrown over board a great many popular beliefs and superstitions, but he could not get rid of all, and keeps a good deal. His veneration of anti- quity and the sages of old is not unlimited, but it exists and in- duces him to accept many of their ideas, which his unbiassed critical genius would probably have rejected. Like the majority
of his countrymen he believes in Fate and predestination. However, his Fate is not Providence, for he does not recognise any Superior Being governing the world, and it has been considerably mate- rialised. On a rather vague utterance of Tse Hsia, a disciple of Confucius, who probably never thought of the interpretation it would receive at the hands of Wang Ch'ung, he builds his theory: — "Life and death depend on Destiny, wealth and honour come from Heaven " (Analects XH, 5). The destiny, says Wang Ch'ung, which fixes the duration of human life, is the heavenly fluid, i. e. the vital force, with which man is imbued at his birth. This fluid forms his constitution. It can be exuberant, then the constitution is strong, and life lasts long; or it is scanty, then the body becomes delicate, and death ensues early. This kind of Fate is after all nothing else than the bodily constitution (pp. 138 and 46). In a like manner is wealth and honour, prosperity and unhappiness transmitted in the stary fluid, with which men are likewise filled at their birth. "Just as Heaven emits its fluid, the stars send forth their effluence, which keeps amidst the heavenly fluid. Imbibing this fluid men are born, and live, as long as they keep it. If they obtain a fine one, they become men of rank, if a common one, common people. Their position may be higher or lower, and their wealth bigger or smaller" (p. 138). Consequently this sort of Fate determining the amount of happiness which falls to man's share during his life-time, depends on the star or the stars under which he has been born, and can be calculated by the astrologers. This science was flourishing at Wang Ch'ung's time and officially recognised. On ail important occasions the court astrologers were consulted.
Now, Fate, whether it be the result of the vital force or of the stary fiuid, is not always definitive. It may be altered or modified by various circumstances, and only remains unchanged, if it be stronger than all antagonistic forces. As a rule " the destiny regulating man's life-time is more powerful, than the one presiding over his prosperity " (p. 137). If a man dies suddenly, it is of no use that the stary fluid had still much happiness in store for him. Moreover " the destiny of a State is stronger than that of individuals " (loc. cit.). Many persons are involved in the dis- aster of their country, who by Heaven were predetermined for a long and prosperous life.
The circumstances modifying man's original fate are often denoted as Time. Besides Wang Ch'ung distinguishes Contingencies, Chances, and Incidents, different names for almost the same idea (i). 142). These incidents may be happy or unhappy, they may
tally with the original destiny or disagree with it, completely change it, or be repulsed. If an innocent man be thrown into jail, but is released again, this unlucky contingency was powerless against his favourable destiny; whereas, when hundreds or thou- sands perish together in a catastrophe " the disaster they met with was so paramount that their good fate and thriving luck could not ward it off" (eod.).
We see Wang Ch'ung's Fate is not the inexorable decree of Heaven, the είμαρμένη of the Greeks, the dira necessitas, or the patristic predestination, being partly natural (vital fluid), partly supernatural (stary fluid), and partly chance.
Epicurus impugns fatalism, and so does Mê Ti and his school on the ground that fatalism paralyzes human activity and is sub- vertive of morality. There were scholars at Wang Ch'ung's time who attempted to mitigate the rigid fatalism by a compromise with self- determination. They distinguished three kinds of destiny: — the natural, the concomitant, and the adverse. Natural destiny is a destiny not interfered with by human activity. The concomitant destiny is a combination of destiny and activity both working in the same direction, either for the good or for the bad of the individual, whereas in the adverse destiny the two forces work in opposite directions, but destiny gets the upper hand (p. 138).
Wang Ch'ung repudiates this scholastic distinction, urging that virtue and wisdom, in short that human activity has no influence whatever on fate, a blind force set already in motion before the new- born begins to act (p. 141). There is no connection and no harmony between human actions and fate. Happiness is not a reward for virtue, or unhappiness a punishment for crimes. Wang Ch'ung ad- duces abundance of instances to show, how often the wise and the virtuous are miserable and tormented, while scoundrels thrive and flourish (Chap. XII). Therefore a wise man should lead a tranquil and quiet life, placidly awaiting his fate, and enduring what cannot be changed (p. 145).
In the matter of Fate Wang Ch'ung shares all the common prejudices of his countrymen. Fate, he thinks, can be ascertained by astrology and it can be foreseen from physiognomies, omens, dreams, and apparitions of ghosts and spirits. There are special soi-disant sciences for all these branches: — anthroposcopy, divination, oneiromancy, necromancy, etc.
Anthroposcopy pretends to know the fate not only from man's features and the lines of his skin (p. 47), but also from the osseous structure of the body and particularly from bodily abnormities
(Chap. XXTV). Many such instances have been recorded in ancient Chinese books. Of features the physiognomists used to distinguish 70 different classes (p. 72). In accordance with this theory Wang Ch'ung opines that the vital fluid, the bearer of destiny, finds ex- pression in the forms and features of the body, and can be read by the soothsayers. He remarks that a person's character may likewise be determined from his features, but that no regular science for this purpose has been developed (Chap. XXIV).
Of Omens or Portents there are auspicious and inauspicious ones, lucky or unlucky auguries. Freaks of nature, and rare speci- mens, sometimes only existing in imagination, are considered auspi- cious e. g. sweet dew and wine springs believed to appear in very propitious times, in the vegetable kingdom: — the purple boletus, and auspicious grass, in the animal kingdom: — the phœnix, the unicorn, the dragon, the tortoise, and other fabulous animals (p. 56). Wang Ch'ung discourses at great length on the nature and the form of these auguries. They are believed to be forebodings of the rise of a wise emperor or of the birth of a sage, and harbingers of a time of universal peace. Those Sages are oftentimes distinguishable by a halo or an aureole above their heads. The Chinese historical works are full of such wonderful signs. But all these omens are by no means intentionally sent by Heaven, nor responses to ques- tions addressed to it by man. They happen spontaneously and by chance (p. 186), simultaneously with those lucky events, which they are believed to indicate. There exists, as it were, a certain natural harmony between human life and the forces of nature, manifested by those omens.
"Dreams, says Wang Ch'ung, are visions. When good or bad luck are impending, the mind shapes these visions" (p. 215). He also declares that dreams are produced by the vital spirit (p. 200), which amounts to the same, for the mind is the vital fluid. In Wang Ch'ung' s time there already existed the theory still held at present by many Chinese that during a dream the vital spirit leaves the body, and communicates with the outer world, and that it is not before the awakening that it returns into the spiritless , body.
Wang Ch'ung combats this view, showing that dreams are images only, which have no reality. He further observes that there are direct and indirect dreams. The former directly show a future event, the latter are symbolical, and must be explained by the oneirocritics.
Wang Ch'ung denies the immortality of the soul, but at the same time he believes in Ghosts and Spirits. His ghosts, however.
are very poor figures, phantoms and semblances still less substantial than the Shades of Hades. They are unembodied apparitions, have no consciousness (p. 194), feel neither joy nor pain, and can cause neither good nor evil (Chap. XLII). They have human shape or are like mist and smoke (Chap. XLIV). The origin of ghosts and spirits is the same as that of the other manifestations of fate: feat- ures, omens, and dreams, namely the solar fluid and the vital force or Yang. " When the solar fluid is powerful, but devoid of the Yi'n, it can merely produce a semblance, but no body. Being nothing but the vital fluid without bones or flesh, it is vague and diffuse, and when it appears, it is soon extinguished again" (Chap. XVIII).
Consequently ghosts and spirits possess the attributes of the solar fluid: — "The fluid of fire flickers up and down, and so phan- toms are at one time visible, and another, not. A dragon is an animal resorting from the Yang principle, therefore it can always change. A ghost is the Yang fluid, therefore it now appears and then absconds. The Yang fluid is red, hence the ghosts seen by people, have all uniform crimson colour. Flying demons are Yang, which is fire. Consequently flying demons shine like fire. Fire is hot and burning, hence the branches and leaves of trees, on which these demons alight, wither and die " (eod.). The solar fluid is sometimes poisonous, therefore a ghost being burning poison, may eventually kill somebody (Chap. XXIII).
Many other theories on ghosts were current at Wang Ch'ung's time, one of which very well agrees with his system, to wit that in many cases ghosts are visions or hallucinations of sick people. Others were of opinion that ghosts are apparitions of the fluid of sickness, some held that they are the essence of old creatures. Another idea was that ghosts originally live in men, and at their deaths are transformed, or that they are spiritual beings not much different from man. According to one theory they would be the spirits of cyclical signs (Chap. XVIII).
According to Wang Ch'ungs idea ghosts and spirits are only one class of the many wonders and miracles happening between heaven and earth. " Between heaven and earth, he says, there are many wonders in words, in sound, and in writing. Either the miraculous fluid assumes a human shape, or a man has it in him- self, and performs the miracles. The ghosts, which appear, are all apparitions in human shape. Men doing wonders with the fluid in them, are sorcerers. Real sorcerers have no basis for what they say, and yet their lucky or unlucky prophecies fall from their lips spontaneously like the quaint sayings of boys. The mouth of boys
utters those quaint sayings spontaneously, and the idea of their oration comes to wizards spontaneously. The mouth speaks of itself, and the idea comes of itself. Thus the assumption of human form by the miracles, and their sounds are spontaneous, and their words come forth of their own accord. It is the same thing in both cases" (loc. cit). The miraculous fluid may also assume the shape of an animal like the big hog foreboding the death of Duke Hsiang of Ch'i (eod.), or of an inanimate thing like the yellow stone into which Chang Liang was transformed (Chap. XXX).
Wang Ch'ung does not discriminate between a transcendental Heaven and a material Sky, He knows but one solid Heaven formed of the Yang fluid and filled with air.
This Heaven appears to us like an upturned bowl or a reclin- ing umbrella, but that, says Wang Ch'ung, is an optical illusion caused by the distance. Heaven and Earth seem to be joined at the horizon, but experience shows us that that is not the case. Wang Ch'ung holds that Heaven is as level as Earth, forming a Hat plain (Chap. XX).
Heaven turns from East to West round the Polar Star as a centre, carrying with it the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. The Sun and the Moon have their own movements in opposite direction, from West to East, but they are so much slower than that of Heaven, that it carries them along all the same. He compares their movements to those of ants crawling on a rolling mill-stone (eod.). Plato makes Heaven rotate like a spindle. The planets take part in this movement of Heaven, but at the same time, though more slowly, move in opposite direction by means of the σφόνδυλοι forming the whirl (Überweg-Heinze, Geschichte der Philosophic, vol. I, p. 180).
Heaven makes in one day and one night one complete circum- volution of 365 degrees. One degree being calculated at 2,000 Li, the distance made by Heaven every 24 hours measures 730,000 Li. The sun proceeds only one degree = 2,000 Li, the Moon 13 degrees -- 26,000 Li. Wang Ch'ung states that this is the opinion of the Literati [eod.]. Heaven's movement appears to us very slow, owing to its great distance from Earth. In reality it is very last. The Chinese mathematicians have computed the distance at upwards of 60,000 Li. The Taoist philosopher Huai Nan Tse avers that it measures 50,000 Li (Chap. XIX).
The body of the Earth is still more solid than that of Heaven and produced by the Yin fluid. Whereas Heaven is in constant motion, the Earth does not move (Chap. XX). It measures 10,000 mill- ion square Li, which would be more than 2,500 million square-km., and has the shape of a rectangular, equilateral square, which is of course level. Wang Ch'ung arrives at these figures in the following- way. The city of Loyang in Honan is by the Chinese regarded as the centre of the world and Annam or Jih-nan as the country over which the sun in his course reaches the southermost point. Annam therefore would also be the southern limit of the Earth. The distance between Loyang and Annam is 10,000 Li. Now, Chinese who have been in Annam have reported that the sun does not reach his south-point there, and that it must be still further south. Wang Ch'ung assumes that it might be 10,000 Li more south. Now Loyang, though being the centre of the known world i. e. China, is not the centre of the Earth. The centre of the Earth must be beneath the Polar Star, the centre of Heaven. Wang Ch'ung supposes the distance between Loyang and the centre of the Earth below the pole to be about 30,000 Li. The distance from the centre of the Earth to its southern limit, the south-point of the sun, thus measuring about 50,000 Li, the distance from the centre to the north-point must be the same. That would give 100,000 Li as the length of the Earth from north to south, and the same number can be assumed for the distance from east to west (Chap. XIX).
The actual world (China) lies in the south-east of the universe (Chap. XX). This peculiar idea may owe its origin to the observation that China lies south of the Polar Star, the centre of Heaven, and that at the east-side China is bordered by the ocean, whereas in the west the mainland continues.
Tsou Yen, a scholar of the 4th cent. b.c. has propounded the doctrine that there are Nine Continents, all surrounded by minor seas, and that China is but one of them, situated in the south-east. Beyond the Nine Continents there is still the Great Ocean. Wang Ch'ung discredits this view, because neither the Great Yü, who is believed to have penetrated to the farthest limits of the Earth and to have written down his observations in the Shan-hai-king, nor Huai Nan Tse, who had great scholars and experts in his service, mention anything about different continents (Chap. XIX).
This Earth is high in the North-West and low in the South- East, consequently the rivers flow eastwards into the ocean (Chap. XX). This remark again applies only to China, which from the table land of Central Asia slopes down to the ocean, where all her big rivers How.
Among the celestial bodies the Sun is the most important. He is a star like the Moon and the Planets, consisting of fire. His diameter has been found to measure 1,000 Li. The Sun follows the movement of Heaven, but has his own at the same time. The common opinion that the sun and the other stars are round is erroneous. They only appear so by the distance. The Sun is fire, but fire is not round. The meteors that have been found, were not round. Meteors are stars, ergo the stars are not round (oc. cit.).
At noon. when the Sun is in the zenith, he is nearer to us than in the morning or the evening, because the perpendicular line from the zenith to the earth is shorter than the oblique lines, which must be drawn at sunrise or sunset. It is for this reason also that the sun is hottest, when he is culminating. That the Sun in the zenith appears smaller than, when he rises or sets, whereas, being nearer then, he ought to be bigger, is because in bright daylight every fire appears smaller than in the darkness or at dawn (eod.).
This question has already been broached by Lieh Tse V, 9 who introduces two lads disputing about it, the one saying that the Sun must be nearer at sunrise, because he is larger then, the other retorting that at noon he is hottest, and therefore must be nearest at noon. Confucius is called upon to solve the problem, but cannot find a solution.
Wang Chung is much nearer the truth than Epicurus, whose notorious argument on the size of the sun and the moon, is not very much to his credit. He pretends that the stars must be about the size, which they appear to us, because fires did not lose anything of their heat, or their size by the distance (Diog. Laerf. X, 91), which is an evident mis-statement. Lucretius repeats these arguments (Lucr. V, 554-582).
The different lengths of day and night in winter and summer Wang Chung attributes to the shorter and longer curves described by the Sun on different days. In his opinion the Sun would take 16 different courses in heaven during the year. Other scholars speak of 9 only (eod.). Wang Ch'ung is well acquainted with the winter and summer Solstices and the vernal and autumnal Equi- noxes (eod.).
Whereas the Sun consists of fire, the Moon is water. Her apparent roundness is an illusion: water has no definite shape (eod.). Of the movement of the Moon we have already spoken. In Chinese natural philosophy the Moon is always looked upon as
the opposite of the Sun. The Sun being the orb of day and light is Yang, fire, consequently the Moon, the companion of night and darkness, must be Yin, water. The Sun appears brilliant and hot like a burning fire, the Moon pale and cool like glistening water. What wonder that the ancient Chinese should have taken her for real water, for Wang Ch'ung merely echoes the general belief.
In the matter of Eclipses Wang Ch'ung does not fall in with the view of many of his time, to the effect that the Sun and the Moon over-shadow and cover one another, nor with another theory explaining the eclipses by the preponderance of either of the two fluids, the Yin or the Yang, but holds that by a spontaneous move- ment of their fluids the Sun or the Moon shrink for a while to expand again, when the eclipse is over. He notes that those eclipses are natural and regular phenomena, and that on an average an eclipse of the Sun occurs every 41 or 42 months, and an eclipse of the Moon every 180 days (eod.).
Epicurus and Lucretius are both of opinion that the fading of the Moon may be accounted for in different ways, and that there would be a possibility that the Moon really decreases i. e. shrinks together, and then increases again (Diog. Laert. X, 95; Lucr. V, 719-724).
Wang Ch'ung is aware that ebb and high-tide are caused by the phases of the Moon, and that the famous "Bore" at Hangchou is not an ebullition of the River, resenting the crime committed on Wu Tse Hsü, who was unjustly drowned in its waters (p. 48).
The Stars except the Five Planets, which have their proper movement, are fixed to Heaven, and turn round with it. Their diameter has been estimated at about 100 Li viz. 1/10 of the diameter of the Sun. That they do not appear bigger to us than eggs is the effect of their great distance (Chap. XX). They are made of the same substances as the Sun and the Moon and the various things, and not of stone like the meteors. They emit a strong light. The Five Planets: — Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn consist of the essence of the Five Elements: — water, fire, wood, metal, and earth. The fact that the Five Planets are in Chinese named after the Five Elements: — The Water Star (Mercury), the Fire Star (Mars), etc. must have led Wang Chung to the belief that they are actually formed of these elements. The language must also be held responsible for another error into which Wang Chung has fallen. He seems to believe that the stars and con- stellations are really what their Chinese names express e. g., that there are hundreds of officials and two famous charioteers in
Heaven, who by emitting their fluid, shape the fate of men, (p. 188) and that the 28 Solar Mansions are actually celestial postal stations (Chap. XIX). It is possible however that the intimations of Wang Ch' ung to this effect are not to be taken literally, and that he only makes use of the usual terminology without attaching to them the meaning which his words would seem to imply. We are some- times at a loss to know, whether Wang Ch'ung speaks his mind or not, for his words are often only rhetorical and dialectical devices to meet the objections of his opponents.
Wang Ch'ung's ideas on Meteors and Shooting Stars are chiefly derived from some classical texts. He comes to the conclusion that such falling stars are not real stars, nor stones, but rain-like phe- nomena resembling the falling of stars (Chap. XX).
Rain is not produced by Heaven, and, properly speaking, does not fall down from it. It is the moisture of earth, which rises as mist and clouds, and then falls down again. The clouds and the fog condense, and in summer become Rain and Dew, in winter Snow and Frost (eod.). There are some signs showing that it is going to rain. Some insects become excited. Crickets and ants leave their abodes, and earth-worms come forth. The chords of guitars become loose, and chronic diseases more virulent. The fluid of rain has this effect (p. 109).
The same holds good for Wind. Birds foresee a coming; storm, and, when it is going to blow, become agitated. But Wang Ch'ung goes farther and adopts the extravagant view that wind has a strange influence on perverted minds, such as robbers and thieves, prompting them to do their deeds, and that by its direction it in- fluences the market-prices. From its direction moreover, all sorts of calamities can be foreseen such as droughts, inundations, epidemics, and war (p. 111). There is a special science for it, still practised to-day by the Imperial Observatory at Peking.
Heat and Cold correspond to fire and water, to the regions, and to the seasons. Near the fire it is hot, near the water, cool. The Yang fluid is the source of heat, the Yin fluid that of cold. The South is the seat of the Yang, the North of the Yin. In sum- mer the Yang fluid predominates, in winter the Yin. The tempe- rature can never be changed for man's sake, nor does Heaven ex- press its feelings by it. When it is cold, Heaven is not cool, nor is it genial and cheerful, when it is warm (Chap. XXI).
When the Yin and the Yang fluids come into collision, we have Thunder and Lightning (p. 126). The fire of the sun colliding with the water of the clouds causes an explosion, which is the
thunder. Lightning is the shooting forth of the exploding air (Chap. XXII, XXIX). Wang Ch'ung alleges 5 arguments to prove that lightning must be fire (Chap. XXII). He ridicules the idea that thunder is Heaven's angry voice, and that with its thunderbolt it destroys the guilty. "When lightning strikes, he says, it hits a tree, da- mages a house, and perhaps kills a man. But not unfrequently a thunder-clap is without effect, causing no damage, and destroying no human life. Does Heaven in such a case indulge in useless anger? " And why did it not strike a fiend like the Empress Lü Hou, but often kills sheep and other innocent animals? (eod.) Lu- cretius asks the same question: —
" Quod si .Tiippiter atque alii fulgentia divi
terrifico quatiunt sonitu cælestia teinpla
et jaciunt ignem quo cjoiquest cumque voluptas,
cur quibus incautum scelus aversabile cumquest
non faciunt icti flammas ut fulguris halent
pectore perfixo, documen mortalibus acre,
et potius nulla sibi turpi conscius in re
volvitur in tlammis innoxius inque peditur
turbine cælesti subito correptus et igni?
cur etiam loca sola petunt frustraque laborant?"
The poet states that tempests are brought about by the con- flict of the cold air of winter with the hot air of summer. It is a battle of fire on the one. and of wind and moisture on the other side. Lightning is fire (eod. 355-375). Thunder is produced by the concussion of the clouds chased by the wind (eod. 94seq.).
In the Lun-hêng, ethical problems take up but a small space. Probably Wang Ch'ung has treated them more in detail in his lost work, the Chi-su-chieh-yi " Censures on Morals." In the Lun-hêng they are touched upon more incidentally.
Men are all endowed with the same heavenly fluid, which becomes their vital force and their mind. There is no fundamental difference in their organisation. But the quantity of the fluids varies, whence the difference of their characters. " The fluid men are endowed with, says Wang Ch'ung, is either copious or deficient. and their characters correspondingly good or bad" (Chap. XXXI). Epicurus explains the difference of human characters by the different mixture by the four substances constituting the soul.
The vital fluid embraces the Five Elements of Chinese natural philosophy : Water, fire, wood, metal, and earth, which form the five Organs of the body: the heart, the liver, the stomach, the lungs, and the kidneys. These inner parts are the seats of the Five Virtues:— benevolence, justice, propriety, knowledge, and truth (p. 105). The Five Virtues are regarded as the elements of human character and intelligence. Thus the quantity of the original fluid has a direct influence upon the character of the person. A small dose produces but a small heart, a small liver, etc. and these organs being small the moral and mental qualities of the owner can be but small, insufficient, bad. The copiousness of the fluid has the opposite result.
The Five Organs are the substrata of the " Five Virtues." Any injury of the former affects the latter. When those organs become diseased, the intellect loses its brightness, and morality declines, and, when these substrata of the mind and its virtues are completely destroyed by death, the mind ceases likewise (p. 195).
Being virtually contained in the vital or heavenly fluid, the Five Virtues must come from Heaven and be heavenly virtues (Chap. XLIII). Heaven is unconscious and inactive, therefore it cannot practise virtue in a human way, but the results of the spon- taneous movement of the heavenly fluid are in accordance with virtue. It would not be difficult to qualify the working of nature as bene- volent, just, and proper, which has been done by all religions, although unconscious benevolence and unconscious justice are queer notions, but how about unconscious knowledge and unconscious truth, the last of the Five Virtues? Wang Ch'ung finds a way out of this impasse: — " The heart of high Heaven, he says, is in the bosom of the Sages," an idea expressed already in the Liki (Cf. Legge's transl. Vol. I, p. 382). Heaven feels and thinks with their hearts (p. 128 seq.). Heaven has no heart of its own, but the heart of the Sages as well as of men in general are its hearts, for they have been produced by the heavenly fluid. This fluid, originally a shapeless and diffuse mass, cannot think or feel by itself. To become con- scious it requires an organism. In so far it can be said that by consulting one's own heart, one learns to know the will of Heaven, that " Heaven acts through man " and that '' when it reprimands, it is done through the mouths of Sages " (eod.).
Wang Ch'ung does not enter upon a discussion on what the moral law really is, and why it is binding. He simply takes the Five Virtues in the acceptation given them by the Confucianists. But he ventilates another question, which has been taken up by
almost all the moralists from Mencius downward, that of the orig- inal goodness or badness of human nature. Wang Ch'ung acquaints us with the different views on this subject. The two extremes are represented by Mencius, who advocates the original goodness, and by Hsün Tse, who insists upon its badness. There are many compromises between these two contrasting theories. Wang Ch'ung himself takes a middle course, declaring that human natural dis- position is sometimes good, and sometimes bad, just as some peo- ple are by nature very intelligent, while others are feeble-minded (Chap. XXXn).
Original nature may be changed by external influences. Good people may become bad, and bad ones may reform and turn good. Such results can be brought about by intercourse with good or bad persons. With a view to reforming the wicked the State makes use of public instruction and criminal law (Chap. XXXI). Wang Ch’ung adopts the classification of Confucius, who distinguishes average people and such above and below the average (Analects VI, 19). " The character of average people," he says, " is the work of habit. Made familiar with good, they turn out good, accustomed to evil, they become wicked. Only with extremely good, or extremely bad characters habit is of no avail." These are the people above and below the average. Their characters are so inveterate, that laws and instructions are powerless against them. They remain what they are, good or bad (Chap. XXXII).
The cultivation of virtue is better than the adoration of spirits, who cannot help us (Chap. XLIV). Yet it would be a mistake to be- lieve that virtue procures happiness. Felicity and misfortune depend on fate and chance, and cannot be attracted by virtue or crime (Chap. XXXVIII). On the whole Wang Ch'ung does not think much of virtue and wisdom at all. He has amalgamated the Confucian Ethics with his system as far as possible, but the Taoist ideas suit him much better and break through here and there. The Taoists urge that virtue and wisdom are a decline from man's orig- inal goodness. Originally people lived in a state of quietude and happy ignorance. " Virtuous actions were out of the question, and the people were dull and beclouded. Knowledge and wisdom did not yet make their appearance " (p. 100). They followed their natural propensities, acted spontaneously, and were happy. Such was the conduct of the model emperors of antiquity, Huang Ti, Yao. and Shun. They lived in a state of quietude and indifference, did not work, and the empire was governed by itself (p. 98). They merely imitated Heaven, who's principle is spontaneity and in-
action. Now-a-days this high standard can only be attained by the wisest and best men. "A man with the highest, purest, and fullest virtue has been endowed with a large quantity of the heavenly fluid, therefore he can follow the example of Heaven, and be spontaneous and inactive like it " (loc. cit.). He need not trouble about virtue, or act on purpose, for he is naturally vir- tuous, and all his spontaneous deeds are excellent. The majority of people, however, cannot reach this height. Having received but a small quota of the heavenly fluid, they cannot follow its example, and become active. They practise the routine virtues, which for the superior man, who naturally agrees with them, are of little importance.
Wang Ch'ung not only criticises the common ideas, superstitions, and more or less scientific theories current at his time, but he also gives his judgment upon the principal scholars, whose tenets he either adopts or controverts, and it is not without interest to learn, how he values well known philosophers and historians.
a) Philosophies. Of all philosophers by far the most frequently cited is Confucius. In Wang Ch'ung's estimation he is the Sage of China. He calls him the " Nestor in wisdom and virtue, and the most eminent of all philosophers" (Chap. XXXH). Wang Chung seems to believe that he has won his cause, whenever he can quote Confucius as his authority, and that with a dictum of the Sage he can confound all his adversaries. In quoting Confucius he uses great liberty, in- terpreting his utterances so as to tally with his own views. But this veneration does not prevent him from criticising even Confucius. He thinks it necessary to vindicate himself from the charge of impiety and immorality, intimating that even Sages and Worthies are not infallible and may err sometimes (Chap. XXXIH). He might have done anything else, but this offence the Literati will never con- done. His attacks on Confucius are very harmless and not even very clever. He does not impugn the Confucian system, which on the contrary he upholds, though he departs from it much farther than he himself knows. His method consists in hunting up contra- dictions and repugnancies in the Analects. He not seldom con- structs a contradiction, where there is none at all, by putting much more into the words of Confucius than they contain. He forgets
that in freely talking with friends or pupils — and the Analects are nothing else than such conversations — one does not weigh every word. Besides the peculiar circumstances and the form of mind of the speaker must be taken into consideration, which Wang Ch'ung often neglects. In short, the essay on Confucius is in no way a master-piece of criticism and not worth the fuss made about it.
Mencius, the second Sage, is also very often mentioned. Wang C'ung holds him in high esteem, but treats his work in the same way as the Analects. The objections raised keep more or less on the surface, and do not affect the substance of his doctrine.
The highest praise is bestowed on Yang Hsiung, another famous Confucianist of the Han epoch. Wang Ch'ung compares the historian Sse Ma Ch'ien with the Yellow River and Yang Hsiung with the Han (Chap. XXXVII). He rose like a star (p. 81), and his chief work, the Tai-hsüan-ching was a creation (p. 88).
Like Huai Nan Tse, Wang Ch'ung very often mentions Mê Ti conjointly with Confucius as the two great Sages of antiquity. At that time the fame of Confucius had not yet eclipsed the philosopher of mutual love. Though appreciating him, Wang Ch'ung rejects his system as unpractical, maintaining that its many contradictions have prevented its spreading (Chap. XXXVIl). The Mêhists believe in ghosts and spirits and adore them, imploring their help. At the same time they neglect the funerals and the dead, and they deny the existence of fate.
When Lao Tse is referred to, he is usually introduced to- gether with Huang Ti, who like Lao Tse is looked upon as the father of Taoism. They are both called truly wise (p. 98). The Taoist school established the principle of spontaneity and inaction. The philosophy of Wang Ch'ung is to a great extent based on their doctrines without, however, becoming Taoistic, for he leaves out the quintessence of their system, Tao, nor will he have anything of their transcendentalism, mysticism or other extravagancies.
Wang Ch'ung is well acquainted with the Taoist writer Huai Nan Tse, from whose work he freely culls, oftener than he men- tions him. He refutes the legend that Huai Nan Tse by his alchi- mistical studies obtained immortality, and with his entire house- hold, including his dogs and poultry ascended to Heaven, sub- mitting that he either was beheaded for some political intrigues or committed suicide (Chap, XXVlll).
Against Han Fei Tse, who wrote on the theory of government and legislation, and whose writings are strongly tainted with Taoism, Wang Chung shows a pronounced antipathy. He most
vehemently attacks him for having declared the scholars and lite- rati to he useless grubs in the State. Han Fei Tse was of opinion that rewards and punishments were sufficient to keep up order. Wang Ch'ung objects that in his system virtue has no place, Han Fei Tse despises divination, which Wang Ch'ung defends. Han Fei Tse was much appreciated by the Emperor Ch in Shih Huang Ti, a great admirer of his works, which, however, did not hinder the tyrant from condemning him to death for some political reason.
It is passing strange that the great Taoist philosophers Lieh Tse and Cliuang Tse are not once named. Were they so little read at Wang Ch'ung's time, that he did not know them? Some of his stories are told in Lieh Tse likewise with nearly the same words, but it does not follow, that they must be quoted from Lieh Tse, for such narrations are often found in several authors, one copying from the other without acknowledging his source.
A scholar, of whom Wang Chung speaks very often is Tung Chung Shu, a very prolific writer of the 2nd cent. b.c. He was said l)y many to have completed the doctrine of Confucius, while others held that he had perverted it. Wang Ch'ung thinks that both views are wrong (Chap. XXXVIi). Tung Chung Shu devoted his labours to the Ch'un-chiu, but he also wrote on the magical arts (p. 84) and on Taoism. Wang Chung says that his arguments on Taoist doc- trines are very queer, but that his ideas on morals and on go- vernment are excellent. In human nature Tung Chung Shu dis- tinguishes between natural disposition and feeling. The former, he says, is the outcome of the Yang principle and therefore good, the feelings are produced by the Yin and are therefore bad (Chap. XXXII). Tung Chung Shu seems to have been the inventor of a special rain-sacrifice. The figure of a dragon was put up to attract the rain. Wang Ch'ung stands up for it with great fervour and attempts to prove its efficacy (p. 55, N. 47),
Of Tsou Yen many miracles were already related at Wang Ch'ung's time. He rejects them as fictions. Tsou Yens writings were brilhant, he says, but too vague and diffuse (Chap. XXXVII). With his above mentioned theory of the Nine Continents Wang Chung does not agree.
The sophist Kung Sun Lung as well as Kuan Tse and Shang Yang, who both have philosophised on the State, are rather se- verely dealt with (Chap. XXXVII). On the other band Wang Ch'ung is very lavish in his praise of the writers of the Han time viz. Liu Hsiang, Lu Chia, author of the Hsin-yü, a work on government, Huan Chun Shan, author of the Hsin-lun, and Huan K uan, who wrote the
Yen-t'ieh-lun, a work on finance and other State questions. Besides Wang Ch'ung gives the names of a number of his contemporaries to whom he predicts immortality, but he has been a bad prophet, for save one they are all forgotten now.
It was a great controversy during the Han epoch, which commentary to the Ch'un-ch'iu was the best. The Tso-chuan had not yet secured the position, it holds now; many scholars gave the preference to the works of Kung Yang or Ku Liang. Wang Ch'ung avers that Tso Ch'iu Mings Tso-chuan surpasses all the others, and that having lived nearer to Confucius time than the other commentators, T'so Ch'iu Ming has had more facilities to ascertain the views of the Sage and to give them in their purest form. Wang Ch'ung confirms that the Kuo-yü is also the work of Tso ch'iu Ming (Chap. XXXVil). Many of Wang Ch'ung's stories and myths are taken from the Tso-chuan.
Of the Lü-shih-ch'un-ch'iu of Lü Pu Wei, an important work for antique fore, Wang Ch'ung says that it contains too much of the marvellous.
To illustrate his theories Wang Ch'ung often lays the Shi-chi under contribution. Of its author, Sse Ma Ch'ien, he speaks with great deference, and regards him as the greatest writer of the Han period. What he reproaches him with, is that Sse Ma Ch'ien too often leaves us in the dark as to his own opinion on a question, stating only the bare facts, or giving two different versions of the same event without deciding, which is the correct one (loc. cit.).
Pan Ku, Wang Ch'ung's contemporary and the son of his teacher Pan Piao, is lauded for his good verses and memorials (loc. cit.). He is the one contemporary of our philosopher, who really has become immortal by his great work, the Han-shu. At Wang Ch'ung's time it had not yet appeared, and so is never re- ferred to. It was completed and published after Pan Ku's death by his sister Pan Chao.
That he possesses some abilities in the Held of literary and historical critique himself, Wang Ch'ung shows in his remarks on the origin and history of the Classics. He tells us, how they were composed, how discovered after the Burning of the Books, how handed down, and how divided into books and chapters (Chap. XXXVl). In spite of his profound veneration for the classical literature he does not hesitate to censure those passages, which do not find his approval, or to expose the exaggerations and fables
with which they teem (p. 51, N. 27). In like manner he is in- defatigable in detecting Taoist fictions and inventions and in re- ducing them to their true measure, for it does not satisfy him to demonstrate their impossibility; he desires to find out, how they originated (p. 50, N. 24). He combats the legends which have found their way into the historical literature, although they are loss frequent than in the Taoist works (p. 50, N. 25-26). The entire Lun-hêng is a big battle agains these errors. His discussions would seem sometimes a little lengthy, and the subject not to require such an amount of arguments, for we would prove the same with a few words, or not discuss it at all, the proposition being for us self-evident. We must however bear in mind, that what for us now is self-evident and indisputable, was not so for the Chinese, for whom Wang Ch'ung wrote his book, and that to shake them in their deep-seated persuasions a huge apparatus of logic was ne- cessary. Even then probably the majority held fast to their pre- conceptions. The triumphant march of logic is checked, as soon as sentiment and prejudice comes in.
Historically Wang Ch'ung takes another point of view than his contemporaries, who for the most part took little interest in their own time, and let their fancies wander back to the golden age of remote antiquity. Wang Ch'ung is more modern than most Chinese of the present day. He was of opinion that the Han dy- nasty was as good, even better than the famous old dynasties (p. 56, N. 56). Five essays bear upon this thesis. His reasoning is very lame however, for instead of speaking of the government, he only treats of the auspicious portents proving the excellence of the ruling sovereigns.
The religion of the Chinese at the Han time was a cult of nature combined with ancestor worship. They regarded certain parts of nature and certain natural phenomena as spirits or as animated by spirits, and tried to propitiate them and the ghosts of their ancestors by prayers and sacrifices. Convinced that these spirits and ghosts could help them, or do them harm, as they chose, they contrived to win their good graces, praying for happi- ness, imploring them to avert evil, and showing their gratitude for received benefits by their offerings,
The chief deities worshipped during the Chou period were: —
Heaven and its parts : — the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. Among the latter the Five Planets take the first place, but the 28 Solar Mansions and other constellations, such as the Dipper and the Stars of Longevity were likewise adored.
Earth and its parts, Mountains and Rivers, the Soil, and the Grain growing on it, and some of its phenomena: — Earth-quakes, Water (Inundations), and Droughts.
Meteorological phenomena: — Wind and Rain, Heat and Cold, Thunder and Lightning.
The Four Seasons and the Four Quarters.
The Five Parts of the House: — The Gate, the Door, the Wall, the Hearth, and the Court.
Deified Heaven was often looked upon as an emperor, the Em- peror on High or the Supreme Ruler, and so were the Planets, called the Blue, Red, Yellow, White, and Black Emperors. The other stars and constellations were their officials. All these deities have, as a rule, no distinct personality, and still quite clearly show the traces of their origin. The " Prince of the Wind," the " Master of Rain,"' the " Thunderer," the " Door God," and the " Spirit of the Hearth " or " Kitchen God " were perhaps more than the others apprehended as personal gods.
The Spirits of the Soil and Grain were at the outset probably not different from the other spirits animating nature, but according to very old traditions two persons: — Kou Lung and Ch'i have after their deaths been deified and raised to the rank of tutelary genii of the land and grain. These apotheoses of men after their death became more frequent in later ages. Under the Ch'in dynasty Ch'ih Yu, a legendary personage renownded for his military exploits, was worshipped as War God. The three sons of the mythical Emperor Chuan Hsü after their death became Water Spirits and Spirits of Epidemics, and a woman, who had died in childbed, and whose ghost had appeared to somebody after her decease, was made Princess of Demons under the Han dynasty.
Here we have ancestral worship. Every family used to revere the ghosts of its deceased ancestors, but only in such exceptional cases as those quoted above did these ghosts later on become national gods.
The cult of the afore-mentioned deities was continiued during the Han epoch, and with some few alterations has gone on up to the present day. It is the State religion of China, sanctioned by government, and practised by the Son of Heaven and his highest officials. Buddhism and Taoism are only tolerated. Confucianism
is no religion, but the official moral system, which completely agrees with the cult of nature.
The sacrifices to the spirits of nature were in ancient times performed by the Emperor, the Feudal Princes, and the officials, acting as high-priests for their people. The people used to sacri- fice only to their own ancestors and to the Spirits of the Door or the Hearth. The oblations were burnt-offerings of animals and libations of wine. There was no clergy to mediate between the gods and the people. These rules were less strictly observed during the Han epoch, when occasionally priests sacrificed in the place of the Emperor, and even priestesses were allowed to make offerings in their temples. In out-of-the-way places, where no officials were near, the people could themselves worship the gods, whose service else was incumbent upon the magistrates (cf. Chap. XLI, XLII and Shi-chi chap. 27-28).
Wang Chung asserts that most of these sacrifices are super- fluous, because the deities thus honoured are merely parts of others, to which offerings are made likewise. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars are parts of Heaven. They must participate in the oblations offered to Heaven, why then give them special sacrifices to boot? With Mountains and Rivers, the Soil and Grain, which are the constituent parts of Earth, it is the same. Would any reasonable person, irrespective of his usual meals, specially feed his limbs? (Chap. XLI.)
Moreover, spirits and ghosts cannot enjoy the sacrifices, for there are none, at least not personal beings, as people seem to imagine (Chap. XLIV). If they were air, they could not eat nor smell, and if they had a body, it would be so enormous, that men could never satisfy their appetite. How should they feed the Earth or even a Mountain or a River? [cod. and Chap. XLI.) Being formed of the shapeless fluid, ghosts and spirits can neither feel nor act, consequently they cannot do anything for man nor against him. Ergo by sacrifices he does not obtain his end, divine protection (Chap. XLII). There- fore sacrifices can be nothing more than symbolical acts, showing the gratitude and the affection of the sacrificer. He is thankful for all the kindness he has received from Heaven and Earth, and from his parents and forefathers (eod.). Sacrifices are manifestations of the piety of him, who offers them, but their omission cannot have any evil consequence.
Exorcism, is the correlate of prayers and sacrifices. The an- cient Chinese used to practise it particularly with the Spirit of Sickneses, whom they expelled. Wang Ch'ung thinks it as useless as
sacrifices, for, says he, provided the spirits are mist and vapours, they cannot do any harm, should they really exist, however, then they would indubitably not allow themselves to be driven oil". They would not only offer resistance, but also resent the affront, and take their revenge upon the exorcist (Chap. XLIV).
Primitive Chinese religion has not produced a mythology worth speaking of, but a variety of superstitions have clustered around it. Some of them Wang Ch'ung brings to our notice. The principle aim of Chinese religion is to obtain happiness and to remove evil. But it does not suffice to worship the spirits, one must also avoid such actions, as might bring down misfortune. In the popular belief there is a certain mystic connection, a sort of harmony between fate and human activity, though one does not see how. When the Yamen officials are very bad, the number of tigers increases so much, that plenty of people are devoured by them. The rapacity of the underlings is believed to cause grubs and insects to eat grain (p. 55, N. 48-49). It is dangerous to ex- tend a building to the west, one must not see women who recently have given birth to a child, and children born in the first or the fifth months should not be brought up, for they will be the cause of their parents death (p. 59, N. 68). Exceptional precautions must be taken in building a new house (p. 60, N.74).
For most actions in every-day-life the time chosen is of the utmost importance. An unlucky time spoils everything. The Chinese at the Han epoch had not only their dies fasti and nefasti, but pro- pitious and unpropitious years, months, days, and hours. Special books gave the necessary information. For some actions certain lucky days had to be chosen, for others certain unlucky ones had to be avoided. Special days were assigned for the commencing of a new-building or for funerals. Bathing on certain days, women were sure to become lovely, on others they would become ill- favoured. Moving one's residence one should avoid a collision with the Spirit of the North, Tai Sui (p. 59, N. 70, 72, 73). People neglecting these rules would fall in with malignant spirits, or meet with evil influences. These ideas have come down to our time, and are still cherished by the majority of the Chinese. The calendar published every year by the Board of Astronomy serves them as a guide, noting that which may be safely done on each day, and that which may not. Wang Chung has done his best to eradicate these superstitions, showing their unreasonableness and futility, as we see with little success, so deeply are they still rooted in the Chinese mind after nearly two thousand years.