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11: CHAPTER VIII. What is meant by Destiny?

CHAPTER VIII. What is meant by Destiny? (Ming-yi.) 

The Mehists 1 hold that man's death is not predestinated, whereas the Confucianists are of opinion that it is. The believers in Destiny rely on the authority of Tse Hsia 2 who says, "Life and death depend on Destiny, wealth and honour come from Heaven."3 Those who deny the existence of Destiny refer to the city of Li-yang 4 which sunk into a lake in one night, and to Po-Ch'i, a general of Ch'in, who buried alive the troops of Chao after their submission below Ch'ang-ping, 5 altogether 400 000 men, who all died at the same time.6 When in the Ch'un-ch'iu period 7 armies were defeated, sometimes, they say, the grass was hidden by thousands of dead bodies. In time of famine, all the roads are full of starving people.  During epidemics caused by malarial exhalations, thousands of families are extinguished. If there really should be Destiny, how is it, they ask, that in Ch'in all were involved in the same catastrophe? 

The believers in Destiny will reply, " When the vastness of the earth, and the great number of its inhabitants is taken into account, it is not to be wondered at that the people at Li-yang and Ch'ang-p'ing should equally be doomed to die. Those whose destiny it was to be drowned, assembled at Li-yang, and those who were to be crushed to death, came together at Ch'ang-p' ing for that purpose." — 

When Han Kao Tsu 8 began his career, a fortune-teller, who entered the territory of Feng and Pei, found many persons who were made counts afterwards. But not all the old and young people, men and women bore the mark of nobility. As a rule exceptional 

1 The followers of Me Ti. 

2 A disciple of Confucius. 

3 Analects XII,. 5. 

4 A City in Anhui. 

5 A city in Shansi. 

6 This massacre took place in 260 b.c. (Cf. Mayers Render's Manual N. 544.) 

7 722-481 B.C. 

8 The founder of the former Han dynasty, a native of Pei in Kiangsu. Fêng was another region in the neighbourhood. 

What is meant by Destiny? 137 

persons are met with occasionally only. Yet at Li-yang men and women were all drowned, and at Chang p'ing the aged and the young were buried to the last. Among tens of thousands there were certainly many who had still a long life before them, and ought not to have died. But such as happen to live in a time of decay, when war breaks out everywhere, cannot terminate their long lives. The span allotted to men is long or short, and their age flourishing or effete. Sickness, disasters, and misfortunes are signs of decay. The States of Sung, Wei, Ch' en, and Ch'êng were all visited with fire on the same day.1 Among the people of the four kingdoms were certainly not a few whose prosperity was still at its height, and who ought not to have been destroyed. Nevertheless they all had to suffer from the conflagration, being involved in their country's doom, for the destiny of a State is stronger than that of individuals. 

The destiny regulating man's life-time is more powerful than the one presiding over his prosperity. Man shows by his appearance, whether he will die old or young, and there are signs indicating, whether he will be rich or poor, high-placed or base. All this is to be seen from his body. Length and shortness of life are gifts of Heaven. Whether the structure of the bones be good or bad, is visible in the body. If a man's life must be cut off in its prime, he cannot live long, although he be endowed with extraordinary qualities, and if it be decreed that he shall be poor and miserable, the very best character is of no avail to him. — When Hsiang Yü 2 was going to die, he turned to his followers, and said, " I am vanquished, but by fate, not by force of arms." This is true, for in warfare Hsiang Yü was superior to Kao Tsu. The latter's rise was due to Heaven's decree only. 

The destiny of the State is connected with the stars. Just as their constellations are propitious or unpropitious, the State is happy or unhappy. As the stars revolve and wander, men rise and fall. Human prosperity and distress are like the abundance and the scarcity of a year. Destiny is flourishing or declining; things are either expensive or cheap. Within the space of one year, they are sometimes expensive, and at others cheap, as during 

1 This great fire, which on the same day broke out in the capitals of the four States, is recorded in the Ch'un-ch'iu Book X, 18 (Duke Ch'ao) as happening in 529 B.C. It is believed to have been foreshadowed by a comet, which appeared in winter of the preceding year. — These four States were comprised in Honan, except Sung which occupied the northern part of modern Kiangsu. 

2 The rival of Han Kao Tsu, before the latter ascended the throne. 

138 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

a long life prosperity and distress alternate. The prices of things do not depend on the abundance or scarcity of the year, nor is human prosperity the outcome of ability or ignorance. 

How is it that Tse Hsia says, " Life and death depend on Destiny, wealth and honour come from Heaven " instead of saying, "Life and death come from Heaven,1 wealth and honour depend on Destiny? " -For life and death there are no heavenly signs, they depend on the constitution. When a man has got a strong constitution, his vital force is exuberant, and his body strong. In case of bodily strength life's destiny is long; the long-lived do not die young. Conversely, he who has got a weak constitution possesses but a feeble vital force, and a delicate bodily frame. Delicacy is the cause of the shortness of life's destiny; the short-lived die early. Consequently, if we say that there is a destiny, destiny means constitution. 

As regards the transmission of wealth and honour, it is like the vital force, viz. an effluence emanating from the stars. Their hosts are on heaven, which has their signs. Being born under a star pointing at wealth and honour, man obtains wealth and honour, whereas under a heavenly sign implying poverty and misery, he will become poor and miserable. Thus wealth and honour come from Heaven, but how is this brought about? Heaven has its hundreds of officials 2 and multitudes of stars. 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, according as the stars distributing all this, rank higher or lower, are larger or smaller. — Heaven has many hundred officials and multitudes of stars, and so we have on earth the essence of tens of thousands of people, of the Five Emperors and the Three Rulers.3 Heaven has his Wang Liang and Tsao Fu,4 men have them also. He who is endued with their essence, becomes skilled in charioteering. 

it is said that three different kinds of destiny can be distinguished, the natural, the concomitant, and the adverse one. One 

2 Wang CH'ung puts a construction upon the words of Tse Hsia, of which he probably never thought. Tse Hsia used Destiny and Heaven as synonyms, as we do. 

3 Namely the stars. 

4 The first legendary rulers of Chinese history. 

5 Two famous charioteers of old, the latter the driver of the eight celebrated steeds of King Mu of Chou. 

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speaks of natural destiny, if somebody's luck is the simple consequence of his original organisation. His constitution being well ordered, and his bones good, he needs not toil in order to obtain happiness, since his luck comes of itself. This is meant by natural destiny. Concomitant destiny comes into play, when a man becomes happy only by dint of hard work, but is pursued by misfortune, as soon as he yields to his propensities, and gives rein to his desires.  This is to be understood by concomitant destiny. As for adverse destiny, a man may, contrary to his expectations, reap bad fruits from all his good deeds; he will rush into misfortune and misery, which will strike him from afar. Therefore, one can speak of adverse destiny. 

Every mortal receives his own destiny: already at the time of his conception, he obtains a lucky or an unlucky chance. Man's nature does not correspond to his destiny: his disposition may be good, but his destiny unlucky, or his disposition bad, and his fate lucky. Good and bad actions are the result of natural disposition, happiness and misfortune, good and bad luck are destiny. Good deeds may lead to mishap, then the disposition is good, but destiny cruel, and likewise misdeeds may result in happiness, in that case man's nature is wicked, but fate smiling. Nature is good or bad of its own accord, and so is fate lucky or unlucky. A favourite of fate, though not doing well, is not, of necessity, deprived of happiness for that reason, whereas an ill-fated man does not get rid of his misfortune, though trying his best. 

Mencius said: — "To strive for a thing, one must have wisdom, but whether he attains it, depends upon destiny." 1 With a good disposition one can struggle for it and, if fate be favourable, obtain it; should, however, fate be averse, one may with a good nature strive for it, but never get it. 

Bad deeds are followed by misfortune. Yet the robbers Chê and Chuang Ch'iao 2 were scourges to the whole empire. With some thousands of other bandits, whom they had collected, they assaulted and robbed people of their property, and cut them to pieces. As outlaws they were unequalled. They ought to have been disgraced : far from it, they finished their lives as old men. In the face of this, how can the idea of a concomitant destiny be upheld? 

Men with an adverse destiny do well in their hearts, but meet with disasters abroad. How is it that men like Yen Yuan 3 and 

1 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, chap. 3. 

2 Two famous robbers of antiquity, especially the former, to whom a chapter is devoted in Chuang Tse. 

3 The same as Yen Hui, the favourite disciple of Confucius. 

140 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

Po Niu came to disgrace? They were both virtuous, and should have been rewarded by a concomitant destiny with bliss and happiness. Wherefore did they meet with misfortune? Yen Yuan, confined to his study, killed himself by his great talents, 1 Po Niu, while living quite alone, caught a horrible disease, Ch'ü P'ing and Wu Yuan were the most loyal ministers of their sovereigns, and scrupulously fulfilled their duties as servants to the king. 2 In spite of this, the corpse of Ch'ü Ping was left unburied in Ch'u, and in Wu Yuan's body was cooked. For their good works they should have obtained the happiness of concomitant destiny, but they fell in with the misfortune of adverse fate. How is such a thing possible? 

Concomitant destiny excludes adverse destiny, and adverse destiny, a concomitant one. On what basis can the scholastic distinction of three kinds of destiny then be established? Moreover, fate is already visible from the structure of bones at the time of birth, now, if it be said to follow the actions, it comes afterwards, and is not yet there from the beginning. Wealth and honour, poverty and misery are determined at the first moment of receptibility of the human being, they do not arrive only in company with his actions, after the individual has grown up. 

A man with a natural fate will die at the age of a hundred years, another with a concomitant fate at the age of fifty, but he whose fate is adverse, meets with distress from the moment he receives vitality; as people say, he is confronted with ill-luck already as an embryo. He may have been born during a thunderstorm and, when he is grown up, die young. 

These are what they call the three destinies, there are also distinguished three kinds of natures: natural, concomitant,, and adverse.  Naturally man is endowed with the five virtues, concomitant nature corresponds to that of father and mother, and adverse nature is caused by meeting some unpropitious object. 3 Thus a pregnant 

1 He worked too hard, and died at the age of thirty-two. His hair had turned quite white already. (Cf. Legge, Analects, Prolegomena p. 113.) 

2 Ch'ü Yuan or Ch'ü P'ing, a faithful counsellor of Prince Hwai of Ch'u in the 4th century B.C., committed suicide by drowning himself, because his admonitions were disregarded. The dragon-boat festival is celebrated in commemoration thereof.  Wu Yuan or Wu Yun, a minister of the last king of Wu circa 520 b.c. was sentenced to perish by his own hand. His body was afterwards sewn into a leather wine-sack, and cast into the river near Soochow, where he has been deified as the spirit of the water like Ch'ü P'ing. This is the common tradition. (Cf. Mayers Manual N. 879 and Gilea, Biogr. Diet. N. 235S. According to Wang Ch'ung the body of Wu Yuan was cooked.) 

3 The term nature is used in the sense of spiritual nature, disposition, as well as for constitution, i. e. physical qualities. 

What is meant by Destiny? 141 

woman eating a hare will bear a harelipped son. In the Yüeh-ling 1 it is stated that, in the same month the thunder is about to utter its voice, and that those who are not careful of their behaviour, will bring forth crippled children, and have great calamities. 

They become dumb or deaf, lame or blind. The embryo having been affected by external influences, the child's character will be violent and rebellious. Yang Shê Shih Wo's 2 voice, after his birth, sounded like that of a wolf. When he grew older, he showed a wicked disposition; he met with misfortune, and died. He got this character already, when still in his mother's womb. The like holds good for Tan Chu 3 and Shang Chün 4 Character and destiny are there from the beginning. Therefore the Li points out a method to instruct embryos.'' As long as the child is in the uterus, the mother must not sit down, if the mat be not properly placed, nor eat anything not cut in the proper manner. Her eyes must see but the proper colours, and her ears hear but the proper sounds.  When the child grows up, it must be given intelligent teachers and good instructors, who will make it familiar with the relations of sovereign and subject, father and son, for at that period its virtue or depravity will become manifest. If at the moment, when the child receives the vitalising fluid, the mother does not take care to keep her heart free from wild fancies and fears of wickedness, her child, when grown up, will not be good, but fierce and refractory, and look ugly and wicked. A heavenly maiden explained to Huang Ti 6 that to have five wives not only entails bodily injury on father and mother, but also most seriously affects the characters of sons and daughters. 

Men have their destiny and luck, contingencies and chance.  By destiny they are wealthy and poor, exalted and base: their luck is thriving or declining, flourishing or fading. Those whose destiny it is to be rich and honoured, meet with a thriving luck; they enjoy perpetual tranquillity, and are never in jeopardy. On 

1 The Yüeh-ling is the Book III, N. 6 of the Li-Ki, the Book of Rites. The " same month'' referred to in the passage, quoted from the Yüeh-ling, is the second month of spring. Wang Ch'ung seems to have had in view the final paragraph as well, which says that, if in the last month of winter the spring ceremonies were observed, the embryos would suffer many disasters. (Cf. Legge, Li Ki, Book IV, p. 260 and 310 [Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXVII].) 

2 A native of Chin, 6th cent. b.c. 

3 The unworthy son of the emperor Yao 2357 b.c. 

4 The degenerated son of the emperor Shun 2255 b.c. 

5 Cf. Ta-tai-li chap. 3, p. 6v (Han Wei tsung shu), 

6 The first emperor, a mythical personage. 

142 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

the other hand do such as are doomed to poverty and misery, fall in with a declining luck: they are the victims of ill-fortune; al- ways in trouble, they know no pleasure. 

A contingency is some extraordinary change, such, for instance, as were experienced by Ch'eng T'ang, 1 when he was kept a prisoner in Hsia-tai and by Wen Wang, 2 when detained at Yu-li. For sages, with all their perfections, to be thrown into jail, this certainly can be called an extraordinary contingency. But however great the change may be, in the case of a favourable destiny and a thriving luck it does no harm. This it what they call a contingent mishap.  That which befell Yen Tse 3 must be regarded as a great one. Let us suppose that a weapon be pointed at a man's breast, that the bright blade be already touching his neck, that he rush forward to certain death, or that he oppose himself to the points of swords and halberds, let such a man be saved just at the moment, when he expects to die, then his destiny is so good, and his luck so flourishing, that the misfortune he encounters cannot injure him. At Li-yang and Ch'ang P'ing, where the catastrophe took place, 4 were certainly people with a propitious fate and a thriving luck, who were all crushed to death in the same night. The disaster they met with was so paramount, that their good fate and thriving luck could not ward it off. This may be compared to the antagonism between water and fire. If the water is stronger, it quells the fire, and if the fire is stronger, it overcomes the water. To find employment, a man must get hold of an employer. In spite of a propitious fate and thriving luck nobody will be able to show what he is capable of, unless he comes into contact with a master who takes an interest in him.5 

The word chance conveys the idea of good and evil derived from accidents. A culprit, who succeeds in making his escape, has 

1 The founder of the Sham/ dynasty, who was imprisoned by the last emperors of the Hsia. 

2 The ancestor of the house of Chou. He was incarcerated at Yu-li by the last emperor of the Shang dynasty. 

3 Under Yen Tse 晏子 Yen Ying 晏嬰 , a celebrated statesman of the Dukes of Ch'i, is usually understood. Since Yen Ying was very successful in his career, no misfortune whatever being recorded of him, I would suggest to alter 晏子 to 颜子 abbreviated for 颜回 Yen Hui, the name of the ill-fated disciple of Confucius, whose misfortune, his untimely death, is mentioned above p. 266 and elsewhere. 

5 See above p. 136. 

6 In addition to good luck, according to our author, he who seeks employment requires a contingency, he must find some one who appreciates him. 

What is meant by Destiny? 143 

good fortune, whereas it is bad fortune, if an innocent man be arrested. He who after a short incarceration obtains his release, has a propitious destiny and thriving luck so, that the misfortune of an untimely end cannot affect him. 

Now for the meaning of incident, which will be illustrated by the service offered to a sovereign. Provided that somebody serve the sovereign in the proper way, that the latter appreciate his words, and afterwards employ him, this is a lucky incident. Conversely, if the prince disprove of the man's ways so, that he dismisses him, and sends him away, this is an unlucky incident. Should a man after a short period of disgrace still get an appointment through the recommendation of a higher official, he owes it to his good destiny and thriving luck, which do not allow that the harm caused by an unlucky incident keeps on for long. 

Contingencies and chance either tally with destiny and luck or disagree with them. To hit on good chances, and thus reach the goal, or to meet with bad ones, and be ruined, is tallying with destiny and luck. To fall off in mid-career, without completing what is to come, good being suddenly turned into evil, this is contrary to fate and luck. In this world men's dispositions and destinies are auspicious or unfavourable, their happiness and misfortune flourish or decline. All depends on contingencies. According to the chances they have, they either live or die. But those who accomplish all their good or bad deeds, and obtain all their heart's desires, are few. 

144 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.