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15: CHAPTER XIII. Auspicious Portents

CHAPTER XIII. Auspicious Portents (Chi-yen). 

Whenever men are predestinated for something grand by 
Heaven, auspicious portents are seen on Earth. When such appear 
on Earth, Heaven's destiny is at work. There are different kinds 
of omens, either do they appear in the men themselves or they 
are lucky signs, or take the form of a sort of halo. 

Huang Ti is reported to have been an embryo for 20 months, 
before he was born. After birth his intelligence was marvellous. 
Weak as he was, he could already speak. When he was full-grown, 
he took the lead of all the feudal princes, who submitted to his 
sway. He taught the bears to fight, and thus defeated Yen Ti, 
who was completely routed. His nature was different from that 
of other people, therefore he remained for ten months longer in 
his mother's womb. Being predestined to become emperor, he 
taught the creatures, and they were subservient to him. 

Yao's body was like the sun, when closely inspected, viewed 
at a distance, he appeared like a cloud. When the great flood 
rose up to the sky, and snakes and dragons did mischief, Yao employed Yü for the regulation of the water and the expulsion of 
the snakes and drag-ons. The water, when regulated, flowed east- 
ward, and snakes and dragons absconded. His bones were ab- 
normal, thence the extraordinary events. As he was endowed with 
a wonderful intellect, portents appeared in things. Since by fate 
he was to become noble, he ascended the imperial throne as a 
marquis of T'ang. 

Previous to his meeting with Yao, Shun was living unmarried 
in a nasty, out-of-the-way place. Ku Sou 1 together with Hsiang 2 
attempted to kill him. They bade him complete the building of 
a granary, and kindled a fire underneath. They directed him to 
dig a well, and then they threw earth down from above. Shun 
contrived to get out of the granary unharmed by the fire, and  
to make his escape from the well by one side, unhurt by the 

1 The harsh and unfeeling father of the virtuous Shun. 
2 Shuns wicked brother. 

174 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

earth.1 When Yao heard of this, he summoned him, and gave him 
an office on trial, Shun filled his post with great credit, and no 
disorder occurred. He would enter a solitary, big forest without 
being pounced upon by tigers and wolves, or being bitten by vipers 
or snakes. In the midst of thunderstorm and a gushing rain-shower 
he did not go astray.2 Men bent upon his assassination, could do 
him no harm, and wild birds and reptiles with venomous stings 
were unable to wound him. Suddenly he attained imperial sway, 
and mounted the throne of the son of heaven. 

Prior to Hou Chi's 3 time, his mother 4 walked upon the footstep of a giant. Others say that she put on Ti Ku's 5 clothes, or 
that she rested in Ti Ku's place. At all events, she became enceinte with a child, which she cast away in a narrow alley, regarding it as an ill omen. But oxen and horses did not dare to 
tread upon it. She placed it on ice, but the birds covered it with 
their wings. From all these auspicious signs converging on the 
baby's body, the mother learned, what wonderful qualities it possessed. Therefore, she brought it up. When Hou Chi had attained 
to manhood, he assisted Yao, and rose to the rank of a minister of war. 

The Wusun 6 Prince bearing the surname of K'un Mo had his 
father slain by the Hsiung-nu,7 and was himself thrown into the 
desert, still alive. The birds fed him on flesh, which they carried 
in their beaks. The Shan Yü 8 was amazed at this, which appeared 
to him supernatural. He took care of the boy, and, when he had 
grown strong, he gave him a military post. After he had won 
many laurels, the Shan Yü put the people formerly obeying his 
father again under Kun Mo's command, and directed him always 
to guard the Western City. 9 

1 Cf.Mencius Book V, Pt.I, chap. II (Legge p. 222-223) and Shi-chi chap. I, p. 23. 

2 Vid. Shu-king Pt. II, Book I, chap. II. 

3 A mythical personage, the " lord of the Grain," said to have been Director 
of Husbandry under Yao and Shun. 

4 The word mother, required by the context, must be supplemented in the 

5 A legendary emperor prior to Yao, Hou Chi's father, after one tradition. 

6 A Kirghis tribe settled in the N. E. of Ferghana in the 2nd cent. b.c. (Shi- 
chi chap. 123, p. 4). 

7 The powerful Turkish tribes, which were China's northern neighbours during 
the Han time, perhaps the Huns. Long wars were waged between the Chinese and 
the Hsiung-nu, 

8 The title of the chieftain of the Hsiung-nu. 

9 This passage is taken almost literally from the Shi-chi chap. 123, p. 9v. 
The Shi-chi still adds that K'un Mo was suckled by a she-wolf. 

Auspicious Portents. 175 

Hou Chi was not to be cast away, therefore the oxen and 
horses did not kick him, and the birds covered and protected him 
with their plumage. K'un Mo was not doomed to die, therefore 
the birds came with flesh in their beaks to feed him. 

A servant girl of the king of T'o-li 1 of the northern Yi 2 was 
with child. The king wanted to kill her. The girl said by way 
of apology: — ''A vapour, big as an egg, descended from heaven, 
and made me enceinte." Afterwards, she was delivered of a child, 
which she threw away into a pig-stye. The pigs sniffed at it, but 
it did not perish. Then it was removed again to the horse stable, 
in order that the horses should kill it. but the horses also only 
sniffed at it, and it did not die. The king thereupon imagined that 
the child would become a sovereign, and therefore ordered the 
mother to take it back , and had it nursed by his slaves. The boy 
received the name of Tung Ming. He was employed as a shepherd 
for cattle and horses. As he was an excellent archer, the king got 
afraid, that he might deprive him of his kingdom, and therefore 
wished to kill him. Tung Ming went southward to the Yen-hu river, 
where with his bow he shot fish and turtles in the water. They 
formed a floating bridge, enabling Tung Ming to cross. Then the 
fish and turtles separated again so, that the troops pursuing him 
could not follow. Subsequently he became king of Fu-Yü. Among 
the northern Yi there is a kingdom of Fu-yü. 3 

When Tung Ming's mother first became pregnant, she perceived 
a vapour descending from heaven, and, when she threw the newly 
born away, pigs and horses sniffed at him. After he had grown 
up, the king desired to kill him, but the fish and turtles, which 
he had shot, formed a floating bridge. According to heaven's fate 
he was not to die, therefore he was saved from pigs and horses. 
As he was predestinated to become king of Fu-yü, the fish and 
turtles formed a bridge to help him. 

When Yi Yin 4 was about to be born, his mother dreamt that 
she saw a man, who said to her: — " Water flows from the mortar. 5
Forth with travel eastward." The mother took note of this, and, 
on the next morning, found out that really water came out from 

1 A State in northern Corea, Ma-tuan-lin chap. 324, p. 14v., where our passage 
is quoted. 

2 Barbarous, non Chinese tribes in the east. 

3 In Liaotung. 

4 The chief minister of T'ang, the founder of the Shant/ dynasty 1766 b.c. 
Many legends are current about his origin. 

5 In ancient limes holes in the earth were used as mortars. 

176 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

the mortar. 1 She went 10 Li eastward. Where she looked back 
to her native place, all was under water. Yi Yin's destiny was not 
to be drowned, consequently his mother had a dream, and went away. 

The same principle holds good for the city of Li-yang.2 
Those whose fate was like that of Yi Yin, were certainly roused 
beforehand, and removed to another place before the catastrophe. 

When Duke Hsiang of Ch'i got into trouble, Duke Huan, the 
crown-prince, had to fight for his throne with Tse Chiu. 3 Kuan 
Chung assisted Tse Chiu, Pao Shu 4 stood by Duke Huan. Kuan 
Chung in a combat against duke Huan, shot at him with arrows, 
and hit him on the buckle of his belt. Man is generally 7 feet 
high,5 the belt clasps the waist, and the buckle attached to the 
belt covers only a spot less than an inch wide. Its smallness 
makes it difficult to be hit. Moreover, the pointed edge is curbed 
on its polished surface. All the arrows hitting the buckle are 
deflected. Yet Kuan Chung just hit the buckle in the middle. The 
arrow struck against it, and then fell down without deviating into 
the flesh on either side. Duke Huan's fate was wealth and honour, 
and a god helped him, so that the arrow hitting his buckle did 
not hurt him. 

King Kung of Ch'u had five sons: — Tse Chao, TseYü, Tse Kan, 
Tse Hsi, and Ch'i Chi, who all were much liked by him. But 
having no son from his first wife, whom he might make his successor, he sacrificed to the mountains and rivers, and invoked the 
decision of the gods. Together with his second wife Pa he buried 
a jade badge in the ancestral hall, and bade his five sons to enter 
after having feasted, and make obeisance. The later king K'ang 
stepped over it, Tse Yü reached it with his elbow, Tse Kan and 
Tse Hsi both remained far from it. Ch'i Chi was carried in as a 
baby. With each prostration he pressed on the top of the jade 
badge. When King Kung died, Tse Chao became King K'ang," 7 but 
his son lost the kingdom. Tse Yü became King Ling, 8 but was 

1 Namely the underground water. 

2 Cf. p. 136. 

3 In 686 B.C. Duke Hsiang was assassinated by his nephew Wu Chih (Ch'un- 
ch'iu III, 8). Tse Ch'iu was a brother of Duke Huan. 

4 Kuan Chung and Puo Shu Ya were bosom-friends. At the recommendation 
of Po ShuYa, Kuan Chung, later on, entered into the service of Duke Huan, whom 
he had first opposed. 

4 The ancient Chinese foot was much smaller than ours. 

5 589-558 B.C. 

7 558-543 B.C. 

8 539-527 B.C. 

Auspicious Portents. 177 

himself assassinated. Tse Kan reigned but ten odd days. Tse Hsi 
did not come into power, and even was afraid of being beheaded. 
All were exterminated and left no progeny. Ch'i Chi mounted the 
throne later, and continued the sacrifices of the house of Chü, for 
such had been the presage.1 

The duration of the reigns of these princes corresponded to 
the distance they kept from the jade badge, when prostrating 
themselves. The piece of jade was in the earth, while the five 
sons, unaware of it, entered one by one, and bowed nearer or 
farther off. When they pressed down the top of the jade ornament, they were, so to speak, induced by their spirits to kneel down. 

T'u An Ku of Chin out of hatred destroyed the sons of 
Chao Tun.3 After the death of Chao So, 4 his wife had a posthumous 
child. When T'u An Ku heard of it, he sought it in the Palace.5 
The mother put it into her pantaloons, and swore the following 
oath: — " The whole Chao family will be lost, if the child cries, it 
will not be so, if it does not utter a sound." While being searched 
for, it did not cry at all. Then its escape could be effected, and 
its life be saved. Chêng Ying Ch'i 6 carried it away, and concealed 
it on a mountain. During Duke Ching's time,7 Han Chüeh mentioned 
it to the duke, who together with Han Chüeh raised the orphan 
of Chao to his former rank, so that he could continue the sacrificial rites of his family under the name of Wên Tse. The orphan 
of Chao did not utter a sound, as though its mouth had been closed. 
Thus the elevation of Wên Tse was predetermined by fate. 

The mother of Han Kao Tsu, dame Liu, reposed on the banks 
of a large lake. In a dream, she met with a spirit. At that time 
there was a tempest with thunder and lightning. In the darkness a 
dragon appeared on high. The son, of which she was delivered, had 
an excellent character, but was very fond of wine. He would buy 
wine on credit from Mrs. Wang and mother Wu. When he was drunk, 
he stopped, and lay down to sleep. Mrs. Wang and mother Wu then 
always saw some miraculous signs about him. Whenever he remained

1 The Shi-chi chap. 40, p. 14 tells this story with nearly the same words, 
and has taken it from the Tso-ckuan, Duke Ch'ao 13th year. Vid. Legge, Chinese 
Classics Vol.V, p. G50, 1st col. and Chavannes, Mem. Historiques Vol. IV, p. .367. 

2 A minister of the State of Chin 597 b.c. 

3 Also a minister of Chin and rival of T'u An Ku. 

4 Likewise slain by T'u An Ku. 

5 Chao So's widow, being a daughter of the ducal house of Chin, had sought 
refuge in the palace. 

6 A faithful adherent of Chao So. 

7 598-579 B.C. 

Lun-Hêng. 12 

178 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

 to drink wine, the price of the wine then sold was many 
times as much as usual. 

Later on he walked into the lake, and cut a big snake into 
pieces with his hand. An old woman filled the roads with her 
wails, crying that the Red Emperor had killed her son. This 
miracle being very striking was much talked about. 1

Ch'in Skih Huang Ti used to say that in the south-east there 
was the spirit of a son of heaven. Therefore he travelled eastward in order to suppress it. This was Kao Tsu's spirit. Together 
with Lü Hou he concealed himself amidst the marshes in the Mang
and T'ang Mountains.2 When Lü Hou with other people went in 
search for him, they always saw a vapour rising in a straight line 
above him, and thus discovered where he was.3 

Later on Kao Tsu agreed with Hsiang Yü that whoever first 
entered the gates of Ch'in, should be king. Kao Tsu arrived first, 
which was deeply resented by Hsiang Yü. Fan T'sêng 4 said: — 
"' I pray to look at his vapours. They all take the shape of a 
dragon, and have five colours: — they are those of the son of heaven. 
He must be despatched forthwith." 

When Kao Tsu went to thank Hsiang Yü, the latter and Ya 
Fu 5 hatched a plot to kill him. At their instigation Hsiang Chuang 
performed a dance with a drawn sword. Hsiang Po, who knew 
their intentions, began to dance together with Hsiang Chuang, and 
no sooner was the sword raised over Kao Tsu's head, than Hsiang 
Po covered him with his own body so, that the sword did not 
fall, and the murderous plot was not carried out.6 At one time. 
Kao Tsu was rescued by Chang Liang and Fan K'uai, 7 and after 
all got off unhurt. Thereupon he swayed the whole empire. 

When his mother conceived him, the spirit of a dragon made 
its appearance. When he grew up, peculiar clouds were seen about 
the wine shop. During the night, he killed a snake, and the 
snake's old mother lamented, and cried. Ch'in Shih Huang Ti and 
Lü Hou saw an aureole above him. Hsiang Yü planned his assassination, but Hsiang Po protected him, and the scheme fell through. 

1 Cf. the detailed account given in Chap. XVII. 

2 The Mang Mountains were situated in Honan, the T'ang Mountains in Kansu. 

3 These myths about the first emperor of the Han dynasty are related in almost the same words in the Shi-chi chap. 8, p. Iv. 

4 The famous counsellor of Kao Tsu's rival, Hsiang Yü. 

5 The title of Fan T'sêng. 

6 The story is told more in detail in the Shi-chi chap. 7, p. 14v. 

7 Partisans of Kao Tsu, whose success is to a great extent due to their efforts. 

Auspicious Portents. 179 

He found such helpmates as Chang Liang and Fan K'uai. For 
there being signs pointing to his future wealth and honour, all 
things obeyed him, and men lent him their help and support. 

A younger brother of the Empress Dowager Tou, 1 of the 
name of Kuang Kuo, was, at the age of 4 or 5 years, robbed from 
his poor family, and sold, his people not knowing his whereabouts. 
'Slave than ten times he was sold again to other families, till he 
came to I-Yang.- There he went on the hills for his master to 
make charcoal: — when it grew cold at night, over a hundred 
people lay down under the coal. The coal collapsed, and all were 
crushed to death, save kuang Kuo, who managed to escape. He 
then divined himself, and ascertained that, after a certain number 
of days, he would be made a marquis. He left his home, and 
betook himself to Chang-an. 3 There he learned that the Empress Tou 
had lately settled her family at Kuan-chin in Ch'ing-ho.4 He reported 
himself to the emperor. The Empress Dowager prevailed upon Ching 
Ti to grant him an audience. What he replied to the questions 
about his origin proved true, and the emperor made him rich 
presents. At the accession of Wên Ti, 5 Kuang Kuo was created a 
marquis of Chang Wu. When the coal heaps came down, more 
than a hundred people were killed, only Kuang Kuo escaped. Being  
preserved by fate for wealth and honour, he did not only keep 
alive, but was made a marquis to boot. 

Yü Tse Ta, a native of Tung Kuan in Ch'en-liu 6 came into the 
world at night. His mother beheld something like a skein of silk 
over him, which went up to heaven. She asked other people's advice 
about it. All were agreed that it was an auspicious fluid foreboding 
honour, which reached up to heaven. Yü Tse Ta, when grown up, became 
an official, and was promoted to the rank of Minister of Education. 

Kuang Wên Jo 7 from P'u-fan 8 in Ho-tung 9 was likewise born 
about midnight. At that time some one called his father's name 

1 The wife of the emperor Wên Ti, 179-156 b.c, and the mother of Ching 
Ti, 156-140. 

2 A district in Honanfu. 

3 The capital under the former Han dynasty. 

4 Ch'ing-ho, a State in Honan, the present prefecture of K'ai-fêng-fu, of 
which Kuan-chin formed a district. 

5 Probably a misprint for Wu Ti: for Wu Ti. not Wen Ti succeeded Ching Ti. 

6 In ICai-ff'ng-fu {Honan). 

7 The T'ai-p'ing-yü-lan quoting this passage writes T'ang Wên Po. Nothing 
more is to be learned about this person from the cyclopedias. 

8 The modern P'u-chou in Shansi. 

9 Literally : — the country east of the (Yellow) River. 


180 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical. 

from without doors. The father went out, and replied, but nobody 
was to be seen, only a big wooden stick was planted next to the 
door. He understood well that it was different from common ones. 
The father took the stick into his house, and showed it to somebody, who prognosticated the future from it, saying : — "A lucky 
omen, indeed. When Kuang Wên Po is grown up, he will study, 
and in his official career be appointed prefect of Kuang-han.'' 1 Kuang 
Wên Po was to be wealthy and honoured, therefore his father was 
presented with the stick. The diviner, as it were, implied that the 
stick represented the strength of the child. 

On the day Chia-tse 2 in the twelfth moon of the first year 
Chien-p'ing, 3 when the Emperor Kuang Wu Ti saw the light in the 
second hall of the seraglio in the rear of the Chi-yang palace, 4 
his father was magistrate of Chi-yang. 5 During the night this room 
was lighted of itself without there being any fire. His father 
summoned the secretary Ch'ung Lan, and despatched him to consult 
a fortune-teller. For that purpose Ch'ung Lan, accompanied by the 
groom Su Yung, went to Wang Ch'ang Sun' place. Wang Ch'ang Sun 
said to the two: — " That is a lucky thing, I cannot say more." 
That same year a blade of grain grew among house-leek and wall- 
pepper. It had three roots, one stalk, and nine ears, and was by 
one to two feet higher than a common one, it being an auspicious 

At the beginning of Yuan Ti's 7 reign a phenix alighted on 
the Chi-yang kung. Hence there exists still to-day in the Chi-yang 
palace a phenix cottage. Yuan Ti together with Li Fu and others 
travelled into the region of Ch'ai. 8 On the road they fell in with 
insurgents, and greatly alarmed, fled to the old cottage of Chi-yang. 
When they arrived, they beheld a red glare like fire just south 
from the road leading to the old cottage. A stream of light went 
up to heaven, and after a moment was gone. 

1 All ancient name of the region about Ch'êng-tu and T'ung-ch'uan in Sse-chuan. 

2 The first number of the sexagenary cycle. 

3 6-2 B.C. 

4 This palace, once used by the Emperor Han Wu Ti as a travelling lodge, 
had been closed. Kuang Wu Ti's father finding his yamen too wet to live in, had 
moved into the old palace, and installed himsclf in the halls at the back. 

5 The modern T'sao-chou-fu in Shantung. 

6 Cf. T'ai-p'ing-yü-lan (Kuang Wu Ti) where the Tung-kuan han-chi is quoted. 

7 Han Yuan Ti 48-32 b.c. The Tung-kuan Han-chi relates that the phenix 
came down at the birth of Kunng Wu Ti, 6 b.o. 

8 An old name of T ai-an-hsien in Shantung. 

Auspicious Portents. 181 

At Wang Mangs time, the Lord Marshal Su Po A could distinguish the currents of air. When, on an embassy, he passed 
through the suburb of Ch'uang-ling, 1 he found the air very brisk 
and fresh. Kuang Wu Ti came to Ho-pin, 2 where he had an interview with Su Po A. He put to him the question:- " How did you 
know that a lucky wind was blowing, minister, when you passed 
Ch'uang-ling? " — "Only because I saw the air brisk and fresh" was 
Su Po A's reply. 

Ergo, when by Heaven's decree a new man is to rise, and a 
wise emperor to come forth, the manifestations of the original fluid 
before and after can clearly be made out. 3 But, when there is 
only a succession of power, and a continuation of former institutions, insomuch as the latter serve as a basis, then the manifestations of the heavenly fluid are not worth mentioning.' 4 When there 
is a complete revolution, and a new dragon rises, he starts from 
very small beginnings, and passes first through all sorts of calamities, 
as in the case of Han Kao Tsu and Guang Wu Ti. 5 Were they not 
ushered in with wonderful signs from heaven, men, and spirits, and 
great splendour? 

1 A city in Honan. 

2 Under the Han a district " north of the Yellow River," corresponding to 
the modern P'ing-lu-hsien in Shansi. 

3 In case of a great political revolution. 

4 In case of regular succession, the son following the father. 

5 Both founders of new dynasties.