CHAPTER XVI. False Reports about the Dead (Sse-wei).
King Hüan of the Chou dynasty 1 is reported to have killed
his minister, the Earl of Tu, who was innocent. When King Hsüan
was going to hunt in his park, the Earl of Tu rose on the road-
side with a red bow in his left hand. He shot an arrow at the
king, who expired under the cover of his own bow-case.2 — Duke
Chien of Chao 3 put his minister Chuang Tse Yi to death, although
he was innocent. When Duke Chien was about to pass through
the Huan gate, Chuang Tse Yi appeared on the road, a red cudgel
in his left hand, with which he struck the duke, that he died under
his carriage. This is considered as proving that two dead persons
became ghosts, and as showing that ghosts are conscious, and can
hurt people, and that there is no help against it.
I say that man is created as one of the ten thousand creatures.
When these creatures die, they do not become ghosts, why then
must man alone become a ghost after death? If it be owing to
his superiority that man can become a ghost, then all the dead
ought to be transformed into ghosts, wherefore then did the Earl
of Tu and Chuang Tse Yi alone become ghosts? If those who have
innocently suffered can become ghosts, there have been a great
many ministers thus wronged. Men like Pi Kan and Tse Hsü 4 did
not become ghosts. Now, the Earl of 7u and Chang Tse Yi were
immoral. Full of spite and hate, they assassinated their sovereigns,
out of revenge. There is no crime worse than the assassination
of one's sovereign. Those who were deemed worthy to become
ghosts, would again have to be executed. Therefore the Earl of
Tu, and Chang Tse Yi would certainly not have dare to commit
such a crime.
1 827-781 B.C.
2 The story is given a little more in detail in the Chou Ch'un-ch'iu, which
adds that the king broke his spine (cf. Chavannes, Mên. Hist. Vol. I, p. 278, Note 2)
and also by Mê Ti chap. 8, p. 2.
3 In the Lun-hêng Bk. IV, p. 5 (Shu-hsü) he is called Viscount Chien of Chao,
the same who is mentioned in chap. XVII.
4 On their fates cf. p. 140 and chap. XXXIX.
False Reports about the Dead. 203
When one man injures another, he does not wish him to live,
and hates to see his person. Therefore he does away with him.
Then not only the family of the murdered man goes to the magistrate, and lodges a complaint against their enemy, but the victim
also must hate to see him. Life and death are different spheres,
and men and ghosts live in different places. If, therefore, the Earl
of Tu and Chuang Tse Yi were grieved at King Hsüan and Duke
Chien, they should not have lulled them, for then they would also
have become ghosts, and again have been together with them.
Princes have great power, and their officers, guards, and underlings are very numerous. Had the two ministers killed the two
princes, their deaths would have been avenged. Therefore no intelligent man would have made such a scheme, or committed such
an act in his wrath. If the two ministers were spirits, they must
have been aware that the deaths of the two princes would be
avenged upon them, and, if they were not aware of it, then they
were not spirits either, and not being spirits, how could they have
injured anybody? In the world many things seem real, which are
not, and there are many falsehoods, which are taken for truths.
Thus the stories of the Earl of Tu and Chuang Tse Yi have been
[Duke Hui of Chin removed the crown-prince Shin Shêng 1 from
his grave, and had him re-interred. When in autumn his charioteer
Hu Tu went to Hsia-kuo, 2 he met the crown-prince there. The crown-
prince stepped upon his carriage, and spoke to him saying, "I Wu 3
is a brute. I have asked God. He will give Chin over to Ch'in,
and Ch'in will offer sacrifice to me." — Hu Tu replied, " I have been
told that spirits enjoy only the offerings of their own kindred, and
that people do not sacrifice but to their own clan. Would the
sacrifice to Your Highness not be terminated then? Besides the
people of Chin are not responsible. Their punishment would be
unjust, and there would be the cessation of the sacrifice. Your
Highness should take this into consideration." — The crown-prince
said, " Well, I will pray again. Seven days hence, there will be
a wizard west of the New City, through whom you shall have an
interview with me." After Hu Tu had agreed to it, he vanished.
At the fixed time, Hu Tu went to the hut of a wizard on the west
1 A brother of the Duke, who had been driven into death by court intrigues.
2 The " Lower Capital " of Chin i. e. Chü-wu in modern Ping-yang-fu (Shansi).
3 The personal name of Duke Hui.
204 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
side of the New City, and had a second interview with Shên Shêng.
Shên Shêng told him. " God has promised to punish the guilty one.
He will slay him in Han.'']1 — Four years later Duke Hui fought
with Duke Mu of Ch'in in the Han territory, 2 and was taken prisoner
by Duke Mu, exactly as had been predicted. What else was this
than the work of a spirit?
This story bears a great resemblance to those of the Earl of
Tu and Ch'uang Tse Yi. How can we show that? The removal of
a grave is a private grievance. God is a public spirit. Would a
public spirit take heed of a complaint addressed to him on a private
grievance? God is said to have promised to give Chin over to Ch'in.
Hu Tu thought that this could not be. Shên Shêng following Hu
Tu's words, was quite right, and therefore God's promise toShên Shêng was wrong. It is evident that a spirit which as God would
be inferior to Hu Tu, cannot be God.
Furthermore, a subject dares not implore a sovereign to consider his private affairs. A sovereign has such an exalted position
in comparison with a humble subject, that the latter does not
venture to trouble him with things that do not concern him. And
was the distance between Shên Shêng and God not still greater than
between a subject and his sovereign? He would not have vented
his anger against Duke Hui for having removed his grave in the
august presence of God.
Li Chi 3 caused the death of Shên Shêng by her slander, and
Duke Hui removed his corpse from his grave. The removal of a
corpse is less wicked than a murder, and the guilt of Duke Hui
less than that of Li Chi. If Shên Shêng prayed for the punishment
of Duke Hui, and not for the death of Li Chi, then he resented the
removal of his grave, but was not grieved at his own death.
By the advice of Li Sse, Ch'in Shih Huang Ti burned the books
of poetry and history, and subsequently buried the scholars alive.
The grievances of the literati against him were not of a less serious
character than those of Shên Shêng, and the misery of being buried
alive, much more pitiful than the removal of a corpse. Yet the dead
scholars of Ch'in did not implore God, nor appear in the shapes
of ghosts, and those savants did not conjointly accuse Ch'in Shih
Huang Ti of viciousness, and Li Sse of depravity.
1 Quotation from the Tso-chuan, Duke Hsi 10th year (049 b.c, Legge, Classics
Vol. V, Pt. I, p. 157).
2 In Shansi.
3 A wife of" Duke Hsien of Chin, who, in order to secure the throne for her
own son, removed the heir-apparent, Shên Shêng.
False Reports about the Dead. 205
When King Wu of the Chou dynasty was sick and low-spirited, the Duke of Chou asked for Heaven's commands. He erected
three altars with one platform for sacrifices, and with the jade
sceptre and the baton in his hands, addressed T'ai Wang, Wang Chi
and Wên Wang. 1 The annalist composed the prayer. In his address
he said," I am benevolent like my ancestors, have many talents
and abilities, and can serve the spirits. The great-grandson so-and-
so has not as many talents or abilities as Tan, and cannot serve
the spirits." 2 — By spirits the three princes are meant. The dead
are unconscious, and cannot become spirits, they say. However,
the Duke of Chou was a sage; the words of a sage are true, and
he finds out the reality of things that seem dark. Such being the
case, the three princes must have been spirits.
I ask, can men really become spirits or not? Provided, they
can, then one must know the opinions of the three princes, and
not solely inquire, whether they were ghosts. The Duke of Chou
asked for Heaven's commands, and the annalist composed the prayer.
When the prayer was completed, and the address finished, the
Duke of Chou did not know, whether the three princes gave their
assent, and how. Upon this he consulted three tortoises. All three
bearing lucky signs, he was pleased. He was able to know that
the three princes were conscious and spirits, but not, whether they
assented or not. To find out the truth, he was obliged to still
consult the three tortoises. Yet in order to determine in an unmistakable way, whether they were spirits or not, it should have
been possible to interrogate them. The question, whether the dead
had knowledge or not, depended on the other, whether they could
give their approval or not. If the Duke of Chou could know that
the three princes did not grant his request, then the statement
that they were ghosts is reliable, but if he could not, then his
statement that the three princes were ghosts, would not have any
more weight than one made by ordinary people. His knowledge
would not reach further than that of the generality, and be inadequate to show us the real state of the dead.
Moreover, by what means did the Duke of Chou obtain Heaven's
commands, by his perfect sincerity, or by the correctness of his
address? If it was by his perfect sincerity, then his prayer was
said with sincerity, and he did not care, whether his address to
1 The spirits of the father, the grandfather-, and the great-grandfather of
King Wu and his younger brother Tan, Duke of Chou.
2 Quoted in an abridged form from Shu-king, Chin-t'eng, Pt. V, Bk. VI, 1 seq.
(Legge Vol. III, Pt. II, p. 351 seq.).
206 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
attract the spirits was correct or not. Tung Chung Shu's method of
praying for rain consisted in putting up a dragon, made of earth.
with a view to affecting the fluid. An earth dragon was not a real
dragon, and could not attract rain. While making use of it, Tung
Chung Shu showed perfect sincerity, and did not mind, whether the
dragon was genuine or ficticious. The Duke of Chou's prayer for
Heaven's commands was like Tung Chung Shu's prayer for rain. The
three princes were not ghosts, as a heap of earth was not a dragon.
Hsün Yen of Chin1 invaded Ch'i, but had to return, before the
campaign came to a close, for he was taken ill with ulcers, and a
sore broke out on his head. When he reached the Cho-yung territory, his eyes protruded from their sockets, and when his death
ensued, he went on staring, and his mouth could not receive anything. Fan Hsüan Tse washed him, and said by way of consolation,
" To serve under Your lordship was decidedly better than under
Wu,'' but he still continued staring. Fan Hsüan Tse observing that
he did not close his eyes, fancied that he was vexed with his son
Wu, for vexation with one's own son is a very common human
grievance. Therefore, he spoke of Wu to comfort him, but this
was not the cause of his resentment, for he went on staring. Luan
Huai Tse remarked, " Is it perhaps, because he did not complete his
designs in Ch'i?", and he again comforted him by saying, "Your
lordship died an untimely death. The things which you did not
bring to a close in Ch'i, are as vast as the Yellow River." Upon
this, he closed his eyes, and received the gem into his mouth. 2 It was
the incompleteness of his invasion of Ch'i which Hsün Yen regretted.
Luan Huai Tse found it out, therefore the dead man closed his eyes,
and received the gem into his mouth. Fan Hsüan Tse missed it,
therefore his eyes remained wide open, and his mouth was locked.
I say that Hsün Yen's death by sickness was very painful, so
that his eyes protruded. When his eyes came out, he firmly closed
his mouth, and therefore could not receive anything in it. Immediately after death the fluid was still strong, and the eyes protruded owing to the pain caused by the disease. Fan Hsüan Tse
soothed him too soon, therefore the eyes did not close, and the
mouth not open. A short while afterwards, the fluid was weakened.
1 An officer of the Chin State.
2 As was customary. Thus far the story, with some additions and omissions,
has been culled from the Tso-chuan, Duke Hsiang 19th year (553 b.c).
False Reports about the Dead. 207
Consequently, when Luan Huai Tse comforted him, his eyes closed,
and his mouth received the gem. This was a sequence of Hsün
Yen's sickness, and the soul of the deceased did not manifest his
resentment in his month and his eyes.
All people have something to regret, when they die. A generous character regrets that he could not accomplish all the good
works he intended, a scholar that his researches had still so many
lacunæ, a husbandman that he did not reap the grain he had sown, a
merchant that he did not make a fortune, an official that he did not
obtain the highest posts, and a brave that his attainments were not yet
perfect. Every one on earth who has desires, has something to regret.
If in every case regrets be considered the cause of the non-closing
of the eyes, then all the dead on earth could not shut their eyes.
The souls of the dead are dissolved, and cannot hear any
more what men say. This inability to hear what others say is
called death. If after their separation from the body they became
ghosts, and kept near to men, their connection with the body would
already have been severed, and, though people addressed them, it
would be impossible for them to again enter the body, and close
the eyes, or open the mouth. If they could enter the body, and
through the corpse express their dissatisfaction, then the inevitable
consequence would be that they must have been preserved together
with the body. Ordinary people hold that the spirits of the dead
can, so to speak, re-animate the bodies, and show themselves so,
that corpses would be like living men, which is a great mistake.
King Ch'êng of Ch'u 1 set aside the heir-apparent Shang Chên,
and wished to put Prince Chih in his place. When Shang Chên
heard of it, he surrounded the king with the palace guards, and
made him prisoner. The king desired to eat bear's paws, before
he was put to death, but Shang Chên did not grant this request,
and the king died by strangulation. Shang Chên gave him the post-
humous title Ling, but the king did not shut his eyes. Then he
called him Ch'êng, and he closed his eyes." 2 This circumstance that
he closed his eyes on being called Ch'êng, but not on being called
Ling, proves that King Ch'êng had consciousness. The posthumous
title Ling displeased him, therefore he did not shut his eyes. When
it was altered into Ch'êng, his hurt feelings were mollified, where-
upon he closed his eyes. His spirit heard people consult, and saw
1 670-624 B.C.
2 Quotation from the Tso-chuan Duke Wen 1st year (625 b.c.) (Legge Vol. V,
Pt. I, p. 230).
208 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
them change the title. This gave him such satisfaction, that he
closed his eyes. They were not sick, and nobody soothed him. The
eyes opened, and closed of their own accord; if that was not spiritual, what else was it?
I am of opinion that this story is like that of Hsün Yen. Al-
though the eyes were not sick, they did not remain open for nothing.
When King Ch'êng died by strangulation, his vital fluid was still
strong, and, when his life was suddenly cut off, his eyes still opened.
Owing to this the epithet Ling 1 was given him. After a short
while, the fluid relaxed, and the eyes were just going to close,
when simultaneously his title was changed into Chêng? It was by
chance that the staring and the shutting of the eyes coincided
with the selection of Ling as a posthumous title. The people of
that time, noticing that the king shut his eyes as if in response
to the title Chêng, believed that it was the soul of King Chêng.
If he was really conscious, he ought never to have closed his eyes,
for the murder committed by the heir-apparent upon his person
was a heinous crime, whereas the selection of the word Ling as a
posthumous title was only a small fault. He did not resent the
great crime, but took offence at the small fault. That does not
make the existence of a spirit probable, and would not seem a
reliable utterance of his feelings. Of improper posthumous titles
we have not only Ling but also Li. 3 In the annals many princes
bearing the epithets Ling and Li are mentioned. They did not all
keep their eyes open, before their bodies were shrouded. Did the
dead princes of the various ages not resent the name, and was it
King Chêng alone who took umbrage? How is it that there were
so many of the name of Ling, and so few who did not close
Po Yu of Ch'êng was greedy and perverse, and his desires were
many. Tse Hsi wished to rank before every one else. Both, of
course, could not get on together. Tse Hsi assaulted Po Yu, who
took to flight, Sse Tai led his countrymen against him, and defeated
him. Po Yo died. 4 Nine years later [the people of Ch'êng took
1 Ling 灵 might mean: animated, alive, a spirit, but it has many other
significations besides, as : — intelligent, ingenious, clever, which might well be used
as a posthumous title.
2 This 成 would mean: — the completer, the perfect one.
3 Li 厉 is in fact not a proper honorary epithet, its sense being: — oppressive,
cruel, malicious, ugly, terrible.
4 According to the Tso-chuan in 542 u.c.
False Reports about the Dead. 209
alarm owing to Po Yu. They said that Po Yu was coming. Consequently, they all ran away, not knowing where to go. In the following year, some people saw Po Yu in their dreams walking about
in armour, and saying, "On the day jên-tse, I will slay Sse Tai, and
next year on Jên-yin, I will slay Kung Sun Tuan.'' — When the jên-tse
day arrived, Sse lai died, and the fright of the citizens still increased. Afterwards, when the jen-yin day came, Kung Sun Tuan
died also, and the citizens felt still more alarmed. Tse Ch'an 1 promoted his descendant to soothe him, and he kept quiet ever since.]
Po Yu appeared in dreams, and said, "On the jên-tse day I will slay
Sse Tai, and on jên-yin I will kill Kutig Sun Tuan.'' When the jên-tse
day came, Sse Tai died, and when the jên-yin day arrived, Kung Sun
Tuan breathed his last. [When subsequently Tse Ch'an betook him-
self to Chin, Ching Tse of Chao questioned him saying, "Could Po Yu
still become a ghost?" — Tse Ch'an rejoined, "He could. When man
is born, that which is first created, is called animal soul, and, when
the animal soul has been formed, its yang becomes the mind. In
case the substance and the elements are abundantly used, the soul
and the mind grow very strong, and therefore show great energy,
until they become spirits. Even the soul and the mind of an ordinary man, or an ordinary woman, who have met with a violent
death, can attach themselves to men, as evil spirits, and fancy Po
Yu, a descendant of a former sovereign pf mine, Duke Mu,2 the
grandson of Tse Liang, and the son of Tse Erh, who was governor
of a small territory, the third of his family who held this post!
Although Ch'êng is not a rich country, and, as a saying of Ch'êng is,
a small and unimportant State, yet three successive generations have
ruled over it. The stuff Po Yu was made of was copious and rich,
and his family great and powerful. Is it not natural that having
met with a violent death, he should be able to become a ghost?"] 3
Po Yu killed both Sse Tai and Kung Sun Tuan, and did not miss
the appointed time. That shows that he was really a spirit. When
Tse Ch'an had raised his descendant, he kept quiet. Tse Ch'an understood the doings of ghosts, and therefore knew that they really
existed. Since they are real, and not an illusion, Tse Ch'an answered the question addressed to him unhesitatingly. Tse Ch'an was
a wise man who understood the nature of things. If Po Yu after
1 Tse Ch'an is the style of the celebrated statesman Kun Sun Ch'iao of Ch'êng
2 Duke Mu of Chêng 62(i-604 b.c.
3 Quotation from the Ts-chuan, Duke Ch'ao 7th year (534 b.c.) (Legge Vol. V,
Pt. 11, p. 618).
210 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical.
death possessed no knowledge, how could lie kill Sse Tai and Kung
Sun Tuan? And if he could not become a ghost, why had Tse Ch'an
not the slightest doubt about it?
My answer is, as follows. The man who lived at enmity with
Po Yu was Tse Hsi. He attacked Po Yu, who fled. Sse Tai led his
countrymen against Po Yu, and defeated him. Kung Sun Tuan merely
followed Sse Tai, but did not settle his own dispute. His wrong
was much smaller. Po Yu killed Sse Tai, but did not wreak his
vengeance upon Tse Hsi. Since Kung Sun Tuan died along with Sse
Tai, though his guilt was not worth speaking of, the soul of Po Yu
was not conscious. Taking his revenge as a ghost, he did not make
any distinction between a grave and a small offence, as he ought
to have done.
Furthermore, Tse Ch'an asserted that he who dies a violent
death can become a ghost. What does a violent death mean? Does
it mean that according to fate Po Yu ought not yet to have died,
when he was killed? Or does it mean that Po Yu was guileless, but
hardly dealt with? If the idea is that he was slain, before the time of
his death had arrived, there are many others who likewise died before their appointed time, and if it signifies that Po Yu was not guilty,
but the victim of an outrage, then Po Yu was not alone outraged.
If murdered men can become ghosts, Pi Kan and Tse Hsü did not.
During the " Spring and Autumn " period thirty-six sovereigns in all were assassinated. Theirs were violent deaths par excellence. Their sway extended over entire States, the fine substance
of which they were formed must have been very abundant, and
they succeeded one another as lords of the soil, not only through
three generations. The dignity of a reigning prince is not on a
level with that of a governor. Their ancestors, who were first
enfeoffed, were certainly the equals of Tse Liang, the son of Duke
Mu. Since the sovereigns of States who suffered death at the hands
of their treacherous subjects, were of the highest nobility, their souls
as ghosts would have been more enlightened than Po Yu, who in
taking his revenge and killing his enemies went so far as to destroy
Sse Tai and King Sun Tuan. The thirty-six princes did not become
ghosts, nor did their thirty-six subjects feel their vengeance. If the
spirit of Po Yu possessed knowledge, because he was a reckless
character, the world has never seen more desperate men than Chieh
and Chou, yet, when Chieh and Chou were put to death, their souls
did not become ghosts.
Tse Ch'an's reasoning is a posteriori. Noticing that Po Yu met
with a violent death, he held that all people dying an unnatural
False Reports about the Dead. 2 1 1
death can become ghosts. Had Po Yu become a ghost without
having met with a violent death, he would have maintained that
all people can become ghosts, unless they have died an unnatural
death. What difference was there between Tse Hsi and Po Yu, while
both were living in Ch'êng? Why should his death be otherwise
than that of Po Yu? Both were killed by their countrymen for their
lawlessness. Po Yu could become a ghost, and Tse Hsi could not.
The argument on the violent death would suit in the case of Po Yu,
but be inadmissible in that of Tse Hsi. The story of Po Yu, is like
the tale of the Earl of Tu. The tale of the Earl of Tu being unreliable, that of Po Yu cannot be regarded as true either.
[Duke Huan of Ch'in 1 invaded Chin, and encamped himself at
Fu-shih. 2 The Marquis of Chin had gathered his troops in Chi, 3 to
seize the land of the Ti, 4 and restore the Marquis of Li. 5 When
he came back from this expedition, Wei K'o defeated the army of
Ch'in at Fu-shih, and made Tu Hui prisoner. Tu Hui was the strongest
man in Ch'in. Previously Wei Wu Tse 6 had a favourite concubine,
but no son by her. When he fell sick, he bade Wei K'o to give
his concubine to somebody in marriage. Afterwards, when his case
became more serious, he ordered Wei K'o again to bury the concubine with him, but, when Wei Wu Tse's death ensued, Wei K'o did
not bury her. Some people found fault with him, but Wei K'o replied, " During his delirium the mind of my father was deranged,
therefore I followed the orders he gave, when he was in his senses."
At the battle of Fu-shih, Wei K'o perceived an old man plaiting grass
with a view to ensnaring Tu Hui, who stumbled, and fell down, and
thus was caught. In the night he beheld the old man in his dreams,
who said to him, "I am the father of the woman which you have
given away. You have obeyed your father's orders of the time,
when he was still in his right mind, therefore I have paid you my
debt of gratitude."] 7
The father of the favourite knew the virtue of Wei K'o, therefore he appeared in the shape of a ghost, plaited grass, and helped
1 603-575 B.C.
2 Near Hsi-an-fu in Shensi.
3 In the Ping-yang prefecture (Shansi).
4 Aboriginal, non-Chinese tribes.
5 The Ti had dethroned him, and conquered his territory.
6 Wei K'o's father.
7 Quotation from the Tso-ckuan, Duke Hsüan 15th year (593 b.c).
212 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
him to win the battle. This clearly proves the enlightenment and
the knowledge of the spirit.
I say that, provided that the father of the woman did know
the virtue of Wei Ko, and appeared as a ghost to help him in
battle, he should have been able to reward those whom he liked
during his life-time, and to destroy whom he hated, while alive.
Human intercourse is amicable or otherwise. Kindness and unfriendliness must be requited, just as gratitude was to be shown
for the sake of the woman. Now, the old man was unable to requite the kindness he had received, while alive, and only could show
his gratitude for the goodness which he received after death. That
is no proof of knowledge, or of the ability to become a ghost.
When Chang Liang walked on the banks of the river Sse, an
old man presented him with a book. 1 Kuang Wu Ti 2 was sorely
pressed in Ho-pei, 3 when an old man gave his advice. One's fate
being grand, and the time lucky, one must meet with felicitous and
pleasant auguries. Wei K'o was to take Tu Hui prisoner, and to
distinguish himself in battle, consequently the phantom of an old
man appeared plaiting grass, where the hosts were passing.
Wang Chi 4 was buried at the foot of Mount Hua. The Luan
river having undermined his tumulus, the front part of his coffin
became visible. Wên Wang said, " How pleasing ! Our old lord
certainly wishes to see his officers and people once more, therefore
he caused the Luan to bring his coffin to light." Upon this, he
held a court, and all the people could view him for three days.
Then he had him buried again. — Wên Wang was a sage, who knew
the true nature of things and principles. Seeing that Wang Chi's
coffin was visible, he knew that his spirit was desirous of seeing
the people, therefore he took him out, and showed him.
I fancy that all the kings and emperors who from ancient
times were entombed in the earth after their deaths, must be counted
by thousands. They did not desire to see their people again, where-
fore should Wang Chi alone have done so? On the banks of the
Yellow River and the Sse, many tombs have been built, and the coffins
which by an inundation and a land-slip have been uncovered are
1 Cf. p. 95.
2 25-57 A.D.
3 In Shansi.
4 The father of Wên Wang.
False Reports about the Dead. 213
innumerable. Did all those persons wish to see their people again?
The undermining of the foot of Mount Ku by the Luan is like the
inundations and the ruptures caused by the waters of the Yellow
River and the Sse. Wên Wang perceiving the front part of the coffin
exposed, commiserated the old lord, and felt sorry for him, and
imagined that he wished to come out again. This is the natural
sentiment of a devoted and filial son, and a natural feeling for the
other's well-being. As the wise man and the sage he was, he felt
deeply touched, and did not take the time to reason and analyse
his feelings. He treated a dead man, as though he were living,
and therefore gave him a new tomb. The masses believe in the
words of wise men and sages, hence they fancy that Wang Chi wished
to see his people.
Duke Ching of Ch'i 1 was going to invade Sung. When his
troops passed Mount T'ai, the duke saw two old gentlemen in his
dream, who stood there in a fit of passion. The duke told Yen Tse, 2
who replied, "They are T'ang 3 and Yi Yin, 4 former worthies of
Sung.'' — The duke was incredulous, and thought that they were the
spirits of Mount T'ai. Yen Tse said, " Your Highness disbelieves me,
allow me to describe the appearance of T'ang and Yi Yin. T'ang
is pale and tall, and has a beard on the chin, which is pointed
above, and full below. He keeps himself straight, and talks with
a loud voice." — The duke said, " Yes, so he is." Yen Tse continued,
" Yi Yin is dark and short, and has dishevelled hair and whiskers,
which are full above and pointed below. He has a stooping gait,
and talks low." — The duke said, " Yes, so he is, but what is to
be done now?" — Yen Tse replied, " T'ang, T'ai Chia, Wu Ting, and
Tsu Yi 5 were excellent rulers of the empire. It is not right that
they should have no offspring left. Now there remains only Sung,
which Your Highness is going to invade. 6 Therefore T'ang and
Yi Yin are enraged, and ask you to dismiss your army, and keep
peace with Sung.'" 7 — The duke did not take heed, and invaded Sung
1 546-488 B.C.
2 The Great Diviner of Ch'i (cf. p. 112) and reputed author of the Yen
3 The founder of the Shang dynasty, 1766-1753 b.c.
4 T'ang's prime minister.
5 All four were sovereigns of the Shang dynasty. T'ai Chia reigned from
1753-1720, Wu Ting 1324-1265, and Tm Yi 1525-1506 b.c.
6 The dukes of Sung derived their descent from the sovereigns of the
7 Quoted from Yen Tse's Ch'un-ch'iu (T'ai-p'ing-yü-lan) with some variations.
214 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
after all, when his army was in fact beaten. — T'ang and Yi Yin possessed knowledge, and resented the attack of Duke Ching upon Sung,
therefore they appeared to him in his dreams enraged, for the purpose of checking him, but Duke Ching did not stop, and his army
met with a reverse.
They say that previously Duke Ching had already seen a comet
in his dreams. At the time in question, the comet did not appear,
which was unlucky. It may be so, but all this were dreams. Duke
Ching saw a comet, but it was not a real comet, and he dreamt of
T'ang and Yi Yin, but they were not real. Perhaps they were inauspicious visions accompanying the defeat of his army. Yen Tse
believed in the dream, and said that the figures were those of T'ang
and Yi Yin. Duke Ching accepted Yen Tses explanation as true. When
the Ch'in united the empire, they destroyed the descendants of Yi
Yin. From that time up to the present the sacrifices to T'ang and
Yi Yin have been discontinued, why did they not resent it?
[Tse Chan of Ch'eng 1 was sent on a complimentary mission to
Chin. The marquis of Chin 2 was sick. Han Hsuan Tse 3 went to meet
the guest, and privately said to him, "My prince is laid up three
months already. Although we all have run about to sacrifice to
the hills and streams, his sickness increases instead of improving.
Now he has dreamt of a yellow bear passing through the door
of his bedchamber. What devil can that he?''— Tse Ch'an replied,
" Since the prince is so enlightened, and your administration so grand,
why should there be a malignant spirit? Of yore Yao banished Kun 4
for perpetuity to Mount Yü. 5 His spirit became a yellow bear, which
entered into the deep holes of the Yü. It eventually became an object of veneration to the Hsia, 6 and the Three Dynasties 7 sacrificed
to it. The marquis of Chin is an allied prince, 8 has he perhaps
not sacrificed to it?" — Han Hsuan Tse performed the sacrifice of the
Hsia, and the marquis of Chin felt a relief.] 9 The yellow bear was
1 Vid. p. 209.
2 His name was P'ing (556-530 b.c).
3 Prime minister of Chin.
4 The father of the Emperor Yü.
5 South of I-chou in Shantung.
6 The Hsia dynasty.
7 Hsi, Shang, and Chou.
8 Allied to the reigning house of Chou.
9 Quoted from the Tso-chuan, Duke Ch'ao 7th year (534 b.c.) Legge Vol. V,
Pt. n, p. 617).
False Reports about the Dead. 215
the spirit of Kun. The marquis of Chin had not sacrificed to it,
therefore it passed through the door of his bedroom. When Chin
knew it, and performed the sacrifice, the disease was interrupted.
Does that not show that the dead are conscious?
That Kun was left to die on Mount Yü every one knows, but
where from should people learn that his spirit became a yellow bear,
and entered the depths of the Yü? If it was like Duke Niu Ai of
Lu, who during a disease was transformed into a tiger, 1 it could
have been verified at the time of death. Now Kun died far away
on Mount Yü, nobody was with him, where did the news come from
then? Moreover, it is expressly stated that his spirit became a
bear, which implies that he died. That after death his spirit became
a yellow bear, men had no means to ascertain.
People call a dead man a ghost. A ghost is like a living man
in form, and does not look otherwise than a man, and yet it is not
the spirit of the deceased. How much less a bear, which has no
human form, and does not resemble man I If really the spirit of
Kurt after death was transformed into a yellow bear, then the spirit
of a dead bear might also eventually become a man. How could
anybody dreaming of it know but that it was the spirit of a dead
animal? Those who believe that the bear was the spirit of Kun
will also imagine that the ghosts which appear are the vital force
of the dead. There is no proof that it is the vital force of human
beings, and we cannot own that a yellow bear was the spirit
Furthermore, dreams are visions. When good or bad luck are
impending, the mind shapes these visions. Thus the sight of a
bear will also admit of an interpretation. 2 Now, in case that the
spirit of Kun really became a yellow bear after death, must the
yellow bear which appeared in the dream at all events have been
the spirit of Kun? The feudal princes were wont to sacrifice to
the mountains and streams. Should the marquis of Chin have viewed
mountains and streams in his dreams, would it not have been,
because he had offered sacrifice to them, that those mountains and
streams appeared to him? 3
When people are sick, they often see their deceased ancestors
arriving and standing by their side: are we again to suppose that
these deceased ancestors show themselves for the purpose of asking
1 Cf. Chap. XXVII.
2 Like other dreams. The visions have mostly a symbolical meaning, and
must not be semblances of real beings.
3 They would be evoked by his remembrance, but not be real.
216 Lun-hêng: B. Metaphysical.
for food? What we see in our dreams is, moreover, being interpreted as having some other meaning, and is not real anyhow. How
can we prove that? When in a dream we have perceived a living
man, this man, seen in our dream, does not meet us on the following
day. Since the man seen in the dream, does not meet us, we know
that the yellow bear of Kun did not pass through the bedroom
door, as a matter of fact, and, since it did not, Kun did not ask
for food either. Kun not having asked for food, the disease of the
marquis of Chin was not a misfortune caused by his neglect of the
Hsia sacrifice, and since it was not a calamity brought about by
the non-observance of this ceremony, the relief of the marquis of
Chin was not a lucky event caused by the performance of the sacrifice. There having been no real luck, it is evident that there was
no consciousness on the part of Kun.
This is like the case of Lin An, Prince of Huai-nan, 1 who died
charged with high-treason, and is nevertheless commonly reported
to have ascended to heaven as an immortal. 2 Whether Tse Ch'an
also had heard such a false rumour, 3 we cannot make out now.
By chance the force of the sickness of the marquis of Chin was
just going to be broken of itself, when Tse Ch'an happened to explain the appearance of the yellow bear. Thus the statement that
the yellow bear was the spirit of Kun found credence.
The Emperor Kao Huang Ti 4 intended to make Ju Yi, Prince
of Chao, his successor, because he was like him. The Empress Lü
Hou was furious, and afterwards poisoned the prince of Chao. When,
later on, Lü Hou went out, she beheld a grey dog, which bit her
under her left arm. She thought it strange, and by divination
found out that it had been Ju Yi, prince of Chao, who had haunted
her. She then began to suffer from the wound under her arm,
which did not heal, and died. 5 People believe that the spirit of
Ju Yi transformed itself into a grey dog to take his revenge.
I say that, when a valiant warrior fighting, flushed with anger,
succumbs, sword in hand, and being hurt, sinks to the ground, and
1 The Taoist philosopher Huai Nan Tse.
2 Vid. chap. XXVIII.
3 With regard to the metamorphose of Kun.
4 Han Kao Tsu, 206 194 b.c.
5 Cf. chap. XVIII.
False Reports about the Dead. 217
breathes his last, he sees with his eyes the adversary, who has hit
him, yet, after death, his spirit is incapable of taking its vengeance.
When Lu Hou poisoned Ju Yi, she did not step forward personally,
but had instructed some one to administer the poison. First the
prince was not aware of his being poisoned, and then in his anger
did not know, who the murderer was. How then could he become
a demon, and avenge himself upon Lü Hou?
If the dead possessed knowledge, nobody had more reason to
hate Lü Hou than the Emperor Kao Tsu. He loved Ju Yi, whom
the empress killed. The soul of Kao Tsu ought to have been like
a peal of thunder in his wrath, and not have waited one day, before he called Lü Hou to account. Why was the spirit of Kao Tsu
not like that of Ju Yi, and why did he dislike Ju Yi after his death,
and acquiesce in the murder of the empress?
When the report of a quarrel which the prime minister T'ien
Fen, 1 Marcjuis of Wu-an, 2 had had with the former generalissimo
Kuan Fu over a glass of wine reached the emperor, Kuan Fu was imprisoned. Tou Ying 3 attempted to rescue him, but could not save
him, and the consequence was that Kuan Fu brought down capital
punishment upon himself, and that Tou Ying had to suffer death
likewise. Subsequently, T'ien Fen contracted a very painful disease,
during which he cried, "Yes, yes," and asked the by-standers to
look. They beheld Kuan Fu and Tou Ying sitting by his side. T'ien
Fens sickness did not release, until he died. 4
I reply that he was not the only man who killed another.
Other murderers have not seen their victims, when they fell sick
afterwards, whereas T'ien Fen beheld the two men whose deaths
he had brought about. T'ien Fen alone did so, because he felt their
anger, and in his delirium had hallucinations. Or maybe he perceived some other ghost, and the necromancer having heard of his
former dispute with Kuan Fu and Tou Ying, and of his wish to
1 Uncle of the Emperor Han Wu Ti.
2 District in Honan.
3 Commander-in-chief under the Emperor Ching Ti, 156-140 B.C., who was
supplanted by T'ien Fen.
4 We learn from the Ch'ien Han-shu, chap. 52, p. 12, Biography of Kuan Fu,
that T'ien Fen felt pain all over the body, as if he were flogged, and cried for
mercy. The emperor sent his visionist to look at him, who reported that the ghosts
of Kuan Fu and Tou Ying were holding him, and beating him to death.
218 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.
learn the real name of the spirit, and seeing him crying, " Yes,
yes," at random, gave the answer that Kuan Fu and Tou Ying were
sitting near him.
The governor of Huai-yang 1 Yin Ch'i, was a very cruel and
oppressive magistrate. When he had passed away, the people whom
he had wronged intended to burn his body, but it disappeared, and
reverted to its grave. He was conscious, therefore the people were
going to burn him, and he was a spirit, therefore he could disappear.
I presume that the vanished spirit of Yin Ch'i has his analogies.
During the Chin epoch three mountains disappeared. 2 and about
the end of the Chou dynasty the Nine Tripods were engulphed. 3
Provided that things which can disappear are spirits, then the three
mountains and the Nine Tripods must have had consciousness.
Perhaps the then magistrate, apprised of the design of the angry
populace, stealthily removed the corpse, and pretended that it had
disappeared, and for fear, lest the outraged people should vent
their wrath upon himself, declared that it had done so of its own
accord. All persons who can disappear must have their feet to walk
upon. Now, the circulation of the blood of the deceased had been
interrupted, and his feet could not move any more. How should
he have managed his flight?
In Wu, Wu Tse Hsü was cooked, 4 and in Han, P'êng Yüeh 5 was
pickled. Burning and pickling is the same torture. Wu Tse Hsü
and Pêng Yüeh were equally brave. They could not escape the
cooking, or avoid the pickling, and Yin Ch'i alone is said to have
been able to return to his tomb. That is an untruth and an unfounded assertion.
Doomed 6 Wang Mang removed the empress Fu Hou, the wife
of the emperor Yuan Ti, 7 from her tomb. He desecrated her coffin,
and took from it boxes with jewels and seals. Afterwards he conveyed
1 The present Ch'ên-chou in Honan.
2 Cf. chap. XX.
3 Cf. chap. XL.
4 Cf. p. 140.
5 P'êng Yueh, King of Liang, was executed by order of Han Kao Tsu in
196 B.C., when he had revolted against the emperor. All his relations to the third
degree were put to death along with him. Vid. Shi-chi chap. S, p. 33v.
7 An epithet often given to Ch'in Shih Huang Ti and Wang Mang, both equally
detested by the literati.
8 48-32 B.C.
False Reports about the Dead. 219
the corpse to Ting-t'ao,1 where he had it buried again after
the fashion of common people. When the coffin was taken out, a
stencil rose to heaven. The governor of Loyang on approaching the
coffin smelled it, and dropped down dead. Wang Mang likewise disinterred the empress Ting Hou, wife to the emperor Kung Wang 2 in Ting-t'ao, but fire issued from her crypt, and burned several hundred officials and scholars to death. The re-interment was done in a low style,
and the dead were robbed of their valuables. These two insults induced
them to cause the stench, and send the fire to destroy the offenders.
I say that the stench rose to heaven, because many eatable
things had been placed into the grave. It is not passing strange
that men could not stand the mephetic vapours, when the smell
of the putrid matter came forth in abundance, but it is strange that
flames should have flashed from the crypt. At all events, it was
not the spirit of the empress Ting Hou, for the following reason.
Must he who breaks open, and despoils graves not be much more
hated than he who merely changes the tombs? Yet, during a year
of scarcity, those who dig up tombs for the purpose of appropriating the garments of the dead must be counted by thousands. Provided that the departed know, when others strip them of their
clothes, and leave their bodies naked, they cannot hinder it at that
time, and, later on, have no means to take their revenge.
But these are people of small account, not worth mentioning.
Ch'in Shih Huang Ti was buried near the Li-shan. 3 At the close of
Erh Shih Huang Ti's reign 4 the robbers of the empire dug up his
grave, and he could not send forth either stench or fire, nor kill
a single man! He had been the Son of Heaven, and could not
become a spirit. How then should Fu Hou and Ting Hou, two women,
have been able to do miracles? They are believed to have become
spirits, but not in the same way, and to have shown their powers
in different places. People saw flames, and smelled bad odour.
Consequently the assertion that both became spirits is erroneous.
1 In Tsao-chou-fu (Shantung).
2 946-934 B.C.
3 Near Hsi-an-fu, where the tumulus of the mighty emperor is still visible.
4 209-206 B.C.
220 Lun-Hêng: B. Metaphysical.