CHAPTER XXIV. On Anthroposcopy (Ku-hsiang).
It is a common belief that fate is difficult to foresee. Far
from it, it can easily be known, and by what means? By means
of the body and its bones. As man derives his destiny from heaven,
it becomes visible in his body. An inquiry into these manifestations
leads to the knowledge of fate, just as from a look at measures
one learns their capacity. By manifestations I understand the osseous
According to tradition Huang Ti had a dragon face, Chuan Hsu
was marked with the character Wu 1 on his brow, Ti Ku had a
double tooth, Yao's eye-brows had eight colours, Shun's eyes double
pupils, Yü's 2 ears three orifices, T'ang had double elbows, Wên Wang
four nipples, Wu Wang's 3 spine was curbed backwards, Chou Kung 4
was inclined to stoop forward, Kao Yao 5 had a horse's mouth,
Confucius' arms were turned backwards.6 These Twelve Sages either
held the positions of emperors and kings, or they aided their
sovereigns, being anxious for the welfare of the people. All the
world knows this, and the scholars speak of it.
These reports being given in the Classics and Annals can be
relied upon. The light literature, such as journals, letters, and
memoirs which the Literati do not read, afford a great many more
instances: T'sang Hsieh had four eyes and became one of Huang
Ti''s officials. Ch'ung Erh, prince of Chin,7 had a double rib, and
became the foremost of all the feudal fords. Su Ch'in 8 with a bone
2 Huang Ti, Chuan Hsu, Ti Ku, Yao, Shun, and Yü are mythical or half
legendary rulers of old China.
2 T'ang, Wên Wang, and Wu Wang are the founders of the Shang and Chou
3 T'an, Duke of Chou, a younger brother of Wu Wang, whom he helped to
win the throne.
4 A minister of Shun.
5 Like the wings of a bird.
6 Ch'ung Erh reigned as marquis of Chin from 634-626 B.C.
7 A famous statesman who in 333 b.c. succeeded in forming a league of the
Six States: Yen, Chao, Han, Wei, Chi, and Chu against Chin.
On Anthroposcopy. 305
on his nose obtained the premiership in all the Six Kingdoms.
Chang Yi 1 having a double rib was also made a minister in Chin
and Wei. Hsiang Yü, who owing to his double pupils was regarded
as a descendant of the Emperor Shun, shared the empire with
Kao Tsu. Ch'ên P'ing, 2 a poor fellow who had not enough to eat
and drink, had nevertheless a very fine appearance, which surprised every one so much, that they exclaimed: what on earth does
Ch'en P'ing eat to become such a portly man. Han Hsin 3 was
rescued from the axe of the executioner, when he caught the eye
of the duke of T'eng, and was pardoned also on account of his
extraordinary appearance. Fine looks and stateliness can be characteristics as well.4
Kao Tsu had a high nose, a dragon face, a fine beard and
72 black spots on his left leg. 5 Lü from Shan-fu 6 was skilled in
prognosticating from looks. When he saw Kao Tsu's carriage, he
thought him very remarkable, and therefore gave him his own
daughter, the later empress Lü Hou, to wife. Afterwards she gave
birth to Prince Hsiao Hui 7 and to the princess Yuan of Lu. Kao
Tsu was first a headborough on the river Sse. 8 Then he gave
up his post, and took to farming, again living with Lü Hou and
his two children on his farm, when an old man passed by, and
asked for a drink. In return he divined Lü Hou's fate by her
features saying: " Madam, you belong to the great folks of the
empire." Called upon to foretell the fortune of her two children,
he said in regard of Hsiao Hui: " The cause of your greatness,
Madam, will be this son," and with respect to Yuan of Lu: "You
are all noble." When the old man had left, Kao Tsu came home
from abroad. Upon being informed by Lü Hou of what had taken
place, he ran after the old man, and stopped him, wishing to hear
his own fortune too. The old fellow rejoined: " Before, the lady
and her children bore a resemblance to you in their looks, but
1A celebrated politician of the 4th century b.c, in early life a fellow-student
of Su Chin.
2 A partisan of the founder of the Han dynasty, Kao Tsu, one of the Three
Heroes, who in early youth lived in great poverty and subsequently rose to the
3 Another adherent of Han Kao Tsu, also one of the Three Heroes, the
third being Chang Liang. He was to be executed for treason, but was pardoned.
4 As anomalous features.
5 This passage occurs in the Shi-chi chap. 8, p. 2, which treats of Han Kao Tsu.
6 A place in Shantung.
7 He succeeded his father Kao Tsu in 194 b.c.
8 A river in Shantung.
306 Lon-Heng: C. Physical.
your mien is so grand, that words fail me to describe it."1 Afterwards the empire devolved upon Kao Tsu, as the old man had
If we draw a general principle from this, we find that members
of the same family all show their nobility in their appearance.
Belonging to the same caste and animated by a similar spirit, they
must necessarily have some kindred traits in their mental and
physical qualities. It however happens that two persons of different
classes and incongruous minds meet together. A grandee, when
marrying, gets a great lady for his wife, and a gentlewoman also
finds a noble lord. If two individuals meet despite discrepancies
of appearance, a sudden death ensues. In case they have not yet
come into contact, one party is overtaken by death previously.
Wang Mang's aunt Lady Chêng was bespoken in marriage.
When the moment came for her to go, the bridegroom suddenly
died. The same thing happened a second time. Then she was
given away to the Prince of Chao, but the Prince had not yet
taken her, when he breathed his last. Nan Kung Ta Yu of Ching-ho 2
met with Lady Chêng's father, the Honourable Chih, with whom he
was acquainted, and prognosticated her fate saying: " She is so
exalted, that she will become the mother of the empire." At that
time Hsüan Ti 3 was emperor and Yuan Ti heir-apparent. Through
the governor of the principality of Wei, Chih then gave her in marriage to the heir-apparent, who was very pleased with her, and
became father to a son of the name of Chün Shang. At the death
of Hsüan Ti the heir-apparent ascended the throne. Lady Chêng was
made empress, and Chün Shang heir-apparent. When Yuan Ti 4 died,
the heir-apparent assumed the reins of government and became the emperor Chêng Ti 5 and Lady Chêng became empress-dowager and thus
mother of the empire. Lady Chêng had something in her features
indicative of her future imperial motherhood. The two men to
whom she was betrothed first, and the Prince of Chao had no marks
showing that they would be fathers of the empire, therefore the
two died, before the marriage could take place, and the prince
expired. The two fiancés and the Prince of Chao were not predestinated for imperial sway, and Lady Chêng was apparently no
match for them.
1 Cf. Shi-chi loc. at. which slightly differs.
2 A city in Shantung; Flayfair No. 1642.
3 73-48 B.C.
4 48-32 B.C.
5 32-6 B.C.
On Anthroposcopy. 307
The prime minister Huang T'se Kung, 1 who was originally a
border warden in Yang-hsia, 2 travelled with a soothsayer in the same
carriage, when they perceived a woman seventeen or eighteen years
old. The fortune-teller pointed to her and said: — "This woman
will be raised to high honours, and become consort to a marquis."
Huang T'se Kung stopped the carriage, and looked at her carefully.
The fortune-teller said: — "If this woman will not become noble,
my divination books are of no use." Huang T' se Kung inquired about
her, and learned that she was from the next village, a female
belonging to the Wu family. Thereupon he married her, and after-
wards really gained high honours, was given the post of a prime
minister, and created a marquis. 3 Since Huang T'se Kung won wealth
and honour, his wife had to be on a par with him. Consequently,
when they were brought together, they both became illustrious.
Had Huang T'se Kung's fate been mean, he would not have got that
woman as a consort, and had they not tallied together as man and
wife, they would have had the same misfortune as the two persons
above mentioned and the Prince of Chao. If an entire family has
a glorious destiny, then later on every thing turns to their honour
and advantage, whereas in case of incongruity of osseous structure
and physical shape they will be separated and die, and cannot
enjoy great happiness long.
In noble families even servants and slaves as well as cattle
and horses which they rear are not like the common ones. From the
looks of the slaves one sees that they do not easily die. The cattle
and horses often produce young. The seeds in the fields grow up
luxuriantly, and quickly put forth ripe grains. In commerce those
sort of people manage to get excellent merchandise, which sells
without delay. Those who know fate, find out the great folks
amidst low people, and discern the miserable among the magnates.
Judging from the osseous structure and distinguishing the lines on
the skin, they discover man's fate, which always confirms their
Viscount Chien of Chao 4 bade Ku Pu Tse Ch'ing tell the fortunes of his sons. He found none of them lucky, until he came
to the son of the slave-girl Chai, Wu Hsü, whom he declared to be
a peer. Wu Hsü had an excellent character, and was stamped a
1 Huang T'se Kung was prime minister of the emperor Hsiian Ti, died 51 b.c.
2 In Honan.
3 A parallel passage occurs in the Han-sku, quoted in the Tai-pHng yu-lan
729 p. 4.
4 516-457 B.C.
308 Lun-hêng: C. Physical
nobleman to boot. Later on Viscount Chien put the heir-apparent
aside, and raised Wu Hsü, who afterwards became Viscount Hsiang. 1
A soothsayer said of Ch'ing Pu 2 that he would be tortured, but
then become prince, and he really was made a prince after having
suffered punishment. 3
The father of Wei Ch'ing,4 Chêng Chi had illicit intercourse with
a maid of the princess Yang Hsin, Wei. Wei Ch'ing was born in the
Chien-chang Palace. A convict read his destiny in his features and
said " He is noble, and will be invested with the rank of a marquis."
Wei Ch'ing replied: — "For a slave it is quite enough not to be
whipped or reviled. How could he dream of a marquisate ? " 5 Afterwards Wei Ch'ing entered the army as an officer. Having distinguished himself in several battles, he rose in rank, and was promoted, till he was made generalissimo with the title of marquis of
ten thousand families.
Before Chou Ya Fu 6 became a marquis, Hsü Fu predicted his
fortune saying: — "Within three years hence Your Honour will be
a general and minister, and have the control of the empire. You
will rank so high, that among your fellow officials there will not
be your equal. But nine years later, you will die of starvation." —
Chou Ya Fu replied laughing, " My elder brother already inherits the
title of marquis. When the father dies, the son succeeds to his
title. Why do you hint at my becoming marquis? But should I
really attain to this dignity, as you say, how can you pretend that
I shall die of starvation? Explain this to me." Hsü Fu pointed to
the perpendicular lines converging at the corner of his mouth, and
said, " This means death by starvation." — Three years passed. His
brother, marquis Shêng of Chiang" 7 was punished for an offence. Wên
Ti 8 was in favour of the marquis of Chiang's son. The wise councilors proposed Chou Ya Fu, who thereupon was created marquis of
1 457-425 B.C. Cf. p. 226 and Shi-chi chap. 43, p. 8 seq.
2 A military adventurer of the 2nd century b.c. His surname was originally
Ying Pu. It was changed into the sobriquet Ch'ing Pu " Branded Pu ", after he had
been branded in his early life. He made his escape, joined in the rebellions which
led to the rise of the Han dynasty, and was rewarded with the title and the fief of
a " Prince of Kiukiang," Mayers Reader's Manual No. 926.
3 Quotation from Shi-chi chap. 91, p. 1.
4 Cf. p. 169.
5 Quoted from the Shi-chi chap. Ill, p. Iv.
6 Cf. Giles Biogr. Dict. No. 426, where the end of Chou Ya Fu is told a little
7 The capital of the Chin State in Shansi, the modern Chiang-chou.
8 Han Wen Ti 179-156 B.C.
On Anthroposcopy. 309
T'iao 1 and succeeded the marquis of Chiang. During the six later
years of Wên Ti's reign the Hsiung-nu invaded the Chinese territory,
and Chou Ya Fu became general. When Ching Ti 2 assumed the government, Chou Ya Fu was appointed prime minister. Later on he retired
on account of sickness. His son bought from the imperial arsenal
five hundred mail-coats, which he wanted for his father's funeral.
The coolies employed at the job were irritated against him for not
having received their money. Knowing that fiscal property had
been clandestinely purchased, out of spite they denounced Chou Ya
Fu's son to the throne. Ching Ti gave orders for trying and torturing Chou Ya Fu, who did not eat for five days, spat blood,
and died. 3
Têng T'ung took the fancy of Wên Ti, who held him in higher
esteem than a minister, presented him with enormous sums of money,
and treated him almost as his equal. 4 A fortune-teller predicted
his destiny. The verdict was that he would become poor and
miserable and die of starvation. When Wên Ti died, and Ching Ti
had mounted the throne, Têng T'ung was punished for unlawful
coinage. On examination Ching Ti found Têng Tung already dead.
He stopped at the deceased man's house, but did not discover a
single cash. 5
The prime minister Han 6 when a youngster borrowed 50 cash
from a fortune-teller, and together with him entered the Imperial
Academy. The fortune-teller divined the successes of the scholars
in the academy. Pointing at I Kuan 7 he intimated that this youth
would rise so high as to become a chief minister of state. Han sent
the fortune-teller with his card to I Kuan, with whom he contracted
the most intimate friendship. He exerted himself to the utmost in
order to show his reverence. For the purpose of living together
with I Kuan he moved his residence, and drew as near as possible.
I Kuan was sick, Han nursed him like a servant. His kindness
towards I Kuan was greater than towards those of his own blood.
Later on his name became famous all over the world. I Kuan obtained the post of a secretary of state. The local officials had to
obey his orders. He recommended his friend to the throne for an
1 Another ancient city in Shansi not far from Chiang.
2 Han Ching Ti 156-140.
3 Quotation in a abridged form from Shi-chi chap. 57, p. 6 v. seq.
4 Têng T'ung was a minion of the Emperor Wên Ti.
5 Cf. Têng Tung's biography in Shi-chi chap. 125, p. 2.
6 Han An Kuo, 2nd cent. b.c.
7 Died 112 B.C.
310 Lun-hêng: C. Physical.
appointment at the court. Han subsequently was promoted to the
post of a prime minister.
The convict, Hsü Fu and the men who told the fortunes of
Têng T'ung and I Kuan can be considered as soothsayers who knew
fate. These sort of people examine the symptoms of the physical
frame, and perceive wealth and honour, poverty and disgrace, just
as we on seeing plates, know the use thereof. Fine vessels are
used by the higher classes, coarse ones with the same certainty
find their way to the poor. Sacrificial vases and tripods are not
put up in outer buildings, and gourds are not to be found in the
principal hall. That is a matter of course. That noble bones do
not meet with the hardships of the poor, and that wretched
features never share the joys of the grand, is on the same
Vessels used as measures may contain a peck or a picul.
Thus between the human ranks there is a difference of high and
low. If vessels are filled over their size, their contents runs out,
and is lost. If the limit of a rank is surpassed, the holder perishes.
By making in our discussion of fate this comparison with a vessel,
in order to ascertain the nature of anthroposcopy, we arrive at the
conclusion that fate is lodged in the corporeal form.
But not only are wealth and honour, poverty and wretchedness visible in the body, pure and base conduct have also their
phenomena. Pre-eminence and misery are the results of fate, pure
and base conduct depend on character. As there is a method
determining fate by the bones, there is also such a science doing
the same for the character. But, whereas there are famous soothsayers, it is not known that a science determining the character
by the features exists.
Fan Li 1 left Yüeh. From Ch'i 2 he despatched a letter to the
high officer Chung reading as follows: — "When the flying birds are
all exterminated, the good bow is put away. When the cunning
hare is dead, one cooks the greyhound. The king of Yüeh has a
long neck and a mouth like a beak. One may share hardships,
but not enjoy happiness with him. Why do you not leave him?"
The officer Chung could not leave, but he pretended sickness, and
did not go to court, whereupon the king sent him a sword, by
which he died.3
1 A native of the Yueh State, and minister of King Kou Chien of Yüeh,
modem Chekiang, 5th cent. b.c.
3 An old State in Shantung.
4 Quoted from the Shi-chi chap. 41, p. 6v. The last clause is abridged.
On Ajithroposcopy. 811
Wei Liao, 1 a native of Ta-liang, 2 proposed to Ch'in Shih Huang
Ti 3 a scheme to conquer the empire. Ch'in Sh'ih Huang Ti accepted
his proposal and conferred upon him the highest distinctions, giving
him the same dresses and the same food as he had himself. Wei
Liao said, "The king of Ch'in 4 has a high nose, long eyes, the
chest of a vulture, the voice of a jackal, the look of a tiger, and
the heart of a wolf. He knows no kindness. As long as he is
hard up, he is condescending, but, when he has got what he wanted,
he despises men. I am a simple citizen, yet he always treats me
with great condescension. Should I really serve the king of Ch'in,
he would gain his ends, and the whole world would be robbed.
I can have no dealings with him." Thus he went away. 5
Fan Li and Wei Liao correctly determined future events by
observing the outward signs of character. Things really happened,
as they had foretold from the features. It is evident, therefore,
that character and destiny are attached to the body.
The instances quoted in the popular literature are universally
regarded as true. Besides there are a great many cases in olden
and modern times not much heard of, which are all well founded.
The spirit comes from heaven, the body grows on earth. By
studying the body on earth one becomes cognizant of the fate in
heaven, and gets the real truth.
Confucius is reported to have examined T'an T'ai Tse Yü, 6 and
T'ang Chü 7 to have divined for T'sai Tsê, 8 and that both of them
were mistaken. Where did their error come from? The signs were
hidden and too delicate. The examination may have for its object
the interior or the exterior, the body or the voice. Looking at
the outside, one perhaps misses the inside, and occupied with the
body, one forgets the voice.
When Confucius came to Chêng,9 he lost his disciples. He stood
by himself near the east gate of Cheng. Some man of Chêng asked
Tse Kung 10 saying: — "There is a man near the east gate with a
1 Wei Liao wrote a work on the art of war.
2 An ancient name of K'ai-feng-fu.
3 The first emperor of the Ch'in dynasty 221-209 b.c.
4 Shih Huang Ti's kingdom in Shensi.
5 Quoted in an abridged form from the Shi-chi chap. 6, p. 6 seq.
6 A disciple of Confucius, extremely ugly, but very talented. Cf. Analects VI, 12.
7 A famous physiognomist 3rd cent. b.c.
8 A native of Yen, who first studied physiognomy with T'ang Chü and later
on was appointed minister by King Ch'ao Hsiang of Ch'in (305-249 B.C.).
9 In Honan.
10 A disciple of Confucius.
312 Lun-hêng: C. Physical,
head like that of Yao, a neck like that of Kao Yao, and shoulders
resembling those of Tse Ch'an. 1 But from his waist downward he
is by three inches shorter than Yü. He is worn out like a stray
dog." Tse Kung informed Confucius. Confucius laughed heartily and
said, " My appearance, never mind, but like a stray dog ! just so,
just so." 2
In the matter of Confucius' appearance the man of Chêng was
wrong. He was not clever, and his method was very superficial.
Confucius made a mistake with Tse Yü, and T'ang Chü was in the
wrong with T'sai Tsê, as the man of Chêng in looking at Confucius
did not apprehend his real appearance. Judging from his mien
Confucius was deceived with Tse Yü, and going by words he was
in error in regard of Tsai Yü. 3
1 The appellation of Kung Sun Ch'iao, a famous minister of the Chêng State
in the 6th cent. b.c.
2 A quotation from Shi-chi chap. 47, p. 12 v. Qi. Legge, Analects, Prolegomena p. 78.
3 One of the disciples of Confucius, whose character was not quite on a level
with his fluency of speech, wherefore the Master said of him, " In choosing a man
for his gift of speech, I have failed as regards Tsai Fü."