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25: CHAPTER XXIV. On Anthroposcopy

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 

1 午

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 

highest honours. 

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."