Hundred Schools‎ > ‎Lun Hêng‎ > ‎

26: CHAPTER XXV. Long Life and Vital Fluid

CHAPTER XXV. Long Life and Vital Fluid (Chi-shou). 

The fate which every one receives is of two kinds, one determines those events which he must encounter, the other is the fate 

of strength and weakness, of long or short life. The events to be 

encountered are war, fire, crushing, and drowning, etc.; strength and 

long life, weakness and short life are connected with the copiousness and scarcity of the received fluid. War and fire, crushing and 

drowning can supervene, therefore there is not necessarily a period 

of invariable length for what has been received as fate. 1 

If the limit of strength and long life be a hundred years, 

then the fluid of those who do not reach a hundred years must 

be insufficient. 

When the fluid is copious, the body becomes strong, and the 

body being strong, life lasts long. On the other hand, when the 

vital force is scanty, the body is weak, and with a weak body life 

is short. A short life is accompanied by much sickness. If the span 

be short, people die soon after they are born, and are annihilated, 

before they are fully developed. That is because their vital fluid 

is too little and too weak. 

Those imbued with a copious and a strong fluid do not all 

at once end their lives. If people do not meet with any accidents, 

and, leading a quiet life, become exhausted and worn out, until 

they die for want of vitality, it is owing to the insufficiency of 

their vital fluid, which they have completely used up. Their fate 

is similar to that of those who expire soon after their birth and 

are cut off, before they have grown up. In all these cases the deficiency of the fluid is the reason, why those persons do not live 

a hundred years. 

The fluid which fills men is either full and abundant — then 

they are strong and vigorous, or scanty and poor — then they are 

weak and feeble. Imbued with a full quantity, they are strong, 

1 What has been received as fate is the vital fluid or life. The length of 

life depends on the quality of this fluid, but it can be shortened by accidents, such 

as war, fire, etc. coming from abroad, before vitality is exhausted, and death would 

ensue under normal conditions. — The Chinese word used here, 命 means " fate " 

as well as " life.' 

314 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

and live long, filled with a small dose, they are weak, and lose 

their bodies. 

When Heaven and Earth produce things, sometimes these things 

do not grow to their full growth, and when father and mother engender a child, sometimes its full development is checked. It happens 

that a plant bears a fruit, but that this fruit withers, dies, and 

drops, and it also happens that people have a son who is killed 

in his youth. Had this fruit not withered, it would also have completed one year, and had the son not been killed, he would likewise have lived a hundred years. The decay of the fruit and the 

death of the son are brought about by the weakness of their vital 

force. Although their forms be complete, their feeble fluid does 

not suffice to fill them. 

When the cries of a new-born infant are shrill and piercing, 

it will live long, when they are whining and pitiful, it will die 

young. Why? Because, when the new-borns receive their fate of 

longevity or short life, the greater or smaller quantity of their fluid 

forms their nature. 1

When a mother nurses her child at longer intervals, it will 

be fit for life, whereas, when she nourishes it very frequently, it 

will die. Why? Because the nursing at intervals shows that the 

fluid is copious, and the child is strong. The frequent suckling 

proves the insufficiency of the vital fluid and the weakness of 

the baby. 

A fondling is a son anterior to whom another son has already 

been brought up and died. They say that such a fondling cannot 

live, and call it a fondling. The idea is that, another son having 

already died, the mother is too anxious about the new one, and 

spoils his nature. The former son is dead, and the fondling is 

doomed, because he is nursed much too often. His fluid being 

too feeble, he cannot thrive. Though he may grow up, he is too 

easily affected by external influences. He will always be the first 

to catch a disease, and his alone will prove incurable. 

A fate of a hundred years is the proper one. Those who 

cannot complete a hundred years, though they have no proper fate, 

still have a fate. In the same manner the proper height of the 

human body is ten feet. 2 Therefore a man is called Chang-fu, 3 and 

1 And this nature becomes manifest by the way in which the new-borns cry. 

Strong babies have strong voices, weak ones give only a whine. 

2 On the Chinese foot see p. 320 Note 1. 

3 Wang Ch'ung explains the term chang-fu 丈夫 " young man " as originally meaning a man of ten feet = chang. 

Long Life and Vital Fluid. 315 

chang-jen is an honorary designation for an old gentleman and an 

old lady.' A man not measuring ten feet has not the proper height, 

but nevertheless he possesses a body. A body cannot be declared 

to be no body because of its falling short of ten feet. And so fate 

cannot be said to be no fate on account of its not coming up to 

a hundred years. 

Heaven does not distribute long and short fates, of which 

every one would obtain either. We may say that man receives his 

fate in his fluid from Heaven, which is the same, whether he finishes it sooner or later. There is a saying to the effect that, if 

somebody aspires to royalty and does not succeed, this pretender 

can remain a leading prince. Leading princes are unsuccessful pretenders to royalty. A pretender should rise to royalty, as a long life 

ought to come up to a hundred years. Unable to become a king, 

he retires and continues a leading prince, and thus he who cannot 

attain to a hundred years resigns himself to a premature death. 

A king and a pretender do the same, but are given different 

names, the one an honourable, the other a contemptible one. A 

long and a short life are caused, as it were, by the same fluid, but 

they are of different duration, either long or short. How do we 

know that he who does not live a hundred years, and dies an 

untimely death, possesses a fate of a hundred years all the same? 

Because his bodily frame is as big and as tall as that of others. 

A body that has lived a hundred years does not differ from another 

of fifty years. The bodies not being different, the vital fluids cannot 

differ either. Birds and animals have other bodies than man, hence 

the length of their lives must differ from the human. 

How can we prove that human life, if it be long, lasts a 

hundred years? There are such cases in the world, and the Literati 

say that during the time of universal peace people used to be very 

tall, and live about a hundred years, which was the effect of the 

harmonious fluid. In the Canon of Yao, Yao says, " I have been 

seventy years on the throne."2 He wished to abdicate, and found 

Shun. Shun was tried and had occupied the throne thirty years, 3 

when Yao retired owing to his old age. Eight years afterwards he 

expired. Ninety-eight years had elapsed until his decease.4 But he 

1 丈人 husband thus addresses his father and mother-in-law. 

2 Quotation from the Shuking Pt. I, chap. HI, 12 ( Legge Vol. Ill, Pt. I, p. 25). 

3 The Shi-chi chap. 1, p. 20 (Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. 1, p. 69) writes 

twenty years. 

4 In that case Shun cannot have reigned for him longer than 20 years, for 

70 -1- 20 -H 8 r= 98, 

316 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

must already have lived, before he ascended the throne. Counting 

all these numbers together we arrive at an aggregate sum of over 

a hundred years. 

It is further stated that " Shun was thirty years old, that he 

was tried thirty years, and that he was on the throne fifty years, 

when he went on high and died," 1 which makes just one hundred 

years. 2 

Wên Wang said to Wu Wang, " I am a hundred years, and 

you are ninety. I will give you three years of mine." Wêng Wang 

was ninety-seven years old, when he died, and Wu Wang ninety-three, when he departed. 3 

The Duke of Chou was a younger brother of Wu Wang. Between 

brothers there is generally no greater difference than ten years. 

After the death of Wu Wang, Chou Kung became regent. Seven years 

later he returned the government, and retired owing to old age. 

That would make about a hundred years. The Duke of Shao was 

an elder brother of the Duke of Chou. At the time of King K'ang 4 

he was still Senior Tutor, which would make more than a hundred 


Sages are endued with the harmonious fluid, therefore the 

years of their destiny have the proper number. The harmonious 

fluid is conducive to a tranquil government. Therefore during the 

age of universal peace the number of tall and long-lived persons 

was particularly great. One hundred years is the proper number 

of years of a long human life, as autumn is the proper time for 

the fate of plants, since plants live until autumn, when they die. 

Plants perishing before or after autumn are similar to men 

whose life either exceeds or falls short of a hundred years. The 

time before or after autumn corresponds to more or less than a 

hundred years. Some plants fade already after they have pierced 

the earth, as men may die soon after their birth. Other plants may 

pass the autumn without withering just like men whose years may 

eventually be from one hundred to three hundred. 

1 Quotation from the Shuking (Shun-tien) Pt. II, Bk. I, chap. VI, 28 (Legge 

Vol. III, Pt. I, p. 51). 

2 The computation gives 110 not 100 years. We should read "he was tried 

twenty years " instead of thirty, the reading adopted in the Shi-chi and defended by 

several old commentators. Cf. Legge's notes to the passage and Chavannes loc. cit. 

p. 91 Note -2. 

3 Quoted from the Liki, Wên Wang shih-tse (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, 

p. .344). The commentators are at a loss, how to explain that Wên Wang was only ten 

years older than his son, Wu Wang, and how he could give him some of his years. 

4 1078-1053 B.C. 

Long Life and Vital Fluid. 317 

It is on record that Lao Tse lived over two hundred years. 1 

The Duke of Shao became one hundred and eighty years old. Kao 

Tsung 2 reigned one hundred years, and King Mu of the Chou dynasty likewise one hundred. 3 Including the time before his ascension, 

there must have been upwards of one hundred and thirty-four years 


1 Sse Ma Ch'ien mentions this report in his biography of Lao Tse (Shi-chi, 

chap. 63, p. 3). Some said that Lao Tse became over 160 years old, others that he 

lived over 200 years, prolonging his life by the practice of virtue. 

2 The Shuking Pt. V, Bk. XV, 5 (Legge Vol. HI, Pt. II, p. 467) expressly 

states that Kao Tsung = Wit Ting enjoyed the throne for fifty and nine years, not 

for a hundred. He reigned from 1324-1266 b.c. 

3 Thus the Shuking (Lü-hsing) Pt. V, Bk. XXVI, 1 (Legge Vol. Ill, Pt. II, 

p. 588) as Wang Ch'ung and others understand the passage (On Legge's different view 

cf. his notes). According to the Shi-chi King Mu's reign lasted but 55 years. It is 

usually reckoned from 1001-947 b.c.