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27: CHAPTER XXVI. Miracles

CHAPTER XXVI. Miracles (Chi-kuai). 

The Literati pretend that Sages are not born from human 

sperm, but that they are endowed with a special essence from 

Heaven. The mother of Yü swallowed pearl-barley,1 and gave birth 

to Yü,2 whence the Hsia dynasty has its surname Sse.3 Hsieh's mother 

consumed a swallow's egg, and was delivered of Hsieh,4 whence 

the Yin dynasty derived its surname Tse.5 The mother of Hou Chi 

walked in the foot-steps of a giant,6 and bore Hou Chi,7 whence 

the Chou received their surname Ch'i.8 The Shiking says, " There 

was no rending and no tearing, thus Hou Chi was born."9 

They further state that Yü and Hsieh were born unnaturally, 

issuing from their mother's back, and that Hou Chi was born naturally. There was no rending and no tearing, the mother's body 

did not suffer, hence the expression: — no rending and no tearing. 

The descendants of those born unnaturally die an unnatural death, 

while the descendants of those born naturally die naturally. Therefore Chieh and Chou 10 were executed, and Nan Wang 11 was deprived 

of his cities. These words seem to be self-consistent, therefore 

1 薏苡

2 This legend is mentioned in the Wu Yüeh Ch'un-ch'iu, the Chronicle of Wu 

and Yüeh, by Chao Yeh of the 1st cent. a. d. 

3 姒

4 Cf. Chap. XXXVII. The Shiking Pt. IV, Bk. Ill, Ode 3 only says that 

Heaven commissioned the swallow to descend and give birth to Hsieh (Legge Vol. IV, 

Pt. II, p. 636). 

5 子 which also may signify an egg. 

6 迹

7 Chiang Yuan, the mother of Hou Chi " trod on the toe-print made by God " 

says the Shiking, Pt. III, Bk. II, Ode 1 (Legge Vol, IV Pt. II, p. 415). 

8 姬, Yü, Hsie, and Hou Chi are the ancestors of the Three Dynasties:— 

Hsia, Yin, and Chou. The Shuo-wên observes that because the mothers of these 

Sages were moved by Heaven, Son of Heaven became a term for a Holy Emperor. 

9 Shiking Pt. Ill, Bk. II, Ode I, 2. 

10 The last emperors of the Hsia and the Yin dynasties. 

11 The last reigning emperor of the house of Chou (314-256 b.c), who in 

256 had to surrender 36 cities to the King of Ch'in and in the same year died as 

a prisoner of Ch'in. 

Miracles. 3 1 9 

people believe them, and since, in addition, evidence is given to 

establish their truth, they rely on these utterances. 

The Chan-shu 1 also relates of the mother of Yao, Ching Tu, 

that she conceived from a red dragon, when she went out into 

the country, and gave birth to Yao. From the chronicle of Kao 

Tsu 2 we learn that dame Liu was reposing on the banks of a large 

lake. In her dream she met with a spirit. At that time there was 

a tempest with thunder and lightning and a great darkness. T'ai 

Kung 3 went near, and perceived a dragon above her. She became 

enceinte and was delivered of Kao Tsu. These instances of the supernatural action of spirits are not only narrated, but also written 

down, and all the savants of the day swear by them. A thorough 

investigation, however, will show their futility. 

The statement of the Shiking that there was no rending and 

no tearing viz. that the mother's body was not much affected may 

be true, but the assertion that Yü and Hsieh issued from their 

mother's back is irrational. When cicadas are born, they break 

forth from the back of the larvæ. Did Heaven in generating those 

sages follow the law of the larvæ? 

Hares conceive by licking the pubescence of plants. When 

the leveret is born, it issues from the mouth of the hare. Since 

the mother of Yü swallowing the barley and that of Hsieh, who 

consumed the swallow's egg, were like hares licking the pubescence, 

their sons ought likewise to have issued from their mouths, and 

not from their backs. Consequently the statement about the back 

is preposterous. 

In the world many persons die a sanguinary death by the 

sword, and it is not necessary that their first ancestor should have 

had an unnatural birth. When the Ch'in lost the empire, Yen Yüeh 4 

beheaded Hu Hai, 5 and Hsiang Yü 6 executed Tse Ying 7 Was the 

forefather of the Ch'in, Po Yi 8 born unnaturally? Ergo the thesis 

of natural and unnatural births based on the ancestors of the Three 

Dynasties is erroneous. 

1 A book of prophecies wrongly ascribed to Confucius, 

2 Shi-chi chap. 8, p. 2. 

3 The father of Kao Tsu. 

4 The son-in-law of the powerful eunuch Chao Kao, who contrived the death 

of the emperor. Cf. Chavannes; Mém.Hist.Vol. II, p. 213 seq. 

5 The Emperor Erh Shih Huang Ti, son of Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, 209-206 b.c. 

6 Cf. p. 178. 

7 A child which occupied the throne 65 days only. 

8 The forester of the Emperor Shun. 

320 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

Moreover, pearl-barley is a plant, a swallow's egg a bird, and 

a giant's foot-prints are earth. These three things are bodies, but 

not a fluid, how could they procreate a man? With regard to 

Sages people suppose that they receive the essence of Heaven, which 

is an exceptionally fine fluid, wherefore their doings are so different 

from those of the masses. Now the progenitors of the Three Dynasties are born from a plant, a bird, and earth. Could these be 

regarded as very fine essences? 

Since among the productions of Heaven and Earth man is 

the noblest, the others are common. Now, if the essence of those 

common things should be the sperm for the noblest creature, man, 

how could it be very fine? 

Let us suppose that a pigeon or a sparrow emitted their fluid 

into a wild goose or a wild swan, it would never produce an egg. 

Why? Because a pigeon and a sparrow are too small, compared 

with a wild goose and a wild swan. Now, the body of a swallow 

measures but five inches, and the stalk of pearl-barley not more 

than several feet. How could the two women who swallowed 

the egg and the grain have begot a creature of seven feet? 1 

Supposing that one melts the copper required for a tripod 

and pours it into the mould of a cash, it is plain that one could 

not produce a tripod. Now the giant is the Spirit of Heaven, there- 

fore his foot-prints were so big.2 The man with the huge foot-prints 

is like the molten copper for a tripod, and Chiang Yuan's 3 body like the 

mould of a cash. Should the giant emit his fluid into Chiang Yuan, 

her body would be much too small to receive the whole essence, and 

without this whole essence Hou Chi could not have been born. 

If Yao and Kao Tsu were really the sons of dragons, their 

nature as sons ought to have been similar to that of their dragon 

fathers. Dragons can ride on the clouds, and Yao and Kao Tsu 

should have done the same. 

All plants growing from earth resemble their own species, but 

not earth, for they are not produced by earth, which merely nourishes and feeds them. A mother with child is like the earth feeding 

plants. The mothers of Yao and Kao Tsu received the emissions of 

the dragons, as earth receives the seeds of plants. Since growing 

plants are similar to their own species, the two emperors also 

should have been like dragons. 

1 Man measures seven feet according to the measurement of the Chou epoch, 

when 1 foot was like 20 cm., and 7 feet = 1,40 m. 

2 The Shiking loc. cit. explicitly states that the foot-prints were made by God. 

3 The name of Hou Chi's mother. 

Miracles. 32 1 

Of animals with blood males and females pair. When they 

come together and see one of their own kind, their lust is excited, 

they wish to satisfy it, and then are able to emit their fluid. 

Should a stallion see a cow, or a male sparrow a hen, they would 

not couple, because they belong to different species. Now, dragons 

and man are of a different species likewise. How then could a 

dragon be moved by a human being so as to impart its fluid? 

Some say 1 that, when the Hsia dynasty was near its down-fall, two dragons fought together in the court, and spat their saliva 

on the ground. When the dragons had disappeared, their saliva 

was preserved in a casket, until King Yü of the Chou 2 dynasty 

opened it. Then the saliva of the snakes changed into a black 

lizard, which slipped into the seraglio, where it had intercourse 

with a palace girl. The result w^as the birth of Pao Sse.3 

A black lizard belongs to another class than man, how could 

it become enamoured with a palace girl, and emit its fluid? The 

intercourse with the black lizard was vicious, therefore Pao Sse 

caused disasters, and overthrew the Chou dynasty. When different 

species recklessly mix together, their offspring becomes unprincipled 

and mischievous. Now, the mothers of Yao and Kao Tsu had illicit 

intercourse,4 why did the two emperors become wise and sage men, 

and were quite different from Pao Sse? 

They say that Viscount Chien of Chao was sick and for five 

days did not know anybody. When he awoke, he said, " I have 

been to God's abode. There appeared a brown bear. God bade 

me shoot it; I hit the animal, and it died. Then came a spotted 

bear; I hit it also, and it died. After the two bears had died, I 

asked a ghost on the road. The ghost said: — " The browm and 

the spotted bears are the forefathers of two ministers of Chin."5 

Bears are animals, and as such of a different class from man. 

How should they become of the same class and the ancestors of 

the two ministers? The time, when the ancestors of the two ministers, the brown and the spotted bears, killed by Viscount Chien, 

were doomed to die, was one of luck for the Viscount Chien. He 

saw them as in a dream. They were empty semblances and must 

1 For details cf Shi-chi chap. 4, p. 25 (Chavannes, Mem. Hist.Yol.I, p. 281) 

which quotes a passage from the Kuo-yü, and Lun-hêng Bk. V, p. 1v. (I-hsü). 

2 781-771 B.C. 

3 The famous favourite of King Tu, who ruined the empire by her extravagance. 

4 With two dragons. 

5 See p. 215, where this story is told in detail. 

322 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

not have been real. Should they really have existed, then perhaps 

the two bears were first metamorphosed into human beings, before 

they engendered the two ministers. 

Niu Ai, Duke of Lu, was changed into a tiger during a sickness.1 Man can be transformed into an animal, as animals can become men. Probably the black lizard, which entered the harem, 

was also first changed into a man. 

Between heaven and earth it does not happen that creatures 

of a different species mix and couple. Should Heaven have the 

same law as man, their likes and dislikes would also be similar. 

Man does not like different species, therefore Heaven would not 

consort with such either. Although man is created by Heaven, 

he is like the lice which are produced on man. Man does not love 

those lice, for what reason then should Heaven desire to beget 

through man? Different classes have different natures, and their 

sentiments and desires do not agree. Heaven and Earth are husband and wife. Heaven emits its fluid into Earth and produces 

the various things. Man is born by propagation. If Sages are 

formed of a very fine essence, yet they receive the fluid from their 

fathers, and are not endowed with a special essence from Heaven. 

Should the recipients of a special essence become Sages, Hsieh 

and Hou Chi are not Sages, and, if it be necessary that all Sages 

should have received a special fluid, the Twelve Sages 2 did not all 

meet this requirement. What fluid did the mothers of Huang Ti, 

Ti K'u, Chuan Hsü and Shun receive, and what did the mothers of 

Wên Wang, Wu Wang, Chou Kung, and Confucius swallow to become 


Perhaps the surnames of the Three Dynasties : — Sse, Tse, and 

Chi gave the impetus to the invention of those unfounded and 

marvellous stories, as the legend of Huang Tis ascension to heaven 

originated from the local name of Ting-hu.3 Not only are they 

irrational, but those names are also misinterpreted. When T'sang 

Hsieh 4 invented writing, he made the signs agree with the ideas. 

Chiang Yuan walked into the foot-prints of a giant. " Foot-print " 

(chi = 迹) means a " basis " (chi = 基), therefore the surname 

should be " his " (ch'i = 其) with " earth " (tu = 土) below, but 

it is " woman " (nü = 女) with " chin " (i = ) at its side. This 

1 Cf. p. 326. 

2 Cf. p.304, 

3 For this legend vid. p. 332. 

4 A minister of Huang Ti, cf. p. 244. 

Miracles. 323 

is not the character chi = 基 or chi = 迹 nor in accordance with 

the circumstances,1 whence their truth becomes very doubtful. 

Judging by the surname Chi of the Chou of those of the Hsia 

and Yin, we arrive at the conchision that Tse and Sse have nothing 

to do with a swallow's egg or pearl-barley. May be that the 

mothers of Yü, Hsieh, and Hou Chi were just going to conceive, 

when they happened to swallow a grain of pearl-barley and a 

swallow's egg, or walked upon the foot-prints of a giant. The 

world is fond of the marvellous, a propensity which has been the 

same in ancient and modern times. Unless they see wonders, people 

do not believe that a person possesses extraordinary faculties. Thus 

they explain surnames according to their preconceived ideas. The 

world puts implicit faith in these explanations, and they are there- 

fore regarded as true. Sages have repeatedly uttered their doubts, 

but they could not solve them, and the shallow discussions of the 

scholars of the day cannot discriminate between right and wrong. 

The literati, who approve of all that is old, have put forward 

those arguments. The Shiking says that there was no rending and 

no tearing, which means to say that by Hou Chi's birth the body 

of his mother was not much affected. From this the literati, perverting the right principles, have derived the story of the unnatural 

birth of Yü and Hsieh. The fecundation by the dragon and the 

dream of the meeting with the spirit are of the same nature. The 

mothers of Yao and Kao Tsu were just about to become enceinte, 

when they met with a thunder-storm and a dragon carrying clouds 

and rain along. People seeing these phenomena then told the stories. 

A dream that one meets with a dragon is an augury of the 

birth of a wise son. Is a dream of a meeting with ghosts not like 

a dream of a rendez-vous with a spirit? How could it be real? 

When the mother had intercourse with the dragon in the wilds, 

and when the dragon appeared on high, Yao and Kao Tsu perchance 

received their destiny of wealth and honour, for a dragon is an 

auspicious animal, and to meet it appearing above is a lucky omen 

and a sign that fate has been received. 

When the Emperor Kuang Wu Ti saw the light in the Chi-yang palace, a phoenix alighted on the ground, and an auspicious 

grain grew in one room.2 When Sages are born, and strange birds 

and auspicious things appear as portents, strange and auspicious 

1 The surname Chi = 姬 does not point to the foot-prints which Chiang 

Yuan is believed to have walked upon. 

2 Cf. p. 180. 

324 Lun-hêng: C. Phys;cal. 

things become visible indeed. If, however, we are to regard the 

children born then as the offspring of those things, should we 

consider the Emperor Kuang Wu Ti as the essence of the auspicious 

blade or the fluid of the phoenix? 

According to the chapters on the pedigree of the Emperors 1 

and the Genealogical Tables of the Three Dynasties 2 Yü was the 

son of Kun, and Hsieh and Hou Chi were both sons of the Emperor 

K'u, their mothers being second wives of K'u. Yao also was a son 

of the Emperor K'u. Why then must the wives of kings and 

emperors walk into the country? Although the ancient times are 

noted for their simplicity, yet there were already certain rules of 

propriety established. And why did these ladies bathe in the 

rivers? 3 It follows that the assertion about the Sages receiving a 

special fluid from Heaven and their mothers becoming pregnant by 

swallowing something is a fallacy. 

As a matter of fact Sages have their prototypes among their 

ancestors; being as virtuous as Wên Wang and Wu Wang, they still 

find their peers. Confucius, playing the flute, knew that he was a 

descendant of the Yin,4 and Hsiang Yü, having double pupils, was 

cognisant of his being a scion of Shun. 5 The Five Emperors and 

Three Rulers had all Huang Ti as their ancestor. He was a Sage, 

who first received a grand destiny. Therefore all his descendants 

became emperors and rulers. At their births there were miracles 

of course, which, if they did not appear in things, became manifest in dreams. 

1 Chap. 2-4 of the Shi-chi. 

2 Chap. 13 of the Shi-chi. 

3 As the mother of Hsieh did, when she swallowed the egg, cf. chap. XXXVII. 

4 We learn from Lun-hêng Bk. XXIV, p. 3 that it was against the custom 

to make music on the anniversaries of the downfall of the Hsia and Yin dynasties, 

as one did not write on the death day of T'sang Hsieh, the inventor of writing. 

I infer from this that the last emperors of the Hsia and Yin dynasties were famous 

for their music, and that Confucius feeling in himself a talent for music imagined 

that he was a descendant of the Yin emperors. 

5 Shun had double pupils as well, vid. p. 304.