Hundred Schools‎ > ‎Lun Hêng‎ > ‎

29: CHAPTER XXVIII. Taoist Untruths

CHAPTER XXVIII. Taoist Untruths (Tao-hsil). 

In the books of the Literati it is stated that 1 Huang Ti exploited the copper mines of Mount Shou, 2 and out of the ore 

cast tripods at the foot of the Ching Mountain. 3 When the tripods 

were completed, a dragon with a long beard came down, and went 

to meet Huang Ti. Huang Ti mounted the dragon. His whole suite 

including the harem, over seventy persons in all, mounted together 

with him, whereupon the dragon ascended. The remaining smaller 

officials, who could not find a seat on the dragon, all got hold of 

the dragon's beard, which they pulled out. Huang Ti's bow fell 

down. The people gazed after him, until he disappeared in the sky. 

Then they hugged his bow, and the dragon's beard, and moaned. 

Therefore later ages named the place Ting-hu (Tripod Lake) 4 and 

the bow of the emperor Wu-hao (Raven's Cry). 5 

The Grand Annalist in his eulogy on the Five Emperors 6 also 

says that having performed the hill-sacrifice Huang Ti disappeared 

as a genius, and that his followers paid their respect to his garments 

and cap, and afterwards buried them.7 I say that this is not true. 

1 The following story is taken from the Shi-chi, chap. 28, p. 28 v., where an 

official relates it to Han Wu Ti. Cf. Chavannes, Mém. Hist. Vol. III, p. 488. 

2 In Shansi Province, near P'u-chou-fu. 

3 This mountain lies in Shansi, near Hsi-an-fu. 

4 The context requires 鼎胡.  " Tripod beard," but we read 湖 instead 

of 胡. a place, called 鼎湖 "Tripod lake" actually exists in Honan (Playfair 

Cities and Towns No. 7329). This name has perhaps been the origin of the legend, 

as Wang Ch'ung suggests (cf. above p. 322). In ancient times only the phonetic part 

of a character was often written, and the radical left out. Thus 胡 could stand 

for鬍  "beard" as well as for 湖 "lake." Our text has 胡髯 the "beard." 

5 Some commentators hold that the name Wu-hao 乌号 = Raven's Cry 

refers to the lament of the people, others that it was the name of a tree well fit 

for the fabrication of bows. 

6 Huang Ti, Chuan Hsü, K'u, Yao, and Shun. According to other writers 

the Five Emperors are: — T'ai Hao, Yen Ti, Huang Ti, Shao Hao, and Chuan Hsü. 

7 Shi-chi chap. 28, p. 30 v. When Ch'in Shih Huang Ti had sacrificed on the 

tomb of Huang Ti upon Mount Chiao, he asked, how Huang Ti could be an immortal, 

and yet be buried there. Then somebody replied that Huang Ti had ascended to 

heaven as a genius, and that only his garments and cap were left and interred. 

Taoist Untruths. 333 

What does Huang Ti really mean? Is it an appellative or a 

posthumous title? Being a posthumous title it must be some praise 

bestowed upon him by his subjects, for this kind of title is a glorification of what the deceased has done during his life-time. Huang 

Ti was a votary of Tao,1 and subsequently, as they say, rose to 

Heaven. If his subjects wanted to honour him, they ought not to 

have styled him Huang, but ought to have given him a title implying his ascension as an immortal. 

According to the rules for honorary titles the pacification of 

the people would be called Huang, which means that he who is 

styled so kept the people at peace, 2 but the word does not denote 

the acquisition of Tao. Among the many emperors those given to 

arts and literature were called Wên i. e. Scholarly, those fond of 

War Wu i. e. Warriors. Both designations had their real basis. 

They served to exhort others to do the like. 

If at the time of Huang Ti posthumous titles were not yet 

given according to qualities, of what generation were those who 

first called him Huang Ti? Huang Ti's own subjects must have known 

their prince, and later generations could trace his doings. Although 

our doubts about the existence of appellatives and posthumous titles 

at Huang Ti's time may not be set at rest, at all events it is evident 

that Huang cannot mean an Immortal who rose to Heaven. 

A dragon does not rise to Heaven. If Huang Ti rode on a 

dragon, it is clear that he could not have ascended to Heaven 

either. When a dragon rises, clouds and rain appear simultaneously 

and carry it along. As soon as the clouds disperse, and the rain 

stops, the dragon comes down again, and re-enters its pond. Should 

Huang Ti really have ridden on a dragon, he would afterwards 

have been drowned with the dragon in the pond. 

Huang Ti was interred in the Chiao Mountain,3 and still they 

say that his officials buried his garments and cap. If he actually 

went up to Heaven on a dragon, his garments and cap cannot have 

separated from his body, and if he became a genius after the hill 

sacrifice and vanished, he cannot have left his garments and cap 

1 The fundamental principle of Taoism. The Taoists have always claimed 

Huang Ti as one of theirs. Hence the legend of his ascension to heaven. 

2 This seems to me a fancy etymology. Huang is " yellow," but never 

means " to pacify." The " Yellow Emperor " was called yellow from the colour of 

the earth, over which he ruled. Thus the name is generally explained, whether 

correctly is doubtful. 

3 Some say that this mountain is situated in the province of Kansu, others 

more eastward in the province of Shensi. Vid Shi-chi chap. 1, p. 8. 

334 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

behind either. Did Hung Ti really become a genius, who could 

not die, but rose to Heaven, his officers and people must have seen 

it with their own eyes. Having thus witnessed his ascension to 

Heaven, they decidedly knew that he did not die. Now, to bury 

the garments and cap of somebody, who did not die, would have 

been, as if he had died. Such a thing would not have been in 

accordance with the feelings of the officials, who were aware of 

the real state of affairs, and could distinguish between life and death. 

It is on record that the seventy-two sovereigns who ascended 

Mount T'ai,1 had troubled and toiled, worrying themselves over the 

state of the empire. Subsequently their efforts were crowned with 

success, and things settled, so that universal peace reigned throughout 

the land. When there was universal peace, the whole empire enjoyed harmony and tranquillity. Then they ascended the T'ai-shan, 

and performed the hill-sacrifices. Now, the pursuit of Tao and the 

struggle for immortality are different from the vexations of official 

life and business. He whose thoughts all centre in Tao, forgets 

worldly affairs, because to trouble about them would injure his 

nature."2 They say that Yao looked dried up and Shun withered. 

Their hearts were sorrowful, and their bodies feeble and care-worn. 

If Huang Ti brought about universal peace, his appearance must 

have been similar to that of Yao and Shun. Since Yao and Shun 

did not attain to Tao, it cannot be true that Huang Ti rose to 

Heaven.3 If Huang Ti in his pursuit of Tao neglected all worldly 

affairs, his mind would have been equanimous, and his body fat 

and strong. Then he would have been quite different from Yao and 

Shun, and consequently his achievements could not have been the 

same. In that case the universe would not have enjoyed universal 

peace. Without the universal peace his sacrifice on the mountain 

would not have taken place.4 

The Five Emperors and Three Rulers were all remarkable for 

their wisdom and virtue, Huang Ti not more than the others. If 

all the sages became genii, Huang Ti would not be one alone, and 

if the sages did not become genii, why should Huang Ti alone be 

1 China's most sacred mountain in Shantung. 

2 Taoism inculcates contemplation and quietism, and abhors an active life. 

3 Only he who possesses Tao, becomes immortal, and can ascend to heaven. 

If the model emperors Yao and Shun did not attain to Tao, why should Huang Ti, 

provided that he worried as hard as Yao and Shun. 

4 The hill-sacrifice, 封禅 was not performed, unless the empire enjoyed 

peace, and peace could not be secured without hard work. Hard work precluded 

a Taoist life, and without Yao, Huang Ti could not ascend on high. 

Taoist Untruths. 335 

a genius? People seeing that Huang Ti was very partial to magical 

arts, which are practised by genii, surmised that he was a genius. 

Moreover, on finding the name of " Ting-Hu " "Tripod beard " 1 

they said that Huang Ti exploited the copper of Mount Shou, and 

cast it into tripods, and that a dragon with a floating beard came 

to meet him. This explanation would be on the same line with 

that of the K'uei-chi Mountain. 2 The purport of the name of this 

mountain is said to be that the emperor Yü of the Hsia dynasty 

on a tour of inspection held a meeting (會) and a review (稽) on 

this mountain, whence its name K'uei-chi.3 Yü went to K'uei-chi for 

the purpose of regulating the water courses, but not on a tour of 

inspection, just as Huang Ti was addicted to magic, but did not 

ascend to heaven. There was no such thing like a meeting or a 

review, as there was no casting of tripods, nor a dragon with a 

long beard. There is a village called Shêng-mu " Vanquish mother." 

Does that mean that there was really a son who vanquished his 

mother? A city is called Chao-ko "Morning song." Are we to infer 

that the inhabitants of that city used to sing, when they rose in 

the morning? 

The books of the Literati relate that the Prince of Huai-nan 4 

in his study of Taoism assembled all the Taoists of the empire, 

and humbled the grandeur of a princedom before the expositors of 

Taoist fore. Consequently, Taoist scholars flocked to Huai-nan and 

vied with each other in exhibiting strange tricks and all kinds of 

miracles. Then the prince attained to Tao and rose to heaven with 

his whole household. His domestic animals became genii too. His 

dogs barked up in the sky, and the cocks crowed in the clouds. 

That means that there was such plenty of the drug of immortality, 

that dogs and cocks could eat of it, and follow the prince to 

Heaven. All who have a fad for Taoism and would learn the art 

of immortality believe in this story, but it is not true. 

Man is a creature. His rank may be ever so high, even princely 

or royal, his nature cannot be different from that of other creatures. 

There is no creature but dies. How could man become an im- 

1 The text says " Tripod lake.' Cf. above p. 332. 

2  會稽 . In the province of Chekiang.

3 This etymology is given by Sse Ma Ch'ien, Shi-chi chap. 2, p. 26. 

4 Liu An, Prince of Huai-nan, commonly known as Huai Nan Tse, a Taoist 

philosopher and alchemist of the 2nd cent. b.c. He was a prince of the imperial 

family of the Han emperors. His principality was situated in Anhui. 

336 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

mortal? Birds having feathers and plumes can fly, but they cannot 

rise to Heaven. How should man without feathers and plumes be 

able to fly and rise? Were he feathered and winged, he would 

only be equal to birds, but he is not; how then should he ascend 

to heaven? 

Creatures capable of flying and rising, are provided with 

feathers and wings, others fast at running, have hoofs and strong 

feet. Swift runners cannot fly, and flyers not run. Their bodies 

are differently organised according to the fluid they are endowed 

with. Now man is a swift runner by nature, therefore he does 

not grow feathers or plumes. From the time he is full-grown up 

till his old age he never gets them by any miracle. If amongst 

the believers in Taoism and the students of the art of immortality 

some became feathered and winged, they might eventually fly and 

rise after all. 

In case the nature of creatures could be changed, it ought to 

be possible that metal, wood, water, and fire were also altered.1

Frogs can be changed into quails, and sparrows dive into the water 

and become clams.2 It is the upshot of their spontaneous, original 

nature, and cannot be attained by the study of Tao. Lest the 

Taoists should be put on a level with the aforesaid animals, I say 

that, if men could have all the necessary feathers and plumage, they 

might ascend to heaven. 

Now, the growth and development of creatures is not abrupt, 

and its changes are not violent, but gradually brought about. If 

the Taoists and students of immortality could first grow feathers 

and plumes several inches long, so that they could skim over the 

earth, and rise to the terraces of high buildings, one might believe 

that they can ascend to heaven. But they do not show that they 

are able to fly even a small distance. How can they suddenly 

acquire the faculty of flying such a long way through the study of 

their miraculous arts without any gradual progress? That such a 

great result might be really effected by means of feathers and wings 

cannot be ascertained. 

The human hair and beard, and the different colours of things, 

when young and old, afford another cue. When a plant comes out, 

it has a green colour, when it ripens, it looks yellow. As long as 

man is young, his hair is black, when he grows old, it turns white. 

1 The elements of which the bodies of all creatures are composed cannot be 

transformed, therefore those creatures cannot change their nature. 

2 These metamorphoses are mentioned in ancient works, and believed by the 

Chinese up to the present day. Cf. p. 326. 

Taoist Untruths. 337 

Yellow is the sign of maturity, white of old age. After a plant 

has become yellow, it may be watered and tended ever so much, 

it does not become green again. When the hair has turned white, 

no eating of drugs nor any care bestowed upon one's nature can 

make it black again. Black and green do not come back, how 

could age and decrepitude be laid aside? 

Yellow and white are like the frying of raw meat, and the 

cooking of fresh fish. What has been fried, cannot be caused to 

become raw again, and what has been cooked, to become fresh. 

Fresh and raw correspond to young and strong, fried and cooked, 

to weak and old. Heaven in developing things can keep them 

vigorous up till autumn, but not further on till next spring. By 

swallowing drugs and nourishing one's nature one may get rid of 

sickness, but one cannot prolong one's life, and become an immortal. 

Immortals have a light body and strong vital energy, and yet they 

cannot rise to heaven. Light and strong though they be, they are 

not provided with feathers and wings, and therefore not able to 

ascend to heaven. 

Heaven and earth are both bodies. As one cannot descend 

into the earth, one cannot ascend into heaven. Such being the 

case, where would be a road leading up to heaven? Man is not 

strong enough to enter and pass through heaven's body. If the 

gate of heaven is in the North-west, all people rising to heaven 

must pass by the K'un-lun Mountain. The State of Hwai Nan Tse 

being situated in the South-east of the earth, he must, if he really 

ascended to heaven, first have gone to K'un-lun with all his house-hold, where he would have found an ascent. Provided the Prince 

of Huai-nan flew straight across the land to the north-western corner, 

flapping his wings, then he must have had feathers and wings. 

But since no mention is made of his passing by the K'un-lun, nor 

of feathers and wings growing out of his body, the mere assertion 

of his ascension cannot be but wrong and untrue. 

Liu An, prince of Huai-nan, lived contemporaneously with the 

emperor Hsiao Wu Ti.1 His father Liu Chang was banished to Yen-tao2 in Shu 3 for some offence, but died on the road, when he arrived at Yung-chou.4 Liu An, who succeeded him in his princedom, 

bore a grudge against the emperor for having caused his father's 

1 140-86 B.C. 

2 The modern Ya-chou-fu. 

3 An old kingdom in Ssechuan. 

4 One of the Nine Provinces, into which Yü divided the Empire, comprising 

Shensi and Kansu. 

3B8 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

death in exile, and thought of making rebellion. He attracted all 

sorts of schemers, and intended great things. Men like Wu Pel filled 

his palaces, busy in writing books on the Taoist arts, and publishing 

essays on the most miraculous subjects. They were bustling about 

and putting their heads together. 

In the "Memoir of the Eight Companions " 1 they wished to 

prove supernatural forces, as if they had attained to Tao. But they 

never reached it, and had no success. Then Huai Nan Tse plotted 

a rebellion together with Wu Pei. The scheme was discovered, and 

he committed suicide or, as some say, was done to death. Whether 

this be the case, or whether he committed suicide is about the 

same. But people finding his writings very deep, abstruse, and 

mysterious, and believing that the predictions of the " Pa-kung- 

chuan" had been fulfilled, divulged the story that he had become 

a genius, and went up to heaven, which is not in accordance 

with truth. 

It is chronicled in the books of the Literati 2 that Lu Ao,3 

when wandering near the "Northern Sea,"4 passed the "Great 

North," and through the "Dark Gate" 5 entered upon the Mongolean" 6 plateau. There he beheld an individual with deep eyes, 

a black nose and the neck of a wild goose. Lifting his shoulders, 

he soared up, and rapidly came down again, gamboling and disporting all the time against the wind. When he caught sight of 

Lu Ao, he suddenly took down his arms, and sought refuge under 

a rock. Lu Ao saw him there resting on the back of a tortoise 

and eating an oyster. 

Lu Ao accosted him saying, " Sir, I believe that, because I 

have given up what the world desires, separating from my kindred 

and leaving my home, in order to explore what is outside of the 

six cardinal points,7 you will condemn me. I began travelling in 

my youth. When I had grown up, I did not care for the ordinary 

1 The eight principal Taoist associates of" Huai A cm Tse, one of which was 

Wei Fu. 

2 The following story is taken from Huai Nan Tse. 

3 A traveller of the 3rd cent. b.c. 

4 This expression can mean the Gobi. 

5 The " Great North " and the " Dark Gate " are Taoist fancy names. 

6 It is interesting to note the name Mongol 蒙毂 here. The last character 

is written 古 now. The Mongols were already known to the Chinese under their 

actual name in the second century b.c, when they were living in the north of China. 

7 To wit the four quarters, above and below. 

Taoist Untruths. 339 

duties of man, but managed to travel about. Of the four poles 

the " Greath North " is the only one which I have not yet seen. 

Now unexpectedly I find you here, Sir. Shall we not become 


The stranger burst out laughing and said, " Why, you are a 

Chinaman. You ought not to come as far as this. Yet sun and 

moon are still shining here. There are all the stars, the four 

seasons alternate, and the Yin and the Yang are still at work. Compared to the " Nameless Region " this is only like a small hill. 

I travel south over the " Weary Waste," and halt north in the 

" Hidden Village." I proceed west to the " Obscure Hamlet," and 

pass east through the " Place of Dimness." There is no earth 

beneath, and no heaven above. Listening one does not hear, and 

to the looker-on the objects flit away from sight. Beyond that 

region there is still shape. Where that ends, one advances ten 

million Li by making one step. I could not yet get there. You, 

Sir, reached only this place in your travels, but speak of exploring. 

Is not that an exaggeration? But, please, remain. I have to meet 

Han Man1 on the ninth heaven, 2 and cannot stay longer." — The 

stranger then raised his arms, gave his body a jerk, and off he 

went into the clouds. 

Lu Ao stared after him, until he became invisible. His heart 

was full of endless joy, and at the same time he was grieved, as 

though he had lost somebody. " Compared with you, my master, 

said he, I am nothing more than an earth-worm is to a wild goose. 

Crawling the whole day, I do not advance more than some feet, 

but myself consider it far. It is pitiable indeed." — 

Such as Lu Ao held that dragons alone have no wings, and 

when they rise, ride on the clouds. Had Lu Ao said that the 

stranger had wings, his words might be credible. But he did not 

speak of wings, how could the other then ascend to the clouds? 

Those creatures which with agility rise into the clouds, do 

not take human food or human drink. The dragon's food is different 

from that of snakes, hence its movements are not the same as 

those of snakes. One hears that the Taoists drink an elixir made 

of gold and gems and eat the flowers of the purple boletus. These 

extremely fine stuffs make their bodies light, so that they become 

spirits and genii. The stranger ate the flesh of an oyster. Such 

is the food of ordinary people, by no means fine, or rendering the 

1 This is probably the name of a genius. 

2 According to the belief of the Taoists there are nine superposed stages or 

spheres of the heavens. 

340 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

body light. How could lie then have given himself a jerk and 

ascended to heaven? 

I have heard that those who teed on air do not take solid 

food, and that the latter do not eat air. The above mentioned 

stranger ate something substantial. Since he did not live on air, 

he could not be so light, that he might have risen on high. 

May be that Lu Ao studying Tao and trying hard to become 

an immortal, travelled to the Northern Sea. Having left human 

society, and gone far away, he felt that he did not succeed 

in acquiring Tao. He was ashamed and afraid, lest his fellow- 

countrymen should criticize him. Knowing that things would certainly turn out so, that every body would reproach him, he invented 

the extravagant stories. He said that he met with a stranger. 

The meaning of the whole story is that his efforts to become immortal were not successful, and that time had not yet come. 

In the case of Liu An, Prince of Huai-nan, who suffered death 

as a punishment of rebellion, all people heard of it, and at that 

time saw it, and yet the books of the Literati say that he obtained 

Tao, and disappeared as a genius, and that his cocks and dogs 

went up to heaven also. We cannot be surprised then that Lu Ao, 

who alone went to a far-off country, leaving no trace, should speak 

obscure and mysterious words. His case is similar to that of Hsiang 

Man Tu 1 of P'u-fan 2 in Ho-tung. 3 

Hsiang Man Tu was a follower of Tao and a student of spiritism. He abandoned his family, and went away. When after three 

years absence he came back, his people asked him, what had happened to him. Hsiang Man Tu replied "I have no clear recollection 

of my departure, but I suddenly found myself as if lying down. 

Several genii appeared, who took me up to heaven, until we were 

at some few Li's distance from the moon. I saw that above and 

beneath the moon all was dark, so that I could not distinguish 

East and West. Where we stopped near the moon, it was bitter 

cold. I felt hungry, and wished to eat, when a genius gave me 

a cupful of morning-red to drink. After having taken one cup, one 

does not feel hunger for several months. I do not know, how many 

years or months I stayed there, nor what fault I committed, for suddenly I found myself asleep again, and brought down to this place." 

1 In the " Water Classic " 水经注 Hsiang Man Tu 项曼都 is called 

Hsiang Ning Tu 项宁都. 

2 The modern P'u-chou-fu in Skansi. 

3 A circuit comprising the southern part of Shansi. 

Taoist Untruths. S41 

The Ho-tung people gave him the surname of " Fallen Angel." 

But dealing thoroughly with the subject, we find that this story 

is impossible. If Hsiang Man Tu could rise to heaven, he must 

have become a genius. How could he return after three years' time? 

If a man leaves his kindred, and ascends to heaven, his vital fluid 

and his body must have undergone a change. Now, all creatures 

that have been metamorphosed, do not return to their previous 

state. When a chrysalis has changed into a cricket, and received 

its wings, it cannot be transmuted into a chrysalis again. All 

creatures that fly up, have wings. When they fly up, and come 

down again, their wings are still there as before. Had Hsiang Man 

Tu's body had wings, his tale might be reliable, but since it had 

not, his talk is futile and not more trustworthy than Lu Ao's. 

Perhaps it was known at his time that Hsiang Man Tu was 

a fervent believer in Tao, who stealthily left his home, and wandered 

about in distant lands. At last, when he achieved nothing, and 

felt his strength exhausted, and his hope gone, he stealthily returned home, but being ashamed, if he had nothing to say, he 

told the story of his ascension to heaven, intimating thereby that 

Tao could be learned, and that there really were genii, and that 

he himself was degraded for some fault, after having reached the 

goal, first rising to heaven, and then coming down again. 

The books of the Literati contain the statement that the king 

of Chi being dangerously ill, a messenger was sent to Sung to fetch 

Wên Chih.1 When he arrived and saw the king's sickness he said 

to the heir-apparent: "The king's illness can certainly be cured, 

but when it has been, the king is sure to kill me." 

The heir-apparent inquired what for, Wên Chih replied, "With- 

out anger the king's illness cannot be cured, but when the king 

gets angry, my death is certain." 

The heir-apparent bowed his head, and entreated him saying, 

" Should you cure the king's sickness, myself and my mother are 

going to forcibly restrain the king at the cost of our lives. The 

king will certainly please my mother. We are wishing that you, 

master, shall have no trouble." 

Wên Chih gave his consent and said that he was prepared to 

die. The king with his eldest son fixed a time. Thrice the physician

1 A famous doctor, who cannot have lived later than the 4th cent. B.C., for 

he is mentioned in Lieh Tse. 

342 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

 was expected, but did not come so, that the king of Ch'i was 

already very angry. When he came at last, he did not put on 

his shoes, but walked upon the bed and tread upon the sheets. 

He asked the king about his sickness, but the king was so furious, 

that he did not speak with him. Then he said something which 

but aggravated the king's wrath. The kins abused him, and rose 

up, and his disease was gone. He was so enraged and so little 

pleased, that he wished to boil Wên Chih alive.1 The heir-apparent 

and the queen forthwith interfered, but could obtain nothing. Wên 

Chih was actually boiled alive in a cauldron: After three days' and 

three night's cooking, his appearance had not yet changed. Wên 

Chih said, " If one really is anxious to kill me, why does one not 

put on the lid to intercept the Yin and the Yang fluids." 

The king had the lid put on, whereupon Wên Chih died. 

Wên Chih was a Taoist, in water he was not drowned, and in fire 

he did not burn.2 Hence he could remain three days and three 

nights in the kettle without changing colour. 

This is idle talk. Wên Chih was boiled three days and nights 

without changing colour. If then only in consequence of the lid 

being put on he was choked and died, this proves that he was 

not in possession of Tao. All living and breathing creatures die, 

when deprived of air. When they are dead and boiled, they 

become soft. If living and breathing creatures are placed in vessels 

with a lid on, having all their fissures carefully filled, so that the 

air cannot circulate, and their breath cannot pass, they die instantaneously. Thrown into a kettle with boiling water, they are also 

cooked soft. Why? Because they all have the same kind of body, 

the same breath, are endowed by heaven with a similar nature, 

and all belong to one class. If Wên Chih did not breathe, he would 

have been like a piece of metal or stone, and even in boiling water 

not be cooked soft. Now he was breathing, therefore, when cooked, 

he could not but die. 

If Wên Chih could speak, he must have given sounds, which 

require breathing. Breathing is closely connected with the vital 

force, which resides in bones and flesh. Beings of bones and flesh 

being cooked, die. To deny that is the first untruth. 

Provided that Wên Chih could be cooked without dying, he 

was a perfect Taoist, similar to metal or stone. To metal or stone 

it makes no difference, whether a lid be put on, or not. There- 

1 A parallel passage of this story occurs in the Lü-shih-ch'un-ch'iu. 

2 That is what the Taoists say of themselves. 

Taoist Untruths, 343 

fore, to say that Wen Chili died, when the lid was put on, is a 

second untruth. 

Put a man into cold water, which is not hot like boiling 

water, and he will die for want of breath after a short interval, 

his nose and mouth being shut out from the outer air. Submerged 

in cold water, a man cannot remain alive, how much less in bubbling, boiling water, in the midst of a violent fire? To say that 

Wên Chih survived in the boiling water is a third untruth. 

When a man is submerged in water, so that his mouth is not 

visible outside, the sound of what he says is inaudible. When 

Wên Chih was cooked, his body was certainly submerged in the 

kettle, and his mouth invisible. Under those circumstances one 

could not hear, what he said. That Wên Chih should have spoken 

is the fourth untruth. 

Had a man who after three days' and three nights' cooking 

died, not changed colour, even ignorant people would have been 

amazed. If the king of Ch'i was not surprised, the heir-apparent and 

his ministers should have noticed this wonderful fact. In their 

astonishment at Wên Chih they would have prayed that he be taken 

out, granted high honours, and be venerated as a master, from 

whom one might learn more about Tao. Now three days and three 

nights are mentioned, but nothing is said about the officials asking 

for his release. That is the fifth untruth. 

At that time it was perhaps known that Wên Chih was actually 

cooked, and that his death was caused by it. People noticing 

that he was a Taoist, invented the story that he lived a subtle 

life, and did not die, just as Huang Ti really died, whereas the 

reports say that he rose to heaven, and as the prince of Huai-nan 

suffered the punishment of rebellion, whilst the books say that he 

entered a new life. There are those who like to spread false 

reports. Hence the story of Wen Chih has been propagated until now. 

There are no instances of any one having obtained Tao, but 

there have been very long-lived persons. People remarking that 

those persons, while studying Tao and the art of immortality, be- 

come over a hundred years old without dying, call them immortals, 

as the following example will show. 

At the time of Han Wu Ti 1 there lived a certain Li Shao Chün. 

who. pretended that by sacrificing to the "Hearth '" and abstaining 

from eating grain he could ward off old age. He saw the emperor, 

who conferred high honours upon him. Li Shao Chün kept his age 

1 140-85 B.C. 

344 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

and the place where he was born and had grown up secret, always 

saying that he was seventy old, and could effect that things did 

not grow old. On his journeys he visited all the princes around, 

and was not married. On hearing that he could manage that things 

did not age, people presented him with much richer gifts than they 

would otherwise have done. He had always money, gold, dresses, 

and food in abundance. As people believed that he did not do 

any business, and was yet richly provided with everything, and 

as nobody knew, what sort of a man he really was, there was a 

general competition in offering him services. 

Li Shao Chün knew some clever manoeuvres and some fine 

tricks, which did not fail to produce a wonderful effect. He used 

to feast with the Marquis of Wu-an. 1 In the hall there was a man 

of over 90 years. Li Shao Chün indicated to him the places which 

his grand-father frequented, when shooting. The old man knew 

them, having visited them as a child with his father. The whole 

audience was bewildered. 

When Li Shao Chün saw the emperor, the emperor had an 

old bronze vase, about which he asked him. Li Shao Chün replied 

that in the 15th year 2 of the reign of Duke Huan of Ch'i 3 it was 

placed in the Po-chin hall. The inscription was examined, and it 

was found out that it was indeed a vessel of Duke Huan of Ch'i. 

The whole Court was startled, and thought that Li Shao Chün was 

several hundred years old.4 After a long time he died of sickness. 

Those who now-a-days are credited with the possession of 

Tao are men like Li Shao Chün. He died amongst men. His body 

was seen, and one knew, therefore, that his nature had been longevous. Had he dwelt in mountain-forests or gone into deserts, 

leaving no trace behind him, he would have died a solitary death 

of sickness amidst high rocks. His corpse would have been food 

for tigers, wolves, and foxes, but the world would again have believed him to have disappeared as a real immortal. 

The ordinary students of Tao have not Li Shao Chün's age. 

Before reaching a hundred years they die like all the others. Yet 

uncultured and ignorant people still hold that they are separated 

from their bodies, and vanish, and that, as a matter of fact, they 

do not die. 

1 A district in Uonan. The name of the Marquis was T'ien Fên. 

2 The Shih-chi says the tenth year. 

3 Duke Huan of Ch'i reigned from 683-641 b.c. The 15th year of his reign 

was 669. 

4 This story of Li Shao Chün is quoted from the Shi-chi chap. 28, p. 21. 

Taoist Untruths. 345 

What is understood by separation from the body? Does it 

mean that the body dies, and the spirit disappears? Or that the 

body does not die, but drops its coil? If one says that the body 

dies, and the spirit is lost, there is no difference from death, and 

every one is a genius. And if one believes that the body does not 

die, but throws off its coil, one must admit that the bones and 

the flesh of all the deceased Taoists are intact and in no wise 

different from the corpses of ordinary mortals. 

When the cricket leaves its chrysalis, the tortoise drops its 

shell, the snake its skin, and the stag its horns, in short, when 

the horned and skinned animals lose their outward cover, retaining 

only their flesh and bones, one might speak of the separation from 

the body. But even if the body of a dead Taoist were similar to 

a chrysalis, one could not use this expression, because, when the 

cricket leaves the chrysalis, it cannot be considered as a spirit with 

regard to the chrysalis. Now to call it a separation from the body, 

when there is not even a similarity with the chrysalis, would again 

be an unfounded assertion missing the truth. 

The Grand Annalist was a contemporary of Li Shao Chün. 

Although he was not amongst those who came near to Li Shao 

Chün's body, when he had expired, he was in a position to learn 

the truth. If he really did not die, but only parted with his body, 

the Grand Annalist ought to have put it on record, and would not 

have given the place of his death. 

The reference to the youth of the nonagenarian in the court 

would prove Li Shao Chün's age. Perhaps he was fourteen or fifteen years old, when the old man accompanied his grandfather as 

a boy. Why should Li Shao Chün not know this, if he lived 

200 years? 1 

Wu Ti's time is very far from Duke Huan, when the bronze 

vase was cast, 2 and Li Shao Chün cannot have seen it. Perhaps 

he heard once that in the palace there was an old vessel, or he 

examined the inscription beforehand to speak upon it, so that he 

was well-informed, when he saw it again. When our amateurs of 

to-day see an old sword or an antique crooked blade, they generally know where to place it. Does that imply that they saw, how 

it was wrought? 

1 Why 200 years? Li Shao Chün would have known the nonagenarian's 

grandfather, if he was about ninety years old himself. 

2 The interval is upwards of 500 years. 

346 Lun-Hêng: C. Physical. 

Tung Fang So is said to have also been possessed of Tao. His 

name was Chin, his style Man Ch'ien, but he changed his names 

and for a time took office with the Han dynasty. Outwardly he 

was considered an official, but inwardly he passed to another 


This is wrong too. Tung Fang So lived together with Li 

Shao Chün under the reign of Wu Ti, and must have been known 

to the Grand Annalist. Li Shao Chün taught Tao and a method 

to keep off old age by means of sacrificing to the " Hearth." He 

determined the period of a tripod cast under Duke Huan of Ch'i, 

and knew the places frequented, when hunting, by the grandfather 

of a nonagenarian, and yet he did not really attain to Tao. He 

was only a long-lived man, who died late. Moreover, Tung Fang 

So was not as successful as Li Shao Chün in magical arts, where- 

fore then was he credited with the possession of Tao? Under Wu 

Ti there were the Taoists Wên Ch'êng and Wu Li and others of the 

same type, who went on sea in search of the genii and to find the 

physic of immortality. Because they evidently knew the Taoist 

arts, they were trusted by the Emperor. Tung Fang So undertook 

no mission on sea, nor did he do anything miraculous. If he had 

done, he would only have been a man like Li Shao Chün or on a 

level with Wên Ch' eng and Wu Li. Nevertheless he had the chance 

to be credited with the possession of Tao. He again resembled 

Li Shao Chün, insomuch as he made a secret of his birth place, 

and the courtiers did not know his origin. He exaggerated his 

age. People finding that he looked rather strong and young and 

was of phlegmatic temper, that he did not care much for his office, 

but was well versed in divination, guessing, and other interesting 

plays, called him therefore a man possessed of Tao. 

There is a belief that by the doctrine of Lao Tse one can 

transcend into another existence. Through quietism and dispassionateness one nourishes the vital force, and cherishes the spirit. The 

length of life is based on the animal spirits. As long as they are 

unimpaired, life goes on, and there is no death. Lao Tse acted 

upon this principle. Having done so for over a hundred years, he 

passed into another existence, and became a true Taoist sage. 

Who can be more quiet and have less desires than birds and 

animals? But birds and animals likewise age and die. However, 

we will not speak of birds and animals, the passions of which are 

Taoist Untruths. 347 

similar to the human. But which are the passions of plants and 

shrubs, that they are born in spring, and die in autumn? They 

are dispassionate, and their lives do not extend further than one 

year. Men are full of passions and desires, and yet they can become a hundred years old. Thus the dispassionate die prematurely, 

and the passionate live long. Hence Lao Tse's theory to prolong 

life and enter a new existence by means of quietism and absence 

of desires is wrong. 

Lao Tse was like Li Shao Chün. He practised his theory of 

quietism, and his life happened to be long of itself. But people 

seeing this, and hearing of his quietism, thought that by his art 

he passed into another existence. 

The idea prevails that those who abstain from eating grain, 

are men well versed in the art of Tao. They say e. g. that Wang 

Tse Ch'iao 1 and the like, because they did not touch grain, and 

lived on different food than ordinary people, had not the same 

length of life as ordinary people, in so far as having passed a 

hundred years, they transcended into another state of being, and became immortals. 

That is another mistake. Eating; and drinking; are natural 

impulses, with which we are endowed at birth. Hence the upper 

part of the body has a mouth and teeth, the inferior part orifices. 

With the mouth and teeth one chews and eats, the orifices are for 

the discharge. Keeping in accord with one's nature, one follows 

the law of heaven, going against it, one violates one's natural propensities, and neglects one's natural spirit before heaven. How can 

one obtain long life in this way? 

If Wang Tse Ch'iao had got no mouth, teeth, or orifices at 

birth, his nature would have been different from that of others. 

Even then one could hardly speak of long life. Now, the body 

is the same, only the deeds being different. To say that in this 

way one can transcend into another existence is not warranted by 

human nature. 

For a man not to eat is like not clothing the body. Clothes 

keep the skin warm, and food fills the stomach. With a warm 

epidermis and a well-filled belly the animal spirits are bright and 

exalted. If one is hungry, and has nothing to eat, or feels cold, 

and has nothing to warm one's self, one may freeze or starve to 

death. How can frozen and starved people live longer than others? 

1 A magician of the 6th cent, b.c, son of King Ling of the Chou dynasty. 

He is reported to have been seen riding on a white crane through the air as an 


348 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

Moreover, during his life man draws his vital force from food, 

just as plants and trees do from earth. Pull out the roots of a 

plant or a tree, and separate them from the soil, and the plant 

will wither, and soon die. Shut a man's mouth, so that he cannot 

eat, and he will starve, but not be long-lived. 

The Taoists exalting each other's power assert that the " pure 

man " eats the fluid, that the fluid is his food. Wherefore the 

books say that the fluid-eaters live long, and do not die, that, 

although they do not feed on cereals, they become fat and strong 

by the fluid. 

This too is erroneous. What kind of fluid is understood by 

fluid? If the fluid of the Yin and the Yang be meant, this fluid 

cannot satiate people. They may inhale this fluid, so that it fills 

their belly and bowels, yet they cannot feel satiated. If the fluid 

inherent in medicine be meant, man may use and eat a case full of 

dry drugs, or swallow some ten pills. But the effects of medicine 

are very strong. They cause great pain in the chest, but cannot 

feed a man. The meaning must certainly be that the fluid-eaters 

breathe, inhaling and exhaling, emitting the old air and taking in 

the new. Of old, P'êng Tsu 1 used to practise this. Nevertheless 

he could not live indefinitely, but died of sickness. 

Many Taoists hold that by regulating one's breath one can 

nourish one's nature, pass into another state of being, and become 

immortal. Their idea is that, if the blood vessels in the body be 

not always in motion, expanding and contracting, an obstruction 

ensues. There being no free passage, constipation is the consequence, which causes sickness and death. 

This is likewise without any foundation. Man's body is like 

that of plants and trees. Plants and trees growing on the summits 

of high mountains, where they are exposed to the squalls of wind, 

are moved day and night, but do they surpass those that are 

hidden in mountain valleys and sheltered from wind? 

1 The Chinese Methusaleh, who is believed to have lived over 800 years, 

and to have been a great grandson of the legendary Emperor Chuan Hsü 2514 B.C. 

Taoist Untruths. 849 

When plants and trees, while growing, are violently shaken, 

they are injured, and pine away. Why then should man by 

drawing his breath and moving his body gain a long life and not 

die? The blood arteries traverse the body, as streams and rivers 

flow through the land. While thus flowing, the latter lose their 

limpidity, and become turbid. When the blood is moved, it becomes agitated also, which causes uneasiness. Uneasiness is like 

the hardships man has to endure without remedy. How can that 

be conducive to a long life? 

The Taoists sometimes use medicines with a view to rendering 

their bodies more supple and their vital force stronger, hoping 

thus to prolong their years and to enter a new existence. 

This is a deception likewise. There are many examples that 

by the use of medicines the body grew more supple and the vital 

force stronger, but the world affords no instance of the prolongation 

of life and a new existence following. 

The different physics cure all sorts of diseases. When they 

have been cured, the vital force is restored, and then the body 

becomes supple again. According to man's original nature his body 

is supple of itself, and his vital force lasts long of its own accord. 

But by exposure to wind and wetness he falls a victim to hundreds 

of diseases, whence his body becomes heavy and stiff, and his force 

is weakened. By taking an efficacious remedy he restores his body 

and the vital force. This force is not small at the outset, or the 

body heavy, and it is not by medicine that the force lasts long, 

or the body grows supple and light. When first received,^ they 

already possess those qualities spontaneously. Therefore, when by 

medicines the various diseases are dispelled, the body made supple, 

and the vital force prolonged, they merely return to their original 

state, but it is impossible to add to the number of years, let alone 

the transition into another existence. 

Of all the beings with blood in their veins there are none 

but are born, and of those endowed with life there are none but 

die. From the fact that they were born, one knows that they 

must die. Heaven and Earth were not born, therefore they do 

not die. The Yin and the Yang were not born, therefore they do 

not die. Death is the correlate of birth, and birth the counterpart of death. That which has a beginning, must have an end, 

and that which has an end, must necessarily" have had a beginning.

1 Viz. received by man at his birth, when Heaven endows him with a body 

and the vital fluid. 

350 Lun-hêng: C. Physical. 

Only what is without beginning or end, lives for ever and 

never dies. 1

Human life is like water. Water frozen gives ice, and the 

vital force concentrated forms the human being. Ice lasts one 

winter, then it melts, man lives a hundred years, than he dies. 

Bid a man not to die, can you bid ice not to melt? All those 

who study the art of immortality and trust that there are means, 

by which one does not die, must fail as sure, as one cannot cause 

ice never to melt. 

1 This the Taoists say of their fundamental principle. " Tao is without 

beginning, without end," says Chuang Tse chap. 17, p. 13, and thus the Taoists 

which have become one with Tao, are immortal.