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40: CHAPTER XXXIX. Exaggerations

CHAPTER XXXIX. Exaggerations (Yü-tsêng). 

The Records say that Sages toil and trouble for the world, 

devoting to it all their thoughts and energies, that this harasses 

their spirits, and affects their bodies. Consequently Yao is reported 

to have been like shrivelled flesh, and Shun like dried food, whereas 

Chieh and Chou had an embonpoint over a foot thick. One may well 

say that the bodies of Sages working hard for the world, and 

straining their minds for mankind, are weakened, and that they 

do not become stout or fat, but to say that Yao and Shun were 

like dried flesh or food, and that the embonpoint of Chieh and Chou 

measured over a foot is exaggerating. 

Duke Huan of Ch'i said: — " Before I had got hold of Kuan 

Chung, I had the greatest difficulties, after I had got him, everything was easy"." Duke Huan did not equal Yao and Shun, nor 

was Kuan Chung on a par with Yü and Hsieh. 1 If Duke Huan found 

things easy, how could they have been difficult to Yao and Shun? 

From the fact that Duke Huan, having obtained the assistance of 

Kuan Chung, went on easily, we may infer that Yao and Shun after 

having secured the services of Yü and Hsieh cannot have been in 

difficulties. A man at ease has not many sorrows. Without sorrows 

he has no troubles, and if he is not troubled, his body does not 


Shun found perfect peace brought about by Yao, both carried 

on the virtues of the preceding generation and continued the pacification of the border tribes. Yao had still some trouble, but Shun 

could live at ease and unmolested. The Book of History says that 

the Supreme Ruler gave repose, 2 which refers to Shun, for Shun 

found peace everywhere, he continued the government, appointed 

intelligent officers, employed able men, and enjoyed a dignified 

repose, while the Empire was well administrated. Therefore

1 Yü and Hsieh were both ministers of Yao and Shun. Yü became emperor 


2 Shuking Part V, Bk. XIV, 5 (Legge, Classics Vol. Ill, Pt. U, p. 455). The 

passage has been variously explained. 

482 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

 Confucius exclaims: — "Grand were Shun and Yü who, possessing the 

Empire, did not much care for it." 1 In spite of this Shun is said 

to have been dried up like preserved meat, as though he had been 

lacking in virtue, and had taken over a state in decay like Confucius, who restlessly" wandered about seeking employment, having 

no place to rest in, no way to walk, halting and tumbling down 

on the roads, his bones protruding. 

Chou passed the whole night drinking. Sediments lay about 

in mounds, and there was a lake of wine. Chou was swimming 

in wine, stopping neither by day nor by night. The result must 

have been sickness. Being sick, he could not enjoy eating and 

drinking, and if he did not enjoy eating and drinking, his fatness 

could not attain one foot in thickness. 

The Book of History remarks that debauchery was what they 2 

liked, and that they could not reach a great age. 3 Prince Wu Chi 

of Wei 4 passed his nights feasting, but these excesses proved such 

a poison to him, that he died. If Chou did not die, his extravagance ought at least to have shattered his system. Chieh and 

Chou doing the same, ought to have contracted the same sickness. 

To say that their embonpoint was over a foot thick is not only an 

exaggeration, but an untruth. 

Of Chou there is further a record that his strength was such, 

that he could twist iron, and straighten out a hook, pull out a 

beam, and replace it by a pillar. This is meant to be illustrative 

of his great strength. 5 Men like Fei Lien and Lai 6 were much 

liked by him, and stood high in his favour, which is tantamount 

to saying that he was a sovereign very fond of cunning and 

strength, and attracted people possessing those qualities. 

Now there are those who say that, when Wu Wang defeated 

Chou, the blades of his weapons were not stained with blood. 

When a man with such strength, that he could twist iron and 

1 Analects VIII, 18. 

2 The last emperors of the Hsia dynasty. 

3 Quoted from the Shuking Part V, Bk. XV, 7 (Legge, Classics Vol. Ill, Pt. II, 

p. 468). 

4 Died 244 b.c. Wu Chi was a famous general of the Wei State, who inflicted some crushing defeats upon the armies of Ch'in. For some time he succeeded 

in checking the encroachments of Ch'in. It was not, until his later years, that he 

retired from public life, and gave himself up to debauchery. 

5 The Shi-chi chap. 3, p. 10 likewise ascribes superhuman forces and extraordinary natural endowments to the last ruler of the Hsia dynasty. 

" Fei Lien and O Lai were two clever, but wicked consellors of King Chou. 

In the Shi-chi chap. 3, p. 11 v. Fei Lien is called Fei Chung. 

Exaggerations. 483 

straighten out hooks, with such supporters as Fei Lien and O Lai 

tried issues with the army of Chou, 1 Wu Wang, however virtuous 

he may have been, could not have deprived him of his natural 

abilities, and Chou, wicked though he was, would not have lost 

the sympathy of his associates. Although he was captured by 

Wu Wang, some ten or hundred people must have been killed or 

wounded at that time. If the blades were not stained with blood, 

it would contradict the report of Chou's great strength and the 

support he received from Fei Lien and O Lai. 2 

The auspicious portents of Wu Wang did not surpass those 

of Kao Tsu. Wu Wang saw a lucky augury in a white fish and a 

red crow, 3 Kao Tsu in the fact that, when he cut a big snake in 

two, an old woman cried on the road. 4 Wu Wang had the succour 

of eight hundred barons, Kao Tsu was supported by all the patriotic 

soldiers of the Empire, Wu Wang's features were like those of a 

staring sheep. 5 Kao Tsu had a dragon face, a high nose, a red 

neck, a beautiful beard and 72 black spots on his body. 6 When 

Kao Tsu fled, and Lü Hou 7 was in the marshes, she saw a haze 

over his head. 8 It is not known that Wu Wang had such an omen. 

In short, his features bore more auspicious signs than Wu Wang's 

look, and the portents were clearer than the fish and the crow. 

The patriotic soldiers of the Empire assembled to help the Han, 9 

and were more powerful than all the barons. 

Wu Wang succeeded King Chou, and Kao Tsu took over the 

inheritance of Erh Shih Huang Ti of the house of Chin, which was 

much worse than that of King Chou. The whole empire rebelled 

against Ch'in, with much more violence than under the Yin dynasty. 

When Kao Tsu had defeated the Ch'in, he had still to destroy 

Hsiang Yü. The battle field was soaked with blood, and many 

thousands of dead bodies lay strewn about. The losses of the 

1 The Chou dynasty which overthrew the Shang or Yin dynasty. The name 

of King Chou Hsin of the Shang dynasty has the same sound, but is quite a different 


2 According to the Shi-chi and the Shuking King Chou fled, when his troops 

had been routed by Wu Wang, and burned himself, dressed in his royal robes, in 

the palace. He was not caught by Wu Wang. 

3 Cf. p. 130. 

4 Cf. p. 178. 

5 Wu Wang had large, staring sheep's eyes. 

6 Cf. p. 305. 

7 The wife of Han Kao Tsu. 

8 Cf. p. 178. 

9 The Han dynasty. 

484 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

defeated army were enormous. People had, as it were, to die 

again and again, before the Empire was won. The insurgents 

were exterminated by force of arms with the utmost severity. 

Therefore it cannot be true that the troops of Chou 1 did not even 

stain their swords with blood. One may say that the conquest 

was easy, but to say that the blades were not stained with blood, 

is an exaggeration. 

When the Chou dynasty conquered the empire of the Yin, it 

was written in the strategical book of T'ai Kung 2 that a young 

boy brought up [in the camp] Tan Chiao had said: — "The troops 

which are to destroy Yin have arrived in the plain of Mu.3 At 

dawn they carry lamps with fat." According to the " Completion 

of the War" 4 the battle in the plain of Mu was so sanguinary, that 

the pestles 5 were swimming in the blood, and over a thousand Li 

the earth was red. After this account the overthrow of the Yin 

by the Chou must have been very much like the war between the 

Han and Ch'in dynasties. The statement that the conquest of the 

Yin territory was so easy, that the swords were not stained with 

blood is meant as a compliment to the virtue of Wu Wang, but it 

exaggerates the truth. All things of this world must be neither 

over- nor under-estimated. If we examine, how the facts follow 

one another, all the evidence comes forth, and on this evidence 

the truth or the untruth can be established. 

People glorify Chou's force by saying that he could twist 

iron, and at the same time praise Wu Wang, because the weapons, 

with which he destroyed his opponent, were not blood-stained. 

Now, if anybody opposed his enemies with a strength that could 

twist iron and straighten out a hook, he must have been a match 

for Mêng Pên and Hsia Yü, 6 and he who managed to defeat his adversary through his virtue without staining his swords with blood, 

must have belonged to the Three Rulers or to the Five Emperors.7 

Endowed with sufficient strength to twist iron, the one could not 

be compelled to submission, whereas the other, possessing such 

1 The Chou dynasty. 

2 T'ai Kung Wang, the counsellor of Wu Wang, laid the plans of the campaign 

against the Yin dynasty. 

3 This plain was situated in Honun. 

4 This is the title of the 3d Book of the 5th Part of the Shuking. (Cf. Legge, 

Classics Vol. Ill, Pt. II, p. 315.) 

5 With which the soldiers were pounding their rice. 

6 Mêng Pên and Hsia Yii are both famous for their gigantic strength. The 

one could tear off the horns, the other the tail from a living ox. Both lived in the 

(Jhou epoch. 

7 The legendary rulers accomplished everything by their virtues. 


virtue that his weapons were not reddened with blood, ought not 

to have lost one soldier. If we praise Chous strength, \Vu Wang's 

virtue is disparaged, and, if we extol Wu Wang, Choiis strength 

dwindles away. The twisting of iron and the fact that the blades 

were not covered with blood are inconsistent, and the praise be- 

stowed simultaneously on the Yin and the Choii mutually clashes. 

From this incompatibility it follows that one proposition must be 


Confucius 1 said: — "Chou's wickedness was not so very great. 

Therefore the superior man hates to consort with base persons, 

for the faults of the whole world are laid to their charge."- Mencius 

said: — " From the ' Completion of the War' I accept but two or three 

paragraphs. If the most humane defeated the inhumane, how 

could so much blood be spilt, that clubs swam in it?" 3 The 

utterance of Confucius would seem to uphold the swimming of 

clubs, whereas the words of Mencius are very much akin to the 

assertion that the weapons were not stained with blood. The 

first overshoots the mark, the second falls short of it. Thus 

a Sage and a Worthy 4 pass a judgment on Chou, but both use 

a different weight, and one gives him credit for more than the 


Chou was not as depraved as Wang Mang.5 Chou killed Pi 

Kan, 6 but Wang Mang poisoned the emperor P ing Ti.'' Chou became 

emperor by succession, Wang Mang usurped the throne of the Han. 

To assassinate one's sovereign is infinitely worse than the execution 

of a minister, and succession to the throne is quite different from 

usurpation. Deeds against which the whole people rose up, must  

have been worse than those of Chou. When the Han destroyed 

Wang Mang, their troops were exhausted at K'un-yang, 8 the deaths 

numbering ten thousand and more. When the forces reached the 

1 Analects XIX, 20. In our text of the Lun-yü these words are not spoken 

by Confucius himself, but by his disciple Tse Kung. 

2 A good man avoids the society of disreputable people, for every wickedness 

is put to their account, even if they be innocent. Thus King Chou has been better 

than his name, which has become a by-word for every crime. Cf. p. 478. 

3 Mencius Book VII, Pt. II, chap. 3. The most humane was Wu Wang. 

4 In the estimation of the Confucianists Mencius is only a Worthy, not a 

Sage like Confucius. 

5 Wang Mang the usurper reigned from 9 to 23 a.d. 

6 Pi Kan was a relative of Chou. When he remonstrated with him upon his 

excesses, Chou caused him to he disembowelled. 

7 1-6 A.D. 

8 A city in southern Hnnan. 

486 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

Ch'ien terrace,1 the blood made all the foot-prints and ruts invisible. 

Consequently it cannot be true that, when the Chou conquered 

the Empire, the weapons were not even stained with blood. 

It is on record that Wên Wang could drink a thousand bumpers 

of wine and Confucius a hundred gallons. We are to infer from 

this, how great the virtue of these Sages was, which enabled them 

to master the wine. If at one sitting they could drink a thousand 

bumpers or a hundred gallons, they must have been drunkards, and 

not sages. 

In drinking wine there is a certain method, and the chests 

and stomachs of the Sages must have been of nearly the same size 

as those of others. Taking food together with wine, they would 

have eaten a hundred oxen, while drinking one thousand bumpers, 

and ten sheep would correspond to a hundred gallons. If they 

did justice to a thousand bumpers and a hundred oxen, or to a 

hundred gallons and ten sheep. Wên Wang must have been as gigantic as the Prince of Fang-fêng 2 and Confucius like a Great Ti. 3 

Wên Wang and Confucius did not equal the Prince of Fang-fêng or 

the Great Ti in length. Eating and drinking such enormous quantities with small bodies would be derogatory to the grandeur of 

Wên Wang, and undignified in Confucius. According to the Chapter 

" Chiu Kao," 4 Wên Wang would say morning and evening: — "pour 

out this wine in libation." 5 This shows how careful Wên Wang 

was about wine. Because he was so careful morning and evening, 

the people were converted thereby. Had his advice to be careful 

only been for outside, while he himself emptied a thousand bumpers 

at home, the efforts to educate the people and his subjects would 

have been in vain. And how would he have distinguished himself 

from the depravity of Chou, whose successor he was? 

Moreover, at what time should the thousand bumpers and 

the hundred gallons have been drunk? When Wên Wang and Confucius 

1 A terrace near Chang-an-fu, where Wang Mang made his last stand. 

2 A feudal prince of gigantic size said to have lived under the Emperor Yü, 

who put him to death. Cf. Han Fei Tse chap. 19, p. 11v. 

3 Ti is a general name for northern barbarians. The Shuking, Hung-fan, 

五行, speaks of a Ti measuring over 50 feet, Ku Liang of three Ti brothers, of 

which one was so enormous, that his body covered 9 Mou. 

4 I.e. " Announcement about wine." 酒诰 

5 Cf, p, 121. 

Exaggerations. 487 

 offered wine in sacrifice? Then the sacrificial meat would 

not have sufficed to satiate them. At the shooting-feast? At the 

shooting-feast there were certain recognised rules for drinking wine. 1 

If at a private banquet they gave their guests wine to drink, they 

must have given to all their inferiors equally. The emperor would 

first take three cups, and then retire. Drinking more than three, 

he would have become intoxicated, and misbehaved himself. But 

Wên Wang and Confucius were men to whom propriety was every- 

thing. If they had given so much to their attendants, that they 

became drunk and disorderly, they themselves taking a thousand 

bumpers of wine or a hundred gallons, they would have been like 

Chieh and Chou or, to say the least, drunkards. How could they 

then have manifested their virtues and improved others, how acquired a name still venerated by posterity? 

There is a saying that the virtuous do not become intoxicated. Seeing that the Sages possess the highest virtue, one has 

wrongly credited Wên Wang with a thousand bumpers and foolishly 

given a hundred gallons to Confucius. 

Chou is reported to have been an incorrigible tippler. The 

sediments lay about in mounds. He had a lake full of wine, 2 and 

filled three thousand persons with liquor like cattle. Carousing he 

made night day, and even forgot the date. 

Chou may have been addicted to drink, but he sought pleasure. 

Had his wine-lake been in the court-yard, then one could not say 

that in carousing he made night day. This expression would only 

be correct, if he shut himself up in his rooms behind closed windows, using candle-light. If he was sitting in his rooms, he must 

have risen and gone to the court-yard each time he wished to 

drink, and then returned to his seat, an endless trouble, which 

would have deprived him of all enjoyment. Had the wine-lake 

been in the inner apartments, then the three thousand people must 

have been placed close to the lake. Their amusement would have 

consisted in bowing down to drink wine from the lake, and in 

rising to taste the dainty dishes, singing and music being in front 

1 The shooting-feasts referred to are the competitions of archery, held in 

ancient times at the royal court, at the feudal courts, and at the meetings in the 

country. A banquet was connected with these festivities. Cf. Legge, The Li Ki 

(Sacred Books of the East Vol. XXVII) p. 57. 

2 This wine-lake is mentioned in the Shi-chi chap. 3, p.10v. 

488 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 

of them. If they were really sitting quite close to the lake, their 

drinking in front would have interfered with their dining, and the 

concert could not have been in front. Provided that at the banquet 

they had thus unmannerly sucked wine from the lake like oxen, 

they would not have required any cups during the dinner, and 

would also have gulped down and devoured the food like tigers. 

From this we see that the wine-lake and the drinking like cattle 

are mere stories. 

There is another tradition that Chou had made a forest by 

hanging up meat, and that he caused' naked males and females to 

chase each other in this forest,1 which would be drunken folly, 

and unrestrained debauchery. Meat is to be put into the mouth. 

What the mouth eats, must be clean, not soiled. Now, if, as they 

say, naked males and females chased each other among the meat, 

how could it remain clean? If they were drunk, and did not care, 

whether it was clean or not, they must have bathed together in 

wine, and then run naked one after the other among the meat. 

Why should they not have done this? Since nothing is said about 

their bathing in wine, we may be sure that neither did they chase 

each other naked among the meat. 

There is another version to the effect that wine was being 

carried about in carts and roast-meat on horseback, and that one 

hundred and twenty days were reckoned one night. However, if 

the account about the wine-lake is correct, it cannot be true that 

the wine was transported in carts, and if the meat was suspended 

so, as to form a forest, the statement that roast-meat was carried 

about on horseback must be wrong. 

It may have happened that, when Chou was flushed with drink, 

he overturned the wine, which spread over the floor, whence the 

story of the wine-lake. When the wine was distilled, the sediments 

were heaped up, therefore the tale that the sediments lay in mounds. 

Meat was hung up in trees, thence the report that a forest was 

made of meat. The shade and darkness of this forest may sometimes 

have been visited by people with the intention of doing things 

shunning the light of day, which led to the belief that they chased 

each other naked. Perhaps wine was transported once on a deer-car- 

riage,2 which would account for the story that wine was being 

1 Quoted from the Shi-chi chap. .S, p. 11. 

2 A royal carriage ornamented with deers. 

Exaggerations. 489 

carried about in carts, and roast-meat on horseback. The revelry- 

may have extended once over ten nights, hence the hundred and 

twenty days. Perhaps Chou was intoxicated and out of his mind, 

when he inquired, what day it was. Then people said that he 

had forgotten dates altogether. 

When Chou Kung 1 invested K'ang Shu 2 he spoke to him about 

Chou's wine drinking, 3 wishing that he should know all about it, and 

take a warning, but he did not mention the mounds of sediments, 

or the wine-lake, or the forest made of meat, or the revelries 

lasting far into the morning, or the forgetting of dates. What the 

Sages do not mention, is most likely unfounded. 

As an instance of Chou's perversity it is recorded that he 

sucked wine from the wine-lake like an ox, together with three 

thousand people. The Hsia dynasty had a hundred (metropolitan) 

officials, the Yin two hundred, the Chou three hundred. The companions of Chou's Bacchanals were assuredly not common people, 

but officials, and not minor officials, but high ones. Their number 

never could reach three thousand. The authors of this report 

wished to disparage Chou, therefore they said three thousand, 

which is a gross exaggeration. 

There is a report that the Duke of Chou 4 was so condescending that with presents he called on simple scholars, living in poor 

houses, and inquired after their health. As one of the three chief 

ministers, a prop to the imperial tripod, 5 he was the mainstay of 

the emperor. Those scholars were persons of no consequence in 

their hamlets. That a prime minister should have flung away his 

dignity as supporter of the dynasty in order to do homage to common scholars, cannot be true. May be, that he treated scholars 

with courtesy and condescension, and was not haughty towards 

1 Tan, Duke of Chou, a younger brother of Wu Wang. 

2 K'ang Shu was the first prince of the Wei State (Honan), which he governed 

until 1077 B.C. 

3 Cf. Shaking Part V, Book X, 11 (Legge, he. cit. p. 408). 

4 Chou Kung. 

5 The sacrificial tripod is the emblem of royalty. The tlifee chief ministers 

are likened to its three feet. 

490 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 

poor people, hence the report that he waited upon them. He may 

have raised a scholar of humble origin, and received him with his 

badge in hand. People then said that he came with presents and 

waited upon his family. 

We have a tradition that Yao and Shun were so thrifty, that 

they had their thatched roofs untrimmed, and their painted rafters 

unhewn. Thatched roofs and painted rafters there may have been, 

but that they were untrimmed or unhewn, is an exaggeration. The 

Classic says, "I 1 assisted in completing the Five Robes." 2 Five 

Robes means the five-coloured robes. If they put on five-coloured 

robes, and at the same time had thatched roofs and painted rafters, 

there would have been a great discrepancy between the palace 

buildings and the dresses. On the five-coloured robes were painted 

the sun, the moon and the stars. Consequently thatched roofs and 

painted rafters are out of the question. 

It is on record that Ch'in Shih Huang Ti burned the Books 

of Poetry and History, 3 and buried the Literati alive. This means 

that by burning the Books of Poetry and History he eradicated 

the Five Classics and other literary works. The Literati thus 

thrown into pits were those, they say, who had concealed the 

Classics and other works. When the books were burned, and the 

men thrown into pits, Poetry and History were extinguished. The 

burning of the Books of Poetry and History and the assassination 

of the Literati are indisputable. But the allegation that, for the 

purpose of destroying those books, the men were put to death, is 

not correct, and an exaggeration. 

In the 34th year of his reign 4 Ch'in Shih Huang Ti gave a 

banquet on the terrace of Hsien-yang. 5 Seventy Literati came to 

wish him long life. The Pu-yeh, 6 Chou Ching Ch'ên, delivered a 

1 The Emperor Yü. 

2 Quotation from the Shuking, Yi Chi Pt. II, Bk. IV, 8 (Legge Vol. III, Pt. I, 

p. 85). Modern commentators and Legge explain 五服 as " five land tenures," 

Wang Ch'ung as the Five State Robes worn by the Emperor and the officials, which 

are mentioned a few paragraphs before our passage (Legge, loc. cit. p. 80). 

3 The Shiking and the Shuking. 

4 213 K.c. 

5 Near Hsi-an-fu in Shensi. 

6 An official title. 

Exaggerations. 491 

speech, enlogising the emperor's excellence, whereupon Shun Yü Yüeh 

of Ch'i stepped forward, and reproached Ch'in Shih Huang Ti for 

not having invested his kinsmen and meritorious officials, to use 

them as his assistants. 1 He accused Chou Ching Ch'ên of open 

flattery. Ch'in Shih Huang Ti directed the premier Li Sse to report 

on the matter. Li Sse blamed Shun Yü Yüeh, saying that the scholars 

did not care to learn the exigencies of modern times, but were 

studying antiquity with a view to condemn everything new, and 

to excite the masses. Li Sse proposed that the Historiographers 

be authorized to burn all the books except the Annals of Ch'in, 

and also to make an exception in favour of the officials in 

charge of the Imperial College. All the books on poetry, history, 

philosophy, 2 and jurisprudence, which people had dared to conceal, 

were to be brought to the governors and burned together. Those 

who perchance should dare to discourse on poetry and history, 

would be executed and publicly exposed. Should anybody hold 

up antiquity and decry the present time, he was to be destroyed 

together with his clan. Officials who saw or knew of such cases 

without interfering, were to suffer the same penalty. Ch'in Shih 

Huang Ti approved of it. 

The next year, which was the 35th of the emperor's reign, 

the scholars in Hsien-yang spread all kinds of false rumours. Ch'in 

Shih Huang Ti had them tried by the censors. Those who gave 

information about their accomplices, and denounced others, got free 

themselves. 467 delinquents were all thrown into pits.3 

The burning of the Books of Poetry and History was the 

consequence of Shun Yü Yüeh's recriminations. The deaths of the 

literati were due to the rumours divulged by the scholars. Seeing 

467 men perish in pits the chronicler went a step farther, stating 

that the literati were murdered for the purpose of doing away with 

poetry and history, and even saying that they were all thrown 

into pits. That is no true report but also a highly coloured one. 

1 The abolition of feudalism was much disliked by the Literati. 

2 The text says, the " discussions of the hundred authors," which means the 

writers on philosophy and science. 

3 Various translations of this last passage have been proposed. Cf. Chavannes, 

Mém. Hist. Vol. II. p. 181 Note 2. 

The foregoing narration is abridged from Shi-chi chap. 6, p. 21v et seq. Our 

text speaks of 467 scholars, whereas the Shi-chi mentions but 460 odd, and it uses 

the word 坑 "to throw into a pit " instead of the vaguer term 阬 . So perhaps 

Wnnff CJfiiriff has not culled from the Shi-chi, but both have used the same older source. 

492 Lun-Heng: E. Critique. 

There is a tradition to the effect that " field by field were 

treated as Ching K'os hamlet." They say that at the instigation 

of Prince Tan of Yen,1 Ching K'o made an attempt on the life of 

the King of Ch'in.2 The latter afterwards caused the nine relations 3 

of Ching K'o to be put to death. But his vindictive wrath was 

not yet appeased thereby, and he subsequently had all the inhabitants of Ch'ing K'o's village killed, so that the whole village was 

exterminated. Therefore the expression " field by field." This is 

an exaggeration. 

Although Ch'in was lawless, the king had no reason to exterminate the entire village of Ching K'o. Ch'in Shih Huang Ti once 

visited his palace on the Liang-shan. 4 From its height he perceived 

that the carriages and the horsemen of his prime-minister Li Sse 

were very gorgeous. This made him angry, and he gave utterance 

to his disapproval. The attendants informed Li Sse, who forthwith diminished his carriages and men. Ch'in Shih Huang Ti thus 

became aware that his words had leaked out through the servants, 

but did not know who the culprit was. Thereupon he had all 

the persons near him arrested, and put to death.'' Later on, a 

meteor fell down in Tung-chün,6 and when it touched the earth, 

became a stone. Some one engraved upon the stone the inscription: — "When Ch'in Shih Huang Ti's dies, the territory will be 

divided." When the Emperor heard about it, he ordered the censors to ask the people one by one, but nobody confessed. Then 

all persons found near the stone were seized and executed.7 

If the Emperor executed his attendants in the Palace on the 

Liang Mountain and all the persons near the stone, he destroyed 

them all, because he wished to find those who had divulged his 

words, or engraved the stone, but could not discover them. But 

what had the village of Ching Ko done to Ch'in to be exterminated? 

If the King of Ch'in had been stabbed in the village, and the 

assailant was unknown, there might have been a wholesale execution.

1 A State in Chili. 

2 In 227 B.C. Ching K'o made an unsuccessful attempt on Ch'in Shih Huang 

Ti's life, who at that time was still king of Ch'in. It was not before 221 that, 

having vanquished all the rival States, he assumed the imperial title. 

3 All the ascendants and descendants from the great-great-grandfather to the 


4 A mountain in the province of Shensi. 

5 Quoted from Shi-chi chap. G, p. 24. 

6 A circuit or province comprising the south of Chili. 

7 A quotation from Shi-chi chap.6, p. 25v. Cf. p. 231. 

Exaggerations. 493 

 But Ching K'o was already dead, the would-be-assassin found, 

why then should all the villagers suffer for him? 

During the 20th year of Ch'in Shih Huang Ti's reign Ching 

K'o, the envoy of Yen, attempted to assassinate him, but the King 

of Ch'in got wind of it, and caused Ching K'o to be torn to pieces 

as a warning. There is no mention of the entire destruction of 

his village.1 Perhaps he gave orders to behead the nine relations 

of Ching K'o. If these were many, and living together in one 

hamlet, this hamlet may have been wiped out by their execution. 

People fond of exaggerations then said: — "field by field." 

1 The Shi-chi does not mention it.