CHAPTER XXXX. Exaggerations of the Literati (Ju-tsêng).
In the books of the Literati we find the statement that the
virtue of Yao and Shun was so great and wonderful, that perfect
peace reigned on earth, and not a single person was punished;
and further that, since Wên Wang and Wu Wang bequeathed their
greatness to Ch'êng and K'ang, 1 the instruments of punishment were
laid aside, and not used for over forty years. 2 The idea is to
praise Yao and Shun, and to extol Wên Wang and Wu Wang. Without
high-flown words one deems to be unable to applaud greatness,
as it deserves, and without some figures of speech, to do justice
to what has been achieved. But however excellent Yao and Shun
have been, they could not manage that nobody was punished, and
with all their superiority Wên Wang and Wu Wang could not do
without punishments. That there were few offences committed,
and punishments seldom, may be true. But that nobody was
punished, and that the instruments of punishment were not used,
is an exaggeration.
If it could be contrived, that nobody was punished, it could
be brought about also, that no State was attacked. If the instruments of punishment were put aside and not used, arms also
could be laid down, and would not be required. However, Yao
attacked Tan-shui, 3 and Shun fought against the Yu Miao. 4 Four
nobles had to submit, 5 and instruments of punishment as well as
weapons were resorted to. At the time of Ch'êng Wang four States
rebelled: — the Huai, i, Hsü, and Jung 6 all brought misfortune upon
themselves. To punish a man, one uses a sword, to exterminate
1 Chêng was the successor of King Wn Wang. He reigned from 1115 - 1078 B.C.,
and was succeeded by K'ang 1078 - 1052.
2 Cf. Shi-chi chap. 4, p. 17.
3 A place in Honan.
4 The aboriginal Miao tribes which exist still to-day.
5 Shun banished Kung Kung, Huan Tou, the prince of the San Miao and K'un.
Cf. Mencius V, Pt. II, 3 and Shukung Pt. II, I, 12.
6 The Huai, I, and Jung were non-Chinese tribes; Hsü is the name of one
of the Nine Provinces of Yü, in modern Shantung.
Exaggerations of the Literati. 495
him, arms. The punishment is a matter of criminal law, the extermination of fighting. Fighting and criminal law do not differ,
weapons and swords are the same. Even an able dialectician could
not discover a difference. Against depravity arms are used, against
lawlessness instruments of punishment. These latter bear the same
relation to weapons as feet do to wings. Walking, one uses one's
feet, flying, one's wings. Though different in shape, both of them
equally move the body; in the same manner instruments of punishment and weapons combined serve to check the evil. Their effect
is the same.
The allegation that no arms were used implies the idea, that
no penalties were meted out. Should a man with defective ears,
but intact eyes be said to be in possession of a perfect body, we
would not admit that, and if some one being an excellent tiger-
hunter, but afraid of striking a man, were called brave by reason
of this tiger-hunting alone, we would not agree to it. Only in
case of the body having no defects and the courage facing whomsoever, there is perfection. Now, they say that nobody was punished,
but not that no weapon was used. Much fuss is made about the
fact, that instruments of punishment were put aside, and not used,
but no mention made, that nobody rebelled. Therefore, we cannot
speak of wonderful virtue or greatness.
The books of the Literati tell us that Yang Yu Chi 1of Ch'u
was very remarkable at archery. Shooting at an aspen leaf, with
a hundred shots he hit it a hundred times. This is of course
said in praise of his brilliant shooting. That, whenever he aimed
at an aspen leaf, he hit it, may be so, but to say, that out of a
hundred shots a hundred hit the mark, is an exaggeration.
An aspen leaf hit by an arrow over and over again, would
soon be so perforated, that it could no more serve as a target.
If Yang Yu Chi had shot at an aspen leaf, as it was hanging on
the tree, he would always have hit one, though not that which
he wanted, there being such a multitude of them. Consequently
he would be obliged to take the leaves down, and place them one
by one on the earth to shoot at them. After several ten shots,
his dexterity would have been seen. The spectators would all
have become aware of his skill at archery, and would not have
required a hundred shots.
1 A minister of the Ch'u State in the Chou epoch.
496 Lun-hêng: E. Critique.
Narrators are fond of adorning dexterity and other accomplishments. If any one hit thirty and more times, they say a hundred.
A hundred and a thousand are big numbers. Wishing really to say
ten, they say a hundred, and in lieu of a hundred, a thousand.
The meaning is the same as, when the Shuking speaks of the
"harmony of the ten thousand countries" or the Shiking of the
"thousand and hundred thousand descendants."
We learn from the writings of the Literati that there was a
loyal official in Wei: — Hung Yen, who was sent abroad as envoy
of Duke Ai of Wei.1 Before he returned, the Ti 2 had attacked,
and killed the duke, and eaten his flesh, leaving only the liver.
When Hung Yen returned from his mission, he reported himself
to the liver. Out of sorrow, that Duke Ai had died, and was
eaten up, so that his liver had no resting-place, he took a knife,
ripped up his stomach, took all its contents out, put the liver
of Duke Ai in, and expired. Those telling this story intend to
praise his loyalty. It is possible that he ripped himself open, put
Duke Ai's liver in, and died. To say that he took out all the
contents of the stomach, and put in the liver of Duke Ai, is an
If people stab one another with knives, and hit the Five
Intestines, they die. Why? Because the Five Intestines regulate
the Vital Fluid, just as the head is the centre of all the arteries.
When the head has been cut off, the hands cannot take another
man's head, and put it on the neck. How then should Hung Yen
be capable of first emptying his own stomach, and then putting
in the liver of Duke A?? When the contents of the stomach have
been taken out, death ensues. Then the hands can no more grasp.
If he first put in the liver of Duke Ai, and then took out the
contents of the stomach, then it ought to be said, that he put in
the liver of Duke Ai, and emptied his stomach. But now it is
first mentioned that the contents of the stomach were completely
taken out, and that the liver of Duke Ai was put in, which is a gross
exaggeration of truth.
1 This must be a misprint, for no Duke of this name is known. The Lü shih
ch'un ch'iu, which mentions the story, speaks of Duke of Wei, 667 - 659 b.c.
2 The northern barbarians.
Exaggerations of the Literati. 497
We read in the books of Literati, that, when Hsiung Ch'ü Tse 1
of Ch'u once went out, he saw a stone lying on the ground, which
he took for a crouching tiger. He grasped his bow, and shot at
it. The arrow disappeared up to the feathers. 2 Others relate that
Yang Yu Chi 3 saw a stone stretched like a rhinoceros. He shot at
it, and the arrow was absorbed with the plumes. Some hold that
Hsiung Ch'ü Tse is Li Kuang. 4 Yang Yu Chi and Li Kuang must give
their names, and one does not discover, that the story is not true.
Some speak of a tiger, some of a rhinoceros. Both being
fierce animals, it amounts to the same. Some say, that the feathers
disappeared, some, that the plumes were absorbed. Plumes are
feathers, only the wording is a little different. The chief idea is
that a stone resembled a tiger or a rhinoceros, and that out of
fright the arrow was shot with such force, that it entered deep.
One may say, that a stone resembled a tiger, and that, when shot
at, the arrow entered deep. But to maintain that it disappeared
up to the feathers is going too far. Seeing something like a tiger,
one regards it as such, draws the bow, and shoots at it with the
utmost force and energy. The aspect of a real tiger would have
quite the same effect. Upon shooting a stone resembling a tiger the
arrow should enter so completely, that nothing of the feathers
could be seen. Would then, when hitting a real tiger, the arrow
pass straight through its body? It is difficult to pierce a stone,
whereas with flesh it is very easy. If the feathers vanished in a
substance difficult to be pierced, there could be no doubt that an
arrow must traverse a stuff affording no obstacle.
A good marksman can shoot at great distances, and hit the
smallest object, not missing one line. But how could he give
greater force to the bow or the cross-bow? Yang Yu Chi shot at
the Marquis of Chin in a battle, and hit him in the eye.5 A commoner aiming at a ruler of ten thousand chariots would certainly
strain his nerves to the utmost, and double his forces, not less
1 Hsiung Ch'ü Tse lived during the Chou dynasty.
2 This story is told in the Hsin-hsü of Liu Hsiang.
3 Cf. above p. 495.
4 A general of Han Wu Ti, cf. p. 168.
5 The Tso-chuan, Duke Ch'êng 16th year (Legge, Classics Vol. V, Pt. I, p. 397)
informs us that in a battle fought by the Marquis of Chin against King Kung of
Ch'u in 574 b.c. I of Lu, an archer of Chin, shot at King Kung of Ch'u and hit him
in the eye. The king thereupon ordered his own archer, Yang Yu Chi, to revenge
him, handing him two arrows. With the first arrow Yang Yu Chi killed I.
According to this account it was not the Marquis of Chin, who was hit in the
eye, but the King of Ch'u, and not Yang Yu Chi shot the arrow, but I of Lu.
498 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique.
than, when shooting at the stone. Could then the arrow hitting
the eye of the Marquis pass through to the neck? If it had done,
the Marquis of Chin would have died on his chariot.
I presume that an arrow projected from a ten stones ballista,1
would not enter one inch into a stone, and split into three pieces.
Now, should a weak bow be drawn with human force, how could
the feathers disappear in the stone, though the bowman used all
Human energy is a fluid, and this fluid a force. When in
distress of fire or water people are very fluttered and frightened,
and carry away their belongings, their energies reach their maximum.
If, at ordinary times, they could carry one picul, they then carry two.
Now, provided that, when shooting at the stretched out stone, the
energy is doubled, the arrow nevertheless could not enter deeper than
one inch. The disappearance of the feathers is out of the question.
Let is suppose that a good swordsman beholds a stone lying
on the ground, gets frightened, and strikes it. Could he cut it
asunder? Or let a brave man, who would tackle a tiger with his un-
armed fist, unexpectedly catch sight of such a stone, and hammer
down on it with his hand. Would he leave any trace on the stone?
The strength of clever people is equal to that of the stupid,
the earnestness of purpose of the ancients like that of the moderns.
If now-a-days an archer shoots animals and birds in the country,
he spares no force to get them. Yet, when he hits an animal,
the blow enters only some inches. If it slips and hits a stone,
the sharp point does not enter, and the arrow breaks to pieces.
Accordingly the statements in the books of the Literati to the
effect that Hsiung Ch'ü Tse of Ch'u, Yang Yu Chi, and Li Kuang shot
at a stone lying on the ground, and that the arrow disappeared
up to the feathers, or was engulfed together with the plumes,
are all exaggerations.
In the writings of the Literati we find the notice that Lu
Pan 2 was as skillful as Mê Tse. 2 From wood he carved a kite, which
1 The force of a bow, a cross-bow, or a ballista is measured by the weight
required to draw them.
One stone or one picul in ancient times amounted to 120 pounds.
2 A celebrated mechanic of the Lu State, who lived contemporaneously with
Confucius. Lu Pan is his sobriquet, his proper name being Kung Shu Tse. He has
become the tutelary god of artisans.
3 The philosopher Mê Ti has been credited with mechanical skill, erroneously
Exaggerations of the Literati. 499
could fly three days without coming down. It may be, that he
made a kite of wood, which he flew. But that it did not alight
for three days, is an exaggeration. If he carved it from wood, he
gave it the shape of a bird. How then could it fly without resting?
If it could soar up, why did it do so just three days? Provided
there was a mechanism, by which, once set in motion, it continued
flying, it could not have come down again. Then people ought to
say that it flew continually, and not three days.
There is a report that Lu Pan by his skill lost his mother.
That is to say, the clever artisan had constructed a wooden carriage and horses with a wooden charioteer for his mother. When
the mechanism was complete, he put his mother in the carriage,
which drove off to return no more. And thus he lost his mother.
Provided the mechanism in the wooden kite was in order, it must
have been like that of the wooden carriage and horses. Then it
would have continued flying without rest. On the other hand, a
mechanism works but for a short while, therefore the kite could
not have continued flying much longer than three days. Then the
same holds good with regard to the wooden carriage, it also ought
to have stopped after three days on the road, and could not go
straight on, so that the mother was lost. Both stories are apparently untrustworthy.
In some books the statement is made that Confucius had no
resting-place in this world. Wandering about he visited over seventy
States, where he attempted to gain influence, but nowhere he found
repose. One may well say, that he wandered about, and found
nothing, but to say, that he came to seventy States, is going too
far. According to the Analects and the works of other philosophers
he returned from Wei 1 to Lu. In Ch'ên 2 his supplies were exhausted,
in Wei his traces were obliterated. 3 He forgot the taste of food in
Ch'i,4 a tree was felled over him in Sung, 5 and besides there are
1 A State in northern Honan.
2 A State comprising the southern part of Honan.
3 Cf. p. 155.
4 "When the Master was in Ch'i, he heard the Shao music, and for three
months he did not know the taste of flesh," so engrossed was he was this music,
that he did not taste what he ate (Legge, Analects p. 199 ; Analects VII, 13).
5 The emissaries of a high officer of Sung tried to kill Confucius by pulling
down the tree under which he was practising ceremonies. Cf. Legge, Analects p. 202
500 Lun-hêng: E. Critique.
Pi 1 Tun,2 and Mou.3 These States, which he visited, do not even
amount to ten. The statement about seventy States is therefore
unreliable. Perhaps he went to more than ten States. Then the
report about seventy States was spread in books, and people now
talk of seventy States.
We read in the Analects 4 that Confucius asked Kung Ming Chia
about Kung Shu Wên Tse 5 saying, " Is it true that your master does
not speak, nor laugh, nor take anything?" — Kung Ming Chia replied,
" That is a misrepresentation. The Master speaks, when it is time,
and people do not dislike his words. He laughs, when he is merry,
and people are not displeased with his laugh. He takes things,
when he has a right to do so, and people are not dissatisfied."
Confucius exclaimed, "How is it possible! How is it possible!"
In fact Kung Shu Wên Tse spoke at the proper time, laughed when
pleased, and took what he was entitled to. Out of this fact, which
became known, people made the story that Kung Shu Wên Tse did
neither speak, nor laugh, nor take anything. When common people
tell a thing, they always like to overdo it.
We read in some books that when Duke Mu of Ch'in 6 invested Chêng, he passed through Chin without borrowing a passage.
Duke Hsiang of Chin 7 therefore intended to strike a blow at him
with the help of the Chiang Jung 8 in the Yao passes. 9 When no
horses nor carriages came back, Ch'in sent out three high officers:
Meng Ming Shih, Hsi Ch'i Shu, and Po Yi Ping, who all returned. Since
they came back, the horses and carriages must have come back
likewise. The report to the contrary is an exaggeration. 10
1 A city in southern Shantung.
2 A territory in Ch'ên.
3 A princedom in Shantung.
4 Analects XIV, 14.
5 Kung Shu Wên Tse was a high officer in the State of Wei, and Kung Ming
Chia would seem to have been his disciple.
6 658-619 B.C.
7 626-619 B.C.
8 Western barbarians.
9 A dangerous defile in the district of Yung-ning, Honan.
10 According to the Ch'un-ch'iu, Duke Hsi 33d year, the army of Ch'in was
defeated at Yao in 626 b.c. The T'so-chuan narrates the campaign in detail, and
relates that the three officers were first taken prisoners, but afterwards released by
the intercession of the mother of the Duke of Chin, who was a princess of the
ducal house of Ch'in.
Exaggerations of the Literati. 501
We are told in several books that the Princes of Mêng Ch'ang in
Ch'i, 1 Hsin Ling in Wei, P'ing Yuan in Chao, and Ch'un Shên in Ch'u 2
treated their retainers with great kindness, and attracted them from
everywhere, each 3000 men. This is meant to illustrate their kindness
and the great conflux. That the number of retainers was very
great, is possible, but that they amounted to 3000, an exaggeration.
For, although the four princes had a partiality for retainers, and
though the latter assembled in great numbers, yet each one could
not have more than about a thousand. Then the books made it
three thousand. For a great many, people will say a thousand, and
in case of a small number, not a single one. That is the common
practice, and thus misstatements originate.
There is a tradition, that Kao Tse Kao 3 mourning his father,
shed bloody tears, and that for three years he did not show his teeth.
To an honest man this would seem to be rather difficult; 4 for
it is not easily done. He would not consider it untrue, but only
difficult, and therein he is mistaken.
That Kao Tse shed bloody tears, is probably true. Ho of Ching 5
offered a precious stone to the Prince of Ch'u, who cut off his foot.
Distressed that his jewel did not find favour, and that his feelings
were not appreciated he wept, until his tears were dried up, when
he continued weeping with tears of blood. Now Kao Tse bewailed
the death of his father. His grief was extreme. It must be true
that, when his tears ceased, blood came out, but the saying that
for three years he did not show his teeth, is an exaggeration.
These words mean that Kao Tse did not speak nor laugh.
That a filial son, while mourning his parents, should not laugh,
is only natural, but how can he avoid speaking, and when speaking,
avoid showing his teeth?
Confucius said: " What he said, was not elegant, and at times
he did not speak at all." Then it was reported, that he did not
show his teeth, or even, that for three years he did not show his
1 Cf. p. 161.
2 These four princes are known as the " Four Heroes," living at the end of
the Chou epoch, during the time of the " Contending States," the 3rd century b.c.
3 Kao Ch'ai or Kao Tse Kao, was a disciple of Confucius, noted for his filial piety.
4 Quotation from the Li-ki, Tan Kung Sect. I, II, 14.
5 Ho of Ching i. e. of Ch'u, known as Pien Ho viz Ho of the Pien district.
Cf. p. 113.
502 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique.
teeth. Kao Tsung 1 while in the mourning shed did not speak for
three years. 2 He enjoyed imperial majesty. That he did not speak
means to say, that he did not use elegant expressions, and even
that seems doubtful, and is perhaps an exaggeration. On the other
hand Kao Tse Kao held a very humble position, yet he is believed
not to have shown his teeth, which is certainly still more exaggerated.
The Literati write in their books that Ch'in Hsi recommended
Pa Li Hsi to Duke Mu 3 who, however, did not pay attention to it.
Then Ch'in Hsi went out of the front door, bowed down his head,
and knocked it on the ground, so that it broke to pieces, and died.
This affected Duke Mu so deeply, that he took Po Li Hsi into his
service. The meaning of this story is that a worthy in recommending a good man did not spare his own life, knocking his head on
the ground, that it broke, and died, all with the object to further
With this story scholars use to exhort one another, and it is
handed down in their books. Nobody discredits it. That some-
body kotows, while recommending a good man, has happened of
old, as it happens now. It is true that Ch'in Hsi knocked his head,
but the allegation that he broke it, and expired is an exaggeration.
When a man kotows, that his head aches, and the blood comes
out, he cannot fracture his skill, however angry and agitated he
may be, I do not maintain, that the skull cannot be broken, but
man has not sufficient strength to do it alone. With a knife one
may cut one's throat, or with a blade pierce one's bosom. By
means of the knife or the blade the hand acquires the necessary
strength. If Ch'in Hsi had taken a hammer, and smashed his skull,
there would be nothing wonderful in it. To fall down, and smash
his skull Ch'in Hsi would not have had the necessary strength.
There have been people who died while prostrating themselves,
but none who broke their heads or smashed their skulls. Perhaps
Ch'in Hsi performed the kotow, while recommending Po Li Hsi,
which gave rise to the story of his death, or he really died, while
kotowing, hence the idle talk of people that he broke his head.
1 Posthumous title of the Shang emperor Wu Ting. See p. 328.
2 Quoted from the Shuking, Wui Yi Pt. V, Bk. XV, 5 (Legge Vol. III, Pt. II,
3 Duke Mu of Ch'in, 65H-619 k.c.
The books of the Literati tell us that for the Prince of Yen,
Ching K'o attempted to assassinate the King of Chin. He struck
him with a stiletto, but did not hit. The King of Ch'in then drew
his sword and struck him. When Ching K'o assaulted the King of
Ch'in with a stiletto, he did not hit his adversary, but a copper
pillar, into which the dagger entered a foot deep. With these
words one wishes to emphasize the sharpness of the stiletto.
Ching K'o was a powerful man. He thrust the sharp blade,
so that it penetrated into the hard pillar. In order to exalt Ching
K'o's courage people have coloured the real facts. It is true that
the stiletto went into the copper pillar, but the assertion that it
entered a foot deep, is an exaggeration, for, although copper does
not possess the hardness of a dagger, the latter cannot penetrate
deeper than some inches, but not one foot.
Let us consider the question, in case he had hit the King of
Ch'in, would he have run the dagger through him? Pulling a ten
stones ballista with a windlass and shooting at a wooden target in
a wall, one would not perforate it to the extent of one foot. With
force of hand Ching K'o thrust a small stiletto. While he himself
was struck by the Lung-yuan sword, 1 the dagger entered into the
hard copper pillar. 2 Then Ching K'o's force was stronger than that
1 A famous sword forged by Ou Yeh and Kan Chiang, in later times a term
for a good blade in general. Cf. p. 377.
2 The Shi-chi chap. 86, p. 16 v. gives us a graphic description of the assault
of Ching K'o on Shih Huang Ti. When at a reception the envoy of Yen presented a
map to the king, the latter caught sight of the dagger, which Ching K'o had concealed.
Then Ching K'o "with his left hand grasped the sleeve of the King of Ch'in, and
with his right hand the dagger, and was going to strike the king, but, before he
touched his body, the king frightened, retreated, and rose, tearing off his sleeve.
He tried to draw his sword, but the sword was very long, and while engaged with
the scabbard, he was so excited, and the sword was so hard, that he could not draw
it out at the moment. Ching K'o chased the king, who ran round a pillar. The
assembled officers were thunderstruck. They all rose in a body, but were so much
taken by surprise, that they completely lost their heads. By the rules of Ch'in the
officers, waiting upon the king in the palace hall, were not allowed to carry the
smallest weapon with them. The armed guards were all stationed below the hall,
but, without a special order, they were not permitted to walk up. At the critical
moment there was no time to summon the soldiers below. This is the reason, why
Ching K'o could pursue the king, and that his attendants, though startled, did not
strike the assailant. They all seized him with their hands, however, and the royal
physician Hsia Wu Chül flung his medicine bag, which he was presenting, against him.
While the King of Ch'in was thus fleeing round the pillar, all were alarmed, but did
not know what to do. The attendants only shouted, ' Push your sword backwards,
King! Push your sword backwards ! The king then drew his sword, and hit Ching
K'o, cutting his left leg. Ching K'o maimed then lifted his dagger and thrust it at
the king, but missed him, and instead hit the copper pillar. Then the King of Ch'in
dealt him another blow, and thus Ching K'o received eight wounds. Seeing that his
scheme had failed, he leant against the pillar. Weeping, he squatted down, and
said .... At that moment the attendants came forward, and killed Ching Ko."
504 Lun-hêng: E. Critique.
of the ten stones ballista, and the copper pillar softer than the
wooden target. The courage of Ching K'o is made much of, but
there is no mention that he possessed great strength. Of strong
men there is none like Mêng Pên. Would Mêng Pên, if he had struck
a copper pillar, have cut it one foot deep? Perhaps the stiletto
was as sharp as the famous swords Kan-chiang and Mo-ya, 1 whose
thrusts and blows nothing could withstand, and that therefore it
really penetrated one foot deep. Unfortunately the praise bestowed
on Kan-chiang and Mo-ya also overshoot the mark, and are much
akin to the foot deep cutting of the copper pillar.
We learn from the works of the Literati that Timg Chung Shu^
while readina: the Ch'un-diiu was so absorbed in his study, that
he did not think of anything else, and for three years did not
cast a look at the greens in the garden. That he did not look at
the greens in the garden may be true, but the three years are an
exaggeration. Although Tung Chung Shu was very industrious, yet
he must have relaxed from time to time, and at such moments he
also would have sauntered about his court-yard. Strolling out into
the court-yard, why should he have disdained to gaze at the greens
in the garden?
I have heard that persons engrossed in some idea, and studying some question, do not appear in public, and that for a principle
some have lost their lives, but I never heard, that they did not
go into the court-yard, and were sitting rapt in thoughts for three
years, without ever looking at the garden. In the Wu-yi Chapter
of the Shuking it is said that the good man does not find repose,
because he foresees the troubles of the harvest. 3 If he reposes nevertheless, it is because his nerves and bones are not of wood or
stone, and must be unstrung from time to time. Hence Wên Wang
never strained his nerves without slackening them again, nor did
1 Two swords wrought by the noted sword-cutler Kan Chiang for Ho Lü,
king of Wu 513-494 b.c. Mo-ya was the name of his wife. The Kan-chiang sword
was regarded as the male, the Mo-ya as the female sword.
2 An author of the 2nd century b.c.
3 Quotation from the Shuking, Wu-yi Pt. V, Bk. XV, 1 (Legge Vol. Ill, Pt. II,
Exaggerations of the Literati. 505
he slacken without subsequent straining. An interchange of activity
and passivity was in his eyes the right thing. If even the brilliant
mental faculties of the Sages had to relax after an effort, Tung
Chung Shu, whose strength was much less than that of those men,
could not well concentrate his thoughts for three years without
The books of the Literati contain a statement to the effect
that at the time when the Hsia Dynasty had reached its prime,
distant countries sent pictures of their products, and the nine provinces metal as tribute. From this tripods were cast, on which all
kinds of objects were represented. The consequence was, that,
when people went into forests or to lakes, they did not meet
spectres, and they could thereby ward off the influences of evil
spirits. The Emperor and his subjects being in harmony, heaven
gave its protection.1
Metal is by nature a thing. The tribute metal from distant
places was thought very beautiful, and therefore cast into tripods,
on which all sorts of curious objects were depicted. How could
this have the effect that people in forests or by lakes did not
meet with spectres, and could ward off the evil influences of spirits?
During the Chou time there was universal peace. The Yueh-shang 2
offered white pheasants to the court, the Japanese 3 odoriferous
plants. Since by eating these white pheasants or odoriferous plants
one cannot keep free from evil influences, why should vessels like
bronze tripods have such a power?
The appearance of the Nine Tripods was an auspicious sign
of high virtue. 4 Yet the wearing of a felicitous object does not
attract happiness. Boys use to wear jade-stones, girls pearls, yet
neither pearls nor jewels can guard mankind against evil. Precious
and rare things are used as excellent charms and amulets, and
they are regarded by some as very useful. The same is maintained
in regard to the Nine Tripods. They cannot ward off evil
1 Abridged from the Tso-chuan, Duke Hsüan 3rd year. — From the Hsia dynasty
these tripods came down to the Shang and the Chou dynasties, and in 605 b.c. were
still in existence.
2 A people in the southern part of Kuang-tung province, near the Annamese
3 The Wo, an old name for the Japanese, which Chinese authors have explained to mean " Pygmies."
4 The virtue of the Emperor Yü.
506 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique.
influences, the report to the contrary is an exaggerated statement in
the afore-mentioned books.
There is a popular tradition that the tripods of Chou boiled
of themselves without fire, and that things could be taken out of
them, which had not been put in. That is a popular exaggeration.
According to the exaggerated statement in the books of the Literati
the Nine Tripods, having nothing peculiar, would possess super-natural powers without any reason.
What proof would there be for this assertion? The metal
of the Chou tripods came from afar as tribute. Yü obtained it and
caused it to be wrought into tripods. On the tripods a great many
things were represented. If as a tribute from distant lands they
were spiritual, why should things from distant countries be spiritual?
If they were so, because Yü cast them, Yü himself, though a Sage,
could not be a spirit, how then should cast vessels be? If they
were, because they were made of metal, metal is like stone, but
stone cannot be spiritual, why then should metal be? If they
were spirits, because they were covered with pictures of all kinds
of things, these pictures are like the lightning of the Thunder
Goblet.1 On this goblet were carved clouds and thunder. They
are in the sky and much more spiritual than ordinary things. Since
the representations of clouds and lightning are not spirits, the pictures of various things cannot be either.
It is on record that, when Ch'in extinguished Chou, the Nine
Tripods of Chou fell into the power of Ch'in. In fact, during the
reign of King Nan, 2 King Chao of Ch'in 3 sent his general Chin to
attack Nan Wang. The latter terrified, hastened to Chin, prostrated himself, confessed his guilt, and ceded all his cities, 36 with
30,000 souls, Ch'in accepted the gift, and allowed King Nan to go
home. At his death the king of Ch'in seized the Nine Tripods
and other precious utensils. 4 Thus the tripods came to be in Ch'in. 5
In the 28th year of his reign Ch'in Shih Huang Ti travelled north-
1 A sacrificial vessel used during the Hsia dynasty.
2 HI 4- 255 B.C.
3 305-249 B.C. The full name of this king is Chao Hsiang.
4 Cf. the parallel passage in Shi-chi chap. 4, p. 39 where, however, not Nan
Wang, but the Prince of the Eastern Chou submits to Ch'in and cedes his territory.
5 111 - 255 B.C. Vid. Shi-chi chap. 28, p. 8.
Exaggerations of the Literati. 507
ward to Lang-yeh. 1 On his return he passed P'êng-ch'êng, 2 and by
feasting prepared himself for a sacrifice. Wishing to get the Tripods
of Chou out, he sent a thousand men to plunge into the Sse River, 3
but all searching was in vain. 4
Ch'in Shih Huang Ti came three generations after King Chao.
At that time there was neither disorder nor rebellion in Ch'in, and
the tripods ought not to have disappeared. That they might have
done perhaps during the Chou time. The report says that King Nan
hurried to Ch'in, and that Ch'in seized the Nine Tripods. Perhaps
there is a mistake in time.
There is another tradition that when the T'ai-ch'in 5 altar to
the spirits of the land disappeared in Sung, the tripods went, down
in the river below the city of P'eng-chêng. 6 Twenty-nine years
later Ch'in united the Empire. 7 Such being the case, the tripods
would not have come into the possession of Ch'in, and must have
been lost from the Chou already.
They were not spirits. During the "Spring and Autumn"
period, five stones fell down in Sung. These five stones were stars.
The separation of stars from heaven is like the disappearance of
the tripods from earth. The stars falling down from heaven did
not thereby become spirits, why then should the tripods vanishing
from earth, acquire spiritual powers? In the "Spring and Autumn"
time, three mountains vanished in the same manner as the T'ai-ch'iu
altar disappeared. Five stars descended from heaven in Sung, three
mountains vanished, five stones fell down, and the T'ai-ch'iu altar
disappeared. All these events were brought about by causes residing in these things. The loss of the tripods was also the effect
of some cause. One must not regard them as spirits merely on
account of their disappearance. If the tripods resembled the three
mountains of Ch'in, their disappearance is no sufficient reason, why
they should be spirits. If they really possessed knowledge, and
wished to avoid the disastrous revolution, the reigns of Chieh and
Chou would have been the proper time for that.
The disorganisation and lawlessness were never worse than
under Chieh and Chou, but at that time the tripods did not dis-
1 The eastern part of Shantung under the Ch'in dynasty.
2 A city in Kiangsu, the modern Hsu-chou-fu.
3 A river in Shantung.
4 Quotation from the Shi-chi chap. 6, p. 18.
5 T'ai-ch'iu was a place in the Yung-chêng district, Honan.
6 P'êng-ch'êng does not lie on the Sse River, but on another small river.
7 In 221 B.C. Then the tripods would have been lost in 250 b.c.
508 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique.
appear. The decadence of the kings of Chou was far from that
of Chieh and Chou. Yet the tripods remained with the dissolute
Chieh and Chou, and left the declining Chou. 1 They did not stay
nor leave at the proper time, and gave no sign of being spirits,
endowed with knowledge.
It is possible that, at the collapse of the Chou, the men of
General Chiu, who were in great number, saw the tripods, and
stole them, and that some miscreants melted them, and made them
into other objects, so that, when Ch'in Shih Huang Ti searched for
them, he could not find them. Subsequently they were called
spirits, which gave rise to the story that they were sunk in the
[Under the reign of the Emperor Hsiao Wên Ti a man of
Chao, Hsin Yuan P'ing addressed a memorial to the throne saying,
" The Chou tripods are lost in the midst of the Sse River. Now
the Huang-ho overflows, and communicates with the Sse. In a north-
easterly direction near Fen-yin I perceive a metallic fluid. I presume
it to be an augury of the Chou tripods' return. But unless' fetched,
they will not come out."
Thereupon Hsiao Wên Ti sent a special envoy to superintend a
temple south of Fen-yin 3 near the River, in the hope that a spirit
would bring the Chou tripods. Others denounced Hsin Yuan P'ing,
showing that, what he had said about the supernatural vessels,
was an imposture. Then Hsin Yuan P'ing was delivered to a tribunal, which sentenced him to death.4] The statement that the
tripods are in the Sse is like the imposture of Hsin Yuan P'ing that
he saw the spiritual fluid of the tripods.
1 Viz. the Chou dynasty.
2 179-156 B.C.
3 A place in Shansi, in the present Wan ch'uan hsien.
4 Quotation from the Shi-chi chap. 28, p. 20.