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43: CHAPTER XLII. Sacrifices

CHAPTER XLII. Sacrifices (Chi-yi). 

According to the Liki the emperor sacrifices to Heaven and 

Earth, the feudal princes to the Mountains and Rivers, 1 the ministers, and high dignitaries to the Five Genii, "2 the scholars and 

the common people to their ancestors.3 From the offerings to the 

spirits of the Land and Grain down to those in the ancestral hall 

there is a gradation from the son of heaven down to the commoners. 

The Shuking says that a special sacrifice was made to Shangti, 

a pure one to the Six Superior Powers, a sacrifice on high to the 

Mountains and Rivers, and a sacrifice to the various spirits round 


[Shun, says the Liki, offered the imperial sacrifice to Huang 

Ti, the suburban sacrifice to Ti K'u, the patriarchal to Chuan Hsü, 

and the ancestral to Yao. The Hsia dynasty likewise presented the 

imperial sacrifice to Huang Ti, but the suburban to K'un, 6 the patriarchal to Chuan Hsü, and the ancestral to Yü. The Yin dynasty 

transferred the imperial sacrifice to Ti K'u, the suburban to Ming,7 

the patriarchal to Hsieh, and the ancestral to Tang. The Chou dynasty made the imperial sacrifice to Ti K'u, the suburban to Chi, 8 

the patriarchal to Wên Wang, and the ancestral to Wu Wang.9 

Wood was burned on the big altar as a sacrifice to Heaven, 

a victim was buried in the big pit as a sacrifice to Earth. A red 

1 The mountains and rivers of their territory. 

2 The five genii of the house to whom the Five Sacrifices were offered. See 

further on. 

3 Cf. Liki, Ch'ü-li (Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XX VII, p. 116). 

4 Shuking, Shun-Tien Pt. II, Bk. I, 6 (Legge Vol. III, Pt. I, p. 33). 

5 Huang Ti, Ti K'u and Chuan Hsü are mythical emperors. Ti K'u is said 

to have been the father of Yao. 

6 K'un, the father of Tü. 

7 Ming was a descendant of Hsieh, who was a son of Ti K'u. 

8 Chi = Hou Chi, the ancestor of the Chou dynasty. 

9 The four sacrifices here mentioned were presented by the sovereigns of the 

ancient dynasties to the founders of their dynasties, their ancestors, and predecessors. 

Sacrifices. 517 

calf was immolated, and a sheep buried in bright daylight as a 

sacrifice to the Seasons, and they approached the sacrificial pits 

and altars to offer sacrifice to the Heat and the Cold. In the imperial palace a sacrifice was made to the Sun, and in clear night 

they sacrificed to the Moon. Oblations were made to the Stars in 

the dark hall, to Water and Drought in the rain hall, and to the 

Four Cardinal Points at the four pits and altars. 

The mountain forests, the valleys of the rivers, and the hills 

and cliffs can emit clouds and produce wind and rain. All these 

curious phenomena are regarded as spirits. The ruler of the world 

sacrifices to all the spirits, the princes only as long as they are 

within their territories, but not, when they have left them.] 1 

Such are the official sacrifices according to usage and the 

prescribed rites. The emperor treats Heaven like his father and 

Earth like his mother. Conformably to human customs he practises 

filial piety, which accounts for the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth. 

In the matter of Mountains and Rivers and the subsequent deities 

the offerings presented to them are in appreciation of their deserts. 

A living man distinguishing himself is rewarded, ghosts and spirits 

which are well-deserving have their sacrifices. When mountains 

send forth clouds and rain, the welcome moisture for all the organisms, and when the Six Superior Powers keep in their six 

spheres, and aid Heaven and Earth in their changes, the emperor 

venerates them by sacrifices, whence their appellation the " Six 

Honoured Ones."2 

The spirits of Land and Grain are rewarded for their kindness in letting all the things grow, the spirit Shê 3 for all the 

living and growing things, the spirit Chi 4 for the five kinds of grain. 

The Five Sacrifices are in recognition of the merits of the 

Outer and Inner Doors, the Well, the Hearth, and the Inner Hall. 

Through the outer and inner doors man walks in and out, the 

well and the hearth afford him drink and food, and in the inner 

hall he finds a resting-place. These five are equally meritorious, 

therefore they all partake of a sacrifice. 

1 Quotation from 1:116 Liki, Chi-fa (Law of sacrifices). The commentators, 

whom Legge follows in his translation (Sacred Books Vol. XXVIII, p. 201), read much 

between the lines, which appears rather problematic. 

2 What the " Six Honoured Ones " are, is disputed. Some say : — water, fire, 

wind, thunder, hills, and lakes; others explain the term as signifying: — the sun, the 

moon, the stars, rivers, seas, and mountains. 

3 The Spirit of the Land or the Soil. 

4 The Spirit of Grain. 

518 Lun-hêng: F. Folklore and Religion. 

Chi of Chou 1 was called Shao Hao. 2 He had four uncles of 

the names of Chung, Kai, Hsiu, and Hsi 3 who could master metal, 

fire, and wood, wherefore he made Chung the Genius of Spring, 

Kou Mang, Kai the Genius of Autumn, Ju Shou, and Hsiu and Hsi 

Gods of the Winter, Hsüan Ming. 4 They never neglected their office, 

and assisted Ch'iung-sang.5 To these the Three Offerings are made. 

Chuan Hsü 6 had a son called Li, who became the God of 

Fire, Chu Yung. 7 Kung Kung's 8 son was named Kou Lung. He was 

made lord of the Soil, Hon Tu. The Two Sacrifices refer to these 

two personages. 

The lord of the Soil was the spirit of the land and grain 

in charge of the fields. The son of Lieh Shan, 9 Chu, was the spirit 

of the grain and from the Hsia dynasty upwards worshipped as 

1 Ch'i, the first ancestor of the Chou dynasty, venerated as the Spirit of Grain 

under the title Hou Chi "lord of the Grain." On his miraculous birth vid. p. 174. 

2 By other authors Ch'i is not identified with the legendary emperor Shao Hao, 

whose birth was miraculous also. His mother was caused to conceive by a huge star 

like a rainbow (T'ai-p'ing-yü-lan). 

3 According to the commentary of the Liki these were not uncles, but sons 

of Shao Hao. 

4 The names of these deities or deified men correspond to their functions : — 

"勾芒 Kou Mang = " Curling fronds and spikelets," 蓐收 Ju Shou = " Sprouts 

gathered," and 玄冥 Hsüan Ming = " Dark and obscure." According to the Liki 

(Yüeh-ling) these three deities were secondary spirits, each presiding over three 

months of spring, autumn, and winter. Some say that Hsüan Ming was a water 

spirit. As the spirit of summer 祝融 Chu Yung, who is related to fire, is 

venerated. There being a fixed relation between the four seasons, the four cardinal 

points, and the five elements we have the following equations : — 

Kou Mang, Genius of Spring, the east, and wood. 

Chu Yung, Genius of Summer, the south, and fire. 

Ju Shou, Genius of Autumn, the west, and metal. 

Hsüan Ming, Genius of Winter, the north, and water. 

I suppose that in the clause " who could master metal, fire and wood " we 

ought to read water in lieu of fire, for the gods there enumerated are those of wood, 

metal and water. The spirit of fire follows in the next clause. 

In the Liki, Hou Tu, the lord of the Soil is made to correspond to the middle 

of the four seasons — in default of a fifth season — to the centre, and to earth. (Cf. 

Legge, Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 28 1 Note.) Thus we have :— 

Hou Tu, Genius of Mid-year, the centre, and earth. 

These Five Spirits are called the Wu Shên. They were worshipped during 

the Chou dynasty and are mentioned in ancient works (Liki, Tso-chnan, Huai Kan Tse). 

5 Another name of Shao Hao, who was ford of Ch'iung-sang. 

6 A legendary emperor. 

7 Cf. Note 4. 

8 See p. 250. 

9 Personal name of the emperor Shên Nung, who was ford of Lieh-shan. 

Sacrifices. 519 

such. Ch'i of Chou was likewise spirit of the grain. From the 

Shang dynasty downwards people sacrificed to him. 

The Liki relates that, while Lieh Shan 1 was swaying the empire, his son of the name of Chu could plant all the various kinds 

of grain, and that after the downfall of the Hsia dynasty, Ch'i of 

Chou succeeded him, and therefore was worshipped as Spirit of 

the Grain. While Kung Kung was usurping the power in the nine 

provinces, his son, called lord of the Soil, was able to pacify the 

nine countries, and therefore was worshipped as Spirit of the Land. 3 

There is a tradition to the effect that Yen Ti 4 produced fire 

and after death became the tutelary god of the Hearth, and that 

Yü having spent his energy on the waters of the empire, became 

Spirit of the Land after death. 

The Liki says that [the emperor "institutes the Seven Sacrifices as representative of his people, namely for the arbiter of fate,5 

for the inner court, for the gates of the capital, for its high-ways, 

for the august demons,6 for the doors, and for the hearths. The 

princes on their part institute the Five Sacrifices for their States, 

namely for the arbiter of fate, for the inner court, for the gates 

of their capital, for its high-ways, and for the illustrious demons. 

The high dignitaries present the Three Sacrifices for the demons 

of their ancestors, for their doors, and for their roads. The ordinary scholars make Two Offerings, one for the door and one for 

their roads, and the commoners only one, either for their inner 

doors or for the hearth.]'' 

There are no fixed rules for the oblations to be made to the 

spirits of the Land and Grain or for the Five Sacrifices, but they 

are all expressions of gratitude for benefits received from the spirits, 

whose goodness is not forgotten. 

If we love somebody in our heart, we give him to eat and 

to drink, and, if we love ghosts and spirits, we sacrifice to them. 

With Yü the worship of the spirits of the land and grain, and the 

sacrifices to the ford of the grain commence. Subsequently they 

fell into desuetude, until in the 4th year of the emperor Kao Tsu 8 

1 The Liki in the current edition writes: — Li Shan. 

2 The Liki has: — Nung. 

3 Liki, Chi-fa (end). 

4 Dynastic appellation of Shên Nung. 

5 The fourth star in Uri^a major. 

6 The discontented and mischievous spirits of former sovereigns without children, who must be propitiated. 

7 Quotation from the Liki, Chi-fa (Legge, loc. cit. p. 20C). 

8 In 203 B.C. 

520 Lun-Hêng: F. Folklore and Religion. 

the world was called upon to sacrifice to the Ling constellation,1 

and in the 7th year people were enjoined to sacrifice to the spirits 

of the land and grain. 2 

The offerings to the Ling constellation are for the sake of 

water and drought. In the Liki their ancient name is rain sacrifices. They are being performed for the people praying for grain 

rain and for grain ears. In spring they sue for the harvest, and 

within one year's time they sacrifice again, because grain grows 

twice a year. In spring this is done in the second moon, and in 

autumn in the eighth. Therefore we read in the Analects:3 "About 

the end of spring, when the spring robes are all complete, along 

with five or six young men who have assumed the cap, and six 

or seven boys, I would wash in the Yi,4 enjoy the breeze among 

the rain altars, and return home singing." 

The end of spring is the fourth month, but the fourth month 

of the Chou dynasty corresponds to our first and second months. 

During the time of the second month, the Dragon Star rises, whence 

it has been observed that, when the dragon appears, the rain sacrifice takes place. When the Dragon Star becomes visible, the year 

has already advanced as far as the time, when the insects begin 

to stir. 

The vernal rain sacrifice has fallen into oblivion, while the 

autumnal one is still observed. Yet during all the ages the 

sacrifices to the Ling Star have always been prepared until now 

without interruption, only the ancient name has been changed, 

therefore the people of our time do not know it, and, since the 

ceremony has been abolished, the scholars are not cognisant of the 

fact. Finding nothing about the sacrifice to the Ling Star in the 

Rites, our literati could not form an opinion about it, and declare 

that the emperor" 5 had the Ming Star in view. Now the Ming Star 

is identified with the planet Jupiter. 6

Jupiter stands in the east, the east rules over the spring, and 

the spring over all things that grow. Consequently one sacrifices 

to the planet Jupiter, they say, with the purpose of praying for 

1 The constellation T'ien-t'ien " Heavenly field " in Virgo. 

2 According to the Shi-chi chap. 28 (Chavannes Vol. Ill, p. 453) Han Kao Tsu 

instituted these sacrifices in the 9th and 10th years of his reign. 

3 Analects XI, 2.5, VII. 

4 River in the south-east of Shantung. 

5 Kao Tsu. 

6 明星 the "Bright star " is generally regarded as another name of Venus. 

Cf. Shi-chi chap. 27, p. 22. 

Sacrifices. 521 

vernal bliss. However all the four seasons affect the growth of 

things. By imploring the spring only one lays great stress on the 

outset and emphasizes the beginning. Provided that in fact, according to the opinion of the scholars, the happiness of spring 

be sought, then by the autumnal sacrifice spring could not well 

be implored.1 In conformity with the Yüeh-ling 2 one sacrifices 

to the inner door in spring, and to the outer door in autunm,3 all in accordance with the proper time. If the offerings 

made to the outer door in autumn were considered to be those 

to the inner door, would this be approved of by the critics? If 

not, then the Ming Star is not the planet Jupiter, but the " Dragon 


When the Dragon Star becomes visible in the second month, 

one prays for grain rain at the rain sacrifice, and, when in the 

eighth month it is going to disappear, one sues for the grain crop 

at the autumnal rain sacrifice. The literati were probably aware of 

this, and what they say is not quite unreasonable. The vernal 

sacrifice for rain has been abolished, and only the autumnal one 

has survived. This explains why they termed the star corresponding to the autumnal sacrifice the Ming Star.5 The correct name 

however is the Ling Star. 

The Ling Star means a spirit, and this spirit is the Dragon 

Star, as under the various spirits the wind god Fêng Po, the rain 

god Yü Shih, the god of thunder. Lei Kung, and others are understood. Wind produces a wafting, rain a moisture, and thunder a 

concussion. The four seasons, the growing, heat and cold, the 

natural changes, the sun, the moon, and the stars are what people 

look up to, inundations and droughts are what they dread. From 

the four quarters the air pours in, and from the mountains, the 

forests, the rivers, and valleys people gather their riches. All this 

is the merit of the spirits. 

Two motives are underlying all sacrifices: gratitude for received benefits and ancestor worship. We show our gratitude for 

the efforts others have take on our behalf, and worship our ancestors 

1 Thus Jupiter, which rules over spring only, could not well be sacrificed to 

at the rain sacrifice in autumn. 

2 A chapter of the Liki. 

3 Cf. Legges translation of the Liki (Sacred Books Vol. XXVII, p. 251 and 283). 

4 The Dragon Star occurs in the Tso-chuan, Duke Huang 28th year, as the 

star of Sung and Cheng. The commentary explains it as a synonym of Jupiter. 

5 The Ming Star = Venus governs the west and autumn, whereas Jupiter 

reigns in the east and in spring. 

522 Lun-hêng: F. Folklore and Religion. 

out of regard for their kindness. Special efforts, extraordinary goodness, merits, and universal reforms are taken into 

consideration by wise emperors, and it is for this reason that they 

have instituted sacrifices. An oblation is offered to him who has 

improved the public administration, who for the public welfare has 

worked till his death, who has done his best to strengthen his 

country, who has warded off great disasters, or prevented great 


[Ti K'u could fix the courses of the stars and enlighten the 

world. 1 Yao knew how to reward, and equitably mete out punishments, so that justice reigned supreme. Shun toiled for his people, 

and died in the country, K'un laboured to quell the flood, and was 

banished for life. Yü could take up his work. Huang Ti gave 

things their right names to enlighten people about the use to be 

made of them. Chuan Hsü still further developed this system. When 

Hs'ieh was minister of education, the people flourished. Ming fulfilled his official duties with the greatest diligence, and found his 

death in the water. T'ang inaugurated a liberal government, and 

delivered the people from oppression. Wên Wang relieved the misery 

of the people by culture and science, Wu Wang by his military exploits. By all these glorious deeds the people were benefitted.2] 

They rely on the strength of men like those, and show their gratitude by sacrifices. 

The ancestors in the ancestral temple are our own kindred. 

Because, while they are alive, it is customary to maintain our 

parents, this duty cannot be shirked, when they are dead. There- 

fore we sacrifice to them, as though they were still alive. Ghosts 

are treated like men, for it is the living who attend the dead. For 

man it is usual to reward good deeds, and to maintain the nearest 

relatives, whence the duty to requite the kindness of the ancestors 

and to sacrifice to them has been derived. 

When the dog which Confucius had bred was dead, he requested Tse Kung to bury him. " I have been told, quoth he, that 

one does not throw an old curtain away, but uses it to bury a 

horse, and that an old cart-cover is not thrown away, but used to 

bury a dog. I am poor, and have no cover to wrap him in." 

Then he gave him a mat, and bade him not to throw the dog 

down with his head first. 3 

1 About the prognostics furnished by the stars. 

2 Quoted from the Liki, Chi-fa (Legge, loc cit. p. 208). 

3 Quotation from the Liki, T'an-kung (Legge, loc. cit. p. 196). 

Sacrifices. 523 

Chi Tse 1 of Yen-ling^ passed through Hsü. The prince of Hsü 3 

was very fond of his sword, but, because Chi Tse had to go as 

envoy to a powerful State 4 he, at that time did not yet consent 

to give it him. When Chi Tse came back from his mission, the 

prince of Hsü had died in the meantime. Chi Tse unbuckled his 

sword and hung it up on a tree over the grave. His charioteer 

asked for whom he did so, since the prince of Hsü was already 

dead. " Previously, replied Chi Tse, I have made this promise in 

my heart already. Shall I become unfaithful, because the prince 

of Hsü has died? " — Whereupon he hung up his sword and went 

away. 5 

Those who make offerings in recognition of special merits, are 

animated by the same sentiment as Confucius, when he interred his 

pet dog, and those who sacrifice, lest they should evade a former 

obligation, have the same tenderness of heart as Chi Tse, who hung 

up his sword on a tree over a tomb. 

A sage knows these facts, and yet while sacrificing he will 

fast, and show such respect and devotion, as if there were really 

ghosts and spirits, and reform without cease, as if happiness and 

unhappiness depended thereon. But though people thus appreciate 

goodness, and honour merit, and take such pains to manifest their 

gratitude, it is not necessary that there should be really ghosts to 

enjoy these manifestations. We see this from the sacrifice offered 

to Earth at the meals. When people are going to eat and drink, 

they respectfully retire, as if they were giving precedence to some- 

body. Confucius says: — " Although the food might be coarse rice 

and vegetable soup, one must offer a little of it in sacrifice with 

a grave, respectful air." 6

The Liki tells us that, when subjects are invited to dine with 

their prince, he first calls upon them to sacrifice, before they receive their rations. 

These oblations are like the various sacrifices of the Liki. 

At a meal one also may omit the offering, and though venerating 

the spirits one may forego a sacrifice. The same principle holds 

good for all the sacrifices, which invariably consist in giving 

1 Chi Cha, fourth son of King Shou Mêng of Wu, who died in 561 b.c. 

2 A territory in Kiangsu, the appanage of Prince Chi Tse. 

3 A State in Anhui. 

4 He was on an embassy to Lu, Ch'i, Chêng, Wei and Chin, and passed 

through Hsü in 544 b.c. 

5 See a parallel passage in the Shi-chi chap. .31, p. Ov. 

6 Analects X, 8, X. 

524 Lun-Hêng: F. Folklore and Religion. 

something as an offering. He who knows that at the sacrifice to 

Earth no spirit is present, and still maintains that ghosts attend 

the various sacrifices, ignores how to reason by analogy. 

In the text of the Classics and the writings of the worthies 

nothing is said yet about ghosts and spirits, 2 nor did they compose 

special works on this subject. The unauthorized sacrifices offered 

by the people are not enjoyed by any ghosts, but people believe 

in the presence of spirits, who can cause either happiness or mis- 


The votaries of Taoism studying the art of immortality abstain from eating cereals and take other food than other people 

with a view to purifying themselves. Ghosts and spirits, however, 

are still more ethereal than immortals, why then should they use 

the same food as man? 

One assumes that after death man loses his consciousness, 

and that his soul cannot become a spirit. But let us suppose that 

he did, then he would use different food, and using different food, 

he would not like to eat human food. Not eating human food, 

he would not ask us for it, and having nothing to ask at the 

hands of man, he could not give luck or mishap. 

Our joy and anger depend on the fulfilment of our wishes. 

When they are satisfied, we are pleased, when not, irritated. In 

our joy we are generous and cause happiness, when we are sulky, 

we give vent to our anger and make others unhappy. Ghosts and 

spirits are insensible of joy and anger. People may go on sacrificing to them for ever, or completely disregard and forget them, 

it makes no difference, how could they render man happy or unhappy? 

1 This is not quite true. The Liki, the Tao-chuan, and the Shi-chi treat of 

ghosts and spirits in many places, as we have seen.