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45: CHAPTER XLIV. On Exorcism

CHAPTER XLIV. On Exorcism (Chieh-chu). 

The world believes in sacrifices, trusting that they procure 

happiness, and it approves of exorcism, fancying that it will remove evil influences. Exorcism begins with the ceremony of presenting an offering. An offering is like a banquet given by the 

living to their guests. First the ghosts are treated like guests and 

given a meal, but, when they have eaten it, they are expelled with 

swords and sticks. Provided that ghosts and spirits possess consciousness, they would undubitably resent such a treatment, offering 

resistence and fighting, and would refuse to leave forthwith. In 

their anger, they would just cause misfortune. If they are not 

conscious, then they cannot do mischief. In that case exorcising 

would be no use, and its omission would do no harm. 

Moreover, what shape do people ascribe to ghosts and spirits? 

If they believe them to have a shape, this shape must be like 

that of living men. Living men in a passion would certainly make 

an attempt upon the lives of their adversaries. If they have no 

shape, they would be like mist and clouds. The expulsion of 

clouds and mist, however, would prove ineffectual. 

As we cannot know their shapes, we can neither guess their 

feelings. For what purpose would ghosts and spirits gather in human 

dwellings? In case they earnestly wish to kill people, they would 

avoid their aggressors, when they drive them out, and abscond, but, 

as soon as the expulsion ceases, they would return, and re-occupy 

their former places. Should they have no murderous intentions, 

and only like to dwell in human houses, they would cause no injury, even if they were not expelled. 

When grandees go out, thousands of people assemble to have 

a look at them, thronging the streets and filling the alleys, and 

striving for the places in front. It is not before the soldiers repel 

them, that they go away, but no sooner have the soldiers turned 

their back, than they return to their places. Unless the soldiers 

kept watch the whole day without leaving their post, they could 

not restrain them, because they are bent on having a look and 

On Exorcism. 533 

would not go home on account of having- been driven back once. 

Provided that ghosts and spirits resemble living men, they would 

feel attracted to their homes in the same way as those thousands 

are determined on sight seeing. If the soldiers repelling them do 

not keep watch for a long while, the lookers-on do not disperse, 

and unless expelled during a whole year, the ghosts would not 

leave. Now, being expelled, after they have finished their meal, 

they would retire, but having retired, come back again, for what 

could prevent them? 

When grain is being dried in a court-yard, and fowls and 

sparrows pick it up, they escape, when the master drives them 

off, but return, when he relaxes his vigilance. He is unable to 

keep the fowls and sparrows at bay, unless he watches the whole 

day. If the ghosts be spirits, an expulsion would not induce them to 

retreat, and if they be not spirits, they could be like fowls and sparrows, and nothing but a constant repulse could frighten them away. 

When tigers and wolves enter into a territory, they are pursued with bows and cross-bows, but even their deaths do not do 

away with the cause of those terrible visits. When brigands and 

insurgents assault a city, the imperial troops may beat them, but 

notwithstanding this rebuff, the cause of their frightful incursions 

is not removed thereby. The arrival of tigers and wolves corresponds to a disorganised government, that of rebels and bandits, 

to a general disorder. Thus the gathering of ghosts and spirits 

is indicative of the sudden end of life. By destroying tigers and 

wolves and by defeating insurgents and bandits one cannot bring 

about a reform of the government or re-establish order, neither is 

it possible to remove misfortune or prolong life by ever so much 

exorcising or expelling ghosts and spirits. 

Sick people see ghosts appear, when their disease has reached 

its climax. Those who are of a strong and violent character will 

grasp the sword or the cudgel and fight with the ghosts. They 

will have one or two rounds, until at last, having missed a thrust, 

they are forced to surrender, for, unless they surrender, the duel 

will not come to a close. The ghosts expelled by exorcism are 

not different from those perceived by sick people, nor is there any 

difference between expelling and fighting. As the ghosts will not 

withdraw though assailed by sick people, the conjurations of the 

master of the house will not prevail upon the ghosts and spirits to 

leave. Consequently of what use would be such conjurations for 

the house? Therefore we cannot accept the belief that evil influences might thus be neutralised. 

534 Lun-Hêng: F. Folklore and Religion. 

Furthermore, the ghosts which are expelled from the house 

live there as guests. The hosts are the Twelve Spirits of the house, 

such as the Blue Dragon and the White Tiger, and the other 

spirits occupying the Twelve Cardinal Points.1 The Dragon and 

the Tiger are fierce spirits and the chief ghosts of heaven.2 Flying 

corpses and floating goblins would not venture to gather against 

their will, as, when a host is fierce and bold, mischievous guests 

would not dare to intrude upon him. Now the Twelve Spirits have 

admitted the others into the house, and the master drives them 

away. That would be nothing less than throwing out the guests 

of the Twelve Spirits. Could such a hatred against the Twelve 

Spirits secure happiness? If there are no Twelve Spirits, there are 

no flying corpses or goblins either, and without spirits and goblins 

exorcism would be of no avail, and the expulsion have no sense. 

Exorcism is an imitation of the old ceremony of the expulsion 

of sickness. In ancient times Chuan Hsü had three sons, who 

vanished, when they had grown up. One took up his abode in 

the water of the Yangtse and became the Ghost of Fever, one lived 

in the Jo River and became a Water Spirit, and one in damp and 

wet corners as the arbiter of sickness.3 At the end of the year, 

when all business had been finished, sick people used to drive out 

the Spirit of Sickness, and believed that by seeing off the old year 

and going to meet the new one they would obtain luck. The 

world followed this example, whence originated exorcism. But 

even the ceremony of driving out sickness is out of place. 

When Yao and Slum practised their virtue, the empire enjoyed 

perfect peace, the manifold calamities vanished, and, though the 

diseases were not driven out, the Spirit of Sickness did not make 

its appearance. When Ch'ieh and Chou did their deeds, everything 

within the seas was thrown into confusion, all the misfortunes 

happened simultaneously, and although the diseases were expelled 

day by day, the Spirit of Sickness still came back. Declining ages 

have faith in ghosts, and the unintelligent will pray for happiness. 

When the Chou were going to ruin, the people believed in ghosts, 

and prepared sacrifices with the object of imploring happiness and 

the divine help. Narrow-minded rulers fell an easy prey to imposture,

1 In addition to the Blue Dragon and White Tiger Wang Ch'ung mentions 

the 太岁 T'ai-sui, 登明 Têng-ming and 纵魁 Tsung-k'uei as such spirits. 

Cf. iMn-lu'rig, chap. 24, 13 (Nan-sui). 

2 The Blue Dragon and the White Tiger are also names of the eastern and 

western quadrant of the solar mansions. Comp. p. 106 and p. 352. 

3 Cf. p. 212. 

On Exorcism. 535 

and took no heed of their own actions, but they accomplished nothing creditable, and their administration remained unsettled. 

All depends upon man, and not on ghosts, on their virtue, 

and not on sacrifices. The end of a State is far or near, and 

human life is long or short. If by offerings, happiness could be 

obtained, or if misfortune could be removed by exorcism, kings 

might use up all the treasures of the world for the celebration of 

sacrifices to procrastinate the end of their reign, and old men and 

women of rich families might pray for the happiness to be gained 

by conjurations with the purpose of obtaining an age surpassing 

the usual span. 

Long and short life, wealth and honour of all the mortals 

are determined by fortune and destiny, and as for their actions, 

whether they prove successful or otherwise, there are times of 

prosperity and decline. Sacrifices do not procure happiness, for 

happiness does not depend on oblations. But the world believes 

in ghosts and spirits, and therefore is partial to sacrifices. Since 

there are no ghosts and spirits to receive these sacrifices, the 

knowing do not concern themselves about them. 

Sacrifices are meant as a kindness done to the ghosts and 

spirits, and yet they do not bring about luck and happiness. Now 

fancy that these spirits are expelled by brute force. Could that 

bring any profit? 

The sacrificial rites and the methods of exorcism are very 

numerous. We will prove their uselessness by one example, for 

from a small sacrifice one may draw a conclusion to the great 

ones, and from one ghost learn to know the hundred spirits. 

When people have finished the building of a house or a 

cottage, excavated the ground, or dug up the earth, they propitiate 

the Spirit of Earth, after the whole work has been completed, 

and call this appeasing the earth. They make an earthen figure 

to resemble a ghost. The wizards chant their prayers to reconcile 

the Spirit of Earth, and, when the sacrifice is over, they become 

gay and cheerful, and pretend that the ghosts and spirits have 

been propitiated, and misfortunes and disasters removed. But if 

we get to the bottom of it, we find that all this is illusive. 

Why? Because the material earth is like the human body. 

Everything under heaven forms one body, whose head and feet 

are tens of thousands of Li apart. Mankind lives upon earth as 

fleas and lice stick to the human body. Fleas and lice feed upon 

man, and torment his skin, as men dig up the earth, and torment 

536 Lun-hêng: F. Folkfore and Religion. 

its body. Should some among the fleas and lice, being aware of 

this, wish to appease man's heart, and for that purpose assemble 

to propitiate him near the flesh, which they have eaten, would 

man know about it? Man cannot comprehend what fleas and lice 

say, as Earth does not understand the speech of man. 

The Hu and the Yüeh have the same ears and mouths, and 

are animated by similar feelings, but even if they speak mouth to 

mouth, and ear to ear, they cannot understand each other. And 

there should be a communication between the ears and the mouth 

of Earth and man, who does not resemble her? 

Moreover, who is it that hears what man says? Should it 

be Earth, her ears are too far away to hear, and if it be the 

earth of one special house, this earth is like an atom of human 

flesh, how could it understand anything? If the spirit of the 

house be the hearer, one ought to speak of appeasing the house, 

but not of appeasing Earth. 

The Rites prescribe that entering into the ancestral hall one 

must not find a master there. 1 One has made the device of cutting 

a wooden tablet, one foot and two inches long, and calling it the 

master, and serves it in the spirit, but does not make a human 

likeness. Now at the propitiatory sacrifices to Earth, they make 

an earthen human figure resembling the shape of a ghost. How 

could that have a propitiatory effect? Spirits are diffuse, vague, 

and incorporeal: entering and departing they need no aperture, 

whence their name of spirits. Now to make a bodily image is 

not only in opposition to the Rites, but also reveals a misapprehension of the nature of spirits. We know that they have no likeness, therefore, when the mats are spread for sacrifice, no figures 

of ghosts are put up. 

If at the propitiatory service for Earth they set up human 

figures, could a stone effigy be used at the sacrifice to the Mountains, or could a wooden man be made for the sacrifice to the 

Gates and Doors ? 2 

When Ch'ung Hang Yin of Chin 3 was near his end, he summoned his high-priest, wishing to punish him. " The victims," 

said he, "which you have immolated for me, have not been fat 

and glossy. You have not observed the rules of fasting with reverence, and thus have caused the ruin of my State. Is it not so?" 

1 The linage of the departed, who as master dwells in the ancestral hall, 

2 No figures are used at the sacrifices to those deities. 

3 A nobleman, related to the ducal house of Chin, of the 5th cent, b.c. The 

Ch'ung Hang family possessed large domains in Chin. 

On Exorcism. 537 

The priest replied in plain terms, " Formerly, my old lord, 

Ch'ung Hang Mi Tse, possessed ten chariots, and did not feel grieved 

at their small number, but at the insufficiency of his righteousness. 

Your lordship has a hundred war-chariots, and does not feel distressed that your justice is so imperfect, but merely regrets that 

your chariots do not suffice. When vessels and chariots are well 

equipped, the taxes must be high, and the taxes being heavy, the 

people defame and curse their sovereign. If he then offers sacrifices, of what use can it be to his State? These curses must also 

ruin the State.— One man prays for him, and the whole State 

curses him. One prayer cannot overcome ten thousand curses. Is 

it not quite natural that a State should perish thus? What is the 

guilt of the priest? '"— Ch'ung Hang Yin then felt ashamed. 

The people of to-day rely on sacrifices like Ch'ung Hang Yin. 

They do not improve their conduct, but multiply the prayers, do 

not honour their superiors, but fear the ghosts. When they die, 

or misfortune befalls them, they ascribe it to noxious influences, 

maintaining that they have not yet been regulated. When they 

have been regulated and offerings prepared, and misfortunes are 

as numerous as before, and do not cease, they make the sacrifices 

answerable, declaring that they have not been performed with 

sufficient reverence. 

As regards exorcism, exorcism is of no use, and as regards 

sacrifices, sacrifices are of no avail. As respects wizards and 

priests, wizards and priests have no power, for it is plain that 

all depends upon man, and not on ghosts, on his virtue, and not 

on sacrifices.