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
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