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Confucianism and Its Rivals, by Herbert A. Giles, [1915], at

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B.C. 3000-1200

The Chinese are not, and, so far as we can judge from their history, never have been, what we understand by the term "a religious people." Consequently, we find in their biographical records extraordinarily few instances of religious fanaticism, bigotry, and persecution; still fewer, if any, examples of men and women who have suffered for their faith, when mere verbal recantation would have saved them from a dreaded fate. With a highly practical nation like the Chinese, the acts of human beings have always been reckoned as of infinitely greater importance than their opinions. The value of morality has completely overshadowed any claims of belief; duty towards one's neighbour has mostly taken precedence of duty towards God.

The word "God" has been familiar in China from time immemorial; but before we can deal with the conception implied thereby, it will be necessary to turn our attention to the visible universe as it appeared

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to the primeval Chinese man. Above him was a round sky, later on to be symbolized as the male element in creation; below him was a square earth, also to be symbolized later on as the mother of all things—the feme covert in "the bridal of the earth and sky."

In the Canon of Changes, usually admitted to be the oldest extant Chinese book, we read: "The sky one, the earth two, the sky three, the earth four, the sky five, the earth six, the sky seven, the earth eight, the sky nine, the earth ten." This is explained to mean that, in a cosmogonical sense, and also for purposes of divination, odd numbers are male, even numbers female.

We must pause a moment to consider what the Canon of Changes precisely is. Broadly speaking, it is the most venerated as well as the most ancient volume of a collection of sacred books now known as the Confucian Canon, and it is said to have come into existence as follows. Three thousand years before Christ—the furthest point reached even by the most enthusiastic chronologers—China was ruled by her first, somewhat legendary monarch, the Emperor Fu Hsi. Prior to this date, we hear of a Chinese Prometheus, the discoverer of fire, and of a still earlier hero, who taught mankind to make nest-habitations in trees, as a safeguard against such attacks from animals as people would be more exposed to on the ground.

The Emperor Fu Hsi is said to have been miraculously conceived by his mother, and to have been

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born after a gestation of twelve years; but in spite of this, and of other legendary accretions, it is most probable that he had a real existence. He taught his people to hunt, to fish, and to keep flocks. He showed them how to split the wood of a certain tree (Pawlonia imperialis, S. and Z.), and then how to twist threads and stretch them across so as to form rude musical instruments. He invented some kind of calendar, placed the marriage-contract upon a proper basis, and introduced cooked as opposed to raw food. From certain markings, divinely revealed to him on the back of a tortoise—some say a dragon (hence the Imperial Dragon)—he is said to have constructed the Eight Diagrams, or series of lines from which was to be ultimately developed a scheme of divination, as embodied many centuries later in the Canon of Changes.

Put in the fewest words, these Diagrams are the eight possible combinations or arrangements of a line and a broken line in groups of three, so that either one or the other is repeated twice, and in two cases three times, in the same combination. Thus, there may be a broken line above or below two unbroken lines, two broken lines above or below one unbroken line, a broken line between two unbroken lines, an unbroken line between two broken lines, and finally, a diagram of three unbroken lines, and another of three broken lines. Of these last two, the former, three unbroken lines, was held to represent the sky; the latter, three broken lines, stood for the earth. The remaining six figures were identified as symbols

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of mist, fire, thunder, wind, water, and hills; and on the ground that the sky and earth, the male and female principles in nature, produce, as it were, the other six elements, an attempt has been made to trace a connexion between the Eight Diagrams and the company assembled in the Ark.

Trigram diagram
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The Emperor Fu Hsi is said by some to have subsequently increased these combinations, as above, to sixty-four, by the simple process of doubling the number of lines employed; and on this groundwork was first of all constructed, according to tradition—for no definite traces remain in literature—a system of divination, of which we know next to nothing. However, in the twelfth century B.C., King Wên, the virtual founder of the great Chow dynasty, called

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[paragraph continues] "King" although he never really occupied the throne, was cast into prison for sedition by the reigning tyrant, whom King Wên's son afterwards overthrew. There he passed two years, occupying himself with the Diagrams, which others say he, and not the Emperor Fu Hsi, increased to sixty-four, finally producing sixty-four short essays, enigmatically and symbolically expressed, on important themes, mostly of a moral, social, or political character. This text is followed by certain commentaries, called by the Chinese the "Ten Wings," admittedly of a later date, and usually attributed, but without foundation, to Confucius, who has left it on record that had a number of years been added to his life, he would have devoted fifty of them to a further study of the Canon of Changes, and could then have claimed to be without great faults. It is indeed recorded by China's most famous historian, Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien (d. circa B.C. 80), that Confucius perused and reperused this work so often that the leather strings on which the wooden tablets in use at that date were strung, gave way, first and last, three times, from sheer wear and tear.

The foreign student is disappointed when he comes to a study of the Canon of Changes; partly because of the exaggerated value set upon its contents by native scholars of all ages, and partly from an inability to penetrate its labyrinthine mysteries and seize the hidden spirit of the book. It has been alleged by Chinese enthusiasts that, if you have only the wit to seek, you will find in the Canon of Changes

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the germs of all the great scientific discoveries; on the other hand, it was reserved for two foreign students (Sir R. Douglas and Terrien de Lacouperie) to put their heads together and publicly announce that this work, regarded in China as based on a divine revelation, is nothing more than a vocabulary of an obscure Central Asian tribe—so obscure indeed that to this day it remains unlocated and unknown.

A translation of the Canon of Changes was made by Dr Legge, the greatest Chinese scholar of modern times at the day of his death. Dr Legge thought that he had "found the key," but it is doubtful if anyone else has ever shared with him that opinion. Let us take the first Diagram, which originally consisted of three horizontal lines, afterwards doubled, and supposed to represent the sky. King Wên tells us that the whole Diagram symbolizes "what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct, and firm." King Wên's fourth son, the Duke of Chow, one of China's best-loved figures in history, added, or is said to have added, an analysis of the Diagram, taking it line by line. Thus, in the first line he discovers a dragon lying hidden in the abyss; upon which he declares that "it is not time for active doing." In the second line we have the dragon again, but in this case "appearing in the open." "It will be advantageous," says the Duke, "to meet with a great man." And so on—for those who can understand how one straight line can yield a certain meaning, and another similar straight line another and quite a different meaning. Take a still

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further exasperating specimen of what we read in this relic of antiquity, on which more numerous and more voluminous commentaries have been written than on the Old and New Testaments combined.

Text.—The first line, divided, shows a man moving his great toes.

Wing.—He moves his great toes;—his mind is set on what is beyond himself.

Text.—The fifth line, undivided, shows a man moving the flesh along the spine, above the heart. There will be no occasion for repentance.

Wing.—He moves the flesh along the spine, above the heart;—his aim is trivial.

Just on eight hundred years after the revelation of the Eight Diagrams to the Emperor Fu Hsi, came another revelation, which was subsequently recognized as complementary of the first, and is now closely associated with it in the philosophical speculations of the scholars of the Sung dynasty, who flourished some seven to eight hundred years ago, and will be referred to later on. In B.C. 2205 the Great Yü, as he was afterwards called, ascended the throne of China. His birth, like that of most of China's heroes, had been miraculous; and it is recorded that four days after his marriage he started forth to drain the empire of the waters of a disastrous flood, which some have tried to identify with the Noachian Deluge. Another divinely sent tortoise appears to have risen from the waters and to have presented him—some say the recipient was really the Emperor Fu Hsi of old—with a numerical scheme, or arrangement of groups of the cardinal numbers 1 to 9, known as the River

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[paragraph continues] Plan, by means of which divination was raised to the position of a science, as it is found at the present day.

The final arrangement of the River Plan, after many modifications, was as follows:—

The River Plan
Click to enlarge

[paragraph continues] These groups, added up vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, always yield a total of fifteen.

Other methods were employed, especially one, as we shall see by and by, in which a certain magic grass, or reed, played the chief part; but it is now time, after this long digression, to return to the sky and earth.

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At a very remote period, long before the Canon of Changes had received its first impress from the hands of King Wên, the Chinese people had already come to regard the sky as the home or habitat of a powerful Being who took a marked interest in human affairs. This Being may have been suggested, according to Buckle's theory, by lightning, thunder, earthquakes, the revolutions of the sun and moon, and similar phenomena. The name given to the Being—it is still in use—was T‘ien, a word which, for reasons to be presently brought forward, we are unable to render adequately by any other term than "God." The first of these reasons is that so soon as the Chinese began to express thought through the medium of a script, the symbol set down for T‘ien was a rude picture, such as a child or savage might draw, of a human being: . This anthropomorphic character occurs in inscriptions on sacrificial cauldrons which date back to B.C. 1100, when the written language had already become a vehicle of considerable precision. It is often found, for instance, in conjunction with the word "son," meaning "Son of God," a title which has always been applied to the Emperors of China, but which association and convention compel us to render by the less startling "Son of Heaven." Translators of Chinese texts have indeed generally tried to shirk the use of the word God " as an equivalent for T‘ien, and have adopted the vaguer word "Heaven"; against which it may be urged that this latter term rather tends to

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obscure the idea of a personal Deity, and is better reserved for the celestial habitation of God and of spirits, in which sense, together with that of "sky," the word t‘ien came also to be used.

Later inscriptions show the character T‘ien in process of modification, , towards the modern sign in use at the present day. The head is flattened to a straight line, but the remainder is still suggestive of a body with arms and legs. To-day we write , a character which has been accepted by native scholars, who had failed to pick up the real clue, as a combination of one, and great—the one great thing. 1

Such, indeed, is the etymological analysis given in the Shuo Wên, a dictionary which was produced about one hundred years after the Christian era, and has been the recognized authority ever since. Whether by "the one great thing" the author may have meant the sky only, or heaven as used by us in two senses, namely, the sky and God, it is impossible to say for certain; the analysis, which ignores altogether the picture element, certainly points in the direction of the former view. There is, in fact, little doubt that even before the date of the Christian era the idea of an anthropomorphic God had somewhat weakened in its hold upon the Chinese mind, and that the word T‘ien had become more closely associated with the

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material heavens, the sky. Thus, the philosopher Hsün Tzŭ, of the third century B.C., says, "T‘ien has no concrete form; all the void expanse above the earth is t‘ien." Here, of course, he is speaking only of Lien, the sky; in a future lecture we shall see what he has to say about T‘ien, God. It is rather to the older works of the Confucian Canon that we must turn for the ancient Chinese belief in an anthropomorphic, and therefore personal, God. In the so-called Canon of History, which is a collection of miscellaneous documents of an historical character, extending over a period from the twenty-fourth to the eighth century B.C., and said to have been edited under its present form by Confucius himself, we find the word T‘ien largely used in the sense of "God," and very sparsely used in the sense of "sky."

There is a single instance of the word T‘ien used in the restricted sense of heaven, the abode of the Deity. It occurs in a prayer, patriotically offered up, in B.C. 1120, to the immediate canonized ancestors of the first king of the Chow dynasty, who was dangerously ill, and runs as follows: "If you three kings have charge in t‘ien, heaven, of your great descendant, let my life be a substitute for his."

Almost, however, at the beginning of the Canon of History, and before there is any mention of T‘ien, we are faced by another term which has been widely adopted by Christian missionaries, under the skilled leadership of Dr Legge, as the one and only correct equivalent for "God." This is Shang Ti, meaning Supreme Ruler. I freely confess that for many years

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[paragraph continues] I regarded Dr Legge's position as unassailable, and I am still on his side as regards the impropriety of another term, Shin or Shên, "spirit," which found favour chiefly with American missionaries under the guidance of distinguished colleagues, among whom was also the British missionary and lexicographer, Dr Morrison. The view of Dr Morrison need not be seriously considered, based as it was, by his own admission, upon a desire to convince the Chinese that "their ideas of Shin were erroneous."

A longer and closer acquaintance with the Confucian Canon has satisfied me that the proper equivalent of our word "God" is T‘ien; and that Shang Ti, "Supreme Ruler," was originally a mere epithet of T‘ien, but gradually came to be employed almost in the sense of another Being, yet not another Being; thus forming, as I hope to show in my next lecture, a Godhead of two Persons. It is perhaps but a minor advantage that to express in Chinese our own monosyllabic term, we need use no more than a single word; but we cannot overlook the fact that T‘ien was the very term suggested by the learned Manchu Emperor, K‘ang Hsi, as a settlement of the question in the seventeenth century. But I am anticipating, and 1 will now return to the Canon of History.

Here we find that T‘ien is used in the sense of "God" more than one hundred and fifty times, whereas Shang Ti occurs only about twenty times; and, in the words of Dr Legge, this "supreme, governing Power is understood to be omniscient, omnipotent, and righteous." To these characteristics,

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notwithstanding the anthropomorphism of which I have already spoken, it will be necessary to add that of omnipresence, unless it be conceded that from a given point in the universe God can practically see and hear all men—which amounts to the same thing. Old proverbial literature, still of everyday application, tells us that "the whispers of men sound like thunder to God," that "the eye of God sees clearly, and rewards promptly," that "you may deceive man, but not God," with many other sayings of similar import. All these are formed with the word T‘ien; there is not a single saying of the kind, known to me, which is based upon the use of Shang Ti.

A few examples from the Canon of History may be noted, to enable us to form an idea of the Deity as conceived of in China twenty centuries or so before the Christian era. In a brief account of the Great Yü and his engineering labours, one of his ministers says to him, "O Emperor, Almighty God regarded you with favour, so that the Four Seas became yours, and you yourself the lord of all beneath the canopy of heaven." This passage contains T‘ien under both of its received senses, God and the sky; it further illustrates the relation which, up to two years ago, had always been felt to exist between the Emperor and his people. To realize this latter point to the full, we may be allowed once more to anticipate and turn to the works of Mencius, fourth and third centuries B.C., where allusion is made to the ancient Emperors, Yao and Shun, the immediate predecessors of the Great Yü, the former of whom, Yao, abdicated

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in favour of Shun, a virtuous peasant. "Did Yao really give the empire to Shun?" asked a disciple. Mencius said, "No. The Emperor (literally the Son of God) cannot give the empire to another." "Yes," replied the disciple, "but Shun got it. Who gave it to him?" "God gave it to him," was the answer. "When God gave it," pursued the disciple, "did He explain to Shun what his duties would be?" Mencius said, "No. God does not speak. God made manifest His will through Shun's own behaviour." "How was this effected?" asked the disciple. "The Emperor," replied Mencius, "can present a man to God, but he cannot make God give that man the empire. Yao presented Shun to God, and God accepted him; he exhibited Shun to the people, and the people accepted him." To the disciple, who pleaded for further enlightenment, Mencius said, "Yao caused Shun to preside over the sacrifices, and the spirits were well pleased; therefore God accepted him. Yao also caused him to preside over the conduct of affairs, and affairs were well administered and a general well-being prevailed; therefore the people accepted him. Thus, it was God and the people who gave Shun the empire; an Emperor cannot give the empire to another."

Let us take one more passage from the Canon of History, which deals with a period at the close of the eighteenth century B.C. The Hsia dynasty, founded by the Great Yü in 2205, had passed away amid scenes of rebellion and bloodshed; such scenes indeed as have since been witnessed at the fall of every

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dynasty which, by corruption and misrule, has forfeited the mandate and protection of God. The last ruler of this house had for many years indulged in cruel brutality and lust almost unparalleled in history. His utter wickedness was even said to have caused two rivers to dry up, so prone were the Chinese always to attribute unpropitious natural phenomena to manifestations of divine displeasure with the occupant of the throne. To one of his ministers who remonstrated with him, he replied, "I am to the empire what the sun is to the sky; when the sun goes, I shall." He then caused the minister to be put to death. Thereupon the prince of Shang, a virtuous hero, took up arms against him. The Imperial forces were overwhelmed, and the Emperor was sent into banishment, where three years later he died. His son fled northwards, and is said to have founded the tribe of Hun-yü, which we are now able to identify with the Huns. The prince of Shang, known in history as Ch‘êng T‘ang, or T‘ang the Completer, was raised to the throne, and led a blameless life; but his successor, a grandson, fell away from virtue, and incurred the respectful remonstrances of his grandfather's trusted minister, as follows: "His late Majesty kept his eye fixed upon the clear commands of God, reverently serving the spirits of heaven and the lower world, of the land and grain, and of deceased ancestors. God took note of his virtuous conduct, and conferred upon him the great office, that he might give peace to all parts of the empire." Again, the same minister said, "Ah! God has no

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partialities; only to those who are reverent does He show favour. The people are not constant in their affections, except to those (rulers) who have charity of heart. The spirits do not necessarily enjoy sacrifices; what they enjoy is the sincerity." And then he urges the new ruler to emulate the virtues of his grandfather, who, he declared, had become "fit to take his place by God."

We are not here interested in the historical fact that the above remonstrances were successful; our object in bringing forward these quotations is to establish the theory, if possible, beyond question, that the ancient Chinese believed in an anthropomorphic, personal God, whose dwelling was in the heavens above. Incidentally, we have to consider allusions to spirits and to sacrifices, both of which will be found to have an important bearing on the subject.

So far back as twenty-two centuries and more before the birth of Christ, we have a record of the Emperor Shun sacrificing, not only with a burnt offering to God, but also to the spirits of hills and rivers, and under a collective term to spirits in general. Later, we find the Great Yü sacrificing to certain mountains, Ch‘êng T‘ang taking into account the colour of a victim, and sacrifices offered to the spirit of a deceased ruler. Warnings are given that there should be moderation even in these solemn religious exercises; and one monarch is advised to devote less attention to the spirit of his father and more to the spirits of his predecessors on the throne. The use of incense, which has been dated by some

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writers from the introduction of Buddhism, appears to have been practised by the Chinese in the very earliest ages, and the fat for the burnt offering has been shown to survive in the candles still to be seen in the ceremonies of the Confucian temple. Worship seems to have been mostly associated with buildings, though open-air altars were not uncommon; as, for instance, in the case we have already dealt with, of prayer offered up for a sick king, when three altars were set up for that purpose. "Temple" is perhaps too majestic a term for remote antiquity; what is intended may be often better expressed by some such word as "shrine." As to the worship of ancestors, on which great stress is laid in these early records, I may point out, not for the first, though I trust it will be for the last time, that those who compare the offerings of meat and wine by Confucian mourners with the tribute of flowers placed upon graves by Christian mourners, "do greatly err." Ancestral worship, deeply ingrained as it is in the Chinese mind, is one of the great obstacles to the Christianization of China; and many worthy and well-meaning missionaries, going so far back even as the Jesuits of the seventeenth century, have pleaded for the admission of this apparently harmless rite among the devotional duties of the Christian convert. Other missionaries, however, have set their faces against such a concession, correctly feeling that the main object of ancestral worship in China is to secure from the spirits of dead ancestors, in return for offerings of food and fruit at graves, protection

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and advancement of worldly interests, which would be incompatible with the teachings of Christianity.

The "Do ut des" principle does not lift prayer to a very elevated plane, but it must be admitted that this principle looms large in the sacrifices which the Chinese have been in the habit of offering to the Deity, as well as to their deceased ancestors. There is a story, which properly belongs to the fourth century B.C., that when one of the feudal States was about to attack another State, the ruling prince of the latter instructed his son-in-law, whose nickname was Grease-pot, because of his oily tongue, to proceed to a third State and ask for military assistance, taking with him one hundred pounds’ weight of silver and ten chariots as a bribe to that end. On hearing this order, the son-in-law laughed so immoderately that he snapped the lash which fastened his cap under his chin; and when the prince asked him to explain, he said, "As I was coming along this morning, I saw a husbandman offering up in sacrifice a pig's foot and a small cup of wine; after which he prayed, saying, O God, make my upper terraces fill baskets, and my lower terraces fill carts; make my fields bloom with crops, and my barns burst with grain! And I could not help laughing at the thought of a man who offered so little and wanted so much." The prince took the hint, and obtained the assistance required.

We shall have occasion again to deal with both prayer and sacrifice; and we will now leave the Canon of History and proceed to an examination

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of the Canon of Poetry, the next in order among the sacred books of Confucianism. It may here be mentioned that the term "Confucianism" must be taken to cover the old moral and religious teachings of pre-Confucian as well as of post-Confucian days. In a well-worn sentence, Confucius expressly disclaimed any credit for his work, declaring that he was merely handing on those lessons of antiquity which he believed in and loved so well.

The scope of the Canon of Poetry may be described in a few words. In addition to the literary labours already mentioned, and others to which we shall come in due course, Confucius, clearly recognizing that if he could have a hand in merely editing the people's ballads, anyone might make their laws, set himself to the task of examining his country's poetry with that special object in view. It seems that at his date, roughly five hundred years before Christ, there existed a collection of some three thousand ancient pieces. Of these, Confucius selected three hundred and eleven, of six of which only the titles remained, rejecting many of the others as being mere repetitions, and many more as containing, in modern parlance, "words and expressions which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family," thus anticipating Dr Bowdler by something like twenty-two centuries. Whatever people may think of Dr Bowdler and his belated efforts to expurgate Shakespeare, China certainly owes a deep debt to Confucius for having initiated a decency of thought and expression which has placed Chinese literature,

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in that respect if in no other, above every literature in the world.

These three hundred and five "Odes," to use the title under which they are popularly known, are, like all Chinese poetry, in rhyme, and were originally sung to music and accompanied by dancing. They are subdivided under three heads, namely, National Ballads, Lamentations and Panegyrics, and Sacrificial Poems. There is a great deal more to be said about this wonderful collection of old-world Odes, but we are concerned at the moment rather with what we may find in them germane to our present subject.

As may well be imagined, the National Ballads, the first of the three subdivisions, do not yield much to the searcher after traces of religious thought. These deal chiefly with love, marriage, and the chase. Only on rare occasions is there a sudden appeal to the Deity—in all cases T‘ien; usually nothing more than "O God!"; in two or three instances, "O Thou distant God in the blue!" reminding one of the Indian ryot's cry, "God is great, but He is too far off."

From the Panegyrics we may glean several more definite allusions. There is one ode which was evidently sung at a banquet given by the king, and addressed to the king. The first three verses each begin:

God protects and establishes thee,

and one verse continues:

So that in everything thou dost prosper.

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The most important lines are:

With happy auspices and purifications thou bringest the sacrifices,
And dost filially present them,
In spring, summer, autumn, and winter,
To former rulers,
Who say, We give to thee
Myriads of years of life unending.
Their spirits come
And confer on thee many blessings.

Hereafter we light frequently upon the favourite term for "Emperor," always to be rendered Son of Heaven, it being awkward for us, as already stated, to translate by "Son of God." There is a further reason for not adopting this latter nomenclature, namely, that the Emperor has been uniformly regarded as the son of God by adoption only, and liable to be displaced from that position as a punishment for the offence of misrule. There is no pretence of any such relationship between Father and Son as is recognized by orthodox Christians. So long as the ruler was accepted by God and the people, he may be said to have occupied the throne by divine right, and by common consent was hedged in by the same divinity as that accorded to kings in western nations. But if the ruler failed in his duties, the obligation of the people was at an end, and his divine right disappeared simultaneously. Of this we have an example in a portion of the Canon to be examined by and by. Under the year 558 B.C. we find the following narrative. One of the feudal princes asked an official, saying,

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[paragraph continues] "Have not the people of the Wei State done very wrong in expelling their ruler?" "Perhaps the ruler himself," was the reply, "may have done very wrong. A good ruler will reward the virtuous and punish the vicious; he will nourish his people as his children, covering them as the sky and supporting them as the earth. Then the people will honour the ruler, love him as a parent, look up to him as the sun and moon, revere him as they do spiritual beings, and stand in awe of him as of thunder. But if the life of the people is impoverished, and if the spirits are deprived of their sacrifices, of what use is the ruler, and what can the people do but get rid of him?"

In one of the Lamentations we find the Deity charged with want of pity and with injustice:

Almighty God, unjust,
Is sending down these exhausting disorders;
Almighty God, unkind,
Is sending down these great miseries.
O Almighty God, without pity,
There is no end to the disorder!

The next passage I shall quote contains within the space of six lines both terms for God, T‘ien and Shang Ti, in the order just given. The translation may be varied thus:

The people, now amid their perils,
Look up to T‘ien, God, who is inscrutable;
But if His determination has once been fixed,
There is no one whom He will not overcome.
This mighty Shang Ti, Supreme Ruler,
Does He hate anyone?

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As another instance of the familiar way in which protests are addressed to the Deity, we have:

O great God Almighty,
Why has Thy mercy been withheld?
Why send down death and famine,
Destroying all throughout the kingdom?

With one more example we will leave the Lamentations:

O Thou far-off, Almighty God,
Who art called our Father and Mother!

We now revert to the Panegyrics, the first of which is in honour of King Wên, the real founder, as before stated, of the Chow dynasty, in 1122 B.C.

King Wên is up on high,
Sharing in the glory of God.
Although Chow was an old country,
Its mandate has but just come.
Was not Chow illustrious?
And was not the ruler's mandate opportune?
King Wên now ascends and descends,
Moving about the person of God.

Here, in the first case, the Chinese word for God is T‘ien; in the second case, it is Ti, Ruler, the latter half of Shang Ti, Supreme Ruler. Another verse, in which Shang Ti is employed, runs thus:

Ever think of your forefather (King Wên),
Cultivating your virtue,
Striving to do the will of God;
So shall you obtain much happiness.
Before the late rulers lost their following,
They could sit alongside of Shang Ti, God;
Look on them as you look on a mirror,
For God's will is not easily carried out.

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The next verse contains two singular lines:

The doings of Almighty God (here T‘ien)
Have neither sound nor smell;

meaning, of course, that His ways are inscrutable to man, who is dependent upon the faculties of physical perception.

The next panegyric is noteworthy, not only for itself, but because its first verse was completely misunderstood by Dr Legge, who, like Homer, sometimes, but very rarely, nods. It refers, as indeed do all the first eight panegyrics of this section, to King Wên, the remaining two celebrating the glories of his great warrior son, King Wu. If my new rendering proves to be intelligible, that will be a great point gained; for intelligibility is, cæteris paribus, the touchstone of correct translation from the Chinese.

A man must show himself brightly virtuous on earth,
Then comes the exercise of majestic power from above.
God has difficulty in trusting anyone,
For it is not easy to be a king;
The rightful heir of the last dynasty
Was not permitted to possess the kingdom.

[paragraph continues] Instead of

God has difficulty in trusting anyone,

[paragraph continues] Dr Legge has

Heaven is not readily to be relied upon,

which is quite out of keeping with the context, though abuse of God—Dr Legge generally tried to avoid the ineffable Name—is quite in keeping, as will be seen further on, with the ordinary Chinese attitude

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towards the Deity. This ode goes on to describe King Wên's birth, and then his marriage.

God chose for him a mate,
A lady from a powerful kingdom,
Like unto a younger sister of God Himself.

[paragraph continues] Then comes the birth of his son, King Wu, followed by the rebellion in which both father and son took part; and finally, the great battle in which, thirteen years after his father's death, King Wu overthrew the reigning dynasty, and mounted the throne as first suzerain under the feudal system of the House of Chow. "God is on your side," was the cry which rang in King Wu's ears; "have no doubts in your heart!"

There seems to have been an early chieftain of these Chow people, before their rise to power, who taught his tribesmen to make cave-dwellings and kiln-shaped huts; and who afterwards led them on the great trek by which they reached the beautiful and rich plain whereon, as the panegyric tells us, grew violets and the edible sowthistle in abundance. It was apparently an ideal spot; but before deciding to make it his final resting-place, the leader of the host had recourse, as usual, to divination.

He singed (some say "pierced") the tortoise-shell,
And the response was to stay;
Whereupon they set to building houses.

[paragraph continues] We do not know for certain the process by which the omens were obtained from the tortoise-shell, 1 or

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from grain, which was also used for this purpose; it is easier perhaps to understand the use of the reeds. In a case of a young man suggesting elopement to a girl, the latter replies,

You say that you have consulted the tortoise-shell and the reeds,
And that there is nothing unfavourable in their responses;
Therefore come, with your carriage,
And I will pack up and go with you.

The tortoise-shell, when pierced and burnt in a particular way, seems to have developed certain shapes or signs which were read by the augurs; while the reeds, on being thrown down, arranged themselves in the form of one or more of the sixty-four diagrams, and the response was interpreted accordingly. Several good examples of this form of divination have been left on record; here is a specimen. One of the feudal princes was visited (B.C. 689) by an augur from the suzerain court of Chow, who carried with him the instrumental paraphernalia of his office, in the shape of the Canon of Changes and the necessary reeds. On being invited by the prince to foretell the fortunes of the latter's heir, the augur proceeded to throw down the reeds, in accordance with custom, and found that they arranged themselves on the ground in the form (1) of the diagram kuan (the literal meaning of which is "to see," and which is made up of two lines and one divided line over three divided lines), and (2) in the form of the diagram p‘ei (literally "great," and made up of three lines over three divided lines). The augur then referred to the Canon of Changes, under

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the headings kuan and p‘ei, and discovered from the interpretations given there that the boy would become ruler of his father's State, or, alternatively, of another State; also, that if he did not become ruler himself in either of the two cases just mentioned, then it was to be anticipated that at least one of his descendants would do so. The two diagrams were further analysed into their component parts, earth and sun, sky and wind. From the former pair it was gathered that the boy would have all the treasures hidden in mountains and be shone upon by the bright sun; in other words, rise to high position. Whereas the presence of wind in the second pair—an essentially moving and unstable element—introduced the possibility of his rise to power in another State than his own.

Sometimes, however, the augur was precluded by the very nature of the question from taking refuge in an ambiguous response. For instance, on one occasion an augur was consulted as to the sex of an unborn child. He divined by the tortoise-shell, and found that the child would be a boy and that his name would be Yu, "friend." He was right. A boy was born, who bore on the palm of his hand a mark, which on examination turned out to be the common character for "friend."

In another case, the advice of an augur, who had been called upon to predict the upshot of a campaign, was altogether set aside, with disastrous results to the commander, who thus ventured to disregard what was considered to be the voice of God.

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The following, too, is not without interest. In 642 B.C. five large stones fell from the sky, and six fish-hawks were seen to fly backwards. The reigning prince of the Sung State, where these events took place, inquired of an augur, who was visiting that State, what might be the meaning of these phenomena; and he was told that there would be during that year many deaths in the State of Lu; also that he himself would obtain, for a time, the hegemony of all the States. On leaving the presence, however, the augur said, "The prince had no business to ask me that question. Natural phenomena do not bring with them either good fortune or bad; these are brought about by men themselves. But I did not dare to affront the prince."

As to divination with grain, we are still more in doubt as to the actual process. The ode in which this method is mentioned refers to a time of political trouble from misgovernment, and records the words of one who advises caution and strict adherence to virtuous conduct:

Men who are grave and wise
Are temperate in their use of wine;
But those who are benighted and ignorant,
Daily give way more and more to drink.
Be careful, each of you, of your conduct,
For the grace of God is not conferred twice.
With a handful of grain I go out and divine
How I may be able to become good.

Sir J. G. Frazer, in The Golden Bough, likens the course of human thought to a web woven of three different threads—the black thread of magic,

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the red thread of religion, and the white thread of science, the term science standing here for those simple truths drawn from observation of nature, of which men in all ages have possessed a store. He says:

Could we then survey the web of thought from the beginning, we should probably perceive it to be at first a chequer of black and white, a patchwork of true and false notions, hardly tinged as yet by the red thread of religion. But carry your eye further along the fabric and you will remark that, while the black and white chequer still runs through it, there rests on the middle portion of the web, where religion has entered most deeply into its texture, a dark crimson stain which shades off insensibly into a lighter tint as the white thread of science is woven more and more into the tissue.

It does not appear, from the sources of information available to us, that magic, under which head we may include divination, preceded the early religious notions of the Chinese people, though of course this may be due either to the inadequacy of the sources or to inability to interpret them rightly; on the other hand, it may be asserted without fear of contradiction that the ultimate weakening of the religious tint in China was not due to the admixture of science, but to quite another cause, to which I shall hope to come in due time.

Of all the Panegyrics, perhaps the most interesting is that one which relates how the early rulers of the Chow people commended themselves to God by their righteous deeds in the administration of government,

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and how the divine favour ultimately raised King Wu to the leadership of the federated States.

How great is God,
Manifesting His majesty upon earth!
He surveyed the four quarters of the empire,
Seeking for someone to give peace to the people.
The Hsia and the Shang dynasties of old
Had failed to satisfy Him with their government;
So throughout the various States
There was searching and considering
Until God fixed on the man.

[paragraph continues] This man was a vigorous chieftain who made clearances for the settlers and enabled them to defeat and scatter the wild tribes around them. The next chieftain was one of his younger sons.

Gifted by God with the power of judgment,
So that the fame of his virtue silently grew,
Able to lead, able to rule—
To rule over this great country.

[paragraph continues] He was the father of King Wên—to call the latter by his posthumous title; for, as already stated, he never actually reigned, but like Genghis Khan and the three next Emperors of the Mongol dynasty, he was canonized by a filial descendant. We are now told that, as to King Wên, while ruler over the Chow people in their tribal days,

His virtue left nothing to be desired,

and that

He received the blessing of God.

So far, we are on conventional lines, but a new departure is taken in this ode when we are told that

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[paragraph continues] God actually held personal conversations with King Wên, addressing him as follows:

God said to King Wên,
Do not be like those who reject this and cling to that;
Be not like those who are ruled by their desires.

[paragraph continues] The first result of this injunction was that a mere display of force proved sufficient to win over an unfriendly and aggressive tribe, without recourse to actual hostilities and bloodshed. Then

God said to King Wên,
I am pleased with your intelligent virtue,
Not loudly proclaimed nor obtrusively displayed,
Without extravagance or vacillation,
Without consciousness of effort,
In accordance with My regulations.

[paragraph continues] Again God said to King Wên:

Take measures for opposing your enemies,
Uniting with brother rulers of other States.
Get ready your scaling-ladders,
And your storeyed towers (turres),
To attack the walls of Ch‘ung.

[paragraph continues] The narrative continues:

The storeyed towers were quietly advanced
Against the lofty and massive walls of Ch‘ung;
Captives were brought in one after another,
Together with the left ears of the slain.
At starting, King Wên had sacrificed to God and to the heroes of old,
Thus seeking to induce submission;
And throughout the four quarters no one dared to insult him.

Here we have touches which to my mind are distinctly reminiscent of the God of the Old Testament,

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as seen leading on His chosen people to battle, stimulating their enthusiasm and so achieving victory, not necessarily, as the French cynic would have it, because on the side of the bigger battalions. But we are left entirely in the dark as to how and when and where King Wên received these communications from God; whether he saw Him in person, or whether, as in the case of Moses, he hid his face, afraid to look upon the divine glory.


10:1 This development was first pointed out by Mr L. C. Hopkins, I.S.O.

25:1 See La Divination par l’Ecaille de Tortue, by Professor E. Chavannes (Journal Asiatique, Janvier-Février, 1911).

Next: Lecture II. B.C. 1200-500