I now proceed to consider the second division of the system of Feng-shui, called Su, or the numerical proportions of nature. Observing the heavens, the constant change of day and night, the numbers and distribution of the heavenly bodies, moving on, hosts of them, each in swift course, and yet never interfering with each other,--I say observing this varied and yet harmonious whole, it struck the Chinese observer, that there are, at the basis of this grand scheme of heaven, mathematical principles; that all the heavenly bodies exist and move in certain numerical proportions. Again, observing our earth, with its constant revolutions of summer and winter, spring and autumn, growth and decay, life and death, the Chinese noticed, that here again the same mathematical order is repeated, that earth is but the reflex of heaven, the coarse material embodiment of the ideal mathematical problems, ethereally sketched on the firmament of heaven.
Now, to illustrate and fathom this scheme of numerical proportions, which connects and holds together heaven and earth, the ancient sages of China invented certain diagrams. I do not attribute any credence to the story of Foo-he observing a dragon-horse coming out of the river, bearing on its back the geometrical delineations of the great scheme of heaven and earth, in diagrams and circles formed by the curling of the hairs. But the fact seems incontestable, that in the remotest times of Chinese antiquity certain diagrams were used to illustrate the numerical proportions of the universe. No matter who it
was that first invented the scheme of diagrams, no matter whether he eliminated it from his own brain or by cogitating over the confused lines on the back of a tortoise, the fact remains that, more than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese had and used a scheme of diagrams essentially the same as that which is to the present day used by the ignorant and superstitious as a charm of ineffable efficacy. and frequently suspended over house-doors. However this set of eight diagrams may have originally been constructed, whether synthetically or analytically, the way in which its origin was afterwards explained is this.
Representing the superior creative male principle by one line, and the corresponding female principle by a line broken in two, then multiplying and combining them, four diagrams are obtained, viz.:--
1. two parallel lines, representing the great male principle.
2. two parallel lines, each broken in two, representing the great female principle.
3. a line broken in two, with one parallel line below, called the little male.
4. one unbroken line, with a parallel line, broken in two, below, called the little female.
The great male diagram was then taken as a symbol for the sun, the heat, the intellect, the eyes, etc. The great female diagram was considered to represent the planets, the night, the body, the mouth, etc.; whilst the little male diagram signified the moon, the cold, the passions, the ears, etc.; and the little female diagram stood for the stars, the daylight, the form, the nose, etc.
Proceeding then to combine these four diagrams with each other, in all possible forms, another set of eight diagrams was obtained. It is geometrically composed of the preceding four diagrams, but its primitive explanation was, I presume, based on a now antiquated view of the elements composing nature. I have already noticed more
than once the enumeration of five elements, metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, now current in China. In the time when this set of eight diagrams was invented, quite a different enumeration of elements appears to have been in vogue. The Chinese must have then counted six elements, and named them as follows: thunder, wind, fire, ocean, water, and mountains. At any rate, one of the oldest classics of the Chinese, the Yih-king, explains this set of diagrams as follows: (1) three whole lines, representing the great male principle stand for heaven and designate the South; (2) three broken parallel lines representing the great female principle stand for earth and point to the North. Next follow what I take to signify the six elements of nature: (1) in the East, two whole lines with a broken line between, signify fire, for, says the Yih-king, in drying up the myriad of things there is nothing more parching than fire; (2) in the West, two broken lines with a whole line between, represent water, for in moistening the myriad of things there is nothing more humid than water; (3) in the South-West, two whole lines with one broken line on the inner side represent the wind, for in twirling round the myriad of things there is nothing more effective than wind; (4) in the North-East, two broken lines with one whole line on the inner side, correspond to thunder, for in agitating the myriad of things there is nothing more rapid than thunder; (5) in the South-East, two whole lines with one broken line on the outer side, represent vapour or the ocean, for in satisfying the myriad of things there is nothing more gratifying than the ocean; (6) in the North-West, two broken lines with one whole line on the outer side, signify mountains, for in bringing to a conclusion and again commencing the myriad of things, there is nothing more perfect than the mountains. Thus, the Yih-king adds, water and fire overtaking and blending with each other, thunder and wind not opposing one another, and the mountains and oceans
being pervaded by the same breath, nature can perform her transformations and complete and perfect the myriad of things.
To allow fancy and imaginative ingenuity still wider play, these eight diagrams are not only, as we have shown, made to correspond to the eight points of the compass, but also to eight different seasons. Even a set of eight different animals are made to answer to these eight diagrams, the first of which is said to represent the strength of a horse, the second the docility of an ox, the third is said to be pleasant like a pheasant, the fourth degrading like a swine, the fifth penetrating like a fowl, the sixth influential like a dragon, the seventh pleasing like a lamb, the eighth faithful like a dog.
To illustrate all the innumerable changes and permutations of nature, these eight diagrams were again multiplied with each other, and put through all possible combinations and thus another set of sixty-four diagrams was obtained, each having likewise a special name, special meaning and special occult virtues attached. This development of the original system ascribed to Foo-he is however based on a different arrangement of the eight principal diagrams. The diagram for heaven which Foo-he's system placed in the South is now consigned to the North-West, whilst the fire diagram, which the more ancient system placed in the East, now occupies the South. In like manner the earth diagram, formerly ruling the North, is now relegated to the South-West and its place assigned to the water diagram which formerly reigned in the West. Accordingly we have, in this new arrangement of the eight diagrams of Foo-he, the diagram for water in the North, that for thunder in the East, that for fire in the South, and that for ocean in the West. The North-East is occupied by the diagram answering for mountains, the South-East by the wind diagram, whilst the diagram for earth is placed in the South-West, and that for heaven
in the North-West. This new arrangement of the original eight diagrams, and most especially its development into a set of sixty-four separate diagrams, is said to have been originated by Wen-wang, the reputed founder of the Chow dynasty, who, whilst undergoing a term of solitary confinement, amused himself by arranging and rearranging stems of straw on the basis of those eight diagrams, so that the various combinations of long and short stems of straw should represent the whole scheme of heaven and earth as pervaded by the male and female principles. We can readily believe that the Chinese, casting about for the inventor of this fanciful theory, hit upon the idea, that none but a man shut out from the world, none but a man whose brain is diseased by solitary confinement, could work out a system so ingenious indeed and marvellously fanciful, but so utterly devoid of all practical observation of nature.
This absence of direct connection with and practical application of the facts ascertained by observation of nature was of course more and more felt, the more the Chinese progressed in their knowledge of astronomy and in the other branches of natural science. That ancient system of diagrams, based on an antiquated theory of six terrestrial elements, makes no allowance for the influence of the five planets, which were in after ages supposed to exercise an almost paramount influence upon the destines of the human race. The five planets seem to have been unknown even in the days of Confucius, at any rate they are never mentioned in the Chinese classics. Consequently the philosophers of the Sung dynasty finding the old system to clash with their popular views of astronomy, but having too much reverence for the sacred rust of antiquity to discard it altogether, retained the old diagrams, but worked them into a system, based on the idea, that the five planets (Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn) and five corresponding terrestrial elements
[paragraph continues] (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) contain as it were the principal solution of the great mystery of life. They ascribed to the five planets a central position, and searching out on this basis the numerical proportions of the universe, they arrived at the conclusion, that all heavenly bodies and all the powers and influences of heaven are arranged according to the decimal system. Applying, then, the ancient six elements which enter into the plan of the four and eight diagrams, and which indeed refer exclusively to earth and not to heaven,--applying, I say, these ancient sets of four diagrams and of eight diagrams to terrestrial relations alone, they came to the conclusion that all the formations of earth, all terrestrial relations, are based on the duodecimal system. Thus they invented a set of ten symbolic characters or numbers intended to explain the mysteries of heaven, and called them the ten heavenly stems. Then they drew up another series of twelve symbolic characters or numbers and used them as the mathematical key to solve all the problems relating to the earth, calling them the twelve terrestrial branches. They, moreover, distinguished in both the ten heavenly stems and the twelve terrestrial branches, the even and uneven numbers. All the uneven numbers they declared, in obedience to the rules laid down in the Yih-king, to refer to the male principle, all the even numbers to the female principle in nature. Again, they divided, likewise adopting a rule of the ancient system, the ten heavenly stems into five couples, but made each couple correspond not only to one of the five elements, but also to one of the five planets. The twelve terrestrial branches were made to signify the above-mentioned twelve signs of the zodiac, also the twelve points of the Chinese compass and the twelve divisions of the day (each division comprising two hours). Again, by combining the two series and joining the first of the twelve terrestrial branches to the first of the ten
heavenly stems, then joining the second characters of each series and going on through the ten stems six times and through the twelve branches five times, they obtained a set of sixty cyclic characters, which they used to designate successive days and years, and which multiplied by six gave the three hundred and sixty degrees of the ecliptic.
Here we have then a series of logarithmic formulae, skilfully designed, to comprise all the numerical proportions which the Chinese ascribe to the universe and intricate enough to perplex any ordinary mind, and to awe by its mysteriousness the ignorant mass of the people. Skilful and ingenious manipulation of such a system naturally enables a man to impose upon the superstitious multitude, and consequently we find, that all the different arts of divination in China--astrology, geomancy, horoscopy, phrenology, chiromancy and so on--are all based upon this system of numbers. For geomantic purposes, with which alone we have to do here, all the above-mentioned diagrams and series of computations have been combined for practical and handy use in the shape of a compass, with a magnetic needle in the centre, and all the different diagrams and cyclic characters with all the elements that enter into calculation inscribed in concentric circles on the board surrounding the needle.
The use of the magnetic needle suggested to me the possibility that the Chinese might possibly have some empirical knowledge of terrestrial magnetism, and use the magnetic needle to observe the declination, inclination and intensity of the magnetic currents which run through the crust of the earth and which are now-a-days being carefully watched by modern meteorologists in America and Europe. But I am sorry to say I have not been able to find even the slightest empirical knowledge of the fact, that a freely suspended magnet indicates by its movements the inclination, declination and intensity of the magnetic currents in the earth.
To begin with the outmost of the circles inscribed on the compass plate, we find this circle (XVIII.) divided into twenty-eight portions of unequal size, on each of which there is the name of one of the twenty-eight constellations through which the moon passes in her course along the ecliptic, with the number of degrees each constellation occupies. This circle therefore represents the moon's orbit and its use is to determine not only the lunar influences generally, but also the influence which each particular constellation is supposed to exercise on any given spot. Every Chinese calendar gives a series of twenty-eight tables containing a minute enumeration of the geomantic affinities ascribed to each constellation, but it will suffice here to state that fifteen of them are put down in the calendar as unlucky, thirteen as lucky. To enable the geomancer, however, to determine the lucky or unlucky lunar influences of any locality with perfect accuracy, the next circle (XVII.) represents again the ecliptic, but divided into three hundred and sixty degrees, of which some are marked as lucky; whilst on the next circle (XVI.) the successive odd numbers of three hundred and sixty-six degrees are marked, in twenty-eight portions corresponding to the twenty-eight constellations of the XVII. circle, thus enabling the geomancer to pronounce with regard to every inch of ground and with reference to every day in the year whether the female or male principle prevails here, for the odd numbers represent the male, the even numbers (left blank) the female principle.
Proceeding farther towards the centre the next circle (XV.), divided into sixty portions, is intended to illustrate the influence of the five planets in their relation to the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, earth. These five terms are seriatim inscribed on the circle in different combinations, now destroying each other, then again indifferent to each other, then again producing each other, and so on. Each element occurs twelve times, but the
element wood is in one place interpolated, where it is placed with the element fire to the right and left, occupying two degrees which correspond to the tenth and eleventh degree of the constellation "bushel" (six stars in the shoulder and bow of Sagittarius). The geomancer referring to any particular locality is thus enabled to say not only by which particular planets the spot is influenced, but also whether the terrestrial element prevailing there is in harmony with elements ruling the adjoining places to the right and left. Suppose, for instance, a certain spot is indicated by the compass as being under the influence of Mars. Well, the corresponding terrestrial element is fire. Now, if the compass there indicates wood to the left and water to the right, the omen is very bad, because water destroys fire and fire destroys wood. But suppose the compass indicated the element earth to the left of the element fire, and to its right the element wood, this would be a favourable conjunction, because wood produces fire and fire produces earth. The elements are however in places so arranged that they are seriatim indifferent to each other, neither producing nor destroying each other, which of course is likewise considered a favourable conjunction.
The next circle (XIV.) is formed by two concentric lines of characters divided into sixty portions. The inner line of characters gives thirteen different combinations of the ten heavenly stems, so arranged, that each character signifies at the same time a certain element and either an even (female) or uneven (male) number. Each of these thirteen combinations of elements (or planets) begins with the element (or planet) wood (i.e. Jupiter), and alternately, now with the number one (male) and then with the number two (female). The twelfth combination only, beginning with the element (planet) fire (i.e. Mars) and the number three (male), makes an exception. Out of the thirteen combinations eight contain the complete series of elements (or planets) in the order in which they produce each other
(wood, fire, earth, metal, water). The remaining five combinations contain four elements (or planets) each. Three of these combinations give the elements in couples, in accordance with the order of production. Two combinations only give the elements (or planets) in couples, the elements (or planets) of which produce each other in the one and destroy each other in the other couple. The corresponding outer line of characters, divided into twelve spaces, subjoins to every five characters of the inner line one of the twelve zodiacal signs five times repeated. Consequently each of the twelve divisions of this circle contains on the outer line one zodiacal sign placed in conjunction with five different elements (or planets) on the inner line, but in every zodiacal sign the arrangement and mutual relation of the elements (or planets) is different.
Proceeding farther towards the centre the next circle (XIII.) in sixty divisions gives forty-eight characters, referring each to a different symbol of those famous sixty-four diagrams of Wen-wang which I have mentioned above. But of these forty-eight different diagrams there are six, which go to form the set of eight diagrams, viz., earth, ocean, fire, thunder, wind, and mountains, and which are here given twice, in different locations; six others, not belonging to the set of eight diagrams, are each given twice side by side. For the explanation of these forty-eight diagrams the geomancer resorts to the table given in every calendar, where each of these diagrams is given and the lucky and unlucky days (for geomantic work) pointed out.
The next circle (XII.) is divided into twenty-four divisions, each of which is subdivided into five compartments. The second and fourth compartments in each of the twenty-four divisions have a double row of characters inscribed all round. The inner line of characters gives alternately through each division, now the two symbols for fire (ping-ting)--
which signify also the numbers three (male) and four (female),--and then the two symbols for metal (kang-sin)--
or the numbers seven (male) and eight (female)--repeated twice in each division; the series being ping-ting ping-ting, kang-sin kang-sin. In the corresponding outer line the twelve terrestrial branches or signs of the zodiac are given below the above-mentioned symbols in twelve divisions, each division having one zodiacal sign four times repeated in identical characters. The use of this circle therefore is to connect in rotation each of the twelve signs of the zodiac with either of the two elements fire or metal, or with the planets Mars or Venus, as also with certain male or female numbers.
The following circle (XI.) is identical with another counting VIII. from the centre, only the characters inscribed on them are so arranged that, for instance, the symbol designating due North is on the one circle to the left, on the other to the right of the line which runs due North between them. Now, on both these circles, divided in twenty-four divisions, are inscribed seriatim one or other of the twelve branches, alternating with one or other of the ten stems (but omitting the two stems which designate earth), whilst after every five of these characters one of the following four diagrams (taken from the set of eight diagrams) is inserted: the diagrams for heaven, earth, mountains, and wind. This circle therefore combines the twelve points of the Chinese compass, with simultaneous reference to the elements--wood, fire, metal, and water, to the planets--Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, and to the four geomantic principles--heaven, earth, mountains, and wind.
The next circle (X.) gives the minor divisions of the compass. It is divided into sixty spaces, on which however not only the bearings of the compass are inscribed, but also the bearings of the afore-mentioned ten heavenly stems and four geomantic principles. It reads, for instance, from East to South as follows: Due East. 7 (metal), 3 (fire). 3 (fire), 7 (metal). Due two (wood). 5 (earth), 5 (earth). Due E. S. E. 314 E. 7 (metal), 3 (fire). 3 (fire), 7 (metal). Due Wind.
5 (earth), 5 (earth). Due S. S. E. 3/4 E. 7 (metal), 3 (fire). 3 (fire), 7 (metal). Due Fire. 5 (earth), 5 (earth). Due South. The numbers 7, 3, 5 mean of course fractions of ten, or subdivisions of the compass. The words 7 (metal), 3 (fire), for instance, mean that seven-tenths of this subdivision of the compass are ruled by the element metal, and three-tenths of the same space by the element fire.
With this circle corresponds the next (IX.) which gives likewise in sixty divisions two concentric rows of characters. This circle with its characters is identically the same with the above-described XIV. circle and with another counting V from the centre. Only the inscriptions on the three circles are in different positions, so that, for instance, the first character of the XIV. circle (inner row) is nearly East, that of the V circle nearly E. S. E., whilst the first of the IX. circle is between them.
The next (VIII.) circle is identically the same in all but position of characters with the XL, and supplements that circle by making the line in which the influence of each symbol runs more prominent.
The following circle (VII.) is divided like the VIII. and XI. into twenty-four divisions, each division representing one of the twenty-four solar terms or twenty-four periods corresponding to the day on which the sun enters the first and fifteenth degree of one of the zodiacal signs. This circle is therefore a miniature calendar, and its use is to determine the season during which a house may be erected or a tomb built in any given place. These twenty-four seasons being however not only under the influence of the sun, but also under that of the five elements and the five planets, the next two circles exhibit the influence which these elements and planets exercise on each of the twenty-four seasons of the year.
The first of them (VI.) brings to bear upon each season one of the twelve zodiacal signs and two planets or elements, fire (Mars) and metal (Venus). The second (V),
however, brings not only two but all the five elements and planets, in addition to the twelve signs of the zodiac, to bear upon the twenty-four seasons. This circle is divided into twelve distinct portions, with a blank space between each, and each division contains on the outer row of characters one zodiacal sign five times repeated, whilst on the corresponding portion of the inner row five different celestial stems are inscribed. But these stems are arranged in twelve different combinations, giving alternately, now in even now in uneven numbers, the various elements or planets.
The succeeding circle (IV.) is divided into twenty-four equal parts, on which are inscribed--(1) the twelve zodiacal signs, the uneven numbers being marked red as peculiarly auspicious, viz. Aries, Gemini (who represent the white tiger), Leo (who represents the azure dragon), Libra, Sagittarius, and Aquarius; (2) eight of the ten celestial stems, viz. two characters for the element water, two for wood, two for fire, and two for metal; (3) four symbols belonging to the eight diagrams, viz. heaven (marked red), earth (marked red), wind, and water. This circle is essentially the same as VIII. and XI., and their identity is made still more prominent by the equality of breadth of space and size of characters. The only difference in these three circles is that the characters are placed in different position, indicating more prominently the exact line in which the influence of each symbol proceeds.
The next circle (III.) joins to the twelve zodiacal signs those nine stars of the northern bushel which we mentioned above. They are arranged here in twenty-four compartments, one, called the breaker of the phalanx, occurring three times; three others, called the military star, the literary star, and the star of purity, each four times; three others, called the avaricious wolf, official emoluments, and the wide door, occur each twice; and the remaining two, the left-hand assistant, and the right-hand assistant, each once.
The following circle (II.) gives, in twenty-four divisions, of
which however every alternate one is left blank, (1) the diagrams for heaven, earth, mountains, and wind, (2) eight heavenly stems in couples, of which each character refers to a different number, element or planet. The sequence is as follows: (1) wind, (2) number two wood and number three fire, (3) wind, (4) earth, (5) number four fire and number seven metal, (6) earth, (7) heaven, (8) number eight metal and number nine water, (9) heaven, (10) mountains, (11) number ten water and number one wood, (12) mountains. It will be noticed that the four couples of elements (planets) here mentioned are so arranged, that each couple contains an even (female) and uneven (male) number, and that the elements (planets) they refer to are in accordance with the order of production.
The first and inmost circle gives in eight compartments the names of eight zodiacal signs; Leo, Gemini, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Pisces, Cancer, Virgo, and Libra.
Now, of course, when the compass is consulted with reference to any given spot, it is not only one of these eighteen circles, but every one of them, that is made to contribute some quota towards the determination of the lucky or unlucky aspects of the place in question. The result, therefore, is that for every single spot quite a number of bewildering conjunctions can be enumerated, which produce with the uninitiated the belief, that this compass is a most mysterious compound of supernatural wisdom. And I think we must acknowledge that it is indeed a clever contrivance, making the most of a very rudimentary knowledge of astronomy, for it comprises in one perspicuous arrangement, all the different principles of Chinese physical science, the male and female principles, the eight diagrams, the sixty-four diagrams, the solar orbit, the lunar ecliptic, the three hundred and sixty degrees of longitude, the days of the year, the five planets, the five elements, the twenty-eight constellations, the twelve zodiacal signs, the nine stars of the bushel, the twenty-four seasons, and the twelve points of the compass.
The common people know all these terms by name, but not understanding their meaning, they regard the terms themselves with a certain reverential awe, supposing them to exercise some mysterious magic influence. Now, the geomancer, taking advantage of this popular prejudice, comes to them with this compass in his hands, of which the ordinary Chinaman understands next to nothing, and pronouncing his judgment with reference to any given spot in a mystifying learned jargon, his apocalyptic utterances are received with superstitious dread even where there is not much faith in the system. The geomancer himself knows very well that his predictions are all guesswork, based on what experience he manages to collect in the course of his practice. But he also knows that his prophesies are sometimes realised in consequence of the very fear they inspire, and though his predictions may more frequently be disproved by actual events, yet he comforts himself by thinking, that this compass after all makes money flow if not into the lap of his employers yet certainly into his own pocket.