In the Khien-lung Catalogue of the Imperial Library, ch. 146, Part iii, this Book occupies the first place among all Tâoist works, with three notices, which all precede the account of Ho-shang Kung's Commentary on the Tâo Teh King. From the work of Lâo-dze we are conducted along the course of Tâoist literature to the year 1626, when the catalogue of what is called 'the Tâoist Canon 1' appeared. Ch. 147 then returns to the Yin Fû King, and treats of nine other works upon it, the last being the Commentary of Lî Kwang-lî, one of the principal ministers and great scholars in the time of Khien-lung's grandfather, known as Khang-hsî from the name of his reign.
In the first of these many notices it is said that the preface of an old copy assigns the composition of the work to Hwang-Tî (in the 27th century B.C.), and says that commentaries on it had been made by Thâi-kung (12th century B.C.), Fan Lî (5th century B.C.), the Recluse of the Kwei Valley (4th century B.C.), Kang Liang (died B.C. 189), Kû Ko Liang (A.D. 181-234), and Lî Khwan of the Thang dynasty (about the middle of our 8th century) 2. Some writers, going back to the time of Hwang-Tî for the composition of our small classic, attribute it not to that sovereign himself, but to his teacher Kwang Khäng-dze 3;
and many of them hold that this Kwang Khäng-dze was an early incarnation of Lâo-dze himself, so that the Yin Fû might well be placed before the Tâo Teh King! Lî Hsî-yüeh is one of the scholars who adopt this view.
I will not say that under the Kâu dynasty there was no book called Yin Fû, with a commentary ascribed to Thâi-kung 1, for Sze-mâ Khien, in his biography of Sû Khin (Bk. lxix), relates how that adventurer obtained 'the Yin Fû book of Kâu,' and a passage in the 'Plans of the Warring States' tells us that the book contained 'the schemes of Thâi-kung 1.' However this may have been, no such work is now extant. Of all the old commentaries on it mentioned in the Khien-lung Catalogue, the only one remaining is the last,--that of Lî Khwan; and the account which we have of it is not to be readily accepted and relied on.
The story goes that in A.D. 441 Khâu Khien-kih, who had usurped the dignity and title of Patriarch from the Kang family, deposited a copy of the Yin Fû King in a mountain cave. There it remained for about three centuries and a half, till it was discovered by Lî Khwan, a Tâoist scholar, not a little damaged by its long exposure. He copied it out as well as he could, but could not understand it, till at last, wandering in the distant West, he met with an old woman, who made the meaning clear to him, at the foot of mount Lî; after which he published the Text with a Commentary, and finally died, a wanderer among the hills in quest of the Tâo; but the place of his death was never known 2.
The Classic, as it now exists, therefore cannot be traced higher than our eighth century; and many critics hold that, as the commentary was made by Lî Khwan, so the text was forged by him. All that Hsî-yüeh has to say in reply to this is that, if the classic be the work of Lî Khwan, then
he must think of him as another Kwang Khäng-dze; but this is no answer to the charge of forgery.
As to the name of the Treatise, the force of Fû has been set forth in vol. xxxix, p. 133, in connexion with the title of Kwang-dze's fifth Book. The meaning which I have given of the whole is substantially that of Li Hsî-yüeh, who says that the Yin must be understood as including Yang, and grounds his criticism on the famous dictum in the Great Appendix to the Yî King (vol. xvi, p. 355), 'The successive movement of the Yin and Yang (their rest and active operation) constitutes what is called the course (of things).' Mr. Balfour translates the title by 'The Clue to the Unseen,' which is ingenious, but may be misleading. The writer reasons rather from the Unseen to the Seen than from the Seen to the Unseen.
Mr. Wylie gives his view of the object of the Treatise in these words:--'This short Treatise, which is not entirely free from the obscurity of Tâoist mysticism, professes to reconcile the decrees of Heaven with the current of mundane affairs.' To what extent the Book does this, and whether successfully or not, the reader will be able to judge for himself from the translation which will be immediately subjoined. Li Hsî-yüeh, looking at it simply from its practical object, pronounces it 'hsiû lien kih Shû, a Book of culture and refining 1a.' This language suggests the idea of a Tâoist devotee, who has sublimated himself by the study of this Book till he is ready to pass into the state of an Immortal. I must be permitted to say, however, that the whole Treatise appears to me to have come down to us in a fragmentary condition, with passages that are incapable of any satisfactory explanation.
Ch. 1. 1. If one observes the Way of Heaven 1, and maintains Its doings (as his own) 2, all that he has to do is accomplished.
2. To Heaven there belong the five (mutual) foes 1, and he who sees them (and understands their operation) apprehends how they produce prosperity. The same five foes are in the mind of man, and when he can set them in action after the manner of Heaven, all space and time are at his disposal, and all things receive their transformations from his person 2.
3. The nature of Heaven belongs (also) to Man; the mind of Man is a spring (of power). When the Way of Heaven is established, the (Course of) Man is thereby determined. 1
4. When Heaven puts forth its power of putting to death, the stars and constellations lie hidden in darkness. When Earth puts forth its power of putting to death, dragons and serpents appear on the dry ground. When Man puts forth his power of putting to death, Heaven and Earth resume their (proper course). When Heaven and Man exert their powers in concert, all transformations have their commencements determined. 4_1
5. The nature (of man) is here clever and there stupid; and the one of these qualities may lie hidden in the other. The abuse of the nine apertures is (chiefly) in the three most important, which may be now in movement and now at rest. When fire arises in wood, the evil, having once begun, is sure to go on to the destruction of the wood. When
calamity arises in a state, if thereafter movement ensue, it is sure to go to ruin.
When one conducts the work of culture and refining wisely we call him a Sage. 5_1
2. 1. For Heaven now to give life and now to take it away is the method of the Tâo. Heaven and Earth are the despoilers of all things; all things are the despoilers of Man; and Man is the despoiler of all things. When the three despoilers act as they ought to do, as the three Powers, they are at rest. Hence it is said, 'During the time of nourishment, all the members are properly regulated; when the springs of motion come into play, all transformations quietly take place.' 1_1
2. Men know the mysteriousness of the Spirit's (action), but they do not know how what is not Spiritual comes to be so. The sun and moon have their definite times, and their exact measures as
large and small. The service of the sages hereupon arises, and the spiritual intelligence becomes apparent. 2_1
3. The spring by which the despoilers are moved is invisible and unknown to all under the sky. When the superior man has got it, he strengthens his body by it; when the small man has got it, he makes light of his life. 3_1
3. 1. The blind hear well, and the deaf see well. To derive all that is advantageous from one source is ten times better than the employment of a host; to do this thrice in a day and night is a myriad times better. 1_1
2. The mind is quickened (to activity) by (external) things, and dies through (excessive pursuit of) them. The spring (of the mind's activity) is in the eyes.
Heaven has no (special feeling of) kindness, but so it is that the greatest kindness comes from It.
The crash of thunder and the blustering wind both come without design. 2_1
3. Perfect enjoyment is the overflowing satisfaction of the nature. Perfect stillness is the entire disinterestedness of it. When Heaven seems to be most wrapt up in Itself, Its operation is universal in its character. 3_1
4. It is by its breath that we control whatever creature we grasp. Life is the root of death, and death is the root of life. Kindness springs from injury, and injury springs from kindness. He who sinks himself in water or enters amidst fire brings destruction on himself. 4_1
5. The stupid man by studying the phenomena and laws of heaven and earth becomes sage; I by studying their times and productions become intelligent. He in his stupidity is perplexed about sageness; I in my freedom from stupidity am the same. He considers his sageness as being an extraordinary attainment; I do not consider mine so. 5_1
6. The method of spontaneity proceeds in stillness, and so it was that heaven, earth, and all things were produced. The method of heaven and earth proceeds gently and gradually, and thus it is that the Yin and Yang overcome (each other by turns). The one takes the place of the other, and so change and transformation proceed accordingly. 6_1
7. Therefore the sages, knowing that the method of spontaneity cannot be resisted, take action accordingly and regulate it (for the purpose of culture). The way of perfect stillness cannot be subjected to numerical calculations; but it would seem that there
is a wonderful machinery, by which all the heavenly bodies are produced, the eight diagrams, and the sexagenary cycle; spirit-like springs of power, and hidden ghostlinesses; the arts of the Yin and Yang in the victories of the one over the other:--all these come brightly forward into visibility. 7_1
255:2 See also Ma Twan-lin's great work, ch. 211, p. 18a.
255:3 See Kwang-dze, Bk. XI, par. 4.
256:1 See the Khang-hsî Thesaurus under the combination Yin Fû.
256:2 See the account of Lî Khwan in Wang Khî's continuation of Mâ Twan-lin's work, ch. 242; and various items in the Khien-lung Catalogue.
257:1a Dr. Williams explains 'hsiû lien ( or )' as meaning 'becoming religious, as a recluse or ascetic.'
257:1 To explain 'the Way of Heaven,' Lî Hsî-yüeh adduces the last sentence of the T. T. K., ch. 9, 'When the work is done, and one's name has become distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the Way of Heaven.'
257:2 To explain 'the doings of Heaven,' he adduces the first paragraph of the symbolism of the first hexagram of the Yî, 'Heaven in its motion gives the idea of strength. In accordance with this, the superior man nerves himself to ceaseless activity.'
258:1 The startling name thieves (= foes, robbers) here is understood to mean the 'five elements,' which pervade and indeed make up the whole realm of nature, the heaven of the text including also earth, the other term in the binomial combination of 'heaven and earth.' According to the Tâoist teaching, the element of Earth generates Metal, and overcomes Water; Metal generates Water, and overcomes Wood; Water generates Wood, and overcomes Fire; Wood generates Fire, and overcomes Earth. These elements fight and strive together, now overcoming, now overcome, till by such interaction a harmony of their influences arises, and production goes on with vigour and beauty.
258:2 It is more difficult to give an account of the operation of the five elements in the mind of man, though I have seen them distributed among the five viscera, and the five virtues of Benevolence, Righteousness, Propriety, Knowledge, and Faith. Granting, however, their presence and operation in the mind, what shall be said on the two concluding members of the paragraph? There underlies them p. 259 the doctrine of the three coordinate Powers;--Heaven, Earth, and Man, which I have never been able to comprehend clearly.
259:1 These short and enigmatic sentences seem merely to affirm the general subject of the Treatise,--the harmony between the unseen and the seen.
259:4_1 'The power of putting to death here' seems merely to indicate the 'rest' which succeeds to movement. The paragraph is intended to show us the harmony of the Three Powers, but one only sees its meaning darkly. The language of the third sentence about the influence of Man on Heaven and Earth finds its explanation from the phraseology of the thwan of the twenty-fourth hexagram of the Yî (vol. xvi, pp. 107, 108).
260:5_1 The constitution of man is twofold;--his mental constitution, quiet and restful, and his physical constitution, restless and fond of movement. The nine apertures are the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and the lower parts, and of these the eyes, ears, and mouth are the most important; but they all need to be kept in subjection and under restraint. If indulged beyond reason, the ruin of themselves and of the mind and body to which they belong is sure to ensue.
260:1_1 Compare ch. I, par. 2. The mutual contention of the five elements in nature only conduces to the nourishment of all its parts; and so man, as one of the three Powers, consumes only to increase his store, and throws down only to build up.
Where the concluding quotation is taken from is not known. Of course any quotation is inconsistent with the idea of the early origin of the Treatise.
261:2_1 Compare par. 10 in the fifth Appendix to the Yî King.
261:3_1 The thing is good in itself, but its effect will be according to the character of its user, and of the use which is made of it.
261:1_1 That the loss of one sense may be in a manner compensated for by the greater cultivation of another,--in the case especially of the two senses specified,--is a fact; but I fail to perceive how this is illustrated by what follows in the rest of the paragraph. The illustration is taken from the seventh of the hexagrams in the Yî, but I have not discovered the nexus of it in the text of that classic or in the Appendixes on the thwan or hsiang of the hexagram.
It must be from this paragraph that the bearing of the Treatise on the conduct of military operations has been maintained.
262:2_1 Mr. Balfour translates the first member here by--'The mind is produced from matter and dies with matter; the working faculty is in the eye;' and says that it embodies a bold denial of any future life, or the existence of spirit, apart from matter. The meaning of the Text, however, is only what I have given;--is moral and not metaphysical. The eye is singled out from the three most important apertures of the body in ch. I, par. 5.
The rest of the paragraph has its parallelisms in Lâo-dze and Kwang-dze.
262:3_1 A sequel to the preceding paragraph. Lî Hsî-yüeh observes that the having no feeling of kindness is equivalent to Lâo-dze's 'doing nothing.' See the T. T. K., ch. 35, 'The Tâo does nothing, and so there is nothing which It does not do.'
262:4_1 The first member of this paragraph is very difficult to construe. Mr. Balfour gives for it:--'The Laws affecting the animal creation reside in the Breath or Vital Fluid.' The first character of it properly denotes 'birds.' It is often found with another denoting 'quadrupeds;' and again it is found alone denoting both birds and beasts. It is also interchanged with another of the same name, denoting to p. 263 seize or grasp,' in which meaning I have taken it; but the bearing of the saying on the general meaning of the Treatise I have not apprehended.
The next four sayings are illustrations of Lâo-dze's 'contraries' of Tâoism. The final saying is a truism;--is it introduced here as illustrating that whatever is done with design is contrary to the Tâo?
263:5_1 Some scholars have expunged this paragraph as not being genuine; it is certainly difficult to construe and to understand.
263:6_1 Kû Hsî praises this paragraph as very good, and the use of the character Zin ('proceeds gently and gradually') as exquisite. After all, what do we learn from it? That Creation proceeded without striving or crying? And that the same Creative Power continues to act in the same way?
264:7_1 I cannot say that I fully understand this concluding paragraph of the Yin Fû King. One thing is plain from it,--how the Yî King was pressed into the service of the Tâoism that prevailed when it was written. I leave it with the judgment on it, quoted by Lî Hsî-yüeh from a Lû Zhien-hsü. 'The subject-matter of the Yin Fû and Tâo Teh is all intended to set forth the action by contraries of the despoiling powers in nature and society. As to finding in them directions for the government of states, the conduct of war, and the mastery of the kingdom, with such expressions as those about a wonderful machinery by which the heavenly bodies are produced, the eight diagrams, the cycle, spirit-like springs, and hidden ghostlinesses:--they all have a deep meaning, but men do not know it. They who go to the Yin Fû for direction in war and use Lâo-dze for guidance in government go far astray from the meaning of both.'