1. T'ai-Shang, "the Exalted One," also called T'ai Shang Lao Chün, "the Exalted Ancient Master," is an honorary appellation of Li Er, who is popularly known as Lao Tze, "the Ancient Philosopher."
2. The title is commonly but not correctly translated "The Book of Rewards and Punishments."
For an explanation of the meaning of "Response and Retribution" see the Introduction.
3. The word "says" can scarcely be construed to imply a claim that the treatise has been written by T'ai Shang, i. e., Lao Tze; it simply means that the doctrines here enunciated are his.
4. The phrase, "have no gates," presents some difficulties. The obvious meaning is that curses and blessings are not limited to special avenues, on which they come down to mankind from heaven. There are no special doors in our houses through which they enter; they are independent of space and come in response to our actions. In other words, it is not blind fate that directs curses and blessings, but we ourselves are the forgers of our destiny. Curses and blessings come in exact proportion to man's merit or demerit. Following the sense rather than the words, Stanislas Julien translates: "Le malheur et le bonheur de
l'homme s'attire lui même l'un ou l'autre par sa conduite." He adds the following explanation: "L'expression wou-men (6-7) veut dire qu'il n'y a point de porte ni de chemin déterminés d'avance par le ciel, qui conduisent au bonheur ou au malheur."
5. The word "arrival" does not stand in the original and is supplied by the context.
6. The two Chinese words here translated "therefore" are used (like the Latin ergo) to introduce a logical conclusion. They imply that the preceding statement is a proof for the truth of the following assertion. Accordingly, we translate: "and so it is apparent that ......
7. In the relative clause (words 29-34 of the Chinese text) the preposition "proportionately to" belongs to the nouns "lightness" and "gravity," and the whole relative clause, "man's of that in which he transgresses," is, in the Chinese, inserted. In such constructions we have a palpable instance of the incommensurability of the English and the Chinese grammars.
8. The character i is commonly translated by the preposition "through," or "with," or "by." Here it is used as an adverb "thereby," or "thus," which can be omitted in English.
9. In Chinese all words are monosyllables, and as there are more characters than sounds, the language abounds in homophones, i. e., words which sound alike but are written differently and have different meanings. To avoid a misunderstanding, the Chinese like to add a synonym to a doubtful word, so as to make sure of the meaning. Thus they add to the word "calamity" the word "trouble," which both together
fuse into one idea, and there is no need of translating them by two terms. We have, as a rule, retained the Chinese mode of expressing one idea by two synonyms.
10. The Chinese character commonly translated by "all" has not the full weight of the English equivalent. It may simply be translated by the plural form of the following noun.
11. The three councilor spirits are represented in the starry heavens (according to Giles) by three stars (iota, kappa, lambda), according to Stanislas Julien by the six stars (iota, kappa; lambda, mu, nu, xi) in the Great Bear. See Giles, Chin. Dict., s. v. Tai = "councilor," Morrison, II, p. 1072, and the Chinese Encyclopaedia, San tsai tou hoei I, fol. 12. (Stanislas Julien, loc. cit. p. 13.)
12. That part of the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear), which is called "the Dipper" in the United States, is called "the Bushel" in China. On account of the conspicuous place which it holds in the sky, it is counted among the three measures of time, the other two being the sun and the moon; and it is commonly regarded as sacred.
13. According to Chinese views, the vital functions of man's body are presided over by the three body-spirits called san chi shên. They are the upper chi, Peng-Kiu; the middle chi, Peng-chi; and the lower chi, Peng-Kiao. According to Basile's Dictionnaire, they reside in the head, the stomach, and the abdomen. (See Julien, Le livre des récompenses, p. 15.) Other authorities make different statements. See, e. g., Du Bose's Dragon, Image and Demon, pp. 395-396.
When a man falls asleep on Kêng-shên day, the
three body-spirits leave their habitation to bring the Heavenly Master information concerning the sins which they have witnessed. Hence originated the practice of keeping vigils on Kêng-shên days so as not to be found sleeping at the time of judgment, or (as otherwise the custom is explained) to prevent the three body-spirits from leaving the body.
14. The Chinese calendar is a complicated affair. The names of days are made up by a combination of two words belonging to two different sets of names one of which is called the Ten Stems and the other the Twelve Branches. The Ten Stems are repeated six times and the Twelve Branches five times, which yields sixty combinations. The Kêng-shên day, the day of judgment in the heavenly courts, is the fifty-seventh day in this sexagesimal system. See for further information Dr. Paul Carus' "Chinese Script and Thought" in The Monist, April, 1905.
15. The "Heavenly Master" is a Taoist term denoting the governor and judge of the world. He is also called the "Pearly Emperor" and is identified with "Shang Ti," the Lord on High.
16. The hearth-spirit watches the events in the house, and his day of reckoning is the last day of every month, called hwi in Chinese, which we translate in our verbatim translation by "ultimo" in the sense in which the word is used in continental Europe.
17. The character "long life" practically means "immortality" in Chinese, and so we have here translated it by "life everlasting." Stanislas Julien translates "L'immortalité."
18. Stanislas Julien translates this passage: "Il faut
d'avance les éviter avec soin, si l'on veut obtenir l'immortalité"
19. The meaning of this sentence is that the right way is the one that leads onward. Stanislas Julien (loc. cit. p. 32) translates: "Avancez dans la bonne voie, et reculez devant la mauvaise voie." Legge (in the S. B. E., Vol. XL, p. 237) translates: "Is his way right, he should go forward in it; is it wrong, he should withdraw from it." Mr. Suzuki insists that this interpretation though it makes excellent sense, is positively untenable.
20. "To be false to oneself" means "to do wrong," or "to sin."
21. "In the dark room" simply means "in secret."
22. This sentence is a condensed statement of Confucian morality.
23. This sentence is a modified quotation from Lao Tze's Tao-Teh-King. Lao Tze says (chap. 13): "Favor and disgrace bode awe." The Chinese word ching, which, following the traditional interpretation, (see Carus, Lao Tze's Tao-Teh-King, p. 163) means "fearful surprise," or "awe," is the same that here simply means "surprise." We need not add that by the omission of the word "disgrace" the sense is somewhat altered. Yet, after all, the meaning of the word combination "favor and disgrace" does not so much mean "favor" and also "disgrace," but a condition of dependence, such as prevails in court life, where "favor and disgrace" are the significant features. It is an instance of an idea expressed in Chinese by the contrast of two opposites of which the idea consists.
24. For the word tao see Carus' Lao Tze's Tao-Teh-King,
pp. 9 ff. and xxii-xxvi. The word tao is in one respect unlike its equivalent in English which we translate by "reason." It is a religious term with which is associated all the awe for the sanctity of the moral world-order, such as is attached to its Greek equivalent, the word logos or "word," i. e., "logical thought."
25. Stanislas Julien translates: "La providence le protége."
26. "Tous les démons s'éloignent de lui."
27. The word "saint" consists of the symbols "man" and "mountain." The Man of the Mountain was a hermit or recluse, and so the word acquired the meaning "saint." The etymological significance, though still noticeable in its etymology, is, however, lost sight of, and the word now simply means, "saint" or "saintly." According to Eitel (Handbook of Buddhism, p. 130), there are five degrees of saintliness: heavenly, ærial, human, earthly, and ghostly. In the present passage only two degrees of saintliness are referred to.
28. All the following sentences are dependent upon this conjunction Kou, i. e., "if," in this way: "If some people do not behave righteously, (if) they are unreasonable, (if) they take pride in evil, (if) they inflict wounds," etc., etc., down to the last sentence of "a description of evil-doers." The main sentence begins with the part entitled "Punishment of Evil-Doers" with the words (1059 ff.): "for such crimes the controllers of destiny cut short people's lives." We break up this long-winded construction to render our English version more readable.
29. The word "reason" is not here the same as tao, mentioned above, but li, which means "logical correctness"
or "rationality," i. e., "reason," in a secular sense. The meaning of the sentence here is that unrighteousness is not only against the tao, i. e., against religion, but even against common sense.
30. Stanislas Julien translates: "Regarder la méchanceté comme une preuve de talent."
31. M. Julien translates this sentence: "Divulger les fautes de ses parens."
32. Stanislas Julien translates: "Ne pas savoir distinguer les personnes qu'il faut rechercher ou fuir."
33. The expression "heaven's people" is a Confucian term, which is used in China in the same way as in Christian countries the phrase "God's people" would mean all those who bear God's image and are dear to the Deity.
34. M. Julien translates: "Rejeter ses propres crimes sur les autres."
35. The words Fang-Shu, here rendered "divination" and "craft," denote first of all the practice of diviners; but it is here used in a general sense and applies to all skilled labor, especially the professions. M. Julien translates: "Arrèter l'exercice des arts et des métiers." He adds in a footnote: "According to the dictionary of the Fo Kien dialect, the Fang-Shu are (1) physicians, (2) men of letters, (3) painters, (4) diviners, (5) journalists, (6) merchants, (7) workmen, (8) fishers, and (9) woodcutters." (Ibid. p. 221.) For further information in regard to the Feng-Shui, see Dr. Carus' article "Chinese Occultism" in The Monist, Vol. XV, p. 500.
36. "Reason and virtue," i. e., tao and teh, are the two main subjects of Lao Tze's doctrine. We are at
liberty to translate "reason and virtue," or "the way of virtue."
37. The term "bone and flesh" in Chinese means "family relations."
38. The meaning may be either "to escape punishment" or "to shirk duties."
39. "To give away evil in marriage" is a Chinese phrase.
40. Literally, "they cut and clip," which is a term in tailoring. The meaning of the sentence is that they are wasteful with material, and it goes without saying that it refers to wastefulness of any kind.
41. It is customary in China to kill cattle on festivals only, and it is considered improper and even irreligious to slay cattle for food without due occasion.
42. Wilful waste of food is rightly considered sinful in China.
43. Among the Chinese superstitions which are common also in other countries, is the habit of burying figures or worms, which are intended to represent some person, for the purpose of inflicting injury upon them, being a kind of black magic. This is called in Chinese "to bury vermin."
44. Stanislas Julien translates: "Cacher l'effigie d'un homme pour lui donner le cauchemar."
45. Associations or fraternities have always played an important part in Chinese politics. The Boxer movement is a well-known instance in modern times.
46. M. Julien translates: "Tourner le dos à ses proches parens et rechercher ses parens éloignés."
47. To point at heaven and earth or the stars is deemed disrespectful in China, and the habit of making them witnesses of mean thoughts is considered a defiance of the divine powers.
48 "Illegitimate profit" refers to the business not licensed by the authorities, such as was the opium trade before the Opium War.
49 The following sentences refer alternately to husbands and wives, which for clearness' sake has to be repeated in English.
50. Literally, "the room," viz., the one in which the wife lives. Denoting the sphere of the wife's activity, the word has become a synonym for "wife."
51. Literally, "outside." An outside heart means a "treacherous heart."
52. According to the rules of Chinese grammar, the objective case of "self" precedes the verb.
53. It is considered disrespectful in China to step over the well, the hearth, food, or a person.
54. While the Chinese celebrate New Year's Eve as much as is done in Western countries, the custom to sing and to dance on such festivals is considered highly improper.
55. No act that may be regarded as disrespectful should be done while facing the North, and also in presence of the hearth which is the most sacred place of the house.
56. The proper way to light incense in olden times was to strike a spark from a flint. To burn incense in the fire of the hearth is both disrespectful for the hearth and improper so far as the incense is concerned.
57. The command "not to expose one's nakedness in the night," is based upon an ancient notion, (viz., that spirits, angels, or demons may have intercourse with human beings,) a remnant of which is still preserved in the Old Testament (Gen. vi. 2), where we read that the sons of Elohim took to wives the daughters of men. One of the Chinese stories appended to the T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien tells of a woman that conceived a changeling from a demon, and the Apostle Paul, for the same reason that underlies the notion of our present passage in the T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien, requests women to wear a head covering (1 Cor. xi. 10).
58. It is considered as irreligious to have executions take place on festivals, a custom which is paralleled in the Jewish law, according to which it is unlawful to have a man stoned or crucified on the feast day.
59. The word "rainbow" is here as in many other places represented by two words, the second of which means literally "colored cloud." See Note 9.
60. The three luminaries (or more correctly the three kinds of luminaries) are sun, moon, and stars.
61. Hunting by setting the underbrush on fire in spring when animals begin to hatch, is rightly denounced as cruel in China.
62. I understand the sentence, "those who slay, exchange weapons," to mean that "he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword" (Rev. xiv. 10); and further, adds the Chinese moralist in the following sentence, "such evil-doers will turn their swords against one another and mutually kill
themselves," which is a gradation, for it is stated that not only will they be killed, but they will slay one another.
63. Meat that has by carelessness been exposed to the water dripping from the eaves has frequently proved fatal to those who partook of it. Thus the term "dripping water meat" means "tainted meat."
64. These passages are quotations from the Dhammapada which has become a household book of religious devotion all over China.
65. The threefold way of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, is a proposition which, so far as we know, was first taught in the West by Zarathushtra, the great prophet of Iran.