Myths & Legends of China
Myths & Legends of China
H.B.M. Consul Foochow (Retired) Barrister-at-law Middle Temple Late Member of The Chinese Government Historiographical Bureau Peking Author of “Descriptive Sociology: Chinese” “China of the Chinese” Etc.
With Thirty-two Illustrations In Colours By Chinese Artists
George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd.
London Bombay Sydney
Gladys Nina Chalmers Werner Page 7
The chief literary sources of Chinese myths are the Li tai shên hsien t’ung chien, in thirty-two volumes, the Shên hsien lieh chuan, in eight volumes, the Fêng shên yen i, in eight volumes, and the Sou shên chi, in ten volumes. In writing the following pages I have translated or paraphrased largely from these works. I have also consulted and at times quoted from the excellent volumes on Chinese Superstitions by Père Henri Doré, comprised in the valuable series Variétés Sinologiques, published by the Catholic Mission Press at Shanghai. The native works contained in the Ssŭ K’u Ch’üan Shu, one of the few public libraries in Peking, have proved useful for purposes of reference. My heartiest thanks are due to my good friend Mr Mu Hsüeh-hsün, a scholar of wide learning and generous disposition, for having kindly allowed me to use his very large and useful library of Chinese books. The late Dr G.E. Morrison also, until he sold it to a Japanese baron, was good enough to let me consult his extensive collection of foreign works relating to China whenever I wished, but owing to the fact that so very little work has been done in Chinese mythology by Western writers I found it better in dealing with this subject to go direct to the original Chinese texts. I am indebted to Professor H.A. Giles, and to his publishers, Messrs Kelly and Walsh, Shanghai, for permission to reprint from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio the fox legends given in Chapter XV.
This is, so far as I know, the only monograph on Chinese mythology in any non-Chinese language. Nor do the native works include any scientific analysis or philosophical treatment of their myths. Page 8
My aim, after summarizing the sociology of the Chinese as a prerequisite to the understanding of their ideas and sentiments, and dealing as fully as possible, consistently with limitations of space (limitations which have necessitated the presentation of a very large and intricate topic in a highly compressed form), with the philosophy of the subject, has been to set forth in English dress those myths which may be regarded as the accredited representatives of Chinese mythology—those which live in the minds of the people and are referred to most frequently in their literature, not those which are merely diverting without being typical or instructive—in short, a true, not a distorted image.
Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner
February 1922 Page 9
I. The Sociology of the Chinese 13
II. On Chinese Mythology 60
III. Cosmogony—P’an Ku and the Creation Myth 76
IV. The Gods of China 93
V. Myths of the Stars 176
VI. Myths of Thunder, Lightning, Wind, and Rain 198
VII. Myths of the Waters 208
VIII. Myths of Fire 236
IX. Myths of Epidemics, Medicine, Exorcism, Etc. 240
X. The Goddess of Mercy 251
XI. The Eight Immortals 288
XII. The Guardian of the Gate of Heaven 305
XIII. A Battle of the Gods 320
XIV. How the Monkey Became a God 325
XV. Fox Legends 370
XVI. Miscellaneous Legends 386
Glossary and Index 425
Confucius: Teacher and Philosopher Frontispiece
The Spirit that Clears the Way 44
Lao Tzŭ 72
Nü Kua Shih 82
Wên Ch’ang, K’uei Hsing, and Chu I 110
The Buddhist Triad 120
The Taoist Triad 124
Hsi Wang Mu 136
Chang Tao-ling 138
Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star 144
Chiang Tzŭ-ya At K’un-lun 156
Chiang Tzŭ-ya Defeats Wên Chung 160
The Kitchen-god 166
The Gods of Happiness, Office, and Longevity 170
The Money-tree 172
The Door-gods, Civil and Military 174
Hêng Ò Flies to the Moon 184
Wên Chung, Minister of Thunder 198
Spirit of the Well 216
The Magic Umbrellas 242
P’an Kuan 248
Miao Shan Reaches the Nunnery 262
The Tiger Carries Off Miao Shan 266
The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea 302
The Birth of the Monkey 326
The Demons of Blackwater River Carry Away the Master 352
Buddhists as Slaves in Slow-carts Country 354
Sun Steals Clothing for His Master 364
The Return to China 368
Chia Tzŭ-lung Finds the Stone 382
Mais cet Orient, cette Asie, quelles en sont, enfin, les frontières réelles?... Ces frontières sont d’une netteté qui ne permet aucune erreur. L’Asie est là où cesse la vulgarité, où naît la dignité, et où commence l’élégance intellectuelle. Et l’Orient est là où sont les sources débordantes de poésie.
La Reine de Saba
The Sociology of the Chinese
In spite of much research and conjecture, the origin of the Chinese people remains undetermined. We do not know who they were nor whence they came. Such evidence as there is points to their immigration from elsewhere; the Chinese themselves have a tradition of a Western origin. The first picture we have of their actual history shows us, not a people behaving as if long settled in a land which was their home and that of their forefathers, but an alien race fighting with wild beasts, clearing dense forests, and driving back the aboriginal inhabitants.
Setting aside several theories (including the one that the Chinese are autochthonous and their civilization indigenous) now regarded by the best authorities as untenable, the researches of sinologists seem to indicate an origin (1) in early Akkadia; or (2) in Khotan, the Tarim valley (generally what is now known as Eastern Turkestan), or the K’un-lun Mountains (concerning which more presently). The second hypothesis may relate only to a sojourn of longer or shorter duration on the way from Akkadia to the ultimate settlement in China, especially since the Khotan civilization has been shown to have been imported from the Punjab in the third century B.C. The fact that serious mistakes have been made regarding the identifications of early Chinese rulers with Babylonian kings, and of the Chinese po-hsing (Cantonese bak-sing) ‘people’ with the Bak Sing or Bak tribes, does not exclude the possibility of an Akkadian origin. But in either case the immigration into China was probably Page 14gradual, and may have taken the route from Western or Central Asia direct to the banks of the Yellow River, or may possibly have followed that to the south-east through Burma and then to the north-east through what is now China—the settlement of the latter country having thus spread from south-west to north-east, or in a north-easterly direction along the Yangtzŭ River, and so north, instead of, as is generally supposed, from north to south.
Southern Origin Improbable
But this latter route would present many difficulties; it would seem to have been put forward merely as ancillary to the theory that the Chinese originated in the Indo-Chinese peninsula. This theory is based upon the assumptions that the ancient Chinese ideograms include representations of tropical animals and plants; that the oldest and purest forms of the language are found in the south; and that the Chinese and the Indo-Chinese groups of languages are both tonal. But all of these facts or alleged facts are as easily or better accounted for by the supposition that the Chinese arrived from the north or north-west in successive waves of migration, the later arrivals pushing the earlier farther and farther toward the south, so that the oldest and purest forms of Chinese would be found just where they are, the tonal languages of the Indo-Chinese peninsula being in that case regarded as the languages of the vanguard of the migration. Also, the ideograms referred to represent animals and plants of the temperate zone rather than of the tropics, but even if it could be shown, which it cannot, that these animals and plants now belong exclusively to the tropics, that would be no proof of the tropical origin of the Chinese, for in the earliest times the climate of North China was Page 15much milder than it is now, and animals such as tigers and elephants existed in the dense jungles which are later found only in more southern latitudes.
Expansion of Races from North to South
The theory of a southern origin (to which a further serious objection will be stated presently) implies a gradual infiltration of Chinese immigrants through South or Mid-China (as above indicated) toward the north, but there is little doubt that the movement of the races has been from north to south and not vice versa. In what are now the provinces of Western Kansu and Ssŭch’uan there lived a people related to the Chinese (as proved by the study of Indo-Chinese comparative philology) who moved into the present territory of Tibet and are known as Tibetans; in what is now the province of Yünnan were the Shan or Ai-lao (modern Laos), who, forced by Mongol invasions, emigrated to the peninsula in the south and became the Siamese; and in Indo-China, not related to the Chinese, were the Annamese, Khmer, Mon, Khasi, Colarains (whose remnants are dispersed over the hill tracts of Central India), and other tribes, extending in prehistoric times into Southern China, but subsequently driven back by the expansion of the Chinese in that direction.
Arrival of the Chinese in China
Taking into consideration all the existing evidence, the objections to all other theories of the origin of the Chinese seem to be greater than any yet raised to the theory that immigrants from the Tarim valley or beyond (i.e. from Elam or Akkadia, either direct or via Eastern Turkestan) struck the banks of the Yellow River in their eastward journey and followed its course until they Page 16reached the localities where we first find them settled, namely, in the region covered by parts of the three modern provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Honan where their frontiers join. They were then (about 2500 or 3000 B.C.) in a relatively advanced state of civilization. The country east and south of this district was inhabited by aboriginal tribes, with whom the Chinese fought, as they did with the wild animals and the dense vegetation, but with whom they also commingled and intermarried, and among whom they planted colonies as centres from which to spread their civilization.
The K’un-lun Mountains
With reference to the K’un-lun Mountains, designated in Chinese mythology as the abode of the gods—the ancestors of the Chinese race—it should be noted that these are identified not with the range dividing Tibet from Chinese Turkestan, but with the Hindu Kush. That brings us somewhat nearer to Babylon, and the apparent convergence of the two theories, the Central Asian and the Western Asian, would seem to point to a possible solution of the problem. Nü Kua, one of the alleged creators of human beings, and Nü and Kua, the first two human beings (according to a variation of the legend), are placed in the K’un-lun Mountains. That looks hopeful. Unfortunately, the K’un-lun legend is proved to be of Taoist origin. K’un-lun is the central mountain of the world, and 3000 miles in height. There is the fountain of immortality, and thence flow the four great rivers of the world. In other words, it is the Sumêru of Hindu mythology transplanted into Chinese legend, and for our present purpose without historical value. Page 17
It would take up too much space to go into details of this interesting problem of the origin of the Chinese and their civilization, the cultural connexions or similarities of China and Western Asia in pre-Babylonian times, the origin of the two distinct culture-areas so marked throughout the greater part of Chinese history, etc., and it will be sufficient for our present purpose to state the conclusion to which the evidence points.
Pending the discovery of decisive evidence, the following provisional conclusion has much to recommend it—namely, that the ancestors of the Chinese people came from the west, from Akkadia or Elam, or from Khotan, or (more probably) from Akkadia or Elam via Khotan, as one nomad or pastoral tribe or group of nomad or pastoral tribes, or as successive waves of immigrants, reached what is now China Proper at its north-west corner, settled round the elbow of the Yellow River, spread north-eastward, eastward, and southward, conquering, absorbing, or pushing before them the aborigines into what is now South and South-west China. These aboriginal races, who represent a wave or waves of neolithic immigrants from Western Asia earlier than the relatively high-headed immigrants into North China (who arrived about the twenty-fifth or twenty-fourth century B.C.), and who have left so deep an impress on the Japanese, mixed and intermarried with the Chinese in the south, eventually producing the pronounced differences, in physical, mental, and emotional traits, in sentiments, ideas, languages, processes, and products, from the Northern Chinese which are so conspicuous at the present day. Page 18
At the beginning of their known history the country occupied by the Chinese was the comparatively small region above mentioned. It was then a tract of an irregular oblong shape, lying between latitude 34° and 40° N. and longitude 107° and 114° E. This territory round the elbow of the Yellow River had an area of about 50,000 square miles, and was gradually extended to the sea-coast on the north-east as far as longitude 119°, when its area was about doubled. It had a population of perhaps a million, increasing with the expansion to two millions. This may be called infant China. Its period (the Feudal Period) was in the two thousand years between the twenty-fourth and third centuries B.C. During the first centuries of the Monarchical Period, which lasted from 221 B.C. to A.D. 1912, it had expanded to the south to such an extent that it included all of the Eighteen Provinces constituting what is known as China Proper of modern times, with the exception of a portion of the west of Kansu and the greater portions of Ssŭch’uan and Yünnan. At the time of the Manchu conquest at the beginning of the seventeenth century A.D. it embraced all the territory lying between latitude 18° and 40° N. and longitude 98° and 122° E. (the Eighteen Provinces or China Proper), with the addition of the vast outlying territories of Manchuria, Mongolia, Ili, Koko-nor, Tibet, and Corea, with suzerainty over Burma and Annam—an area of more than 5,000,000 square miles, including the 2,000,000 square miles covered by the Eighteen Provinces. Generally, this territory is mountainous in the west, sloping gradually down toward the sea on the east. It contains three chief ranges of mountains and large alluvial plains in the north, east, and south. Three great Page 19and about thirty large rivers intersect the country, their numerous tributaries reaching every part of it.
As regards geological features, the great alluvial plains rest upon granite, new red sandstone, or limestone. In the north is found the peculiar loess formation, having its origin probably in the accumulated dust of ages blown from the Mongolian plateau. The passage from north to south is generally from the older to the newer rocks; from east to west a similar series is found, with some volcanic features in the west and south. Coal and iron are the chief minerals, gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, jade, etc., being also mined.
The climate of this vast area is not uniform. In the north the winter is long and rigorous, the summer hot and dry, with a short rainy season in July and August; in the south the summer is long, hot, and moist, the winter short. The mean temperature is 50.3° F. and 70° F. in the north and south respectively. Generally, the thermometer is low for the latitude, though perhaps it is more correct to say that the Gulf Stream raises the temperature of the west coast of Europe above the average. The mean rainfall in the north is 16, in the south 70 inches, with variations in other parts. Typhoons blow in the south between July and October.
The vegetal productions are abundant and most varied. The rice-zone (significant in relation to the cultural distinctions above noted) embraces the southern half of the country. Tea, first cultivated for its infusion in A.D. 350, is grown in the southern and central provinces between the twenty-third and thirty-fifth degrees of latitude, though it is also found as far north as Shantung, the chief ‘tea Page 20district,’ however, being the large area south of the Yangtzŭ River, east of the Tungting Lake and great Siang River, and north of the Kuangtung Province. The other chief vegetal products are wheat, barley, maize, millet, the bean, yam, sweet and common potato, tomato, eggplant, ginseng, cabbage, bamboo, indigo, pepper, tobacco, camphor, tallow, ground-nut, poppy, water-melon, sugar, cotton, hemp, and silk. Among the fruits grown are the date, mulberry, orange, lemon, pumelo, persimmon, lichi, pomegranate, pineapple, fig, coconut, mango, and banana, besides the usual kinds common in Western countries.
The wild animals include the tiger, panther, leopard, bear, sable, otter, monkey, wolf, fox, twenty-seven or more species of ruminants, and numerous species of rodents. The rhinoceros, elephant, and tapir still exist in Yünnan. The domestic animals include the camel and the water-buffalo. There are about 700 species of birds, and innumerable species of fishes and insects.
On their arrival in what is now known as China the Chinese, as already noted, fought with the aboriginal tribes. The latter were exterminated, absorbed, or driven south with the spread of Chinese rule. The Chinese “picked out the eyes of the land,” and consequently the non-Chinese tribes now live in the unhealthy forests or marshes of the south, or in mountain regions difficult of access, some even in trees (a voluntary, not compulsory promotion), though several, such as the Dog Jung in Fukien, retain settlements like islands among the ruling race.
In the third century B.C. began the hostile relations of Page 21the Chinese with the northern nomads, which continued throughout the greater part of their history. During the first six centuries A.D. there was intercourse with Rome, Parthia, Turkey, Mesopotamia, Ceylon, India, and Indo-China, and in the seventh century with the Arabs. Europe was brought within the sociological environment by Christian travellers. From the tenth to the thirteenth century the north was occupied by Kitans and Nüchêns, and the whole Empire was under Mongol sway for eighty-eight years in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Relations of a commercial and religious nature were held with neighbours during the following four hundred years. Regular diplomatic intercourse with Western nations was established as a result of a series of wars in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Until recently the nation held aloof from alliances and was generally averse to foreign intercourse. From 1537 onward, as a sequel of war or treaty, concessions, settlements, etc., were obtained by foreign Powers. China has now lost some of her border countries and large adjacent islands, the military and commercial pressure of Western nations and Japan having taken the place of the military pressure of the Tartars already referred to. The great problem for her, an agricultural nation, is how to find means and the military spirit to maintain her integrity, the further violation of which could not but be regarded by the student of sociological history as a great tragedy and a world-wide calamity.
Physical, Emotional, and Intellectual Characters
The physical characters of the Chinese are too well known to need detailed recital. The original immigrants into North China all belonged to blond races, but the Page 22modern Chinese have little left of the immigrant stock. The oblique, almond-shaped eyes, with black iris and the orbits far apart, have a vertical fold of skin over the inner canthus, concealing a part of the iris, a peculiarity distinguishing the eastern races of Asia from all other families of man. The stature and weight of brain are generally below the average. The hair is black, coarse, and cylindrical; the beard scanty or absent. The colour of the skin is darker in the south than in the north.
Emotionally the Chinese are sober, industrious, of remarkable endurance, grateful, courteous, and ceremonious, with a high sense of mercantile honour, but timorous, cruel, unsympathetic, mendacious, and libidinous.
Intellectually they were until recently, and to a large extent still are, non-progressive, in bondage to uniformity and mechanism in culture, imitative, unimaginative, torpid, indirect, suspicious, and superstitious.
The character is being modified by intercourse with other peoples of the earth and by the strong force of physical, intellectual, and moral education.
Marriage in Early Times
Certain parts of the marriage ceremonial of China as now existing indicate that the original form of marriage was by capture—of which, indeed, there is evidence in the classical Book of Odes. But a regular form of marriage (in reality a contract of sale) is shown to have existed in the earliest historical times. The form was not monogamous, though it seems soon to have assumed that of a qualified monogamy consisting of one wife and one or more concubines, the number of the latter being as a rule limited only by the means of the husband. The higher the rank the larger was the number of concubines Page 23and handmaids in addition to the wife proper, the palaces of the kings and princes containing several hundreds of them. This form it has retained to the present day, though associations now exist for the abolition of concubinage. In early times, as well as throughout the whole of Chinese history, concubinage was in fact universal, and there is some evidence also of polyandry (which, however, cannot have prevailed to any great extent). The age for marriage was twenty for the man and fifteen for the girl, celibacy after thirty and twenty respectively being officially discouraged. In the province of Shantung it was usual for the wives to be older than their husbands. The parents’ consent to the betrothal was sought through the intervention of a matchmaker, the proposal originating with the parents, and the wishes of the future bride and bridegroom not being taken into consideration. The conclusion of the marriage was the progress of the bride from the house of her parents to that of the bridegroom, where after various ceremonies she and he worshipped his ancestors together, the worship amounting to little more than an announcement of the union to the ancestral spirits. After a short sojourn with her husband the bride revisited her parents, and the marriage was not considered as finally consummated until after this visit had taken place.
The status of women was low, and the power of the husband great—so great that he could kill his wife with impunity. Divorce was common, and all in favour of the husband, who, while he could not be divorced by her, could put his wife away for disobedience or even for loquaciousness. A widower remarried immediately, but refusal to remarry by a widow was esteemed an act of chastity. She often mutilated herself or even committed Page 24suicide to prevent remarriage, and was posthumously honoured for doing so. Being her husband’s as much in the Otherworld as in this, remarriage would partake of the character of unchastity and insubordination; the argument, of course, not applying to the case of the husband, who by remarriage simply adds another member to his clan without infringing on anyone’s rights.
Marriage in Monarchical and Republican Periods
The marital system of the early classical times, of which the above were the essentials, changed but little during the long period of monarchical rule lasting from 221 B.C. to A.D. 1912. The principal object, as before, was to secure an heir to sacrifice to the spirits of deceased progenitors. Marriage was not compulsory, but old bachelors and old maids were very scarce. The concubines were subject to the wife, who was considered to be the mother of their children as well as her own. Her status, however, was not greatly superior. Implicit obedience was exacted from her. She could not possess property, but could not be hired out for prostitution. The latter vice was common, in spite of the early age at which marriage took place and in spite of the system of concubinage—which is after all but a legalized transfer of prostitutional cohabitation to the domestic circle.
Since the establishment of the Republic in 1912 the ‘landslide’ in the direction of Western progress has had its effect also on the domestic institutions. But while the essentials of the marriage contract remain practically the same as before, the most conspicuous changes have been in the accompanying ceremonial—now sometimes quite foreign, but in a very large, perhaps the greatest, number of cases that odious thing, half foreign, half Page 25Chinese; as, for instance, when the procession, otherwise native, includes foreign glass-panelled carriages, or the bridegroom wears a ‘bowler’ or top-hat with his Chinese dress—and in the greater freedom allowed to women, who are seen out of doors much more than formerly, sit at table with their husbands, attend public functions and dinners, dress largely in foreign fashion, and play tennis and other games, instead of being prisoners of the ‘inner apartment’ and household drudges little better than slaves.
One unexpected result of this increased freedom is certainly remarkable, and is one not likely to have been predicted by the most far-sighted sociologist. Many of the ‘progressive’ Chinese, now that it is the fashion for Chinese wives to be seen in public with their husbands, finding the uneducated, gauche, small-footed household drudge unable to compete with the smarter foreign-educated wives of their neighbours, have actually repudiated them and taken unto themselves spouses whom they can exhibit in public without ‘loss of face’! It is, however, only fair to add that the total number of these cases, though by no means inconsiderable, appears to be proportionately small.
Parents and Children
As was the power of the husband over the wife, so was that of the father over his children. Infanticide (due chiefly to poverty, and varying with it) was frequent, especially in the case of female children, who were but slightly esteemed; the practice prevailing extensively in three or four provinces, less extensively in others, and being practically absent in a large number. Beyond the fact that some penalties were enacted against it by the Emperor Ch’ien Lung (A.D. 1736–96), and that by statute Page 26it was a capital offence to murder children in order to use parts of their bodies for medicine, it was not legally prohibited. When the abuse became too scandalous in any district proclamations condemning it would be issued by the local officials. A man might, by purchase and contract, adopt a person as son, daughter, or grandchild, such person acquiring thereby all the rights of a son or daughter. Descent, both of real and personal property, was to all the sons of wives and concubines as joint heirs, irrespective of seniority. Bastards received half shares. Estates were not divisible by the children during the lifetime of their parents or grandparents.
The head of the family being but the life-renter of the family property, bound by fixed rules, wills were superfluous, and were used only where the customary respect for the parents gave them a voice in arranging the details of the succession. For this purpose verbal or written instructions were commonly given.
In the absence of the father, the male relatives of the same surname assumed the guardianship of the young. The guardian exercised full authority and enjoyed the surplus revenues of his ward’s estate, but might not alienate the property.
There are many instances in Chinese history of extreme devotion of children to parents taking the form of self-wounding and even of suicide in the hope of curing parents’ illnesses or saving their lives.
The country inhabited by the Chinese on their arrival from the West was, as we saw, the district where the modern provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Honan join. This they extended in an easterly direction to the shores Page 27of the Gulf of Chihli—a stretch of territory about 600 miles long by 300 broad. The population, as already stated, was between one and two millions. During the first two thousand years of their known history the boundaries of this region were not greatly enlarged, but beyond the more or less undefined borderland to the south were chou or colonies, nuclei of Chinese population, which continually increased in size through conquest of the neighbouring territory. In 221 B.C. all the feudal states into which this territory had been parcelled out, and which fought with one another, were subjugated and absorbed by the state of Ch’in, which in that year instituted the monarchical form of government—the form which obtained in China for the next twenty-one centuries.
Though the origin of the name ‘China’ has not yet been finally decided, the best authorities regard it as derived from the name of this feudal state of Ch’in.
Under this short-lived dynasty of Ch’in and the famous Han dynasty (221 B.C. to A.D. 221) which followed it, the Empire expanded until it embraced almost all the territory now known as China Proper (the Eighteen Provinces of Manchu times). To these were added in order between 194 B.C. and A.D. 1414: Corea, Sinkiang (the New Territory or Eastern Turkestan), Manchuria, Formosa, Tibet, and Mongolia—Formosa and Corea being annexed by Japan in 1895 and 1910 respectively. Numerous other extra-China countries and islands, acquired and lost during the long course of Chinese history (at one time, from 73 to 48 B.C., “all Asia from Japan to the Caspian Sea was tributary to the Middle Kingdom,” i.e. China), it is not necessary to mention here. During the Southern Sung dynasty (1127–1280) the Tartars owned the northern half of China, as far Page 28down as the Yangtzŭ River, and in the Yüan dynasty (1280–1368) they conquered the whole country. During the period 1644–1912 it was in the possession of the Manchus. At present the five chief component peoples of China are represented in the striped national flag (from the top downward) by red (Manchus), yellow (Chinese), blue (Mongolians), white (Mohammedans), and black (Tibetans). This flag was adopted on the establishment of the Republic in 1912, and supplanted the triangular Dragon flag previously in use. By this time the population—which had varied considerably at different periods owing to war, famine, and pestilence—had increased to about 400,000,000.
The general division of the nation was into the King and the People, The former was regarded as appointed by the will of Heaven and as the parent of the latter. Besides being king, he was also law-giver, commander-in-chief of the armies, high priest, and master of ceremonies. The people were divided into four classes: (1) Shih, Officers (later Scholars), consisting of Ch’ên, Officials (a few of whom were ennobled), and Shên Shih, Gentry; (2) Nung, Agriculturists; (3) Kung, Artisans; and (4) Shang, Merchants.
For administrative purposes there were at the seat of central government (which, first at P’ing-yang—in modern Shansi—was moved eleven times during the Feudal Period, and was finally at Yin) ministers, or ministers and a hierarchy of officials, the country being divided into provinces, varying in number from nine in the earliest times to thirty-six under the First Emperor, 221 B.C., and finally twenty-two at the present day. At first these Page 29provinces contained states, which were models of the central state, the ruler’s ‘Middle Kingdom.’ The provincial administration was in the hands of twelve Pastors or Lord-Lieutenants. They were the chiefs of all the nobles in a province. Civil and military offices were not differentiated. The feudal lords or princes of states often resided at the king’s court, officers of that court being also sent forth as princes of states. The king was the source of legislation and administered justice. The princes in their several states had the power of rewards and punishments. Revenue was derived from a tithe on the land, from the income of artisans, merchants, fishermen, foresters, and from the tribute brought by savage tribes.
The general structure and principles of this system of administration remained the same, with few variations, down to the end of the Monarchical Period in 1912. At the end of that period we find the emperor still considered as of divine descent, still the head of the civil, legislative, military, ecclesiastical, and ceremonial administration, with the nation still divided into the same four classes. The chief ministries at the capital, Peking, could in most cases trace their descent from their prototypes of feudal times, and the principal provincial administrative officials—the Governor-General or Viceroy, governor, provincial treasurer, judge, etc.—had similarly a pedigree running back to offices then existing—a continuous duration of adherence to type which is probably unique.
Appointment to office was at first by selection, followed by an examination to test proficiency; later was introduced the system of public competitive literary examinations for office, fully organized in the seventeenth century, and abolished in 1903, when official positions were thrown open to the graduates of colleges established on a modern basis. Page 30
In 1912, on the overthrow of the Manchu monarchy, China became a republic, with an elected President, and a Parliament consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives. The various government departments were reorganized on Western lines, and a large number of new offices instituted. Up to the present year the Law of the Constitution, owing to political dissension between the North and the South, has not been put into force.
Chinese law, like primitive law generally, was not instituted in order to ensure justice between man and man; its object was to enforce subordination of the ruled to the ruler. The laws were punitive and vindictive rather than reformatory or remedial, criminal rather than civil. Punishments were cruel: branding, cutting off the nose, the legs at the knees, castration, and death, the latter not necessarily, or indeed ordinarily, for taking life. They included in some cases punishment of the family, the clan, and the neighbours of the offender. The lex talionis was in full force.
Nevertheless, in spite of the harsh nature of the punishments, possibly adapted, more or less, to a harsh state of society, though the “proper end of punishments”—to “make an end of punishing”—was missed, the Chinese evolved a series of excellent legal codes. This series began with the revision of King Mu’s Punishments in 950 B.C., the first regular code being issued in 650 B.C., and ended with the well-known Ta Ch’ing lü li (Laws and Statutes of the Great Ch’ing Dynasty), issued in A.D. 1647. Of these codes the great exemplar was the Law Classic drawn up by Li K’uei (Li K’uei fa ching), a statesman in the service of the first ruler of the Wei Page 31State, in the fourth century B.C. The Ta Ch’ing lü li has been highly praised by competent judges. Originally it sanctioned only two kinds of punishment, death and flogging, but others were in use, and the barbarous ling ch’ih, ‘lingering death’ or ‘slicing to pieces,’ invented about A.D. 1000 and abolished in 1905, was inflicted for high treason, parricide, on women who killed their husbands, and murderers of three persons of one family. In fact, until some first-hand knowledge of Western systems and procedure was obtained, the vindictive as opposed to the reformatory idea of punishments continued to obtain in China down to quite recent years, and has not yet entirely disappeared. Though the crueller forms of punishment had been legally abolished, they continued to be used in many parts. Having been joint judge at Chinese trials at which, in spite of my protests, prisoners were hung up by their thumbs and made to kneel on chains in order to extort confession (without which no accused person could be punished), I can testify that the true meaning of the “proper end of punishments” had no more entered into the Chinese mind at the close of the monarchical régime than it had 4000 years before.
As a result of the reform movement into which China was forced as an alternative to foreign domination toward the end of the Manchu Period, but chiefly owing to the bait held out by Western Powers, that extraterritoriality would be abolished when China had reformed her judicial system, a new Provisional Criminal Code was published. It substituted death by hanging or strangulation for decapitation, and imprisonment for various lengths of time for bambooing. It was adopted in large measure by the Republican régime, and is the chief legal Page 32instrument in use at the present time. But close examination reveals the fact that it is almost an exact copy of the Japanese penal code, which in turn was modelled upon that of Germany. It is, in fact, a Western code imitated, and as it stands is quite out of harmony with present conditions in China. It will have to be modified and recast to be a suitable, just, and practicable national legal instrument for the Chinese people. Moreover, it is frequently overridden in a high-handed manner by the police, who often keep a person acquitted by the Courts of Justice in custody until they have ‘squeezed’ him of all they can hope to get out of him. And it is noteworthy that, though provision was made in the Draft Code for trial by jury, this provision never went into effect; and the slavish imitation of alien methods is shown by the curiously inconsistent reason given—that “the fact that jury trials have been abolished in Japan is indicative of the inadvisability of transplanting this Western institution into China!”
The central administration being a far-flung network of officialdom, there was hardly any room for local government apart from it. We find it only in the village elder and those associated with him, who took up what government was necessary where the jurisdiction of the unit of the central administration—the district magistracy—ceased, or at least did not concern itself in meddling much.
The peace-loving agricultural settlers in early China had at first no army. When occasion arose, all the Page 33farmers exchanged their ploughshares for swords and bows and arrows, and went forth to fight. In the intervals between the harvests, when the fields were clear, they held manoeuvres and practised the arts of warfare. The king, who had his Six Armies, under the Six High Nobles, forming the royal military force, led the troops in person, accompanied by the spirit-tablets of his ancestors and of the gods of the land and grain. Chariots, drawn by four horses and containing soldiers armed with spears and javelins and archers, were much in use. A thousand chariots was the regular force. Warriors wore buskins on their legs, and were sometimes gagged in order to prevent the alarm being given to the enemy. In action the chariots occupied the centre, the bowmen the left, the spearmen the right flank. Elephants were sometimes used in attack. Spy-kites, signal-flags, hook-ladders, horns, cymbals, drums, and beacon-fires were in use. The ears of the vanquished were taken to the king, quarter being rarely if ever given.
After the establishment of absolute monarchical government standing armies became the rule. Military science was taught, and soldiers sometimes trained for seven years. Chariots with upper storeys or spy-towers were used for fighting in narrow defiles, and hollow squares were formed of mixed chariots, infantry, and dragoons. The weakness of disunion of forces was well understood. In the sixth century A.D. the massed troops numbered about a million and a quarter. In A.D. 627 there was an efficient standing army of 900,000 men, the term of service being from the ages of twenty to sixty. During the Mongol dynasty (1280–1368) there was a navy of 5000 ships manned by 70,000 trained fighters. The Mongols completely revolutionized tactics and improved Page 34on all the military knowledge of the time. In 1614 the Manchu ‘Eight Banners,’ composed of Manchus, Mongolians, and Chinese, were instituted. The provincial forces, designated the Army of the Green Standard, were divided into land forces and marine forces, superseded on active service by ‘braves’ (yung), or irregulars, enlisted and discharged according to circumstances. After the war with Japan in 1894 reforms were seriously undertaken, with the result that the army has now been modernized in dress, weapons, tactics, etc., and is by no means a negligible quantity in the world’s fighting forces. A modern navy is also being acquired by building and purchase. For many centuries the soldier, being, like the priest, unproductive, was regarded with disdain, and now that his indispensableness for defensive purposes is recognized he has to fight not only any actual enemy who may attack him, but those far subtler forces from over the sea which seem likely to obtain supremacy in his military councils, if not actual control of his whole military system. It is, in my view, the duty of Western nations to take steps before it is too late to avert this great disaster.
The dancing and chanting exorcists called wu were the first Chinese priests, with temples containing gods worshipped and sacrificed to, but there was no special sacerdotal class. Worship of Heaven could only be performed by the king or emperor. Ecclesiastical and political functions were not completely separated. The king was pontifex maximus, the nobles, statesmen, and civil and military officers acted as priests, the ranks being similar to those of the political hierarchy. Worship took place in the ‘Hall of Light,’ which was also a palace and Page 35audience and council chamber. Sacrifices were offered to Heaven, the hills and rivers, ancestors, and all the spirits. Dancing held a conspicuous place in worship. Idols are spoken of in the earliest times.
Of course, each religion, as it formed itself out of the original ancestor-worship, had its own sacred places, functionaries, observances, ceremonial. Thus, at the State worship of Heaven, Nature, etc., there were the ‘Great,’ ‘Medium,’ and ‘Inferior’ sacrifices, consisting of animals, silk, grain, jade, etc. Panegyrics were sung, and robes of appropriate colour worn. In spring, summer, autumn, and winter there were the seasonal sacrifices at the appropriate altars. Taoism and Buddhism had their temples, monasteries, priests, sacrifices, and ritual; and there were village and wayside temples and shrines to ancestors, the gods of thunder, rain, wind, grain, agriculture, and many others. Now encouraged, now tolerated, now persecuted, the ecclesiastical personnel and structure of Taoism and Buddhism survived into modern times, when we find complete schemes of ecclesiastical gradations of rank and authority grafted upon these two priestly hierarchies, and their temples, priests, etc., fulfilling generally, with worship of ancestors, State or official (Confucianism) and private or unofficial, and the observance of various annual festivals, such as ‘All Souls’ Day’ for wandering and hungry ghosts, the spiritual needs of the people as the ‘Three Religions’ (San Chiao). The emperor, as high priest, took the responsibility for calamities, etc., making confession to Heaven and praying that as a punishment the evil be diverted from the people to his own person. Statesmen, nobles, and officials discharged, as already noted, priestly functions in connexion with the State religion in addition to their ordinary Page 36duties. As a rule, priests proper, frowned upon as non-producers, were recruited from the lower classes, were celibate, unintellectual, idle, and immoral. There was nothing, even in the elaborate ceremonies on special occasions in the Buddhist temples, which could be likened to what is known as ‘public worship’ and ‘common prayer’ in the West. Worship had for its sole object either the attainment of some good or the prevention of some evil.
Generally this represents the state of things under the Republican régime; the chief differences being greater neglect of ecclesiastical matters and the conversion of a large number of temples into schools.
We read of physicians, blind musicians, poets, teachers, prayer-makers, architects, scribes, painters, diviners, ceremonialists, orators, and others during the Feudal Period, These professions were of ecclesiastical origin, not yet completely differentiated from the ‘Church,’ and both in earlier and later times not always or often differentiated from each other. Thus the historiographers combined the duties of statesmen, scholars, authors, and generals. The professions of authors and teachers, musicians and poets, were united in one person. And so it continued to the present day. Priests discharge medical functions, poets still sing their verses. But experienced medical specialists, though few, are to be found, as well as women doctors; there are veterinary surgeons, musicians (chiefly belonging to the poorest classes and often blind), actors, teachers, attorneys, diviners, artists, letter-writers, and many others, men of letters being perhaps the most prominent and most esteemed. Page 37
A system of schools, academies, colleges, and universities obtained in villages, districts, departments, and principalities. The instruction was divided into ‘Primary Learning’ and ‘Great Learning.’ There were special schools of dancing and music. Libraries and almshouses for old men are mentioned. Associations of scholars for literary purposes seem to have been numerous.
Whatever form and direction education might have taken, it became stereotyped at an early age by the road to office being made to lead through a knowledge of the classical writings of the ancient sages. It became not only ‘the thing’ to be well versed in the sayings of Confucius, Mencius; etc., and to be able to compose good essays on them containing not a single wrongly written character, but useless for aspirants to office—who constituted practically the whole of the literary class—to acquire any other knowledge. So obsessed was the national mind by this literary mania that even infants’ spines were made to bend so as to produce when adult the ‘scholarly stoop.’ And from the fact that besides the scholar class the rest of the community consisted of agriculturists, artisans, and merchants, whose knowledge was that of their fathers and grandfathers, inculcated in the sons and grandsons as it had been in them, showing them how to carry on in the same groove the calling to which Fate had assigned them, a departure from which would have been considered ‘unfilial’—unless, of course (as it very rarely did), it went the length of attaining through study of the classics a place in the official class, and thus shedding eternal lustre on the family—it will readily be seen that there was nothing to cause education to be concerned with any but one or two of the subjects Page 38which are included by Western peoples under that designation. It became at an early age, and remained for many centuries, a rote-learning of the elementary text-books, followed by a similar acquisition by heart of the texts of the works of Confucius and other classical writers. And so it remained until the abolition, in 1905, of the old competitive examination system, and the substitution of all that is included in the term ‘modern education’ at schools, colleges, and universities all over the country, in which there is rapidly growing up a force that is regenerating the Chinese people, and will make itself felt throughout the whole world.
It is this keen and shrewd appreciation of the learned, and this lust for knowledge, which, barring the tragedy of foreign domination, will make China, in the truest and best sense of the word, a great nation, where, as in the United States of America, the rigid class status and undervaluation, if not disdaining, of knowledge which are proving so disastrous in England and other European countries will be avoided, and the aristocracy of learning established in its place.
Besides educational institutions, we find institutions for poor relief, hospitals, foundling hospitals, orphan asylums, banking, insurance, and loan associations, travellers’ clubs, mercantile corporations, anti-opium societies, co-operative burial societies, as well as many others, some imitated from Western models.
Compared with the practices found to exist among most primitive races, the mutilations the Chinese were in the habit of inflicting were but few. They flattened the skulls of their babies by means of stones, so as to Page 39cause them to taper at the top, and we have already seen what they did to their spines; also the mutilations in warfare, and the punishments inflicted both within and without the law; and how filial children and loyal wives mutilated themselves for the sake of their parents and to prevent remarriage. Eunuchs, of course, existed in great numbers. People bit, cut, or marked their arms to pledge oaths. But the practices which are more peculiarly associated with the Chinese are the compressing of women’s feet and the wearing of the queue, misnamed ‘pigtail.’ The former is known to have been in force about A.D. 934, though it may have been introduced as early as 583. It did not, however, become firmly established for more than a century. This ‘extremely painful mutilation,’ begun in infancy, illustrates the tyranny of fashion, for it is supposed to have arisen in the imitation by the women generally of the small feet of an imperial concubine admired by one of the emperors from ten to fifteen centuries ago (the books differ as to his identity). The second was a badge of servitude inflicted by the Manchus on the Chinese when they conquered China at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Discountenanced by governmental edicts, both of these practices are now tending toward extinction, though, of course, compressed feet and ‘pigtails’ are still to be seen in every town and village. Legally, the queue was abolished when the Chinese rid themselves of the Manchu yoke in 1912.
Not understanding the real nature of death, the Chinese believed it was merely a state of suspended animation, in which the soul had failed to return to the body, though Page 40it might yet do so, even after long intervals. Consequently they delayed burial, and fed the corpse, and went on to the house-tops and called aloud to the spirit to return. When at length they were convinced that the absent spirit could not be induced to re-enter the body, they placed the latter in a coffin and buried it—providing it, however, with all that it had found necessary in this life (food, clothing, wives, servants, etc.), which it would require also in the next (in their view rather a continuation of the present existence than the beginning of another)—and, having inducted or persuaded the spirit to enter the ‘soul-tablet’ which accompanied the funeral procession (which took place the moment the tablet was ‘dotted,’ i.e. when the character wang, ‘prince,’ was changed into chu, ‘lord’), carried it back home again, set it up in a shrine in the main hall, and fell down and worshipped it. Thus was the spirit propitiated, and as long as occasional offerings were not overlooked the power for evil possessed by it would not be exerted against the surviving inmates of the house, whom it had so thoughtlessly deserted.
The latter mourned by screaming, wailing, stamping their feet, and beating their breasts, renouncing (in the earliest times) even their clothes, dwelling, and belongings to the dead, removing to mourning-sheds of clay, fasting, or eating only rice gruel, sleeping on straw with a clod for a pillow, and speaking only on subjects of death and burial. Office and public duties were resigned, and marriage, music, and separation from the clan prohibited.
During the lapse of the long ages of monarchical rule funeral rites became more elaborate and magnificent, but, though less rigid and ceremonious since the institution of Page 41the Republic, they have retained their essential character down to the present day.
Funeral ceremonial was more exacting than that connected with most other observances, including those of marriage. Invitations or notifications were sent to friends, and after receipt of these fu, on the various days appointed therein, the guest was obliged to send presents, such as money, paper horses, slaves, etc., and go and join in the lamentations of the hired mourners and attend at the prayers recited by the priests. Funeral etiquette could not be pu’d, i.e. made good, if overlooked or neglected at the right time, as it could in the case of the marriage ceremonial.
Instead of symmetrical public graveyards, as in the West, the Chinese cemeteries belong to the family or clan of the deceased, and are generally beautiful and peaceful places planted with trees and surrounded by artistic walls enclosing the grave-mounds and monumental tablets. The cemeteries themselves are the metonyms of the villages, and the graves of the houses. In the north especially the grave is very often surmounted by a huge marble tortoise bearing the inscribed tablet, or what we call the gravestone, on its back. The tombs of the last two lines of emperors, the Ming and the Manchu, are magnificent structures, spread over enormous areas, and always artistically situated on hillsides facing natural or artificial lakes or seas. Contrary to the practice in Egypt, with the two exceptions above mentioned the conquering dynasties have always destroyed the tombs of their predecessors. But for this savage vandalism, China would probably possess the most magnificent assembly of imperial tombs in the world’s records. Page 42
Laws of Intercourse
Throughout the whole course of their existence as a social aggregate the Chinese have pushed ceremonial observances to an extreme limit. “Ceremonies,” says the Li chi, the great classic of ceremonial usages, “are the greatest of all things by which men live.” Ranks were distinguished by different headdresses, garments, badges, weapons, writing-tablets, number of attendants, carriages, horses, height of walls, etc. Daily as well as official life was regulated by minute observances. There were written codes embracing almost every attitude and act of inferiors toward superiors, of superiors toward inferiors, and of equals toward equals. Visits, forms of address, and giving of presents had each their set of formulae, known and observed by every one as strictly and regularly as each child in China learned by heart and repeated aloud the three-word sentences of the elementary Trimetrical Classic. But while the school text-book was extremely simple, ceremonial observances were extremely elaborate. A Chinese was in this respect as much a slave to the living as in his funeral rites he was a slave to the dead. Only now, in the rush of ‘modern progress,’ is the doffing of the hat taking the place of the ‘kowtow’ (k’o-t’ou).
It is in this matter of ceremonial observances that the East and the West have misunderstood each other perhaps more than in all others. Where rules of etiquette are not only different, but are diametrically opposed, there is every opportunity for misunderstanding, if not estrangement. The points at issue in such questions as ‘kowtowing’ to the emperor and the worshipping of ancestors are generally known, but the Westerner, as a rule, is ignorant of the fact that if he wishes to conform Page 43to Chinese etiquette when in China (instead of to those Western customs which are in many cases unfortunately taking their place) he should not, for instance, take off his hat when entering a house or a temple, should not shake hands with his host, nor, if he wishes to express approval, should he clap his hands. Clapping of hands in China (i.e. non-Europeanized China) is used to drive away the sha ch’i, or deathly influence of evil spirits, and to clap the hands at the close of the remarks of a Chinese host (as I have seen prominent, well-meaning, but ill-guided men of the West do) is equivalent to disapproval, if not insult. Had our diplomatists been sociologists instead of only commercial agents, more than one war might have been avoided.
Habits and Customs
At intervals during the year the Chinese make holiday. Their public festivals begin with the celebration of the advent of the new year. They let off innumerable firecrackers, and make much merriment in their homes, drinking and feasting, and visiting their friends for several days. Accounts are squared, houses cleaned, fresh paper ‘door-gods’ pasted on the front doors, strips of red paper with characters implying happiness, wealth, good fortune, longevity, etc., stuck on the doorposts or the lintel, tables, etc., covered with red cloth, and flowers and decorations displayed everywhere. Business is suspended, and the merriment, dressing in new clothes, feasting, visiting, offerings to gods and ancestors, and idling continue pretty consistently during the first half of the first moon, the vacation ending with the Feast of Lanterns, which occupies the last three days. It originated in the Han dynasty 2000 years ago. Innumerable Page 44lanterns of all sizes, shapes, colours (except wholly white, or rather undyed material, the colour of mourning), and designs are lit in front of public and private buildings, but the use of these was an addition about 800 years later, i.e. about 1200 years ago. Paper dragons, hundreds of yards long, are moved along the streets at a slow pace, supported on the heads of men whose legs only are visible, giving the impression of huge serpents winding through the thoroughfares.
Of the other chief festivals, about eight in number (not counting the festivals of the four seasons with their equinoxes and solstices), four are specially concerned with the propitiation of the spirits—namely, the Earlier Spirit Festival (fifteenth day of second moon), the Festival of the Tombs (about the third day of the third moon), when graves are put in order and special offerings made to the dead, the Middle Spirit Festival (fifteenth day of seventh moon), and the Later Spirit Festival (fifteenth day of tenth moon). The Dragon-boat Festival (fifth day of fifth moon) is said to have originated as a commemoration of the death of the poet Ch’ü Yüan, who drowned himself in disgust at the official intrigue and corruption of which he was the victim, but the object is the procuring of sufficient rain to ensure a good harvest. It is celebrated by racing with long narrow boats shaped to represent dragons and propelled by scores of rowers, pasting of charms on the doors of dwellings, and eating a special kind of rice-cake, with a liquor as a beverage.
The Spirit That Clears the Way
The Spirit That Clears the Way
The fifteenth day of the eighth moon is the Mid-autumn Festival, known by foreigners as All Souls’ Day. On this occasion the women worship the moon, offering cakes, fruit, etc. The gates of Purgatory are opened, and the Page 45hungry ghosts troop forth to enjoy themselves for a month on the good things provided for them by the pious. The ninth day of the ninth moon is the Chung Yang Festival, when every one who possibly can ascends to a high place—a hill or temple-tower. This inaugurates the kite-flying season, and is supposed to promote longevity. During that season, which lasts several months, the Chinese people the sky with dragons, centipedes, frogs, butterflies, and hundreds of other cleverly devised creatures, which, by means of simple mechanisms worked by the wind, roll their eyes, make appropriate sounds, and move their paws, wings, tails, etc., in a most realistic manner. The festival originated in a warning received by a scholar named Huan Ching from his master Fei Ch’ang-fang, a native of Ju-nan in Honan, who lived during the Han dynasty, that a terrible calamity was about to happen, and enjoining him to escape with his family to a high place. On his return he found all his domestic animals dead, and was told that they had died instead of himself and his relatives. On New Year’s Eve (Tuan Nien or Chu Hsi) the Kitchen-god ascends to Heaven to make his annual report, the wise feasting him with honey and other sticky food before his departure, so that his lips may be sealed and he be unable to ‘let on’ too much to the powers that be in the regions above!
Sports and Games
The first sports of the Chinese were festival gatherings for purposes of archery, to which succeeded exercises partaking of a military character. Hunting was a favourite amusement. They played games of calculation, chess (or the ‘game of war’), shuttlecock with the feet, pitch-pot (throwing arrows from a distance into a narrow-necked Page 46jar), and ‘horn-goring’ (fighting on the shoulders of others with horned masks on their heads). Stilts, football, dice-throwing, boat-racing, dog-racing, cock-fighting, kite-flying, as well as singing and dancing marionettes, afforded recreation and amusement.
Many of these games became obsolete in course of time, and new ones were invented. At the end of the Monarchical Period, during the Manchu dynasty, we find those most in use to be foot-shuttlecock, lifting of beams headed with heavy stones—dumb-bells four feet long and weighing thirty or forty pounds—kite-flying, quail-fighting, cricket-fighting, sending birds after seeds thrown into the air, sauntering through fields, playing chess or ‘morra,’ or gambling with cards, dice, or over the cricket- and quail-fights or seed-catching birds. There were numerous and varied children’s games tending to develop strength, skill, quickness of action, parental instinct, accuracy, and sagacity. Theatricals were performed by strolling troupes on stages erected opposite temples, though permanent theatres also existed, female parts until recently being taken by male actors. Peep-shows, conjurers, ventriloquists, acrobats, fortune-tellers, and story-tellers kept crowds amused or interested. Generally, ‘young China’ of the present day, identified with the party of progress, seems to have adopted most of the outdoor but very few of the indoor games of Western nations.
In domestic or private life, observances at birth, betrothal, and marriage were elaborate, and retained superstitious elements. Early rising was general. Shaving of the head and beard, as well as cleaning of the ears and massage, was done by barbers. There were public baths Page 47in all cities and towns. Shops were closed at nightfall, and, the streets being until recent times ill-lit or unlit, passengers or their attendants carried lanterns. Most houses, except the poorest, had private watchmen. Generally two meals a day were taken. Dinners to friends were served at inns or restaurants, accompanied or followed by musical or theatrical performances. The place of honour is stated in Western books on China to be on the left, but the fact is that the place of honour is the one which shows the utmost solicitude for the safety of the guest. It is therefore not necessarily one fixed place, but would usually be the one facing the door, so that the guest might be in a position to see an enemy enter, and take measures accordingly.
Lap-dogs and cage-birds were kept as pets; ‘wonks,’ the huang kou, or ‘yellow dog,’ were guards of houses and street scavengers. Aquaria with goldfish were often to be seen in the houses of the upper and middle classes, the gardens and courtyards of which usually contained rockeries and artistic shrubs and flowers.
Whiskers were never worn, and moustaches and beards only after forty, before which age the hair grew, if at all, very scantily. Full, thick beards, as in the West, were practically never seen, even on the aged. Snuff-bottles, tobacco-pipes, and fans were carried by both sexes. Nails were worn long by members of the literary and leisured classes. Non-Manchu women and girls had cramped feet, and both Manchu and Chinese women used cosmetics freely.
While the men attended to farm-work, women took care of the mulberry-orchards and silkworms, and did Page 48spinning, weaving, and embroidery. This, the primitive division of labour, held throughout, though added to on both sides, so that eventually the men did most of the agriculture, arts, production, distribution, fighting, etc., and the women, besides the duties above named and some field-labour, mended old clothes, drilled and sharpened needles, pasted tin-foil, made shoes, and gathered and sorted the leaves of the tea-plant. In course of time trades became highly specialized—their number being legion—and localized, bankers, for instance, congregating in Shansi, carpenters in Chi Chou, and porcelain-manufacturers in Jao Chou, in Kiangsi.
As to land, it became at an early age the property of the sovereign, who farmed it out to his relatives or favourites. It was arranged on the ching, or ‘well’ system—eight private squares round a ninth public square cultivated by the eight farmer families in common for the benefit of the State. From the beginning to the end of the Monarchical Period tenure continued to be of the Crown, land being unallodial, and mostly held in clans or families, and not entailed, the conditions of tenure being payment of an annual tax, a fee for alienation, and money compensation for personal services to the Government, generally incorporated into the direct tax as scutage. Slavery, unknown in the earliest times, existed as a recognized institution during the whole of the Monarchical Period.
Production was chiefly confined to human and animal labour, machinery being only now in use on a large scale. Internal distribution was carried on from numerous centres and at fairs, shops, markets, etc. With few exceptions, the great trade-routes by land and sea have remained the same during the last two thousand years. Page 49Foreign trade was with Western Asia, Greece, Rome, Carthage, Arabia, etc., and from the seventeenth century A.D. more generally with European countries. The usual primitive means of conveyance, such as human beings, animals, carts, boats, etc., were partly displaced by steam-vessels from 1861 onward.
Exchange was effected by barter, cowries of different values being the prototype of coins, which were cast in greater or less quantity under each reign. But until within recent years there was only one coin, the copper cash, in use, bullion and paper notes being the other media of exchange. Silver Mexican dollars and subsidiary coins came into use with the advent of foreign commerce. Weights and measures (which generally decreased from north to south), officially arranged partly on the decimal system, were discarded by the people in ordinary commercial transactions for the more convenient duodecimal subdivision.
Hunting, fishing, cooking, weaving, dyeing, carpentry, metallurgy, glass-, brick-, and paper-making, printing, and book-binding were in a more or less primitive stage, the mechanical arts showing much servile imitation and simplicity in design; but pottery, carving, and lacquer-work were in an exceptionally high state of development, the articles produced being surpassed in quality and beauty by no others in the world.
Agriculture and Rearing of Livestock
From the earliest times the greater portion of the available land was under cultivation. Except when the country has been devastated by war, the Chinese have devoted Page 50close attention to the cultivation of the soil continuously for forty centuries. Even the hills are terraced for extra growing-room. But poverty and governmental inaction caused much to lie idle. There were two annual crops in the north, and five in two years in the south. Perhaps two-thirds of the population cultivated the soil. The methods, however, remained primitive; but the great fertility of the soil and the great industry of the farmer, with generous but careful use of fertilizers, enabled the vast territory to support an enormous population. Rice, wheat, barley, buckwheat, maize, kaoliang, several millets, and oats were the chief grains cultivated. Beans, peas, oil-bearing seeds (sesame, rape, etc.), fibre-plants (hemp, ramie, jute, cotton, etc.), starch-roots (taros, yams, sweet potatoes, etc.), tobacco, indigo, tea, sugar, fruits, were among the more important crops produced. Fruit-growing, however, lacked scientific method. The rotation of crops was not a usual practice, but grafting, pruning, dwarfing, enlarging, selecting, and varying species were well understood. Vegetable-culture had reached a high state of perfection, the smallest patches of land being made to bring forth abundantly. This is the more creditable inasmuch as most small farmers could not afford to purchase expensive foreign machinery, which, in many cases, would be too large or complicated for their purposes.
The principal animals, birds, etc., reared were the pig, ass, horse, mule, cow, sheep, goat, buffalo, yak, fowl, duck, goose, pigeon, silkworm, and bee.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, the successor to the Board of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, instituted during recent years, is now adapting Western methods to the cultivation of the fertile soil of Page 51China, and even greater results than in the past may be expected in the future.
Sentiments and Moral Ideas
The Chinese have always shown a keen delight in the beautiful—in flowers, music, poetry, literature, embroidery, paintings, porcelain. They cultivated ornamental plants, almost every house, as we saw, having its garden, large or small, and tables were often decorated with flowers in vases or ornamental wire baskets or fruits or sweetmeats. Confucius made music an instrument of government. Paper bearing the written character was so respected that it might not be thrown on the ground or trodden on. Delight was always shown in beautiful scenery or tales of the marvellous. Commanding or agreeable situations were chosen for temples. But until within the last few years streets and houses were generally unclean, and decency in public frequently absent.
Morality was favoured by public opinion, but in spite of early marriages and concubinage there was much laxity. Cruelty both to human beings and animals has always been a marked trait in the Chinese character. Savagery in warfare, cannibalism, luxury, drunkenness, and corruption prevailed in the earliest times. The attitude toward women was despotic. But moral principles pervaded the classical writings, and formed the basis of law. In spite of these, the inferior sentiment of revenge was, as we have seen, approved and preached as a sacred duty. As a result of the universal yin-yang dualistic doctrines, immorality was leniently regarded. In modern times, at least, mercantile honour was high, “a merchant’s word is as good as his bond” being truer in China than in many Page 52other countries. Intemperance was rare. Opium-smoking was much indulged in until the use of the drug was forcibly suppressed (1906–16). Even now much is smuggled into the country, or its growth overlooked by bribed officials. Clan quarrels and fights were common, vendettas sometimes continuing for generations. Suicide under depressing circumstances was approved and honoured; it was frequently resorted to under the sting of great injustice. There was a deep reverence for parents and superiors. Disregard of the truth, when useful, was universal, and unattended by a sense of shame, even on detection. Thieving was common. The illegal exactions of rulers were burdensome. In times of prosperity pride and satisfaction in material matters was not concealed, and was often short-sighted. Politeness was practically universal, though said to be often superficial; but gratitude was a marked characteristic, and was heartfelt. Mutual conjugal affection was strong. The love of gambling was universal.
But little has occurred in recent years to modify the above characters. Nevertheless the inferior traits are certainly being changed by education and by the formation of societies whose members bind themselves against immorality, concubinage, gambling, drinking, smoking, etc.
Chinese religion is inherently an attitude toward the spirits or gods with the object of obtaining a benefit or averting a calamity. We shall deal with it more fully in another chapter. Suffice it to say here that it originated in ancestor-worship, and that the greater part of it remains ancestor-worship to the present day. The State religion, which was Confucianism, was ancestor-worship. Taoism, Page 53originally a philosophy, became a worship of spirits—of the souls of dead men supposed to have taken up their abode in animals, reptiles, insects, trees, stones, etc.—borrowed the cloak of religion from Buddhism, which eventually outshone it, and degenerated into a system of exorcism and magic. Buddhism, a religion originating in India, in which Buddha, once a man, is worshipped, in which no beings are known with greater power than can be attained to by man, and according to which at death the soul migrates into anything from a deified human being to an elephant, a bird, a plant, a wall, a broom, or any piece of inorganic matter, was imported ready made into China and took the side of popular superstition and Taoism against the orthodox belief, finding that its power lay in the influence on the popular mind of its doctrine respecting a future state, in contrast to the indifference of Confucianism. Its pleading for compassion and preservation of life met a crying need, and but for it the state of things in this respect would be worse than it is.
Religion, apart from ancestor-worship, does not enter largely into Chinese life. There is none of the real ‘love of God’ found, for example, in the fervent as distinguished from the conventional Christian. And as ancestor-worship gradually loses its hold and dies out agnosticism will take its place.
An almost infinite variety of superstitious practices, due to the belief in the good or evil influences of departed spirits, exists in all parts of China. Days are lucky or unlucky. Eclipses are due to a dragon trying to eat the sun or the moon. The rainbow is supposed to be the result of a meeting between the impure vapours of the Page 54sun and the earth. Amulets are worn, and charms hung up, sprigs of artemisia or of peach-blossom are placed near beds and over lintels respectively, children and adults are ‘locked to life’ by means of locks on chains or cords worn round the neck, old brass mirrors are supposed to cure insanity, figures of gourds, tigers’ claws, or the unicorn are worn to ensure good fortune or ward off sickness, fire, etc., spells of many kinds, composed mostly of the written characters for happiness and longevity, are worn, or written on paper, cloth, leaves, etc., and burned, the ashes being made into a decoction and drunk by the young or sick.
Divination by means of the divining stalks (the divining plant, milfoil or yarrow) and the tortoiseshell has been carried on from time immemorial, but was not originally practised with the object of ascertaining future events, but in order to decide doubts, much as lots are drawn or a coin tossed in the West. Fêng-shui, “the art of adapting the residence of the living and the dead so as to co-operate and harmonize with the local currents of the cosmic breath” (the yin and the yang: see Chapter III), a doctrine which had its root in ancestor-worship, has exercised an enormous influence on Chinese thought and life from the earliest times, and especially from those of Chu Hsi and other philosophers of the Sung dynasty.
Having noted that Chinese education was mainly literary, and why it was so, it is easy to see that there would be little or no demand for the kind of knowledge classified in the West under the head of science. In so far as any demand existed, it did so, at any rate at first, only because it subserved vital needs. Thus, astronomy, Page 55or more properly astrology, was studied in order that the calendar might be regulated, and so the routine of agriculture correctly followed, for on that depended the people’s daily rice, or rather, in the beginning, the various fruits and kinds of flesh which constituted their means of sustentation before their now universal food was known. In philosophy they have had two periods of great activity, the first beginning with Lao Tzŭ and Confucius in the sixth century B.C. and ending with the Burning of the Books by the First Emperor, Shih Huang Ti, in 213 B.C.; the second beginning with Chou Tzŭ (A.D. 1017–73) and ending with Chu Hsi (1130–1200). The department of philosophy in the imperial library contained in 190 B.C. 2705 volumes by 137 authors. There can be no doubt that this zeal for the orthodox learning, combined with the literary test for office, was the reason why scientific knowledge was prevented from developing; so much so, that after four thousand or more years of national life we find, during the Manchu Period, which ended the monarchical régime, few of the educated class, giants though they were in knowledge of all departments of their literature and history (the continuity of their traditions laid down in their twenty-four Dynastic Annals has been described as one of the great wonders of the world), with even the elementary scientific learning of a schoolboy in the West. ‘Crude,’ ‘primitive,’ ‘mediocre,’ ‘vague,’ ‘inaccurate,’ ‘want of analysis and generalization,’ are terms we find applied to their knowledge of such leading sciences as geography, mathematics, chemistry, botany, and geology. Their medicine was much hampered by superstition, and perhaps more so by such beliefs as that the seat of the intellect is in the stomach, that thoughts proceed from the heart, that the pit of the stomach is the seat of Page 56the breath, that the soul resides in the liver, etc.—the result partly of the idea that dissection of the body would maim it permanently during its existence in the Otherworld. What progress was made was due to European instruction; and this again is the causa causans of the great wave of progress in scientific and philosophical knowledge which is rolling over the whole country and will have marked effects on the history of the world during the coming century.
Originally polysyllabic, the Chinese language later assumed a monosyllabic, isolating, uninflected form, grammatical relations being indicated by position. From the earliest forms of speech several subordinate vernacular languages arose in various districts, and from these sprang local dialects, etc. Tone-distinctions arose—i.e. the same words pronounced with a different intonation came to mean different things. Development of these distinctions led to carelessness of articulation, and multiplication of what would be homonyms but for these tones. It is incorrect to assume that the tones were invented to distinguish similar sounds. So that, at the present day, anyone who says ma will mean either an exclamation, hemp, horse, or curse according to the quality he gives to the sound. The language remains in a primitive state, without inflexion, declension, or distinction of parts of speech. The order in a sentence is: subject, verb, complement direct, complement indirect. Gender is formed by distinctive particles; number by prefixing numerals, etc.; cases by position or appropriate prepositions. Adjectives precede nouns; position determines comparison; and absence of punctuation causes ambiguity. The latter is Page 57now introduced into most newly published works. The new education is bringing with it innumerable words and phrases not found in the old literature or dictionaries. Japanese idioms which are now being imported into the language are making it less pure.
The written language, too well known to need detailed description, a thing of beauty and a joy for ever to those able to appreciate it, said to have taken originally the form of knotted cords and then of notches on wood (though this was more probably the origin of numeration than of writing proper), took later that of rude outlines of natural objects, and then went on to the phonetic system, under which each character is composed of two parts, the radical, indicating the meaning, and the phonetic, indicating the sound. They were symbols, non-agglutinative and non-inflexional, and were written in vertical columns, probably from having in early times been painted or cut on strips of bark.
Achievements of the Chinese
As the result of all this fitful fever during so many centuries, we find that the Chinese, after having lived in nests “in order to avoid the animals,” and then in caves, have built themselves houses and palaces which are still made after the pattern of their prototype, with a flat wall behind, the openings in front, the walls put in after the pillars and roof-tree have been fixed, and out-buildings added on as side extensions. The k’ang, or ‘stove-bed’ (now a platform made of bricks), found all over the northern provinces, was a place scooped out of the side of the cave, with an opening underneath in which (as now) a fire was lit in winter. Windows and shutters opened upward, being a survival of the mat or shade Page 58hung in front of the apertures in the walls of the primitive cave-dwelling. Four of these buildings facing each other round a square made the courtyard, and one or more courtyards made the compound. They have fed themselves on almost everything edible to be found on, under, or above land or water, except milk, but live chiefly on rice, chicken, fish, vegetables, including garlic, and tea, though at one time they ate flesh and drank wine, sometimes to excess, before tea was cultivated. They have clothed themselves in skins and feathers, and then in silks and satins, but mostly in cotton, and hardly ever in wool. Under the Manchu régime the type of dress adopted was that of this horse-riding race, showing the chief characteristics of that noble animal, the broad sleeves representing the hoofs, the queue the mane, etc. This queue was formed of the hair growing from the back part of the scalp, the front of which was shaved. Unlike the Egyptians, they did not wear wigs. They have nearly always had the decency to wear their coats long, and have despised the Westerner for wearing his too short. They are now paradoxical enough to make the mistake of adopting the Westerner’s costume.
They have made to themselves great canals, bridges, aqueducts, and the longest wall there has ever been on the face of the earth (which could not be seen from the moon, as some sinologists have erroneously supposed, any more than a hair, however long, could be seen at a distance of a hundred yards). They have made long and wide roads, but failed to keep them in repair during the last few centuries, though much zeal, possibly due to commerce on oil- or electricity-driven wheels, is now being shown in this direction. They have built honorary portals to chaste widows, pagodas, and arched bridges of great Page 59beauty, not forgetting to surround each city with a high and substantial wall to keep out unfriendly people. They have made innumerable implements and weapons, from pens and fans and chopsticks to ploughs and carts and ships; from fiery darts, ‘flame elephants,’ bows and spears, spiked chariots, battering-rams, and hurling-engines to mangonels, trebuchets, matchlocks of wrought iron and plain bore with long barrels resting on a stock, and gingals fourteen feet long resting on a tripod, cuirasses of quilted cotton cloth covered with brass knobs, and helmets of iron or polished steel, sometimes inlaid, with neck- and ear-lappets. And they have been content not to improve upon these to any appreciable extent; but have lately shown a tendency to make the later patterns imported from the West in their own factories.
They have produced one of the greatest and most remarkable accumulations of literature the world has ever seen, and the finest porcelain; some music, not very fine; and some magnificent painting, though hardly any sculpture, and little architecture that will live. Page 60
On Chinese Mythology
Mythology and Intellectual Progress
The Manichæst, yin-yang (dualist), idea of existence, to which further reference will be made in the next chapter, finds its illustration in the dual life, real and imaginary, of all the peoples of the earth. They have both real histories and mythological histories. In the preceding chapter I have dealt briefly with the first—the life of reality—in China from the earliest times to the present day; the succeeding chapters are concerned with the second—the life of imagination. A survey of the first was necessary for a complete understanding of the second. The two react upon each other, affecting the national character and through it the history of the world.
Mythology is the science of the unscientific man’s explanation of what we call the Otherworld—itself and its denizens, their mysterious habits and surprising actions both there and here, usually including the creation of this world also. By the Otherworld he does not necessarily mean anything distant or even invisible, though the things he explains would mostly be included by us under those terms. In some countries myths are abundant, in others scarce. Why should this be? Why should some peoples tell many and marvellous tales about their gods and others say little about them, though they may say a great deal to them? We recall the ‘great’ myths of Greece and Scandinavia. Other races are ‘poor’ in myths. The difference is to be explained by the mental characters of the peoples as moulded by their surroundings and hereditary tendencies. The problem is of course a psychological one, for it is, as already noted, in imagination Page 61that myths have their root. Now imagination grows with each stage of intellectual progress, for intellectual progress implies increasing representativeness of thought. In the lower stages of human development imagination is feeble and unproductive; in the highest stages it is strong and constructive.
The Chinese Intellect
The Chinese are not unimaginative, but their minds did not go on to the construction of any myths which should be world-great and immortal; and one reason why they did not construct such myths was that their intellectual progress was arrested at a comparatively early stage. It was arrested because there was not that contact and competition with other peoples which demands brain-work of an active kind as the alternative of subjugation, inferiority, or extinction, and because, as we have already seen, the knowledge required of them was mainly the parrot-like repetition of the old instead of the thinking-out of the new1—a state of things rendered possible by the isolation just referred to. Confucius discountenanced discussion about the supernatural, and just as it is probable that the exhortations of Wên Wang, the virtual founder of the Chou dynasty (1121–255 B.C.), against drunkenness, in a time before tea was known to them, helped to make the Chinese the sober people that they are, so it is probable—more than probable—that this attitude of Confucius may have nipped in the bud much that might have developed a vigorous mythology, though for a reason to be stated later it may be doubted if he thereby deprived the world of any beautiful and marvellous results of the Page 62highest flights of poetical creativeness. There are times, such as those of any great political upheaval, when human nature will assert itself and break through its shackles in spite of all artificial or conventional restraints. Considering the enormous influence of Confucianism throughout the latter half of Chinese history—i.e. the last two thousand years—it is surprising that the Chinese dared to think about supernatural matters at all, except in the matter of propitiating their dead ancestors. That they did so is evidence not only of human nature’s inherent tendency to tell stories, but also of the irrepressible strength of feeling which breaks all laws and commandments under great stimulus. On the opposing unæsthetic side this may be compared to the feeling which prompts the unpremeditated assassination of a man who is guilty of great injustice, even though it be certain that in due course he would have met his deserts at the hands of the public executioner.
The Influence of Religion
Apart from this, the influence of Confucianism would have been even greater than it was, but for the imperial partiality periodically shown for rival doctrines, such as Buddhism and Taoism, which threw their weight on the side of the supernatural, and which at times were exalted to such great heights as to be officially recognized as State religions. These, Buddhism especially, appealed to the popular imagination and love of the marvellous. Buddhism spoke of the future state and the nature of the gods in no uncertain tones. It showed men how to reach the one and attain to the other. Its founder was virtuous; his commandments pure and life-sustaining. It supplied in great part what Confucianism lacked. And, as in the Page 63fifth and sixth centuries A.D., when Buddhism and Taoism joined forces and a working union existed between them, they practically excluded for the time all the “chilly growth of Confucian classicism.”
Other opponents of myth, including a critical philosopher of great ability, we shall have occasion to notice presently.
History and Myth
The sobriety and accuracy of Chinese historians is proverbial. I have dilated upon this in another work, and need add here only what I inadvertently omitted there—a point hitherto unnoticed or at least unremarked—that the very word for history in Chinese (shih) means impartiality or an impartial annalist. It has been said that where there is much myth there is little history, and vice versa, and though this may not be universally true, undoubtedly the persistently truthful recording of facts, events, and sayings, even at the risk of loss, yea, and actual loss of life of the historian as the result of his refusal to make false entries in his chronicle at the bidding of the emperor (as in the case of the historiographers of Ch’i in 547 B.C.), indicates a type of mind which would require some very strong stimulus to cause it to soar very far into the hazy realms of fanciful imagination.
A further cause, already hinted at above, for the arrest of intellectual progress is to be found in the growth of the nation in size during many centuries of isolation from the main stream of world-civilization, without that increase in heterogeneity which comes from the moulding by forces external to itself. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Page 64Consequently we find China what is known to sociology as an ‘aggregate of the first order,’ which during its evolution has parted with its internal life-heat without absorbing enough from external sources to enable it to retain the plastic condition necessary to further, or at least rapid, development. It is in a state of rigidity, a state recognized and understood by the sociologist in his study of the evolution of nations.
The Prerequisites to Myth
But the mere increase of constructive imagination is not sufficient to produce myth. If it were, it would be reasonable to argue that as intellectual progress goes on myths become more numerous, and the greater the progress the greater the number of myths. This we do not find. In fact, if constructive imagination went on increasing without the intervention of any further factor, there need not necessarily be any myth at all. We might almost say that the reverse is the case. We connect myth with primitive folk, not with the greatest philosophers or the most advanced nations—not, that is, with the most advanced stages of national progress wherein constructive imagination makes the nation great and strong. In these stages the philosopher studies or criticizes myth, he does not make it.
In order that there may be myth, three further conditions must be fulfilled. There must, as we have seen, be constructive imagination, but, nevertheless, there must not be too much of it. As stated above, mythology, or rather myth, is the unscientific man’s explanation. If the constructive imagination is so great that it becomes self-critical, if the story-teller doubts his own story, if, in short, his mind is scientific enough to see that his explanation Page 65is no explanation at all, then there can be no myth properly so called. As in religion, unless the myth-maker believes in his myth with all his heart and soul and strength, and each new disciple, as it is cared for and grows under his hands during the course of years, holds that he must put his shoes from off his feet because the place whereon he treads is holy ground, the faith will not be propagated, for it will lack the vital spark which alone can make it a living thing.
The next condition is that there must be a stimulus. It is not ideas, but feelings, which govern the world, and in the history of mythology where feeling is absent we find either weak imitation or repetition of the myths of other peoples (though this must not be confused with certain elements which seem to be common to the myths of all races), or concoction, contamination, or “genealogical tree-making,” or myths originated by “leisurely, peaceful tradition” and lacking the essential qualities which appeal to the human soul and make their possessors very careful to preserve them among their most loved and valued treasures. But, on the other hand, where feeling is stirred, where the requisite stimulus exists, where the people are in great danger, or allured by the prize of some breathless adventure, the contact produces the spark of divine poetry, the myths are full of artistic, philosophic, and religious suggestiveness, and have abiding significance and charm. They are the children, the poetic fruit, of great labour and serious struggles, revealing the most fundamental forces, hopes, and cravings of the human soul. Nations highly strung, undergoing strenuous emotion, intensely energized by constant conflict with Page 66other nations, have their imagination stimulated to exceptional poetic creativeness. The background of the Danaïds is Egyptian, not Greek, but it was the danger in which the Greeks were placed in their wars with the sons of the land of the Pharaohs that stimulated the Greek imagination to the creation of that great myth.
This explains why so many of the greatest myths have their staging, not in the country itself whose treasured possessions they are, but where that country is ‘playing the great game,’ is carrying on wars decisive of far-reaching national events, which arouse to the greatest pitch of excitement the feelings both of the combatants and of those who are watching them from their homes. It is by such great events, not by the romance-writer in his peaceful study, that mythology, like literature, is “incisively determined.” Imagination, we saw, goes pari passu with intellectual progress, and intellectual progress, in early times, is furthered not so much by the mere contact as by the actual conflict of nations. And we see also that myths may, and very frequently do, have a character quite different from that of the nation to which they appertain, for environment plays a most important part both in their inception and subsequent growth—a truth too obvious to need detailed elaboration.
A third condition is that the type of imagination must be persistent through fairly long periods of time, otherwise not only will there be an absence of sufficient feeling or momentum to cause the myths to be repeated and kept alive and transmitted to posterity, but the inducement to add to them and so enable them to mature and become complete and finished off and sufficiently attractive to Page 67appeal to the human mind in spite of the foreign character they often bear will be lacking. In other words, myths and legends grow. They resemble not so much the narrative of the story-teller or novelist as a gradually developing art like music, or a body of ideas like philosophy. They are human and natural, though they express the thought not of any one individual mind, but of the folk-soul, exemplifying in poetical form some great psychological or physiographical truth.
The Character of Chinese Myth
The nature of the case thus forbids us to expect to find the Chinese myths exhibiting the advanced state and brilliant heterogeneity of those which have become part of the world’s permanent literature. We must expect them to be true to type and conditions, as we expect the other ideas of the Chinese to be, and looking for them in the light of this knowledge we shall find them just where we should expect to find them.
The great sagas and eddas exalted among the world’s literary masterpieces, and forming part of the very life of a large number of its inhabitants, are absent in China. “The Chinese people,” says one well-known sinologist, “are not prone to mythological invention.” “He who expects to find in Tibet,” says another writer, “the poetical charm of Greek or Germanic mythology will be disappointed. There is a striking poverty of imagination in all the myths and legends. A great monotony pervades them all. Many of their stories, taken from the sacred texts, are quite puerile and insipid. It may be noted that the Chinese mythology labours under the same defect.” And then there comes the crushing judgment of an over-zealous Christian missionary sinologist: “There Page 68is no hierarchy of gods brought in to rule and inhabit the world they made, no conclave on Mount Olympus, nor judgment of the mortal soul by Osiris, no transfer of human love and hate, passions and hopes, to the powers above; all here is ascribed to disembodied agencies or principles, and their works are represented as moving on in quiet order. There is no religion [!], no imagination; all is impassible, passionless, uninteresting.... It has not, as in Greece and Egypt, been explained in sublime poetry, shadowed forth in gorgeous ritual and magnificent festivals, represented in exquisite sculptures, nor preserved in faultless, imposing fanes and temples, filled with ideal creations.” Besides being incorrect as to many of its alleged facts, this view would certainly be shown by further study to be greatly exaggerated.
Periods Fertile in Myth
What we should expect, then, to find from our philosophical study of the Chinese mind as affected by its surroundings would be barrenness of constructive imagination, except when birth was given to myth through the operation of some external agency. And this we do find. The period of the overthrow of the Yin dynasty and the establishment of the great house of Chou in 1122 B.C., or of the Wars of the Three States, for example, in the third century after Christ, a time of terrible anarchy, a medieval age of epic heroism, sung in a hundred forms of prose and verse, which has entered as motive into a dozen dramas, or the advent of Buddhism, which opened up a new world of thought and life to the simple, sober, peace-loving agricultural folk of China, were stimuli not by any means devoid of result. In China there are gods many and heroes many, and the very fact of the existence Page 69of so great a multitude of gods would logically imply a wealth of mythological lore inseparable from their apotheosis. You cannot—and the Chinese cannot—get behind reason. A man is not made a god without some cause being assigned for so important and far-reaching a step; and in matters of this sort the stated cause is apt to take the form of a narrative more or less marvellous or miraculous. These resulting myths may, of course, be born and grow at a later time than that in which the circumstances giving rise to them took place, but, if so, that merely proves the persistent power of the originating stimulus. That in China these narratives always or often reach the highest flights of constructive imagination is not maintained—the maintenance of that argument would indeed be contradictory; but even in those countries where the mythological garden has produced some of the finest flowers millions of seeds must have been sown which either did not spring up at all or at least failed to bring forth fruit. And in the realm of mythology it is not only those gods who sit in the highest seats—creators of the world or heads of great religions—who dominate mankind; the humbler, though often no less powerful gods or spirits—those even who run on all fours and live in holes in the ground, or buzz through the air and have their thrones in the shadow of a leaf—have often made a deeper impress on the minds and in the hearts of the people, and through that impress, for good or evil, have, in greater or less degree, modified the life of the visible universe.
Sources of Chinese Myth
“So, if we ask whence comes the heroic and the romantic, which supplies the story-teller’s stock-in-trade, Page 70the answer is easy. The legends and history of early China furnish abundance of material for them. To the Chinese mind their ancient world was crowded with heroes, fairies, and devils, who played their part in the mixed-up drama, and left a name and fame both remarkable and piquant. Every one who is familiar with the ways and the language of the people knows that the country is full of common objects to which poetic names have been given, and with many of them there is associated a legend or a myth. A deep river’s gorge is called ‘the Blind Man’s Pass,’ because a peculiar bit of rock, looked at from a certain angle, assumes the outline of the human form, and there comes to be connected therewith a pleasing story which reaches its climax in the petrifaction of the hero. A mountain’s crest shaped like a swooping eagle will from some one have received the name of ‘Eagle Mountain,’ whilst by its side another shaped like a couchant lion will have a name to match. There is no lack of poetry among the people, and most striking objects claim a poetic name, and not a few of them are associated with curious legends. It is, however, to their national history that the story-teller goes for his most interesting subjects, and as the so-called history of China imperceptibly passes into the legendary period, and this again fades into the mythical, and as all this is assuredly believed by the masses of the people, it is obvious that in the national life of China there is no dearth of heroes whose deeds of prowess will command the rapt attention of the crowds who listen.”2
The soul in China is everywhere in evidence, and if myths have “first and foremost to do with the life of the soul” it would appear strange that the Chinese, Page 71having spiritualized everything from a stone to the sky, have not been creative of myth. Why they have not the foregoing considerations show us clearly enough. We must take them and their myths as we find them. Let us, then, note briefly the result of their mental workings as reacted on by their environment.
Phases of Chinese Myth
We cannot identify the earliest mythology of the Chinese with that of any primitive race. The myths, if any, of their place of origin may have faded and been forgotten in their slow migration eastward. We cannot say that when they came from the West (which they probably did) they brought their myths with them, for in spite of certain conjectural derivations from Babylon we do not find them possessed of any which we can identify as imported by them at that time. But research seems to have gone at least as far as this—namely, that while we cannot say that Chinese myth was derived from Indian myth, there is good reason to believe that Chinese and Indian myth had a common origin, which was of course outside of China.
To set forth in detail the various phases through which Chinese myth has passed would involve a technical description foreign to the purpose of a popular work. It will sufficiently serve our present purpose to outline its most prominent features.
In the earliest times there was an ‘age of magic’ followed by an ‘heroic age,’ but myths were very rare before 800 B.C., and what is known as primitive mythology is said to have been invented or imitated from foreign sources after 820 B.C. In the eighth century B.C. myths of an astrological character began to attract Page 72attention. In the age of Lao Tzŭ (604 B.C.), the reputed founder of the Taoist religion, fresh legends appear, though Lao Tzŭ himself, absorbed in the abstract, records none. Neither did Confucius (551–479 B.C.) nor Mencius, who lived two hundred years later, add any legends to history. But in the Period of the Warring States (500–100 B.C.) fresh stimuli and great emotion prompted to mythological creation.
Tso-ch’iu Ming and Lieh Tzŭ
Tso-ch’iu Ming, commentator on Confucius’s Annals, frequently introduced legend into his history. Lieh Tzŭ (fifth and fourth centuries B.C.), a metaphysician, is one of the earliest authors who deal in myths. He is the first to mention the story of Hsi Wang Mu, the Western Queen, and from his day onward the fabulists have vied with one another in fantastic descriptions of the wonders of her fairyland. He was the first to mention the islands of the immortals in the ocean, the kingdoms of the dwarfs and giants, the fruit of immortality, the repairing of the heavens by Nü Kua Shih with five-coloured stones, and the great tortoise which supports the universe.
The T’ang and Sung Epochs
Religious romance began at this time. The T’ang epoch (A.B. 618–907) was one of the resurrection of the arts of peace after a long period of dissension. A purer and more enduring form of intellect was gradually overcoming the grosser but less solid superstition. Nevertheless the intellectual movement which now manifested itself was not strong enough to prevail against the powers of mythological darkness. It was reserved Page 73for the scholars of the Sung Period (A.D. 960–1280) to carry through to victory a strong and sustained offensive against the spiritualistic obsessions which had weighed upon the Chinese mind more or less persistently from the Han Period (206 B.C.-A.D. 221) onward. The dogma of materialism was specially cultivated at this time. The struggle of sober reason against superstition or imaginative invention was largely a struggle of Confucianism against Taoism. Though many centuries had elapsed since the great Master walked the earth, the anti-myth movement of the T’ang and Sung Periods was in reality the long arm and heavy fist of Confucius emphasizing a truer rationalism than that of his opponents and denouncing the danger of leaving the firm earth to soar into the unknown hazy regions of fantasy. It was Sung scholarship that gave the death-blow to Chinese mythology.
It is unnecessary to labour the point further, because after the Sung epoch we do not meet with any period of new mythological creation, and its absence can be ascribed to no other cause than its defeat at the hands of the Sung philosophers. After their time the tender plant was always in danger of being stunted or killed by the withering blast of philosophical criticism. Anything in the nature of myth ascribable to post-Sung times can at best be regarded only as a late blossom born when summer days are past.
Myth and Doubt
It will bear repetition to say that unless the myth-builder firmly believes in his myth, be he the layer of the foundation-stone or one of the raisers of the superstructure, he will hardly make it a living thing. Once he believes in reincarnation and the suspension of natural Page 74laws, the boundless vistas of space and the limitless æons of time are opened to him. He can perform miracles which astound the world. But if he allow his mind to inquire, for instance, why it should have been necessary for Elijah to part the waters of the Jordan with his garment in order that he and Elisha might pass over dryshod, or for Bodhidharma to stand on a reed to cross the great Yangtzŭ River, or for innumerable Immortals to sit on ‘favourable clouds’ to make their journeys through space, he spoils myth—his child is stillborn or does not survive to maturity. Though the growth of philosophy and decay of superstition may be good for a nation, the process is certainly conducive to the destruction of its myth and much of its poetry. The true mythologist takes myth for myth, enters into its spirit, and enjoys it.
We may thus expect to find in the realm of Chinese mythology a large number of little hills rather than a few great mountains, but the little hills are very good ones after their kind; and the object of this work is to present Chinese myth as it is, not as it might have been had the universe been differently constituted. Nevertheless, if, as we may rightly do, we judge of myth by the sentiments pervading it and the ideals upheld and taught by it, we shall find that Chinese myth must be ranked among the greatest.
Myth and Legend
The general principles considered above, while they explain the paucity of myth in China, explain also the abundance of legend there. The six hundred years during which the Mongols, Mings, and Manchus sat upon the throne of China are barren of myth, but like all periods of the Chinese national life are fertile in legend. And Page 75this chiefly for the reason that myths are more general, national, divine, while legends are more local, individual, human. And since, in China as elsewhere, the lower classes are as a rule less educated and more superstitious than the upper classes—have a certain amount of constructive imagination, but not enough to be self-critical—legends, rejected or even ridiculed by the scholarly class when their knowledge has become sufficiently scientific, continue to be invented and believed in by the peasant and the dweller in districts far from the madding crowd long after myth, properly so called, has exhaled its last breath. Page 76
1 The inventions of the Chinese during a period of four thousand years may be numbered on the fingers of one hand.
2 East of Asia Magazine, i, 15–16.
Cosmogony-p’an Ku and the Creation Myth
The Fashioner of the Universe
The most conspicuous figure in Chinese cosmogony is P’an Ku. He it was who chiselled the universe out of Chaos. According to Chinese ideas, he was the offspring of the original dual powers of Nature, the yin and the yang (to be considered presently), which, having in some incomprehensible way produced him, set him the task of giving form to Chaos and “making the heavens and the earth.”
Some accounts describe him as the actual creator of the universe—“the ancestor of Heaven and earth and all that live and move and have their being.” ‘P’an’ means ‘the shell of an egg,’ and ‘Ku’ ‘to secure,’ ‘solid,’ referring to P’an Ku being hatched from out of Chaos and to his settling the arrangement of the causes to which his origin was due. The characters themselves may, however, mean nothing more than ‘Researches into antiquity,’ though some bolder translators have assigned to them the significance if not the literal sense of ‘aboriginal abyss,’ or the Babylonian Tiamat, ‘the Deep.’
P’an Ku is pictured as a man of dwarfish stature clothed in bearskin, or merely in leaves or with an apron of leaves. He has two horns on his head. In his right hand he holds a hammer and in his left a chisel (sometimes these are reversed), the only implements he used in carrying out his great task. Other pictures show him attended in his labours by the four supernatural creatures—the unicorn, phoenix, tortoise, and dragon; others again with the sun in one hand and the moon in the other, Page 77some of the firstfruits of his stupendous labours. (The reason for these being there will be apparent presently.) His task occupied eighteen thousand years, during which he formed the sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth, himself increasing in stature day by day, being daily six feet taller than the day before, until, his labours ended, he died that his works might live. His head became the mountains, his breath the wind and clouds, his voice the thunder, his limbs the four quarters of the earth, his blood the rivers, his flesh the soil, his beard the constellations, his skin and hair the herbs and trees, his teeth, bones, and marrow the metals, rocks, and precious stones, his sweat the rain, and the insects creeping over his body human beings, who thus had a lowlier origin even than the tears of Khepera in Egyptian cosmology.1
This account of P’an Ku and his achievements is of Taoist origin. The Buddhists have given a somewhat different account of him, which is a late adaptation from the Taoist myth, and must not be mistaken for Buddhist cosmogony proper.2
The Sun and the Moon
In some of the pictures of P’an Ku he is represented, as already noted, as holding the sun in one hand and the moon in the other. Sometimes they are in the form of those bodies, sometimes in the classic character. The legend says that when P’an Ku put things in order in the lower world, he did not put these two luminaries in their proper courses, so they retired into the Han Sea, and the people dwelt in darkness. The Terrestrial Page 78Emperor sent an officer, Terrestrial Time, with orders that they should come forth and take their places in the heavens and give the world day and night. They refused to obey the order. They were reported to Ju Lai; P’an Ku was called, and, at the divine direction of Buddha, wrote the character for ‘sun’ in his left hand, and that for ‘moon’ in his right hand; and went to the Han Sea, and stretched forth his left hand and called the sun, and then stretched forth his right hand and called the moon, at the same time repeating a charm devoutly seven times; and they forthwith ascended on high, and separated time into day and night.3
Other legends recount that P’an Ku had the head of a dragon and the body of a serpent; and that by breathing he caused the wind, by opening his eyes he created day, his voice made the thunder, etc.
P’an Ku and Ymer
Thus we have the heavens and the earth fashioned by this wonderful being in eighteen thousand years. With regard to him we may adapt the Scandinavian ballad:
It was Time’s morning
When P’an Ku lived;
There was no sand, no sea,
Nor cooling billows;
Earth there was none,
No lofty Heaven;
No spot of living green;
Only a deep profound.
And it is interesting to note, in passing, the similarity between this Chinese artificer of the universe and Ymer, the giant, who discharges the same functions in Scandinavian mythology. Though P’an Ku did not have the same kind of birth nor meet with the violent death of the latter, the results as regards the origin of the universe seem to have been pretty much the same.4
P’an Ku a Late Creation
But though the Chinese creation myth deals with primeval things it does not itself belong to a primitive time. According to some writers whose views are entitled to respect, it was invented during the fourth century A.D. by the Taoist recluse, Magistrate Ko Hung, author of the Shên hsien chuan (Biographies of the Gods). The picturesque person of P’an Ku is said to have been a concession to the popular dislike of, or inability to comprehend, the abstract. He was conceived, some Chinese writers say, because the philosophical explanations of the Cosmos were too recondite for the ordinary mind to grasp. That he did fulfil the purpose of furnishing the Page 80ordinary mind with a fairly easily comprehensible picture of the creation may be admitted; but, as will presently be seen, it is over-stating the case to say that he was conceived with the set purpose of furnishing the ordinary mind with a concrete solution or illustration of this great problem. There is no evidence that P’an Ku had existed as a tradition before the time when we meet with the written account of him; and, what is more, there is no evidence that there existed any demand on the part of the popular mind for any such solution or illustration. The ordinary mind would seem to have been either indifferent to or satisfied with the abstruse cosmogonical and cosmological theories of the early sages for at least a thousand years. The cosmogonies of the I ching, of Lao Tzŭ, Confucius (such as it was), Kuan Tzŭ, Mencius, Chuang Tzŭ, were impersonal. P’an Ku and his myth must be regarded rather as an accident than as a creation resulting from any sudden flow of psychological forces or wind of discontent ruffling the placid Chinese mind. If the Chinese brought with them from Babylon or anywhere else the elements of a cosmogony, whether of a more or less abstruse scientific nature or a personal mythological narrative, it must have been subsequently forgotten or at least has not survived in China. But for Ko Hung’s eccentricity and his wish to experiment with cinnabar from Cochin-China in order to find the elixir of life, P’an Ku would probably never have been invented, and the Chinese mind would have been content to go on ignoring the problem or would have quietly acquiesced in the abstract philosophical explanations of the learned which it did not understand. Chinese cosmogony would then have consisted exclusively of the recondite impersonal metaphysics which the Chinese Page 81mind had entertained or been fed on for the nine hundred or more years preceding the invention of the P’an Ku myth.
Nü Kua Shih, the Repairer of the Heavens
It is true that there exist one or two other explanations of the origin of things which introduce a personal creator. There is, for instance, the legend—first mentioned by Lieh Tzŭ (to whom we shall revert later)—which represents Nü Kua Shih (also called Nü Wa and Nü Hsi), said to have been the sister and successor of Fu Hsi, the mythical sovereign whose reign is ascribed to the years 2953–2838 B.C., as having been the creator of human beings when the earth first emerged from Chaos. She (or he, for the sex seems uncertain), who had the “body of a serpent and head of an ox” (or a human head and horns of an ox, according to some writers), “moulded yellow earth and made man.” Ssŭ-ma Chêng, of the eighth century A.D., author of the Historical Records and of another work on the three great legendary emperors, Fu Hsi, Shên Nung, and Huang Ti, gives the following account of her: “Fu Hsi was succeeded by Nü Kua, who like him had the surname Fêng. Nü Kua had the body of a serpent and a human head, with the virtuous endowments of a divine sage. Toward the end of her reign there was among the feudatory princes Kung Kung, whose functions were the administration of punishment. Violent and ambitious, he became a rebel, and sought by the influence of water to overcome that of wood [under which Nü Kua reigned]. He did battle with Chu Jung [said to have been one of the ministers of Huang Ti, and later the God of Fire), but was not victorious; whereupon he struck his head against the Imperfect Mountain, Page 82Pu Chou Shan, and brought it down. The pillars of Heaven were broken and the corners of the earth gave way. Hereupon Nü Kua melted stones of the five colours to repair the heavens, and cut off the feet of the tortoise to set upright the four extremities of the earth.5 Gathering the ashes of reeds she stopped the flooding waters, and thus rescued the land of Chi, Chi Chou [the early seat of the Chinese sovereignty].”
Another account separates the name and makes Nü and Kua brother and sister, describing them as the only two human beings in existence. At the creation they were placed at the foot of the K’un-lun Mountains. Then they prayed, saying, “If thou, O God, hast sent us to be man and wife, the smoke of our sacrifice will stay in one place; but if not, it will be scattered.” The smoke remained stationary.
But though Nü Kua is said to have moulded the first man (or the first human beings) out of clay, it is to be noted that, being only the successor of Fu Hsi, long lines of rulers had preceded her of whom no account is given, and also that, as regards the heavens and the earth at least, she is regarded as the repairer and not the creator of them.
Heaven-deaf (T’ien-lung) and Earth-dumb (Ti-ya), the two attendants of Wên Ch’ang, the God of Literature (see following chapter), have also been drawn into the cosmogonical net. From their union came the heavens and the earth, mankind, and all living things.
Nŭ Kua Shih
Nŭ Kua Shih
These and other brief and unelaborated personal cosmogonies, even if not to be regarded as spurious imitations, certainly have not become established in the Chinese mind as the explanation of the way in which the Page 83universe came to be: in this sphere the P’an Ku legend reigns supreme; and, owing to its concrete, easily apprehensible nature, has probably done so ever since the time of its invention.
Early Cosmogony Dualistic
The period before the appearance of the P’an Ku myth may be divided into two parts; that from some early unknown date up to about the middle of the Confucian epoch, say 500 B.C., and that from 500 B.C. to A.D. 400. We know that during the latter period the minds of Chinese scholars were frequently occupied with speculations as to the origin of the universe. Before 500 B.C. we have no documentary remains telling us what the Chinese believed about the origin of things; but it is exceedingly unlikely that no theories or speculations at all concerning the origin of themselves and their surroundings were formed by this intelligent people during the eighteen centuries or more which preceded the date at which we find the views held by them put into written form. It is safe to assume that the dualism which later occupied their philosophical thoughts to so great an extent as almost to seem inseparable from them, and exercised so powerful an influence throughout the course of their history, was not only formulating itself during that long period, but had gradually reached an advanced stage. We may even go so far as to say that dualism, or its beginnings, existed in the very earliest times, for the belief in the second self or ghost or double of the dead is in reality nothing else. And we find it operating with apparently undiminished energy after the Chinese mind had reached its maturity in the Sung dynasty. Page 84
The Canon of Changes
The Bible of Chinese dualism is the I ching, the Canon of Changes (or Permutations). It is held in great veneration both on account of its antiquity and also because of the “unfathomable wisdom which is supposed to lie concealed under its mysterious symbols.” It is placed first in the list of the classics, or Sacred Books, though it is not the oldest of them. When exactly the work itself on which the subsequent elaborations were founded was composed is not now known. Its origin is attributed to the legendary emperor Fu Hsi (2953–2838 B.C.). It does not furnish a cosmogony proper, but merely a dualistic system as an explanation, or attempted explanation, or even perhaps orly a record, of the constant changes (in modern philosophical language the “redistribution of matter and motion”) going on everywhere. That explanation or record was used for purposes of divination. This dualistic system, by a simple addition, became a monism, and at the same time furnished the Chinese with a cosmogony.
The Five Elements
The Five Elements or Forces (wu hsing)—which, according to the Chinese, are metal, air, fire, water, and wood—are first mentioned in Chinese literature in a chapter of the classic Book of History.6 They play a very important part in Chinese thought: ‘elements’ meaning generally not so much the actual substances as the forces essential to human, life. They have to be noticed in passing, because they were involved in the development of the cosmogonical ideas which took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D. Page 85
As their imagination grew, it was natural that the Chinese should begin to ask themselves what, if the yang and the yin by their permutations produced, or gave shape to, all things, was it that produced the yang and the yin. When we see traces of this inquisitive tendency we find ourselves on the borderland of dualism where the transition is taking place into the realm of monism. But though there may have been a tendency toward monism in early times, it was only in the Sung dynasty that the philosophers definitely placed behind the yang and the yin a First Cause—the Grand Origin, Grand Extreme, Grand Terminus, or Ultimate Ground of Existence.7 They gave to it the name t’ai chi, and represented it by a concrete sign, the symbol of a circle. The complete scheme shows the evolution of the Sixty-four Diagrams (kua) from the t’ai chi through the yang and the yin, the Four, Eight, Sixteen, and Thirty-two Diagrams successively. This conception was the work of the Sung philosopher Chou Tun-i (A.D. 1017–73), commonly known as Chou Tzŭ, and his disciple Chu Hsi (A.D. 1130–1200), known as Chu Tzŭ or Chu Fu Tzŭ, the famous historian and Confucian commentator—two of the greatest names in Chinese philosophy. It was at this time that the tide of constructive imagination in China, tinged though it always was with classical Confucianism, rose to its greatest height. There is the philosopher’s seeking for causes. Yet in this matter of the First Cause we detect, in the full flood of Confucianism, the potent influence of Taoist and Buddhist speculations. It has even been said that the Sung philosophy, which grew, not from the I ching itself, but from the appendixes to it, is more Taoistic than Confucian. As it was with the P’an Ku Page 86legend, so was it with this more philosophical cosmogony. The more fertile Taoist and Buddhist imaginations led to the preservation of what the Confucianists, distrusting the marvellous, would have allowed to die a natural death. It was, after all, the mystical foreign elements which gave point to—we may rightly say rounded off—the early dualism by converting it into monism, carrying philosophical speculation from the Knowable to the Unknowable, and furnishing the Chinese with their first scientific theory of the origin, not of the changes going on in the universe (on which they had already formed their opinions), but of the universe itself.
Chou Tzŭ’s “T’ai Chi T’u”
Chou Tun-i, appropriately apotheosized as ‘Prince in the Empire of Reason,’ completed and systematized the philosophical world-conception which had hitherto obtained in the Chinese mind. He did not ask his fellow-countrymen to discard any part of what they had long held in high esteem: he raised the old theories from the sphere of science to that of philosophy by unifying them and bringing them to a focus. And he made this unification intelligible to the Chinese mind by his famous T’ai chi t’u, or Diagram of the Great Origin (or Grand Terminus), showing that the Grand Original Cause, itself uncaused, produces the yang and the yin, these the Five Elements, and so on, through the male and female norms (tao), to the production of all things.
Chu Hsi’s Monistic Philosophy
The writings of Chu Hsi, especially his treatise on The Immaterial Principle [li] and Primary Matter [ch’i], leave no doubt as to the monism of his philosophy. In this work Page 87occurs the passage: “In the universe there exists no primary matter devoid of the immaterial principle; and no immaterial principle apart from primary matter”; and although the two are never separated “the immaterial principle [as Chou Tzŭ explains] is what is previous to form, while primary matter is what is subsequent to form,” the idea being that the two are different manifestations of the same mysterious force from which all things proceed.
It is unnecessary to follow this philosophy along all the different branches which grew out of it, for we are here concerned only with the seed. We have observed how Chinese dualism became a monism, and how while the monism was established the dualism was retained. It is this mono-dualistic theory, combining the older and newer philosophy, which in China, then as now, constitutes the accepted explanation of the origin of things, of the universe itself and all that it contains.
Lao Tzŭ’s “Tao”
There are other cosmogonies in Chinese philosophy, but they need not detain us long. Lao Tzŭ (sixth century B.C.), in his Tao-tê ching, The Canon of Reason and Virtue (at first entitled simply Lao Tzŭ), gave to the then existing scattered sporadic conceptions of the universe a literary form. His tao, or ‘Way,’ is the originator of Heaven and earth, it is “the mother of all things.” His Way, which was “before God,” is but a metaphorical expression for the manner in which things came at first into being out of the primal nothingness, and how the phenomena of nature continue to go on, “in stillness and quietness, without striving or crying.” Lao Tzŭ is thus so far monistic, but he is also mystical, transcendental, even Page 88pantheistic. The way that can be walked is not the Eternal Way; the name that can be named is not the Eternal Name. The Unnameable is the originator of Heaven and earth; manifesting itself as the Nameable, it is “the mother of all things.” “In Eternal Non-Being I see the Spirituality of Things; in Eternal Being their limitation. Though different under these two aspects, they are the same in origin; it is when development takes place that different names have to be used. It is while they are in the condition of sameness that the mystery concerning them exists. This mystery is indeed the mystery of mysteries. It is the door of all spirituality.”
This tao, indefinable and in its essence unknowable, is “the fountain-head of all beings, and the norm of all actions. But it is not only the formative principle of the universe; it also seems to be primordial matter: chaotic in its composition, born prior to Heaven and earth, noiseless, formless, standing alone in its solitude, and not changing, universal in its activity, and unrelaxing, without being exhausted, it is capable of becoming the mother of the universe.” And there we may leave it. There is no scheme of creation, properly so called. The Unwalkable Way leads us to nothing further in the way of a cosmogony.
Confucius (551–479 B.C.) did not throw any light on the problem of origin. He did not speculate on the creation of things nor the end of them. He was not troubled to account for the origin of man, nor did he seek to know about his hereafter. He meddled neither with physics nor metaphysics. There might, he thought, be Page 89something on the other side of life, for he admitted the existence of spiritual beings. They had an influence on the living, because they caused them to clothe themselves in ceremonious dress and attend to the sacrificial ceremonies. But we should not trouble ourselves about them, any more than about supernatural things, or physical prowess, or monstrosities. How can we serve spiritual beings while we do not know how to serve men? We feel the existence of something invisible and mysterious, but its nature and meaning are too deep for the human understanding to grasp. The safest, indeed the only reasonable, course is that of the agnostic—to leave alone the unknowable, while acknowledging its existence and its mystery, and to try to understand knowable phenomena and guide our actions accordingly.
Between the monism of Lao Tzŭ and the positivism of Confucius on the one hand, and the landmark of the Taoistic transcendentalism of Chuang Tzŭ (fourth and third centuries B.C.) on the other, we find several “guesses at the riddle of existence” which must be briefly noted as links in the chain of Chinese speculative thought on this important subject.
Mo Tzŭ and Creation
In the philosophy of Mo Ti (fifth and fourth centuries B.C.), generally known as Mo Tzŭ or Mu Tzŭ, the philosopher of humanism and utilitarianism, we find the idea of creation. It was, he says, Heaven (which was anthropomorphically regarded by him as a personal Supreme Being) who “created the sun, moon, and innumerable stars.” His system closely resembles Christianity, but the great power of Confucianism as a weapon wielded against all opponents by its doughty Page 90defender Mencius (372–289 B.C.) is shown by the complete suppression of the influence of Mo Tzŭism at his hands. He even went so far as to describe Mo Tzŭ and those who thought with him as “wild animals.”
Mencius and the First Cause
Mencius himself regarded Heaven as the First Cause, or Cause of Causes, but it was not the same personal Heaven as that of Mo Tzŭ. Nor does he hang any cosmogony upon it. His chief concern was to eulogize the doctrines of the great Confucius, and like him he preferred to let the origin of the universe look after itself.
Lieh Tzŭ’s Absolute
Lieh Tzŭ (said to have lived in the fifth century B.C.), one of the brightest stars in the Taoist constellation, considered this nameable world as having evolved from an unnameable absolute being. The evolution did not take place through the direction of a personal will working out a plan of creation: “In the beginning there was Chaos [hun tun]. It was a mingled potentiality of Form (hsing), Pneuma [ch’i], and Substance (chih). A Great Change (t’ai i] took place in it, and there was a Great Starting (t’ai ch’u] which is the beginning of Form. The Great Starting evolved a Great Beginning (t’ai shih], which is the inception of Pneuma. The Great Beginning was followed by the Great Blank (t’ai su], which is the first formation of Substance. Substance, Pneuma, and Form being all evolved out of the primordial chaotic mass, this material world as it lies before us came into existence.” And that which made it possible for Chaos to evolve was the Solitary Indeterminate (i tu or the tao), Page 91which is not created, but is able to create everlastingly. And being both Solitary and Indeterminate it tells us nothing determinate about itself.
Chuang Tzŭ’s Super-tao
Chuang Chou (fourth and third centuries B.C.), generally known as Chuang Tzŭ, the most brilliant Taoist of all, maintained with Lao Tzŭ that the universe started from the Nameless, but it was if possible a more absolute and transcendental Nameless than that of Lao Tzŭ. He dwells on the relativity of knowledge; as when asleep he did not know that he was a man dreaming that he was a butterfly, so when awake he did not know that he was not a butterfly dreaming that he was a man.8 But “all is embraced in the obliterating unity of the tao, and the wise man, passing into the realm of the Infinite, finds rest therein.” And this tao, of which we hear so much in Chinese philosophy, was before the Great Ultimate or Grand Terminus (t’ai chi), and “from it came the mysterious existence of God [ti]. It produced Heaven, it produced earth.”
Popular Cosmogony still Personal or Dualistic
These and other cosmogonies which the Chinese have devised, though it is necessary to note their existence in order to give a just idea of their cosmological speculations, need not, as I said, detain us long; and the reason Page 92why they need not do so is that, in the matter of cosmogony, the P’an Ku legend and the yin-yang system with its monistic elaboration occupy virtually the whole field of the Chinese mental vision. It is these two—the popular and the scientific—that we mean when we speak of Chinese cosmogony. Though here and there a stern sectarian might deny that the universe originated in one or the other of these two ways, still, the general rule holds good. And I have dealt with them in this order because, though the P’an Ku legend belongs to the fourth century A.D., the I ching dualism was not, rightly speaking, a cosmogony until Chou Tun-i made it one by the publication of his T’ai chi t’u in the eleventh century A.D. Over the unscientific and the scientific minds of the Chinese these two are paramount.
Applying the general principles stated in the preceding chapter, we find the same cause which operated to restrict the growth of mythology in general in China operated also in like manner in this particular branch of it. With one exception Chinese cosmogony is non-mythological. The careful and studiously accurate historians (whose work aimed at being ex veritate, ‘made of truth’), the sober literature, the vast influence of agnostic, matter-of-fact Confucianism, supported by the heavy Mencian artillery, are indisputable indications of a constructive imagination which grew too quickly and became too rapidly scientific to admit of much soaring into the realms of fantasy. Unaroused by any strong stimulus in their ponderings over the riddle of the universe, the sober, plodding scientists and the calm, truth-loving philosophers gained a peaceful victory over the mythologists. Page 93
1 Cf. Aristotle’s belief that bugs arose spontaneously from sweat.
2 For the Buddhist account see China Review, xi, 80–82.
3 Compare the Japanese legend, which relates that the Sun-goddess was induced to come out of a cave by being tempted to gaze at herself in a mirror. See Myths and Legends of Japan, F. Hadland Davis, pp. 27–28.
4 See Myths of the Norsemen, by H. A. Guerber. These resemblances and the further one—namely, the dualism in the prechaotic epoch (a very interesting point in Scandinavian mythology)—illustrate the danger of inferring identity of origin from similarity of physical, intellectual, or moral results. Several remarkable parallelisms of Chinese religious and mythological beliefs with those recorded in the Hebrew scriptures may also be briefly noted. There is an age of virtue and happiness, a garden with a tree bearing ‘apples of immortality,’ guarded by a winged serpent (dragon), the fall of man, the beginnings of lust and war (the doctrine of original sin), a great flood, virgin-born god-men who rescue man from barbarism and endow him with superhuman attributes, discipleship, worship of a Virgin Mother, trinities, monasticism, celibacy, fasting, preaching, prayers, primeval Chaos, Paradise, etc. For details see Chinese Repository, vii, 520–521.
5 Cf. the dwarfs in the Scandinavian myth.
6 See Legge, Shu ching, ii, 320, note.
7 In order to avoid misunderstanding, it is as well to note that the mention of the t’ai chi in the Canon of Changes (I ching) no more constituted monism the philosophy of China than did the steam-driven machinery mentioned by Hero of Alexandria constitute the first century B.C. the ‘age of steam.’ Similarly, to take another example, the idea of the earth’s rotundity, though conceived centuries before Ptolemy in the second century, did not become established before the sixteenth century. It was, in fact, from the I ching that the Chinese derived their dualistic (not their monistic) conception of the world.
8 “Formerly, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flying about and feeling that it was enjoying itself. I did not know that it was Chou. Suddenly I awoke and was myself again, the veritable Chou. I did not know whether it had formerly been Chou dreaming that he was a butterfly, or whether it was now a butterfly dreaming that it was Chou.” Chuang Tzŭ, Book II.
The Gods of China
The Birth of the Soul
The dualism noted in the last chapter is well illustrated by the Chinese pantheon. Whether as the result of the co-operation of the yin and the yang or of the final dissolution of P’an Ku, human beings came into existence. To the primitive mind the body and its shadow, an object and its reflection in water, real life and dream life, sensibility and insensibility (as in fainting, etc.), suggest the idea of another life parallel with this life and of the doings of the ‘other self’ in it. This ‘other self,’ this spirit, which leaves the body for longer or shorter intervals in dreams, swoons, death, may return or be brought back, and the body revive. Spirits which do not return or are not brought back may cause mischief, either alone, or by entry into another human or animal body or even an inanimate object, and should therefore be propitiated. Hence worship and deification.
The Populous Otherworld
The Chinese pantheon has gradually become so multitudinous that there is scarcely a being or thing which is not, or has not been at some time or other, propitiated or worshipped. As there are good and evil people in this world, so there are gods and demons in the Otherworld: we find a polytheism limited only by a polydemonism. The dualistic hierarchy is almost all-embracing. To get a clear idea of this populous Otherworld, of the supernal and infernal hosts and their organizations, it needs but to imagine the social structure in its main features as it existed Page 94throughout the greater part of Chinese history, and to make certain additions. The social structure consisted of the ruler, his court, his civil, military, and ecclesiastical officials, and his subjects (classed as Scholars—officials and gentry—Agriculturists, Artisans, and Merchants, in that order).
Worship of Shang Ti
When these died, their other selves continued to exist and to hold the same rank in the spirit world as they did in this one. The ti, emperor, became the Shang Ti, Emperor on High, who dwelt in T’ien, Heaven (originally the great dome).1 And Shang Ti, the Emperor on High, was worshipped by ti, the emperor here below, in order to pacify or please him—to ensure a continuance of his benevolence on his behalf in the world of spirits. Confusion of ideas and paucity of primitive language lead to personification and worship of a thing or being in which a spirit has taken up its abode in place of or in addition to worship of the spirit itself. Thus Heaven (T’ien) itself came to be personified and worshipped in addition to Shang Ti, the Emperor who had gone to Heaven, and who was considered as the chief ruler in the spiritual world. The worship of Shang Ti was in existence before that of T’ien was introduced. Shang Ti was worshipped by the emperor and his family as their ancestor, or the head of the hierarchy of their ancestors. The people could not worship Shang Ti, for to do so would imply a familiarity or a claim of relationship punishable with death. The emperor worshipped his ancestors, the officials theirs, the people theirs. But, in the same way and sense that the people worshipped the emperor on earth, as the ‘father’ of the nation, namely, by adoration and Page 95obeisance, so also could they in this way and this sense worship Shang Ti. An Englishman may take off his hat as the king passes in the street to his coronation without taking any part in the official service in Westminster Abbey. So the ‘worship’ of Shang Ti by the people was not done officially or with any special ceremonial or on fixed State occasions, as in the case of the worship of Shang Ti by the emperor. This, subject to a qualification to be mentioned later, is really all that is meant (or should be meant) when it is said that the Chinese worship Shang Ti.
As regards sacrifices to Shang Ti, these could be offered officially only by the emperor, as High Priest on earth, who was attended or assisted in the ceremonies by members of his own family or clan or the proper State officials (often, even in comparatively modern times, members of the imperial family or clan). In these official sacrifices, which formed part of the State worship, the people could not take part; nor did they at first offer sacrifices to Shang Ti in their own homes or elsewhere. In what way and to what extent they did so later will be shown presently.
Worship of T’ien
Owing to T’ien, Heaven, the abode of the spirits, becoming personified, it came to be worshipped not only by the emperor, but by the people also. But there was a difference between these two worships, because the emperor performed his worship of Heaven officially at the great altar of the Temple of Heaven at Peking (in early times at the altar in the suburb of the capital), whereas the people (continuing always to worship their ancestors) worshipped Heaven, when they did so at all—the custom being observed by some and not by others, just as in Western countries some people go to church, while others Page 96stay away—usually at the time of the New Year, in a simple, unceremonious way, by lighting some incense-sticks and waving them toward the sky in the courtyards of their own houses or in the street just outside their doors.
Confusion of Shang Ti and T’ien
The qualification necessary to the above description is that, as time went on and especially since the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960–1280), much confusion arose regarding Shang Ti and T’ien, and thus it came about that the terms became mixed and their definitions obscure. This confusion of ideas has prevailed down to the present time. One result of this is that the people may sometimes state, when they wave their incense-sticks or light their candles, that their humble sacrifice is made to Shang Ti, whom in reality they have no right either to worship or to offer sacrifice to, but whom they may unofficially pay respect and make obeisance to, as they might and did to the emperor behind the high boards on the roadsides which shielded him from their view as he was borne along in his elaborate procession on the few occasions when he came forth from the imperial city.
Thus we find that, while only the emperor could worship and sacrifice to Shang Ti, and only he could officially worship and sacrifice to T’ien, the people who early personified and worshipped T’ien, as already shown, came, owing to confusion of the meanings of Shang Ti and T’ien, unofficially to ‘worship’ both, but only in the sense and to the extent indicated, and to offer ‘sacrifices’ to both, also only in the sense and to the extent indicated. But for these qualifications, the statement that the Chinese worship and sacrifice to Shang Ti and T’ien would be apt to convey an incorrect idea. Page 97
From this it will be apparent that Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler on High, and T’ien, Heaven (later personified), do not mean ‘God’ in the sense that the word is used in the Christian religion. To state that they do, as so many writers on China have done, without pointing out the essential differences, is misleading. That Chinese religion was or is “a monotheistic worship of God” is further disproved by the fact that Shang Ti and T’ien do not appear in the list of the popular pantheon at all, though all the other gods are there represented. Neither Shang Ti nor T’ien mean the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of the New Testament. Did they mean this, the efforts of the Christian missionaries to convert the Chinese would be largely superfluous. The Christian religion, even the Holy Trinity, is a monotheism. That the Chinese religion (even though a summary of extracts from the majority of foreign books on China might point to its being so) is not a monotheism, but a polytheism or even a pantheism (as long as that term is taken in the sense of universal deification and not in that of one spiritual being immanent in all things), the rest of this chapter will abundantly prove.
There have been three periods in which gods have been created in unusually large numbers: that of the mythical emperor Hsien Yüan (2698–2598 B.C.), that of Chiang Tzŭ-ya (in the twelfth century B.C.), and that of the first emperor of the Ming dynasty (in the fourteenth century A.D.).
The Otherworld Similar to this World
The similarity of the Otherworld to this world above alluded to is well shown by Du Bose in his Dragon, Image, and, Demon, from which I quote the following passages: Page 98
“The world of spirits is an exact counterpart of the Chinese Empire, or, as has been remarked, it is ‘China ploughed under’; this is the world of light; put out the lights and you have Tartarus. China has eighteen [now twenty-two] provinces, so has Hades; each province has eight or nine prefects, or departments; so each province in Hades has eight or nine departments; every prefect or department averages ten counties, so every department in Hades has ten counties. In Soochow the Governor, the provincial Treasurer, the Criminal Judge, the Intendant of Circuit, the Prefect or Departmental Governor, and the three District Magistrates or County Governors each have temples with their apotheoses in the other world. Not only these, but every yamên secretary, runner, executioner, policeman, and constable has his counterpart in the land of darkness. The market-towns have also mandarins of lesser rank in charge, besides a host of revenue collectors, the bureau of government works and other departments, with several hundred thousand officials, who all rank as gods beyond the grave. These deities are civilians; the military having a similar gradation for the armies of Hades, whose captains are gods, and whose battalions are devils.
“The framers of this wonderful scheme for the spirits of the dead, having no higher standard, transferred to the authorities of that world the etiquette, tastes, and venality of their correlate officials in the Chinese Government, thus making it necessary to use similar means to appease the one which are found necessary to move the other. All the State gods have their assistants, attendants, door-keepers, runners, horses, horsemen, detectives, and executioners, corresponding in every particular to those of Chinese officials of the same rank.” (Pp. 358–359.) Page 99
This likeness explains also why the hierarchy of beings in the Otherworld concerns itself not only with the affairs of the Otherworld, but with those of this world as well. So faithful is the likeness that we find the gods (the term is used in this chapter to include goddesses, who are, however, relatively few) subjected to many of the rules and conditions existing on this earth. Not only do they, as already shown, differ in rank, but they hold levées and audiences and may be promoted for distinguished services, just as the Chinese officials are. They “may rise from an humble position to one near the Pearly Emperor, who gives them the reward of merit for ruling well the affairs of men. The correlative deities of the mandarins are only of equal rank, yet the fact that they have been apotheosized makes them their superiors and fit objects of worship. Chinese mandarins rotate in office, generally every three years, and then there is a corresponding change in Hades. The image in the temple remains the same, but the spirit which dwells in the clay tabernacle changes, so the idol has a different name, birthday, and tenant. The priests are informed by the Great Wizard of the Dragon Tiger Mountain, but how can the people know gods which are not the same to-day as yesterday?” (Pp. 360–361.)
The gods also indulge in amusements, marry, sin, are punished, die, are resurrected, or die and are transformed, or die finally.2
The Three Religions
We have in China the universal worship of ancestors, which constitutes (or did until A.D. 1912) the State Page 100religion, usually known as Confucianism, and in addition we have the gods of the specific religions (which also originally took their rise in ancestor-worship), namely, Buddhism and Taoism. (Other religions, though tolerated, are not recognized as Chinese religions.) It is with a brief account of this great hierarchy and its mythology that we will now concern ourselves.
Besides the ordinary ancestor-worship (as distinct from the State worship) the people took to Buddhism and Taoism, which became the popular religions, and the literati also honoured the gods of these two sects. Buddhist deities gradually became installed in Taoist temples, and the Taoist immortals were given seats beside the Buddhas in their sanctuaries. Every one patronized the god who seemed to him the most popular and the most lucrative. There even came to be united in the same temple and worshipped at the same altar the three religious founders or figure-heads, Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzŭ. The three religions were even regarded as forming one whole, or at least, though different, as having one and the same object: san êrh i yeh, or han san wei i, “the three are one,” or “the three unite to form one” (a quotation from the phrase T’ai chi han san wei i of Fang Yü-lu: “When they reach the extreme the three are seen to be one”). In the popular pictorial representations of the pantheon this impartiality is clearly shown.
The toleration, fraternity, or co-mixture of the three religions—ancestor-worship or Confucianism, Chinese Buddhism, and Taoism—explains the compound nature of the triune head of the Chinese pantheon. The Page 101numerous deities of Buddhism and Taoism culminate each in a triad of gods (the Three Precious Ones and the Three Pure Ones respectively), but the three religions jointly have also a triad compounded of one representative member of each. This general or super-triad is, of course, composed of Confucius, Lao Tzŭ, and Buddha. This is the officially decreed order, though it is varied occasionally by Buddha being placed in the centre (the place of honour) as an act of ceremonial deference shown to a ‘stranger’ or ‘guest’ from another country.
Worship of the Living
Before proceeding to consider the gods of China in detail, it is necessary to note that ancestor-worship, which, as before stated, is worship of the ghosts of deceased persons, who are usually but not invariably relatives of the worshipper, has at times a sort of preliminary stage in this world consisting of the worship of living beings. Emperors, viceroys, popular officials, or people beloved for their good deeds have had altars, temples, and images erected to them, where they are worshipped in the same way as those who have already “shuffled off this mortal coil.” The most usual cases are perhaps those of the worship of living emperors and those in which some high official who has gained the gratitude of the people is transferred to another post. The explanation is simple. The second self which exists after death is identical with the second self inhabiting the body during life. Therefore it may be propitiated or gratified by sacrifices of food, drink, etc., or theatricals performed in its honour, and continue its protection and good offices even though now far away. Page 102
Confucianism (Ju Chiao) is said to be the religion of the learned, and the learned were the officials and the literati or lettered class, which includes scholars waiting for posts, those who have failed to get posts (or, though qualified, prefer to live in retirement), and those who have retired from posts. Of this ‘religion’ it has been said:
“The name embraces education, letters, ethics, and political philosophy. Its head was not a religious man, practised few religious rites, and taught nothing about religion. In its usual acceptation the term Confucianist means ‘a gentleman and a scholar’; he may worship only once a year, yet he belongs to the Church. Unlike its two sisters, it has no priesthood, and fundamentally is not a religion at all; yet with the many rites grafted on the original tree it becomes a religion, and the one most difficult to deal with. Considered as a Church, the classics are its scriptures, the schools its churches, the teachers its priests, ethics its theology, and the written character, so sacred, its symbol.”3
Confucius not a God
It should be noted that Confucius himself is not a god, though he has been and is worshipped (66,000 animals used to be offered to him every year; probably the number is about the same now). Suggestions have been made to make him the God of China and Confucianism the religion of China, so that he and his religion would hold the same relative positions that Christ and Christianity do in the West. I was present at the lengthy debate which took place on this subject in the Chinese Page 103Parliament in February 1917, but in spite of many long, learned, and eloquent speeches, chiefly by scholars of the old school, the motion was not carried. Nevertheless, the worship accorded to Confucius was and is (except by ‘new’ or ‘young’ China) of so extreme a nature that he may almost be described as the great unapotheosized god of China.4 Some of his portraits even ascribe to him superhuman attributes. But in spite of all this the fact remains that Confucius has not been appointed a god and holds no exequatur entitling him to that rank.
If we inquire into the reason of this we find that, astonishing though it may seem, Confucius is classed by the Chinese not as a god (shên), but as a demon (kuei). A short historical statement will make the matter clear.
In the classical Li chi, Book of Ceremonial, we find the categorical assignment of the worship of certain objects to certain subjective beings: the emperor worshipped Heaven and earth, the feudal princes the mountains and rivers, the officials the hearth, and the literati their ancestors. Heaven, earth, mountains, rivers, and hearth were called shên (gods), and ancestors kuei (demons). This distinction is due to Heaven being regarded as the god and the people as demons—the upper is the god, the lower the evil spirit or demon. Though kuei were usually bad, the term in Chinese includes both good and evil spirits. In ancient times those who had by their meritorious virtue while in the world averted calamities from the people were posthumously worshipped and called gods, but those who were worshipped by their descendants only were called spirits or demons.
In the worship of Confucius by emperors of various Page 104dynasties (details of which need not be given here) the highest titles conferred on him were Hsien Shêng, ‘Former or Ancestral Saint,’ and even Win Hsüan Wang, ‘Accomplished and Illustrious Prince,’ and others containing like epithets. When for his image or idol there was (in the eleventh year—A.D. 1307—of the reign-period Ta Tê of the Emperor Ch’êng Tsung of the Yüan dynasty) substituted the tablet now seen in the Confucian temples, these were the inscriptions engraved on it. In the inscriptions authoritatively placed on the tablets the word shên does not occur; in those cases where it does occur it has been placed there (as by the Taoists) illegally and without authority by too ardent devotees. Confucius may not be called a shên, since there is no record showing that the great ethical teacher was ever apotheosized, or that any order was given that the character shên was to be applied to him.
The God of Literature
In addition to the ancestors of whose worship it really consists, Confucianism has in its pantheon the specialized gods worshipped by the literati. Naturally the chief of these is Wên Ch’ang, the God of Literature. The account of him (which varies in several particulars in different Chinese works) relates that he was a man of the name of Chang Ya, who was born during the T’ang dynasty in the kingdom of Yüeh (modern Chêkiang), and went to live at Tzŭ T’ung in Ssŭch’uan, where his intelligence raised him to the position of President of the Board of Ceremonies. Another account refers to him as Chang Ya Tzŭ, the Soul or Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, and states that he held office in the Chin dynasty (A.D. 265–316), and was killed in a fight. Another again states that under the Sung dynasty (A.D. Page 105960–1280), in the third year (A.D. 1000) of the reign-period Hsien P’ing of the Emperor Chên Tsung, he repressed the revolt of Wang Chün at Ch’êng Tu in Ssŭch’uan. General Lei Yu-chung caused to be shot into the besieged town arrows to which notices were attached inviting the inhabitants to surrender. Suddenly a man mounted a ladder, and pointing to the rebels cried in a loud voice: “The Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung has sent me to inform you that the town will fall into the hands of the enemy on the twentieth day of the ninth moon, and not a single person will escape death.” Attempts to strike down this prophet of evil were in vain, for he had already disappeared. The town was captured on the day indicated. The general, as a reward, caused the temple of Tzŭ T’ung’s Spirit to be repaired, and sacrifices offered to it.
The object of worship nowadays in the temples dedicated to Wên Ch’ang is Tzŭ T’ung Ti Chün, the God of Tzŭ T’ung. The convenient elasticity of dualism enabled Chang to have as many as seventeen reincarnations, which ranged over a period of some three thousand years.
Various emperors at various times bestowed upon Wên Ch’ang honorific titles, until ultimately, in the Yüan, or Mongol, dynasty, in the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, the title was conferred on him of Supporter of the Yüan Dynasty, Diffuser of Renovating Influences, Ssŭ-lu of Wên Ch’ang, God and Lord. He was thus apotheosized, and took his place among the gods of China. By steps few or many a man in China has often become a god.
Wên Ch’ang and the Great Bear
Thus we have the God of Literature, Wên Ch’ang Ti Chün, duly installed in the Chinese pantheon, and sacrifices were offered to him in the schools. Page 106
But scholars, especially those about to enter for the public competitive examinations, worshipped as the God of Literature, or as his palace or abode (Wên Ch’ang), the star K’uei in the Great Bear, or Dipper, or Bushel—the latter name derived from its resemblance in shape to the measure used by the Chinese and called tou. The term K’uei was more generally applied to the four stars forming the body or square part of the Dipper, the three forming the tail or handle being called Shao or Piao. How all this came about is another story.
A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was Chung K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which by right was due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish or monster called ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K’uei, a name given by the Chinese to the sixteen stars of the constellation or ‘mansion’ of Andromeda and Pisces. The scholars quite soon began to worship K’uei as the God of Literature, and to represent it on a column in the temples. Then sacrifices were offered to it. This star or constellation was regarded as the palace of the god. The legend gave rise to an expression frequently used in Chinese of one who comes out first in an examination, namely, tu chan ao Page 107t’ou, “to stand alone on the sea-monster’s head.” It is especially to be noted that though the two K’ueis have the same sound they are represented by different characters, and that the two constellations are not the same, but are situated in widely different parts of the heavens.
How then did it come about that scholars worshipped the K’uei in the Great Bear as the abode of the God of Literature? (It may be remarked in passing that a literary people could not have chosen a more appropriate palace for this god, since the Great Bear, the ‘Chariot of Heaven,’ is regarded as the centre and governor of the whole universe.) The worship, we saw, was at first that of the star K’uei, the apotheosized ‘homely,’ successful, but rejected candidate. As time went on, there was a general demand for a sensible, concrete representation of this star-god: a simple character did not satisfy the popular taste. But it was no easy matter to comply with the demand. Eventually, guided doubtless by the community of pronunciation, they substituted for the star or group of stars K’uei (1),5 venerated in ancient times, a new star or group of stars K’uei (2), forming the square part of the Bushel, Dipper, or Great Bear. But for this again no bodily image could be found, so the form of the written character itself was taken, and so drawn as to represent a kuei (3) (disembodied spirit, or ghost) with its foot raised, and bearing aloft a tou (4) (bushel-measure). The adoration was thus misplaced, for the constellation K’uei (2) was mistaken for K’uei (1), Page 108the proper object of worship. It was due to this confusion by the scholars that the Northern Bushel came to be worshipped as the God of Literature.
Wên Ch’ang and Tzŭ T’ung
This worship had nothing whatever to do with the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, but the Taoists have connected Chang Ya with the constellation in another way by saying that Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler, entrusted Chang Ya’s son with the management of the palace of Wên Ch’ang. And scholars gradually acquired the habit of saying that they owed their success to the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, which they falsely represented as being an incarnation of the star Wên Ch’ang. This is how Chang Ya came to have the honorific title of Wên Ch’ang, but, as a Chinese author points out, Chang belonged properly to Ssŭch’uan, and his worship should be confined to that province. The literati there venerated him as their master, and as a mark of affection and gratitude built a temple to him; but in doing so they had no intention of making him the God of Literature. “There being no real connexion between Chang Ya and K’uei, the worship should be stopped.” The device of combining the personality of the patron of literature enthroned among the stars with that of the deified mortal canonized as the Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung was essentially a Taoist trick. “The thaumaturgic reputation assigned to the Spirit of Chang Ya Tzŭ was confined for centuries to the valleys of Ssŭch’uan, until at some period antecedent to the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, a combination was arranged between the functions of the local god and those of the stellar patron of literature. Imperial sanction was obtained for this stroke of priestly cunning; and Page 109notwithstanding protests continually repeated by orthodox sticklers for accuracy in the religious canon, the composite deity has maintained his claims intact, and an inseparable connexion between the God of Literature created by imperial patent and the spirit lodged among the stars of Ursa Major is fully recognized in the State ceremonial of the present day.” A temple dedicated to this divinity by the State exists in every city of China, besides others erected as private benefactions or speculations.
Wherever Wên Ch’ang is worshipped there will also be found a separate representation of K’uei Hsing, showing that while the official deity has been allowed to ‘borrow glory’ from the popular god, and even to assume his personality, the independent existence of the stellar spirit is nevertheless sedulously maintained. The place of the latter in the heavens above is invariably symbolized by the lodgment of his idol in an upper storey or tower, known as the K’uei Hsing Ko or K’uei Hsing Lou. Here students worship the patron of their profession with incense and prayers. Thus the ancient stellar divinity still largely monopolizes the popular idea of a guardian of literature and study, notwithstanding that the deified recluse of Tzŭ T’ung has been added in this capacity to the State pantheon for more than five hundred years.
Heaven-deaf and Earth-dumb
The popular representations of Wên Ch’ang depict the god himself and four other figures. The central and largest is the demure portrait of the god, clothed in blue and holding a sceptre in his left hand. Behind him stand two youthful attendants. They are the servant and groom who always accompany him on his journeys (on which he rides a white horse). Their names are Page 110respectively Hsüan T’ung-tzŭ and Ti-mu, ‘Sombre Youth’ and ‘Earth-mother’; more commonly they are called T’ien-lung, ‘Deaf Celestial,‘ and Ti-ya, ‘Mute Terrestrial,’ or ‘Deaf as Heaven’ and ‘Mute as Earth.’ Thus they cannot divulge the secrets of their master’s administration as he distributes intellectual gifts, literary skill, etc. Their cosmogonical connexion has already been referred to in a previous chapter.
Image of K’uei Hsing
In front of Wên Ch’ang, on his left, stands K’uei Hsing. He is represented as of diminutive stature, with the visage of a demon, holding a writing-brush in his right hand and a tou in his left, one of his legs kicking up behind—the figure being obviously intended as an impersonation of the character k’uei (2).6 He is regarded as the distributor of literary degrees, and was invoked above all in order to obtain success at the competitive examinations. His images and temples are found in all towns. In the temples dedicated to Wên Ch’ang there are always two secondary altars, one of which is consecrated to his worship.
The other is dedicated to Chu I, ‘Mr Redcoat.’ He and K’uei Hsing are represented as the two inseparable companions of the God of Literature. The legend related of Chu I is as follows:
During the T’ang dynasty, in the reign-period Chien Chung (A.D. 780–4) of the Emperor Tê Tsung, the Princess T’ai Yin noticed that Lu Ch’i, a native of Hua Chou, had the bones of an Immortal, and wished to marry him.
Wên Ch’ang, K’uei Hsing, and Chu I.
Wên Ch’ang, K’uei Hsing, and Chu I.
Ma P’o, her neighbour, introduced him one day into the Crystal Palace for an interview with his future wife. The Princess gave him the choice of three careers: to live in the Dragon Prince’s Palace, with the guarantee of immortal life, to enjoy immortality among the people on the earth, or to have the honour of becoming a minister of the Empire. Lu Ch’i first answered that he would like to live in the Crystal Palace. The young lady, overjoyed, said to him: “I am Princess T’ai Yin. I will at once inform Shang Ti, the Supreme Ruler.” A moment later the arrival of a celestial messenger was announced. Two officers bearing flags preceded him and conducted him to the foot of the flight of steps. He then presented himself as Chu I, the envoy of Shang Ti.
Addressing himself to Lu Ch’i, he asked: “Do you wish to live in the Crystal Palace?” The latter did not reply. T’ai Yin urged him to give his answer, but he persisted in keeping silent. The Princess in despair retired to her apartment, and brought out five pieces of precious cloth, which she presented to the divine envoy, begging him to have patience a little longer and wait for the answer. After some time, Chu I repeated his question. Then Lu Ch’i in a firm voice answered: “I have consecrated my life to the hard labour of study, and wish to attain to the dignity of minister on this earth.”
T’ai Yin ordered Ma P’o to conduct Lu Ch’i from the palace. From that day his face became transformed: he acquired the lips of a dragon, the head of a panther, the green face of an Immortal, etc. He took his degree, and was promoted to be Director of the Censorate. The Emperor, appreciating the good sense shown in his advice, appointed him a minister of the Empire.
From this legend it would seem that Chu I is the Page 112purveyor of official posts; however, in practice, he is more generally regarded as the protector of weak candidates, as the God of Good Luck for those who present themselves at the examinations with a somewhat light equipment of literary knowledge. The special legend relating to this rôle is known everywhere in China. It is as follows:
Mr Redcoat nods his Head
An examiner, engaged in correcting the essays of the candidates, after a superficial scrutiny of one of the essays, put it on one side as manifestly inferior, being quite determined not to pass the candidate who had composed it. The essay, moved by some mysterious power, was replaced in front of his eyes, as if to invite him to examine it more attentively. At the same time a reverend old man, clothed in a red garment, suddenly appeared before him, and by a nod of his head gave him to understand that he should pass the essay. The examiner, surprised at the novelty of the incident, and fortified by the approval of his supernatural visitor, admitted the author of the essay to the literary degree.
Chu I, like K’uei Hsing, is invoked by the literati as a powerful protector and aid to success. When anyone with but a poor chance of passing presents himself at an examination, his friends encourage him by the popular saying: “Who knows but that Mr Redcoat will nod his head?”
Mr Golden Cuirass
Chu I is sometimes accompanied by another personage, named Chin Chia, ‘Mr Golden Cuirass.’ Like K’uei Hsing and Chu I he has charge of the interests of scholars, but differs from them in that he holds a flag, which he has Page 113only to wave in front of a house for the family inhabiting it to be assured that among their descendants will be some who will win literary honours and be promoted to high offices under the State.
Though Chin Chia is the protector of scholars, he is also the redoubtable avenger of their evil actions: his flag is saluted as a good omen, but his sword is the terror of the wicked.
The God of War
Still another patron deity of literature is the God of War. “How,” it may be asked, “can so peaceful a people as the Chinese put so peaceful an occupation as literature under the patronage of so warlike a deity as the God of War?” But that question betrays ignorance of the character of the Chinese Kuan Ti. He is not a cruel tyrant delighting in battle and the slaying of enemies: he is the god who can avert war and protect the people from its horrors.
A youth, whose name was originally Chang-shêng, afterward changed to Shou-chang, and then to Yün-chang, who was born near Chieh Liang, in Ho Tung (now the town of Chieh Chou in Shansi), and was of an intractable nature, having exasperated his parents, was shut up in a room from which he escaped by breaking through the window. In one of the neighbouring houses he heard a young lady and an old man weeping and lamenting. Running to the foot of the wall of the compound, he inquired the reason of their grief. The old man replied that though his daughter was already engaged, the uncle of the local official, smitten by her beauty, wished to make her his concubine. His petitions to the official had only been rejected with curses. Page 114
Beside himself with rage, the youth seized a sword and went and killed both the official and his uncle. He escaped through the T’ung Kuan, the pass to Shensi. Having with difficulty avoided capture by the barrier officials, he knelt down at the side of a brook to wash his face; when lo! his appearance was completely transformed. His complexion had become reddish-grey, and he was absolutely unrecognizable. He then presented himself with assurance before the officers, who asked him his name. “My name is Kuan,” he replied. It was by that name that he was thereafter known.
The Meat-seller’s Challenge
One day he arrived at Chu-chou, a dependent sub-prefecture of Peking, in Chihli. There Chang Fei, a butcher, who had been selling his meat all the morning, at noon lowered what remained into a well, placed over the mouth of the well a stone weighing twenty-five pounds, and said with a sneer: “If anyone can lift that stone and take my meat, I will make him a present of it!” Kuan Yü, going up to the edge of the well, lifted the stone with the same ease as he would a tile, took the meat, and made off. Chang Fei pursued him, and eventually the two came to blows, but no one dared to separate them. Just then Liu Pei, a hawker of straw shoes, arrived, interposed, and put a stop to the fight. The community of ideas which they found they possessed soon gave rise to a firm friendship between the three men.
The Oath in the Peach-orchard
Another account represents Liu Pei and Chang Fei as having entered a village inn to drink wine, when a man of gigantic stature pushing a wheelbarrow stopped at Page 115the door to rest. As he seated himself, he hailed the waiter, saying: “Bring me some wine quickly, because I have to hasten to reach the town to enlist in the army.”
Liu Pei looked at this man, nine feet in height, with a beard two feet long. His face was the colour of the fruit of the jujube-tree, and his lips carmine. Eyebrows like sleeping silkworms shaded his phoenix eyes, which were a scarlet red. Terrible indeed was his bearing.
“What is your name?” asked Liu Pei. “My family name is Kuan, my own name is Yü, my surname Yün Chang,” he replied. “I am from the Ho Tung country. For the last five or six years I have been wandering about the world as a fugitive, to escape from my pursuers, because I killed a powerful man of my country who was oppressing the poor people. I hear that they are collecting a body of troops to crush the brigands, and I should like to join the expedition.”
Chang Fêi, also named Chang I Tê, is described as eight feet in height, with round shining eyes in a panther’s head, and a pointed chin bristling with a tiger’s beard. His voice resembled the rumbling of thunder. His ardour was like that of a fiery steed. He was a native of Cho Chün, where he possessed some fertile farms, and was a butcher and wine-merchant.
Liu Pei, surnamed Hsüan Tê, otherwise Hsien Chu, was the third member of the group.
The three men went to Chang Fei’s farm, and on the morrow met together in his peach-orchard, and sealed their friendship with an oath. Having procured a black ox and a white horse, with the various accessories to a sacrifice, they immolated the victims, burnt the incense Page 116of friendship, and after twice prostrating themselves took this oath:
“We three, Liu Pei, Kuan Yû, and Chang Fei, already united by mutual friendship, although belonging to different clans, now bind ourselves by the union of our hearts, and join our forces in order to help each other in times of danger.
“We wish to pay to the State our debt of loyal citizens and give peace to our black-haired compatriots. We do not inquire if we were born in the same year, the same month, or on the same day, but we desire only that the same year, the same month, and the same day may find us united in death. May Heaven our King and Earth our Queen see clearly our hearts! If any one of us violate justice or forget benefits, may Heaven and Man unite to punish him!”
The oath having been formally taken, Liu Pei was saluted as elder brother, Kuan Yü as the second, and Chang Fei as the youngest. Their sacrifice to Heaven and earth ended, they killed an ox and served a feast, to which the soldiers of the district were invited to the number of three hundred or more. They all drank copiously until they were intoxicated. Liu Pei enrolled the peasants; Chang Fei procured for them horses and arms; and then they set out to make war on the Yellow Turbans (Huang Chin Tsei). Kuan Yü proved himself worthy of the affection which Liu Pei showed him; brave and generous, he never turned aside from danger. His fidelity was shown especially on one occasion when, having been taken prisoner by Ts’ao Ts’ao, together with two of Liu Pei’s wives, and having been allotted a common sleeping-apartment with his fellow-captives, he preserved the ladies’ reputation and his own trustworthiness Page 117by standing all night at the door of the room with a lighted lantern in his hand.
Into details of the various exploits of the three Brothers of the Peach-orchard we need not enter here. They are written in full in the book of the Story of the Three Kingdoms, a romance in which every Chinese who can read takes keen delight. Kuan Yü remained faithful to his oath, even though tempted with a marquisate by the great Ts’ao Ts’ao, but he was at length captured by Sun Ch’üan and put to death (A.D. 219). Long celebrated as the most renowned of China’s military heroes, he was ennobled in A.D. 1120 as Faithful and Loyal Duke. Eight years later he had conferred on him by letters patent the still more glorious title of Magnificent Prince and Pacificator. The Emperor Wên (A.D. 1330–3) of the Yüan dynasty added the appellation Warrior Prince and Civilizer, and, finally, the Emperor Wan Li of the Ming dynasty, in 1594, conferred on him the title of Faithful and Loyal Great Ti, Supporter of Heaven and Protector of the Kingdom. He thus became a god, a ti, and has ever since received worship as Kuan Ti or Wu Ti, the God of War. Temples (1600 State temples and thousands of smaller ones) erected in his honour are to be seen in all parts of the country. He is one of the most popular gods of China. During the last half-century of the Manchu Period his fame greatly increased. In 1856 he is said to have appeared in the heavens and successfully turned the tide of battle in favour of the Imperialists. His portrait hangs in every tent, but his worship is not confined to the officials and the army, for many trades and professions have elected him as a patron saint. The sword of the public executioner used to be kept within the precincts of his Page 118temple, and after an execution the presiding magistrate would stop there to worship for fear the ghost of the criminal might follow him home. He knew that the spirit would not dare to enter Kuan Ti’s presence.
Thus the Chinese have no fewer than three gods of literature—perhaps not too many for so literary a people. A fourth, a Taoist god, will be mentioned later.
Buddhism in China
Buddhism and its mythology have formed an important part of Chinese thought for nearly two thousand years. The religion was brought to China about A.D. 65, ready-made in its Mahayanistic form, in consequence of a dream of the Emperor Ming Ti (A.D. 58–76) of the Eastern Han dynasty in or about the year 63; though some knowledge of Buddha and his doctrines existed as early as 217 B.C. As Buddha, the chief deity of Buddhism, was a man and became a god, the religion originated, like the others, in ancestor-worship. When a man dies, says this religion, his other self reappears in one form or another, “from a clod to a divinity.” The way for Buddhism in China was paved by Taoism, and Buddhism reciprocally affected Taoism by helpful development of its doctrines of sanctity and immortalization. Buddhism also, as it has been well put by Dr De Groot,7 “contributed much to the ceremonial adornment of ancestor-worship. Its salvation work on behalf of the dead saved its place in Confucian China; for of Confucianism itself, piety and devotion towards parents and ancestors, and the promotion of their happiness, were the core, and, consequently, their worship with sacrifices and ceremonies was always a sacred duty.” Page 119It was thus that it was possible for the gods of Buddhism to be introduced into China and to maintain their special characters and fulfil their special functions without being absorbed into or submerged by the existing native religions. The result was, as we have seen, in the end a partnership rather than a relation of master and servant; and I say ‘in the end’ because, contrary to popular belief, the Chinese have not been tolerant of foreign religious faiths, and at various times have persecuted Buddhism as relentlessly as they have other rivals to orthodox Confucianism.
Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood
At the head of the Buddhist gods in China we find the triad known as Buddha, the Law, and the Church, or Priesthood, which are personified as Shih-chia Fo (Shâkya), O-mi-t’o Fo (Amita), and Ju-lai Fo (Tathagata); otherwise Fo Pao, Fa Pao, and Sêng Pao (the San Pao, ‘Three Precious Ones’)—that is, Buddha, the prophet who came into the world to teach the Law, Dharma, the Law Everlasting, and Samgha, its mystical body, Priesthood, or Church. Dharma is an entity underived, containing the spiritual elements and material constituents of the universe. From it the other two evolve: Buddha (Shâkyamuni), the creative energy, Samgha, the totality of existence and of life. To the people these are three personal Buddhas, whom they worship without concerning themselves about their origin. To the priests they are simply the Buddha, past, present, or future. There are also several other of these groups or triads, ten or more, composed of different deities, or sometimes containing one or two of the triad already named. Shâkyamuni heads the list, having a place in at least six. Page 120
The legend of the Buddha belongs rather to Indian than to Chinese mythology, and is too long to be reproduced here.8
The principal gods of Buddhism are Jan-têng Fo, the Light-lamp Buddha, Mi-lo Fo (Maitrêya), the expected Messiah of the Buddhists, O-mi-t’o Fo (Amitabha or Amita), the guide who conducts his devotees to the Western Paradise, Yüeh-shih Fo, the Master-physician Buddha, Ta-shih-chih P’u-sa (Mahastama), companion of Amitabha, P’i-lu Fo (Vairotchana), the highest of the Threefold Embodiments, Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, Ti-tsang Wang, the God of Hades, Wei-t’o (Vihârapâla), the Dêva protector of the Law of Buddha and Buddhist temples, the Four Diamond Kings of Heaven, and Bodhidharma, the first of the six Patriarchs of Eastern or Chinese Buddhism.
The Buddhist Triad
The Buddhist Triad
Diamond Kings of Heaven
On the right and left sides of the entrance hall of Buddhist temples, two on each side, are the gigantic figures of the four great Ssŭ Ta Chin-kang or T’ien-wang, the Diamond Kings of Heaven, protectors or governors of the continents lying in the direction of the four cardinal points from Mount Sumêru, the centre of the world. They are four brothers named respectively Mo-li Ch’ing (Pure), or Tsêng Chang, Mo-li Hung (Vast), or Kuang Mu, Mo-li Hai (Sea), or To Wên, and Mo-li Shou (Age), or Ch’ih Kuo. The Chin kuang ming states that they bestow all kinds of happiness on those who honour the Three Treasures, Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood. Page 121Kings and nations who neglect the Law lose their protection. They are described and represented as follows:
Mo-li Ch’ing, the eldest, is twenty-four feet in height, with a beard the hairs of which are like copper wire. He carries a magnificent jade ring and a spear, and always fights on foot. He has also a magic sword, ‘Blue Cloud,’ on the blade of which are engraved the characters Ti, Shui, Huo, Fêng (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind). When brandished, it causes a black wind, which produces tens of thousands of spears, which pierce the bodies of men and turn them to dust. The wind is followed by a fire, which fills the air with tens of thousands of golden fiery serpents. A thick smoke also rises out of the ground, which blinds and burns men, none being able to escape.
Mo-li Hung carries in his hand an umbrella, called the Umbrella of Chaos, formed of pearls possessed of spiritual properties. Opening this marvellous implement causes the heavens and earth to be covered with thick darkness, and turning it upside down produces violent storms of wind and thunder and universal earthquakes.
Mo-li Hai holds a four-stringed guitar, the twanging of which supernaturally affects the earth, water, fire, or wind. When it is played all the world listens, and the camps of the enemy take fire.
Mo-li Shou has two whips and a panther-skin bag, the home of a creature resembling a white rat, known as Hua-hu Tiao. When at large this creature assumes the form of a white winged elephant, which devours men. He sometimes has also a snake or other man-eating creature, always ready to obey his behests. Page 122
Legend of the Diamond Kings
The legend of the Four Diamond Kings given in the Fêng shên yen i is as follows: At the time of the consolidation of the Chou dynasty in the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C., Chiang Tzŭ-ya, chief counsellor to Wên Wang, and General Huang Fei-hu were defending the town and mountain of Hsi-ch’i. The supporters of the house of Shang appealed to the four genii Mo, who lived at Chia-mêng Kuan, praying them to come to their aid. They agreed, raised an army of 100,000 celestial soldiers, and traversing towns, fields, and mountains arrived in less than a day at the north gate of Hsi-ch’i, where Mo-li Ch’ing pitched his camp and entrenched his soldiers.
Hearing of this, Huang Fei-hu hastened to warn Chiang Tzŭ-ya of the danger which threatened him. “The four great generals who have just arrived at the north gate,” he said, “are marvellously powerful genii, experts in all the mysteries of magic and use of wonderful charms. It is much to be feared that we shall not be able to resist them.”
Many fierce battles ensued. At first these went in favour of the Chin-kang, thanks to their magical weapons and especially to Mo-li Shou’s Hua-hu Tiao, who terrorized the enemy by devouring their bravest warriors.
Hua-hu Tiao devours Yang Chien
Unfortunately for the Chin-kang, the brute attacked and swallowed Yang Chien, the nephew of Yü Huang. This genie, on entering the body of the monster, rent his heart asunder and cut him in two. As he could transform himself at will, he assumed the shape of Hua-hu Tiao, and went off to Mo-li Shou, who unsuspectingly put him back into his bag. Page 123
The Four Kings held a festival to celebrate their triumph, and having drunk copiously gave themselves over to sleep. During the night Yang Chien came out of the bag, with the intention of possessing himself of the three magical weapons of the Chin-kang. But he succeeded only in carrying off the umbrella of Mo-li Hung. In a subsequent engagement No-cha, the son of Vadjrâ-pani, the God of Thunder, broke the jade ring of Mo-li Ch’ing. Misfortune followed misfortune. The Chin-kang, deprived of their magical weapons, began to lose heart. To complete their discomfiture, Huang T’ien Hua brought to the attack a matchless magical weapon. This was a spike 7½ inches long, enclosed in a silk sheath, and called ‘Heart-piercer.’ It projected so strong a ray of light that eyes were blinded by it.
Huang T’ien Hua, hard pressed by Mo-li Ch’ing, drew the mysterious spike from its sheath, and hurled it at his adversary. It entered his neck, and with a deep groan the giant fell dead.
Mo-li Hung and Mo-li Hai hastened to avenge their brother, but ere they could come within striking distance of Huang Ti’en Hua his redoubtable spike reached their hearts, and they lay prone at his feet.
The one remaining hope for the sole survivor was in Hua-hu Tiao. Mo-li Shou, not knowing that the creature had been slain, put his hand into the bag to pull him out, whereupon Yang Chien, who had re-entered the bag, bit his hand off at the wrist, so that there remained nothing but a stump of bone.
In this moment of intense agony Mo-li Shou fell an easy prey to Huang T’ien Hua, the magical spike pierced his heart, and he fell bathed in his blood. Thus perished the last of the Chin-kang. Page 124
The Three Pure Ones
Turning to the gods of Taoism, we find that the triad or trinity, already noted as forming the head of that hierarchy, consists of three Supreme Gods, each in his own Heaven. These three Heavens, the San Ch’ing, ‘Three Pure Ones’ (this name being also applied to the sovereigns ruling in them), were formed from the three airs, which are subdivisions of the one primordial air.
The first Heaven is Yü Ch’ing. In it reigns the first member of the Taoist triad. He inhabits the Jade Mountain. The entrance to his palace is named the Golden Door. He is the source of all truth, as the sun is the source of all light.
Various authorities give his name differently—Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun, or Lo Ching Hsin, and call him T’ien Pao, ‘the Treasure of Heaven,’ Some state that the name of the ruler of this first Heaven is Yü Huang, and in the popular mind he it is who occupies this supreme position. The Three Pure Ones are above him in rank, but to him, the Pearly Emperor, is entrusted the superintendence of the world. He has all the power of Heaven and earth in his hands. He is the correlative of Heaven, or rather Heaven itself.
The second Heaven, Shang Ch’ing, is ruled by the second person of the triad, named Ling-pao T’ien-tsun, or Tao Chün. No information is given as to his origin. He is the custodian of the sacred books. He has existed from the beginning of the world. He calculates time, dividing it into different epochs. He occupies the upper pole of the world, and determines the movements and interaction, or regulates the relations of the yin and the yang, the two great principles of nature.
The Taoist Triad
The Taoist Triad
In the third Heaven, T’ai Ch’ing, the Taoists place Lao Page 125Tzŭ, the promulgator of the true doctrine drawn up by Ling-pao T’ien-tsun. He is alternatively called Shên Pao, ‘the Treasure of the Spirits,’ and T’ai-shang Lao-chûn, ‘the Most Eminent Aged Ruler.’ Under various assumed names he has appeared as the teacher of kings and emperors, the reformer of successive generations.
This three-storied Taoist Heaven, or three Heavens, is the result of the wish of the Taoists not to be out-rivalled by the Buddhists. For Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood they substitute the Tao, or Reason, the Classics, and the Priesthood.
As regards the organization of the Taoist Heavens, Yü Huang has on his register the name of eight hundred Taoist divinities and a multitude of Immortals. These are all divided into three categories: Saints (Shêng-jên), Heroes (Chên-jên), and Immortals (Hsien-jên), occupying the three Heavens respectively in that order.
The Three Causes
Connected with Taoism, but not exclusively associated with that religion, is the worship of the Three Causes, the deities presiding over three departments of physical nature, Heaven, earth, and water. They are known by various designations: San Kuan, ‘the Three Agents’; San Yüan, ‘the Three Origins’; San Kuan Ta Ti, ‘the Three Great Emperor Agents’; and T’ai Shang San Kuan, ‘the Three Supreme Agents.’ This worship has passed through four chief phases, as follows:
The first comprises Heaven, earth, and water, T’ien, Ti, Shui, the sources of happiness, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from evil respectively. Each of these is called King-emperor. Their names, written on labels and offered to Heaven (on a mountain), earth (by burial), and Page 126water (by immersion), are supposed to cure sickness. This idea dates from the Han dynasty, being first noted about A.D. 172.
The second, San Yüan dating from A.D. 407 under the Wei dynasty, identified the Three Agents with three dates of which they were respectively made the patrons. The year was divided into three unequal parts: the first to the seventh moon; the seventh to the tenth; and the tenth to the twelfth. Of these, the fifteenth day of the first, seventh, and tenth moons respectively became the three principal dates of these periods. Thus the Agent of Heaven became the principal patron of the first division, honoured on the fifteenth day of the first moon, and so on.
The third phase, San Kuan, resulted from the first two being found too complicated for popular favour. The San Kuan were the three sons of a man, Ch’ên Tzŭ-ch’un, who was so handsome and intelligent that the three daughters of Lung Wang, the Dragon-king, fell in love with him and went to live with him. The eldest girl was the mother of the Superior Cause, the second of the Medium Cause, and the third of the Inferior Cause. All these were gifted with supernatural powers. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun canonized them as the Three Great Emperor Agents of Heaven, earth, and water, governors of all beings, devils or gods, in the three regions of the universe. As in the first phase, the T’ien Kuan confers happiness, the Ti Kuan grants remission of sins, and the Shui Kuan delivers from evil or misfortune.
The fourth phase consisted simply in the substitution by the priests for the abstract or time-principles of the three great sovereigns of ancient times, Yao, Shun, and Yü. The literati, proud of the apotheosis of their ancient Page 127rulers, hastened to offer incense to them, and temples, San Yüan Kung, arose in very many parts of the Empire.
A variation of this phase is the canonization, with the title of San Yüan or Three Causes, of Wu-k’o San Chên Chün, ‘the Three True Sovereigns, Guests of the Kingdom of Wu.’ They were three Censors who lived in the reign of King Li (Li Wang, 878–841 B.C.) of the Chou dynasty. Leaving the service of the Chou on account of Li’s dissolute living, they went to live in Wu, and brought victory to that state in its war with the Ch’u State, then returned to their own country, and became pillars of the Chou State under Li’s successor. They appeared to protect the Emperor Chên Tsung when he was offering the Fêng-shan sacrifices on T’ai Shan in A.D. 1008, on which occasion they were canonized with the titles of Superior, Medium, and Inferior Causes, as before, conferring upon them the regencies of Heaven, earth, and water respectively.
Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun, or the First Cause, the Highest in Heaven, generally placed at the head of the Taoist triad, is said never to have existed but in the fertile imagination of the Lao Tzŭist sectarians. According to them Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun had neither origin nor master, but is himself the cause of all beings, which is why he is called the First Cause.
As first member of the triad, and sovereign ruler of the First Heaven, Yü Ch’ing, where reign the saints, he is raised in rank above all the other gods. The name assigned to him is Lo Ching Hsin. He was born before all beginnings; his substance is imperishable; it is formed essentially of uncreated air, air a se, invisible and without Page 128perceptible limits. No one has been able to penetrate to the beginnings of his existence. The source of all truth, he at each renovation of the worlds—that is, at each new kalpa—gives out the mysterious doctrine which confers immortality. All who reach this knowledge attain by degrees to life eternal, become refined like the spirits, or instantly become Immortals, even while upon earth.
Originally, Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun was not a member of the Taoist triad. He resided above the Three Heavens, above the Three Pure Ones, surviving the destructions and renovations of the universe, as an immovable rock in the midst of a stormy sea. He set the stars in motion, and caused the planets to revolve. The chief of his secret police was Tsao Chün, the Kitchen-god, who rendered to him an account of the good and evil deeds of each family. His executive agent was Lei Tsu, the God of Thunder, and his subordinates. The seven stars of the North Pole were the palace of his ministers, whose offices were on the various sacred mountains. Nowadays, however, Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun is generally neglected for Yü Huang.
An Avatar of P’an Ku
According to the tradition of Chin Hung, the God of T’ai Shan of the fifth generation from P’an Ku, this being, then called Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, was an avatar of P’an Ku. It came about in this wise. In remote ages there lived on the mountains an old man, Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, who used to sit on a rock and preach to the multitude. He spoke of the highest antiquity as if from personal experience. When Chin Hung asked him where he lived, he just raised his hand toward Heaven, iridescent clouds enveloped his body, and he replied: “Whoso wishes to know where I dwell must Page 129rise to impenetrable heights.” “But how,” said Chin Hung, “was he to be found in this immense emptiness?” Two genii, Ch’ih Ching-tzŭ and Huang Lao, then descended on the summit of T’ai Shan and said: “Let us go and visit this Yüan-shih. To do so, we must cross the boundaries of the universe and pass beyond the farthest stars.” Chin Hung begged them to give him their instructions, to which he listened attentively. They then ascended the highest of the sacred peaks, and thence mounted into the heavens, calling to him from the misty heights: “If you wish to know the origin of Yüan-shih, you must pass beyond the confines of Heaven and earth, because he lives beyond the limits of the worlds. You must ascend and ascend until you reach the sphere of nothingness and of being, in the plains of the luminous shadows.”
Having reached these ethereal heights, the two genii saw a bright light, and Hsüan-hsüan Shang-jên appeared before them. The two genii bowed to do him homage and to express their gratitude. “You cannot better show your gratitude,” he replied, “than by making my doctrine known among men. You desire,” he added, “to know the history of Yüan-shih. I will tell it you. When P’an Ku had completed his work in the primitive Chaos, his spirit left its mortal envelope and found itself tossed about in empty space without any fixed support. ‘I must,’ it said, ‘get reborn in visible form; until I can go through a new birth I shall remain empty and unsettled,’ His soul, carried on the wings of the wind, reached Fu-yü T’ai. There it saw a saintly lady named T’ai Yüan, forty years of age, still a virgin, and living alone on Mount Ts’u-o. Air and variegated clouds were the sole nourishment of her vital spirits. An hermaphrodite, Page 130at once both the active and the passive principle, she daily scaled the highest peak of the mountain to gather there the flowery quintessence of the sun and the moon. P’an Ku, captivated by her virgin purity, took advantage of a moment when she was breathing to enter her mouth in the form of a ray of light. She was enceinte for twelve years, at the end of which period the fruit of her womb came out through her spinal column. From its first moment the child could walk and speak, and its body was surrounded by a five-coloured cloud. The newly-born took the name of Yüan-shih T’ien-wang, and his mother was generally known as T’ai-yüan Shêng-mu, ‘the Holy Mother of the First Cause.’”
Yü Huang means ‘the Jade Emperor,’ or ‘the Pure August One,’ jade symbolizing purity. He is also known by the name Yü-huang Shang-ti, ‘the Pure August Emperor on High.’
The history of this deity, who later received many honorific titles and became the most popular god, a very Chinese Jupiter, seems to be somewhat as follows: The Emperor Ch’êng Tsung of the Sung dynasty having been obliged in A.D. 1005 to sign a disgraceful peace with the Tunguses or Kitans, the dynasty was in danger of losing the support of the nation. In order to hoodwink the people the Emperor constituted himself a seer, and announced with great pomp that he was in direct communication with the gods of Heaven. In doing this he was following the advice of his crafty and unreliable minister Wang Ch’in-jo, who had often tried to persuade him that the pretended revelations attributed to Fu Hsi, Yü Wang, and others were only pure inventions Page 131to induce obedience. The Emperor, having studied his part well, assembled his ministers in the tenth moon of the year 1012, and made to them the following declaration: “In a dream I had a visit from an Immortal, who brought me a letter from Yü Huang, the purport of which was as follows: ‘I have already sent you by your ancestor Chao (T’ai Tsu] two celestial missives. Now I am going to send him in person to visit you.’” A little while after his ancestor T’ai Tsu, the founder of the dynasty, came according to Yü Huang’s promise, and Ch’êng Tsung hastened to inform his ministers of it. This is the origin of Yü Huang. He was born of a fraud, and came ready-made from the brain of an emperor.
The Cask of Pearls
Fearing to be admonished for the fraud by another of his ministers, the scholar Wang Tan, the Emperor resolved to put a golden gag in his mouth. So one day, having invited him to a banquet, he overwhelmed him with flattery and made him drunk with good wine. “I would like the members of your family also to taste this wine,” he added, “so I am making you a present of a cask of it.” When Wang Tan returned home, he found the cask filled with precious pearls. Out of gratitude to the Emperor he kept silent as to the fraud, and made no further opposition to his plans, but when on his death-bed he asked that his head be shaved like a priest’s and that he be clothed in priestly robes so that he might expiate his crime of feebleness before the Emperor.
K’ang Hsi, the great Emperor of the Ch’ing dynasty, who had already declared that if it is wrong to impute deceit to a man it is still more reprehensible to impute a fraud to Heaven, stigmatized him as follows: “Wang Page 132Tan committed two faults: the first was in showing himself a vile flatterer of his Prince during his life; the second was in becoming a worshipper of Buddha at his death.”
The Legend of Yü Huang
So much for historical record. The legend of Yü Huang relates that in ancient times there existed a kingdom named Kuang Yen Miao Lo Kuo, whose king was Ching Tê, his queen being called Pao Yüeh. Though getting on in years, the latter had no son. The Taoist priests were summoned by edict to the palace to perform their rites. They recited prayers with the object of obtaining an heir to the throne. During the ensuing night the Queen had a vision. Lao Chün appeared to her, riding a dragon, and carrying a male child in his arms. He floated down through the air in her direction. The Queen begged him to give her the child as an heir to the throne. “I am quite willing,” he said. “Here it is.” She fell on her knees and thanked him. On waking she found herself enceinte. At the end of a year the Prince was born. From an early age he showed himself compassionate and generous to the poor. On the death of his father he ascended the throne, but after reigning only a few days abdicated in favour of his chief minister, and became a hermit at P’u-ming, in Shensi, and also on Mount Hsiu Yen, in Yünnan. Having attained to perfection, he passed the rest of his days in curing sickness and saving life; and it was in the exercise of these charitable deeds that he died. The emperors Ch’êng Tsung and Hui Tsung, of the Sung dynasty, loaded him with all the various titles associated with his name at the present day.
Both Buddhists and Taoists claim him as their own, Page 133the former identifying him with Indra, in which case Yü Huang is a Buddhist deity incorporated into the Taoist pantheon. He has also been taken to be the subject of a ‘nature myth.’ The Emperor Ching Tê, his father, is the sun, the Queen Pao Yüeh the moon, and the marriage symbolizes the rebirth of the vivifying power which clothes nature with green plants and beautiful flowers.
In modern Taoism T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu is regarded as the first of the Patriarchs and one of the most powerful genii of the sect. His master was Hung-chün Lao-tsu. He wore a red robe embroidered with white cranes, and rode a k’uei niu, a monster resembling a buffalo, with one long horn like a unicorn. His palace, the Pi Yu Kung, was situated on Mount Tzŭ Chih Yai.
This genie took the part of Chou Wang and helped him to resist Wu Wang’s armies. First, he sent his disciple To-pao Tao-jên to Chieh-p’ai Kuan. He gave him four precious swords and the plan of a fort which he was to construct and to name Chu-hsien Chên, ‘the Citadel of all the Immortals.’
To-pao Tao-jên carried out his orders, but he had to fight a battle with Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ, and the latter, armed with a celestial seal, struck his adversary so hard that he fell to the ground and had to take refuge in flight.
T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu came to the defence of his disciple and to restore the morale of his forces. Unfortunately, a posse of gods arrived to aid Wu Wang’s powerful general, Chiang Tzŭ-ya. The first who attacked T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu was Lao Tzŭ, who struck him several times with his stick. Then came Chun T’i, armed with his cane. The buffalo of T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu Page 134stamped him under foot, and Chun T’i was thrown to the earth, and only just had time to rise quickly and mount into the air amid a great cloud of dust.
There could be no doubt that the fight was going against T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu; to complete his discomfiture Jan-têng Tao-jên cleft the air and fell upon him unexpectedly. With a violent blow of his ‘Fix-sea’ staff he cast him down and compelled him to give up the struggle.
T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu then prepared plans for a new fortified camp beyond T’ung Kuan, and tried to take the offensive again, but again Lao Tzŭ stopped him with a blow of his stick. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun wounded his shoulder with his precious stone Ju-i, and Chun-t’i Tao-jên waved his ‘Branch of the Seven Virtues.’ Immediately the magic sword of T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu was reduced to splinters, and he saved himself only by flight.
Hung-chün Lao-tsu, the master of these three genii, seeing his three beloved disciples in the mêlée, resolved to make peace between them. He assembled all three in a tent in Chiang Tzŭ-ya’s camp, made them kneel before him, then reproached T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu at length for having taken the part of the tyrant Chou, and recommended them in future to live in harmony. After finishing his speech, he produced three pills, and ordered each of the genii to swallow one. When they had done so, Hung-chün Lao-tsu said to them: “I have given you these pills to ensure an inviolable truce among you. Know that the first who entertains a thought of discord in his heart will find that the pill will explode in his stomach and cause his instant death.”
Hung-chün Lao-tsu then took T’ung-t’ien Chiao-chu away with him on his cloud to Heaven. Page 135
Immortals, Heroes, Saints
An Immortal, according to Taoist lore, is a solitary man of the mountains. He appears to die, but does not. After ‘death’ his body retains all the qualities of the living. The body or corpse is for him only a means of transition, a phase of metamorphosis—a cocoon or chrysalis, the temporary abode of the butterfly.
To reach this state a hygienic regimen both of the body and mind must be observed. All luxury, greed, and ambition must be avoided. But negation is not enough. In the system of nourishment all the elements which strengthen the essence of the constituent yin and yang principles must be found by means of medicine, chemistry, gymnastic exercises, etc. When the maximum vital force has been acquired the means of preserving it and keeping it from the attacks of death and disease must be discovered; in a word, he must spiritualize himself—render himself completely independent of matter. All the experiments have for their object the storing in the pills of immortality the elements necessary for the development of the vital force and for the constitution of a new spiritual and super-humanized being. In this ascending perfection there are several grades:
(1) The Immortal (Hsien). The first stage consists in bringing about the birth of the superhuman in the ascetic’s person, which reaching perfection leaves the earthly body, like the grasshopper its sheath. This first stage attained, the Immortal travels at will throughout the universe, enjoys all the advantages of perfect health without dreading disease or death, eats and drinks copiously—nothing is wanting to complete his happiness.
(2) The Perfect Man, or Hero (Chên-jên). The second stage is a higher one. The whole body is spiritualized. Page 136It has become so subtile, so spiritual, that it can fly in the air. Borne on the wings of the wind, seated on the clouds of Heaven, it travels from one world to another and fixes its habitation in the stars. It is freed from all laws of matter, but is, however, not completely changed into pure spirit.
(3) The Saint (Shêng-jên). The third stage is that of the superhuman beings or saints. They are those who have attained to extraordinary intelligence and virtue.
The God of the Immortals
Mu Kung or Tung Wang Kung, the God of the Immortals, was also called I Chün Ming and Yü Huang Chün, the Prince Yü Huang.
The primitive vapour congealed, remained inactive for a time, and then produced living beings, beginning with the formation of Mu Kung, the purest substance of the Eastern Air, and sovereign of the active male principle yang and of all the countries of the East. His palace is in the misty heavens, violet clouds form its dome, blue clouds its walls. Hsien T’ung, ‘the Immortal Youth,’ and Yü Nü, ‘the Jade Maiden,’ are his servants. He keeps the register of all the Immortals, male and female.
Hsi Wang Mu
Hsi Wang Mu was formed of the pure quintessence of the Western Air, in the legendary continent of Shên Chou. She is often called the Golden Mother of the Tortoise.
Her family name is variously given as Hou, Yang, and Ho. Her own name was Hui, and first name Wan-chin. She had nine sons and twenty-four daughters.
Hsi Wang Mu
Hsi Wang Mu
As Mu Kung, formed of the Eastern Air, is the active Page 137principle of the male air and sovereign of the Eastern Air, so Hsi Wang Mu, born of the Western Air, is the passive or female principle (yin) and sovereign of the Western Air. These two principles, co-operating, engender Heaven and earth and all the beings of the universe, and thus become the two principles of life and of the subsistence of all that exists. She is the head of the troop of genii dwelling on the K’un-lun Mountains (the Taoist equivalent of the Buddhist Sumêru), and from time to time holds intercourse with favoured imperial votaries.
The Feast of Peaches
Hsi Wang Mu’s palace is situated in the high mountains of the snowy K’un-lun. It is 1000 li (about 333 miles) in circuit; a rampart of massive gold surrounds its battlements of precious stones. Its right wing rises on the edge of the Kingfishers’ River. It is the usual abode of the Immortals, who are divided into seven special categories according to the colour of their garments—red, blue, black, violet, yellow, green, and ‘nature-colour.’ There is a marvellous fountain built of precious stones, where the periodical banquet of the Immortals is held. This feast is called P’an-t’ao Hui, ‘the Feast of Peaches.’ It takes place on the borders of the Yao Ch’ih, Lake of Gems, and is attended by both male and female Immortals. Besides several superfine meats, they are served with bears’ paws, monkeys’ lips, dragons’ liver, phoenix marrow, and peaches gathered in the orchard, endowed with the mystic virtue of conferring longevity on all who have the good luck to taste them. It was by these peaches that the date of the banquet was fixed. The tree put forth leaves once every three Page 138thousand years, and it required three thousand years after that for the fruit to ripen. These were Hsi Wang Mu’s birthdays, when all the Immortals assembled for the great feast, “the occasion being more festive than solemn, for there was music on invisible instruments, and songs not from mortal tongues.”
The First Taoist Pope
Chang Tao-ling, the first Taoist pope, was born in A.D. 35, in the reign of the Emperor Kuang Wu Ti of the Han dynasty. His birthplace is variously given as the T’ien-mu Shan, ‘Eye of Heaven Mountain,’ in Lin-an Hsien, in Chekiang, and Fêng-yang Fu, in Anhui. He devoted himself wholly to study and meditation, declining all offers to enter the service of the State. He preferred to take up his abode in the mountains of Western China, where he persevered in the study of alchemy and in cultivating the virtues of purity and mental abstraction. From the hands of Lao Tzŭ he received supernaturally a mystic treatise, by following the instructions in which he was successful in his search for the elixir of life.
One day when he was engaged in experimenting with the ‘Dragon-tiger elixir’ a spiritual being appeared to him and said: “On Po-sung Mountain is a stone house in which are concealed the writings of the Three Emperors of antiquity and a canonical work. By obtaining these you may ascend to Heaven, if you undergo the course of discipline they prescribe.”
Chang Tao-ling found these works, and by means of them obtained the power of flying, of hearing distant sounds, and of leaving his body. After going through a thousand days of discipline, and receiving instruction from a goddess, who taught him to walk about among Page 139the stars, he proceeded to fight with the king of the demons, to divide mountains and seas, and to command the wind and thunder. All the demons fled before him. On account of the prodigious slaughter of demons by this hero the wind and thunder were reduced to subjection, and various divinities came with eager haste to acknowledge their faults. In nine years he gained the power to ascend to Heaven.
The Founder of Modern Taoism
Chang Tao-ling may rightly be considered as the true founder of modern Taoism. The recipes for the pills of immortality contained in the mysterious books, and the invention of talismans for the cure of all sorts of maladies, not only exalted him to the high position he has since occupied in the minds of his numerous disciples, but enabled them in turn to exploit successfully this new source of power and wealth. From that time the Taoist sect began to specialize in the art of healing. Protecting or curing talismans bearing the Master’s seal were purchased for enormous sums. It is thus seen that he was after all a deceiver of the people, and unbelievers or rival partisans of other sects have dubbed him a ‘rice-thief’—which perhaps he was.
He is generally represented as clothed in richly decorated garments, brandishing with his right hand his magic sword, holding in his left a cup containing the draught of immortality, and riding a tiger which in one paw grasps his magic seal and with the others tramples down the five venomous creatures: lizard, snake, spider, toad, and centipede. Pictures of him with these accessories are pasted up in houses on the fifth day of the fifth moon to forfend calamity and sickness. Page 140
It is related of him that, not wishing to ascend to Heaven too soon, he partook of only half of the pill of immortality, dividing the other half among several of his admirers, and that he had at least two selves or personalities, one of which used to disport itself in a boat on a small lake in front of his house. The other self would receive his visitors, entertaining them with food and drink and instructive conversation. On one occasion this self said to them: “You are unable to quit the world altogether as I can, but by imitating my example in the matter of family relations you could procure a medicine which would prolong your lives by several centuries. I have given the crucible in which Huang Ti prepared the draught of immortality to my disciple Wang Ch’ang. Later on, a man will come from the East, who also will make use of it. He will arrive on the seventh day of the first moon.”
Exactly on that day there arrived from the East a man named Chao Shêng, who was the person indicated by Chang Tao-ling. He was recognized by a manifestation of himself he had caused to appear in advance of his coming. Chang then led all his disciples, to the number of three hundred, to the highest peak of the Yün-t’ai. Below them they saw a peach-tree growing near a pointed rock, stretching out its branches like arms above a fathomless abyss. It was a large tree, covered with ripe fruit. Chang said to his disciples: “I will communicate a spiritual formula to the one among you who will dare to gather the fruit of that tree.” They all leaned over to look, but each declared the feat to be impossible. Chao Shêng alone had the courage to rush out to the point of the rock and up the tree stretching Page 141out into space. With firm foot he stood and gathered the peaches, placing them in the folds of his cloak, as many as it would hold, but when he wished to climb back up the precipitous slope, his hands slipped on the smooth rock, and all his attempts were in vain. Accordingly, he threw the peaches, three hundred and two in all, one by one up to Chang Tao-ling, who distributed them. Each disciple ate one, as also did Chang, who reserved the remaining one for Chao Shêng, whom he helped to climb up again. To do this Chang extended his arm to a length of thirty feet, all present marvelling at the miracle. After Chao had eaten his peach Chang stood on the edge of the precipice, and said with a laugh: “Chao Shêng was brave enough to climb out to that tree and his foot never tripped. I too will make the attempt. If I succeed I will have a big peach as a reward.” Having spoken thus, he leapt into space, and alighted in the branches of the peach-tree. Wang Ch’ang and Chao Shêng also jumped into the tree and stood one on each side of him. There Chang communicated to them the mysterious formula. Three days later they returned to their homes; then, having made final arrangements, they repaired once more to the mountain peak, whence, in the presence of the other disciples, who followed them with their eyes until they had completely disappeared from view, all three ascended to Heaven in broad daylight.
Chang Tao-ling’s Great Power
The name of Chang Tao-ling, the Heavenly Teacher, is a household word in China. He is on earth the Vicegerent of the Pearly Emperor in Heaven, and the Commander-in-Chief of the hosts of Taoism. He, the chief of the wizards, the ‘true [i.e. ideal] man,’ as he is called, Page 142wields an immense spiritual power throughout the land. The present pope boasts of an unbroken line for three-score generations. His family obtained possession of the Dragon-tiger Mountain in Kiangsi about A.D. 1000. “This personage,” says a pre-Republican writer, “assumes a state which mimics the imperial. He confers buttons like an emperor. Priests come to him from various cities and temples to receive promotion, whom he invests with titles and presents with seals of office.”
Kings of Heaven
The Four Kings of Heaven, Ssŭ Ta T’ien-wang, reside on Mount Sumêru (Hsü-mi Shan), the centre of the universe. It is 3,360,000 li—that is, about a million miles—high.9 Its eastern slope is of gold, its western of silver, its south-eastern of crystal, and its north-eastern of agate. The Four Kings appear to be the Taoist reflection of the four Chin-kang of Buddhism already noticed. Their names are Li, Ma, Chao, and Wên. They are represented as holding a pagoda, sword, two swords, and spiked club respectively. Their worship appears to be due to their auspicious appearance and aid on various critical occasions in the dynastic history of the T’ang and Sung Periods.
Temples are found in various parts dedicated to T’ai I, the Great One, or Great Unity. When Emperor Wu Ti (140–86 B.C.) of the Han dynasty was in search of the secret of immortality, and various suggestions had proved unsatisfactory, a Taoist priest, Miao Chi, told the Emperor that his want of success was due to his omission to sacrifice Page 143to T’ai I, the first of the celestial spirits, quoting the classical precedent of antiquity found in the Book of History. The Emperor, believing his word, ordered the Grand Master of Sacrifices to re-establish this worship at the capital. He followed carefully the prescriptions of Miao Chi. This enraged the literati, who resolved to ruin him. One day, when the Emperor was about to drink one of his potions, one of the chief courtiers seized the cup and drank the contents himself. The Emperor was about to have him slain, when he said: “Your Majesty’s order is unnecessary; if the potion confers immortality, I cannot be killed; if, on the other hand, it does not, your Majesty should recompense me for disproving the pretensions of the Taoist priest.” The Emperor, however, was not convinced.
One account represents T’ai I as having lived in the time of Shên Nung, the Divine Husbandman, who visited him to consult with him on the subjects of diseases and fortune. He was Hsien Yüan’s medical preceptor. His medical knowledge was handed down to future generations. He was one of those who, with the Immortals, was invited to the great Peach Assembly of the Western Royal Mother.
As the spirit of the star T’ai I he resides in the Eastern Palace, listening for the cries of sufferers in order to save them. For this purpose he assumes numberless forms in various regions. With a boat of lotus-flowers of nine colours he ferries men over to the shore of salvation. Holding in his hand a willow-branch, he scatters from it the dew of the doctrine.
T’ai I is variously represented as the Ruler of the Five Celestial Sovereigns, Cosmic Matter before it congealed into concrete shapes, the Triune Spirit of Heaven, earth, Page 144and T’ai I as three separate entities, an unknown Spirit, the Spirit of the Pole Star, etc., but practically the Taoists confine their T’ai I to T’ai-i Chên-jên, in which Perfect Man they personify the abstract philosophical notions.10
Goddess of the North Star
Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists, is the Indian Maritchi, and was made a stellar divinity by the Taoists. She is said to have been the mother of the nine Jên Huang or Human Sovereigns of fabulous antiquity, who succeeded the lines of Celestial and Terrestrial Sovereigns. She occupies in the Taoist religion the same relative position as Kuan Yin, who may be said to be the heart of Buddhism. Having attained to a profound knowledge of celestial mysteries, she shone with heavenly light, could cross the seas, and pass from the sun to the moon. She also had a kind heart for the sufferings of humanity. The King of Chou Yü, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven. He placed her in the palace Tou Shu, the Pivot of the Pole, because all the other stars revolve round it, and gave her the title of Queen of the Doctrine of Primitive Heaven. Her nine sons have their palaces in the neighbouring stars.
Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star
Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star
Tou Mu wears the Buddhist crown, is seated on a lotus throne, has three eyes, eighteen arms, and holds various precious objects in her numerous hands, such as a bow, Page 145spear, sword, flag, dragon’s head, pagoda, five chariots, sun’s disk, moon’s disk, etc. She has control of the books of life and death, and all who wish to prolong their days worship at her shrine. Her devotees abstain from animal food on the third and twenty-seventh day of every month.
Of her sons, two are the Northern and Southern Bushels; the latter, dressed in red, rules birth; the former, in white, rules death. “A young Esau once found them on the South Mountain, under a tree, playing chess, and by an offer of venison his lease of life was extended from nineteen to ninety-nine years.”
Snorter and Blower
At the time of the overthrow of the Shang and establishment of the Chou dynasty in 1122 B.C. there lived two marshals, Chêng Lung and Ch’ên Ch’i. These were Hêng and Ha, the Snorter and Blower respectively.
The former was the chief superintendent of supplies for the armies of the tyrant emperor Chou, the Nero of China. The latter was in charge of the victualling department of the same army.
From his master, Tu O, the celebrated Taoist magician of the K’un-lun Mountains, Hêng acquired a marvellous power. When he snorted, his nostrils, with a sound like that of a bell, emitted two white columns of light, which destroyed his enemies, body and soul. Thus through him the Chou gained numerous victories. But one day he was captured, bound, and taken to the general of Chou. His life was spared, and he was made general superintendent of army stores as well as generalissimo of five army corps. Later on he found himself face to face with the Blower. The latter had learnt from the magician Page 146how to store in his chest a supply of yellow gas which, when he blew it out, annihilated anyone whom it struck. By this means he caused large gaps to be made in the ranks of the enemy.
Being opposed to each other, the one snorting out great streaks of white light, the other blowing streams of yellow gas, the combat continued until the Blower was wounded in the shoulder by No-cha, of the army of Chou, and pierced in the stomach with a spear by Huang Fei-hu, Yellow Flying Tiger.
The Snorter in turn was slain in this fight by Marshal Chin Ta-shêng, ‘Golden Big Pint,’ who was an ox-spirit and endowed with the mysterious power of producing in his entrails the celebrated niu huang, ox-yellow, or bezoar. Facing the Snorter, he spat in his face, with a noise like thunder, a piece of bezoar as large as a rice-bowl. It struck him on the nose and split his nostrils. He fell to the earth, and was immediately cut in two by a blow from his victor’s sword.
After the Chou dynasty had been definitely established Chiang Tzŭ-ya canonized the two marshals Hêng and Ha, and conferred on them the offices of guardians of the Buddhist temple gates, where their gigantic images may be seen.
Blue Dragon and White Tiger
The functions discharged by Hêng and Ha at the gates of Buddhist temples are in Taoist temples discharged by Blue Dragon and White Tiger.
The former, the Spirit of the Blue Dragon Star, was Têng Chiu-kung, one of the chief generals of the last emperor of the Yin dynasty. He had a son named Têng Hsiu, and a daughter named Ch’an-yü. Page 147
The army of Têng Chiu-kung was camped at San-shan Kuan, when he received orders to proceed to the battle then taking place at Hsi Ch’i. There, in standing up to No-cha and Huang Fei-hu, he had his left arm broken by the former’s magic bracelet, but, fortunately for him, his subordinate, T’u Hsing-sun, a renowned magician, gave him a remedy which quickly healed the fracture.
His daughter then came on the scene to avenge her father. She had a magic weapon, the Five-fire Stone, which she hurled full in the face of Yang Chien. But the Immortal was not wounded; on the other hand, his celestial dog jumped at Ch’an-yü and bit her neck, so that she was obliged to flee. T’u Hsing-sun, however, healed the wound.
After a banquet, Têng Chiu-kung promised his daughter in marriage to T’u Hsing-sun if he would gain him the victory at Hsi Ch’i. Chiang Tzŭ-ya then persuaded T’u’s magic master, Chü Liu-sun, to call his disciple over to his camp, where he asked him why he was fighting against the new dynasty. “Because,” he replied, “Chiu-kung has promised me his daughter in marriage as a reward of success.” Chiang Tzŭ-ya thereupon promised to obtain the bride, and sent a force to seize her. As a result of the fighting that ensued, Chiu-kung was beaten, and retreated in confusion, leaving Ch’an-yü in the hands of the victors. During the next few days the marriage was celebrated with great ceremony in the victor’s camp. According to custom, the bride returned for some days to her father’s house, and while there she earnestly exhorted Chiu-kung to submit. Following her advice, he went over to Chiang Tzŭ-ya’s party.
In the ensuing battles he fought valiantly on the side of his former enemy, and killed many famous warriors, Page 148but he was eventually attacked by the Blower, from whose mouth a column of yellow gas struck him, throwing him from his steed. He was made prisoner, and executed by order of General Ch’iu Yin. Chiang Tzŭ-ya conferred on him the kingdom of the Blue Dragon Star.
The Spirit of the White Tiger Star is Yin Ch’êng-hsiu. His father, Yin P’o-pai, a high courtier of the tyrant Chou Wang, was sent to negotiate peace with Chiang Tzŭ-ya, but was seized and put to death by Marquis Chiang Wên-huan. His son, attempting to avenge his father’s murder, was pierced by a spear, and his head was cut off and carried in triumph to Chiang Tzŭ-ya.
As compensation he was, though somewhat tardily, canonized as the Spirit of the White Tiger Star.
The philosophers Lieh Tzŭ, Huai-nan Tzŭ, Chuang Tzŭ, Mo Tzŭ, etc., have also been apotheosized. Nothing very remarkable is related of them. Most of them had several reincarnations and possessed supernatural powers. The second, who was a king, when taken by the Eight Immortals to the genii’s Heaven forgot now and then to address them as superiors, and but for their intercession with Yü Ti, the Pearly Emperor, would have been reincarnated. In order to humiliate himself, he thereafter called himself Huai-nan Tzŭ, ‘the Sage of the South of the Huai.’ The third, Chuang Tzŭ, Chuang Shêng, or Chuang Chou, was a disciple of Lao Tzŭ. Chuang Tzŭ was in the habit of sleeping during the day, and at night would transform himself into a butterfly, which fluttered gaily over the flowers in the garden. On waking, he would still feel the sensation of flying in his shoulders. Page 149On asking Lao Tzŭ the reason for this, he was told: “Formerly you were a white butterfly which, having partaken of the quintessence of flowers and of the yin and the yang, should have been immortalized; but one day you stole some peaches and flowers in Wang Mu Niang-niang’s garden. The guardian of the garden slew you, and that is how you came to be reincarnated.” At this time he was fifty years of age.
Fanning the Grave
One of the tales associated with him describes how he saw a young woman in mourning vigorously fanning a newly made grave. On his asking her the reason of this strange conduct, she replied: “I am doing this because my husband begged me to wait until the earth on his tomb was dry before I remarried!” Chuang Tzŭ offered to help her, and as soon as he waved the fan once the earth was dry. The young widow thanked him and departed.
On his return home, Chuang Shêng related this incident to his wife. She expressed astonishment at such conduct on the part of a wife. “There’s nothing to be surprised at,” rejoined the husband; “that’s how things go in this world.” Seeing that he was poking fun at her, she protested angrily. Some little time after this Chuang Shêng died. His wife, much grieved, buried him.
Husband and Wife
A few days later a young man named Ch’u Wang-sun arrived with the intention, as he said, of placing himself under the instruction of Chuang Shêng. When he heard that he was dead he went and performed prostrations before his tomb, and afterward took up his abode in an Page 150empty room, saying that he wished to study. After half a month had elapsed, the widow asked an old servant who had accompanied Wang-sun if the young man was married. On his replying in the negative, she requested the old servant to propose a match between them. Wang-sun made some objections, saying that people would criticize their conduct. “Since my husband is dead, what can they say?” replied the widow. She then put off her mourning-garments and prepared for the wedding.
Wang-sun took her to the grave of her husband, and said to her: “The gentleman has returned to life!” She looked at Wang-sun and recognized the features of her husband. She was so overwhelmed with shame that she hanged herself. Chuang Shêng buried her in an empty tomb, and then began to sing.
He burnt his house, went away to P’u-shui, in Hupei, and occupied himself in fishing. From there he went on to Chung-t’iao Shan, where he met Fêng Hou and her teacher Hsüan Nü, the Mother of Heaven. In their company he visited the palaces of the stars. One day, when he was attending a banquet at the palace of Wang-mu, Shang Ti gave him as his kingdom the planet Jupiter, and assigned to him as his palace the ancient abode of Mao Mêng, the stellar god reincarnated during the Chou dynasty. He had not yet returned, and had left his palace empty. Shang Ti had cautioned him never to absent himself without his permission.
A large number of military men also have been canonized as celestial generalissimos. A few will serve as examples of the rest. Page 151
The Three Musical Brothers
There were three brothers: T’ien Yüan-shuai, the eldest; T’ien Hung-i, the second; and T’ien Chih-piao, the youngest. They were all musicians of unsurpassed talent.
In the K’ai-yüan Period (A.D. 713–42) the Emperor Hsüan Tsung, of the T’ang dynasty, appointed them his music masters. At the sound of their wonderful flute the clouds in the sky stopped in their courses; the harmony of their songs caused the odoriferous la mei flower to open in winter. They excelled also in songs and dances.
The Emperor fell sick. He saw in a dream the three brothers accompanying their singing on a mandolin and violin. The harmony of their songs charmed his ear, and on waking he found himself well again. Out of gratitude for this benefit he conferred on each the title of marquis.
The Grand Master of the Taoists was trying to stay the ravages of a pestilence, but he could not conquer the devils which caused it. Under these circumstances he appealed to the three brothers and asked their advice as to what course to adopt. T’ien Yüan-shuai had a large boat built, called ‘Spirit-boat.’ He assembled in it a million spirits, and ordered them to beat drums. On hearing this tumult all the demons of the town came out to listen. T’ien Yüan-shuai, seizing the opportunity, captured them all and, with the help of the Grand Master, expelled them from the town.
Besides the canonization of the three T’ien brothers, all the members of their families received posthumous titles. Page 152
The Dragon-boat Festival
This is said to be the origin of the dragon-boats which are to be seen on all the waterways of China on the fifth day of the fifth moon.11 The Festival of the Dragon-boats, held on that day, was instituted in memory of the statesman-poet Ch’ü Yüan (332–296 B.C.), who drowned himself in the Mi-lo River, an affluent of the Tung-t’ing Lake, after having been falsely accused by one of the petty princes of the State. The people, out of pity for the unfortunate courtier, sent out these boats in search of his body.
In the wars which resulted in the overthrow of the tyrant Chou Wang and his dynasty and the establishment of the great Chou dynasty, the most influential generalissimo was Chiang Tzŭ-ya. His family name was Chiang, and his own name Shang, but owing to his descent from one of the ministers of the ancient King Yao, whose heirs owned the fief of Lü, the family came to be called by that name, and he himself was known as Lü Shang. His honorific title was T’ai Kung Wang, ‘Hope of T’ai Kung,’ given him by Wên Wang, who recognized in the person of Chiang Tzŭ-ya the wise minister whom his father T’ai Kung had caused him to expect before his death.
The Battle of Mu Yeh
Chiang Tzŭ-ya was originally in the service of the tyrant Chou Wang, but transferred his services to the Chou cause, and by his wonderful skill enabled that house finally to gain the victory. The decisive battle Page 153took place at Mu Yeh, situated to the south of Wei-hui Fu, in 1122 B.C. The soldiers of Yin, 700,000 in number, were defeated, and Chou, the tyrant, shut himself up in his magnificent palace, set it alight, and was burned alive with all his possessions. For this achievement Chiang Tzŭ-ya was granted by Wu Wang the title of Father and Counsellor, and was appointed Prince of Ch’i, with perpetual succession to his descendants.
A Legend of Chiang Tzŭ-ya
The Feng shên yen i contains many chapters describing in detail the various battles which resulted in the overthrow of the last tyrant of the Shang dynasty and the establishment of the illustrious Chou dynasty on the throne of China. This legend and the following one are epitomized from that work.
No-cha defeats Chang Kuei-fang
The redoubtable No-cha having, by means of his Heaven-and-earth Bracelet, vanquished Fêng Lin, a star-god and subordinate officer of Chang Kuei-fang, in spite of the black smoke-clouds which he blew out of his nostrils, the defeated warrior fled and sought the aid of his chief, who fought No-cha in some thirty to forty encounters without succeeding in dislodging him from his Wind-fire Wheel, which enabled him to move about rapidly and to perform prodigious feats, such as causing hosts of silver flying dragons like clouds of snow to descend upon his enemy. During one of these fights No-cha heard his name called three times, but paid no heed. Finally, with his Heaven-and-earth Bracelet he broke Chang Kuei-fang’s left arm, following this up by shooting out some dazzling rays of light which knocked him off his horse. Page 154
When he returned to the city to report his victory to Tzŭ-ya, the latter asked him if during the battle Kuei-fang had called his name. “Yes,” replied No-cha, “he called, but I took no heed of him.” “When Kuei-fang calls,” said Tzŭ-ya, “the hun and the p’o [anima and umbra] become separated, and so the body falls apart.” “But,” replied No-cha, “I had changed myself into a lotus-flower, which has neither hun nor p’o, so he could not succeed in getting me off my magic wheel.”
Tzŭ-ya goes to K’un-lun
Tzŭ-ya, however, still uncertain in mind about the finality of No-cha’s victories, went to consult Wu Wang (whose death had not yet taken place at this time). After the interview Tzŭ-ya informed Wu Wang of his wish to visit K’un-lun Mountain. Wu Wang warned him of the danger of leaving the kingdom with the enemy so near the capital; but Tzŭ-ya obtained his consent by saying he would be absent only three days at most. So he gave instructions regarding the defence to No-cha, and went off in his spirit chariot to K’un-lun. On his arrival at the Unicorn Precipice he was much enraptured with the beautiful scenery, the colours, flowers, trees, bridges, birds, deer, apes, blue lions, white elephants, etc., all of which seemed to make earth surpass Heaven in loveliness.
He receives the List of Immortals
From the Unicorn Precipice he went on to the Jade Palace of Abstraction. Here he was presented to Yüan-shih. From him he received the List of Promotions to Immortals, which Nan-chi Hsien-wêng, ‘Ancient Immortal of the South Pole,’ had brought, and was told to go and erect a Fêng Shên T’ai (Spirits’ Promotion Terrace) Page 155on which to exhibit it. Yüan-shih also warned him that if anyone called him while he was on the way he was to be most careful not to answer. On reaching the Unicorn Precipice on his way back, he heard some one call: “Chiang Tzŭ-ya!” This happened three times without his paying any heed. Then the voice was heard to say: “Now that you are Prime Minister, how devoid of feeling and forgetful of bygone benefits you must be not to remember one who studied with you in the Jade Palace of Abstraction!” Tzŭ-ya could not but turn his head and look. He then saw that it was Shên Kung-pao. He said: “Brother, I did not know it was you who were calling me, and I did not heed you as Shih-tsun told me on no account to reply.” Shên Kung-pao said: “What is that you hold in your hand?” He told him it was the List of Promotions to Immortals. Shên Kung-pao then tried to entice Tzŭ-ya from his allegiance to Chou. Among Shên’s tactics was that of convincing Tzŭ-ya of the superiority of the magical arts at the disposal of the supporters of Chou Wang. “You,” he said, “can drain the sea, change the hills, and suchlike things, but what are those compared with my powers, who can take off my head, make it mount into space, travel 10,000,000 li, and return to my neck just as complete as before and able to speak? Burn your List of Promotions to Immortals and come with me.” Tzŭ-ya, thinking that a head which could travel 10,000,000 li and be the same as before was exceedingly rare, said: “Brother, you take your head off, and if in reality it can do as you say, rise into space and return and be as before, I shall be willing to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals and return with you to Chao Ko.” Shên Kung-pao said: “You will not go back on your word?” Page 156Tzŭ-ya said: “When your elder brother has spoken his word is as unchangeable as Mount T’ai, How can there be any going back on my word?”
The Soaring Head
Shên Kung-pao then doffed his Taoist cap, seized his sword, with his left hand firmly grasped the blue thread binding his hair, and with his right cut off his head. His body did not fall down. He then took his head and threw it up into space. Tzŭ-ya gazed with upturned face as it continued to rise, and was sorely puzzled. But the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole had kept a watch on the proceedings. He said: “Tzŭ-ya is a loyal and honest man; it looks as if he has been deceived by this charlatan.” He ordered White Crane Youth to assume quickly the form of a crane and fetch Shên Kung-pao’s head.
The Ancient Immortal saves the Situation
Tzŭ-ya was still gazing upward when he felt a slap on his back and, turning round, saw that it was the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. Tzŭ-ya quickly asked: “My elder brother, why have you returned?” Hsien-wêng said: “You are a fool. Shên Kung-pao is a man of unholy practices. These few small tricks of his you take as realities. But if the head does not return to the neck within an hour and three-quarters the blood will coagulate and he will die. Shih-tsun ordered you not to reply to anyone; why did you not hearken to his words? From the Jade Palace of Abstraction I saw you speaking together, and knew you had promised to burn the List of Promotions to Immortals. So I ordered White Crane Youth to bring me the head. After an hour and three-quarters Shên Kung-pao will be recompensed.”
Chiang Tzŭ-ya at K’un-lun
Chiang Tzŭ-ya at K’un-lun
Tzŭ-ya said: “My elder brother, since you know all you can pardon him. In the Taoist heart there is no place where mercy cannot be exercised. Remember the many years during which he has faithfully followed the Path.”
Eventually the Ancient Immortal was persuaded, but in the meantime Shên Kung-pao, finding that his head did not return, became very much troubled in mind. In an hour and three-quarters the blood would stop flowing and he would die. However, Tzŭ-ya having succeeded in his intercession with the Ancient Immortal, the latter signed to White Crane Youth, who was flying in space with the head in his beak, to let it drop. He did so, but when it reached the neck it was facing backward. Shên Kung-pao quickly put up his hand, took hold of an ear, and turned his head the right way round. He was then able to open his eyes, when he saw the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole. The latter arraigned him in a loud voice saying: “You as-good-as-dead charlatan, who by means of corrupt tricks try to deceive Tzŭ-ya and make him burn the List of Immortals and help Chou Wang against Chou, what do you mean by all this? You should be taken to the Jade Palace of Abstraction to be punished!”
Shên Kung-pao, ashamed, could not reply; mounting his tiger, he made off; but as he left he hurled back a threat that the Chou would yet have their white bones piled mountains high at Hsi Ch’i. Subsequently Tzŭ-ya, carefully preserving the precious List, after many adventures succeeded in building the Fêng Shên T’ai, and posted the List up on it. Having accomplished his mission, he returned in time to resist the capture of Hsi Ch’i by Chang Kuei-fang, whose troops were defeated with great slaughter. Page 158
Ch’iung Hsiao’s Magic Scissors
In another of the many conflicts between the two rival states Lao Tzŭ entered the battle, whereupon Ch’iung Hsiao, a goddess who fought for the house of Shang (Chou), hurled into the air her gold scaly-dragon scissors. As these slowly descended, opening and closing in a most ominous manner, Lao Tzŭ waved the sleeve of his jacket and they fell into the sea and became absolutely motionless. Many similar tricks were used by the various contestants. The Gold Bushel of Chaotic Origin succumbed to the Wind-fire Sphere, and so on. Ch’iung Hsiao resumed the attack with some magic two-edged swords, but was killed by a blow from White Crane Youth’s Three-precious Jade Sceptre, hurled at her by Lao Tzŭ’s orders. Pi Hsiao, her sister, attempted to avenge her death, but Yüan-shih, producing from his sleeve a magical box, threw it into the air and caught Pi Hsiao in it. When it was opened it was found that she had melted into blood and water.
Chiang Tzŭ-ya defeats Wên Chung
After this Lao Tzŭ rallied many of the skilful spirits to help Chiang Tzŭ-ya in his battle with Wên Chung, providing them with the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole’s Sand-blaster and an earth-conquering light which enabled them to travel a thousand li in a day. From the hot sand used the contest became known as the Red Sand Battle. Jan Têng, on P’êng-lai Mountain, in consultation with Tzŭ-ya, also arranged the plan of battle.
The Red Sand Battle
The fight began with a challenge from the Ancient Immortal of the South Pole to Chang Shao. The latter, Page 159riding his deer, dashed into the fray, and aimed a terrific blow with his sword at Hsien-wêng’s head, but White Crane Youth warded it off with his Three-precious Jade Sceptre. Chang then produced a two-edged sword and renewed the attack, but, being disarmed, dismounted from his deer and threw several handfuls of hot sand at Hsien-wêng. The latter, however, easily fanned them away with his Five-fire Seven-feathers Fan, rendering them harmless. Chang then fetched a whole bushel of the hot sand and scattered it over the enemy, but Hsien-wêng counteracted the menace by merely waving his fan. White Crane Youth struck Chang Shao with his jade sceptre, knocking him off his horse, and then dispatched him with his two-edged sword.
After this battle Wu Wang was found to be already dead. Jan Têng on learning this ordered Lei Chên-tzŭ to take the corpse to Mount P’êng and wash it. He then dissolved a pill in water and poured the solution into Wu Wang’s mouth, whereupon he revived and was escorted back to his palace.
Preparations were then made for resuming the attack on Wên Chung. While the latter was consulting with Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ and Han Chih-hsien, he heard the sound of the Chou guns and the thunder of their troops. Wên Chung, mounting his black unicorn, galloped like a whiff of smoke to meet Tzŭ-ya, but was stopped by blows from two silver hammers wielded by Huang T’ien-hua. Han Chih-hsien came to Wên’s aid, but was opposed by Pi Hsiang-yang. Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ dashed into the fray, but No-cha stepped on to his Wind-fire Wheel and opposed him. From all sides other Immortals joined in Page 160the terrific battle, which was a turmoil of longbows and crossbows, iron armour and brass mail, striking whips and falling hammers, weapons cleaving mail and mail resisting weapons. In this fierce contest, while Tzŭ-ya was fighting Wên Chung, Han Chih-hsien released a black wind from his magic wind-bag, but he did not know that the Taoist Barge of Mercy (which transports departed souls to the land of bliss), sent by Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, had on board the Stop-wind Pearl, by which the black storm was immediately quelled. Thereupon Tzŭ-ya quickly seized his Vanquish-spirits Whip and struck Han Chih-hsien in the middle of the skull, so that the brain-fluid gushed forth and he died. No-cha then slew Ts’ai-yün Hsien-tzŭ with a spear-thrust.
Thus the stern fight went on, until finally Tzŭ-ya, under cover of night, attacked Wên Chung’s troops simultaneously on all four sides. The noise of slaughter filled the air. Generals and rank and file, lanterns, torches, swords, spears, guns, and daggers were one confused mêlée; Heaven could scarcely be distinguished from earth, and corpses were piled mountains high.
Chiang Tzŭ-ya Defeats Wên Chung
Chiang Tzŭ-ya Defeats Wên Chung
Tzŭ-ya, having broken through seven lines of the enemy’s ranks, forced his way into Wên Chung’s camp. The latter mounted his unicorn, and brandishing his magic whip dashed to meet him. Tzŭ-ya drew his sword and stopped his onrush, being aided by Lung Hsü-hu, who repeatedly cast a rain of hot stones on to the troops. In the midst of the fight Tzŭ-ya brought out his great magic whip, and in spite of Wên Chung’s efforts to avoid it succeeded in wounding him in the left arm. The Chou troops were fighting like dragons lashing their tails and pythons curling their bodies. To add to their Page 161disasters, the Chou now saw flames rising behind the camp, and knew that their provisions were being burned by Yang Chien.
The Chou armies, with gongs beating and drums rolling, advanced for a final effort, the slaughter being so great that even the devils wept and the spirits wailed. Wên Chung was eventually driven back seventy li to Ch’i Hill. His troops could do nothing but sigh and stumble along. He made for Peach-blossom Range, but as he approached it he saw a yellow banner hoisted, and under it was Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ. Being prevented from escaping in that direction he joined battle, but by use of red-hot sand, his two-edged sword, and his Turn-heaven Seal Kuang Ch’êng-tzŭ put him to flight. He then made off toward the west, followed by Têng Chung. His design was to make for Swallow Hill, which he reached after several days of weary marching. Here he saw another yellow banner flying, and Ch’ih Ching-tzŭ informed him that Jan Têng had forbidden him to stop at Swallow Hill or to go through the Five Passes. This led to another pitched battle, Wên Chung using his magic whip and Ch’ih his spiritual two-edged sword. After several bouts Ch’ih brought out his yin-yang mirror, by use of which irresistible weapon Wên was driven to Yellow Flower Hill and Blue Dragon Pass, and so on from battle to battle, until he was drawn up to Heaven from the top of Dead-dragon Mountain.
Thousand-li Eye and Favourable-wind Ear
Ch’ien-li Yen, ‘Thousand-li Eye,’ and Shun-fêng Êrh, ‘Favourable-wind Ear,’ were two brothers named Kao Ming and Kao Chio. On account of their martial bearing they found favour with the tyrant emperor Chou Wang, Page 162who appointed them generals, and sent them to serve with Generalissimo Yüan Hung (who was a monkey which had taken human form) at Mêng-ching.
Kao Ming was very tall, with a blue face, flaming eyes, a large mouth, and prominent teeth like those of a rhinoceros.
Kao Chio had a greenish face and skin, two horns on his head, a red beard, and a large mouth with teeth shaped like swords.
One of their first encounters was with No-cha, who hurled at them his mystic bracelet, which struck Kao Chio on the head, but did not leave even a scratch. When, however, he seized his fire-globe the brothers thought it wiser to retreat.
Finding no means of conquering them, Yang Chien, Chiang Tzŭ-ya, and Li Ching took counsel together and decided to have recourse to Fu Hsi’s trigrams, and by smearing them with the blood of a fowl and a dog to destroy their spiritual power.
But the two brothers were fully informed of what was designed. Thousand-li Eye had seen and Favourable-wind Ear had heard everything, so that all their preparations proved unavailing.
Yang Chien then went to Chiang Tzŭ-ya and said to him: “These two brothers are powerful devils; I must take more effectual measures.” “Where will you go for aid?” asked Chiang Tzŭ-ya. “I cannot tell you, for they would hear,” replied Yang. He then left. Favourable-wind Ear heard this dialogue, and Thousand-li Eye saw him leave. “He did not say where he was going,” they said to each other, “but we fear him not.” Yang Chien went to Yü-ch’üan Shan, where lived Yü-ting Chên-jên, ‘Hero Jade-tripod.’ He told him about their two adversaries, and asked him how they were to conquer Page 163them. “These two genii,” replied the Chên-jên, “are from Ch’i-p’an Shan, Chessboard Mountain. One is a spiritual peach-tree, the other a spiritual pomegranate-tree. Their roots cover an area of thirty square li of ground. On that mountain there is a temple dedicated to Huang-ti, in which are clay images of two devils called Ch’ien-li Yen and Shun-fêng Êrh. The peach-tree and pomegranate-tree, having become spiritual beings, have taken up their abode in these images. One has eyes which can see objects distinctly at a distance of a thousand li, the other ears that can hear sounds at a like distance. But beyond that distance they can neither see nor hear. Return and tell Chiang Tzŭ-ya to have the roots of those trees torn up and burned, and the images destroyed; then the two genii will be easily vanquished. In order that they may neither see nor hear you during your conversation with Chiang Tzŭ-ya, wave flags about the camp and order the soldiers to beat tom-toms and drums.”
How the Brothers were Defeated
Yang Chien returned to Chiang Tzŭ-ya. “What have you been doing?” asked the latter. Before replying Yang Chien went to the camp and ordered soldiers to wave large red flags and a thousand others to beat the tom-toms and drums. The air was so filled with the flags and the noise that nothing else could be either seen or heard. Under cover of this device Yang Chien then communicated to Chiang Tzŭ-ya the course advised by the Chên-jên.
Accordingly Li Ching at the head of three thousand soldiers proceeded to Ch’i-p’an Shan, pulled up and burned the roots of the two trees, and broke the images to Page 164pieces. At the same time Lei Chên-tzŭ was ordered to attack the two genii.
Thousand-li Eye and Favourable-wind Ear could neither see nor hear: the flags effectually screened the horizon and the infernal noise of the drums and gongs deadened all other sound. They did not know how to stop them.
The following night Yüan Hung decided to take the camp of Chiang Tzŭ-ya by assault, and sent the brothers in advance. They were, however, themselves surprised by Wu Wang’s officers, who surrounded them. Chiang Tzŭ-ya then threw into the air his ‘devil-chaser’ whip, which fell on the two scouts and cleft their skulls in twain.
The dualistic idea, already referred to, of the Otherworld being a replica of this one is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the celestial Ministries or official Bureaux or Boards, with their chiefs and staffs functioning over the spiritual hierarchies. The Nine Ministries up aloft doubtless had their origin in imitation of the Six, Eight, or Nine Ministries or Boards which at various periods of history have formed the executive part of the official hierarchy in China. But their names are different and their functions do not coincide.
Generally, the functions of the officers of the celestial Boards are to protect mankind from the evils represented in the title of the Board, as, for example, thunder, smallpox, fire, etc. In all cases the duties seem to be remedial. As the God of War was, as we saw, the god who protects people from the evils of war, so the vast hierarchy of these various divinities is conceived as functioning for the good of mankind. Being too numerous for inclusion Page 165here, an account of them is given under various headings in some of the following chapters.
Protectors of the People
Besides the gods who hold definite official posts in these various Ministries, there are a very large number who are also protecting patrons of the people; and, though ex officio, in many cases quite as popular and powerful, if not more so. Among the most important are the following: Shê-chi, Gods of the Soil and Crops; Shên Nung, God of Agriculture; Hou-t’u, Earth-mother; Ch’êng-huang, City-god; T’u-ti, Local Gods; Tsao Chün, Kitchen-god; T’ien-hou and An-kung, Goddess and God of Sailors; Ts’an Nü, Goddess of Silkworms; Pa-ch’a, God of Grasshoppers; Fu Shên, Ts’ai Shên, and Shou Hsing, Gods of Happiness, Wealth, and Longevity; Mên Shên, Door-gods; and Shê-mo Wang, etc., the Gods of Serpents.
Ch’êng-huang is the Celestial Mandarin or City-god. Every fortified city or town in China is surrounded by a wall, ch’êng, composed usually of two battlemented walls, the space between which is filled with earth. This earth is dug from the ground outside, making a ditch, or huang, running parallel with the ch’êng. The Ch’êng-huang is the spiritual official of the city or town. All the numerous Ch’êng-huang constitute a celestial Ministry of Justice, presided over by a Ch’êng-huang-in-chief.
The origin of the worship of the Ch’êng-huang dates back to the time of the great Emperor Yao (2357 B.C.), who instituted a sacrifice called Pa Cha in honour of eight spirits, of whom the seventh, Shui Yung, had the Page 166meaning of, or corresponded to, the dyke and rampart known later as Ch’êng-huang. Since the Sung dynasty sacrifices have been offered to the Ch’êng-huang all over the country, though now and then some towns have adopted another or special god as their Ch’êng-huang, such as Chou Hsin, adopted as the Ch’êng-huang of Hangchou, the capital of Chekiang Province. Concerning Chou Hsin, who had a “face of ice and iron,” and was so much dreaded for his severity that old and young fled at his approach, it is related that once when he was trying a case a storm blew some leaves on to his table. In spite of diligent search the tree to which this kind of leaf belonged could not be found anywhere in the neighbourhood, but was eventually discovered in a Buddhist temple a long way off. The judge declared that the priests of this temple must be guilty of murder. By his order the tree was felled, and in its trunk was found the body of a woman who had been assassinated, and the priests were convicted of the murder.
Tsao Chün is a Taoist invention, but is universally worshipped by all families in China—about sixty millions of pictures of him are regularly worshipped twice a month—at new and full moon. “His temple is a little niche in the brick cooking-range; his palace is often filled with smoke; and his Majesty sells for one farthing.” He is also called ‘the God of the Stove.’ The origin of his worship, according to the legend, is that a Taoist priest, Li Shao-chün by name, of the Ch’i State, obtained from the Kitchen-god the double favour of exemption from growing old and of being able to live without eating. He then went to the Emperor Hsiao Wu-ti (140–86 B.C.) Page 167of the Han dynasty, and promised that credulous monarch that he should benefit by the powers of the god provided that he would consent to patronize and encourage his religion. It was by this means, he added, that the Emperor Huang Ti obtained his knowledge of alchemy, which enabled him to make gold.
The Emperor asked the priest to bring him his divine patron, and one night the image of Tsao Chün appeared to him.
Deceived by this trick, dazzled by the ingots of gold which he too should obtain, and determined to risk everything for the pill of immortality which was among the benefits promised, the Emperor made a solemn sacrifice to the God of the Kitchen.
This was the first time that a sacrifice had been officially offered to this new deity.
Li Shao-chün gradually lost the confidence of the Emperor and, at his wits’ end, conceived the plan of writing some phrases on a piece of silk and then causing them to be swallowed by an ox. This done, he announced that a wonderful script would be found in the animal’s stomach. The ox being killed, the script was found there as predicted, but Li’s unlucky star decreed that the Emperor should recognize his handwriting, and he was forthwith put to death. Nevertheless, the worship of the Kitchen-god continued and increased, and exists in full vigour down to the present day.
This deity has power over the lives of the members of each family under his supervision, distributes riches and poverty at will, and makes an annual report to the Supreme Being on the conduct of the family during the year, for which purpose he is usually absent for from four to seven days. Some hold that he also makes Page 168these reports once or twice or several times each month. Various ceremonies are performed on seeing him off to Heaven and welcoming him back. One of the former, as we saw, is to regale him with honey, so that only sweet words, if any, may be spoken by him while up aloft!
In the kingdom of Shu (modern Ssŭch’uan), in the time of Kao Hsing Ti, a band of robbers kidnapped the father of Ts’an Nü. A whole year elapsed, and the father’s horse still remained in the stable as he had left it. The thought of not seeing her father again caused Ts’an Nü such grief that she would take no nourishment. Her mother did what she could to console her, and further promised her in marriage to anyone who would bring back her father. But no one was found who could do this. Hearing the offer, the horse stamped with impatience, and struggled so much that at length he broke the halter by which he was tied up. He then galloped away and disappeared. Several days later, his owner returned riding the horse. From that time the horse neighed incessantly, and refused all food. This caused the mother to make known to her husband the promise she had made concerning her daughter. “An oath made to men,” he replied, “does not hold good for a horse. Is a human being meant to live in marital relations with a horse?” Nevertheless, however good and abundant food they offered him, the horse would not eat. When he saw the young lady he plunged and kicked furiously. Losing his temper, the father discharged an arrow and killed him on the spot; then he skinned him and spread the skin on the ground outside the house to dry. As the young lady was passing the Page 169spot the skin suddenly moved, rose up, enveloped her, and disappeared into space. Ten days later it was found at the foot of a mulberry-tree; Ts’an Nü changed into a silkworm, was eating the mulberry-leaves, and spinning for herself a silken garment.
The parents of course were in despair. But one day, while they were overwhelmed with sad thoughts, they saw on a cloud Ts’an Nü riding the horse and attended by several dozens of servants. She descended toward her parents, and said to them: “The Supreme Being, as a reward for my martyrdom in the cause of filial piety and my love of virtue, has conferred on me the dignity of Concubine of the Nine Palaces. Be reassured as to my fate, for in Heaven I shall live for ever.” Having said this she disappeared into space.
In the temples her image is to be seen covered with a horse’s skin. She is called Ma-t’ou Niang, ‘the Lady with the Horse’s Head,’ and is prayed to for the prosperity of mulberry-trees and silkworms. The worship continues even in modern times. The goddess is also represented as a stellar divinity, the star T’ien Ssŭ; as the first man who reared silkworms, in this character bearing the same name as the God of Agriculture, Pasture, and Fire; and as the wife of the Emperor Huang Ti.
The God of Happiness
The God of Happiness, Fu Shên, owes his origin to the predilection of the Emperor Wu Ti (A.D. 502–50) of the Liang dynasty for dwarfs as servants and comedians in his palace. The number levied from the Tao Chou district in Hunan became greater and greater, until it seriously prejudiced the ties of family relations. When Yang Ch’êng, alias Yang Hsi-chi, was Criminal Judge of Page 170Tao Chou he represented to the Emperor that, according to law, the dwarfs were his subjects but not his slaves. Being touched by this remark, the Emperor ordered the levy to be stopped.
Overjoyed at their liberation from this hardship, the people of that district set up images of Yang and offered sacrifices to him. Everywhere he was venerated as the Spirit of Happiness. It was in this simple way that there came into being a god whose portraits and images abound everywhere throughout the country, and who is worshipped almost as universally as the God of Riches himself.
Another person who attained to the dignity of God of Happiness (known as Tsêng-fu Hsiang-kung, ‘the Young Gentleman who Increases Happiness’) was Li Kuei-tsu, the minister of Emperor Wên Ti of the Wei dynasty, the son of the famous Ts’ao Ts’ao, but in modern times the honour seems to have passed to Kuo Tzŭ-i. He was the saviour of the T’ang dynasty from the depredations of the Turfans in the reign of the Emperor Hsüan Tsung. He lived A.D. 697–781, was a native of Hua Chou, in Shensi, and one of the most illustrious of Chinese generals. He is very often represented in pictures clothed in blue official robes, leading his small son Kuo Ai to Court.
The God of Wealth
As with many other Chinese gods, the proto-being of the <