Philosophical Theory of the Universe.–The problem of the universe has
never offered the slightest difficulty to Chinese philosophers. Before
the beginning of all things, there was Nothing. In the lapse of ages
Nothing coalesced into Unity, the Great Monad. After more ages, the
Great Monad separated into Duality, the Male and Female Principles in
nature; and then, by a process of biogenesis, the visible universe was

Popular Cosmogeny.–An addition, however, to this simple system had to
be made, in deference to, and on a plane with, the intelligence of the
masses. According to this, the Male and Female Principles were each
subdivided into Greater and Lesser, and then from the interaction of
these four agencies a being, named P’an Ku, came into existence. He
seems to have come into life endowed with perfect knowledge, and his
function was to set the economy of the universe in order. He is often
depicted as wielding a huge adze, and engaged in constructing the
world. With his death the details of creation began. His breath became
the wind; his voice, the thunder; his left eye, the sun; his right
eye, the moon; his blood flowed in rivers; his hair grew into trees
and plants; his flesh became the soil; his sweat descended as rain;
while the parasites which infested his body were the origin of the
human race.

Recognition and Worship of Spirits.–Early Chinese writers tell us
that Fu Hsi, B.C. 2953-2838, was the first Emperor to organize
sacrifices to, and worship of, spirits. In this he was followed by the
Yellow Emperor, B.C. 2698-2598, who built a temple for the worship of
God, in which incense was used, and first sacrificed to the Mountains
and Rivers. He is also said to have established the worship of the
sun, moon, and five planets, and to have elaborated the ceremonial of
ancestral worship.

God the Father, Earth the Mother.–The Yellow Emperor was followed by
the Emperor Shao Hao, B.C. 2598-2514, “who instituted the music of the
Great Abyss in order to bring spirits and men into harmony.” Then came
the Emperor Chuan Hsu, B.C. 2514-2436, of whom it is said that he
appointed an officer “to preside over the worship of God and Earth, in
order to form a link between the spirits and man,” and also “caused
music to be played for the enjoyment of God.” Music, by the way, is
said to have been introduced into worship in imitation of thunder, and
was therefore supposed to be pleasing to the Almighty. After him
followed the Emperor Ti K’u, B.C. 2436-2366, who dabbled in astronomy,
and “came to a knowledge of spiritual beings, which he respectfully
worshipped.” The Emperor Yao, B.C. 2357-2255, built a temple for the

worship of God, and also caused dances to be performed for the
enjoyment of God on occasions of special sacrifice and communication
with the spiritual world. After him, we reach the Emperor Shun, B.C.
2255-2205, in whose favour Yao abdicated.

Additional Deities.–Before, however, Shun ventured to mount the
throne, he consulted the stars, in order to find out if the unseen
Powers were favourable to his elevation; and on receiving a
satisfactory reply, “he proceeded to sacrifice to God, to the Six
Honoured Ones (unknown), to the Mountains and Rivers, and to Spirits
in general. . . . In the second month of the year, he made a tour of
inspection eastwards, as far as Mount T’ai (in modern Shantung), where
he presented a burnt offering to God, and sacrificed to the Mountains
and Rivers.”

God punishes the wicked and rewards the good.–The Great Yu, who
drained the empire, and came to the throne in B.C. 2205 as first
Emperor of the Hsia dynasty, followed in the lines of his pious
predecessors. But the Emperor K’ung Chia, B.C. 1879-1848, who at first
had treated the Spirits with all due reverence, fell into evil ways,
and was abandoned by God. This was the beginning of the end. In B.C.
1766 T’ang the Completer, founder of the Shang dynasty, set to work to
overthrow Chieh Kuei, the last ruler of the Hsia dynasty. He began by
sacrificing to Almighty God, and asked for a blessing on his
undertaking. And in his subsequent proclamation to the empire, he
spoke of that God as follows: “God has given to every man a
conscience; and if all men acted in accordance with its dictates, they
would not stray from the right path. . . . The way of God is to bless
the good and punish the bad. He has sent down calamities on the House
of Hsia, to make manifest its crimes.”

God manifests displeasure.–In B.C. 1637 the Emperor T’ai Mou
succeeded. His reign was marked by the supernatural appearance in the
palace of two mulberry-trees, which in a single night grew to such a
size that they could hardly be spanned by two hands. The Emperor was
terrified; whereupon a Minister said, “No prodigy is a match for
virtue. Your Majesty’s government is no doubt at fault, and some
reform of conduct is necessary.” Accordingly, the Emperor began to act
more circumspectly; after which the mulberry-trees soon withered and

Revelation in a dream.–The Emperor Wu Ting, B.C. 1324-1264, began his
reign by not speaking for three years, leaving all State affairs to be
decided by his Prime Minister, while he himself gained experience.
Later on, the features of a sage were revealed to him in a dream; and
on waking, he caused a portrait of the apparition to be prepared and
circulated throughout the empire. The sage was found, and for a long
time aided the Emperor in the right administration of government. On
the occasion of a sacrifice, a pheasant perched upon the handle of the
great sacrificial tripod, and crowed, at which the Emperor was much
alarmed. “Be not afraid,” cried a Minister; “but begin by reforming
your government. God looks down upon mortals, and in accordance with
their deserts grants them many years or few. God does not shorten

men’s lives; they do that themselves. Some are wanting in virtue, and
will not acknowledge their transgressions; only when God chastens them
do they cry, What are we to do?”

Anthropomorphism and Fetishism.–One of the last Emperors of the Shang
dynasty, Wu I, who reigned B.C. 1198-1194, even went so far as “to
make an image in human form, which he called God. With this image he
used to play at dice, causing some one to throw for the image; and if
‘God’ lost, he would overwhelm the image with insult. He also made a
bag of leather, which he filled with blood and hung up. Then he would
shoot at it, saying that he was shooting God. By and by, when he was
out hunting, he was struck down by a violent thunderclap, and killed.”

God indignant.–Finally, when the Shang dynasty sank into the lowest
depths of moral abasement, King Wu, who charged himself with its
overthrow, and who subsequently became the first sovereign of the Chou
dynasty, offered sacrifices to Almighty God, and also to Mother Earth.
“The King of Shang,” he said in his address to the high officers who
collected around him, “does not reverence God above, and inflicts
calamities on the people below. Almighty God is moved with
indignation.” On the day of the final battle he declared that he was
acting in the matter of punishment merely as the instrument of God;
and after his great victory and the establishment of his own line, it
was to God that he rendered thanks.

No Devil, No Hell.–In this primitive monotheism, of which only
scanty, but no doubt genuine, records remain, no place was found for
any being such as the Buddhist Mara or the Devil of the Old and New
Testaments. God inflicted His own punishments by visiting calamities
on mankind, just as He bestowed His own rewards by sending bounteous
harvests in due season. Evil spirits were a later invention, and their
operations were even then confined chiefly to tearing people’s hearts
out, and so forth, for their own particular pleasure; we certainly
meet no cases of evil spirits wishing to undermine man’s allegiance to
God, or desiring to make people wicked in order to secure their
everlasting punishment. The vision of Purgatory, with all its horrid
tortures, was introduced into China by Buddhism, and was subsequently
annexed by the Taoists, some time between the third and sixth
centuries A.D.

Chinese Terms for God.–Before passing to the firmer ground,
historically speaking, of the Chou dynasty, it may be as well to state
here that there are two terms in ancient Chinese literature which seem
to be used indiscriminately for God. One is /T’ien/, which has come to
include the material heavens, the sky; and the other is /Shang Ti/,
which has come to include the spirits of deceased Emperors. These two
terms appear simultaneously, so to speak, in the earliest documents
which have come down to us, dating back to something like the
twentieth century before Christ. Priority, however, belongs beyond all
doubt to /T’ien/, which it would have been more natural to find
meaning, first the visible heavens, and secondly the Deity, whose
existence beyond the sky would be inferred from such phenomena as
lightning, thunder, wind, and rain. But the process appears to have way, so far at any rate as the written language is se script, when it first came into existence, was
purely pictorial, and confined to visible objects which were
comparatively easy to depict. There does not seem to have been any
attempt to draw a picture of the sky. On the other hand, the character
/T’ien/ was just such a representation of a human being as would be
expected from the hand of a prehistoric artist; and under this
unmistakable shape the character appears on bells and tripods, as seen
in collections of inscriptions, so late as the sixth and seventh
centuries B.C., after which the head is flattered to a line, and the
arms are raised until they form another line parallel to that of the

Distinction between T’ien and Shang Ti.–The term /Shang Ti/ means
literally Supreme Ruler. It is not quite so vague as /T’ien/, which
seems to be more of an abstraction, while /Shang Ti/ is a genuinely
personal God. Reference to /T’ien/ is usually associated with fate or
destiny, calamities, blessings, prayers for help, etc. The
commandments of /T’ien/ are hard to obey; He is compassionate, to be
feared, unjust, and cruel. /Shang Ti/ lives in heaven, walks, leaves
tracks on the ground, enjoys the sweet savour of sacrifice, approves
or disapproves of conduct, deals with rewards and punishments in a
more particular way, and comes more actually into touch with the human

Thus /Shang Ti/ would be the God who walked in the garden in the cool
of the day, the God who smelled the sweet savour of Noah’s sacrifice,
and the God who allowed Moses to see His back. /T’ien/ would be the
God of Gods of the Psalms, whose mercy endureth for ever; the
everlasting God of Isaiah, who fainteth not, neither is weary.

Roman Catholic Dissensions.–These two, in fact, were the very terms
favoured by the early Jesuit missionaries to China, though not with
the limitations above suggested, as fit the proper renderings for God;
and of the two terms the great Manchu Emperor K’ang Hsi chose /T’ien/.
It has been thought that the conversion of China to Christianity under
the guiding influence of the Jesuits would soon have become an
accomplished fact, but for the ignorant opposition to the use of these
terms by the Franciscans and Dominicans, who referred this question,
among others, to the Pope. In 1704 Clement XI published a bull
declaring that the Chinese equivalent for God was /T’ien Chu/=Lord of
Heaven; and such it has continued to be ever since, so far as the
Roman Catholic church is concerned, in spite of the fact that /T’ien
Chu/ was a name given at the close of the third century B.C. to one of
the Eight Spirits.

The two Terms are One.–That the two terms refer in Chinese thought to
one and the same Being, though possibly with differing attributes,
even down to modern times, may be seen from the account of a dream by
the Emperor Yung Lo, A.D. 1403-1425, in which His Majesty relates that
an angel appeared to him, with a message from /Shang Ti/; upon which
the Emperor remarked, “Is not this a command from /T’ien/?” A
comparison might perhaps be instituted with the use of “God” and ” in the Bible. At the same time it must be noted that this not suggested by the Emperor K’ang Hsi, who fixed upon
/T’ien/ as the appropriate term. It is probable that, vigorous
Confucianist as he was, he was anxious to appear on the side rather of
an abstract than of a personal Deity, and that he was repelled by the
overwrought anthropomorphism of the Christian God. His conversion was
said to have been very near at times; we read, however, that, when
hard pressed by the missionaries to accept baptism, “he always excused
himself by saying that he worshipped the same God as the Christians.”

God in the “Odes.”–The Chou dynasty lasted from B.C. 1122 to B.C.

255. It was China’s feudal age, when the empire, then included between
latitude 34-40 and longitude 109-118, was split up into a number of
vassal States, which owned allegiance to a suzerain State. And it is
to the earlier centuries of the Chou dynasty that must be attributed
the composition of a large number of ballads of various kinds,
ultimately collected and edited by Confucius, and now known as the
/Odes/. From these /Odes/ it is abundantly clear that the Chinese
people continued to hold, more clearly and more firmly than ever, a
deep-seated belief in the existence of an anthropomorphic and personal
God, whose one care was the welfare of the human race:-There
is Almighty God;
Does He hate any one?

He reigns in glory.–The soul of King Wen, father of the King Wu
below, and posthumously raised by his son to royal rank, is
represented as enjoying happiness in a state beyond the grave:-

King Wen is on high,
In glory in heaven.
His comings and his goings
Are to and from the presence of God.

He is a Spirit.–Sometimes in the /Odes/ there is a hint that God, in
spite of His anthropomorphic semblance, is a spirit:-

The doings of God
Have neither sound nor smell.

Spiritual Beings.–Spirits were certainly supposed to move freely
among mortals:-

Do not say, This place is not public;
No one can see me here.
The approaches of spiritual Beings
Cannot be calculated beforehand;
But on no account should they be ignored.

The God of Battle.–In the hour of battle the God of ancient China was
as much a participator in the fight as the God of Israel in the Old

God is on your side!

was the cry which stimulated King Wu to break down the opposing ranks
of Shang. To King Wu’s father, and others, direct communications had
previously been made from heaven, with a view to the regeneration of
the empire:-

The dynasties of Hsia and Shang
Had not satisfied God with their government;
So throughout the various States
He sought and considered
For a State on which He might confer the rule.

God said to King Wen,
I am pleased with your conspicuous virtue,
Without noise and without display,
Without heat and without change,
Without consciousness of effort,
Following the pattern of God.

God said to King Wen,
Take measures against hostile States,
Along with your brethren,
Get ready your grappling-irons,
And your engines of assault,
To attack the walls of Ts’ung.

God sends Famine.–The /Ode/ from which the following extract is taken
carries us back to the ninth century B.C., at the time of a prolonged
and disastrous drought:-

Glorious was the Milky Way,
Revolving brightly in the sky,
When the king said, Alas!
What crime have my people committed now,
That God sends down death and disorder,
And famine comes upon us again?
There is no spirit to whom I have not sacrificed;
There is no victim that I have grudged;
Our sacrificial symbols are all used up;-How
is it that I am not heard?

The Confucian Criterion.–The keystone of the Confucian philosophy,
that man is born good, will be found in the following lines:-

How mighty is God!
How clothed in majesty is God,
And how unsearchable are His judgments!
God gives birth to the people,
But their natures are not constant;
All have the same beginning,
But few have the same end.

God, however, is not held responsible for the sufferings of mankind.
King Wen, in an address to the last tyrant of the House of Shang, says

It is not God who has caused this evil time,
But it is you who have strayed from the old paths.

The Associate of God.–Worshipped on certain occasions as the
Associate of God, and often summoned to aid in hours of distress or
danger, was a personage known as Hou Chi, said to have been the
original ancestor of the House of Chou. His story, sufficiently told
in the /Odes/, is curious for several reasons, and especially for an
instance in Chinese literature, which, in the absence of any known
husband, comes near suggesting the much-vexed question of

She who first gave birth to our people
Was the lady Chiang Yuan.
How did she give birth to them?
She offered up a sacrifice
That she might not be childless;
Then she trod in a footprint of God’s, and conceived,
The great and blessed one,
Pregnant with a new birth to be,
And brought forth and nourished
Him who was Hou Chi.

When she had fulfilled her months,
Her firstborn came forth like a lamb.
There was no bursting, no rending,
No injury, no hurt,
In order to emphasise his divinity.
Did not God give her comfort?
Had He not accepted her sacrifice,
So that thus easily she brought forth her son?

He was exposed in a narrow lane,
But sheep and oxen protected and suckled him;
He was exposed in a wide forest,
But woodcutters found him;
He was exposed on cold ice,
But birds covered him with their wings.

Apotheosis of Hou Chi.–And so he grew to man’s estate, and taught the
people husbandry, with a success that has never been rivalled.
Consequently, he was deified, and during several centuries of the Chou
dynasty was united in worship with God:-

O wise Hou Chi,
Fit Associate of our God,
Founder of our race,

There is none greater than thou!
Thou gavest us wheat and barley,

Which God appointed for our nourishment,

And without distinction of territory,

Didst inculcate the virtues over our vast dominions.

Other Deities.–During the long period covered by the Chou dynasty,
various other deities, of more or less importance, were called into

The patriarchal Emperor Shen Nung, B.C. 2838-2698, who had taught his
people to till the ground and eat of the fruits of their labour, was
deified as the tutelary genius of agriculture:-

That my fields are in such good condition

Is matter of joy to my husbandmen.

With lutes, and with drums beating,

We will invoke the Father of Husbandry,

And pray for sweet rain,

To increase the produce of our millet fields,

And to bless my men and their wives.

There were also sacrifices to the Father of War, whoever he may have
been; to the Spirits of Wind, Rain, and Fire; and even to a deity who
watched over the welfare of silkworms. Since those days, the number of
spiritual beings who receive worship from the Chinese, some in one
part of the empire, some in another, has increased enormously. A
single work, published in 1640, gives notices of no fewer than eight
hundred divinities.

Superstitions.–During the period under consideration, all kinds of
superstition prevailed; among others, that of referring to the
rainbow. The rainbow was believed by the vulgar to be an emanation
from an enormous oyster away in the great ocean which surrounded the
world, i.e. China. Philosophers held it to be the result of undue
proportions in the mixture of the two cosmogonical principles which
when properly blended produce the harmony of nature. By both parties
it was considered to be an inauspicious manifestation, and merely to
point at it would produce a sore on the hand.

Supernatural Manifestations.–Several events of a supernatural
character are recorded as having taken place under the Chou dynasty.
In B.C. 756, one of the feudal Dukes saw a vision of a yellow serpent
which descended from heaven and laid its head on the slope of a
mountain. The Duke spoke of this to his astrologer, who said, “It is a
manifestation of God; sacrifice to it.”

In B.C. 747, another Duke found on a mountain a being in the semblance
of a stone. Sacrifices were at once offered, and the stone was
deified, and received regular worship from that time forward.

In B.C. 659, a third Duke was in a trance for five days, when he saw a
vision of God, and received from Him instructions as to matters then
pressing. For many generations afterwards the story ran that the Duke
had been up to Heaven. This became a favourite theme for romancers. It

is stated in the biography of a certain Feng Po that “one night he saw
the gate of heaven open, and beheld exceeding glory within, which
shone into his courtyard.”

The following story is told by Huai-nan Tzu (d. B.C. 122):–“Once when
the Duke of Lu-yang was at war with the Han State, and sunset drew
near while a battle was still fiercely raging, the Duke held up his
spear and shook it at the sun, which forthwith went back three
zodiacal signs.”

Only the Emperor worships God and Earth.–From the records of this
period we can also see how jealously the worship of God and Earth was
reserved for the Emperor alone.

In B.C. 651, Duke Huan of the Ch’i State, one of the feudal nobles to
be mentioned later on, wished to signalise his accession to the post
of doyen or leader of the vassal States by offering the great
sacrifices to God and to Earth. He was, however, dissuaded from this
by a wise Minister, who pointed out that only those could perform
these ceremonies who had personally received the Imperial mandate from

This same Minister is said to be responsible for the following

“Duke Huan asked Kuan Chang, saying, To what should a prince attach
the highest importance? To God, replied the Minister; at which Duke
Huan gazed upwards to the sky. The God I mean, continued Kuan Chung,
is not the illimitable blue above. A true prince makes the people his

Sacrifices.–Much has been recorded by the Chinese on the subject of
sacrifice,–more indeed than can be easily condensed into a small
compass. First of all, there were the great sacrifices to God and to
Earth, at the winter and summer solstices respectively, which were
reserved for the Son of Heaven alone. Besides what may be called
private sacrifices, the Emperor sacrificed also to the four quarters,
and to the mountains and rivers of the empire; while the feudal nobles
sacrificed each to his own quarter, and to the mountains and rivers of
his own domain. The victim offered by the Emperor on a blazing pile of
wood was an ox of one colour, always a young animal; a feudal noble
would use any fatted ox; and a petty official a sheep or a pig. When
sacrificing to the spirits of the land and of grain, the Son of Heaven
used a bull, a ram, and a boar; the feudal nobles only a ram and a
boar; and the common people, scallions and eggs in spring, wheat and
fish in summer, millet and a sucking-pig in autumn, and unhulled rice
and a goose in winter. If there was anything infelicitous about the
victim intended for God, it was used for Hou Chi. The victim intended
for God required to be kept in a clean stall for three months; that
for Hou Chi simply required to be perfect in its parts. This was the
way in which they distinguished between heavenly and earthly spirits.

In primeval times, we are told, sacrifices consisted of meat and

drink, the latter being the “mysterious liquid,” water, for which wine
was substituted later on. The ancients roasted millet and pieces of
pork; they made a hole in the ground and scooped the water from it
with their two hands, beating upon an earthen drum with a clay
drumstick. Thus they expressed their reverence for spiritual beings.

“Sacrifices,” according to the /Book of Rites/ (Legge’s translation),
“should not be frequently repeated. Such frequency is an indication of
importunateness; and importunateness is inconsistent with reverence.
Nor should they be at distant intervals. Such infrequency is
indicative of indifference; and indifference leads to forgetting them
altogether. Therefore the superior man, in harmony with the course of
Nature, offers the sacrifices of spring and autumn. When he treads on
the dew which has descended as hoar-frost he cannot help a feeling of
sadness, which arises in his mind, and which cannot be ascribed to the
cold. In spring, when he treads on the ground, wet with the rains and
dews that have fallen heavily, he cannot avoid being moved by a
feeling as if he were seeing his departed friends. We meet the
approach of our friends with music, and escort them away with sadness,
and hence at the sacrifice in spring we use music, but not at the
sacrifice in autumn.”

“Sacrifice is not a thing coming to a man from without; it issues from
within him, and has its birth in his heart. When the heart is deeply
moved, expression is given to it by ceremonies; and hence, only men of
ability and virtue can give complete exhibition to the idea of
sacrifice.” It was in this sense that Confucius warned his followers
not to sacrifice to spirits which did not belong to them, i.e. to
other than those of their own immediate ancestors. To do otherwise
would raise a suspicion of ulterior motives.

Ancestral Worship.–For the purpose of ancestral worship, which had
been practised from the earliest ages, the Emperor had seven shrines,
each with its altar representing various forefathers; and at all of
these a sacrifice was offered every month. Feudal nobles could have
only five sets of these, and the various officials three or fewer, on
a descending scale in proportion to their rank. Petty officers and the
people generally had no ancestral shrine, but worshipped the shades of
their forefathers as best they could in their houses and cottages.

For three days before sacrificing to ancestors, a strict vigil and
purification was maintained, and by the end of that time, from sheer
concentration of thought, the mourner was able to see the spirits of
the departed; and at the sacrifice next day seemed to hear their very
movements, and even the murmur of their sighs.

The object of the ceremony was to bring down the spirits from above,
together with the shades of ancestors, and thus to secure the blessing
of God; at the same time to please the souls of the departed, and to
create a link between the living and the dead.

“The object in sacrifices is not to pray; the time should not be
hastened on; a great apparatus is not required; ornamental details are

not to be approved; the victims need not be fat and large (cf. Horace,
Od. III, 23; /Immunis aram/, etc.); a profusion of the other offerings
is not to be admired.” There must, however, be no parsimony. A high
official, well able to afford better things, was justly blamed for
having sacrificed to the manes of his father a sucking-pig which did
not fill the dish.

Religious Dances.–“The various dances displayed the gravity of the
performers, but did not awaken the emotion of delight. The ancestral
temple produced the impression of majesty, but did not dispose one to
rest on it. Its vessels might be employed, but could not be
conveniently used for any other purpose. The idea which leads to
intercourse with spiritual Beings is not interchangeable with that
which finds its realisation in rest and pleasure.”

Priestcraft.–From the ceremonial of ancestor worship the thin end of
the wedge of priestcraft was rigorously excluded. “For the words of
prayer and blessing and those of benediction to be kept hidden away by
the officers of prayer of the ancestral temple, and by the sorcerers
and recorders, is a violation of the rules of propriety. This may be
called keeping in a state of darkness.”

Confucius sums up the value of sacrifices in the following words. “By
their great sacrificial ceremonies the ancients served God; by their
ceremonies in the ancestral temple they worshipped their forefathers.
He who should understand the great sacrificial ceremonies, and the
meaning of the ceremonies in the ancestral temple, would find it as
easy to govern the empire as to look upon the palm of his hand.”

Filial Piety.–Intimately connected with ancestral worship is the
practice of filial piety; it is in fact on filial piety that ancestral
worship is dependent for its existence. In early ages, sons sacrificed
to the manes of their parents and ancestors generally, in order to
afford some mysterious pleasure to the disembodied spirits. There was
then no idea of propitiation, of benefits to ensue. In later times,
the character of the sacrifice underwent a change, until a sentiment
of /do ut des/ became the real mainspring of the ceremony. Meanwhile,
Confucius had complained that the filial piety of his day only meant
the support of parents. “But,” argued the Sage, “we support our dogs
and our horses; without reverence, what is there to distinguish one
from the other?” He affirmed that children who would be accounted
filial should give their parents no cause of anxiety beyond such
anxiety as might be occasioned by ill-health. Filial piety, he said
again, did not consist in relieving the parents of toil, or in setting
before them wine and food; it did consist in serving them while alive
according to the established rules, in burying them when dead
according to the established rules, and in sacrificing to them after
death, also according to the established rules. In another passage
Confucius declared that filial piety consists in carrying on the aims
of our forefathers, which really amounts to serving the dead as they
would have been served if alive.

Divination.–Divination seems to have been practised in China from the

earliest ages. The implements used were the shell of the tortoise,
spiritualised by the long life of its occupant, and the stalks of a
kind of grass, to which also spiritual powers had for some reason or
other been attributed. These were the methods, we are told, by which
the ancient Kings made their people revere spirits, obey the law, and
settle all their doubts. God gave these spiritual boons to mankind,
and the sages took advantage of them. “To explore what is complex, to
search out what is hidden, to hook up what lies deep, and to reach to
what is distant, thereby determining the issues for good or ill of all
events under the sky, and making all men full of strenuous endeavour,
there are no agencies greater than those of the stalks and the
tortoise shell.”

In B.C. 2224, when the Emperor Shun wished to associate the Great Yu
with him in the government, the latter begged that recourse might be
had to divination, in order to discover the most suitable among the
Ministers for this exalted position. The Emperor refused, saying that
his choice had already been confirmed by the body of Ministers. “The
spirits too have signified their assent, the tortoise and grass having
both concurred. Divination, when fortunate, may not be repeated.”

Sincerity, on which Confucius lays such especial stress, is closely
associated with success in divination. “Sincerity is of God;
cultivation of sincerity is of man. He who is naturally sincere is he
who hits his mark without effort, and without thinking apprehends. He
easily keeps to the golden mean; he is inspired. He who cultivates
sincerity is he who chooses what is good and holds fast to it.

“It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to
foreknow. When a State or a family is about to flourish, there are
sure to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure
to be unpropitious omens. The events portended are set forth by the
divining-grass and the tortoise. When calamity or good fortune may be
about to come, the evil or the good will be foreknown by the perfectly
sincere man, who may therefore be compared with a spirit.”

The tortoise and the grass have long since disappeared as instruments
of divination, which is now carried on by means of lots drawn from a
vase, with answers attached; by planchette; and by the /chiao/. The
last consists of two pieces of wood, anciently of stone, in the shape
of the two halves of a kidney bean. These are thrown into the air
before the altar in a temple,–Buddhist or Taoist, it matters nothing,
–with the following results. Two convex sides uppermost mean a
response indifferently good; two flat sides mean negative and bad; one
convex and one flat side mean that the prayer will be granted. This
form of divination, though widely practised at the present day, is by
no means of recent date. It was common in the Ch’u State, which was
destroyed B.C. 300, after four hundred and twenty years of existence.

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