Heavenly Empress

Prediction of mundane matters

It was in the prediction of mundane affairs that the Liuren distinguished itself. Li Ruzhen in his Jinghuayuan describes the method as being the same one used by the holy immortals to know about happenings separated by time or distance, while Gao E rail in his addition to the Hongloumeng &LÏÊW (Dreams of the Red Mansions) implies its superiority over the method of the Yijing through a conversation between Jia Rong KH and Mao Banxian infill.32 As an illustration of the supposed power of the system, let us make up a story of Chen Liangmo visiting the Commissioner at Fengyang prefecture at exactly the same date and time as mentioned above but, instead of forecasting snow, he was trying to help the Commissioner to solve a case of burglary reported by a member of the Commissioner's household during the course of a dinner party given in his honour. Let us also suppose that his operation on the Liuren boards produced exactly the same patterns as shown in Table 5.11 above. He could then have made the following advice to his host:

Jia, the stem of the day when the theft occurred, represents the owner of the stolen object; the Sombre Warrior, representing the burglar, is riding upon chen on the heaven board. Directly under chen is chou on the earth board. Chou represents the Deity of Thieves (daoshen IS if). Chen indicates that the thief is a bad character in the army or some sort of a servant with big eyes, thick eyebrows, a long and thick beard and an awesome appearance. He normally wears yellow dress and deep red inner garments. His hobby is either fishing or hunting. Chen Earth is Yang and is at the 12th lunar month represented by chou Earth, is in accordance (xiang ffi) indicating that the thief is a male at his prime. Chou, representing the Deity of thieves, gives away the fact that in a built-up place the thief tends to hide in the NE direction near a lavatory, in a temple dedicated to the Wind Elder or Rain-Master if not to a warrior-hero in the past, and in a storage place, and that in an open space the hiding place is in the NE direction somewhere near a bridge, in a farm, if not among the cemeteries. To locate the hiding place for the stolen object, look for the branch that chou Earth produces. This is you Metal, which tells that the stolen object is hidden near a carved pillar or the city warehouse.

The enforcer of the law is represented by the Angular Arranger who is riding upon hai Water, which unfortunately is subjugated by chen Earth upon which rides the Sombre Warrior. Hence it will be difficult to apprehend the culprit. If there is any chance of tracking down this thief at all his captor has to be one born on a day with a branch subjugated chen Earth, which is either yin Wood or mao Wood, preferably yin Wood.

It is not the purpose of this book to serve as a manual on the three cosmic boards. The details of interpreting the branches, the 12 deities and the 12 heavenly generals according to the varying enquiries are contained in works like the Daliuren leiji A Ai M^l (Collections of Classified [Enquiry] in the Great Art of Liuren) and the Longshoujing flUM (Dragon's First Manual), found in the Gujin tushu jicheng compendium. The minute information provided by the Liuren method as in the above example explains its popular attraction.

Incorporation of Liuren in other forms of shushu

In Chapter 4, mention is made of the incorporation of the Qimen Dunjia into the Liuren method. Examples can be seen in the 'Dunjia cbuanren it^sFi' (Qimen Dunjia penetrated by Liuren) section in the Gujin tushu jicheng,33 The Liuren method in its applications to mundane affairs often incorporates into it certain elements of the Ziping method of fate-calculation.34 Let us make up an example concerning money matters.

Money being a very personal matter, the fate of the individual concerned becomes an important factor. Here the day of birth (riyuan 0 jt) is taken into account but, unlike the Ziping method that uses the stem, the Liuren method takes the branch of the day into consideration. The two branches controlled by the branch of the day of birth are the two Deities of Wealth (caisben Mtt). One should observe if any of the Deities of Wealth show up in the Four Prognostications. If so, then money will be made on a day indicated by the branch representing this deity. Also observe the presence of the Azure Dragon in the Three Messages and note the branch on which it rides. If this branch produces the branch of the particular day there will be financial gain but, if it controls the branch of the day, then there will be loss. According to the Daliuren leiji, to get an answer on financial matters a Deity of Wealth or the Azure Dragon has to appear in the Three Messages or the branch of the day in question. In the absence of any or in their presence together with Heavenly Void, there will be no profit made. It is also important to note the phases the Deities and the Azure Dragon are in when they show up. The phases are determined by the month of the year. Phases of prosperity (wang) and accordance (xiang) indicate huge profit, while rest (xiu) and imprisonment (cbou) only bring small profit.35

Elements from other divinatory methods were sometimes incorporated into the Liuren system. For example, the early nineteenth-century text Liuren xunyuan includes not only the zeri system for selecting auspicious dates but also terms like Rahu and Ketu that originated from India.

Military applications

The Sanguo yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) tells the following story about Zhuge Liang applying the Liuren method in order to know happenings in a remote battle before the arrival of the report:36

(Liu) Xuande (i.e. Liu Bei f!]#) and Kongming ?LHJ (i.e.

Zhuge Liang WiMfh) are on the move together with their men and horses. At that time a green banner (suddenly) curls upside-down and a crow flies coming from the north towards the south, cawing three times before leaving. Riding on his horse, Kongming makes prognostications (using his palms and fingers) under his sleeves (xiu zban yi ke ttii-"IS) and says, '(It tells that) (the city of)

Changsha has fallen into our hands and also that we shall gain (the service of) a great warrior. The report will arrive after midday.'

The author of the novel, Luo Guanzhong I8H"t5, has not provided sufficient details to enable us to comment further on the method of divination he refers to, but he has told a fascinating story regarding the deployment of the Liuren system in warfare. To find out how the system was applied one can refer to the relevant section of military compendia, such as the last juan of Li Quan's Taibai yinjing, Zeng Gongliang's Wujing zongyao and Mao Yuanyi's Wubeizhi,37 The military section Junzhangfu i^iii of the Daliuren leiji in the Gujin tushu jicheng gives the fullest information on the applications of Liuren in time of war. A couple of examples will suffice as illustration.38

On the report of an invasion one should observe the relation between the branches on which the Sombre "Warrior and the White Tiger ride and the branch of the day (riyuan). If the former subjugates the latter the enemy is strong, indicating that urgent actions for defence are needed. If the branch

of the day subjugates the branch on which either the Sombre Warrior or the White Tiger rides, then the enemy will be defeated.

The above story about Zhuge Liang gaining knowledge while riding on a horse and about an event that had taken place at a remote location brings out one great advantage of the Liuren system over the other two cosmic boards. In one respect, the earth board and the heaven board of the Liuren method were far more portable than the other systems (and are even far more portable and much more inexpensive than any palmtop computer manufactured commercially today). The practitioner could simply use his own palms and fingers as the two boards (see Figure 5.5). The divination was literally performed with fingers hidden inside one's sleeves. Chinese novels abound with mentions of 'xiu zhong yi ke' (a divination done under the sleeves), that Li Ruzhen in his Jinghuayuan regards as being how holy immortals get news of happenings in distant places and seek foreknowledge of coming events.


As mentioned earlier, the system of Liuren was more versatile and more convenient to use on account of its portability than the other two forms of cosmic boards. Some practitioners of the art of fate-calculation supplemented their skill with the Liuren system. An example was Yuan Shushan S'fSfifffl, the author of several books on fate-calculation and a book on the Liuren system and who was one of the most famous diviners operating in Shanghai in the early twentieth century.39 Some later practitioners of fate-calculations also did likewise. Thus, the Liuren system is still practised professionally today among shushu experts.

A small minority among the literati in traditional China seeking a system more sophisticated than that of the Yijing had shown preference for the Liuren system. When I was at the National Tsing-Hua University in Hsinchu in early 1991 I had a conversation with Professor Lao Siguang who was visiting the same university to demonstrate to the staff and research students the art of Liuren. Professor Lao is a cousin of Professor Lao Kan ^ffc. He informed me that in the early 1930s, when the two cousins both lived in Peking, their parents invited an expert to come to their home to teach them the art of Liuren and the Ziping method of fate-calculation. Although I knew Professor Lao Kan very much earlier, I had never heard about his knowledge in this field. 1 was only aware of his reputation as an eminent Chinese scholar. This example goes to show again that Liuren is a living art, although it is seldom openly practised or talked about.

It is a convenient point here to conclude the presentation of the three cosmic boards with a story about Yuan to illustrate the subtle difference in attitude on divination between Europe and East Asia. Jeromo Cardano (1501-1576), reputed to be the greatest astrologer in Europe of his time, predicted that his last day would fall on the 21st day of September 1576.

He actually died on that very day, but rumours said that he took matters into his own hands to preserve his reputation.40 Yuan was among a number of diviners who made predictions about their own fate. In his Mingli tanyuan ^iSf, he wrote that he was born of Wood, but was surrounded on four directions by Metal from the year, month, day and hour of his birth. Wood would require Water to make it grow and strengthen it while dissipating Metal at the same time, or more Wood to support it. Alternatively or concurrently, Fire could be there to suppress the Metal. His prediction was that in the year 1931, on reaching the age of 50, the Metal year would become a menace to his life and end his career. Before the time came he wound up his lucrative practice and withdrew from public life to a tiny island at Zhenjiang KlI in Jiangsu province. The fated day passed without incident. Yuan then re-emerged and started his business once again. Nobody criticized him for not dying on the appointed day; instead he became more famous than before for being able to avert calamity by surrounding himself with Water in an island to guard against the force of Metal.41 Yuan later went to Taipei where he retired at the age of about 70 with failing eyesight and passed away at the ripe age of over 90. The stories of Cardano and Yuan bring out a contrast between Euclidean rigidity and Daoist malleability applied to interpretations concerning divination.42 The latter can perhaps answer some questions that one may raise concerning the absolute certainty of predictions made by Chinese traditional divinatory arts, including the three cosmic boards.

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