Liuren

The art of the six Yang Waters

The English title for this chapter is a literal translation of the term Liuren, but it does not convey its full meaning. In some colloquial Chinese dialects, such as Cantonese, it gives an impression of a scheme or some sort of a plot being under way. This is an example of a term that is popularly known, but in name only. A translation capable of expressing the full sense and meaning here would probably be too lengthy to qualify as a title. Hence, in the text Liuren is left alone without being translated as in, for example, Kalinowski (1983).1 As an arcane art, only very few people acquired it. Among those knowledgeable in the art of Liuren were members of the Astronomical Bureau in traditional China. We shall begin by looking at some notes on this subject written by an eminent member of the Bureau in eleventh-century China. As the literati in traditional China found difficulties in apprehending the passages in question, comments and explanations are rarely come by. Annotations are provided here along with a full translation to make the text comprehensible.

Three passages on Liuren by Shen Gua

Shen Gua it® (1031-1095), whom Joseph Needham credited as 'one of the most widely interested scientific minds which China produced in any age', wrote the Mengxi bitan (Dream Brook Essays) in about the year

1086.2 This book has attracted considerable attention among Sinologists and scholars of the history of East Asian science.3 One of its sections on symbolic numerology (xiangshu 0.M) contains some of the knowledge developed by Shen Gua as a former senior staff member of the Astronomical Bureau.4 It includes three passages concerning the Liuren /\3r cosmic board system that comes immediately after the first passage on the Dayan calendar method of the Kaiyuan PAtu reign-period in Tang China. The first of these three passages (see Figure 5.1) reads:5

With regard to the (spirits of the) twelve terrestrial branches in the heavens (tian shier shen tt) in the system of Liuren, hai is called Dengming f^ (Ascending Brightness) and is the general of the first lunar month, while xu £ic is called Tiankui (Heavenly Leader), being the general of the second lunar month. People in the past referred to the heshen 1=r# (Matching Spirits) as well as 'the sun passing by the palace' (Taiyang guo gong ^BIS^HO-Heshen meant that in the first lunar month (when Counter-Jupiter was at the terrestrial branch) yin iT it matched (Jupiter when the latter reached the terrestrial branch) hai in the second lunar month (when Counter-Jupiter was at the terrestrial branch) mao 5P it matched (Jupiter when the latter reached the terrestrial branch) xu fX, and so forth. (Whereas the term) 'Taiyang guo gong' referred to the position of the sun at (Jupiter-station) Zouzi $1® in the first lunar month, shifting to (Jupiter-station) Jianglou P^Jl in the second lunar month, and so forth. These two phenomena corresponded to each other (only) at the time when the calendar of the (ancient) Emperor Zhuan (xu) Sill was adopted.6 (But) they do not correspond to each other nowadays, because the movement of the sun follows the ecliptic and varies according to the precession of the equinoxes.7 In our present days, Jupiter reaches (Jupiterstation) Zouzi only after the Yushui M7.K (about February 19) fortnightly period, and reaches (Jupiter-station) Jianglou only after Chunfen (vernal equinox - about March 20). If (the method of) heshen (Matching Spirits) is applied in this case, from the day of vernal equinox the hai general should be used, and from the day of the Jingzhi M^: fortnightly period (about March 5) the xu general should be used. (Hence) if we go by the sun's movement, it does not correspond with heshen (i.e. matching Counter-Jupiter and Jupiter such that yin M matches hai mao J?P matches xu E chen JE matches you If and so on, implying that Counter-Jupiter is out of alignment with Jupiter's movement). (Conversely) if we use heshen (Jupiter's movement) it will not correspond with the sun's movement. Logically speaking, in (the process of) casting (the four) divinations (in the Liuren operation) the (relevant) monthly general must be allocated to the proper time. Hence one should follow the passage of the sun over the palaces (i.e. the sun's movement along the ecliptic). If the movement of the sun over the Jupiter-stations is not accounted for then there will be no agreement in celestial motion with movements of the sun, the moon, the Five Planets, the sexagenary cycle and the 28 lunar mansions on any particular day and time.8 Therefore one should bear in mind to take account of the movements of the sun (for the Liuren system). Matter does not rest here, because the same reasoning should be extended to affect the marking of the beginning of a lunar month by naming that lunar month after a terrestrial branch (yuejian ^ ). If we observe the Ladle of the Plough the hour of dusk already shows discrepancy. Yuejian (- the first day of a lunar month -) should follow the sun's position along the ecliptic to take into account the precession of the equinoxes. At the present moment the beginning of the (first lunar month by naming it after) yin jiC should only take place one day after the Yushui fortnightly period (about February

19), the beginning of the (second lunar month by naming it after) mao [/P four days after the vernal equinox (Chunfen) (about March

20), the beginning of the (third lunar month by naming it after) chen five days after the Guyu fortnightly period (about April 20), and so on. Agreement with (the movements of) the sun can only be found by this means, and the two sayings (mentioned above) would again merge and become one. However, (to do this) it is necessary to make major changes to the (present) calendar system and make corrections to every detail. For example, the seven lunar mansions of Canglong ¡If IS (Azure Dragon) in the East should begin with (the lunar mansion) Kang % and end with (the lunar mansion Nan) dou the seven lunar mansions of Zhuque 7^1=1 (Crimson Bird) in the South should begin with (the lunar mansion Qian) Niu ^^ and end with (the lunar mansion) Kui the seven lunar mansions of Baihu (White Tiger) in the West should begin with (the lunar mansion) Lou H and end with (the lunar mansion) Yugui JSL'fe and the seven lunar mansions of Zhenwu HiS; (Real Warrior) in the North should begin with (the lunar mansion) Dongjing jft^f1 and end with (the lunar mansion) Jue ffi. In this way not only the Liuren system but also the calendar (itself) will be correct.

The theoretical discussion in the above passage emphasizes the dependence of the Liuren system on accurate astronomical observations while pointing out the inaccuracy of the current calendar. From what it says, we are informed that in the past the operation of the Liuren system was based on the Jupiter cycle as well as on the position of the sun in the ecliptic. The matching of the positions of Counter-jupiter and those of Jupiter, both expressed in branches mentioned by Shen Gua in the above paragraph, is given much earlier by Sima Qian rJ.IISI in the Shiji ¿fetE.9 Taking the case of the Zouzi station mentioned in the text, at the time of Chen Zhuo in the third century it extended from 16 du S: from the determinant star of the 12th lunar mansion Wei to 4 du from the determinant star of the 15th lunar mansion Kui, while during the time of Yixing in the eighth century it extended from 13 du of Wei to 4 du of Kui (where 1 du is approximately 1 degree when converted to angular measurements). Shen Gua observed that working on these two different data yielded different results and suggested a major calendar reform to restore agreement. History tells us that his dream was never realized. Yu Zhengxie fuIE^ said in his Guisi leigao 'All systems ought to follow the movements of the heavens to seek harmony, but not to make rules to change the movements of the heavens' (fan shu dang shun tian yi qiu he, bu ke wei fa yt gai tian Jliffiil'Jli^li^'n , ^nJ^'SlU^C^) when he criticized those who suggested changes.10 Operators of the Liuren cosmic board have come to use the 24 fortnightly periods, i.e. 24 positions of the sun along the ecliptic for the day when the calculation is performed, while retaining the ancient Counter-Jupiter cycle to determine the deity at the time. It is interesting from the point of view of the history of Chinese astronomy and history of the Liuren method to note that Shen Gua had already remarked on the Jupiter-Stations, and hence the system of the naming of the year after the imaginary positions of Counter-Jupiter by using the branches was already out of step with the calendar during the eleventh century.

We must now return to the Mengxi bitan. The second paragraph reads:

With regard to the names (of the spirits) of the twelve terrestrial branches in the heavens (tian shier chen people in the past explained their meanings as follows.

In the first lunar month the qi of Yang begins to establish itself and calls upon the myriad things. Hence came the name Dengming (Spirit of Ascending Brightness).11 In the second lunar month (new) vegetation sprouts forth.12 Hence originated the name Tiankui i^citi (Leader towards the Heavens). In the third lunar month flowers and leaves follow sprouting. This explains the name Congkui tfeM (Follower of the Leader). In the fourth lunar month the qi of Yang reaches its maximum and has nothing more to transmit, giving rise to the name Quansong (Spirit who bids farewell to the end of transmission of the qi of Yang). In the fifth lunar month vegetation surpasses in luxuriance since its growth. Hence it gets the name Shengxian (Winner over all his Predecessors). In the sixth lunar month the myriad things show some sign of prosperity, resulting in the name Xiaoji /h pf (Spirit of Minor Prosperity). In the seventh lunar month the hundred crops bear grains and come to their own, thus receiving the name Taiyi (Great One).13 In the eighth lunar month branches and stems (of trees) harden. Hence came the name Tiangang (Celestial Firmness). In the ninth lunar month wood from the trees can serve as timber for poles and pillars, and hence that month is known as Daichong ^vfff (Grand Supporter).14 In the tenth lunar month the myriad crops are in harvest (and it is time) to keep accounts on profits. Thus came the name Gongcao itlW (Recorder of Merits). In the eleventh lunar month beginning with (the terrestrial branch) zi the Head of State returns to his seat. This explains the term Daji jCp (Great Auspices). In the twelfth lunar month sweet wine is prepared to offer as thanksgiving to the hundred spirits. Thus we get the name Shenhou if fs (Spirit Sovereign).

All these sayings are most absurd (without any) reasoning and basis. My (own) interpretations are as follows.

For (the term) Dengming (Spirit of Ascending Brightness), three Yang (lines) first appear (in the Tai ^ Hexagram) below upon the earth, (as what the Yijing says that) 'the dragon appears in the farm'.15 Tiankui (Heavenly Leader) is the first star in the head (i.e. the 'Box') of the Plough. The first star of the Plough reaches the point (indicated by the terrestrial branch) xu. This was how the name Tiankui was derived. Congkui (Follower of the Leader) is the second star in the head (i.e. 'Box') of the Plough and reaches the point indicated by (the terrestrial branch) you. This explains the origin of the name Congkui. (As for) Zhuansong (Spirit transmitting and bidding farewell), in the fourth lunar month (the qi of) Yang, having reached its maximum, is about to recede and soon give birth to one line of Yin}6 Therefore Yin is transmitted to bid farewell to the Yang line (at the bottom of the Hexagram) to explain its name. In Xiaoji (Minor Auspices) at the qi of the summer solstice (at the fifth lunar month) the Big One (i.e. the single Yang line at the bottom of the qian Hexagram) has gone and is replaced by the arrival of the Small One (referring to the single Yin line at the bottom of the gou fyfu Hexagram), signifying that the way of the common people prevails.17 Hence it refers to matters concerning wedding and feasting. (The spirit of the sixth lunar month gets the name) Shengxian (First Winner), because the king rules facing (south), from which direction the light comes to render the myriad things visible. Nothing can excel or be better than (in this position). (That the spirit of the seventh lunar month is called) Taiyi owes to the fact that the Taiwei Aift Enclosure is where (the deity) Taiyi abodes.18 Tiangang (Heavenly Ladle), (the spirit of the seventh lunar month, is known) after the Ladle of the Plough (Dougang 4-S!l), which begins at this point of the year.19 (The spirit of the ninth lunar month) Taichong (Grand Thoroughfare) is the doorway where the Five Planets emerge, being a thoroughfare of the heavens. Gongcao (Recorder of Merits) (, the name of the spirit) of the tenth lunar month (comes from the time) when labour for the year results in the harvest and the keeping of books to account for profits and expenditures. Daji (Great Auspices) is so called because at the qi of the winter solstice (in the eleventh lunar month) the Small One (i.e. Yin line) gives way to a Big One (i.e. a Yang line).20 The way of the princely one prevails and hence it is auspicious to those in authority. This refers to matters concerning senior civil and military officers. The twelfth lunar month is the position of zi T.21 It is where the deity Shangdi ±iir (High Deity) dwells.22 Shenhou ii.Hj (Deity Sovereign) is the title given to the sovereign deity.

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