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The wars against the Gui

Hexagram 63: ALREADY ACROSS

Hexagram 64: NOT YET ACROSS

  Both mention a war against the Guifang:
63.3: Gaozong  attacks the Guifang, in 3 years he defeats them
64.4: Zhen herewith attacks the Guifang: in 3 years he is awarded by the great state

  63.3 refers to a military campaign of the Shang dynasty king Wu Ding (="Gaozong") against the northwestern state Guifang
  64.4 refers to a later campaign by a Zhou duke "Zhen" against the same enemy. This marked the beginning of the rise of the Zhou.

Shaughnessy thinks that we have here a political message: in 63 ALREADY ACROSS/COMPLETED, the end of the Shang dynasty, and in 64 NOT YET ACROSS/NOT YET COMPLETED) the rise of the Zhou dynasty that was to take over the Shang.

  This Shang/Zhou rivalry is also pointed to in 63.5:
"The eastern neighbor kills an oxen, but it is not as good as the western neighbor's YUE sacrifice in really receiving good fortune."
  The Easterners are the Shang, the Westerners are the Zhou; what is the Zhou's superior YUE sacrifice? In hexagrams 46 and 45 the YUE sacrifice is about FU. Shaughnessy writes that "the verb FU, to capture, always refers in the Zhouyi to a human captive. This suggests that the western neighbor's sacrifice is more successful because it makes use of a more valuable offering, a human life."

  Ed Shaughnessy doesn't mention this in his dissertation, but is seems obvious: 64.5, the parallel line in the other "Zhou" hexagram has: "The lordling's brightness, offer a captive; divining: auspicious; no problems; auspicious." The Zhou are going to win.

  Once again, one mustn't be too shocked by the fact that the Shang and Zhou kings sacrificed war captives. The Roman emperors did it often in their arenas, with a religious sacrificial aspect too. 

Some interesting illustrations on http://gallery.sjsu.edu/sacrifice/chinese.html

For example the Yueh axe:

"Used as initially a battle-axe, Yueh became later ceremonial weapons used in human sacrifices. In honor of the ancestors, humans would sacrifice another human to gain a connection to the heavens."

  Or the kneeling prisoner scuplture:
"People that were captured in warfare were kept in captivity to be sacrificed to the ancestors. During the ceremony the victim would be beheaded with an axe decorated in the Shang style. Many times warriors were sent out on a specific mission to capture victims for sacrifice. The deity of war would be honored with the brutal murders. The people of Shang believed that with these sacrifices the war-god would bring them victory."

  Kind of grim though...

The traditional interpretation of the Zhou *YUE* sacrifice is that it was of lesser quality (agricultural) than the Shang animal one, but that is was favorable because the Zhou were more 'virtuous' (which is not in the text). Here the modernist version of Shaughnessy really makes more sense than the traditional one: the Zhou indeed had a *better* sacrifice, war prisoners, which proved their valor since they had won the most recent campaign, and explained why they got good fortune. They were the best. The concept of moral virtue was something that only became important after Confucius. Before that it was a warrior code of honor.

Thomas  


   The traditional interpretation is interesting as well in its striking parallel to Western traditions. The difference between an animal and vegetable sacrifice are found in Cain and Abel's sacrifice in Genesis that gave rise to fratricide. Many have interpreted that difference to be between an animal and vegetable offering, but the older Septuagint text of Genesis shows that it was in fact the sacrifice being 'not rightly divided' that made Cain's sacrifice inferior.

   One scholar I spoke to said he thought this meant that Cain brought the fruit of the field, but not the first and best. Essentially he brought a batch of old bruised garbage, whereas Abel brought the unblemished firstborn of his flock.

   I'm fairly sure this is all merely a coincidence between the two books, Torah and Chou Yi, since both date to the same approximate period and both originate from cultures with a mixture of herding and farming.

   It would seem that the sacrifices of the Shang and Chou were indeed very gruesome. But at least we have the assurances of Lao Tsu that by the Warring States period the use of straw dogs (a bloodless sacrifice) was already well entrenched.

Chris Gait

  Both mails from the ICing-YiJing mailing-list, Feb.14 and 23, 2002

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