The Birth of Confucius

Confucius’ father Shü-leang Heih was a soldier of great prowess and daring bravery. In the year B.C. 562, when serving at the siege of a place called Peih-yang, a party of the assailants made their way in at a gate which had purposely been left open, and no sooner were they inside than the portcullis was dropped. Heih was just entering, and catching the massive structure with both his hands, he gradually by dint of main strength raised it and held it up, till his friends had made their escape.

Shuh-leang Heih had married in early life, but his wife brought him only daughters, to the number of nine, and no son. By a concubine he had a son, named Mang-p’e, and also Pih-ne, who proved a cripple, so that, when he was over seventy years, Heih sought a second wife in the Yen family, from which came subsequently Yen Hwuy, the favourite disciple of his Confucius. There were three daughters in the family, the youngest being named Ching-tsae. Their father said to them, “Here is the commandant of Tsow. His father and grandfather were only scholars, but his ancestors before them were descendants of the sage emperors. He is a man ten feet high, and of extraordinary prowess, and I am very desirous of his alliance. Though he is old and austere, you need have no misgivings about him. Which of you three will be his wife ? ” The two elder daughters were silent, but Ching-tsae said, “Why do you ask us, father ? It is for you to determine.” “Very well,” said her father in reply, “you will do.” Ching-tsae, accordingly, became Heih’s wife.

She prayed for a son in the dell of mount Ne

Ching-tsae, fearing lest she should not have a son, in consequence of her husband’s age, privately ascended the Ne-k’ew hill to pray for the boon. As Ching-tsae went up the hill, the leaves of the trees and plants all erected themselves, and bent downwards on her return. That night she dreamt the God Black Te appeared, and said to her, “You shall have a son, a sage, and you must bring him forth in a hollow mulberry tree.” One day during her pregnancy, she fell into a dreamy state, and saw five old men in the hall, who called themselves the essences of the five planets, and led an animal which looked like a small cow with one horn, and was covered with scales like a dragon. This creature knelt before Ching-tsae, and cast forth from its mouth a slip of gem, on which was the inscription, “The son of the essence of water shall succeed to the withering Chow, and be a throneless king.” Ching-tsae tied a piece of embroidered ribbon about its horn, and the vision disappeared. When Heih was told of it, he said, ” The creature must be the K’e-lin Unicorn.”

A Unicorn Sent a Slip of Gem

As her time drew near, Ching-tsae asked her husband if there was any place in the neighbourhood called “The hollow mulberry tree.” He told her there was a dry cave in the south hill, which went by that name. Then she said, “I will go and be confined there.” Her husband was surprised, but when made acquainted with her former dream, he made the necessary arrangements. On the night when the child was born, two dragons came and kept watch on the left and right of the hill, and two spirit-ladies appeared in the air, pouring out fragrant odours, as if to bathe Ching-tsae : and as soon as the birth took place, a spring of clear warm water bubbled up from the floor of the cave, which dried up again when the child had been washed in it. The child was of an extraordinary appearance ; with a mouth like the sea, ox lips, a dragon’s back, on the top of his head was a remarkable formation. Heih and Ching-tsae cohabited in the dell of mount Ne and prayed together for a son, and that when she had obtained it, she commemorated it in the names K’ew and Chung-ne.

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