Monday, July 02, 2012

First prophecy of Ma Qian Ke or ‘Quick Predictions’ by Zhuge Liang

Commentary by Buddhist monk, Shou Yuan and preliminary translated and commented on by Steve Moore.

[No.1: Three Kingdoms, 220-265]
Prediction No. 1 100001 middle lower

Wu li hui tian ---------------------------- Ju gong jin cui

Yin ju yang fu --------------------------- Ba qian nu gui

Powerless to restore the nation -------------------------- Bowed down I exhaust my energy

Dwelling in yin, opposing yang---------------------------- Eight thousand female demons

The image yang yin yin yin yin yang is of the hexagram Yi (No. 27: ‘Corners of the Mouth’).

The commentary of Shou Yuan says: Zhuge’s descendants later had to submit to the rule of Wei.

Additional commentary by Allan Lian:

In this very first prophecy or omen of the Ma Qian Ke, the Book of Changes foretold Zhuge Liang a number of important things including his various illnesses (tumours and ulcers) and that of his impending death (signified by Daoist priests and graves).

In line with Heaven and Earth, Zhuge Liang, the holy man was to provide nourishment for persons of worth and thus reaches the whole people. Probably, arising from this guidance, he proceeded to provide thirteen more prophecies on the destiny of China, so that persons of worth down the respective ages would correctly interpret his prophecies and provide the proper nourishment (or information on the omens) to the populace.

On seeing his return blocked by a mountain and with his energy exhausted because of illnesses, he bowed down to lament his powerlessness to return to Heaven. (Wu li hui tian) (Ju gong jin cui)

The doubling of Kun confirms his impending death for whence ever has a person shrouded by double yin (death) escape to yang (life)? From the hexagram and trigrams, he perceived that tens of years after his death, the power of Wei, his sworn enemy based in the North East of Shu, was destined to ascend. Therefore in a play on words he cryptically wrote Wei’s name down as Eight thousand female ghosts, forewarning his Shu people and hoping to keep the enemy ignorant. (Yin ju yang fu) (Ba qian nu gui)

The hexagram is fortune indicated as middle lower since the related fortune would be below average.

1) This very first prophecy or omen is fascinating in that Zhuge Liang, also known as Kongming, had seen so many things that the Book of Changes has had told him. His utmost sincerity has shown through by following ancient thoughts contained in the Tuan Chuan or Commentary on the decision and by writing out the prophecies consigned to posterity for persons of worth to nourish the multitude in China.

2) As a Daoist and/or neidan adept, his very wish was to return to Heaven. However, Fate had placed the mountain right in front of his return. With his failing health and impending death, his ability to climb the mountain for the return diminished.

3) Kongming has had used a combination of the Hexagram, the Images, its Trigrams, and the attributes to interpret this particular prophecy or omen. Anyone with a proven ability to interpret Yi omens can see that. Therefore the accompanying Hexagram is genuine.

4) If readers want to appreciate the supernatural skills of Zhuge Liang to divine like a spirit (Shen), I suggest you read the preliminary translation of the entire Ma Qian Ke by Steve Moore and his thoughts on it; at

5) The commentary by Buddhist monk Shou Yuan, with respect to him, depicts a rather limited ability, if at all, in interpreting prophecies or omens. What with his bland comment that “Zhuge’s descendants later had to submit to the rule of Wei”. Anyone who have had studied the history of the Three Kingdoms would probably know that too. By commenting on the prophecies of a famous historical personage with such superfluous statements and without due care, he has really embarrassed himself. This Shou Yuan is certainly not a person of worth, in my books. What more can I say about this lazy bugger? Since it only took me a couple of hours to tie up what Kongming saw and interpreted to his four appended verses. Writing out a fuller commentary and these notes took longer than the two hours.

6) It is my suggestion for Steve Moore to exercise a bit more care when he decides to ‘fine tune’ his preliminary translation. The translation from the Chinese should be more direct instead of what he perceives the verses to be. I noted that he knows that the first verse is actually, “Powerless to return to Heaven”, yet he posted it as “Powerless to restore the nation.” The other - although minor - mistake, if I can say so, is that if the Chinese and Pin Yin is Gui, do not change the translation to Demon (Mo). Ghosts (Gui) are very different from demons (Mo) in the minds of the Chinese and the Daoists. Please take note of the sentiments of different cultures.

7) Perhaps, it is a trend set by modern translators in that they think they really know what the Chinese texts are all about. And I have seen a number of them made a hash of their projects. I certainly have no wish for Steve Moore to fail in his translation of the Ma Qian Ke by making the same mistakes as these translators. So take care.


Allan said...

testing, testing

Luis Andrade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luis Andrade said...

Hi Allan,

How are you? I was kindly asked by Steve Moore to post this for him as, for the moment, it is impossible for him to post it himself.

Hmmm. Just tried to post it myself and I see the comments are limited to 4096 characters... Will split it in two.




Forwarded message from Steve Moore:

Hi Allan,

[Sorry, but whether I go through Google or not, I still can’t seem to send this comment about your post about the Ma Qian Ke. I’ve tried becoming a follower of the site, but that doesn’t help either, so all I can think of is to ask Luis Andrade to forward it and see if that works. As this seems to be a continuing problem, I’d suggest that if you want to continue this conversation, we do so by email. My preferred address is on page 2 of the translation of the Ma Qian Ke.]

Many thanks for your fascinating commentary on this first prophecy, which I thought was excellent work. It certainly shows how it’s possible to read the text as being linked to the hexagram, and opens up “the story” of the text in a really intriguing way. I particularly liked your connection of the trigram Gen to the north-east, and so to the kingdom of Wei, north-east of Shu. If you’re still intending write another post with more detail about how you arrived at these conclusions, I’d very much like to see it.

I’m also extremely grateful for your corrections which, as you’ll know from the preface to my translation, is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping to get, and very much the reason why I put the material online in the first place.

A couple of comments on your notes. Firstly, note 5: I suspect the “Shou Yuan commentary”, whoever might have written it, is primarily intended to point toward the wordplay contained in the verses, with the occasional historical note. It may well be that the idea was simply to give a hint, and then let the reader work it for themselves. Obviously I’d agree with you that so much more than that could have been presented, but this is what’s come down to us, and we can only try to build on what we’ve got.

continued below

Allan said...

Hi Luis!

Thanks for helping Steve Moore with his post. His presence and illuminating thoughts had drawn many hits from the UK lately. For the first time ever, hits from the UK have outranked hits from the US and from Malaysia, thanks to him.



Allan said...


Thank you for your kind compliments.

Following your suggestion, I have sent you an email. All conversations thereon will be treated as private and confidential.

What is written in the full commentary on the Ma Qian Ke already contains various hints on how to interpret omens and prophecies. Further hints on how to obtain omens will be presented to Yi aficionados in the lengthy preamble about to be completed.

From your interpretation of the North East of Shu, it is suggested that you consult your technical adviser, Steve Marshall on the correct method to use. In case he is reading, I have already provided that particular hint.

In line with the ancients, it is good to help and promote the able and worthy. And through them nourish the multitude, therefore the corrections and the remonstration from this Yi student. Thank you for accepting them with grace.

I have nothing else to say about the indolent monk.



Allan said...

Continued on behalf of Steve Moore:

As for note 6, as I said, I’m grateful for your corrections, but perhaps I might explain my reasoning. The second verse of the prophecy is plainly a partial quotation of a famous line by Zhuge Liang: “Bowed down I exhaust my energy (in the public service; only with death does my course end)” and “in the public service” suggests a political context. Similarly, as the remaining verses are about the succession of dynasties, invasions, and so forth, a political interpretation seems to be a fruitful approach. I did mention in my commentary that “hui tian” literally means “return heaven”, but I also read the first line in a political context, while you’d read it in a Daoist one. Where you take “to return” as “to go back to”, I was taking it as “to give back”, and thus “to return [the mandate of] heaven” to the Han dynasty, which Shu claimed to represent, and the restoration of which we know was Zhuge Liang’s avowed intent. Interestingly, Ruan Pui-hua translates this first line as “No ability to reverse the heavenly mandate”, which strikes me as clumsy, but he too seems to be following a political interpretation. Obviously your Daoist reading is very interesting, and in the event of my producing a revised version of my work, I’ll certainly refer to it. But it would be fascinating to see how your Daoist approach applies to the later dynasties, which don’t involve an obvious figure with legendary connections to Daoism, like Zhuge Liang.

As for Gui meaning ghost rather than demon, yes, on further consideration I’m sure “ghost” would be a better reading. In my own defence, though, I’d point out that Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary (which was my main reference when I first made the translation) gives the meanings of Gui as “Disembodied spirits, demons, ghosts”, in that order. But I’ll certainly change this in a revised version, and I thank you for the correction.

As I said, I’m very much indebted to you for your work on this and in a revised version of my translation I’d certainly include a reference to your blog and its URL. And if you want to leave it there it’d be perfectly understandable.

[Comments considered private and confidential not posted]

Best wishes,


Allan said...


Your interesting comments on my Note 6 are certainly noteworthy. They depict the deep thoughts and efforts you have put into this work-in-progress. But unlike both Ruan Pui-hua and you, as you have mentioned in your comments, my approach is from a different angle. Not that of a Daoist not that of a Confucian or even a Buddhist approach. The approach is from that of someone experienced with omens and prophecies given by both the Yijing and Daoist celestial immortals, the type of experience which Ruan and you may not possess at the time of writing out your thoughts.

You are right that Ruan’s translation of the first verse is clumsy. It comes from his lack of understanding of the Mandate of Heaven. No mortal can reverse the Mandate, since it means going against the will of Heaven. Can Man ever win Heaven? Kongming would certainly have known the Mandate of Heaven much earlier than the three of us. Therefore Ruan’s translation is incorrect.

But not to belabor the points, even with the several hints provided, few readers of this post will truly comprehend what the Yijing had told Zhuge Liang in this first prophecy. Unless I run through each and every important thing that I had written on this first prophecy of Kongming, like I did with my learned Daoist friend. (Our friendship and sharing of various experiences go back to more than two decades)

I suggest you wait for the lengthy preamble to this full commentary which could be posted within a day or two – still fine tuning it – before commenting any further.



Steve Moore said...

As you suggest, I'll leave any further comments, if any, until after I've seen your preamble. For the moment, though, I'd just point out that when I thanked Steve Marshall for "technical assistance", this was simply for turning the material into a PDF and placing it on his site; he's not my "Yijing consultant". As for your suggestion that I ask him about things, it would be much more straightforward if you simply told me yourself. That's the way people usually hold a discussion.
Best wishes,

Allan said...


Thank you for your clarification on the type of technical assistance provided by Steve Marshall. I was under a wrong impression earlier.

Since I do not want to reveal the specific method used to obtain the direction, and neither wanted to mislead you by remaining silent on your method, I decided to point you to the source of my knowledge on this particular method. (Perhaps, we differ in the way of handling sensitive issues because of our cultural differences?)

The method is used by me for omens from the Yijing whenever a direction is indicated or required and has proven accurate time and time again.

And now that the lengthy preamble has been published, your comments are welcome.

A direct link to your Ma Qian Ke translation has also been provided to readers. A bit late, but better than never, since I am not tech savvy.