“King Hui of Liang asked Wei Liao-zi ‘The Yellow Emperor possessed “Recision” and “Accretion” and could win a hundred victories in a hundred battles. Is it true?”
Wei Liao-zi replied, “Recision” being used to attack them (sc. the enemy), “accretion” being used to defend them, is not what is meant by the Heavenly Offices, the seasons and the days, Yin and Yang, facing and turning one’s back (as the Yin-Yang specialists claim). The Yellow Emperor merely managed human affairs and that is all. Why is this?
Now there is a city which cannot be captured by an assault from east or west and cannot be captured by an assault from north or south; surely one cannot climb the walls in the four directions by following the seasons, can one? Rather, the reason why it cannot be attacked is that the city walls are high, the moat deep, the weapons and instruments are ready and prepared, and the brave warriors have united and made plans. If the city walls were low, the moat shallow, and the defense weak, then it could be captured. Looking at the matter from this point of view, Heavenly Offices, seasons, and days are not as good as human affairs.
The Heavenly Offices states, “A formation that has its back to water is on “cut-off ground”; a formation that faces a slope is a “wasted army”. When King Wu attacked Chou, he drew up his formation with his back to the River Chi and faced the mountain slopes. With 22,500 men he struck at the ten million men of Chou and obliterated Shang. Surely Chou did not make use of the formation of the Heavenly Offices, did he?
When General Xin of Chu fought with the men of Qi, a comet appeared with its handle (tail) in Qi. (Supposedly) where a handle is located there is victory, and it should not be attacked. General Xin said, “What do comets know? Those who fight trusting to comets will certainly be overthrown and we will gain the victory over them.” The next day, he fought with Qi and inflicted a great defeat upon them.
The Yellow Emperor said, “As for putting spirits first and putting ghosts first, I investigate my knowledge first.” What he meant was that Heavenly Offices were nothing but human affairs.”
Wei Liao Zi, Heavenly Offices 天官, translated by Robin Yates.
The WLZ took pains, as did their physician counterparts in the Neijing, to distinguish themselves from the rising popularity of occult-minded Yin Yang specialists during the Qin and early Han.