The Way of Heaven Is Far Away, While the Way of Man Is Near at Hand
This saying is recorded in Zuo's Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals and is attributed to Zichan (?-522 BC), a senior minister of the State of Zheng during the Spring and Autumn Period. Here, the way of heaven refers to the law of the heavenly phenomena, including the movement of celestial bodies, while the way of man denotes the norms of human affairs. By drawing a sharp distinction between the remoteness of the way of heaven and the closeness of the way of man, Zichan sought to make clear that human affairs have nothing to do with astral movements and to reject any correspondences or causal connection between heavenly phenomena and human affairs.
In summer, in the fifth lunar month, the Fire Star (aka. Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius) became visible at dusk. On the bingzi day of the month, wind started to blow. Zi Shen said, "This is the northeast wind, a sign of fires in the near future. I am afraid fires will break out in seven days." Two days later (on the wuyin day) of the month, the wind blew much harder. Four days later (on the renwu day), when there was a gale blowing, fires raged in the states of Song, Wei, Chen, and Zheng. Zi Shen ascended the warehouse built at the site of the House of Dating, observed the situation, and claimed, "There are fires in Song, Wei, Chen, and Zheng." Several days afterward, envoys of all four states came to the State of Lu to report the blazes. Pi Zao said, "If you do not take my advice, a fire will break out again in Zheng." The people of Zheng heeded his warnings and requested that his advice be followed, but Zichan refused. Zitaishu asked, "Treasures are for protecting civilians. Once a fire breaks out, the state will be on the verge of collapse. Now we can trade the treasures for security. Why do you begrudge giving them up?" Zichan replied, "The way of heaven is far away, while the way of man is near at hand. How can we know the things that are beyond our reach? How can Pi Zao know the way of heaven? As long as one makes plenty of predictions, there will always be a few that will prove to be true." Consequently, Zheng did not offer sacrifices to the gods, and fires did not occur. (Zuo's Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)