Zhào Dá was a Hénán man. When young he followed Hàn Attendant Internal Shàn Fǔ in receiving study, in thinking he was elite and refined, and said the southeast has a ruler’s aura, and could avoid trouble, and therefore fled across the Jiāng.
He researched the art of Nine Palace calculations, investigated its subtleties and aims, and therefore was able to answer opportunities to establish success, answer questions like a spirit, so even calculating locusts and finding lost objects, never was he not correct. Someone challenged Dá saying: “Flying things cannot be checked, who knows if it is correct, this is only dangerous absurdity.” Dá sent someone to fetch small beans of several dǒu, scattered them on on a mat, at once gave their number, and checking it was indeed correct.
Once he passed an old friend, the old friend for him prepared food. After eating, he said: “You came so suddenly that I am out of liquor, and also without good meats, and have nothing to talk about, what to do?” Dá therefore from a plate took a chopstick, again and again turned it, and then said: “Under your east wall there is good liquor of one hú, and also deer meat of three jīn, why do you say there is none?” At the time there were seated other guests, who inside knew the host’s situation, and the host was ashamed and said: “As you are good at dousing, I only wished to test it, and indeed it is effective like this.” Therefore he produced the alcohol and they drank their fill.
Also there was a document on which was a number in the ten millions, placed in an empty granary and sealed, and Dá was asked to calculate [the amount of grain in the granary]. Dá gave the number [on the document], saying: “But only in name and not in fact.” His profound subtlety was like this.
Dá treasured and begrudged his art, from Kàn Zé and Yīn Lǐ all were famous classicist and good scholars, and personally bowed to ask for his teachings, but Dá was secretive and did not tell. Grand Scribe Deputy Gōngsūn Téng when young like to a teacher served Dá, hard working for accumulated years, and Dá agreed to teach him for a few years, but just before explaining he at once again stopped. [Gōngsūn] Téng on another day presented alcohol, waited for his color to change, then bowed and knelt to ask, Dá said: “My ancestors obtained this art, wishing to be teachers to Emperors and Kings, but in service for three generations, they did not pass Grand Scribe cadet, and truly did not wish to again transmit it. Moreover this art is subtle, head multiplying and tail subtracting, even one calculation method, father and son do not tell each other. However as you are serous without tiring, now I will truly give it.” Drinking several times, Dá rose and fetched silk books of two scrolls, as big as a finger, and Dá said: “Write and read this, and then you will yourself understand. I have long abandoned it, and do not again inspect it, now I wish to again consider it, and after several days will share it with you.” [Gōngsūn] Téng on the scheduled time went, at the arrival [Zhào Dá] acted as if searching for the book, and in alarm said he lost it, saying: “My daughter’s husband yesterday came, it certainly was by him stolen.” Therefore because of this it was lost.
Previously Sūn Quán when going on campaign, always ordered Dá to calculate the pace, and all was as he said. [Sūn] Quán heard of his methods, Dá to the end would not explain, and because of this he met dislike, and his salary and position did not rise. (1)
- (1) Wúshū states: Previously, [Sūn] Quán took honored title, and ordered Dá to calculate from becoming Heaven’s Son afterward, would be how many years. Dá said: “[Hàn] Gāozǔ reigned for twelve years, Your Majesty will double that.” [Sūn] Quán was greatly pleased, and the attendants all declared ten thousand years. Indeed it was as Dá said.
Dá always laughed and said of the various star and aura and wind diviners: “One can return to calculations behind curtains, without going outdoors know of Heaven’s Way, but instead to be day and night exposed to dew to watch aura signs, is it not also bothersome?” Once residing without anything to do, he used calculations on himself, and therefore sighed and said: “My calculations finish on this year, moon, and day, that is my end.” Dá’s wife repeatedly saw Dá’s effectiveness, and hearing this wept. Dá wished to calm his wife’s thoughts, and therefore again calculated, saying: “The previous one was mistaken, it won’t be then.” Later on the specified time he died. [Sūn] Quán heard Dá had a book, sought it but did not find it, then interrogated his daughter, then dug up the coffin but did not find it, and the methods and arts were cut off. (1)
- (1) Wúlù states:
- Huáng Xiàng appellation Xiūmíng was a Guǎnglíng Jiāngdū man. When young he was skilled in calligraphy. At the time there was Zhāng Zǐbìng, Chénliáng Fǔ able in calligraphy. [Chénliáng] Fǔ hated rushing, and also hated severity [in calligraphy style], [Huáng] Xiàng deliberated between, deeply obtained their subtleties, and the central states’ skilled calligraphers could not match him.
- Yán Wǔ appellation Zǐqīng, was Minister of the Guard [Yán] Jùn second cousin’s son. In wéiqí [encircling chess, jp: i go] none could be of his class.
- Sòng Shòu divined dreams, wrong less than one tenth of the time.
- Cáo Bùxīng was good at painting, [Sūn] Quán had him paint a screen, he made a mistake of a paint dot, turned it into a fly, and when he presented it, [Sūn] Quán believed it a live fly and raised hand to hit it.
- Gūchéng’s Zhèngyù was able to use physiognomy on men.
- With [Wú] Fàn, [Liú] Dūn, [Zhào] Dá these eight men the world all praised as ingenious, calling them the Eight Absolutes.
- Jìn Yángqiū states: Wú had Gě Héng appellation Sīzhēn, [who] understood heaven’s signs, was able to discern timing, made a star map, placing it on the ground of his house, with machines moved it, heaven turning and earth still, and above it placed a sundial.