On Tuesday September 18 I arrived in Beijing about 2 PM went through customs at the airport, got my luggage and took a taxi to Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel where I will spent two nights before leaving on thursday for Qufu. I spent the evening arranging my meeting with my publisher here in Beijing tomorrow to get paid for editing a book that was published was year. I also finished inserting pictures for my last post. I always seem to be both tour guide and working on my own self awareness. My focus today is on awareness. My “practice” is serenity, discipline, and patience. Accepting things as they are always seems to be the challenge.
Three things I must try do today (9/19): go by South Train Station to pick up my ticket to go to Qufu tomorrow night, second go by publisher’s office, and third, make my way to the National Museum (I didn’t make it to the museum… maybe tomorrow). This morning I’m listening to Cardinals game against Atlanta. When games begin at 7 PM in USA… they begin at 7 AM here… GO CARDS! They won 9-1. If time, I want to make my way to Beihai Park this afternoon. It seems half my time when I am in Beijing is either waiting for or riding in a taxi. Traffic here is awful… too many cars. On my way back to USA in mid October, I hope to have time to go to the White Cloud Taoist Temple here in Beijing. I went with friends in 2005, but would like to make a return visit.
What I want to do in my full day here in Beijing is try to focus on acknowledging that both inside and outside are to same. I think that’s the serenity part and coincides with ‘inner peace”. The point of this is we will go there. That the outer is simply a reflection of our inner selves and how that is implemented through being in touch with our environment is known as feng shui… One place I especially like is adjacent to the Forbidden City called Beihai Park. It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. Beihai Park is said to be built according to a traditional Chinese legend. The story is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called ‘Penglai’, ‘Yingzhou’ and ‘Fangzhang’ located to the east of China. Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine which would help humans gain immortality. Many emperors succumbed to this desire to remain in power as long as possible. Some spent many sleepless nights pacing around the lake in Beihai Park hoping the elixir would soon be discovered. After all, the emperor was considered to be the “son of heaven”, the representative of the deity here on earth responsible for all around him.
Lessons in Feng Shui. It was believed that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects. So from then on almost every emperor during succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with “a one pool with three hills’ layout” near his palace. Beihai Park was built after this traditional style: the water of Beihai (Northern Sea) with Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) is the Taiye Pool; the Jade Flowery (Qionghua) Islet, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains. Beihai Park was initially built in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) and was repaired and rebuilt in the following dynasties including Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1115 – 1911). The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) generally established the present scale and pattern.
To the northwest in the park is the Nine-Dragon Wall, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides and is among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are located in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Wall is about 90 feet (27 meters) long, 21.8 feet (6.65 meters) high and 4.7 feet (1.42 meters) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons.
I have this thing about Chinese dragons. Every time I see this depiction of dragons I think of Chinese history about the sage who embodies heavenly qualities. Adjacent to both the Forbidden City and Tienanmen, the park is extremely popular… When I am in Beijing and have an afternoon free I like coming to Beihai. In Spring you can almost feel the immortality they were seeking in the air.
National Museum in Beijing
Opposite Tienanmen and the Forbidden City is the National Museum. This morning I begin here. Thursday (9/20) was primarily spent at the National Museum. I had forgotten that more than ten years ago I regularly visited a friend whose government office was in the restricted access area adjacent to the museum. I was most impressed with the Buddhist collection and ancient roll paintings.
Beijing’s premier museum is housed in an immense 1950’s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tienanmen Square, and claims to be the largest in the world by display space. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the outstanding Ancient China exhibition alone, with priceless artifacts displayed in modern, low-lit exhibition halls, including ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. You’ll need your passport to gain entry. The museum is located at Guangchangdongce Lu, Tienanmen Square. The hours are from 9 am to 5 pm Tue-Sun, last entry 4 pm.
What first got my attention today is the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition. I believe this is the same jade suit that I saw at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City in Spring 1975 when it was a part of the traveling exhibit from China. It was made for the Western Han dynasty king Liu Xiu. Many highlights including the life-sized bronze acupuncture statue dating from the 15th century. A 2000-year-old rhino-shaped bronze zūn (wine vessel) is another standout.
The Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor, and the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are what I especially liked.
The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing (originating in the Office of the National Museum of the Revolution founded in 1950 to preserve the legacy of the 1949 revolution) and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing (with origins in both the Beijing National History Museum, founded in 1949, and the Preliminary Office of the National History Museum, founded in 1912, tasked to safeguard China’s larger historical legacy).
The building was completed in 1959 as one of the Ten Great Buildings celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It complements the Great Hall of the People that was built at the same time. The structure sits on 16 acres and has a frontal length of 1,027 feet, a height of four stories totaling 130 ft, and a width of 489 feet. The front displays ten square pillars at its center.
After four years of renovation, the museum reopened on March 17, 2011, with 28 new exhibition halls, more than triple the previous exhibition space, and state of the art exhibition and storage facilities. It has a total floor space of nearly 200,000 square feet of display.
The museum, covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history), and has a permanent collection of over a million items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.
Among the most important items in the National Museum of China are the “Simuwa Ding” from the Shang Dynasty, the square shaped Shang Dynasty bronze zun decorated with four sheep heads, a large and rare inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty, bronze water pan, a gold-inlaid Qin Dynasty bronze tally in the shape of a tiger, Han Dynasty jade burial suits sewn with gold thread (mentioned above), and a comprehensive collection of Tang Dynasty tri-colored glazed sancai and Song Dynasty ceramics. They are depicted below.
A Western Han Dynasty jade pillow from the tomb of the Prince of Chu in Shizishan, Xuzhou, and Jiangsu province
A Song Dynasty copy of the Portraits of Periodic Offering of Liang, dated to the 6th century, depicting ambassadors from various tributary states.
Since visiting the Lama Temple last year here in Beijing, I have gained a better appreciation of it’s importance. Nature seems to be the focus where this connecting the inner with outer where roofs, frescoes, arches, tapestries, Tibetan prayer wheels, and tantric statues mingle with dense clouds of incense. Today is no exception. When you arrive you are handed incense and are encouraged to use it. This is considered the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The Lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng.
I have often talked about the influence of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism, but now still in Beijing having gone to the Lama Temple I think I should talk a little more about Buddhism, especially since over the next few weeks Confucius will take center stage. It was inspiring to see so many people worshiping at the Lama Temple here in Beijing. In what is not meant to be definitive by any means, it is following what is known as the “Eight Fold Path” that focuses on three things that begins to move a person in the right direction and gain appreciation for Buddhist thought. Many people feel we can follow another religion and still live a life adhering to these principles. Those three are right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
We all live in one world. When on the path, it becomes a thoughtful world acting as if vibrations of energy. Our words we speak serve as a blanket for those people around us. As if saying words of loving kindness through the power of our tongue. It is important that as we give right speech, we remember the good and harm we can cause by thinking first. Think – Is it true, helpful, important, kind, and necessary. That we travel on a journey not concerned with the destination. With this we walk in a centered way. It is important that we treat ourselves with loving kindness and know the value of right speech. With this we can begin to understand the ultimate nature of reality by speaking with integrity and truth. We become an observer of those around us and our environment and speak with words of appreciation. Our role becomes one not to add to negative or bad energy. That we are here to uplift the world.
How do we do this, through right action. By doing no harm and understanding the laws of karma, i.e., the measure we give is what we get. It is not enough to know the truth, you have to begin by having control over your dominion. Staying aware as if called to a higher path and practicing consciousness. We make the right choices as if witnessing our own actions. We do this through service to others. We find ourselves in the right livelihood that helps to train us to be in conscious awareness and live through loving kindness.
I leave this evening to go to Qufu. My friend Maria will meet me at the airport.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 74 and 75 appear below. Verses 1 through 73 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks. Hopefully, I can complete this journey through Lao Tzu on this trip to China.
A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 74 – Acceding to the will of Heaven
Everything under the sun must take its turn. Impatience and ego the only deterrent from our recognizing our good when heaven comes forth to greet us. It is in daring to act without virtue that we fail when keeping still defines who will benefit and who will be harmed.
Who can know the will of heaven? Can only those who accept the path to enlightenment who live under the auspices of the Tao come closer than any other? It is as if two people are confronted with the same choice.
One will follow the instincts of heaven and the other the instincts of self-interest. Why does one see the way beginning within himself ultimately leads to virtue and the will of heaven through detachment from the world. While the other cannot see beyond himself and the material world he covets. The sage knows that all things under heaven eventually come to pass to find each one of us. It is what we grab onto that determines our way.
That is why cause and effect and yin and yang of everything imaginable must occur. Light must become dark, just as the four season’s change. All things have their time that leads to their ultimate unfolding. This underlying truth is the path to reason. The way of heaven wins easily without a fight because it already knows the outcome and will see things through to their end.
It answers with a word as the natural progression of cause and effect, comes quickly without a summons protecting those who, with grace, follow the way and plans ingeniously without a thought as the natural extension of the Tao. It’s net is all embracing and nothing escapes it.
Each beginning must follow with its rightful end just as every end is simply the beginning of something else. Death following life and life following death as we continually leave our spirit to find its own ultimate endeavor and destiny.
Tin Wen says, “Lao Tzu says if people are not afraid to die, what good is threatening to kill then? If people are not afraid to die, it is because punishments are excessive. When punishments are excessive, people don’t care about life. When they don’t care about life, the ruler’s might means nothing to them. When punishments are moderate, people are afraid to die. They are afraid to die because they enjoy life. When you know they enjoy life, you can threaten them with death” (2).
Li Hsi-Chai says, “This implies that punishments cannot be relied upon for governing. If people are not afraid of death, what use is threatening them with execution? And if they are afraid of death, and we catch someone who breaks the law, and we execute them, by killing one person we should be able to govern the rest. But the more people we kill, the ore break the law. Thus punishment is not the answer.”
Ming T’ai -Tzu says, “When I first ascended the throne, the people were unruly and officials corrupt. If ten people were rescued in the morning, a hundred were breaking the same law by evening. Being ignorant of the Way of the ancient sage kings, I turned to the Tao Te Ching. When I read: ‘If the people no longer fear death / we do we threaten to kill them,’ I decided to do away with capital punishment and put people to work instead. In the year
Verse 75 – Finding our Place in Heaven
For those who have not taken up their personal journey; for those who have not awakened midstream to find themselves embracing something beyond themselves that cannot be explained but makes perfect sense; for those who fail to pass judgment on themselves and all around them, yet see clearly, does not the final answer come forward with how they perceive their own death and innate fear of losing what life they have until they figure it out.
Throughout the ages and passed along from each generation and centuries too numerous to mention has not this overriding question of immortality and the efforts to embrace it been the endeavor of even the most devout sage with thoughts of death and destiny and questioning who are we to judge the will of heaven.
The sage is guided by the knowledge that as long as people fear death, forces close by will always be near to do them in. If we in turn substitute the will of heaven for our own, are we ourselves likely to meet our own untimely end?
If as stated earlier, the net of heaven is all-embracing its mesh remaining wide so that nothing escapes it, then does not everything eventually find its rightful place under heaven?
Li Hsi-Chai says, If those above take too much, those below will be impoverished. If those above use too much force, those below will rebel.This is a matter of course. When someone thinks his own life is more important, and he disregards the lives of others, why should others not treat death lightly. The sage doesn’t think about life unless he is forces to.”
Ho-Shang Kung says, “Only those who do nothing to say alive, who aren’t moved by titles or sinecures, who aren’t affected by wealth or advantage, who refuse to serve the emperor or run errands for lesser lords, they alone are more esteemed than those who love life.”
Ten Tsun says, “The Natural Way always turns things upside down. What has no body lives. What has a body dies. To be alive and to seek advantages is the beginning of death. Not to be alive and to get rid of advantages is the beginning of life. Those who don’t work to live live long.”