I am posting my tentative schedule so we can book the train schedule and airfare between cities. Maria is trying to help with the fast train tickets. Very hard over the holiday.
Currently I am staying at the Luoyang Anximen Hostel until Thursday (9/27) then the Luoyang Heartland Hostel until Monday, October 1st. I would travel from Luoyang to Xian on Monday 10/1 and stay at the Xian Hentang House until Friday, October 5th. First thing I learned in all the years I have traveled here in China is you must be flexible. Second, I should stop coming during holiday when travel is difficult.
Everything changed for the balance of my trip this afternoon (Tuesday 9/25). Travel to Tibet was moved from October 10th-13th to 14th-17th. I checked flights and I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th.
All of the dates are tentative due to difficulty in getting tickets, summary: 10/1 Luoyang to Xian and hotel there is all that is confirmed for now. I need to cancel Chengdu Flipflop booking and reschedule for later in the month if needed. Airplane tickets summary: 10/14 Need to be in Lhasa; 10/17 Lhasa to Beijing and 10/18 Beijing to USA.
Luoyang was home and capital of thirteen dynasties, until the Northern Song dynasty moved it east to Kaifeng in the 10th century. Both the Tang and Sui dynasties were centered here in what was considered the height of Buddhist influence and demonstrate how the connection between Luoyang and early Buddhism became so important. At one point there were 1300 Buddhist temples here. Luoyang was home to many emperors and had lasting importance to early Chinese history.
Luoyang was the capital city for the longest period, the most dynasties, and the earliest time compared with the other ancient capital cities. Luoyang lies in the Central Plain surrounded by mountains, which were natural barriers against invasions. Apart from its favorable geographical location, Luoyang had an agricultural advantage as several rivers flow through it. Therefore, 105 emperors of 13 dynasties set their capitals in Luoyang during China’s history.
Luoyang was the center of politics, economy, and culture in China for 1,500 years. Since the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC), Luoyang had begun its history as a capital city. In the Western Han Dynasty, Luoyang was not chosen as the capital, but the ruler still attached great importance to the city. There is so much history here that I want to come back to Luoyang for further study. It is said Lao Tzu lived here for a while and Taoism got it’s beginnings of Mount Song where I will visit while I am here.
On Monday (9/24) I went with three students by bus to the Buddhist White Horse Temple. I took several pictures until my battery stopped then I used my phone camera for a few more. Many I encounter think I am brave to travel alone where I can’t speak the language. But I counter that I generally know them by their history than they know themselves. After seeing my writing they mostly agree.
What struck me was the continuing presence as if the joining or coming together of history with one’s natural environment and connecting this with the universe, or divine spirit within us and that which surrounds us as well. To be treated as if you are coming home to visit something that is innately a part of yourself. Something you have always known, but simply needing to be reminded. This seems to be the motive behind all these ancient “temples”. What we in the west today would describe as “parks having great historical and religious significance”. They bring a sense of longevity and simplicity to it all spanning thousands of years and being reminded that both the inner and outer are the same reality we each choose to live every day. The Buddhist White Horse Temple on the outskirts of Luoyang has always been on my bucket list here in China. It’s influence in the spread of Buddhism over the centuries has been immeasurable. At some point in our lives there is something more than just knowledge and understanding. It comes with wisdom, as acceptance, and an enduring presence. What is it we’re grounded too? Others may teach, but ultimately it is something that becomes innately ourselves. It is having the presence of self-assurance knowing that kindness and simplicity are the keys that opens all doors. (something I need to work on) Keeping things simple means there are fewer doors that need to be opened as well. As if “becoming simple minded” is a good thing.
Two other overreaching influences from Buddhism to China was that Luoyang was the start of the Silk Road that headed back to Venice in Italy. It was by way of the Silk Road (and elephants going through Tibet to Xian), that Buddhism came to China. By the time Marco Polo came here with his father and uncle in 1270 AD on their way to visit Kublai Khan in Beijing, the Silk Road had been a functioning means of transportation of goods and culture between east and west for almost fifteen hundred years. The White Horse Temple and the Long man Grottoes have had the most lasting historical presence in this area of China. We will visit both later in the week. What Buddhism brought was a sense of permanence and presence that people could see as their own connection to what we would now call “becoming universal”. That you were more than your body, and a good life could lead to better things, as yet unknown, in the future. That we are one and there is no separation between the world we live in and what we might find for ourselves afterwards. This connection was what the Taoist Chuang Tzu expressed so well in what would become known as “Chan Buddhism”. (maybe even becoming a butterfly being heard the world over)
There seems to be a progression in my travels, first to Beijing and the Llama Temple, then the opening of the gate with Confucius in Qufu. Finally for now, coming the the famous White Horse Temple and Long Man Grottoes. Like stepping stones to greater appreciation, understanding, and hopefully wisdom of my own origins in Chinese history. As if midway – later heading back to Xian and Chengdu before ultimately going to Tibet. With more than a week in between to discover new mountain vistas and clouds waiting to rise above.
The White Horse Temple, one of the oldest temples in China, is located about 6 miles from the city of Luoyang in eastern China’s Henan Province. It is a place that disciples of the Buddha school recognize as the palace of Buddhist ancestors and the place where Buddhist theory was taught. It was built by Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (29 A.D.–75 A.D.), and there is a legend about its establishment. The scholar Fu Yi told the emperor after his dream: “Your subject has heard it said that in there is somebody who has attained the Dao and who is called Buddha; he flies in the air, his body had the brilliance of the sun; this must be that god.” According to the historical book of records that after a dream, Emperor Ming sent an envoy to Tianzhu in southern India to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named.
Early History of the White Horse Temple
The two senior monks She Moteng and Zhu Falan, preached at White Horse Temple and jointly completed the translation of the 42 chapter Sutra, the first Chinese version of Buddhist scriptures. After She Moteng passed away, Zhu Falan continued to translate a number of scriptures. Their translations of the scriptures were all treasured in the Main Hall for the monks to worship. It was said that in the Northern
Wei Dynasty (386 A.D.– 534 A.D.), when the Buddhist monks worshiped the scriptures, the scripture suddenly glowed with colored lights and lit up the Main Hall.
During the reign of Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Ze Tian (624 A.D.–705 A.D.), the White Horse Temple was very popular, and there were more than 1,000 monks living here. However, the Temple was greatly damaged during the An Si Rebellion (755 A.D.–763 A.D.) and the Huichang Suppression of Buddhism (840 A.D.–846 A.D.). The damaged White Horse Temple was only found later through broken pieces of inscriptions on the stones and ruins. Repairs to the temple were later conducted by Sung Dynasty Emperor Taizong (939–997), Ming Dynasty Emperor Jiajing (1507–1567), and Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi (1662–1722). The above description is why I like museums so much telling the story of what was important at the time. As if the remnants left behind have their own secrets to tell.
This is the way I like to travel. I have a week here in Luoyang to explore the area. Hopefully it will stop raining. Two main things I want to see are the Long Man Grottoes and the Shaolin Temple. Not having google is a serious detriment to my travels. I still need to try to fix my Chinese camera, or more batteries for my little canon camera. It takes excellent pictures. Almost all pictures here on my website are one’s I have taken with the canon camera.
Tuesday (9/25) appears to a day to stay inside here in Luoyang and update my blog. It looks like it will rain all day and the Cardinals are on my computer this morning. Maria got my train ticket for next Monday to Xian. (thanks Maria) It sounds like my getting to Tibet prior to October 14th will work. It seems I am alone here in Luoyang. I guess that’s what one does on a retreat to seek inner meaning to what comes next. Plus the rain makes for staying inside. I did go to the bank next door to see if they can help me to send via WeChat money for the Tibet tour. They can help. Hopefully we can do that tomorrow. Next will be confirming airfare to Lhasa and Lhasa to Beijing afterwards. Just go with the flow and what needs to occur always does…
Everything regarding the balance of the trip changed this afternoon. Due to holiday the four day tour I was about to pay for has been delayed to October 14 to October 17. I still want to do the tour, but first I must confirm I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th, as I fly back to USA on the 18th. I still stay in Luoyang until next Monday, October, 1st and go to Xian. I had planned to go to Chengdu on the 5th, but now there is no hurry.
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 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 78 and 79 appear below. Verses 1 through 77 were seen here on my most recent posts. I plan to complete this journey through Lao Tzu (verses 80 and 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao himself next week. I hope I am ready.
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 78 – Following the way of Heaven
The sage endeavors to follow the way of heaven while only revealing everything for its true and natural place. Pulling down the high while lifting the low he stays on an even keel finding the natural balance of all around him.
Continually moving forward unsure or unconcerned if what he does is ultimately good or bad as long as the natural order of things are followed and are allowed to take their places. Moving without presumption or staking claim to what may be perceived as personal achievement. Choosing to remain in the background and not displaying his skills, nothing can deter or get in his way. His burden to keep his virtue to himself and not revealed to those who continually come running to his doorstep.
Modeling his actions after the way of heaven, the sage takes from the long and gives to the short so that the ten thousand things naturally find their places. For all things under heaven to find their place, it is best for heaven to sit back and do nothing. Allowing the nature of all things to come forward unimpeded fulfilling its ultimate endeavor and finding its true identity and destiny.
Hsung-Tsung says, “The nature of water is to stay low, not to struggle, and to take on the shape of its container. Thus nothing is weaker. But despite such weakness, it can bore through rocks, while rocks cannot wear down water.”
Li Hung-Fu says, “The soft and the weak do not expect to overcome the hard and the strong. They simply do.”
Chuang Tzu says, “Everyone wants to be first, while I alone want to be last; which means to endure the world’s disgrace.” (33.5). Mencius says. “If the ruler of the state is not kind, he cannot protect the spirits of the soil and grain” (4A.3).
Su Ch’e says “Upright words agree with the Tao and contradict the world. The world considers enduring grace shameful and enduring misfortune a calamity.”
Li Jung says, “The world sees disgrace and innocence, fortune and misfortune. The Taoist sees them all as empty.”
Verse 79 – Being Present at Destiny’s Table
The sage is reminded of the words of an old friend who once told him that the true nature of one who follows the Tao is like water. It is the nature of water to stay low, not to struggle and to take on the shape of its container thus appearing to be weak.
Is this not the way of the sage? Appearing weak, but in reality able to cut through any obstacle as he ultimately finds his true path.
What is perceived as weakness often wins through persistence while what appears to be hard easily becomes brittle unable to withstand the pressure of determination.
Should not we follow the ways of Chuang Tzu who decried that everyone wants to be first, while he alone waits, wanting to be last enduring to the end so that he may be present at destiny’s table.
Emulating Chuang Tzu’s perfected man cannot the sage by following the Tao and the way of heaven ultimately turn everything upside down thereby betraying conventional wisdom at every turn.
In looking beyond the present and reminding himself of what’s to come, does not the sage simply prepare to return to find this place confident that the stage has been set and his place at the table assured.
Su Ch’e says, “If we content ourselves with trimming the branches and don’t pull out the roots, things might look fine on the outside, but not on the inside. Disputes come from delusion, and delusions are the products of our nature. Those who understand their nature encounter no delusion, much less disputes.”
Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Seeking to make peace with others is the Way of Man. Not seeking to make peace but letting things make peace by themselves is the Way of Heaven. Despite the expenditure of energy and action, energy and action seldom bring peace. Thus the sage holds the left marker because he relies on inaction and the subtlety of letting things be.”