I’ve seen too many places in my life and time for the story to have simply one entry / Continuing the I Ching – Images, Structure, Judgments and Commentaries.
It begins with becoming one with contentment and discernment. Identifying with our source as the common thread followed and traced throughout time and history to the present day.
For me… exemplified as a tour of sacred mountains in China. Teaching us to not just watch with our eyes, but to listen with our minds. Simply to learn detachment, enlightenment, and along the way inner peace. To be content – within what my writing – and to what our own highest endeavor tells us. As if looking beyond the clouds to far vistas, to what takes us there… as if we are above it all once again. To join and be with ancestors and forever friends once again as we get glimpses of our ultimate destiny.
As if getting to decide for ourselves where the journey begins again, or maybe continues… to self-discovery and to where it leads with the stars that eternally define us and light our way. It’s why we go there; we might even call it a travelogue tracing our own sense of immortality. It was here on the mountains of China where the famous elixirs and pills of immortality (and gunpowder) were said to have been formulated. With Lao Tzu’s furnace on Huashan Mountain producing the most famous pill we should take defining what was to become the ultimate in self-awareness, inner development, the Tao and eventually Taoism.
Mountains allow us a physically unimpeded bond, that for some acts as an umbilical cord, to and with the divinity from within, to who we are and have forever been. It’s as close to God as we can get while here on earth. To be seen as having been to the mountaintop and seeing the other side… often even above the clouds, is as if we have made the ultimate connection with our own divinity. The mountain becoming our ultimate sanctuary.
As the follow-up to Theodore Roosevelt and Thich Nhat Hanh from the previous post, we continue with thoughts of actions in the arena of life we take that are consistent with our eternal source. Finding a benchmark, the proper segue from within. As if making a smooth, uninterrupted transition from one thing to another as we move closer to the contentment that ultimately defines us. The advantage of focusing on China is that there is over five thousand years of uninterrupted history to draw conclusions and to see clearly from.
Traditions not only in China, but that described in the story of the burning bush as an object described in the Book of Exodus as being on Mount Horeb, and the story of Black Elk, a Sioux holy man who much later became a catechist (a person appointed to instruct others in the principles of religion as a preparation for Baptism). His fame was due to his conversing with his ancestors on what is now known as Black Elk Peak of the Black Hills of South Dakota and conveying what was to occur to his people. When our actions simply reflect our own transcendence to reconcile with who we have always been. To where tradition has always taken us.
When we think about a starting point to find context as to why climbing mountains became so important in China, it comes first to what we are connecting too when we get there. First, if you’ve been following here is the importance of symbols. As if the stars and the constellations are to be seen as the guardians of Heaven. With nature’s response always to be seen as determining how everything comes together and remains universal. It is from mountains we can speak from our own divine nature without distractions and directly to them – to the stars above.
Our guides to the stars are the “Four Guardians.” They are the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise (also called “Black Warrior”) of the North.
Each of the creatures is most closely associated with a cardinal direction and a color, but also additionally represents other aspects, including a season of the year, a virtue, and one of the Chinese “five elements” (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water)… as well as the I Ching. Each has been given its own individual traits and origin story.
Understanding this basic premise is central to what each person looks for from the sky at night. Not only from mountains, but what we can see every night regardless of where we are. Bringing it all back down to earth as our own endeavors and destiny. Knowing that our own constellation, i.e., from the month and most importantly, the year you were born, will return each year in the sky as a beginning, or starting point again, again, and again. Thereby defining our own nature, and showing us that we are innately connected to something much bigger than ourselves.
As your tour guide, I have been to all the mountains described below. While the mountains generally have a Taoist bent, many described below are connected with Buddhism, or maybe to both.
First would be Lhasa, Tibet. Lhasa, the holy city of Tibetan Buddhism, north of the Himalaya Mountains and second south of Chengdu with the Leshan Giant Buddha where there is a local saying: “The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain”. This is partially because Linyun Mountain in which the Leshan Giant Buddha depicting Maitreya is located, is thought to be shaped like a slumbering Buddha when seen from the river, with the Leshan Giant Buddha as its heart.
According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on earth in the future. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha – Gautama Buddha (also known as Sakyamuni Buddha).
What caught my attention in addition to the Giant Buddha was the adjacent Taoist Cave depicting the eight characters of the I Ching, Lao Tzu with I Ching, and a dragon depicted in the stars shown here in the beginning.
For those who knew what they were seeing, you could confirm the synthesis of all three (Buddhism, Taoism, and the I Ching) at the top of Linyun Mountain.
Since ancient times communing with God in the stillness found above the clouds is said to have “been to the mountaintop and seeing the other side” from a spiritual context denotes being one with, or knowing the intent of Heaven. Holy men and women, spending time in solitude for eons of time have felt the presence, the spirit of eternity and returned. The other side referring to our own divinity and eternal divine nature.
For myself, the list of mountains below can easily be expanded depending on personal preference. Once I began outlining the mountains and their significance, I decided simply reviewing my time there and their significance would need more than one entry. It is the spiritual connection we see once there – that seems to enter our soul, as if a reminder, that pulls us back to our ultimate source. As if connecting to our innermost sense of well-being. It is through use of the I Ching as a tool, that we continue to outline here, i.e., coming forward to connect with our source through prayer and meditation we can become one with it all again.
All of the mountains described here I have been up and down, and if we each want to define for ourselves the meaning of “what is sacred, spiritual, or revered”… for myself, it’s what takes us there. Albeit words, symbols, or in this case mountains – as in the I Ching commonly referred to below as “The Traveler”.
The Death of the Chamois
Buckskins tanning in the bright sun light brown almost white from the ram captured on the mountain’s rim only for the delicacy of its tender loins and its superior skin.
No matter the benefits, it is not the capture of game pursued over a long distance that is important. But simply the ultimate pursuit itself. As the hunter respects his prey by only taking what is necessary for his own survival, fulfillment comes with the understanding of one’s place in the universe. Not the lethal release of the arrow.
Pursuing the chamois on the sheer outcropping near the mountain’s top is as difficult as capturing the pheasant in the valley below. Both represent the ultimate challenge and losing against such an able foe is not losing, but gaining the respect found to be in nature’s way. The ram only captured because its time has come.
The Challenge Sichuan Museum
Having overcome the chamois there is a satisfaction in knowing the ram as an equal or better in his own territory. Fully aware of his stature in his environment and what it takes to survive on top of mountains. Always to be looking down at panoramas in every direction. An innate sense that each step on the craggy outcropping could be his last if improperly placed. However surefooted, he adeptly and safely bounds from rock to rock unconcerned and unafraid.
As a seasoned traveler coming across hunters coming down from higher elevations with their prize, you sense both elation and sadness accompanying the death of the chamois. All is well and as it should be.
An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese classic the I Ching (56 THE TRAVELER / Fire over Mountain). 3/22/1994
Seven Mountains stand out for myself as having great historical and spiritual significance. (The eighth would be Wudang Mountain mentioned earlier that I have not been to).
Because I want to go in some detail with each one, I will focus on three this time Laoshan, Taishan, and Huangshan in this entry and on the next entry will focus on Songshan, Huashan, and Qingcheng. Plus, possibly more on Lhasa in the Himalayas. Geographically, that’s basically going from east to west.
Sacred mountains of China – Part 1:
Mount Lao, or Laoshan is a mountain located near the East China Sea along the southeastern coastline of the Shandong Peninsula China northeast of Qingdao. The mountain is culturally significant due to its long affiliation with Taoism and is often regarded as one of the “cradles of Taoism”. At the peak of Taoism, there were nine palaces, eight Taoist Temples, and 72 nunneries and housed nearly a thousand Taoist priests and nuns on the mountain. It is the place where the Complete Perfection School of Taoism developed. At present, the Taiqing Palace is the oldest among the preserved Taoist establishments. In ancient times, the emperors of the Qin and Han dynasties climbed the mountain seeking the wisdom of immortals.
Today the Shenshui (Immortal Water) Spring in the Taiqing Palace and the Shengshuiyang (Ocean of Holy Water) Spring in the Shangqing Palace are said to be the source of Tsingtao Beer. The Tsingtao brewery is less than an hour to the south in Qingdao. I have been to Qingdao and the brewery many times over the years and had dozens of students from Qingdao while I was teaching in Qufu. I visited Laoshan Mountain in 2017. Highlights of the mountain trek were Taoist temples, the statute of Lao Tzu and unusual rock formations.
TaiShan Mountain in Shandong. Mount TaiShan is the one I am most familiar with having been there many times. It is one of the most famous Taoist mountains in China because of its being furthest to the east. It is where from its summit you can be the first to see the sunrise. According to historical records, Mount Tai became a sacred place visited by emperors to offer sacrifices and meditate in the Zhou dynasty before one thousand BC. A total of seventy-two emperors were recorded as visiting it. For over two thousand years, tradition required the emperor to make a pilgrimage to TaiShan on his return to Beijing after visiting Qufu and paying homage to Confucius to see the sunrise from the summit. Spending the night on top of the mountain is a must.
At the base of the mountain is the Daimiao Temple built in the Han dynasty (206-220). One of my favorite points of interest is the ‘Peitian Gate’. It is an excellent example of how Confucian and Taoist thought combined with nature have resided and complemented each other over the centuries.
The stele, or entryway had a saying with the theme, “The virtues match the heaven and earth”. It further is highlighted with the ‘Azure Dragon’ and ‘White Tiger’, two of the principal symbols of the Chinese constellation that were enshrined in the hall to the left. Two of the constellations described here in the beginning.
Communing with nature, staying overnight watching the stars overhead on top of the mountain – up early to see the sunrise… you can sense the universal connection and know you are a part of something much bigger than yourself. Tradition says many Taoist poets would carve their own words on the mountain as a symbol tying themselves to the mountain’s history. Imagining emperors making a pilgrimage here after visiting Qufu and Confucius adds to the majesty of the mountain.
Next is Huangshan Mountain, originally known as Yishan (Mount Yi) in Anhui Province also known as Yellow Mountain. The name was coined to honor Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor). I came here in October 2016 and became part of a tour group (Something I usually avoid). Busy taking pictures I got left behind. The tour guide was upset, but I was eventually found. The pictures I took here were awesome. I may not have complained that much had I remained lost.
Legend states that Huangshan was the location from which the Yellow Emperor ascended to Heaven. Another legend states that the Yellow Emperor “cultivated moral character and refined Pills of Immortality” in the mountains, and in so doing gave the mountains his name.
The first use of this name “Huangshan” is often attributed to Chinese poet Li Bai. I wanted to include Li Bai because writing was illustrative of man’s connection to nature, how he relates to it, and especially, how symbols (the essence of Chinese writing, i.e., words), and the I Ching, are symbolic of how we are to live and die. He was one of the most famous and well-respected poets of the era. Huangshan Mountain was fairly inaccessible in ancient times until 747 AD when many Taoist temples began being built.
Li Bai (701-762) was one of the greatest poets of the Tang dynasty and Chinese history. As a historian and writer myself, I am very appreciative of his talent and influence. The Tang era was a golden age of Chinese poetry, and Li Bai’s works made up a large part of this. I plan to include some of his poetry in the future. He was known also for his drinking. Popular legend says that he drowned when, sitting drunk in a boat, he tried to seize the moon’s reflection in the water.
An ink painting depicting Huangshan by Shitao, 1670
Reminding us that legends are meant to convey meaning, not factual accuracy. Li Bai’s contributions to history and poetry have stood the test of time, regardless of his love for plum wine.
To the right is Xiantao Feng Peak commonly referred to as “Fairy Peach Peak”, or “Flying Rock”; also known as “Old Man watching the Sea” on Yellow Mountain in Huangshan, Anhui Province.
Much of the mountain’s reputation derives from its significance in Chinese arts and literature. In addition to inspiring poets such as Li Bai, Huangshan and its scenery has been the frequent subject of poetry and artwork, especially Chinese ink painting and, more recently, photography. From the Tang dynasty (618 to 907) to the end of the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911), more than twenty thousand poems were written about Huangshan Mountain.
Here in the Dazhuan, in the 5th and 6th Wings, it is assumed that they are not written in a vacuum and the earlier Wings, The Commentary of the Decision Wings 1 and 2, are already known and understood, and as with the remaining Wings (3 through 10), the materials from which the hexagrams have been constructed are explained. It is essential that we don’t try to interpret the I Ching and change – only by what we think – by modern standards – with what we know today.
To be guided by nature and resulting cause and effect and the spirit we seek within ourselves is an essential element to connecting to the stars above and who we are yet to become. As today will always simply pass us by. Knowing that our lives are but a flash of lightening in eternity.
Taken as a whole, this means we are describing change as it evolves through Confucius or others who wrote their own commentary of the Dazhuan later and conveyed its importance by attributing to him. Confucius, in his later years did spend his time trying to grasp the meaning of the I Ching to determine how it fit with his own vision and bringing it in keeping with his take on history transforming it from a manual for divination into a text about philosophy and morality. This was to become his greatest contribution and enduring legacy.
The works of Ji Dan, the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou, five hundred years earlier were essential in making this connection to Chinese antiquity. All three, the Yellow Emperor, Ji Dan, and Confucius hailed from the city of Lu, or Qufu. Others would later use this as a pathway for their own “interpretation” of the I Ching, Lao Tzu, and Confucius who had ties to all the loose endings of history that preceded him… myself included.
In the end, it is the hexagrams that give meaning to the underlying line statements that follow all the actions under heaven. The lines are the imitations of heaven as movements on earth. It is that simple. In the case of the Book of Changes, the I Ching – the lines are the equivalent to the judgments appended to them.
In this way both good and bad auspices appear as judgments and apply themselves to the lines that move. They can then reflect the changes within the individual situation. This basic understanding must be made and accounted for before proceeding further. If you don’t know or understand the underlying precepts then it is impossible to obtain an accurate reading.
Remember, this is only the third of a total of twelve entries to be discussed here in the 6th Wing. Context is everything to knowledge, wisdom and understanding that follows us throughout our lives.
Unfortunately, with popular culture over the centuries, people became enamored with the reading of the lines more as simple “fortune-telling”. Not taking into account the seriousness of the underlying premise of the true essence or meaning of the I Ching. It is the changes that reflect an individual situation in which either good or auspices things occur, or bad, i.e., misfortune arise, along with remorse and humiliation, or trouble and distress appears. It is our own movement, illustrated by our actions, that reveal the direction that events are taking and with that warnings or confirmations are added.
The Dazhuan 6th Wing Part II Number 3
Images, Structure, Judgments and Commentaries
What the shaman discovered over the millennia was that the natural order of things followed images and a certain structure that foretold future events. That when man could attune himself to this, what would one day be referred to as the Tao, then all would be right in the world. Conversely, when man’s actions did not follow the natural order of things, disaster occurs. This basic premise was underlying everything from not only man himself, but every aspect he could observe in his environment as well.
It was the Yijing, Book of Changes, i.e., the trigrams, and then much later the hexagrams, that reflects and consists of images that are reproductions of conditions in heaven and on earth and that when they are applied productively they have enormous creative power in the realm of those who know how to use them. Fuxi, Shennong, and the Yellow Emperor knew this and they had done their best to impart this wisdom to those who would follow them for the benefit of all things under heaven as previously described.
The paradox had always been from the earliest clan gatherings of Fuxi and even hundreds of years earlier, was how to use what was later to become the hexagrams (the three lines of the eight trigrams when doubled) and their essential eternal teachings to unleash the creative power in the realm of ideas within each individual. Over the centuries leading up to the Shang dynasty when written history could be recorded and followed, (a period from Fuxi 2900 BC to 1700 BC), this excess of personal aggrandizement would come to the forefront with the Shang. It would be when the pendulum swung back the other way with King Wen in 1100 BC and the following Zhou dynasty that the true meaning of the lines, now referred to as statements, could begin to go forward.
Again, it is worth repeating, it is in the knowing of how to use the statements within the hexagrams properly that unleashes our creative power to influence events yet to come that becomes essential. With this knowledge, it is as though we become like the wind passing through time.
The challenge of the shaman had always been imparting this eternal wisdom to people who did not understand the true meaning of the lines and how to read and use them. This tempering of the personal ego led to the focus on cultivating stillness within oneself and was enhanced even further with the arrival of the Buddhist influence from SW China and India in 300-400 AD. This was to serve to cement the eternal connection between man and the universe so our focus would remain empowering our internal energies with the outer world we find ourselves.
Going forward we either further our good or don’t. We decide this solely by our actions and it is by following the I Ching we can know what comes in advance, when to proceed and when not to with answers usually a simple yes or no.
Over the times and centuries of judgments and commentaries however, it became clear and evident that when one compares the Judgments with the Images, different “readings” can be determined that serve to justify what direction this powerful oracle, or tool, was to take. At one point, Confucius became the fulcrum, or pivot, as to how this was to occur. In almost every instance it was not Confucius himself, but others who used his name to solidify through “commentary” what the real interpretation should be. For now, leave it to say that it should be the original intent of the shaman and Taoist sage who have the final say not the political whim of the moment.
Thanks to Wang Bi and other Confucians during the Han dynasty who were bent on the “Confucian interpretation” of the I Ching, his version became required study for the rigorous examination system after the Later Han in roughly 200AD. The Confucian ideal became a permanent fixture in China for almost two thousand years until the fall of the last emperor in 1912. This paradox of the real intent of the Book of Changes will always be in contention due to man’s attempts to control events that leads to a “politically correct manageable outcome” verses the Taoist understanding of letting nature decide for itself.
This is the third entry (for a total of twelve) of the Sixth Wing of the Dazhuan. The story continues as our journey in cultivating stillness. Knowing and using this induces a spiritual transformation. The lines of the I Ching, the Book of Changes becomes shorthand for transforming change that attracts the lights and energy of heaven, i.e., getting their attention thereby creating a chance, an unspoken trust, to become again who we are meant to be.