Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man and Chengdu / Continuing the I Ching – To know the way of Ch’ien (light or Heaven) while holding onto Kun (dark or Earth)
The superior, or perfected man knows the subtle, knows the sheer, knows the cloudy and knows the clear. He ten thousand will revere. He knows what is evident and hidden as well. With foreknowledge misfortune will never prevail. (Wilhelm) He lives as if a sage to further a spirit he has always known and returns to again and again – to his world of eternal contentment. Kongdan
As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man
As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way.
Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased.
Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on your finding and staying on the road yet to be traveled.
Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before. Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things.
Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.
Eternity existing forever both before, now and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively over and over again. A great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.
Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge of the Tao and understanding what it means.
Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow. 4/12/1994.
From the book I wrote “An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond” published in China in 2004. It appears on this website as “The I Ching – Voices of the Dragon”.
Part 3 – The sacred mountains of China (Tibet will follow in Part 4)
Chengdu… I love Chengdu. It’s easy to see how the fabled city of Shangri La high in the Himalayas can’t be too far away. Why Marco Polo fell in love with this place and the beautiful women here. The pull for me here seems eternal. I’ve been here on four or five trips to China now and any trip in the future must also include Chengdu. It’s where it all comes together for me at least. I don’t have to go now physically though… because in my heart and mind I’m already there. To continually find ourselves in what Alan Watts says in what can be defined only as the Eternal Now – as we become what we are. And that Tibet and the Himalayas will need to wait for another day… to a Part 4 of the story.
Travelling above the clouds in meditation I often return to visit with old friends at the Heming teahouse at Renmin Park looking out over the lake reminiscing over old times and critiquing stories we’ve yet to tell. It’s not the mountaintop, but as the spirit flies, Qingcheng Taoist Mountain is only a short distance away… and Qingyang Temple with another teahouse to share stories with old friends just a few blocks away. Its as if a part of me is always here conversing with both old and new friends. Chengdu but a terminal, or gathering point, for wisdom through the ages.
When I come to Chengdu, I marvel at what would have been here then… in the year 1287, when the Italian Marco Polo visited Chengdu with his father and how it is now. As if I am only curious as to what might have changed over the more than seven hundred years since he returned to Italy. How our consciousness moves us from generation to generation redefining both our presence and role once we’ve arrived at places we’ve been and seen before. What is it that connects us to our past and what do we do when we seem to stumble upon it if sometimes seemingly only by accident?
What is it that pulls us there when we have opened up ourselves to the divine presence from within leaving us with the only option to go there? I often wonder where does the three to four hundred thousand words, mostly autobiographical, that I have written come from along with a catalog now of thousands of pictures I’ve taken in almost fifty trips to China that show and tell the story that I keep returning to?
Certainly not only from anything I have learned or experienced in the present tense, except maybe to update and remind me of what I’ve always known and maybe forgotten. With a purpose to jog my memories as the storyteller for others that serves as my own pill to/of immortality. And why does this passion for ancient China seem to end with Marco Polo’s return to Italy with his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo in 1295?
The Sumela Monastery discussed last time near Trabzond in Turkey, is located close to the historical Silk Road and was visited by Marco Polo on his way back to Italy. Trabzond became a melting pot of religions, languages and culture for centuries and a trade gateway to Persia in the southeast and the Caucasus to the northeast. The Venetian and Genoese merchants all paid visits to Trebizond. One of the most famous persons to have visited the city, Marco Polo, ended his overland return journey to China at the port of Trebizond. He sailed to his hometown Venice in Italy on a ship from here; passing by Constantinople (Istanbul) on the way. Much later it was Marco Polo’s book of his travels in China that convinced Columbus he could get there by traveling west instead of east…
Chengdu is much like Qufu, in that my presence here is to give an account of myself to sources needing an updating of what has always been known and simply added to. But what now seems mostly forgotten in what can only be described as reliving history and my ultimate purpose. Oh… the stories we all could tell if we could only remember them. Maybe as an anthropologist, who has a sense of trying to bring an explanation forward, not of the chards of pottery, but of their thoughts and what made them transcendent that made others, and us want to follow them as well.
For the tour now, two sites get my attention; the Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu and Qingcheng Mountain about an hour to the north. Then after Chengdu it’s on to Lhasa, Tibet, I promise. Did I say how much I love this place? As if this is as close to my source I can get and still be here. Like Keys to the Kingdom… all of the places described here in China simply re-opening the door simply awaiting my re-entry. Writing the walk to eternal bliss I have always known and will return to again and again. Showing the way so that others may find their own. From the places where I continue the never-ending story.
What I like most about going to historic sites and museums is like conjuring up old memories. It’s like revisiting old friends and our history together. What was there in the beginning and simply built upon in the interim. How have events in human history impacted nature and our divine spirit? Museums often tell the story.
The British Museum in London reminded me of this during a visit years ago. A tour is not simply a “walk-through” then saying “okay I’ve seen and been there… done that”. It should be as if “what has occurred and what have I learned since what I just saw depicting history” and if you are the storyteller – the conveyor, then “what if anything needs to be said that furthers the story that needs to be told.” As if retelling history from new, or perhaps more telling historical perspective.
Explaining why I like Chengdu so much; it is as if it is from here that I gain my true voice.
Marco Polo wrote about the Anshun Bridge as it crosses the Jin River in Chengdu (an earlier version of it). (Dan took this picture himself in June 2016)
Perhaps the true essence of the meaning of finding the mythical “Shangri La” in seeing sites that both Lao Tzu and Marco Polo saw was simply the prompt, or sign – as if a referral that I am where I am to do it from. If there is something called “our source”, I think I’ve found it. It is as if after more than twenty years of traveling in China, that Chengdu, along with Qufu, best tells my own story. Knowing that if I couldn’t find my way home it just wouldn’t be fair, as if living as my own tapestry of history that leads up to the present with stories just waiting to be told. As if recalling events and seeing landmarks that serve to say yes, of course, you were here and visited before.
Wenshu Yuan Buddhist Monastery in Chengdu
Just as Trabzond on the Silk Road was transcendent (almost home) for Marco Polo, Chengdu does the same for me. Just as at some point on the “sacred journey” – some distance must appear for contentment and perspective to unite to finish one journey before moving on to self-discovery and beginning the next. As if re-discovering and finding both familiar and new mountains again and again to climb. To ascend to heights previously unaccounted for that are simply waiting for the proper images and storyteller to arrive.
A view of the Hagia Sophia (today a museum) with its bell tower and the Black Sea coast in the background as Marco Polo would have seen. Formerly a Greek Orthodox church which was converted into a mosque in 1584, and located in Trabzon, in the north-eastern part of Turkey.
Chengdu today is the thriving center of southwest China with a population of more than 12 million people best known for its climate, tea houses and hot pot. The shopping, subways, and Starbucks, tell of a modern world class city. But a second look, tells you about a city thousands of years old. Its temperate weather makes it perfect for the large population of seniors who enjoy the local environment. This inducement is what has attracted people to come here for generations.
Many feel the commonality and the peacefulness found here are the influences of Taoism and Buddhism that seem to permeate both the air and me here. (Just in the act of breathing you can feel it.) Its location near the headwaters of the Himalayas that become the great Yangtze River heading east to Shanghai begins to tell the story. But the narrative lies in its Buddhist, Taoist, and later Confucian roots, that together blends together to create a common feeling that tells you’ve arrived someplace special – as if Shangri La can’t be too far away in the distance. But then by closing your eyes you know you’ve already arrived. Perhaps even another doorway to Heaven. To what Lao Tzu saw and wrote about all those years ago. Something to emulate or mirror. You should stop by the Heming teahouse in the park sometime and look me up. I’ll gladly buy you a cup…
Qingcheng Mountain in Sichuan Province north of Chengdu. In ancient Chinese history, the Mount Qingcheng area was famous for being for “The most secluded place in China”. I came to Qingcheng in June 2015 and I am anxious the return. It is famous as a Taoist retreat over the centuries and has some of the greatest vistas of mountains anywhere. It is easy to see why the theme of getting back to nature and how closeness to the Tao and God are transposed into one’s persona as once having been there makes it difficult to leave. Mount Qingcheng is considered as one of the places where Taoism originated. The mountain was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, and featured in the Kung Fu Panda movies of 2011 and 2016.
Shangqinggong Temple is one of the most famous Taoist temples in China, and it sits near the top of Mount Qingcheng. A structure was first built during the Jin Dynasty (265–420), while the existing temple was completed during the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor (1856–75) of the Qing Dynasty. The main buildings are the gate, the main temple where Taishanglaojun is enshrined, a side hall, and the Yuhuang building. The main temple houses an image of Taishanglaojun, and treasured wood boards are carved with the full texts of the Taoist classic of The Virtue of the Tao and Huangdi. Behind Shanqinggong Temple are steps that go up 100 meters to the top of Mount Qingcheng, where a covered observation platform allows visitors to see the sunrise and the clouds. I still had to go to the Dujiangyan Waterworks and back to Chengdu on an hour-long train ride and then to my hotel. I stopped only a few meters from the platform and began my return to Chengdu. A good reason to return on my next trip to China.
The Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu, includes several of my favorite symbols illustrating the connection to Taoism and the I Ching that people historically share in Chinese history. One would be the Eight Trigrams Pavilion. The pavilion is an octagonal structure built on a square base and topped with a dome. Its structure follows an ancient Chinese idea of how the “Sky is round and earth is square”. The dome is glazed with colorful tiles and supported by eight pillars which are decorated with dragon images. Finally, the ceiling of the pavilion is decorated with several Taoist symbols. I have been here many times.
Three things stand out for me. First, the I Ching symbol with animals of the Chinese zodiac here at the front of the Eight Trigrams Pavilion along with the eight golden dragon pillars. Second, the twenty-four carvings showing the connection to individuals to dragons, the stars and the constellations, and third… the bronze goat you honor by stroking its beard as you seek compassion for others, contentment for yourself, and of course good luck.
Tradition says Lao Tzu came here to the Qingyang Taoist Temple to complete the writing of the Tao Te Ching after giving it to Kuan-yin when he stayed in Hangu Pass. However, he left before the whole Tao Te Ching was explained. He asked Kuan-yin to meet him in Qingyang a thousand days later. Finally, after both arrived the text was completed. From then on, Qingyang Palace (Temple) was regarded as a gathering place of the Taoist sage and immortals.
The Chengdu tea houses with their “corner table” now replacing Lao Tzu’s fabled inn at the mountain pass. From my book here on my website “My travels with Lieh Tzu”, I have written an account as to what Lao Tzu left with Kuan-yin. It follows similar discussions I have with old friends at the Heming teahouse described earlier: (just close your eyes and just image… you could be here too.)
The Corner Table
Wanting to continue the dialog with Kuan-yin, others come forward with the need to get involved in the discussion. To get in their own two cents worth. As many have come this way over the centuries and left with Kuan-yin bits and pieces of their knowledge and wisdom. The inn at the mountain pass the gateway to places where many have departed never to be seen as the person they were before. Many traveling this way. Not only the Taoists, but many who speak of the current thoughts of the hour. One’s entry only the desire to question authority and anything accepted by the standards or rules of the day.
Attention drawn to the table in the corner where many are speaking. Each taking his turn to add to the commentary at hand. Taoists, Confucians, Buddhists, Mohist, all. Each not questioning the legitimacy of the other, only adding to the discussion that which reaches the highest accord. Differences put aside for a while. Central themes the only point of discussion. As the plum wine flows and spirits reach higher and higher.
The discussion centering on the sage and his concern for knowledge, truth and falsehood, sincerity and where it all should lead. All agreeing on the principle that the sage knows what will go in by seeing what came out, knows what is coming by observing what has passed. This is the principle by which he knows in advance.
Concurring that when this knowledge is passed on to the world that those who cannot see beyond themselves cannot come forward to know the Way. That we judge by our own experience, verify by the experience of others. The Mohists present adding that if a man loves me, I am sure to love him; if he hates me, I am sure to hate him. They all agreed that Teng and Wu became Emperors because they loved the Empire. While Chieh and Chou were ruined because they hated the Empire. With everyone nodding around the table shaking his head with this knowledge their own verification.
Kuan-yin then adding that Lao Tzu had told him that when judgment and verification are both plain, refusing to act on them is like refusing to go by the door when you leave or follow the path when you walk. If you do this, will it not be difficult to get the benefit you seek?
Nods of agreement going around the table, all present in awe still that Kuan-yin had had such a privilege to have been the one to have taken down the words of Lao Tzu and could even now recite them so well. In the good-natured banter that followed, they all knew the above to be true as the red faced Kuan-yin tries to step back out of the limelight. As knowing glances around the table convey a togetherness, they just for this moment all share and cherish.
Several then chiming in together that they had observed this in the virtue of Shennong and Yu‑yen, verified it in the books of Shun and the Hsia, Shang and Chou dynasties. That they had reached their own conclusions by the exemplary scholars and worthy men they had each met. That they had never found a case where survival or ruin, rise and decline did not derive from this principle. With this, all those remaining could do was to thank the innkeeper for such great hospitality as each of those present paid their tally, went upstairs to sleep or outside to catch the wind and wonder. 7/30/1995
Other highlights I have visited over the years in Chengdu are the Wuhou Temple/Museum of the Three Kingdoms Period, the Wenshu Yuan Buddhist Monastery, the Sichuan Museum, Du Fu Thatched Cottage, Kuanzhai Ancient Street, Renmin Park, and many others places including the Leshan Giant Buddha to the south and the panda preserve to the north. Many of my students from my teaching days are from Chengdu and the surrounding area. As I have said before, I like Chengdu very much.
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, especially 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.
Continuing the story is the 6th Wing Number 6. 7 through 12 that will follow with later entries describes in greater detail the central meaning of the I Ching as cultivating stillness, our chi, feng shui, and much more. Everything here serves as a prelude, as if acknowledging “where are we doing ‘it’ from”. It’s that everything we’ve ever seen and done is what takes us there.
The Dazhuan 6th Wing Part II Number 6
To know the way of Ch’ien (light or Heaven) while holding onto Kun (dark or Earth)
Maintaining the connection with the divine forces of light, sometimes referred to metaphorically as the dragon, of constant energy in motion – as if the pill discussed in an earlier entry – is the key to our longevity. Understanding the two primal forces, the creative Qian, or Ch’ien, and the receptive Kun is the beginning. These two polar opposites and their movement and interaction determine all under heaven and the eternal aspects of each of us, as well as, all things found in nature.
The Master (Confucius) said, Qian and Kun are they not the double door of the I Ching with Qian the entity of yang and Kun the entity of yin. When yin and yang unite their powers, whole and broken lines are formed as the hexagrams that encompass the elements of both Heaven and Earth thereby bringing forth the power to communicate with the spirits. It was this power that transformed both the shaman and later the sage who would embody the image of the dragon as one who would exemplify the true intent of what was to later become known as the Tao.
The names of the sixty-four hexagrams are varied, but serve to remind us of the intent of our beginnings. Circumstances are described and actual situations expressed that bring to life the eternal meaning of the I Ching. While the I Ching has remained eternally constant, eras of decline and reconstruction come and go with our virtue the only thing that remains intact and eternal. It has remained the sage who has been responsible for reminding people of their origins and bringing them back to it.
Just as it has always been the Book of Changes, the I Ching, that has illuminated the past while looking to the future so that minute indications can be detected and obscurities made clear. The I Ching discloses that which is hidden and opens that which is dark. Given a name and decisive judgments everything is clear and becomes complete.
In illuminating the past, the applications of the I Ching become broad, it’s meaning far-reaching and judgments shown to be well ordered and make their point. Matters are plainly set out though the sense is profound with words that connect to the spirit.
When a choice is to be made the I Ching guides peoples conduct making clear whether a plan will succeed or fail. It reshapes our thoughts as we follow them. The secret is in finding one’s middle and not straying too far in either direction. Knowing rather the way ahead is open or closed ahead – and rather retribution for our past actions or rewards awaits us. Hidden things are revealed in time and space, first as names and relationships, then explicitly through the judgments; the ultimate being able to know the light while holding onto the dark.
As the I Ching became one and was fused over several millennia with the Tao, the language of cause and effect was used to describe it was as similar to the Tao.
Thus, the Dazhuan combines the two with the following words:
“The Book of Changes is vast and great. When one speaks of what is far, it knows no limits. When one speaks of what is near, it is still and straight. When one speaks of the space between heaven and earth, it embraces everything. Since the I Ching is seen as being in complete harmony with the Tao, it is able to provide representational images of the patterns of the cosmos so that people can associate their immediate life condition and change their lives to bring it into harmony with the Tao as harmonizing oneself with the Tao is the key to both life and death”.
This is the sixth 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 thereby creating a chance, an unspoken trust, to build on who we are meant to become.