Oct. 12, 2018 / Chengdu Opera

The songs we sing and stage we play on in eternity

I think life is about nuances, as if keeping up with and writing our own living history. Like words to a song or story that define who we are, how we live, and who we DSCI0412choose to become. From the earliest era, it has been the beat of the drum, bamboo flute, and other instruments, that we DSCI0369sang and danced to as we found our own natural rhythm. As if keeping tune with the universe, the stars above, and beating of one’s heart. The music has always been the anthem carrying the vibrations that convey, or tell, our emotions.  Creating a language beyond the need to speak or write defining one’s inner meaning and nature. It has always been the essence of connections, love and the voice of the poet and past.

As if we begin each life as an old song needing a new cover and for some looking for that lost love. As if a song needing some new stanzas to play serves to remind and refine us as the characters we get to play on our own stage. Perhaps only adding nuances, as if watching a movie several times seeing something new each time, as we add a new chapter or verse.  Do we build on the past, just begin anew, or maybe both? The choice seems 100_5777ours to make as we reconcile that which came before, with where we now go and who we will be when we get there. But it has always been the music, an internal beat from within, or rhythm we find that takes us there. Just as with the music we choose to play now that serves to define us, why shouldn’t we ourselves need several takes or “performances” to get it right. The best covers often play better than the original. As with the theater and life, we get to keep doing it until we get it right or the final curtain falls…or then does it? And we even get to 100_5778choose how we interpret the role we are here to play as our own living history and letting outcomes take care of themselves.

History is not just going to museums and remembering the past,  but seeing how things play out to the end. Why things happen are many times just as important as when. Why people acted or did things at the time tells us how popular culture defined the times. It is always the storyteller who leaves the trail, along many endless mediums. Someone did once say “the world is a stage.” We should at least learn to play our part. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to be a theater critic just yet.

It’s Friday, October 12th, I think if life is just the music we play, then since I’m in 100_5780Chengdu… a visit to the Chengdu Opera is in order, or we should say theater. To me opera is just a storyteller’s dream in song on stage acting things out. This afternoon I attended the theater. Attended by over two hundred people (mostly seniors) like me, this theater could be called “old school”. The story line was said to be hundreds of years old and portrayed Chinese interaction very well between the father 100_5787who asked 200 silver coins for the hand of his daughter, the poor student suitor she would meet and fall in love with at the Buddhist Temple and later marry, the matchmaker, and the foil, an older gentleman who had eyes for the young girl for himself who “gave” the suitor the money for the bride’s father… or so it seemed with the suitor getting the last laugh.

While they sang the story on stage, my friend relayed in English what was being said 100_5797and happening in every scene, as I took pictures. My friend Mr. 100_5790Lee, who invited me and did the interpretation said most foreigners don’t appreciate the older story lines as they don’t understand the “story behind the story” or Chinese history and it sometimes gets “lost in translation”.  I would have to admit that although I have never been much of a fan of opera, its probably because I didn’t think it appeals to me. What I didn’t know is like much we see in life, once I went I enjoyed both the story and amazing talent of those on stage. Much like the people just waiting to get to know us and for us them. Knowing the depth of our own story beforehand allows context that brings the music of both the theater and us to life.

I had the benefit of arriving an hour early and going backstage to meet the director 100_5775(who was also the leading character) 100_5771and watch as they put on their make-up, go over lines and sequencing of events. It was an education for me, and gaining appreciation for history and storytelling I hadn’t really considered. The director Mr. Fu, a stage veteran of more than 36 years, said variations of the performance called Lu Yao Zhi Ma Li, or “Mr. Lu Yao gets back at his classmate in a funny way”, have been told on stage well over a hundred years and this form of opera is over three hundred years old. My interest was certainly piqued, and I would come again…

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 9 – 11, 2018 / Chengdu

Tuesday, October 9th I left Huashan Mountain (Huayin) for Xi’an then on to Chengdu… On the mountain I was reminded that eternity may seem remote, but it is 100_5419here, right now in every precious moment, and you are one with it all, with nature. We are not here just to observe our life and the beauty that surrounds us. But to be reminded that it is all simply an extension of ourselves and the steps we are here to follow and take ourselves, to our responsibility to and for nature, and in turn the universe.

That your world is your sanctuary. We should all become Taoists at heart. The mountain itself, the pine trees, the birds singing their song of joy and eternal wisdom just for you – always in rhythm praising what lies below and the skies above. It’s easy to see how eons ago others saw the mountain as the gateway to heaven.  That you are free and immortal as you are. If a sabbatical has something to do with finding your life’s work, I think I have come on this journey to re-enforce the one thing I am good at… to remember and write about things long forgotten by others. Maybe here just to remind us to pay attention to the details of our lives and where they may lead.

Su Ch’e says, “Lao Tzu lived during the decline of the Chou, when artifice flourished and customs suffered, and he wished to restore its virtue through doing nothing. Hence at the end of his book he wishes he had a small state to try this on. But he never got his wish”.

Perfecting the Art of Doing Nothing

If living in retirement is a state of mind… then let mine be here in Chengdu. Life is like Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream. Are we awake or living a dream – and can it have mattered in the end? I’m beginning to understand the true meaning of wu wei. Finding and living in the state of virtue and being present… i.e., awake. It seems as though my entire life has fit the scope of Taoist thought as almost everything I’ve 100_5646ever done has amounted to nothing, except for my family and friends who I care for. It seems I’ve been more successful than I thought. Perhaps just waiting for my highest endeavor to find me and to follow it. It’s time to let living in the state of virtue reign supreme. Simply to let your innate nature come through as you live what the Tao has taught you. So here I am talking about Taoism, and here with the Buddha. Or even follow the development of Chan Buddhism in China that found the best of both (Buddhism and Taoism), as if “Finding the right Shoes”. Maybe even best expressed by what I wrote all those years ago… Perhaps even better said by doing nothing.

Finding the right Shoes

Father and son, tradition and innovation. Old ways and new things. Knowing patterns of one’s life brings purpose. Finding purpose through another man’s eyes is not easy. Conflict arises.  Immortality is questioned but always prevails.

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Finding one’s sense of purpose can not be left to earthly whim. Finding purpose in greater things allows one to escape from individual concern. Following footsteps may be old-fashioned, however those steps are honed in tradition and value.  Keeping to the right path is knowing how to find yourself in shoes that fit.

Tradition teaches that structure brings continuity. With continuity comes focus, focus brings clarity and with clarity one can find understanding in all things. Understanding patterns of one’s life brings integrity.

Well worn shoes may require soles, though once repaired the same shoes still can be left to fit the right feet. Find happiness and security in tradition and be eternally rewarded. Ancestors past and spirits yet to come will know comfort through your steps. Seek your own standards yet remain ever diligent. Remember from where you came and seek your own immortality.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the  I Ching                         (18 WORK / Mountain over Wind). 2/13/94

One thing for certain I know about myself – is I hate, abhor… anyplace where contention is present. It makes me wonder why, or how, I was interested in politics whatsoever. Except maybe to show the intent of heaven that reflects the best of all concerned. Maybe the world and even I are not quite ready for that yet. Ah – finding myself again on the mountain… or better yet the tea house on the lake at People’s Park in Chengdu once again away from contention and ego.

Wednesday morning I find myself at the Flipflop Hostel. This is my fourth visit to Chengdu and third to the Flipflop. Seeing a few of my students, re-visiting ancient sites and new ones I haven’t see for a while is like coming home. Some things are meant to be unexplainable I think, only felt from the heart. As if living the dream of your highest aspiration and then it becoming you. For me it’s going to those places that inspire me. Ultimately getting to the place that where I am is not as important as the memories I have gained from where and who I have been in history. As if here now only to be 100_5673continually inspired. Most importantly the only question remaining is – am I being true to my authentic self?

My friend Pablo from Chile I met at the mountain has joined me here in Chengdu at the Flipflop. It sounds like Pablo and I are headed today by fast train to the Leshon Buddha… stay tuned.

The Leshan Giant Buddha was impressive as it looked down on the convergence of two rivers. Legend has it that he was placed here to stop the flooding that caused so much havoc. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-meter (233 feet) tall stone statue, built between 713 and 803, depicting Maitreya. It is carved out of a cliff face of Cretaceous red bed sandstone that lies at the confluence of the Min River and Dadu River in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near 100_5711the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. They say it did help with flooding… for a while, but man continued to build.

In addition to the Buddha, I was most impressed by the Lingyan Temple adjacent to it, and especially the Cave of I 100_5685Ching. I have much to write here later when I have time. The pictures I took here were amazing. Adjacent to the temple is the Lingbao Pagoda.

I am continually struck by this idea of convergence of energies directed at the ultimate – where we fit in the universe. That regardless of our, what may be called 100_5699philosophical or religious leanings, there is no separation between us and all that there is now, has, or will be. How can something be good for me and bad for everyone and everything else?

Seeing this engraving of Lao Tzu here at the cave at the Lingyan Buddhist Temple heralding the I Ching says it all. This picture and it’s location here was worth the cost of the trip and I am not in Tibet yet. I think this expresses better than I could why my own Kongdan Foundation I began more than ten years ago is so important to me. It allows my the opportunity to express where I have been and illustrate the best way for me to take the next step enmeshed with the Tao.

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Its as if it’s all here. I spent about an hour last night with Yak, the tour operator here at Flipflop (its thursday morning here), discussing all this and showing him my 100_2229pictures and website. He was curious as to my take on Tibetan Buddhism after all I has done chronicling Buddhism in China over many years. His background was in ancient Chinese pottery and porcelain no less. He had spend time at the famous Jingdezhen kiln in south Jiangxi Province. (The picture here was made famous as an example of their work. It’s one I took at the British Museum in London in 2012). Anyway, visiting the famous kiln is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to China. And Yak, who spent several years in school there, has agreed to accompany me when I go.

Well, it’s Thursday (Oct 11) and calendar says I’m supposed to go with Pablo to Qingyang Mountain today but am delayed due to errands he is doing. It’s over a hour away by train to the north of Chengdu 100_5759and we’re running out of time to get there 100_5760and back today… well we didn’t make it.  We went to the Qingyang Taoist Temple, Kuan Alley for lunch, then I went to People’s Park Heming Teahouse before returning to the hostel. The teahouse was built in the 1920’s and is known as having the longest history of tea houses in Chengdu.

I made another visit to one of my favorite places in Chengdu with my friend Pablo  today, the Qingyang Taoist Temple. I think if I lived here in Chengdu, I would visit at least once or twice a week. I few pictures are below:

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Tonight I signed my “Tibet contract”… two pages requiring my signature. I have to leave for the Chengdu airport at 4:20 AM Sunday morning. I hope I don’t oversleep.



By 1dandecarlo

Oct 6 – 8, 2018 / Huashan Mountain and the Jintian Taoist Palace

Today,  (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at Huashan Lotus House International Youth Hostel / then go to 100_5603the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise.  6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan.

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit.  It’s too heavy and I have too many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots of notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels. But for now, I will leave you will one of the first things I wrote back in February 1994.

Inner Chapters   (The I Ching)

1.                                  Cloud Dancing

From the clouds dragons appear to those who have prepared. To the I Ching, 100_5453heaven is to found residing with dwellings of dragons who roam the sky resting in the clouds.

Do not look for me where you have found me before.  You will not see me where you have seen me before. Dancing in the clouds with the immortals is where I am to be found.

To be seen with dragons. Cavorting above it all. Beyond earthly endeavors.  A strong personality who with compassion and caring succeeds by seeing his destiny in the clouds.

Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the sky with chi. Cloud Dancing across the sky is easy – living with dragons is not. A group of dragons are seen riding the clouds disappearing through the sky. As we disappear, I look back and see dragons resting on clouds dwelling in the sky. An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching   (1 HEAVEN / Heaven over Heaven). 2/3/94

And now I am here. As I was leaving the mountain today (Monday, October 8th – my birthday), I was followed down a long pathway by two small bluebirds. They seemed to be trying to get my ear saying come back – come back. The pine trees, the mountain vistas, even the walkways leading up and down steep paths all seemed to say – why were you gone so long.

After three days on the mountain I return refreshed and invigorated, and feel I Hua2have walked for days (I have) up and down the five peaks of Huashan Mountain. From the initial bus ride and cable car that took me to the top, I had a feeling of being overwhelmed by the majesty of the mountains, pine trees, and nature. It is easy to see why Huashan is considered one on the five greatest mountains in China next to the Yellow River here in central China.

Coming to Huashan Mountain is for me in many ways a homecoming. It is famous 100_5597for Taoist retreats and ancient sages who came to visit and stayed. It is easy to see why. I stayed the the East Peak Hotel for two nights in a room for ten people (five bunk beds). My new friend Pablo from Chile slept 100_5547in a tent outside. On both days in the early morning it registered 10 to 15 degrees Celsius on both October 7 and 8 on the East Peak, also known as the Morning Sun Peak, and the hotel adjacent to the premier place on the mountain known as Mr. Yang’s Tower. I climbed twice on both days to see the sunrise.

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The makeup of the mountain is very interesting in the there are five peaks of 100_5561interest with many stops on the way to each of the peaks. I took a bus then a cable car to the top then traversed the five peaks while I was there. My friend Pablo actually walked up from the base of the mountain. The entrance at the base was only a few blocks from where I was staying. I chose the bus and cable instead. Saving my energy for when I got there. As mentioned earlier, traveling during the holiday was not a good idea. The mountain was crowded and made it difficult to get pictures and find a quiet place off the beaten path. I will return again in the future when not so busy.

Several areas caught my attention. First was the Blast Furnace, on a small peak to the west of the summit of the South Peak that is by tradition, the place where Lao 100_5595Tzu was to have 100_5517made pills for immortality.  There is a legend that says the monkey king was shut in the furnace for wrecking to much havoc in heaven.

Also by tradition, there are many man-made caves at Mt. Huashan. According to historical records more than seventy were created by a Taoist priest Ze Zhizhen for the purpose of providing other monks a secluded place to practice asceticism and understand Taoism. One in particular was called “the seeking quietness cave.”

Also on the South Peak is the Jinsuo Pass. Not far from the Central Peak, also known as the Jade Maiden Peak. Jinsuo 100_5448has great significance in Taoist history as 100_5449being called The Heavenly Gate. It sits close to the center of the four peaks near the top of the mountain. As if the dragons purposely designed a place where there was no going back. What got my attention was I was descending a section of steps after going downwards through The Heavenly 100_5596Gate, and after a couple hundred steps retraced my path back through the gate as if I had returned to earth and seen “human nature” and felt I was ready to return home to be with dragons once again. It makes me recall a story I wrote years ago in “My Travels with Lieh Tzu” as follows that sound too familiar. I find that physically, I may come down to adjust my light to the vagaries of humanity, but returning to be with dragons will always be my coming home.

A Visit with Old Friends

Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennia, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?

You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves. That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.

As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may too come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.

100_5466Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/95

Finally , of great interest was the Jintian Palace. I had a chance to speak to a couple of the monks here and take several pictures seen below.

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As I complete 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, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he 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 ChingThe Epilogue, final entry, appears below. Verses 1 through 81 were seen here on my most recent posts.

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.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Epilogue  – Preparing to return to utter Spontaneity

Simplicity, detachment, and virtue, the three anchors that through the ages have separated the sage from the rest of the world.  Emulating the Tao he recalls what came first, what remains empty and forever still.

The journey with Lao Tzu simply the process of coming forward to know the way of the sage is to act without struggle.  Everything coming forward to greet him to convey what was before him from the beginning.  That in the end he accumulates nothing assured that the more he does for others the greater his own abundance and that the way of heaven is to help without harming. Knowing this the sage finds his journeys complete.Preparing to return to the utter spontaneity found as one in complete harmony with the universe, the Tao Te Ching now completed.

As he prepares to depart up the familiar path to meditate in his garden pavilion seeking refuge to contemplate how far he has come, the sage is reminiscent about times spent with Lao, Chuang, and Lieh even Confucius, Mencius and all the others, he is confident that another step has now been completed.

His thoughts on becoming a sage now complete, he now thrives on virtue secure at his passing.

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By 1dandecarlo

Oct 4 – 5, 2018 Xian and Huayin

Xi’an was and is no different from all ancient cities in China, in that there were three constants that brought order to people’s lives.  First, a wall around the city to protect against intruders, and both a drum and bell tower to tell us it’s time to get up in the morning or retire at night. To tell us of coming danger and then when it is all clear. Beijing still has their ancient drum and bell towers. The wall around Beijing was removed when Mao came in in 1949.

In Qufu, a replica of exact dimensions of the AAQufu Drum Towerancient wall was re-constructed several years ago. While living within the wall in Qufu, I could step out onto Guluo Street from my apartment, look to my right and on a clear day see the ancient drum tower built in the Ming dynasty a couple blocks away. The bell tower was just around the corner. I could close my eyes and imagine the bell or drum tolling for me.

Why bring this to light now… this bit of trivia? If you are safe and the structure you need to get on with your life is apparent, you can do so with out worry. It’s what we unconsciously do… we look for and spend time creating our environment and structure to take us there. It is the sanctuary we create from within that saves us. The ancients knew this as how we connect with the sun, moon, stars, and nature. That connection was the I Ching, and knowing you can tell what comes out of something by knowing what went in (cause and effect). Who are we, but an extension of these – here now to expand the universe by and through our talents for and by beneficial means. To live in a place where our own permanence and enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion. That we each have a purpose. It’s what the ancient shaman long past told us about the connection, how a confluence appears, and that we are one with it to discover and find within ourselves. As we travel over the next horizon, perhaps to our own Shangri La. To something we simply forgot already resides within us.

In Xi’an, Mingcheng Wall is located in the downtown area of ​​Xian, Shaanxi Province. 100_5374It is the largest and most preserved ancient city wall in China. The wall is 18 meters high, the top width is 12-14 meters, the bottom width is 15-18 meters, the outline is closed rectangle, and the circumference is 13.74 kilometers. People in the city walls are used to call the ancient city, covering an area of ​​11.32 square kilometers. The famous Xi’an Bell and Drum Tower is located in the center of the ancient city. There are four main gates of Xi’an City Wall: Changle Gate (East Gate), Yongning Gate (South Gate), Anding Gate (West Gate), and Anyuan Gate (North Gate). These four gates are also the original gates of the ancient city wall. Since the beginning of the Republic of China, a number of city gates have been newly opened for the convenience of access to the ancient city. So far, there are 18 gates in the Xi’an city wall.

I am walking parts of the wall here in Xian later this afternoon, to contemplate this 100_5377idea of living in a place where our own enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion, yes it is a state of mind and living in the presence. And reminded of water surrounding the wall as extra line of defense. The water also provided drinking water for the inhabitants inside the wall.

First, a review of my journey thus far before heading tomorrow for Hua Mountain, Chengdu, and Tibet. All three to taking my spirit to places I’ve been waiting or longing for. As if a quiet comfort and excitement is just around the corner and I am ready for it.

But first three highlights thus far. It’s as if there is nothing new and nothings changed except faces in the crowds. I have to admit, I only give Confucius a cursery view here, but in fairness I have visited, lived and worked in Qufu over half of the past twenty years… I am Kongdan. Confucius contribution has been providing a sense of benevolence, structure, and virtue to Chinese culture and society for 2500 years. And equally important to me was “the first Sage”. The Duke of Zhou commonly known as Ji Dan, who resided here in Qufu five hundred years before Confucius who codified what was to become the “Book of Rites”.  Think about that. Add to that Taoism and Lao and Chuang Tzu and you have the connection to the shaman, I Ching, your environment, nature and understanding you are one with all… everything. There is no separation. We saw this on Songshan Mountain where Emperor Wuding came and announced that China’s past, present, and future depended on reliance on all three. That there was a confluence between Confucius, Taoism, and Buddhism. Then to Longman Grottoes and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda here in Xian, where Buddhism could take you there as your ultimate self. That it is in becoming universal you are one with it all and there is nothing to fear.

Getting to Huayin and Huashan Mountain

After checking out of the Han Tan Hostel, I made it by taxi to the bus station to go to Huashan Mountain and the Huashan Lanyue Youth Hostel. After a harrowing experience at the bus station where there was three options, first the bus loop for local stops, the train station, and some distance away the station I needed, I got a ticket and headed for the mountain. After a two hour bus ride we arrived and I got to my hostel. The proprietor, Ms. Yan, was great. She booked me for two nights (tonight Friday night and Monday night October 8th. She also reserved a bed for me at the East Peak Hotel at the top of the mountain for tomorrow night Oct 6 and Sunday, October 7th… I’ll have two chances at seeing the sunrise from the highest peak. Awesome. Tomorrow (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at hostel / then go to the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise.  6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan. 

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit.  It’s too heavy and I have many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels.

My initial thoughts before climbing the mountain

Just a little about Huashan Mountain and why I am here. So hard to express in words before making what is for me a lifetime achievement. As one who is a Taoist through and through, coming here is like the passageway on the mountain called Jinsuo Pass that serves as the hub of the East, West, North and South Peaks. I will crossover the pass this weekend. It is literally referred as “the Gateway to Heaven”. No kidding. The near and distant peaks seeming to reach beyond the sky. The peaks appear through the clouds as if visionary – as if all-knowing. I think this lends attraction to the Taoist nature seeing nature as all encompassing with clouds as the ultimate benchmark between heaven and earth. The seasons on the mountain appearing as a baptism of man’s spirit and place, as if here there is an experience of immortality. As you go up there is a sense that the pine trees are walking in the clouds. As if being present, using your breath as an anchor to the present moment, to cultivate ease and well-being, as you climb the mountain.

The ultimate for me is that the spirit of the dragon lives here as if rising above the clouds finding time glittering in the sun. It is as if there is no end to it. You can sense the spirit of the mountain joining as one with the sun, moon, and stars. The wind becoming music to your ears. As if time has carved memories into your heart and you have come to sing. Adjusting your temperament to what is your ultimate endeavor as your destiny becomes assured. The mountain becoming nothing more than a reminder of your own never ending conversation with nature and time. Walking up the path, climbing perilous peaks, seeing the sunrise, you are made whole once again. You have found the reason for the journey.

What remains constant here is the mountain, pine trees, and clouds. Ah the clouds. When I first began writing all those years ago, the dragons, my mentors called me“Cloud Dancing”. As if my highest endeavor now lies before me. Having dialogue with dragons is perilous at best. Always testing your mettle and simply asking are you ready and worthy. What is it we are here to do but to make the pledge to become our true selves and stay emboldened in the presence of our peers. As if we come to the mountain and entertain the peak to make a clear sound across heaven. The mountain’s role to show us piousness and to what lies ahead for us. Knowing the Tao we find the way along the footpath to the top and the sunrise, and hope, that awaits us.

The night before and I wonder “do I make the climb up the thousand foot precipice, and in doing so whatever fear that remains just evaporates like fog in the rising sun.” As if among the floating clouds and mist your mind opens and you no longer feel a separation as you become one with them. You have come home. Leaving behind a smile, a knowing, your own claim to the presence you now understand and become one with. The mountain here but a haven, a paradise for Taoism where immortality reigns supreme as your spirit is seen riding the endless sky…

I haven’t taken a step up the mountain yet – ask me again why I’m here.

As I complete 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, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he 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.  Verse 81 appear below. Verses 1 through 80 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verses 80 and 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao and his Furnace.

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 81 – Remaining in High Style

Remaining satisfied with just what you have as you are content to live as the extension of the Tao which has become the reflection of who and where you are.


Living within the Tao, the sage soon becomes aware that he is nothing more than an extension of what occurs in nature.  Enabling all to come forward to find their true place, not as the substitute for their action, but as one who empowers others to see beyond themselves as the sage stays in the background doing nothing.

Envisioning a place where there are tools that remain unused, where people have no need to move far afield, are easy with death and where it takes them, with places to go but no reason to travel, and defenses in place but no reason to defend them.  Satisfied with the fruits of their labor and content with where they find themselves as they go restfully to sleep each night.  Content with their homes and happy with their customs as they know the taste of the Tao and remain adorned with virtue. Even though others may  live close by they have no reason to visit as all they need they already have.

Su Ch’e says, “What is true is real and nothing more. Hence it isn’t beautiful. What is beautiful is pleasing to look at but nothing more. Hence it isn’t true. Those who focus on goodness don’t try to be eloquent, and those who focus on eloquence aren’t good. Those who have one thing that links everything together have no need of learning. Those who keep learning don’t understand the Tao. The sage holds onto the one and accumulates nothing”.

Chuang Tzu says, “When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted’ (33.5).

Wu Ch’eng says, “Help is the opposite of harm. Where there is help,  there must be harm. But when Heaven helps, it doesn’t harm. because it helps without helping. Action is the start of struggle. Where there is action, there must be struggle. But when the sage acts, he doesn’t struggle, because he acts without acting.”





By 1dandecarlo

Oct 2 – 3, 2018 Xian

I’ve been here before in June, 2014 for just three days. I only had time for a day trip IMG_4527to see the terra cotta warriors, then the Shaanxi National Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Temple of the Eight Immortals. I took hundreds of pictures then. One of the places I did not go that was of great interest was the Moslem Quarter. It’s Tuesday morning and I am here – for now – until Saturday October 5th at least. I think my next stop will be Hua Mountain, famous for Taoism and Lao Tzu…

It seems as though leaving Xian is a real problem due to holiday travel. Or maybe it’s something from long ago that needs my attention. Much of this trip was to be like leaving the world behind and now I’m pulled again to the past and can’t get away from it. Xi’an is one of the world’s great ancient cities, being most famous for its role as the starting point of the Silk Road. In the past, it was previously known as Chang’an. Xi’an is widely regarded as one of the greatest cities in Chinese history. During imperial dynasties such as the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang, this was the DSCI0054.JPGnation’s capital city. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Qin Sand Big Wild Goose Pagoda offers traces left behind by monk Xuanzang.

Xian was not the place to be as a scholar during the time of Emperor Qin when he had his terra cotta army built to protect him in immortality. Many of my friends died here, made to dig a hole and throw all the great literary works in – set them aflame – then forced to jump or be pushed in themselves… Anything representing “old” was destroyed. Many great literary works were burned and scholars killed by Emperor Qin. I think this is why when I come to Xian I walk the streets in sadness. Visiting the ancient sites that were DSCI0018here then, spending time at the museum just remembering those of us who came to such a brutal end. A sabbatical… it is a reminder of the freedom we seek to achieve our own highest endeavor, to identify with who we are in eternity and know nothing is more important than this moment and standing in the light. Any philosophy or religion to me, is only the vehicle that aids in taking you there. It is not the final be all – or end all – to where you are going.

Regardless of the time of year I am here there seems to be a chill in the air and the rain I feel is but the tears streaming down my cheeks. Sometimes I think our purpose is simply to pay tribute. Remembering both the good and the bad lest we forget, as we praise those who meant so much. As if in remembrance, returning to hear their sweet voices again, and have a place to contemplate as my voice, my writing and I gain strength from their eternal memory. Interesting hostel is playing Nora Jones “Come away with me… draggin down the road alone. You’ll be on my mind forever”. In retrospect, we are really never alone.

So I  checked with Maria and I would need to take a two hour bus to Huayin for the mountain. There is no train from Huayin to Chengdu so I would probably have to return here to Xian to then go to Chengdu. I can’t get a train to Qufu until October 9th. Maybe I could go to Qufu on the 9th and go to Chengdu on the 12th. Four stops before returning to USA. First Hauyin, then Qufu or return to Xian, Chengdu, Lhasa, then Beijing and home. Okay five. Whatever I’m going to do, time and space are of the essence.

The next time I even remotely suggest to myself or otherwise, that I come to China DSCI0049during the National Holiday (October 1-7), there should be no trouble convincing anyone that I am truly delusional. Millions of people on holiday – impossible to get a train anywhere – a taxi is impossible. Taxi stands at airports and train stations often hundreds of people long. I told staff at hostel that I wanted to go to Hua Mountain (today is October 2nd – I compromised, I plan to go on the 5th). They suggested I wait until after holiday and go on October 8th. Actually, I was hoping to be at the top of Hua Mountain on October 8th, my 66th birthday. I hope to spend it with Lao Tzu and complete my new version of the Tao Te Ching that I have been working on for a year now.

Wednesday, October, 3… Too hard to do Qufu so I will first get my fast train ticket from Xian to Chengdu hopefully on late afternoon or evening of October, 9th this morning. Then book Flipflop Hostel Oct 9 – 14th for departure to Tibet Sunday, Oct 14th. (I already have my plane ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa). Once done I will go ahead and book my return flight from Lhasa to Beijing for October 17th to arrive at Beijing airport for fight back to USA October 18th. After this is done, I will go to bus station here in Xian and purchase bus ticket for Huayin for Friday, Oct 5 and return to Xian, Tuesday morning , October, 9th so I can make my way to train station and Chengdu. And this trip is supposed to be about simplifying my life… Oh, and I need to do laundry today. Well, I got a ticket on fast train next Tuesday from Xian to Chengdu, secured reservation at Flipflop Hostel, after great effort was able to book ticket for 17th from Lhasa to Beijing, and will get bus tickets at station for Huayin on Friday.

All the great scholars and the sage ever wanted was the freedom to fill in the details of their own blank page. What it was that contributed meaning to their own path along the Way, or Tao. To have their say “for eternity’s sake”. Why climbing mountains following the way of nature has always been the closest observance of dragons, thier predecessors. As if endeavoring to get their attention and steps they should follow. They remind me now not to find sorrow in their passage here in Xian all those centuries ago. That tears to be shed, should be tears of joy, as they were simply returning home. That as the sage, you should find comfort in not always “fitting in”. As your place too will always be seen with dragons.

I wrote the below story in March, 1995. It could easily have been simply an essay meant to honor old friends.

Filling in the Details

Delight in knowing that you have always been on the edge and will remain there. Finding comfort in what would otherwise be considered chaos by others who will never travel to find their true destiny. If you have found true peace of mind, how can hardship enter the picture?  What comfort can be found in everyday events seen by others as needed to have some fleeting sense of contentment? Remain as the first word to be written on the next blank page waiting to be filled with what must come forth in truth, sincerity, and compassion.

Appreciating nature, both your own inner nature and that surrounds you. Your garden being wherever you are. Where trees grow leaves, where flowers attract bees and butterflies. Where wisps of clouds float between heaven and earth. Coming forward to know the happiness of all things nature provides and knowing where you fit in will always be present.

As all things change from instant to instant, is not remaining on the edge prepared to capture the new rays of each day’s sun, the ultimate that can ever be –  now and forever. Not found to be clinging to life’s fortunes. Knowing happiness can only be followed by sadness. That everything ebbs and flows in the balance of all things.

The ultimate that can be. Simply to be blown along with the winds of one’s life. Never knowing the outcome, only savoring the details found along the wayside. Find a place of quiet solitude where there can be no contention present. With everything around you at peace and harmony with its environment. As you come forward through your writing to fill the blank page with little or no concern for the time of your ultimate arrival.

Remaining free to continue on your way with Lieh Tzu and your old friends. Ready to begin anew the journey that you must begin again and again and again. 3/11/95

Karma can be a tough thing. Less that an hour and a half away from where I now sit is the site of Emperor Qin’s terra cotta warriors and his mausoleum. In what was seen as “fitting” by many, after the emperor’s death, his terra cotta were covered first by a wooden roof and then an earthen mound, the wooden roof was later set on fire.  The roof fell onto the terra cotta and broke his precious army into a million pieces. His Grand Library where all history was to begin with him, was also destroyed by fire ten years after his death. His legacy was not as he intended.

(I have several pictures to add here, but the internet signal is not strong enough where I am at. Once I get to another place where the signal is stronger… I will add them. I sometimes lose my entire content of a blog trying to add pictures. I’ve complained back in USA to WordPress and they say it’s the connection here in China, not their software. I find their explanation not too helpful though).

As I complete 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, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he 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.  Verse 80 appears below. Verses 1 through 79 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verse 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao and his Furnace.

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 80 – Staying in Step with the Tao

Cultivating ourselves while holding a marker as if attached and only concerned with the way of heaven.

The world is looking for the sage to come forward full of enthusiasm and direction to lead in the spirit of dragons and to show others their highest endeavor and destiny.  The world is looking to the sage once he has accepted the mantle as one enmeshed with the Tao.Making no claims on others while making demands only on ourselves as disputes come and go as if they are riding the wind. Here now only to test our direction and how far along we’ve come on our journey.

Once he has accepted his place in the scheme of things to come, nothing can stand in his way. As he simply embodies the Tao in his every thought, action and deed his every step continues to become second nature…

Ho Shang Kung says, “Although the sage governs a great state,he thinks of it as a small state and is frugal in the use of its resources. Although the people are many, he thinks of them as few and is careful not to exhaust them.”

Wang An-Shih says, “When the people are content with their lot, they don’t concern themselves with moving far away or going to war.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “People who are satisfied with their food and pleased with thier clothes cherish their lives and don’t temp death. People who are content with their homes and happy with their customs don’t move far away. They old old and die where they were born.”

Ch’eng Hsuan says, “They are satisfied with their food because they taste the Tao. They are please with their clothing because they are adorned with virtue. They are content with their homes because they are content everywhere. And they are happy with their customs because they soften the glare of the world.”



By 1dandecarlo

Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2018 Longman Grottoes and on to Xian

I think the trip is catching up with me… in more ways than one. I seem to have eaten something that didn’t sit well, or not eating enough. Today is Sunday, September 30th and I’m heading by taxi to the Longman Grottoes, although I’m not sure how long I’ll last. Hopefully not too much walking today. There is lots of information on the internet as to history, and I will add more later when I feel better. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day that I may have been experiencing a far greater hunger than just filling my stomach.

For now I’m just going to try to add a few pictures I took along with some of my thoughts:

As I look at the side of the mountain and think of those who might have carved out of stone 100_5354these caves and statutes south of Luoyang all those centuries ago, quite possibly after a long trek covering several months or even years to get here over the Silk Road or from the southwest and Xian. I can only marvel at their work and their religious veracity. And what was in all likelyhood their mantra – repeated over and over again with every strike 100_5334of the hammer and chisel as they did their life’s work. As they repeated those four magic words over and over again with every strike of the hammer.


These words can be translated and have a universal meaning:

OM – The Jewel in the Heart of the LOTUS! The deep resonate OM is all sound and silence throughout time, the roar of eternity and also the great stillness of pure being; when intoned with the prescribed vibrations, it evokes the ALL that is otherwise inexpressible.

The MANI is the “adamantine diamond” of the Void – the primordial, pure and 100_5348.jpgindestructible essence of existence beyond all matter or even antimatter, all change, and all becoming.

PADME – In the lotus – is the world of phenomena, samsara, unfolding with spiritual progress to reveal beneath the leaves of delusion the mani-jewel of nirvana, that lies not apart from daily life but at its heart.

HUM has no literal meaning, and is variously interpreted perhaps simply as a 100_5353rhythmic exhortation, completing the mantra inspiring the chanter as a declaration of being (like the stone carvers here at Longman Grottoes), symbolizing the Buddha’s gesture of touching the earth at a moment of enlightenment. As if saying all that is or was or will ever be is right here in this moment.

For myself, I am especially attracted to the mythical embodiment of the Buddha, called a Bodhisattva known as Avalokita Ishuara – who is seen as “The Lord that looked down in compassion”. He represents “the divine within” sought by mystics and has been called “The Lord that is seen within”.

100_5337Maybe this is the answer as to why the Buddha is always seen smiling. Could it be as though reaching the ultimate state of heart and mind within ourselves? Perhaps living within one’s own “true nature”. It is the Avalokita… ie., the Presence within each of us.

Am I becoming a Buddhist? I don’t know. I still am a Taoist at heart. But I can see how the two became intertwined in Chinese history, religion, and culture. I still have those two things called discipline and patience to work on – and a sense that I still have a way to go yet. For myself, it has always been about the freedom to breathe. Perhaps an anomaly – always the outlier. But maybe not – maybe it is the sense of ultimate freedom yet to be found – I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll find it on this trip. Perhaps I will look for Avalokita when I get to Lhasa in a couple weeks. Or maybe I should just ask the stone carvers here at the Longman Grottoes. They obviously knew the answer. (with excerpts from Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard).

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On Monday I had recovered somewhat and spent most of the day updating my blog. I need to leave by taxi at three for the fast train station to pick up my ticket for a 5 PM departure. (I did find a KFC at the train station in Luoyang, I’m better now). I arrived in Xian about 7:30 PM and took a long taxi ride to the Han Tang Hostel.








By 1dandecarlo