On Tuesday September 18 I arrived in Beijing about 2 PM went through customs at the airport, got my luggage and took a taxi to Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel where I will spent two nights before leaving on thursday for Qufu. I spent the evening arranging my meeting with my publisher here in Beijing tomorrow to get paid for editing a book that was published was year. I also finished inserting pictures for my last post. I always seem to be both tour guide and working on my own self awareness. My focus today is on awareness. My “practice” is serenity, discipline, and patience. Accepting things as they are always seems to be the challenge.
Three things I must try do today (9/19): go by South Train Station to pick up my ticket to go to Qufu tomorrow night, second go by publisher’s office, and third, make my way to the National Museum (I didn’t make it to the museum… maybe tomorrow). This morning I’m listening to Cardinals game against Atlanta. When games begin at 7 PM in USA… they begin at 7 AM here… GO CARDS! They won 9-1. If time, I want to make my way to Beihai Park this afternoon. It seems half my time when I am in Beijing is either waiting for or riding in a taxi. Traffic here is awful… too many cars. On my way back to USA in mid October, I hope to have time to go to the White Cloud Taoist Temple here in Beijing. I went with friends in 2005, but would like to make a return visit.
What I want to do in my full day here in Beijing is try to focus on acknowledging that both inside and outside are to same. I think that’s the serenity part and coincides with ‘inner peace”. The point of this is we will go there. That the outer is simply a reflection of our inner selves and how that is implemented through being in touch with our environment is known as feng shui… One place I especially like is adjacent to the Forbidden City called Beihai Park. It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. Beihai Park is said to be built according to a traditional Chinese legend. The story is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called ‘Penglai’, ‘Yingzhou’ and ‘Fangzhang’ located to the east of China. Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine which would help humans gain immortality. Many emperors succumbed to this desire to remain in power as long as possible. Some spent many sleepless nights pacing around the lake in Beihai Park hoping the elixir would soon be discovered. After all, the emperor was considered to be the “son of heaven”, the representative of the deity here on earth responsible for all around him.
Lessons in Feng Shui. It was believed that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects. So from then on almost every emperor during succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with “a one pool with three hills’ layout” near his palace. Beihai Park was built after this traditional style: the water of Beihai (Northern Sea) with Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) is the Taiye Pool; the Jade Flowery (Qionghua) Islet, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains. Beihai Park was initially built in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) and was repaired and rebuilt in the following dynasties including Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1115 – 1911). The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) generally established the present scale and pattern.
To the northwest in the park is the Nine-Dragon Wall, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides and is among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are located in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Wall is about 90 feet (27 meters) long, 21.8 feet (6.65 meters) high and 4.7 feet (1.42 meters) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons.
I have this thing about Chinese dragons. Every time I see this depiction of dragons I think of Chinese history about the sage who embodies heavenly qualities. Adjacent to both the Forbidden City and Tienanmen, the park is extremely popular… When I am in Beijing and have an afternoon free I like coming to Beihai. In Spring you can almost feel the immortality they were seeking in the air.
National Museum in Beijing
Opposite Tienanmen and the Forbidden City is the National Museum. This morning I begin here. Thursday (9/20) was primarily spent at the National Museum. I had forgotten that more than ten years ago I regularly visited a friend whose government office was in the restricted access area adjacent to the museum. I was most impressed with the Buddhist collection and ancient roll paintings.
Beijing’s premier museum is housed in an immense 1950’s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tienanmen Square, and claims to be the largest in the world by display space. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the outstanding Ancient China exhibition alone, with priceless artifacts displayed in modern, low-lit exhibition halls, including ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. You’ll need your passport to gain entry. The museum is located at Guangchangdongce Lu, Tienanmen Square. The hours are from 9 am to 5 pm Tue-Sun, last entry 4 pm.
What first got my attention today is the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition. I believe this is the same jade suit that I saw at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City in Spring 1975 when it was a part of the traveling exhibit from China. It was made for the Western Han dynasty king Liu Xiu. Many highlights including the life-sized bronze acupuncture statue dating from the 15th century. A 2000-year-old rhino-shaped bronze zūn (wine vessel) is another standout.
The Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor, and the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are what I especially liked.
The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing (originating in the Office of the National Museum of the Revolution founded in 1950 to preserve the legacy of the 1949 revolution) and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing (with origins in both the Beijing National History Museum, founded in 1949, and the Preliminary Office of the National History Museum, founded in 1912, tasked to safeguard China’s larger historical legacy).
The building was completed in 1959 as one of the Ten Great Buildings celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It complements the Great Hall of the People that was built at the same time. The structure sits on 16 acres and has a frontal length of 1,027 feet, a height of four stories totaling 130 ft, and a width of 489 feet. The front displays ten square pillars at its center.
After four years of renovation, the museum reopened on March 17, 2011, with 28 new exhibition halls, more than triple the previous exhibition space, and state of the art exhibition and storage facilities. It has a total floor space of nearly 200,000 square feet of display.
The museum, covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history), and has a permanent collection of over a million items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.
Among the most important items in the National Museum of China are the “Simuwa Ding” from the Shang Dynasty, the square shaped Shang Dynasty bronze zun decorated with four sheep heads, a large and rare inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty, bronze water pan, a gold-inlaid Qin Dynasty bronze tally in the shape of a tiger, Han Dynasty jade burial suits sewn with gold thread (mentioned above), and a comprehensive collection of Tang Dynasty tri-colored glazed sancai and Song Dynasty ceramics. They are depicted below.
A Western Han Dynasty jade pillow from the tomb of the Prince of Chu in Shizishan, Xuzhou, and Jiangsu province
A Song Dynasty copy of the Portraits of Periodic Offering of Liang, dated to the 6th century, depicting ambassadors from various tributary states.
Since visiting the Lama Temple last year here in Beijing, I have gained a better appreciation of it’s importance. Nature seems to be the focus where this connecting the inner with outer where roofs, frescoes, arches, tapestries, Tibetan prayer wheels, and tantric statues mingle with dense clouds of incense. Today is no exception. When you arrive you are handed incense and are encouraged to use it. This is considered the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The Lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng.
I have often talked about the influence of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism, but now still in Beijing having gone to the Lama Temple I think I should talk a little more about Buddhism, especially since over the next few weeks Confucius will take center stage. It was inspiring to see so many people worshiping at the Lama Temple here in Beijing. In what is not meant to be definitive by any means, it is following what is known as the “Eight Fold Path” that focuses on three things that begins to move a person in the right direction and gain appreciation for Buddhist thought. Many people feel we can follow another religion and still live a life adhering to these principles. Those three are right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
We all live in one world. When on the path, it becomes a thoughtful world acting as if vibrations of energy. Our words we speak serve as a blanket for those people around us. As if saying words of loving kindness through the power of our tongue. It is important that as we give right speech, we remember the good and harm we can cause by thinking first. Think – Is it true, helpful, important, kind, and necessary. That we travel on a journey not concerned with the destination. With this we walk in a centered way. It is important that we treat ourselves with loving kindness and know the value of right speech. With this we can begin to understand the ultimate nature of reality by speaking with integrity and truth. We become an observer of those around us and our environment and speak with words of appreciation. Our role becomes one not to add to negative or bad energy. That we are here to uplift the world.
How do we do this, through right action. By doing no harm and understanding the laws of karma, i.e., the measure we give is what we get. It is not enough to know the truth, you have to begin by having control over your dominion. Staying aware as if called to a higher path and practicing consciousness. We make the right choices as if witnessing our own actions. We do this through service to others. We find ourselves in the right livelihood that helps to train us to be in conscious awareness and live through loving kindness.
I leave this evening to go to Qufu. My friend Maria will meet me at the airport.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 74 and 75 appear below. Verses 1 through 73 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks. Hopefully, I can complete this journey through Lao Tzu on this trip to China.
A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 74 – Acceding to the will of Heaven
Everything under the sun must take its turn. Impatience and ego the only deterrent from our recognizing our good when heaven comes forth to greet us. It is in daring to act without virtue that we fail when keeping still defines who will benefit and who will be harmed.
Who can know the will of heaven? Can only those who accept the path to enlightenment who live under the auspices of the Tao come closer than any other? It is as if two people are confronted with the same choice.
One will follow the instincts of heaven and the other the instincts of self-interest. Why does one see the way beginning within himself ultimately leads to virtue and the will of heaven through detachment from the world. While the other cannot see beyond himself and the material world he covets. The sage knows that all things under heaven eventually come to pass to find each one of us. It is what we grab onto that determines our way.
That is why cause and effect and yin and yang of everything imaginable must occur. Light must become dark, just as the four season’s change. All things have their time that leads to their ultimate unfolding. This underlying truth is the path to reason. The way of heaven wins easily without a fight because it already knows the outcome and will see things through to their end.
It answers with a word as the natural progression of cause and effect, comes quickly without a summons protecting those who, with grace, follow the way and plans ingeniously without a thought as the natural extension of the Tao. It’s net is all embracing and nothing escapes it.
Each beginning must follow with its rightful end just as every end is simply the beginning of something else. Death following life and life following death as we continually leave our spirit to find its own ultimate endeavor and destiny.
Tin Wen says, “Lao Tzu says if people are not afraid to die, what good is threatening to kill then? If people are not afraid to die, it is because punishments are excessive. When punishments are excessive, people don’t care about life. When they don’t care about life, the ruler’s might means nothing to them. When punishments are moderate, people are afraid to die. They are afraid to die because they enjoy life. When you know they enjoy life, you can threaten them with death” (2).
Li Hsi-Chai says, “This implies that punishments cannot be relied upon for governing. If people are not afraid of death, what use is threatening them with execution? And if they are afraid of death, and we catch someone who breaks the law, and we execute them, by killing one person we should be able to govern the rest. But the more people we kill, the ore break the law. Thus punishment is not the answer.”
Ming T’ai -Tzu says, “When I first ascended the throne, the people were unruly and officials corrupt. If ten people were rescued in the morning, a hundred were breaking the same law by evening. Being ignorant of the Way of the ancient sage kings, I turned to the Tao Te Ching. When I read: ‘If the people no longer fear death / we do we threaten to kill them,’ I decided to do away with capital punishment and put people to work instead. In the year
Verse 75 – Finding our Place in Heaven
For those who have not taken up their personal journey; for those who have not awakened midstream to find themselves embracing something beyond themselves that cannot be explained but makes perfect sense; for those who fail to pass judgment on themselves and all around them, yet see clearly, does not the final answer come forward with how they perceive their own death and innate fear of losing what life they have until they figure it out.
Throughout the ages and passed along from each generation and centuries too numerous to mention has not this overriding question of immortality and the efforts to embrace it been the endeavor of even the most devout sage with thoughts of death and destiny and questioning who are we to judge the will of heaven.
The sage is guided by the knowledge that as long as people fear death, forces close by will always be near to do them in. If we in turn substitute the will of heaven for our own, are we ourselves likely to meet our own untimely end?
If as stated earlier, the net of heaven is all-embracing its mesh remaining wide so that nothing escapes it, then does not everything eventually find its rightful place under heaven?
Li Hsi-Chai says, If those above take too much, those below will be impoverished. If those above use too much force, those below will rebel.This is a matter of course. When someone thinks his own life is more important, and he disregards the lives of others, why should others not treat death lightly. The sage doesn’t think about life unless he is forces to.”
Ho-Shang Kung says, “Only those who do nothing to say alive, who aren’t moved by titles or sinecures, who aren’t affected by wealth or advantage, who refuse to serve the emperor or run errands for lesser lords, they alone are more esteemed than those who love life.”
Ten Tsun says, “The Natural Way always turns things upside down. What has no body lives. What has a body dies. To be alive and to seek advantages is the beginning of death. Not to be alive and to get rid of advantages is the beginning of life. Those who don’t work to live live long.”
As a preface for continuing my journey, I am first directed back to the Beijing Museum and my thoughts going forward. There was an immense presence from the Buddhist statues and spirit of Chinese antiquity. I asked about my pilgrimage to connect Buddhist/ Confucius/Taoist thought with the world and asked “who am I supposed to be” the answer was to simply be who I am supposed to be. Simplify to nothing and continue on your way. It is through sincerity and compassion that your innate traits of goodness appear – Keep to the Tao. Don’t let lack of attention by others to your writing slow you down. You write only for your own enlightenment and to share this with others. Keep to your path and always remember, it is not where you are that is important. It is who you are and how your essence reflects on those around you. Go to Tibet. Continue to be inspired letting the dragons take you to new heights and know that they are pleased. Sincerity, discipline, and patience; your “work” is only these three and keep to the path as you were told in the beginning. Have faith and let your grace and goodness be your guide – love and you will be loved. From here, continue on your retreat and be filled with who you are yet to become letting go of all other things. Keep to the open road as you are living in dolpo – in the middle – when it is time to go one way or another you will know and the path will be made clear. Don’t despair or get caught up in your daydreams. Just share your goodness through your writing. This way the message to others and yourself will be evident. Follow the path you have laid out all these year ago. There can be no rush. There is nothing to rush to – just acknowledge who you are and go there.
I arrived last night by fast train from Beijing and was met by my friend Andy. (Shu) Initially my plans are to be here for three days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday), then on Monday morning leave for Luoyang. I will return to Qufu for the Confucius festivities on Thursday, September 27th. Planning for the rest of my trip will happen this weekend, especially arrangements to go to Tibet. Stay tuned…
When I am in Qufu it is as if I walk on sacred ground. It is as Ekhart Toll, the great English philosopher said… “We are one with the universe and the universe is one with us, or better said I am one with God, and God is one with me”. It is as though we are living history when we can accept our role and to become one with it. The dragons, or sages, all came through here. Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 1000 BC, was here five hundred years before Confucius came in 500 BC, and the Yellow Emperor, Huandi, the great shaman and instigator of what would become the I Ching one day more than a thousand years earlier in 2700 BC. All were from Qufu. How am I to add to what has already been said and written? Maybe it to to transcend the limitations of language. I am reminded again of the three things I need to work on – sincerity, discipline, and patience. But then, I am blessed to have many friends and acquaintances I have made as a teacher and my activities in the almost twenty years I have been coming to Qufu.
Today was a day for catching up with old friends and making travel arrangements. I met with the headmaster of the Confucius College, Mr. Buan Yan Ping on Friday morning (9/21) being one. After first going by to see another friend, Dr. Hua and updating my membership in the Confucius/I Ching Society, I served as Vice President of the national association last year. I then went to visit the Confucius College where they asked me to teach a couple classes and have lunch with the students.
As we got ready to have lunch, the students all rose and said the following:
感恩父母的养育之恩 Thank parents for their upbringing.
感恩老师的辛勤教导 Thank teachers for their teaching.
感谢同学的帮助与关心 Thank classmates for their help and concern.
感谢农民的辛苦劳作和所有付出的人 Thank farmers for their hard work and all those who give.
对饮食，勿拣择 Don’t pick up the food.
食适可，勿过则 Don’t over eat.
或饮食，或坐走，长者先，幼者后 Eat or sit, the elder first.
一粥一饭当思来之不易 Food is hard to come by.
食不语，请老师先吃 Eat quietly. Teachers first.
Later, after lunch, I met Chris and his wife Vicky at the Shangri La Hotel where they both work and with another friend Maria who helped me to book my train tickets for Luoyang for Sunday evening. Later I spoke to my friend Jenny who is a teacher. Jenny did the translation from English to Chinese for the Daily Words which we published here in Western Shandong Province in 2006 and 07. Finally, I spoke to Yak in Chengdu about my travel arrangements to go to Tibet, especially getting to Lhasa and the best dates for the tour. I am to send copies of my passport and visa information tomorrow to begin the paperwork. (We sent over Andy’s phone). My plans later changed because of holiday. I was not able to get a return train ticket to Qufu to see Jenny and her family on this trip.
There is a naturalness here. I felt it the first time I came almost twenty years ago. Acceptance and who you are is self-evident and plain to see for everyone you meet. As if I am finding my own step following the footsteps of Confucius and so many others before me. It seems I have always been a living embodiment of an anomaly never really fitting in or caring as if there is someplace else I am meant to be. Rarely satisfied with the way things are, always seeing through to what can or should be. It seems as though the more I attempt to have the outer world be a reflection of my inner self – the less the outer world caught up with the status quo and “outer stuff” appeals or relates to me. In Qufu, it is connecting with your inner spirit that makes you “attractive” to others on a similar journey. A feeling that is universal to not just Qufu. As if I don’t have to detail the history here of Confucius because it is on the face of all you meet. Over half of the more than 80,000 people here have the last name Kong. Confucius family name and are descendants. Hence, here I am simply Kongdan. Over the centuries it doesn’t matter where I am – this will always be home.
Just being here in Qufu with old friends is enough. On Saturday morning (9/22), I do what I always do in Qufu and that is to walk. I found myself at a tea shop I often visited with the owner Mei. We had lunch over a bottle of wine and I bought a dragon/phoenix tea holder. We will have dinner again after I return from Luoyang over the holiday. ( As stated above, I was unable to return to Qufu on this trip. I asked Andy to convey my disappointment to Mei).
That in following the Tao we have no plans. We learn to go with the flow of life and do what comes naturally in unison with our essence, or soul.
That being present is always enough. What I like about Qufu is the is no pre-supposition as to what outcome will occur – just be yourself and the universe comes to greet you – those you see and meet are on a similar path – you are here for them and they are here for you. Where you find yourself you can’t stay there for long. As if fleeting your light travels fast and shadow never lingers. Your essence only left behind for those to ponder their own fate and what can be seen as important in where they see themselves just now, and where it takes them. In every circumstance you are present for only an instant before moving on. The status quo is not for you to bother. Others caught up in their day dream must come to the light within and wake up mid stream in their own life. That everyone is coming from the same place. It it not necessary to expand further on Confucius or others just now, because you are the essence of everything – the Tao is you and you are the Tao.
There is a symmetry, a certain flow of or lives we all seek. A sense of connection to what appears as universal that answers who we are and what it is we seek. Something all great artists, philosophers and writers have found to some degree. What Monet and DaVinci found and knew, what Edison, Einstein, Emerson,and Walt Whitman knew. In China it was what Lao Tzu, Confucius, and many others found. It was the ultimate meaning in the Shangri La story that so invigorates us, our soul, or essence, our chi. It is what the shaman knew all those centuries ago from following the stars, the heavens above – then going there.
It’s what I was returning to the instant I knew I found, or re-discovered it, on my first trip to Qufu in October 1999. Yes, it was represented in a place, but it only serves to remind me of what I am here to do. For years everyone has wanted to know why I keep coming to Qufu (especially the security bureau and police. It was this trip and just a couple days here spent in Qufu that the sense staying in flow of where I have been takes me to my next step… to Luoyang via fast train. Tonight I arrive in Luoyang for my next step in my journey.
Pictures from this trip to Qufu…
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 76 and 77 appear below. Verses 1 through 75 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks. Hopefully, I can complete this journey through Lao Tzu on this trip to China.
A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 76 – In death the Tao acknowledges the Sage
Before there was considered to be a force in the universe that would be known as God there was the Tao. Before there existed the myriad of shamans, saints, priests and holy men considered to be here to lead the way, there was the Tao.
As the ten thousand things came forth from antiquity to manifest and begin the cycle of being born, dying and being born again continually as the natural extension of the way, the sage ultimately came forth as one protected by dragons. The dragons, but those who have been chosen to impart simple virtue as those who follow the correct path or way of heaven.
The sage coming forward to find that the reason there is suffering or hunger for life is that others impose too many restrictions on how we should live, therefore people remain unfulfilled. That the reason people are hard to get along with is that those who would lead the way have forgotten the path in which all should follow. However, when death follows as the natural course of events after everything has passed through him and acknowledges his ultimate place in the universe, the loving life becomes secondary as eternal life comes forth to greet the great sage.
Loving God and what He and the Tao teaches, he simply lets his enthusiasm come naturally as the centuries have shown him the proper way.
Ho-Shang Kung says, “When people are born, they contain breath and spirit. This is why they are soft. When they die, their breath ceases and their spirit disappears. This is why they are hard”.
Lao Tzu says, “The weak conquer the strong”.
Wang P’ang says, “In terms of yin and yang, yin comes before, and yang comes after. In terms of Heaven and Earth, Heaven is exalted, and Earh is humble. In terms of Virtue, the soft and the weak overcome the hard and the strong. But in terms of material things, the hard and the strong control te soft and the weak. The people of this world only see things. They don’t understand Virtue.”
Verse 77 – Letting your Enthusiasm open every door
Fortunate again to be born into weakness, we are soon caught up in what may be perceived as making us strong.
Lieh Tzu, my friend and mentor, tells the world that t.”he path to victory is weakness. As the hard and strong lead people away from the Tao, they do so with great effort. Confused into thinking that our strength is needed to help us find our way when just the opposite, our weakness, will bring us victory.
They refuse to remain still letting events come to them. Convinced that controlling what occurs they will find their direction. Remaining oblivious to what remains effortless may just appear as weakness.
Observing the simple, letting everything play out to its own conclusion, the sage appears soft and seemingly weak. When things become hard and stiff they can only be close to their end. Remaining supple and bending with the wind the soft and weak can stay in tune with life.
Staying within the confines of his own virtue, the sage easily converses with his mentors bringing nothing hard and fast to the table. He confines himself to his humble beginnings letting the Tao lead the way. Letting his enthusiasm remain his signature that softens every encounter he is not bound by things seemingly apparent in the world as he opens every door that finds him.
Kao Heng says, “In attaching the string to a bow, we pull the bow down to attach the string to the top. We lift the bow up to attach it to the bottom. If the string is too long, we make it shorter. If the string is too short, we make it longer. This is exactly the Way of Heaven.” (this is based on the Shuowen, which says, “Chang means to attach a string to a bow.”
Lu Hui-Ching says, “The Way of Heaven does not intentionally pull down the high and lift up the low. It does nothing and relies instead on the nature of things. Things that are high and long cannot avoid being pulled down and shortened. Things that are low and short cannot avoid being lifted up and lengthened. The full suffer loss. The humble experience gain”.
Wang P’ang says, “The Way is Heaven is based on the natural order. Hence it is fair. The Way of Man is based on desire. Hence it is not fair. Those who possess the Way follow the same Way of Heaven”.
I am posting my tentative schedule so we can book the train schedule and airfare between cities. Maria is trying to help with the fast train tickets. Very hard over the holiday.
Currently I am staying at the Luoyang Anximen Hostel until Thursday (9/27) then the Luoyang Heartland Hostel until Monday, October 1st. I would travel from Luoyang to Xian on Monday 10/1 and stay at the Xian Hentang House until Friday, October 5th. First thing I learned in all the years I have traveled here in China is you must be flexible. Second, I should stop coming during holiday when travel is difficult.
Everything changed for the balance of my trip this afternoon (Tuesday 9/25). Travel to Tibet was moved from October 10th-13th to 14th-17th. I checked flights and I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th.
All of the dates are tentative due to difficulty in getting tickets, summary: 10/1 Luoyang to Xian and hotel there is all that is confirmed for now. I need to cancel Chengdu Flipflop booking and reschedule for later in the month if needed. Airplane tickets summary: 10/14 Need to be in Lhasa; 10/17 Lhasa to Beijing and 10/18 Beijing to USA.
Luoyang was home and capital of thirteen dynasties, until the Northern Song dynasty moved it east to Kaifeng in the 10th century. Both the Tang and Sui dynasties were centered here in what was considered the height of Buddhist influence and demonstrate how the connection between Luoyang and early Buddhism became so important. At one point there were 1300 Buddhist temples here. Luoyang was home to many emperors and had lasting importance to early Chinese history.
Luoyang was the capital city for the longest period, the most dynasties, and the earliest time compared with the other ancient capital cities. Luoyang lies in the Central Plain surrounded by mountains, which were natural barriers against invasions. Apart from its favorable geographical location, Luoyang had an agricultural advantage as several rivers flow through it. Therefore, 105 emperors of 13 dynasties set their capitals in Luoyang during China’s history.
Luoyang was the center of politics, economy, and culture in China for 1,500 years. Since the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC), Luoyang had begun its history as a capital city. In the Western Han Dynasty, Luoyang was not chosen as the capital, but the ruler still attached great importance to the city. There is so much history here that I want to come back to Luoyang for further study. It is said Lao Tzu lived here for a while and Taoism got it’s beginnings of Mount Song where I will visit while I am here.
On Monday (9/24) I went with three students by bus to the Buddhist White Horse Temple. I took several pictures until my battery stopped then I used my phone camera for a few more. Many I encounter think I am brave to travel alone where I can’t speak the language. But I counter that I generally know them by their history than they know themselves. After seeing my writing they mostly agree.
What struck me was the continuing presence as if the joining or coming together of history with one’s natural environment and connecting this with the universe, or divine spirit within us and that which surrounds us as well. To be treated as if you are coming home to visit something that is innately a part of yourself. Something you have always known, but simply needing to be reminded. This seems to be the motive behind all these ancient “temples”. What we in the west today would describe as “parks having great historical and religious significance”. They bring a sense of longevity and simplicity to it all spanning thousands of years and being reminded that both the inner and outer are the same reality we each choose to live every day. The Buddhist White Horse Temple on the outskirts of Luoyang has always been on my bucket list here in China. It’s influence in the spread of Buddhism over the centuries has been immeasurable. At some point in our lives there is something more than just knowledge and understanding. It comes with wisdom, as acceptance, and an enduring presence. What is it we’re grounded too? Others may teach, but ultimately it is something that becomes innately ourselves. It is having the presence of self-assurance knowing that kindness and simplicity are the keys that opens all doors. (something I need to work on) Keeping things simple means there are fewer doors that need to be opened as well. As if “becoming simple minded” is a good thing.
Two other overreaching influences from Buddhism to China was that Luoyang was the start of the Silk Road that headed back to Venice in Italy. It was by way of the Silk Road (and elephants going through Tibet to Xian), that Buddhism came to China. By the time Marco Polo came here with his father and uncle in 1270 AD on their way to visit Kublai Khan in Beijing, the Silk Road had been a functioning means of transportation of goods and culture between east and west for almost fifteen hundred years. The White Horse Temple and the Long man Grottoes have had the most lasting historical presence in this area of China. We will visit both later in the week. What Buddhism brought was a sense of permanence and presence that people could see as their own connection to what we would now call “becoming universal”. That you were more than your body, and a good life could lead to better things, as yet unknown, in the future. That we are one and there is no separation between the world we live in and what we might find for ourselves afterwards. This connection was what the Taoist Chuang Tzu expressed so well in what would become known as “Chan Buddhism”. (maybe even becoming a butterfly being heard the world over)
There seems to be a progression in my travels, first to Beijing and the Llama Temple, then the opening of the gate with Confucius in Qufu. Finally for now, coming the the famous White Horse Temple and Long Man Grottoes. Like stepping stones to greater appreciation, understanding, and hopefully wisdom of my own origins in Chinese history. As if midway – later heading back to Xian and Chengdu before ultimately going to Tibet. With more than a week in between to discover new mountain vistas and clouds waiting to rise above.
The White Horse Temple, one of the oldest temples in China, is located about 6 miles from the city of Luoyang in eastern China’s Henan Province. It is a place that disciples of the Buddha school recognize as the palace of Buddhist ancestors and the place where Buddhist theory was taught. It was built by Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (29 A.D.–75 A.D.), and there is a legend about its establishment. The scholar Fu Yi told the emperor after his dream: “Your subject has heard it said that in there is somebody who has attained the Dao and who is called Buddha; he flies in the air, his body had the brilliance of the sun; this must be that god.” According to the historical book of records that after a dream, Emperor Ming sent an envoy to Tianzhu in southern India to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named.
Early History of the White Horse Temple
The two senior monks She Moteng and Zhu Falan, preached at White Horse Temple and jointly completed the translation of the 42 chapter Sutra, the first Chinese version of Buddhist scriptures. After She Moteng passed away, Zhu Falan continued to translate a number of scriptures. Their translations of the scriptures were all treasured in the Main Hall for the monks to worship. It was said that in the Northern
Wei Dynasty (386 A.D.– 534 A.D.), when the Buddhist monks worshiped the scriptures, the scripture suddenly glowed with colored lights and lit up the Main Hall.
During the reign of Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Ze Tian (624 A.D.–705 A.D.), the White Horse Temple was very popular, and there were more than 1,000 monks living here. However, the Temple was greatly damaged during the An Si Rebellion (755 A.D.–763 A.D.) and the Huichang Suppression of Buddhism (840 A.D.–846 A.D.). The damaged White Horse Temple was only found later through broken pieces of inscriptions on the stones and ruins. Repairs to the temple were later conducted by Sung Dynasty Emperor Taizong (939–997), Ming Dynasty Emperor Jiajing (1507–1567), and Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi (1662–1722). The above description is why I like museums so much telling the story of what was important at the time. As if the remnants left behind have their own secrets to tell.
This is the way I like to travel. I have a week here in Luoyang to explore the area. Hopefully it will stop raining. Two main things I want to see are the Long Man Grottoes and the Shaolin Temple. Not having google is a serious detriment to my travels. I still need to try to fix my Chinese camera, or more batteries for my little canon camera. It takes excellent pictures. Almost all pictures here on my website are one’s I have taken with the canon camera.
Tuesday (9/25) appears to a day to stay inside here in Luoyang and update my blog. It looks like it will rain all day and the Cardinals are on my computer this morning. Maria got my train ticket for next Monday to Xian. (thanks Maria) It sounds like my getting to Tibet prior to October 14th will work. It seems I am alone here in Luoyang. I guess that’s what one does on a retreat to seek inner meaning to what comes next. Plus the rain makes for staying inside. I did go to the bank next door to see if they can help me to send via WeChat money for the Tibet tour. They can help. Hopefully we can do that tomorrow. Next will be confirming airfare to Lhasa and Lhasa to Beijing afterwards. Just go with the flow and what needs to occur always does…
Everything regarding the balance of the trip changed this afternoon. Due to holiday the four day tour I was about to pay for has been delayed to October 14 to October 17. I still want to do the tour, but first I must confirm I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th, as I fly back to USA on the 18th. I still stay in Luoyang until next Monday, October, 1st and go to Xian. I had planned to go to Chengdu on the 5th, but now there is no hurry.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 78 and 79 appear below. Verses 1 through 77 were seen here on my most recent posts. I plan to complete this journey through Lao Tzu (verses 80 and 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao himself next week. I hope I am ready.
Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 78 – Following the way of Heaven
The sage endeavors to follow the way of heaven while only revealing everything for its true and natural place. Pulling down the high while lifting the low he stays on an even keel finding the natural balance of all around him.
Continually moving forward unsure or unconcerned if what he does is ultimately good or bad as long as the natural order of things are followed and are allowed to take their places. Moving without presumption or staking claim to what may be perceived as personal achievement. Choosing to remain in the background and not displaying his skills, nothing can deter or get in his way. His burden to keep his virtue to himself and not revealed to those who continually come running to his doorstep.
Modeling his actions after the way of heaven, the sage takes from the long and gives to the short so that the ten thousand things naturally find their places. For all things under heaven to find their place, it is best for heaven to sit back and do nothing. Allowing the nature of all things to come forward unimpeded fulfilling its ultimate endeavor and finding its true identity and destiny.
Hsung-Tsung says, “The nature of water is to stay low, not to struggle, and to take on the shape of its container. Thus nothing is weaker. But despite such weakness, it can bore through rocks, while rocks cannot wear down water.”
Li Hung-Fu says, “The soft and the weak do not expect to overcome the hard and the strong. They simply do.”
Chuang Tzu says, “Everyone wants to be first, while I alone want to be last; which means to endure the world’s disgrace.” (33.5). Mencius says. “If the ruler of the state is not kind, he cannot protect the spirits of the soil and grain” (4A.3).
Su Ch’e says “Upright words agree with the Tao and contradict the world. The world considers enduring grace shameful and enduring misfortune a calamity.”
Li Jung says, “The world sees disgrace and innocence, fortune and misfortune. The Taoist sees them all as empty.”
Verse 79 – Being Present at Destiny’s Table
The sage is reminded of the words of an old friend who once told him that the true nature of one who follows the Tao is like water. It is the nature of water to stay low, not to struggle and to take on the shape of its container thus appearing to be weak.
Is this not the way of the sage? Appearing weak, but in reality able to cut through any obstacle as he ultimately finds his true path.
What is perceived as weakness often wins through persistence while what appears to be hard easily becomes brittle unable to withstand the pressure of determination.
Should not we follow the ways of Chuang Tzu who decried that everyone wants to be first, while he alone waits, wanting to be last enduring to the end so that he may be present at destiny’s table.
Emulating Chuang Tzu’s perfected man cannot the sage by following the Tao and the way of heaven ultimately turn everything upside down thereby betraying conventional wisdom at every turn.
In looking beyond the present and reminding himself of what’s to come, does not the sage simply prepare to return to find this place confident that the stage has been set and his place at the table assured.
Su Ch’e says, “If we content ourselves with trimming the branches and don’t pull out the roots, things might look fine on the outside, but not on the inside. Disputes come from delusion, and delusions are the products of our nature. Those who understand their nature encounter no delusion, much less disputes.”
Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Seeking to make peace with others is the Way of Man. Not seeking to make peace but letting things make peace by themselves is the Way of Heaven. Despite the expenditure of energy and action, energy and action seldom bring peace. Thus the sage holds the left marker because he relies on inaction and the subtlety of letting things be.”
As if expected, serendipity came along to change my plans that would take me to Songshan Mountain and the famous Shaolin Temple about an hour and a half away. He came in the form of a professional film maker who was staying at my hostel and planned to stop there on his was back to Shanghai. He invited me to come along so I changed my plans. I left my suitcase and computer at hostel gathered things for my backpack and away we went… I never learned the name of the city we were going to, it didn’t seem important. (I will text him later) We were going to the Songshan Mountain Area that included the Songyang Temple we would visit later this afternoon after arriving (pictures here today are from the temple). On Friday, climb one of the mountains we intended to climb and the Shaolin Temple and Pagoda Forest at it’s base. And on saturday climb to the summit of a second mountain that was adjacent to the first (we didn’t go because the tram was broken). More on all that beginning tomorrow. First, to clarify, I do not write under some false illusion of one day being published. I write simply for my own enjoyment and enlightenment because it is my writing that takes me there. If others choose to come along for the ride… you are welcome.
Today on the bus to I wasn’t sure where, I couldn’t help but think of our divine presence and what that means for ourselves and others. Changing from within first to the alignment with the universe we came in with and the things we am here to work on or correct this time. As if a piece of the star I am from.. to simply come into focus and let my light shine. Moving to who I am supposed to be. Simply to find and go with the flow I have always known with no pre-conceived intent or outcome and let the spirit of the Tao (the universe) guide me. First of all, it is not for me to write down someone else’s impressions (ie., that found in google, etc,) – but to add my own take on the environment I find. Everything is context. My travels in China are not simply going to these places for pictures. It is in keeping with a personal journey whose purpose has not been fully revealed as yet. It is my reflecting what I see with what I write and with what I already know. As if leaving behind and much as I take. As if I am seeing what has changed since my last visit and writing about the antiquity that lies in each of us. As if the ancients don’t want to be forgotten, so that even their own immortality might come into question.
To let these images from the past take you there. Each with a story to tell – just waiting to be told of when they were someone or something of importance. Something more than they are considered now. It is as if in the stillness they reside, they lie in wait for vibrations… for the storyteller. Not just being present only for your own story, but to tell the story of everything around you – with the older the story – the more there is to tell. And I don’t write fiction. With no pre-conception of where what you are here to learn may lead. As doors are waiting to open for the stories just waiting to be told. Many simply wanting to have their say.
People you meet here to take you to places you are needed – the stories are endless and your role never-ceasing. The more you write the more you need to write. You are a conveyor of ancient wisdom, use your time wisely. It making me wonder, are we moved by “divine order”. Or are we taking and receiving “divine orders”. Who is to say?
It was here at Songshan Mountain and Shaolin Temple where so much occurred where people came for centuries. Three religions in one body (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) were formed as what was seen as a “convergence” in this area. Emperor Wudi and Empress Wuzetian came here to commemorate the mountain and convey its importance to this belief. As if life is about remembering who we are yet to become before we forget. Songshan Mountain has been famous as a place where people came with a desire to improve themselves and discover their inner virtue. The temple, a repository of ancient wisdom, here but a reminder that there was more to climbing mountains than the climb itself. It is the appreciation of the overwhelming outer nature you find with the mountain as you climb, just as life has its ups and downs your eyes remain on the horizon and the clouds above. I am here at one of the five most famous mountains in China. Tomorrow I climb the mountain. (I have more pictures when time allows).