Thursday, December 29, 2005

A simple note on the Three Doctrines

Over the few thousands of years of Chinese civilization, there appeared many great thinkers and philosophers some of whom were acknowledged as sages. Choosing a simple easy and practical doctrine to follow is perhaps wise.

If millions of Chinese throughout the ages found that Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist doctrines practical for their lives and prove fruitful, it is easy to discern which doctrines work and which don’t. Since the wise down the millenniums say that these three doctrines lead to the same path to Tao, there are no reasons to doubt the ancient sages and those who went on to attain Tao.

While reading ancient texts and classics, we try to discern the main gist of what the ancients want to say at the time. And in an interesting way, most of the teachings in such texts and classics seem to all tie up. In case you do not follow what I mean, all three doctrines point to the Center (Zhong).

Of the ancients, Laozi, Confucius, Buddha and Mencius teach a similar path for cultivation. Later, Ge Hong (Bao Puzi) and Boddhidharma (Da Mo) discussed the twofold path to cultivate Tao. Renowned Chan Buddhists, Neo Daoists and Neo Confucians about a thousand years ago placed the same emphasis on the cultivation of essence and bodily life. Some eventually attained Tao to become Daoist immortals or Buddhas. Over the next thousand years to 2005 they returned time and again to teach the same twofold path of cultivation.

If the thoughts do not lead to practices, are we really cultivating Tao? If a lengthy practice does not produce what the sages and wise described in their books and texts did we practise the correct methods? Is it any wonder then that only the sincere and discerning can find the mysterious Way?

With this last entry for 2005 I take this opportunity to wish all readers, A Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thoughts on TTC 38

The scholars and experts were having a hearty discussion on Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching in Tao Speaks a fortnight ago, but one could not jump into the deep end since I was unsure why Laozi differentiated higher from lower virtue and mentioned that foreknowledge was the beginning of stupidity. Although one would like to think that Laozi was talking about sincerity in the chapter, without rendering a translation of TTC 38, one could not know what he actually meant.

Translating the chapter was not difficult but trying to tie up the words with various available translations on the web took a while longer. TTC 38 contains 129 Chinese words is quite lengthy and discusses virtues therefore few translators actually captured its essence and true meaning. Certain translations had omitted original words and/or made meanings obscure. Perhaps this helps explain why earnest Daoist students who have read numerous TTC translations do not comprehend what is required for cultivation to return to Tao?

However if readers find my translation of TTC 38 differs much from what they understand or from what their teachers taught them; please take the translation with a pinch of salt, as always. Without further ado, this may be what Laozi wanted to say with TTC 38:

Higher virtue not virtuous therefore possesses virtue
Lower virtue does not lose virtue therefore has no virtue.

Higher virtue (requires) no action [Wu Wei] or motives for action
Lower virtue (requires) action [Wei] and motives for action.

Higher benevolence [Ren] acts with no motives for action
Higher righteousness/justice [Yi] acts with motives for action
Higher propriety [Li] acts and upon finding no response, he seizes the other’s arm to throw it (at the person).

When Dao was lost, the ancients left behind virtue
When virtue was lost they left behind benevolence
When benevolence was lost they left behind righteousness
Losing righteousness they left behind propriety.

Those who manage propriety for face hold loyalty and trust in disdain
With foreknowledge clear, the Dao flowers, yet foolish was its beginning.

Therefore the great man [Da Ren] correctly dwells in substance and not resides in the thin.
Dwells in the fruit and not reside with the flower.
Thus the ancients remove that and choose this.

Apparently in this chapter, Laozi introduced a ‘new’ virtue in the first two paragraphs and expanded on the cardinal virtues of Ren Yi Li Zhi described in TTC 18. Those familiar with the Shujing (Book of History) may recognize what Laozi wanted to say about the ‘additional’ virtue. No one can cling to Sincerity (Zheng) as it comes from the heart. Does sincerity require any action or motive for action?

When people act out of genuine kindness (Ren), there is no need for a motive for action. Real justice (Yi) has to be dealt with for a reason; either to help the weak and/or to punish the wicked. Ancient customs (Li) can be adapted to suit different circumstances and modern times, is there ever a need to insist upon following the same old rituals every time? (Not unlike commentaries in the Zhouyi.)

With the fall from Tao, sincerity arose, and then benevolence followed by righteousness and propriety. (The ancients left behind clues to those with wisdom (Zhi) to return to Tao if they can see the unwinding and winding for the far journey.)

There are many (during ancient and modern times) who display propriety for face value and not out of loyalty and trust. For example, a bow to a master had become customary and may not be because of respect or loyalty. Clear foreknowledge is required for the flowering of the Tao, yet at the beginning there was foolishness. Starting out with stupidity, the earnest neidan student can one day become an adept who will see the flowering of Tao eventually.

The Da Ren correctly dwells in substance and chooses the fruit (instead of the flower) which eventually leads to the attainment of Tao. To conclude TTC 38, Laozi provided this verse to show the correct way to cultivation.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Probabilities and percentages in yarrow stalks consultation

Probabilities on divinations by yarrow and coins are occasionally discussed in forums and since one uses the yarrow stalks most of the time to divine, one decided to check and confirm its odds. Clearing the dust off the old journals was not a problem, but collating the information seems a bit tedious therefore one stopped after taking a random sample of 192 (64 hexagrams x 3) hexagrams obtained from early 1981 to the middle of 1987. Not much point in going through the rest of the journals I thought to collate divinations for a further eighteen years to 2005, if the statistics from the sample matches the published probabilities on yarrow consultation.

For those interested, Steve Marshall has a well written article on the probabilities on yarrow and coins in his Yijing Dao website. The published probabilities (one has converted them to percentages) for the yarrow are as follows:

6 -- x -- Moving yin 1 in 16 (6.25 %)
7 ------- Static yang 5 in 16 (31.25 %)
8 --- --- Static yin 7 in 16 (43.75 %)
9 ---o--- Moving yang 3 in 16 (18.75 %)

Since one did the sampling in three batches of 64 hexagrams, each batch showed a slight difference in the probabilities for the moving yin, static yang and yin, and the moving yang as follows:

6 Moving yin /7.55 % / 5.47 % / 7.03 %
7 Static yang /30.99 % / 31.25 % / 27.34 %
8 Static yin /40.89 % / 44.53 % / 47.66 %
9 Moving yang /20.57 % / 18.75 % / 17.97 %

From the above samples, the middle batch percentages about matches the published probabilities on yarrow consultation. Although the other two batches vary, the published probabilities are acceptable as a much larger sample was used by the publisher to even out the differentials.

What is of more interest is that a divination that uses yarrow stalks provides about three times more chances of obtaining a moving yang line than obtaining a moving yin line; whereas a coin divination provides an equal 12.5 % chance of getting either a yin or yang line that moves (or changes). This bias for moving yang lines over moving yin lines from the use of yarrow has been occasionally pointed out in forum discussions. Although it is proven true, do take cognizance of the fact that there are more static yin lines to compensate for fewer moving yin lines and that the total percentages for (both static and moving) yin and yang lines equal to 50 % each in the long run (see middle batch results as an example).

While on the subject of probabilities, from the random sample of 192 hexagrams spanning over six and half years, we would like to think that we can get all 64 hexagrams of the Yi at least once?

Well, it did not quite turn out that way. Two hexagrams that of Hexagram 53 Jian / Development and Hexagram 61 Zhong Fu / Inner Truth did not appear as answers to my questions until about five years later in 1992. Was that statistics or profoundness of the Yi? One would leave it to scholars and the experts to reason that out too.

Meanwhile we wait cheerfully.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Going against a Hindu deity

This story relates numerous incidents that happened to the staff, management and kin of a landowner who were involved in negotiations with the intended shifting of a Hindu temple to a new site within a housing project. The ongoing negotiations started since the land was purchased ten years ago. The incidents that had occurred to date may sound like a Ripley’s believe it or not tale.

The landowner purchased a piece of land for a proposed small housing project in 1995. During negotiations, he found out that a Hindu temple was situated on the land illegally and the purchase price was then reduced by a substantial amount. After signing the purchase agreement, he engaged an Indian lawyer to facilitate the negotiations with the Hindu temple committee. The negotiations went on for sometime with both sides failing to reach an agreement. The temple committee kept repeating that the Hindu deity refused to accept the proffered terms. Therefore the landowner sent various Daoist temple mediums along to negotiate with the Hindu deity. At times the negotiations turned into heated arguments. Meanwhile he commenced legal action to evict the temple but the court ruled in favor of the temple and he intended to submit an appeal on the ruling.

In 1997 the Indian lawyer’s legs became swollen and he could hardly walk to see the doctors. There seemed to be no available cures and he suffered much pain. His mother decided to seek spiritual help from a Daoist temple. The Daoist deity’s advice to her was that “if your son values his life, he has to drop the negotiation and the case”.

Both the lawyer and a mutual friend told me the Hindu deity had warned that ‘if the terms of the temple are acceded to, great profits will accrue to the landowner; if not, the deity wants to see blood”. They placed much emphasis on the latter part of the statement. They left with worried looks as one made no promise to talk with the landowner, an old friend of mine.

This quite explained a series of events that had occurred earlier. An in-house lawyer handling the temple negotiations had a head on collision that smashed his new car. After the accident he quickly resigned from his job. The legal departmental staff and another lawyer who took over the temple file went on medical leave frequently.

The landowner’s son went for a simple operation to be performed by one of the best surgeons in town. Yet the surgeon had to operate on him a few times before it was successful. A lot of prayers and offerings were made at a Daoist temple before the final successful operation.

After studying the case, one went to convince the landowner to drop the appeal on the court ruling. Probably some comments may have hit the mark and he reassured me that an appeal will not be filed in court.

A year or two later, one of his managers’ adult son was fatally struck by lightning in an open field. The manager had been directly involved in the temple negotiations.

The landowner recently took the courage to visit the languishing development project. At the site, he suddenly collapsed and was taken back home to rest for a few days.

Comment: The land for the Hindu temple has already been compensated to the landowner. Firstly, the previous landowner agreed to reduce the selling price by a substantial sum to cater for the existence of the temple. Then the local authorities decided to resolve the protracted matter by giving an ‘open space’ title (to be surrendered by the landowner to the authorities) to the temple and rezoning it for such purpose. The eviction notice was thrown out when the judge ruled that the temple has a right to stay within the land. Both the authorities and the judge know the roots and followed local customs.

During the times of Confucius and Mencius, rulers always think of profits (more territory or hegemony) instead of benevolence and righteousness. Greed has no limits. Even if all those around the ruler fall by the wayside or get injured, he will still try to reap a greater profit.

However one has nothing to gain and much to lose by going against the spirits (shen). Spirits after all are different from Man.

With this final episode on spiritual tales for 2005, I wish those readers who celebrate the oncoming festive season, A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!


Monday, December 19, 2005

Daoist spiritual tales

After the Buddhist spiritual tale, time for something Daoist. The first story is about a slight humiliation for deviant practitioners and the second story is about a non believer who thought she knew better than her mother in spiritual matters.

Two senior disciples from a ‘Daoist’ temple decided to pay some respects at a genuine Daoist temple for immortals. In their own temple, they pray to deities of assorted religions with no thoughts for cultivation. Female disciples can be found swaying and dancing in the main prayer hall of their temple. Apparently they were put under a trance by the master and seemed to thoroughly enjoy their dancing, while the male disciples watch and gape at the swaying dancers. Fortunately such deviant practices are uncommon in the country.

When the dual arrived, they were met by an elder of the Daoist temple who ushered them into the main prayer hall. Upon reaching its entrance, both of them suddenly prostrated themselves and crawled on all fours towards a huge painting of the temple’s Daoist immortal. After several loud kowtows, they crawled backwards towards the entrance without once standing up in the main prayer hall. As they stood up and turned to leave, the elder asked them the reason why they paid such huge respects to the immortal?

Reluctantly they answered, “It was not us who wanted to do it. There seemed to be an immense unseen force that pinned us down to the floor. We had to crawl forwards and kowtow to ask for forgiveness from your Daoist immortal before we could stand up and leave.” With that, they left the Daoist temple in a hurry.

Comment: If students are innocent and misled by teachers, then perhaps it is a mistake that can be corrected. But if discerning students know or realize what they learn and still continue to learn are deviant practices, there is no one else to blame for any future mishap or humiliation. Daoist immortals assist the good and punish the evil in mysterious ways.

A young educated woman was getting annoyed with her mother for spending much time in cleaning the altar for Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) in the house making the altar ready for prayers. She has been admonishing her mother over some weeks for being superstitious; for wasting time and money to pray to a deity. Those who are well educated, she mentioned, do not believe in such things. There are no spirits (shen) and no ghosts (kuei) in this world, she continued, only those who have no or little education believe in such things.

Fed up with her endless remonstrations, the mother decided to ask her daughter to tell that to Guan Yin directly. The young woman was happy to do just that. She placed a chair and sat down right in front of the altar before making her harangues to the famous and revered Daoist deity. She would start early in the morning and end them each evening. These lengthy sessions went on for several days.

One day her mother woke up early to go to the wet market for shopping and found her daughter sitting in front of the altar as usual. Her daughter seemed to be a bit quiet this morning, she thought to herself in between offering prayers to Guan Yin and going off to the market to buy her grocery and things. After coming back from the market, she found that her daughter seemed to have dozed off in her chair. Come evening she decided to wake her daughter up to wash and get ready for dinner. Her daughter seemed to be in a deep slumber and no family members could wake her up, tried as they may.

Fearing something amiss, the mother went to her favorite Guan Yin temple to seek for spiritual advice. The medium in a trance told her that Guan Yin was teaching her daughter a lesson for her constant harangues and non beliefs. After the necessary prayers and offerings at the temple and at the home altar, she managed to wake up her daughter who was highly distressed by the entire event.

Comment: Even if we do not believe in a major religion or religions, there is no need to go to great lengths to disparage it or them. Each adult individual has the right to believe in a faith. The second story depicts what Laozi said about the lowest class of scholars who heard about Tao and laughed. If they do not laugh then it would not have been fit to be Tao (TTC 41).

If you ever go to a Daoist temple for a prediction of your annual fortune near the end of the year, you will be sent home empty and asked to return after the first few days of Chinese New Year. This is a reason why one suggested deferring your Yi consultation for an annual hexagram until then. The rest is entirely up to you.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Buddhist spiritual tale

Perhaps it may be timely to tell some true stories about divinities from different religions which one has heard first hand or know about the strange happenings, as Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas after all is to celebrate a special spiritual event, the birth of Jesus Christ.

This short story is about a young Malaysian teenager who lives in Germany. His parents work in Germany and he attends school there. One day he complained about a headache and he was taken to see a doctor. The doctor found nothing wrong and sent him home with some medicine for his headache. As the headaches became more chronic and regular, the doctor recommended sending him to the hospital for a head scan. Nothing unusual was found upon the scan. But over time his headaches became more severe, specialists were consulted with further scans taken without yielding a clue as to what was wrong with the young teenager. This went on for months and his parents were getting desperate as to what to do.

About this time, there were some relatives and friends from Malaysia who came to visit them in Germany. After recalling old times together they eventually talked about their son’s headache when one of the visitors suggested to his parents to take him back to visit a Buddhist temple where some of those ill have been miraculously cured by Buddha. Since there was no harm in trying and their family had not been back for a while, they made the necessary arrangements to take the long trip to this temple in Malaysia.

The head of the temple was contacted and arrangements were made for the boy to stay over for a week. Upon arrival in the temple and after having rested it was time for the spiritual healing, if any. The boy was sat in front of the master who was in a light trance. Through the master, Buddha told the parents that a tumor in the boy’s brain was the source of the severe pain. However a ‘dark’ force residing inside his head covers the tumor so well that scans cannot reveal it. With the explanation, the master still in a trance proceeded with the spiritual healing of the young teenager for three sessions. Each session (at night) lasts less than an hour. (These healings are free of charge and the master and her disciples all work for their livelihood during the day.) At the end of the third nightly session, after the 'dark' force was cast out, the parents were asked to take the boy to a hospital in Kuala Lumpur the following day to have a brain scan. Sure enough, this time the scan revealed the tumor.

The boy was operated on and the tumor taken out. The last I heard was that the boy was fine with no more such headaches.

A strange tale but true even though we cannot understand spiritual things with the intellectual mind, a point Buddha emphasized to Anand in the Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen). Neither can science be used to explain away such spiritual matters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One cycle of circulation

The sound of running water
Or was it the wind
That stirs the immortals song
Melodic by repeating words
No one any wiser
On what they really mean

Sitting still the body swings
Left to right in rhythmic twist
The bellows blow, a burbling brook
The vocal gets louder
Its time to breathe in

The breath dips down below
Mixes with essence
Meandering with ease
Up the back it seems to go
Moving with little effort
Before adjourning to the lighted room

Where the dark interplays with existing light
Creating forms and emptiness across the sky
A wisp of smoke a distant star
Neither head nor tail ever changing sights
In the middle of being, there was non-being
How it comes and how it goes
There is no need to know
Just behold the sights

Having enough, its time to release
When the breath leaves
The remnants dive below
Warming body regions as they go
This completes one cycle of circulation
The cycle of life and death

Aptly named the Circulation of the Light, it is indeed old.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Time with the family

Having lived in England for almost a decade and having celebrated the festive season once in Bergen (Norway), one found that Christmas is a time for family gatherings in the West, while the Chinese in the East celebrate Chinese New Year with family reunions. A family plays such an important role in a person’s life from young, middle and old age that ancients have reasons to include it in their teachings.

Confucius said: 'Now filial piety is the root of (all) virtue, and (the stem) out of which grows (all moral) teaching. Our bodies--to every hair and bit of skin--are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them:--this is the beginning of filial piety. When we have established our character by the practice of the (filial) course, so as to make our name famous in future ages, and thereby glorify our parents:--this is the end of filial piety. It commences with the service of parents; it proceeds to the service of the ruler; it is completed by the establishment of the character.’ [Book of Filial Piety (Ziaojing or Hsiao Ching) (1) –]

Our parents not only have given us life, the greatest gift possible, they also nurtured and nourished us when we were young taking care of our needs for growth, education, holidays and achievements, providing protection and guidance wherever possible. They worry when we were ill and when we left home for short or extended periods of time. Yet people nowadays think nothing about committing suicide without giving a second thought for their parents. Taking one’s life or living recklessly is certainly not filial when our parents are still alive for who is going to serve and nourish them in their old age?

A reader has recently asked for information on websites on family structures of Chinese dynasties. Perhaps readers can provide relevant links to such websites in the comment section, as one does not know of any. My references on family roles come from Hexagram 37 Jia Ren / The Family in the Zhouyi and the Confucian books.

In the Great Learning, it is said: “The ancients, who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.” (Text of Confucius 4)

The wisdoms contained in the Ten Wings commentary to the Judgment in Jia Ren shows ancient thoughts still relevant to existing roles of a family:
“The foundation of the family is the relationship between husband and wife. The tie that holds the family together lies in the loyalty and perseverance of the wife. Her place is within, while that of the husband is without. It is in accord with the great laws of nature that husband and wife take their proper places. Within the family a strong authority is needed; this is represented by the parents. If the father is really a father and the son a son, if the elder brother fulfills his position, and the younger fulfills his, if the husband is really a husband and the wife a wife, then the family is in order. When the family is in order, all the social relationships of mankind will be in order.”
“Three of the five social relationships are found within the family—that between father and son, the relationship of love, that between husband and wife, which is the relationship of chaste conduct, and that between elder and younger brother, which is the relationship of correctness. The loving reverence of the son is then carried over to the prince in the form of faithfulness to duty; the affection and correctness of behavior existing between the two brothers are extended to a friend in the form of loyalty, and to a person of superior rank in the form of deference.” [W/B]

The Image of the Family is where the Junzi has substance in his words and duration in his way of life. Only then can he make an impression on others that they can adapt and conform to it. The text of the six lines and the lines commentary depict the respective roles of parent/child; daughter/wife/mother; discipline; woman of the house; king/father; and master of the house. And what each must do to maintain peace and harmony in the family.

In the world today both husband and wife spent much time in their work or business. Just do not forget the kids at home and our parents. Just like in ancient times, they need us and we need them too. Therefore during festive seasons, take a rest and spend some quality time with the family; after all everyone remembers about time together as one big happy family, no matter how rich or poor we were.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Simple thoughts on Zhuangzi 2

A good spirited discussion is currently ongoing in Tao Speaks between deep thinkers on Chapter Two of the Writings of Zhuangzi. Since one has limited reading of this Daoist text and arising from different experiences may hold differing views; it would be more appropriate to post some simple thoughts here instead of disrupting their deep thinking on the profound subject of making duality into one.

Zhuangzi started chapter two with a story about a master by the name of Tzu-chi of South Wall who was staring up at heaven and breathing – vacant and faraway as though he lost a companion. His student standing by his side in attendance asked, "What is this? Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes?”

Tzu-chi remarked that it was a good question and went on to explain how to make duality; some may like to call the ‘double walk’, into one.

Zhuangzi as usual teased one’s mind with various analogies and sub plots therefore making his writings profound. It is good and healthy for deep thinkers to have a go at understanding what he actually meant. This invariably leads to a deeper train of thoughts and study but it can also reveal the limitations of each class of scholars. Hearing about Tao we seem now to keep it and now to lose it instead of earnestly carry it into practice to reach the highest class (TTC 41). Whether one eventually gets it right or not, at least one has some fun and amusement for the mind. Do not get me wrong, Zhuangzi indeed knew in depth of what he wanted to say in his own way of discoursing on the Tao. And he knew much about meditation, which he discussed in the ‘fasting of the mind’ (Xin Zhai) and a bit more elaborately this time in chapter two.

Starting with the example of piping, Tzu-chi discusses the duality between Heaven and Earth; and went on to differentiate between great and little minds; sleep and awake; rights and wrongs; completeness and impairment; forms and emptiness; being and non being (Wu Wei). Only with clarity can ‘the man of far ranging vision’, get to the center. This is what Zhuangzi called the Way. Without lucidity, how do we discern we are learning and practising the correct methods? For the people who do not practice to return to the center, he said, ‘when their minds draw near death, nothing can restore them to the light’.

Perhaps some may understand the question raised by Tzu-chi’s student which initiated Zhuangzi’s elaboration on duality in chapter two. According to Lu Dongbin, from a continuous practice of the Circulation of the Light meditation neidan practitioners can reach the condition where a person sits like a withered tree before a cliff. Did readers spot what Tzu-chi was first doing before his student asked the question? He was staring up at heaven and breathing. Can this action not allude to meditation? Indeed Zhuangzi is sagely and like to play tricks on one’s ‘little’ mind!

In the later part of the chapter, Zhuangzi voiced his objections to ‘Confucian’ virtues; therefore one would not proffer any comments on them except to point out that his views on the cultivation of virtues differ from other ancient sages such as Laozi, Confucius and Buddha; as well as Daoist immortals and Bodhidharma. However his writings still prove a good read and insightful.

Meanwhile remember to take this entry on Tao with a bit of salt as always.

Relevant entries for further reading if required: Thoughts on Hsin Hsin Ming (I and II) Oct 12; A simple note on Xin Zhai Sept 26; Daoist virtues Sept 11; A muse on emptiness and form Aug 26; Twofold entrance to Tao May 03; and Directory for a day Apr 25.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Annual Hexagrams

The year will soon come to a close and many would reminisce whether 2005 was a good year and hope that next year could turn out better. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal and is the mother of all men. Invariably some will consult fortune tellers of various kinds to see what lies ahead in 2006 to satisfy their curiosity and the consultation can turn into a costly yearly affair depending on the accuracy and prediction skills of the fortune teller concerned. Those who can afford it will pay while others seek out the less expensive ones. Some good fortune tellers in the East may limit the number of readings made available to clients in order to read for their family members and themselves.

Those who read the Yi and also divine are fortunate since they can consult the Yi for a reading of their fortune for 2006 if they so wish to. My first such consultation was way back in 1981 for friends and relatives since it was in vogue. After asking the Yi for my own annual hexagrams in 1982 and 1983, I stopped. As the oracles became more accurate over time, one restarted the consultation for an annual hexagram in 1990. It has been a yearly affair ever since.

A good example of annual hexagrams given by the Yi was in 1997 before the Asian Financial Crisis struck in August/September that year. The oracle came in the form of Hexagram 58 Dui / The Joyous with the fourth and fifth lines changing and a resultant Hexagram 19 Lin / Approach.

The Judgment for Dui:
The Joyous. Success. Perseverance is favorable.

Nine in the fourth place means:
Joyousness that is weighed is not at peace. After ridding himself of the mistake a man has joy.

Nine in the fifth place means:
Sincerity toward disintegrating influences is dangerous.

The Judgment for Lin:
Approach has supreme success. Perseverance furthers. When the eight month comes, there will be misfortune. [W/B]

Reading the changing lines and the judgment for Lin will suffice for this entry. The eighth month signified August/September when the Thai Baht was dumped which triggered panic across the whole of Asia resulting in a financial meltdown.

The example provided is to show that the Yi can still foretell things that will unfold during the year in question, if our interpretation of the oracle is correct. The real difference between fortunes read by a very good fortune teller and the Yi is that the Yi provides guidance on how to avoid or overcome any obstacles in times of trouble and the reasons why. Daoist immortals and deities will also provide such guidance if they want to help a mortal, but it would be unusual for them to give the reasons because they cannot reveal Heaven’s secrets on the mortal’s fate. You have to take their word for it.

Just in case after reading this entry, you may wish to consult the Yi for an annual hexagram, do not do it now or immediately after January 1st. There is no need to be fashionable and follow the Yi crowd in your part of the world who does it in December or early January. From experience, the best time one suggests for such consultation is during the first fifteen days of Chinese New Year. The first day of Chinese New Year happens to fall on January 29 2006. Good luck.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Liu An and Huainanzi 8

Instead of talking here alone, at times one visits blogs and forums of interest to read what is written by deep thinkers and to make some comments where appropriate. It is a good exercise for the mind and to learn a bit more along the way. Just the other day, one dropped by Taospeaks and read a discussion thread on Master Kung and Li where a scholarly chap quoted Huainanzi 8 together with relevant chapters from Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi and Wenzi to explore the necessity to cultivate Li (propriety/mores). Just in case you are unaware, Master Kung refers to Confucius.

Compared to the other three quotes, Huainanzi 8 made no sense which was why one commented there that it was gibberish. And invited him to read the entry on the history of Prince Liu An of Huainan and whether the prince actually understood humanity (ren) and justice (yi). After kindly spending the time to read the entry, he referred me to a book with an in depth study done which actually tells the truth about the prince and differs from the account recorded by Sima Qian. Also according to him, the author’s justification to refute the account given by Sima Qian was by comparing the Book of Han (Han Shu) with the Records of the Historian (Shiji). He further added that many learned scholars over the past two thousand years have disagreed with the account presented in the Shiji.

The book in question is The Huainanzi and Liu An's Claim to Moral Authority by Griet Vankeerberghen (2001). Griet Vankeerberghen is Assistant Professor in the History Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. At the back cover, there was a summary on the book available at Amazon. Here is what it says:
"Author Griet Vankeerberghen provides a fresh treatment of the Huainanzi, which she establishes as a unified work with a coherent moral philosophy. She shows that rather than defending any particular school of thought, as is often claimed, the Huainanzi was the primary means by which Liu An displayed his vision of the good and advertised his readiness to be a ruler.
By 123 B.C.E. Liu An was accused of plotting rebellion and forced to commit suicide a year later, but the disloyalty he was accused of may have had more to do with his independent intellectual stance than with a military plot.
The book goes on to explore the relationship of moral, intellectual, and political authority in the first century of the Han dynasty, a period when the regime sought to monopolize all moral and intellectual authority."

When one decides to rely on an author or a book for authority, it is important to know whether the author is an honest professional, the work is detailed and indeed reliable. Certainly it calls for further examination when someone casts aspersion on the integrity of a book, especially a historical reference book as important as the Records of the Historian. Although one is not learned and scholarly, perhaps one can do a simple analysis and see whether the account on Liu An was false.

Firstly some background. The aspersion that the Grand Historian, Sima Qian may have been restricted in the writing of the truth on Liu An did cross my mind when making the recent blog entry on the prince. The plot to revolt was recorded in great detail. The translated record on the Princes of Huainan runs into 22 pages. One had only named some officials and not others to make the entry brief, yet accurate and fair to Liu An, the readers and translators.

Of the forty three nobles ordered by the emperor to discuss the matter to serve justice, there were actually two princes and a marquis mentioned by name who declared Liu An guilty of high treason and of his plot to revolt. Also present were the prime minister and Chang Tang, the chief justice at the time. Surely these princes and righteous high officials would have objected to the recorded inaccuracies, if any, or at the very least do so after Emperor Wu had passed away. Although Emperor Wu very much favored the legalist system, they would not have colluded to penalize one of their own kin or superior or to let Liu An be known as a villain down the ages. Several thousand men were involved and many together with their families including those of Liu An’s were executed. Surely this was not a show of force by the emperor or the Han Court against Liu An’s independent intellectual stance, as suggested by Vankeerberghen, (probably leading to his perceived persecution stated in a website) which involved the loss of so many guilty or innocent lives?

Do note that Sima Qian was in his twenties in 123 BC and his father Sima Tan was the Grand Historian at the time of the event. He was appointed Grand Historian in 107 BC, three years after his father’s death. Sima Qian was known for his strong sense of right and wrong and wrote frankly about the ugly conduct of rulers including some of the Han emperors. He described their vices truthfully and made his condemnation clear. When he dared to write the truth about emperors and kings, would he have made an exception about prince Liu An to ruin his reputation on purpose?

As I understand it, The Book of Han or Han Shu was started by Ban Biao (3 – 54 AD) with the intention to supplement the Records of the Historian (Shiji). Ban Biao was said to be a Han Court historian. The work was continued by his son and later by his daughter who eventually completed the Han Shu by AD 82. That would be about 204 years after the death of Prince Liu An in 122 BC.

It looks rather weak and presumptuous to use a later works to reverse or cast aspersions on detailed eye-witnessed accounts, records, comments of the Han emperor, princes and high court officials as recorded in the Shiji (completed in 91 BC) by Sima Qian. Sometimes scholars can outdo lawyers arguing a case with or without factual evidence or original documents. One has seen one too many ‘scholars’ and/or history professors willing to twist facts or attempt to rewrite Chinese history to sensationalize their own books; to emphasize their slanted versions; or to support a belief of theirs. This invariably misleads students and can be widespread because of the ease of access in the World Wide Web. It is sad but true and happens occasionally.

Lastly we have a look at Huainanzi 8:
“When humanity and righteousness are established and fixed and the Li and music are cultivated, De departs and only artifice remains.”

If Huainanzi was where Liu An has learned his humanity (ren) and justice (yi) and his other virtues (De) to display his supposedly ‘goodness’, no wonder he did not know his seeds and lost his roots. Perhaps his De had already departed (sic) and only artifice remains. Nah, the loss of several thousands of innocent or guilty lives remained unimportant; it was supposed to be part of the game. Heaven, Earth and Sages are supposed to be inhumane (Bu Ren). And justice had been served to all because he lost the plot.

However if readers have seen any humanity and justice displayed by Liu An as suggested by assistant professor Vankeerberghen, perhaps they can take some time to enlighten me?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Prince Liu An of Huainan

When we study ancient books and texts, we need to know the man behind the writings or their compilation. The compilation of the Huainanzi, a Daoist text, has been accredited to Prince Liu An of Huainan. Many may not know the man and under what circumstances the Huainanzi was compiled. Since there are a few incorrect ascribed views floating around in the web – as if Prince Liu An was persecuted by the Han Court; this entry serves to provide an accurate history during his time:

His father, Prince Liu Chang of Huainan, was one of Emperor Kao-tsu’s younger sons. When Emperor Wen first came to the throne, the prince of Huainan behaved in a proud, overbearing manner because he was next of kin, often breaking the law. But since they were brothers, the emperor pardoned him. In the third year he came to court and conducted himself in the most presumptuous manner. Hunting with the emperor in the imperial park, he rode in the same carriage and addressed him as “Elder Brother”. Later he killed a marquis and because he had his reasons and they were brothers, the emperor pardoned him.

At this time Empress Po, the crown prince and all the chief ministers went in fear of the prince of Huainan. After the return to his principality he grew even more high-handed. He ignored the laws of the land, usurped the imperial prerogatives when he entered or left the palace, and issued his own decrees, all as if he were the emperor.

In the sixth year he plotted rebellion. The plot was discovered and investigated, and the prince was summoned to the capital. The emperor pardoned him from the death penalty but had to exile Liu Chang the minimal punishment insisted upon by his chief ministers. The emperor decreed, “Regarding food for Liu Chang, let him be given five catties of meat a day and two measures of wine. Let ten ladies who have won his favor also join him. For the rest, it shall as you propose. Let all the conspirators be executed.”

The district authorities through whose hands the prince passed were too afraid to open up the sealed carriage. Liu Chang lamented his past faults, refused all food and died. When his carriage reached Yung, the local magistrate broke open the seals and reported the prince’s death. The emperor wept bitterly.

In the eight year of his reign Emperor Wen, still grieving over the prince of Huainan, ennobled his four sons who were all about seven or eight years old at that time. Liu An was enfeoffed as marquis of Fuling. Eight years later the emperor divided the old territory of Huainan into three parts and made Liu An, prince of Huainan; Po, prince of Hengshan; Tzu, prince of Luchiang. Their other brother had died leaving no heir.

Prince Liu An was fond of reading and playing the lyre, but took no pleasure in hunting with hounds and horses. He tried to win the people by acts of kindness so that his fame might spread through all the land. Long embittered by the death of his father, Prince Liu Chang, he intended to revolt at the first opportunity. In secret he set about gathering follower and winning the hearts of the people in preparation for a revolt.

The prince believed that as Emperor Wu had no heir there would be trouble and the princes would contend for supremacy. So he got weapons and laid up a store of money to win over the other princes, wandering scholars and men of outstanding ability. Then orators and strategists made wild, fantastic predictions to please the prince who showered gold on them in his delight, and plotted rebellion even more eagerly.

In 126 BC Emperor Wu gave the prince a stool and walking-stick and exempted him from paying homage at court.

Liu An’s son had studied swordsmanship and fancied himself unsurpassed in all the land. In 123 BC, having heard that the palace guardsman Lei Pei was a good swordsman, he summoned him to a contest. Lei Pei repeatedly refused to strike but then by accident wounded him, who was so angry that Lei Pei feared reprisals. To avoid trouble, Lei Pei volunteered to go fight the Huns. But Liu An ‘s son spoke ill of him and the prince ordered the dismissal of Lei Pei from his post as a warning to others. Then Lei Pei fled to Changan and reported the matter.

The emperor ordered an investigation by the chief justice and the governor of Honan, who sent to arrest Liu An’s son. The ministers in charged of the case said, “Liu An detained Lei Pei and others who had volunteered to go and fight the Huns. For defying a government decree, he deserves public execution.” To this the emperor would not agree, and when the ministers asked that the prince be deposed, the emperor again refused his consent. Then they suggested that Liu An be deprived of five counties. The emperor deprived him of two counties and sent to inform the prince that his offence was pardoned but that some of his land was to be confiscated.

Later the prince said, “I acted with humanity and justice and yet am deprived of territory. How shameful!” After this he stepped up his plans for revolt. If his envoys came back from the capital with wild rumors and declared that the emperor had no son or the country was badly governed, the prince exulted. If anyone said the country was well governed or a son had been born to the emperor, he raged and considered these as vicious lies.

Based on a report by a grandson of Liu An, the crown prince of Huainan was investigated for a plot to kill a military tribune of Han. Then one of Liu An’s minister went of his own accord to the authorities and made a full confession of how he plotted revolt with the prince of Huainan. Then the authorities arrested the crown prince and his mother and besieged the palace, while they searched for and arrested all those protégés of the prince who had plotted with him and were still in his kingdom. When all their findings were reported to the emperor, he ordered his ministers to investigate the matter. Several thousand men were involved in the plot, including princes, senior officers and prominent citizens. They were punished according to the gravity of their offences.

To ensure justice, the emperor asked the princes and marquises to discuss the matter with the prime minister. Then forty-three nobles declared, “Liu An, the prince of Huainan, is guilty of high treason. There is clear evidence of his plot to revolt. He should suffer the extreme penalty.”

When the prime minister and the chief justice reported this, the emperor sent the officer of the imperial clan with the imperial tally and credentials to arrest the prince. Before the officer reached Huainan, the prince killed himself. The principality of Huainan was abolished.

The Grand Historian comments:
Well does the Book of Songs say: “The northern barbarians should be punished, and those of Ching and Shu chastised.” The princes of Huainan were the emperor’s kinsmen and ruled as princes over a thousand li of territory. Yet instead of assisting their sovereign as good vassals, they took to evil courses and plotted high treason. Thus both father and son lost their land and perished themselves, becoming a laughing stock throughout the empire. [Records of the Historian – Yang Hsien-yi and Gladys Yang]

When Liu An said that he acted with humanity (ren) and justice (yi) and yet shamefully deprived of property, after being pardoned by the emperor for a wrongdoing punishable by death, it reminded me of the Duke of Song who carried a flag emblazoned with the Chinese word for ‘Ren’ into war and had his troops massacred because of his wrong strategies. Both the Duke of Song and Liu An showed a lack of understanding of benevolence (ren). What Daoist virtues did Liu An, his son, and his father Liu Chang, displayed that we can admire?

If we reread the paragraph on how he won over the wandering scholars, men of outstanding ability, orators and strategists, and what they did for Liu An, do we not have occasion to question what actually went into the compilation of the Huainanzi and to doubt its integrity?

Please ignore my comment about the Huainanzi if you have found the text useful. This entry is not for breaking hearts. Probably you already know what Daoist texts are good for your studies. After all one only knows little about Tao, with limited reading of ancient texts, books and some ‘hearsay’ from Daoist deities, immortals and Buddhas along the way.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hidden virtue

Over the past few years one has found that quite a number of Western Daoists earnest and sincere in learning Tao, the philosophical or religious way; because they spend much time and effort in studying Daoist texts and practices. The same can be said for those who study the Book of Changes. The World Wide Web has provided a good forum for the likeminded to discuss and further learn about ancient concepts and current practices. However some had strayed into bye-paths by concentrating on wrong books and practices effectively losing the way. Others mocked by Eastern Daoists as not serious because of incorrect understanding on Daoist (either philosophical or religious) concepts.

One fundamental concept which Western Daoist and Yi students tend to omit from their studies and practices is the cultivation of virtues, the foundation of humanity. When we study the Yi or Confucian ethics we try to become a Junzi, when we learn Tao we try to become a genuine or enlightened person (Zhen Ren). Both require the cultivation of virtues, by leaving it out of the equation totally; it would not be surprising if Eastern Daoists laugh at and not take many Western Daoists’ thoughts and practices seriously.

The cardinal virtues, those of Benevolence/Humaneness (Ren), Righteousness/Justice (Yi), Propriety/Courtesy (Li) and Wisdom/Perseverance (Zhi), are applicable to both Daoist and Confucian doctrines, the basis of Chinese civilization and humanity studies. If we object to the cultivation of these virtues because they are deemed Confucian we could not be more wrong in the understanding of fundamental concepts in Daoist or Yi studies. Without the display of these virtues the ancients would not be deemed virtuous. If these virtues were unimportant, the five Classics, Daoist texts and Confucian four books would not have delved in them at length. Neither would Neo Daoists, Daoist immortals and Confucians emphasized on the cultivation of these virtues.

Eastern Daoists and Confucians are quite familiar with the four cardinal virtues – Ren, Yi, Li, and Zhi - through their studies, upbringing and teachings of masters but many may not have heard of or know about the hidden virtue. That is why so little is said or written about it although this virtue is highly valued by the ancients, because it really emanates from the heart without contrivance. If you have not guessed or come across it by now, this hidden virtue or the so called fifth cardinal virtue is that of Sincerity (Cheng).

‘Cheng’ is not only translated as Sincerity (James Legge/Thomas Cleary), it has been translated as ‘Authenticity’ (Joseph Adler) or even ‘Faith’. The Chinese word, ‘Fu’ meaning ‘truth’ has also been translated as Sincere by both Legge (TTC 81) and Richard Wilhelm/Cary Baines (Lines text of Hexagram 61 Chung Fu / Inner Truth and some others). The Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung) discuss how to cultivate this virtue and the manifestation of the spirit when one possesses the most complete sincerity.

Zhou Dunyi (c 1050) in his book Tongshu – Penetrating the Book of Changes – discussed why sincerity (Cheng) is the foundation of the sage and why it forms the foundation for the five virtues. According to him, to be sincere is to be true to the innate goodness of one’s nature; to actualize one’s moral potential. Therefore he added this virtue to the four cardinal virtues to represent the five phases of change or five ‘elements’ which also relates to his brief explanation on the diagram of the supreme or ultimate polarity (Taiji tu). (Joseph Adler)

Down the ages, both reputable Yi scholars Zhu Xi (Song Dynasty) and Liu I Ming (Ching Dynasty) later related that the five virtues – Ren, Yi, Li, Zhi and Cheng – not only represent the five phases of change, they were depicted in the Houtian diagram (Luoshu) as such, if only we could understand them in that context for our extended studies.

At times, the way, Liu I Ming also a master of Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist studies described this virtue; he spoke as if it represents Tao. [I Ching Mandalas – T Cleary]

Great indeed is the virtue of Sincerity. Does Heaven, Earth and Man not similarly possess of it? Is cultivating virtues not then one of the ways to return to our original state of goodness and back to Tao?

If you ever mention this hidden virtue to Eastern Daoists they may take you a bit more seriously. However if they still choose to laugh at you, please do not quote my name otherwise they may laugh even more loudly. Good luck.

(Some related entries – Nov 11 A simple thought; Nov 4 The Magic Square of Three; Sept 11 Daoist virtues; Apr 19 Most Complete Sincerity; Apr 02 Te in the TTC; Mar 28 Sincerity.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A simple note on breath control

The myriad things whether living on earth, in water or fly through the air need to breathe to survive. Without breath most will die quickly just like fish out of water, gasping twisting and turning until they stop moving and lay stiff, drawing in the last few breaths. Of course whether humans continue to breathe or not, we will die eventually. But we can try to be healthy and live longer where possible to enjoy living on earth. If by chance and through our efforts we can attain Tao that would be a blessing.

The ancients by studying the various types of animals found that the deer, the crane and the tortoise tend to live much longer than the myriad things. On further studies and examination, they realized that the deer sleeps with his nose on his tail in order to close his controlling energy-path. The crane and the tortoise close their functioning-paths. When the functioning and the controlling paths can be brought into unbroken connection, then all energy-paths are joined. The path in the front of the body that leads down is called the function-path and the one at the back leading upwards is the control-path. (Hui Ming Ching [W/B])

To bring these two paths into an unbroken connection, the ancients devised a method to control the movements of the breath (qi) and the light through meditation whereby breath is made to go down the function-path (front of the body) before going up the control-path (back of the body) in one continuous circle or cycle. According to Lu Dongbin, this meditation is called the “Circulation of the Light” and was revealed by Guan Yinshi (for whom Laozi wrote the TTC). The actual starting point of this breath control meditation may be discussed in another entry.

Through continuous practice of this meditation, the practitioner will become healthier as the qi gradually becomes stronger over time. When the qi is strong, it is the time for a male practitioner to guard against lust since his penis erection will become stiffer because of qi flows. It is therefore easier for celibate monks without the temptations of flesh to progress faster and further into inner alchemy (neidan) practice. The Buddha had to discourse the entire Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen) to straighten Ananda’s incorrect thoughts. Ananda was earlier tempted by lust and had also used his intellect to learn Buddha’s teachings. Do note that ancient Daoist texts and/or Buddhist sutras on meditation do not encourage sex or ‘outflows’. Neither did Neo Daoist texts.

When one has reached a further stage and can feel the deeper flow of breath during meditation, one may realize why the adepts taught conservation of the essence (jing) and where possible to stop all outflows. Is it not that the neidan practitioner tries to convert essence into energy (qi), energy into spirit (shen) and spirit into emptiness (shu)?

Whatever stage we are at in breath control is not the point, it is ever so important that we learn and practise the correct method. Since this type of meditation is known to be full of risks and pitfalls for undiscerning students. And many have been maimed spiritually or physically throughout the millenniums. One may not know much but one can rely on the ancients to teach the correct things especially about important matters such as breath control. Not forgetting about the Daoist immortals’ teachings on the meditation too.

Meanwhile, take care.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hexagram 4 Meng / Youthful Folly

When a leader of the country falls it brings forth images of the top lines of either Hexagram 36 Ming Yi / Darkening of the Light or Hexagram 1 Qian / The Creative to Yi diviners. The top line of Ming Yi says: “Not light but darkness. First he climbed to heaven, then he plunged into the depths of the earth.” While the top line of Qian says: “Arrogant dragon will have cause to repent.” Then why did the Yi warn about the impending fall of my country’s deputy prime minister back in 1998 with Hexagram 4 Meng?

Firstly some background about the country’s political system. The ruling party is made up of a coalition of parties representing various races and cultures. It has been in existence since the fifties and has been ruling the country till now. The opposition parties are weak. The leader of the ruling party and his deputy are appointed the prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively after the country’s elections. Just like in any other democratic country, the prime minister is entitled to appoint or dismiss his deputy and other ministers.

It was an open secret that the then prime minister was grooming his deputy to take over leadership of the party when he retires. The deputy is charismatic and has quite a lot of followers and supporters, both local and foreign. The relationship started to sour after the Asian Financial Crisis struck in 1997. There were various rumors about the deputy’s misconduct and impropriety in 1998. Things came to a head when the deputy who was also the then Finance Minister insisted that the country borrow from the International Monetary Fund to help tide over the crisis instead of a well thought out strategy by the country’s think tank and the prime minister. At about the same time, Bill Clinton the then US president was under investigation and impeachment on his ‘affair’ with a young intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Under this scenario, to a question on buying shares in the stock market, the Yi had given Hexagram 4 Meng / Youthful Folly with both third and sixth lines changing and a resultant Hexagram 46 Sheng / Pushing Upward.

The commentary to the judgment is apt in this case: “In the time of youth, folly is not an evil. One may succeed in spite of it, provided one finds an experienced teacher and has the right attitude towards him.” “A teacher’s answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite like that expected from an oracle; thereupon it ought to be accepted as a key for resolution of doubts and a basis for decision.” “Given in addition a perseverance that never slackens until the points are mastered one by one, real success is sure to follow.”
-- Without the modesty and interest of a student and going against a mentor in times of crisis instead of working closely together to solve the problem at hand is definitely not correct.

Sixth in the third place means:
“Take not a maiden who, when she sees a man of bronze, loses possession of herself. Nothing furthers.”
-- Nothing furthers a man seduced by greed and desire. They can only quicken his downfall if he persists.

Nine at the top means:
“In punishing folly it does not further one to commit transgressions. The only thing that furthers is to prevent transgressions.” [W/B]
-- The prime minister did the right thing by having his deputy arrested and investigated by the police for his rumored misconduct and impropriety.

After this oracle from the Yi, based on intuition and experience, one had cautioned a few friends and relatives not to buy any shares in the stock market. The stock market plunged as expected when the government announced capital controls. Then one advised friends, relatives and colleagues to hoard up some canned food, instant noodles and drinks in case of panic caused by the fall of the leader. On the predicted day of his arrest, all food on the shelves in local supermarkets was cleared by the people in the event anything untoward will happen. When the shares plunged again this time, one bought back shares at depressed prices which rebounded shortly thereafter. Just as the Yi had indicated with Hexagram 46 Sheng / Pushing Upward!

The ex-deputy prime minister was later charged with impropriety and found guilty after a lengthy and fair trial in court. He was jailed for a few years. Bill Clinton was impeached but was forgiven (?). Surely “in punishing folly it does not further one to commit transgressions. The only thing that furthers is to prevent transgressions.”

Perhaps we have learned something here today?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Short update on WCG 2005

The world’s largest cyber-gaming tournament held in Singapore this year closed yesterday. Over 39,000 spectators gathered to watch 700 top gamers from 67 countries battle it out in eight of the most popular games including Halo 2, Fifa 2005, WarCraft III and Counter Strike (CS). The total prize money on offer was USD 435,000 at the World Cyber Games 2005 grand finals.

As hoped, my son’s team FMJ qualified for the CS quarterfinals after beating Team Norway in the top sixteen, but was outgunned by Team USA - Team 3D. Quarterfinalist teams not placed in the top three received a consolation prize of USD 10,000 each. Team 3D went on to beat Team Canada in the semifinals and Team Kazakhstan in the finals to retain their CS championship title for another year. Team 3D took home gold medals and the USD 50,000 top prize. Good game.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Away for a week

Taking the wife and my daughter to Singapore for a holiday shortly and to cheer my son and his team in the World Cyber Games grand finals on the 16th to 20th November, 2005 held in Suntec Singapore. They are in the Counter Strike Source tournament competing against 47 national teams from other countries.

If his team win the group matches and the next round of single elimination, they will probably meet the best CS team in the competition – Team 3D of USA - in the quarterfinals. Team 3D is among the best professional CS teams in the world and was last year’s winners. There you go, amateurs against professionals just like in the FA Cup (UK), perhaps.

Those interested can visit the website at:

Or you can read some of the past entries provided in the indexes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Index to thoughts and comments on the Yi

Having posted more than a hundred entries on various thoughts since the start of this blog on March 26, one provides below indexes to the various entries. This index is on The Book of Changes (Zhouyi / I Ching / Yijing / Yi) relating to hexagrams (H), trigrams, judgments, images, lines, omens and the Ten Wings:

Mar 26 Heaven and Earth
Mar 28 Sincerity
Apr 08 Can the Book of Changes tell the future?
Apr 11 A case for yarrow stalks
Apr 13 Between the Yi and a Quanzhen immortal
Apr 15 A special note on H 19 Approach
Apr 19 Most Complete Sincerity
Apr 23 Light and dark forces (H 33)
Apr 29 50 Ting / The Cauldron
May 06 1 Qian / The Creative
May 08 Spoiled by the mother (H 18)
May 14 Hiding the Light (H 36)
May 17 Arrogant Dragon (H1)
May 22 Occasion to read the Yi
May 23 H 64 to H63 (saving a marriage)
May 28 Handing over autonomy
May 31 Work on what has been spoiled (H 18)
Jun 06 Work on what has been spoiled (II)
Jun 08 Work on what has been spoiled (III)
Jun 10 Expulsion of a Quanzhen immortal (H 11)
Jun 13 For those who are oppressed (H 47)
Jun 15 Back to basics
Jun 19 A note on 48 Ching / The Well
Jun 21 A note on 44 Gou / Coming to meet
Jun 23 A further note on H 44 Gou
Jun 27 H 48 Ching / The Well (II)
Jul 01 Flying dragon in the heavens (H 1)
Jul 07 Another 9/11 revisited (H 2)
Jul 10 Time spans, trigrams and foretelling
Jul 12 Improper conduct
Jul 14 Permanent records
Jul 25 Did the Yi indicate this? (No. of bombers)
Aug 02 Hidden treasures (H 26)
Aug 15 Discussion on H 62
Aug 17 Thoughts on H 62 Hsiao Kuo
Aug 23 Asking Yi about illnesses
Sep 06 Kun and its top line (US leadership over N O)
Sep 13 Connecting the lines
Sep 19 A method to interpret ‘multiple answers’
Sep 23 H 3 Chun and H 7 Shih (US leadership issues)
Oct 01 ‘Dizhonghai’ and ‘Birds flying’ (H 7 and 62)
Oct 04 Middle of hill and ‘green colored land’ (23 & 2)
Oct 06 ‘Hills pour water’ (H 39 Jian)
Oct 10 Of Spirits and the Yi (H 9 Xiao Chu)
Oct 15 Seriousness of purpose
Oct 17 H 6 Song / Conflict
Oct 22 Understanding changes
Oct 23 Understanding changes (2) (US leadership issues and economy)
Oct 24 Oct, the month of Splitting Apart (H 23)
Oct 26 Understanding changes (3)
Oct 29 TTC 40 Return to Tao (H 24)
Oct 30 H 16 Yu / Enthusiasm (Issues of US President)
Nov 04 The Magic Square of Three
Nov 09 Deeper implications of the Yi

Index to thoughts and comments on the Ancients

For ease of reference, one provides an index to thoughts and comments on the teachings of ancients including those of Laozi, Confucius, Buddha, Zhuangzi and Mencius:

Mar 27 What do the Ancients teach?
Apr 01 Nei Yeh
Apr 02 Te in the Tao Te Ching
Apr 04 The fall and return to Tao
Apr 06 Longevity and Immortality
Apr 19 Most Complete Sincerity
May 01 The center (TTC)
May 14 Hiding the Light (TTC 36 and H 36)
Jun 17 The Center (Ancient thoughts)
Jun 25 The Light
Jul 20 A muse on Chapter 10 TTC
Aug 05 Desire and vices (Analects)
Aug 13 Three types of Man (Da Ren/Junzi/Xiao Ren)
Aug 26 Muse on emptiness and form
Sep 05 Benefit of a good deed
Sep 22 Balanced view on the Legalists (Shiji)
Sep 26 Simple note on Xin Zhai (Zhuangzi)
Oct 29 TTC 40 Return to Tao

Index to Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist thoughts

For ease of reference, an index to one’s comments on the three doctrines:

1) Daoist Immortals and Daoist thoughts

Mar 27 Songs of the Immortals
Mar 30 Yin Yang
Apr 13 Between the Yi and a Quanzhen immortal
Apr 15 Special note on H 19 Approach
May 11 A Magic Spell for the Far Journey
Jun 10 Expulsion of a Quanzhen immortal
Aug 31 Inner Teachings (Zhang Boduan)
Sep 08 Simple note on Ways of Heaven
Sep 11 Daoist virtues (TTC 18)
Sep 27 Short cryptic messages
Oct 01 ‘Dizhonghai’ and ‘Birds Flying’
Oct 04 Middle of hill and ‘green colored land’
Oct 06 When you can do ‘hills pour water’
Oct 19 A touch of Tao
Nov 02 Chu Shen Jin Fa
Nov 07 Zhang Liang, the Daoist
Nov 11 A simple thought

2) Confucian thoughts

Jul 03 A city for Confucius and Mencius
Aug 13 Three types of Man
Aug 05 Desires and vices (Analects)
Sep 02 Deeds of Da Ren and Xiao Ren
Nov 11 A simple thought

3) Buddhist thoughts

Apr 21 Buddhas rest under trees
Apr 23 Light and dark forces
May 03 Twofold entrance to Tao (Bodhidharma)
May 20 Vesak Day
Oct 12 Thoughts on Hsin Hsin Ming (Parts I & II)
Nov 11 A simple thought

Index to Meditation, Art of War and other things

For ease of reference, an index to one’s comments on:

1) Meditation, Qi and healing

Apr 10 One heart / mind
Apr 25 Directory for a day
May 25 A sitting meditation
Jun 03 Focus on the breath
Jul 20 A muse on Chapter 10 TTC
Jul 27 ‘Thermal healing’
Jul 31 Which is shen?
Aug 08 A note on Hun Po (souls)
Aug 10 Safeguards in meditation practice
Aug 26 A muse on emptiness and form
Sep 18 Dreams of a journey to Mars and beyond
Oct 03 Of students and masters
Oct 08 Qi as energy and nuclear reactions within

2) Art of War and related strategies

Jul 05 Ancient war strategies
Jul 18 Historical note on suicides
Aug 29 Overestimating one’s skills
Sep 29 Please spare a thought for the kids
Nov 06 Zhang Liang, a forgotten brilliant Han Daoist
Nov 06 Zhang Liang, the war strategist (P1 and 2)
Nov 07 Zhang Liang, the Daoist

3) Others

Apr 16 Generous review
Apr 27 Hua Hu Ching
Jul 16 A line of intuition or two
Sep 15 Notes on Spirits of Man
Nov 01 Fobbing in courtship and life

Some entries can also appear on other indexes because the thoughts overlapped into other doctrines or fields of studies.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A simple thought

In our studies, having thoughts and analyzing them are important; in our cultivation having the right thoughts in life or no thoughts in meditation are equally if not more important. What is reality or what is falsity in our minds are derived from just that, thought. Thoughts make a man. From thoughts come words and actions therefore right thoughts give rise to right actions; good thoughts lead to good actions; good actions lead to sincerity, just as kind thoughts make us kind.

Therefore when people say, ‘It is the thought that counts’, or when the Chinese say, ‘Yu Hsin’ (Have heart/mind), they are onto something close to the truth, although the particular thought or action touches their hearts, without deeper analysis they would not realize it.

In the Da Chuan / The Great Treatise, it is said:
1. “Looking upward, we contemplate with its help the signs of heavens; looking down, we examine the lines of earth. Thus we come to know the circumstances of the dark and the light.” These verses show that the ancients used their thoughts to fathom deeper implications of the Book of Changes by contemplation of heavenly signs and the earthly lines of trigrams and hexagrams to know the circumstances of dark and light forces.
2. “Going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and of death.” This verse shows by careful deliberation and investigation of things to the limits we may know what governs life and death.

In the Great Learning (Da Xue), it is said: ‘Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts rectified, their persons were cultivated.’ (Text of Confucius 5)

In volume 8 of the Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen), Buddha said, “If he puts an end to his stirring thoughts and rids himself of superfluous thinking, it is as if he has purged defilement from the enlightened, understanding mind. Then he is perfectly clear about the births and deaths of all categories of beings from beginning to end. This is the end of the thinking skandha. He can then transcend the turbidity of afflictions. Contemplating the cause of the thinking skandha, one sees that interconnected false thoughts are its source.” He also said that life is perpetuated by thought.

When we are awake we think, when asleep we dream. Only in meditation there will be no thoughts. According to Lu Dongbin only through contemplation and quietness does true intuition arise: for that the backward-flowing method is necessary.

To hold to right thoughts leading to right actions, we study the correct books, mix with the virtuous and learn from the sincere. We meditate and have no thoughts. This would be a way to rectify our hearts through cultivation of essence and bodily life.

All these arose from a simple thought. If you are as confused as me, glad to meet you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Deeper implications of the Yi

The Da Chuan / The Great Treatise, just like the other Wings, are written for experienced Yi students, scholars, experts and masters. The excerpts taken from the Da Chuan / The Great Treatise [W/B] depict the links of the Book of Changes with that of Tao, are meant for earnest students who have studied the Yi for a decade or more, but do not have this translation of the Da Chuan. It also serves to refresh memories.

Others who do not have the requisite Yi knowledge and/or experience should just read the Da Chuan and the other Wings like any other story book and not delve into these writings until they are ready to absorb the wisdoms contained therein. Otherwise they can easily find themselves confused as the Ten Wings contain deep insights of the ancients and the cosmos. With this adequate warning in place, one feels comfortable to proceed further to remain blameless.

Chapter IV Deeper implications of the Book of Changes:

1. The Book of Changes contains the measure of heaven and earth; therefore it enables us to comprehend the tao of heaven and earth and its order.

2. Looking upward, we contemplate with its help the signs of heavens; looking down, we examine the lines of earth. Thus we come to know the circumstances of the dark and the light. Going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and of death. The union of seed and power produces all things; the escape of the soul brings about change. Through this we come to know the conditions of outgoing and returning spirits.

3. Since in this way man comes to resemble heaven and earth, he is not in conflict with them. His wisdom embraces all things, and his tao brings order into the whole world; therefore he does not err. He is active everywhere but does not let himself be carried away. He rejoices in heaven and has knowledge of fate; therefore he is free of care. He is content with his circumstances and genuine in his kindness, therefore he can practice love (ren).

4. In it are included the forms and the scope of everything in the heavens and on earth, so that nothing escapes it. In it all things everywhere are completed, so that none is missing. Therefore by means of it we can penetrate the tao of day and night, and so understand it. Therefore the spirit is bound to no one place, nor the Book of Changes to any one form.

Those interested can read the accompanying commentary and explanations to each paragraph in the W/B translation. This chapter contains certain insights which can be found in the Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi and the Confucian four books.

Perhaps those who truly understand Chapter IV of the Da Chuan could perceive the changes deeper than most. The rest as usual is up to the earnest and sincere.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Zhang Liang, the Daoist

Liu Ching advised the emperor to make his capital within the Pass. The emperor was in two minds about this. As most of his attendants and high ministers came from the east of the mountains, they urged him to make Loyang the capital. But Zhang Liang objected and after a lengthy elaboration, he said, “Liu Ching is right.”

That same day the emperor drove west in his carriage to make his capital within the Pass, and Zhang Liang accompanied him. As his health was poor, Zhang Liang practised breath control and ate no grain, not venturing out of his house for a year or more.

The emperor wished to depose the crown prince in favor of his son by Lady Chi; but because many of his chief ministers objected, he had not reached a final decision. Empress Lu was alarmed and did not know what to do till someone suggested, “The marquis of Liu is a shrewd schemer and the emperor trusts him.”

Accordingly Empress Lu sent Lu Tse to enlist Zhang Liang’s help saying, “You have always advised the emperor. Now that he wants to disinherit the crown prince, how can you lie easy on your pillow?”

“When the emperor was in difficulties he used several of my plans,” replied Zhang Liang. “Now the empire is at peace and, if he wants to substitute his favorite son for the crown prince, this is between his own flesh and blood. A hundred or more ministers like me can do nothing.”

But Lu Tse insisted, “Think of some plan for us!”

“Hard to talk him out of this,” was Zhang Liang’s answer. “But there are four men the emperor has failed to win over. These four men are old and, because they think his manner insulting, they have hidden themselves in the hills and refuse to serve the House of Han. The emperor has a high regard for these men.” He elaborated on how to invite them and how to get the emperor to notice these four worthies which should help the case.

Then Empress Lu made Lu Tse send a messenger with the crown prince’s letter, inviting these four men with humble words and rich gifts. Upon their arrival, Lu Tse made them his guests.

One day there was a feast and wine served. The crown prince came to wait on his father, attended by four old men each over eighty. Their beards and eyebrows were white, their hats and gowns most imposing. The emperor asked in surprise, “Who are these men?”

Then the four advanced and gave their names as Master Tung-yuan, Scholar Luli, Chili Chi and Master Hsia-huang.

The emperor exclaimed in astonishment, “I tried for several years to get hold of you, yet you always kept away. What are you doing with my son?”

After the four men gave the reasons, the emperor said, “Take good care of the crown prince!”

The emperor then called Lady Chi and pointed them out to her, saying, “I meant to depose the crown prince, but these four men have come to his aid. His feathers are grown; it would be hard to dislodge him. Empress Lu is going to be your mistress now.”

So thanks to these four men invited at the suggestion of Zhang Liang, the crown prince retained his position.

Zhang Liang accompanied the emperor in his expedition against Chen Hsi in Tai, he devised the stratagem at Mayi, and it was he who urged that Hsiao Ho be made prime minister. In his leisure he advised the emperor on various matters.

Then Zhang Liang announced, “My forefathers were ministers of Hann state and after the state was overthrown I gave up a fortune to avenge Hann against mighty Chin, causing a great stir in the world. With my ready tongue I became the adviser of an emperor, was given a fief of ten thousand households and made a marquis. This is all a common citizen could desire, and I am satisfied. Now I mean to turn my back on worldly affairs and follow the Master of the Red Pine.” He abstained from grain and studied breath control so that he might fly through the air.

The Grand Historian comments: I had always visualized Zhang Liang as a tall, imposing figure, yet when I saw his portrait he looked like a woman or a pretty girl. Confucius said, “Judging by appearances I have been mistaken in the case of Tzu-yu.” The same might be said of Zhang Liang.

Reflections: Perhaps someone who was schooled in Confucian thoughts and later learns Tao could understand and followed Zhang Liang’s proper conduct and righteous actions. Indeed he was brilliant in his war strategies and wise in his advice. No wonder Liu Pang trusts him and frequently acted on his reliable advice. In recommending worthy men to his king, he did no more than what was required in line with the ancient way and remained blameless, as those men never failed the king or the crown prince. He always gave credit where it is due and not allowed his king to be misled by specious advice.

Like Zhang Liang, Prime Minister Chen Ping was another notable who followed the teachings of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) and Laozi according to Sima Qian.

This entry concludes the story about Zhang Liang. With the four entries on Zhang Liang, perhaps readers can learn something about Han history, why the Records of the Historian makes a good read, what constitutes proper conduct of a Junzi, how a Han Daoist follow the Way while being a court official and what qualities makes a really good adviser. Perhaps Zhang Liang may not be easily forgotten as before?

Credits: All excerpts in the four entries were taken from Records of the Historian as translated by Yang Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang, and published by The Commercial Press, Limited, Hong Kong. (1975 edition)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Zhang Liang, the war strategist (Part 2)

In the first month of the first year of Han (206 BC), Liu Pang became king of Han ruling over Pa and Shu. He gave Zhang Liang a hundred yi of gold and two pecks of pearls, all of which Zhang Liang presented to Hsiang Po. Liu Pang also sent rich gifts to Hsiang Po through Zhang Liang with a request for Hanchung, and since Hsiang Yu agreed Liu Pang obtained this district.

When Liu Pang set off to his kingdom, Zhang Liang accompanied him as far as Paochung before he was told to return. He advised Liu Pang saying, “Why not burn the plank road through the mountains? This would show the world you have no intention of marching east again and reassure Hsiang Yu.” Liu Pang, having sent him off, went on, destroying the plank road on his way.

Upon his return to Hann, Liang found that King Cheng had not been allowed to go there but had been taken east by Hsiang Yu, because Zhang Liang was on the side of Liu Pang. He told Hsiang Yu, “Liu Pang has destroyed the plank road and has no intention of coming east again.” He also informed him of the revolt of the King of Chi. Then Hsiang Yu set his mind at rest about Liu Pang in the west, and led an army north against Chi. He would not let King Cheng go, however, but made him a marquis and then had him killed.

Zhang Liang fled to join Liu Pang, who by then had marched back and conquered the three states of Chin. Zhang Liang, made a marquis, went east with the army of Han to attack Chu.

At Pengcheng the Han army was defeated and Liu Pang retreated to Hsiayi. Unsaddling his horse to squat on the saddle, he said, “I mean to give up all the land east of the Pass to someone who will make common cause with me. Can you suggest anyone?”

Zhang Liang stepped forward and said, “Ying Pu, king of Chiuchiang, is an able Chu general who hates Hsiang Yu. Or there is Peng Yueh, who has rebelled with the king of Chi. Both men would serve in this emergency. Of your own generals, Han Hsin alone is capable of great things and can play an independent part. If you mean to give up this territory, give it to these three men. Then Hsiang Yu can be defeated.”

Liu Pang sent Sui Ho to win over Ying Pu and another envoy to make alliance with Peng Yueh. And when the king of Wei rebelled, he dispatched Han Hsin against him with an army. So he conquered Yen, Tai, Chi and Chao. And the final overthrow of Chu was thanks to these three men. Zhang Liang’s health was poor and he never commanded an army, but in his capacity as an adviser he was constantly with the king.

In the autumn of the fourth year of Han, Liu Pang pursued Hsiang Yu to south of Yangchia; then, being worsted in battle, he entrenched himself in Kuling, but the other commanders failed to come to his aid. Only when he acted on Zhang Liang’s advice did the reinforcements come.

In the first month of the sixth year of Han, fiefs were given for outstanding services. Zhang Liang had never distinguished himself in battle, but the emperor said, “The strategies you planned in your tent won battles for us a thousand li away – that is your achievement. Take a choice of any thirty thousand households in Chi.”

Zhang Liang answered, “After I rebelled at Hsiapi I met you at Liu. Heaven sent me to you, and I am glad that some of the plans I proposed proved useful. I shall be satisfied with the district of Liu as my fief. I cannot accept thirty thousand households.” So Zhang Liang was made marquis of Liu at the same time the others were enfeoffed.

As for the old man who met him on the bridge at Hsiapi and gave him ‘The Patriarch Lu Shang’s Art of War’, when Zhang Liang went north of the Chi river with the emperor thirteen years after their meeting, he found a yellow stone at the foot of Mount Kucheng which he took away and worshipped. After his death this stone was buried with him and during the summer and winter sacrifices men sacrificed to the stone too.

The Grand Historian (Sima Qian) comments: Most scholars deny the existence of ghosts and spirits, but admit that marvels take place. The story of Zhang Liang’s meeting with the old man who gave him the book is certainly a strange one. It was surely the will of Heaven that Zhang Liang was so often able to save the first emperor of Han when he was in trouble. The emperor said, “When it comes to scheming in the commander’s tent to win a battle a thousand li away, I am no match for Zhang Liang.”

Reflections: By his conduct, Zhang Liang showed that he was a Junzi and a follower of the Huang Lao tradition. His strategies help save the king several times. Liu Pang became the first Han emperor.

What you have read here may differ from what has been taught in universities or heard from talk shows by distinguished speakers from established institutions in the UK. Daoists played a big role in helping Liu Pang found the Han dynasty and administered the empire just as much as the Confucians did. In case the particular history professor still gets it wrong and mislead his students, parts of the Great Wall of China were in existence before the Chin Empire. The warring states were still under the Zhou rule. The Han emperor did not follow the Chin’s way to distribute land to appease his brothers and followers – it was the established Ancient way. Remember the Zuhou?

One has always respected the level of professionalism shown in the UK. The professionals there have always been reliable and respectable. It sucks when you hear professors talking on the net or the world radio about Han history, quoting the Records of the Historian and two out of three getting it wrong most of the time because of their bias. One very much favors the first Chin emperor and the other the Confucians. Do some homework beforehand please. Or read the next entry on Zhang Liang on why the Confucians were not the ones who helped the crown prince maintained his position. Just do not rewrite Han history as you deem fit. We are talking to the world at large. Have some integrity and respect for the listeners.

Next – Zhang Liang, the Daoist

Credits: All excerpts were taken from Records of the Historian as translated by Yang Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang, and published by The Commercial Press, Limited, Hong Kong. (1975 edition)

Zhang Liang, the war strategist (Part 1)

A continuation from Zhang Liang, a forgotten brilliant Han Daoist – The Records of the Historian:

On the advice of Zhang Liang, Lord Cheng was made king of Hann by Hsiang Liang, the uncle of Hsiang Yu and paramount chief of the rebel army. Zhang Liang was made minister to assist this king. Both the king and the minister led over a thousand men to conquer the territory of Hann in the west, but each time they took a city the army of Chin recaptured it. So they carried on mobile warfare in Yingchuan.

When Liu Pang marched south from Loyang, Zhang Liang led his men to join him and together they captured more than ten cities of Hann and routed the Chin army. Liu Pang planned to lead twenty thousand men against the forces of Chin at the Yao Pass, but Zhang Liang said, “Don’t underestimate the men of Chin – they are still a powerful force. I hear their general is a butcher’s son, and tradesmen are easily tempted by gain. Why not entrench yourself here, send a force ahead with provisions for fifty thousand and set up banners on all the hills around to dismay the enemy, while Li Yichi goes with rich gifts to bribe him?”

The Chin general did in fact surrender and offered to advance west with Liu Pang against the capital in Hsienyang. Liu Pang would have agreed, but Zhang Liang warned, “The general is willing to surrender but I doubt if his troops will follow suit. That would put us in a dangerous position. Better strike while they are off their guard.” So Liu Pang attacked and defeated the army of Chin, then marched north to Lantien where he routed the Chin forces again, when he reached Hsienyang, Tzu-ying (Shih Huangdi’s grandson), the king of Chin, surrended.

Liu Pang, entering the Chin palaces, found there hangings, curtains, hounds, horses, treasures and women by the thousand. Tempted to stay there, he ignored the advice of Fan Kuai, who urged him to camp outside.

Zhang Liang said, “You are here because Chin did not rule well. And now that you have rid the world of a tyrant, you should trade on frugality. If the moment you enter Chin you indulge in its pleasures, you will just be out-doing the despot. ‘Home truths grate on the ears yet are good guides to action; strong medicine tastes bitter yet helps to cure disease.’ I hope you will take Fan Kuai’s advice.” Then Liu Pang withdrew his troops and stationed them at Pashang.

When Hsiang Yu, arriving in Hungmen, decided to attack Liu Pang, Hsiang Po hastened by night to their camp and secretly urged Zhang Liang to leave with him. But Zhang Liang said, “I came on behalf of my prince to help Liu Pang. It would not be right to desert him in his hour of danger.”

He reported the whole matter to Liu Pang, who asked in consternation, “What shall I do?”

“Do you really intend to oppose Hsiang Yu?” asked Zhang Liang.

“A worthless fellow advised me to hold the Pass against the other princes so that I could rule over the whole of Chin. I acted on his advice.”

“Do you believe you can defeat Hsiang Yu?”

After quite a long silence he answered, “No, of course not. What shall I do?”

Then Zhang Liang urged Hsiang Po to come in and see Liu Pang, who drank a toast to him, promised to link their families by marriage, and asked him to explain to Hsiang Yu that he would never think of betraying him and had simply held the Pass against brigands. So Hsiang Po went back and cleared up this matter, as had been recorded in the account of Hsiang Yu. (Records of the Historian)

Again we pause for some reflections. Zhang Liang engaging in mobile warfare in Yingchuan against vastly superior forces and in advising Liu Pang how to defeat the Chin general and his army depicts his knowledge of warfare similar to those of Sunzi. Compare Zhang Liang’s above strategy to dismay the Chin army with those of Chuko Kungming to confuse the Wei army if you have the time and interest. Did Kungming learn some of his tricks from this past master?

By advising Liu Pang against temptations with this homily, “Home truths grate on the ears yet are good guides to action; strong medicine tastes bitter yet helps to cure disease,” he could have paraphrased Laozi’s words, “Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere" (TTC 81). The entire sentence by Zhang Liang is often used by the Chinese in remonstrations even today. The tyrant (and despot) refers to the first Chin emperor, Chin Shih Huangdi.

Not abandoning Liu Pang in his time of need depicts Zhang Liang’s righteousness. Using a stratagem to turn around an impending attack by the superior force of Hsiang Yu shows his sagacity and perhaps deep insight of the TTC.

To be continued.

Zhang Liang, a forgotten brilliant Han Daoist

Ask any Chinese with some knowledge of Chinese history, who were the brilliant war strategists of all times and they may come up with a few well known names. Sunzi for his Art of War (Bingfa); Jiang Ziya also known as Jiang Taigong or Patriarch Lushang, for his strategies and advice to King Wen and his son, Wu on the conquest of Shang; Chuko Liang or Kungming for his famous ‘empty city’ strategy against an overwhelming force led by his much respected adversary, Sima Yi. Kungming was also known for the ‘borrowing’ of arrows and the East Wind in the fight against the legions of wily Cao Cao.

Both Jiang Taigong and Kungming were probably immortalized through various stories and movies available to the West such as those contained in The Investiture of Gods and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms respectively. Therefore less well known to the West but equally brilliant Zhang Liang whom the Chinese often mentioned for his Daoist strategies to help Liu Pang changed the Mandate of Heaven to that of Han remains forgotten by Western academics that have access to and often quote the Records of the Historian (Shiji) in public discourses.

A famous quote by the Chinese paraphrased as, “You have Zhang Liang’s strategy, I have a 'crossed the wall' ladder” as a counter aver to his brilliancy. His strategies helped Liu Pang escaped several times from the clutches of his adopted brother and arch adversary, Hsiang Yu the then Overlord and turned around the tides of war against vastly superior forces at the time. So who was this follower of the HuangLao tradition, Zhang Liang? The following story (in parts) is an abridged version from the Records of the Historian:

His ancestors came from the state of Hann. Both his grandfather and father had been prime ministers of Hann. His father died around 250 BC and twenty years later Hann was conquered by Chin. At the time of the fall of Hann, Zhang Liang still had three hundred slaves, yet when his younger brother died he did not bury him but used his patrimony to find an assassin who would kill the king of Chin to avenge his state, because his grandfather and father had been ministers of Hann during five reigns. The assassination failed and caused an urgent, countrywide search for brigands ordered by the first Chin emperor in his rage.

One day he was strolling idly across the bridge in Hsiapi when an old man in rough homespun approached, dropped a shoe under the bridge and, turning to Zhang Liang, said, ”Boy! Go down, and fetch my slipper!” Zhang Liang was astounded and wanted to hit the fellow. But controlling himself on account of the other’s age, he went down to fetch the shoe. “Put it on for me,” ordered the old man. And since Zhang Liang had already fetched the shoe, he knelt down to put it on. The old man stretched out his foot for it, then left with a smile while Liang watched in amazement. After going some distance the old man came back. “You can be taught, boy,” he said. “Meet me here five days from now at dawn.” Zhang Liang, his curiosity aroused, knelt down to answer, “I will.”

At dawn five days later he went back to the place. The old man, there before him, said angrily, “What do you mean by keeping an old man waiting? Come earlier five days from now.” With that he left.

Five days later Zhang Liang went earlier, only to find the old man already there. He was told to come back after another five days.

This time Zhang Liang went before midnight. Presently the old man arrived. “That’s right!” he said approvingly and handed him a book with the injunction, “Read this and you will become the teacher of kings. Ten years from now you will prosper. Thirteen years from now you will once more encounter me, as the yellow rock at the foot of Mount Kucheng north of the River Chi.” Without another word he left and did not appear again.

When day broke Zhang Liang examined the book and found it was ‘The Patriarch Lu Shang’s Art of War’. Prizing this work, he pored over it again and again. He remained in Hsiapi as a champion of justice and helped to conceal Hsiang Po after he killed a man.

Ten years later Chen Sheh and the others revolted, and Zhang Liang gathered a band of more than a hundred young men. When Ching Chu made himself the acting king of Chu in Liu, Zhang Liang decided to join him; but on the way he met Liu Pang, then in command of several thousand men who were conquering the region west of Hsiapi, and he threw in his lot with him. Liu Pang made him a cavalry officer. Zhang Liang expounded ‘The Patriarch’s Art of War to him on several occasions and he approved of the book and made use of its strategies, although Zhang Liang found others could not understand them. Struck by Liu Pang’s natural genius, he followed him instead of joining Ching Chu.

We paused here to reflect on what makes an earnest and sincere student and the meaning of affinity. Western Daoist students sometimes think about going to China to seek out real Daoist masters.

If you happen to be one of these students, look at the above excerpt once again and see whether you can be as humble as Zhang Liang in his encounter with an old man, and whether you can self study a work over and over again for the next ten years. It depicts true earnestness and sincerity. If you can indeed do that, perhaps the other thing is to have an affinity with a real master.

Be prepared to stay in the mountains alone for a few years and may be an old master may take pity on you and come along to speak to the ‘silly’ boy. A joke shared with my Daoist friend when we talk about seeking out masters in the mountains. You will never know you could see us in the same Chinese mountains waiting for real masters too or most likely not.

In the meantime, welcome and hope you enjoy some Han history.

To be continued.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Magic Square of Three

The so-called Magic Square of Three is quite well known among masters and earnest students of Yi studies, Astrology, Fengshui, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Fortune-telling. It is called a magic square because the three numbers in any column, horizontal, vertical or diagonal, add up to fifteen. The square is also directional as it points to all eight directions in a map. Let us have a look at the magic square of three:

4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6

The odd numbers 9, 7, 1 and 3 represents the cardinal directional points: South, West, North and East while the even numbers 2, 6, 8 and 4 represents the inter-cardinal points: SW, NW, NE and SE respectively with number 5 in the center. This magic square relates to the Later Heaven Sequence because when the square is superimposed upon the sequence, the trigrams, their direction and numerical values can be known. For example Li in the South is represented by the number 9 and Kan is represented in the North by the number 1 and so forth. (Also refer to the Later Heaven Sequence depicted in Fig 5 Book II [W/B])

The Later Heaven Sequence is said to have originated for the use on earth since the Earlier Heaven Sequence (with Qian in the South and Kun in the North) is said to be for Heavenly use. Therefore the Later Heaven sequence together with the Luo Writings (Luoshu) are deemed very important to studies associated with the Yi, medicine, astrology, geomancy, meditation, philosophy and the proper conduct of one’s life.

Various sages through the ages came up with variations on how to use the Magic Square of Three to distinguish Yin and Yang adding to it the use of five celestial elements or stages of changes. These five stages of changes now loosely called the ‘five elements’ represent the celestial forces of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They then indicated that each element can either generate or conquer another element to propagate their understanding of these forces. Whether it works exactly or not will no doubt depend largely on the skills of each master of the art or science.

Probably there are still many mysteries yet to be revealed on the Magic Square of Three. Since coming across this square in a Chinese kungfu series about two decades ago, one has pondered why the numbers were depicted as such and the significance of the summation of fifteen. After coming across the square again more than a decade ago, one perhaps understood the depiction of the numbers – refer to Fig 5 Book II W/B.

If we circle the numbers with a pencil, we can actually draw an outline of a tortoise with 9 as the head, 1 as the tail, 4 and 2 the front limbs, 8 and 6 the hind limbs with a shell covering the neck, limbs and body joining up 3 and 7. Work it out on a piece of paper and have some fun. The diagram perhaps symbolizes why the ancients relate to a tortoise from the Luo River carrying the writings (Luoshu) on its back to the Great Yu.

The reason for the summation of fifteen is another story. The missing link probably not found in books or tied up with the summation concerns cultivation and meditation. Meanwhile the search for further mysteries on the Magic Square of Three continues.

Do you know of some unresolved mysteries about the square and want to discuss them here?