Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A tale of three Chinese professors

With time on my hands last night, one ventured to take a look at three articles of interest by Chinese professors at the Center for Zhouyi and Ancient Chinese Philosophy, China. Being professors of ancient Chinese philosophy it goes without saying that they are learned and know their subject matter well. Here is a brief comment on each article.

The article (code 351) by Professor Jin Shengyang of Sichuan University, Chengdu, depicts a meticulous scholarly approach to the subject on Yi diagrams. While he did much research and probably put in his best efforts to write the article, he could have made it a tad simpler and easier for earnest Yi students and scholars alike to follow. One lost interest trying to figure out who each named local personalities were. Perhaps in his eagerness to present his research, the professor forgot about what is indicated in the Great Treatise: What is easy, is easy to know; what is simple, is easy to follow. He who is easy to know attains fealty. He who is easy to follow attains works.

Professor Huang Qing-xuan of Taiwan Normal University is quite a character and has a novel approach to the understanding of Tao in his article (code 335) on “One Yin and one Yang is called Dao”. He had used sources from the Great Treatise and quotes from less well known Neo Confucians to support his own understanding of Tao. He paraphrased this line: That which lets now the dark, now the light appear is tao into “One Yin and one Yang is called Tao.” While he noted that both Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi insisted Yin Yang represents Qi not Tao, according to him, they had said that “one Yin and one Yang represent the Dao”. Then the professor quoted other and later Neo Confucians who claimed that Taiji is called Tao, while under the same breath, he mentioned that Zhou Dunyi had indicated that Wuji produces Taiji, to support his theory. Surely we cannot just rely on lesser known Neo Confucians to come to a clearer understanding of Tao? Perhaps if Professor Huang had delved into Daoist texts like the Tao Te Ching, Neiyeh, Secrets of the Golden Flower, Lu’s Hundred Characters and Buddhist scriptures like the Dhammapada, the Shurangama, and the Diamond Sutra, he could have come to a different conclusion. Or did he confuse the Center (Taiji) with Tao?

My Daoist friend when asked today said, “Tao is so vast that anyone can infer anything to it.”

Professor Tang Yi-jie of Shandong and Beijing Universities seems to have attended the same school as mine. If you read his article (code 330) on ‘Yi is what the Dao of heaven and that of human’, it is quite apparent we quote almost the same sources (Confucian books, Chinese Classics and Buddhist scriptures) and cardinal virtues (including the hidden virtue) to support our understanding of the Yi, heaven and Tao. If you read the article, it is also quite obvious that Professor Tang articulates his in-depth knowledge of the Yi, the classics and books better than me and with much more clarity, especially on the unity of heaven and human. Overall, a well presented article, one may say.

While reading the well written article, Western Daoists should take note of this comment of Professor Tang: “Zhuangzi was shaded by the heaven but did not know human.” Understand his reasons for saying that before devout Zhuangzi followers get upset. If you wish to dream like a butterfly, no one can ever stop you. Not the eastern Daoists (and heavenly immortals), the Confucians nor the Buddhists.

One hopes that the three professors would not be offended by my constructive criticism, if any. Perhaps they may or may not listen to what this sincere student of the Yi and Tao has to say. Allan who?!

The three articles can be sourced at

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