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#109305 - 03/01/05 08:14 AM Stories of Chinese Culture

Just for anyone interested.

The Scions of Huang Di and Yan Di

The ancestors of today’s Chinese began to settle in the Huang He (Yellow River) valley more than 5 thousand years ago. They were at that time divided into several different tribes. Legend has it that
there were then two tribal chieftains who were half brothers (born to different fathers) named Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor) and Yan Di respectively.
Meanwhile, there was another tribe that had settled in the Yangtze valley and the chieftain went by the name of Qi You. According to legend, the members of this
tribe all looked most fearsome, actually more like wild beasts than men. It is said that their heads and brows were hard as bronze or iron and that they had
stomachs that could digest stone and sand.

Not only did they have all kinds of weaponry but they were also able to practice black magic. There were constant
encroachments by Qi You’s tribe on other tribes, including that of Yan Di who was however unable to put up an effective resistance and so had lost all his
territory. So he fled to where Huang Di and his men lived and pleaded for help.

Huang Di ordered all the friendly tribes to do what they could to manufacture new weapons. At the same time he sent a brave general of his, Ying Long by name, to go and catch all kinds of fierce animals and
give them training. Before long, the animals became so trained that they were able to carry out the commands given by Ying Long. At this, Huang Di told Ying Long
to set the animals in ambush and himself led warriors from different tribes to make an attack on Qi You.

The battle was joined and before long Huang Di feigned retreat. In the course of his flight, he purposely led Qi You and his men to where the trained beasts were
lying in ambush. At the sight of Qi You, Ying Long set the beasts on the enemy. The brutes made a frenzied attack on Qi You and his warriors, using their fangs and claws. This attack was followed up by an assault by Huang Di and his men. When he saw that many of his men were killed or wounded. Qi You resorted to black magic to save the situation by calling down a heavy storm which quickly covered everything up in an
impenetrable darkness. Qi You was still congratulating himself on this success thinking that the enemy would now be unable to find their way about when all on a
sudden he saw Huang Di coming at him in his
newly-invented compass-guided war chariot. With his broad sword, Ying Long hacked Qi You to death. At this moment of victory, a sudden shaft of golden light appeared in the sky and shone on Huang Di, who was
suffused with a brilliant golden glow. At the sight of this, the tribesmen were overwhelmed with wonder and delight and they said to one another that Huang Di must be the son of heaven. They proposed that he be made the chief of a tribal confederation.

From then on Huang Di was called the Son of Heaven. He led the people in offering sacrifices to heaven and earth and to gods and spirits. He got them organized in agricultural production and the development of culture. He devised the first calendar in China which was called “Huang Di’s calendar” or the “Huang calendar”. He also engaged in the study of medicine with a famous medical man of that time named Qi Bo.
The medical classic by posterity which was given the title of The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Mdeicine. Huang Di also had his wife teach the people how to raise silkworms and make clothes of different
colors. He ordered Cang Jie, his music officer make all kinds of musical instruments. Under his leadership, the people had created and invented many
new things. They built houses, vehicles and boats. They made weapons of bronze. The end result of all this was that the Yellow River valley became the cradle of Chinese civilization and a center of ancient
civilization of mankind.

The tribes that had settled in the Yellow River valley called themselves the Hua tribes or Huaxia tribes whose civilization gradually spread to other parts of
the country. This is the origin of Zhong Hua Min Zu (the Chinese nation) who all respect and revere Huang Di, looking on him as the common ancestor of the whole
nations. That is why they call themselves the scions of Huang Di. And since Huang Di and Yan Di were believe to be born of the same mother and since their two tribes were later merged, the Chinese have another
name for themselves and that is “the scions of Huang Di and Yan Di”. According to legend, Huang Di lived to be a hundred years old when on his 100th birthday a
divine dragon came for him form heaven. On this dragon he rode, to where he had come from. In memory of Huang Di, later generations built at the ancient capital of
Xi’an a huge mausoleum which they called Huang Di’s Mausoleum.

#109306 - 03/01/05 12:49 PM Re: Stories of Chinese Culture

Ancient Inscriptions on Bones and Tortoise Shells

There is recorded in Chinese history books the following story about the discovery of ancient inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells:
In the year 1899, a well-known philologist and archaeologist in Beijing named Wan Yirong was taken ill. In the medicines prescribed for him by a traditional Chinese
medicine man there was something called gdragon bonesh which were fragments of the bones and shells of ancient animals. On the bone and shell fragments he discerned some inscribed figures which looked very much like ancient writing. Curiosity set him thinking, gHow come that ancient animal bones and shells that had been buried underground could bear such designs? What do they signify?h He made inquiries at the shop selling herb medicines and was told that the bone and
shell fragments were purchased from Henan.

Getting in touch with the merchant that had sold the fragments to the shop, he bought at a considerable price the whole lot of bones and shells that bore inscribed figures
and designs. A thorough study of them finally led Wang to the conclusion that they were actually a form of ancient Chinese script.

This discovery aroused tremendous interest and attention among many scholars who then found a large amount of inscribed shells and bones at a village called Xiao Tun in Anyang County of Henan Province which happened to be the state capital of the late
Shang Dynasty (circa 1600 to 1100 B.C.). Our ancestors not only inscribed characters on tortoise shells but also on cattle and deer bones. Hence the name gancient
writing on tortoise shells and bonesh which was the form of script prevalent in the Shang Dynasty.

In those days people were very superstitious,believing that everything in life was preordained by God in heaven. No matter what they did, they would first ask for advice from the gods and spirits by
practicing divination which they believed was able to foretell whether they would win or lose in a war,whether a hunting trip would be worthwhile, whether the weather would turn out favorable and of course
whether the signs augured ill or well for a person at various stages of his life. Our ancestors did something like this. They would first make a small hole in a polished and trimmed tortoise shell or simply make a dent on it. They would then apply fire
to the hole or dent. This would cause the shell to pop a few times when cracks would appear on it. Our ancestors would then foretell things on the basis of the shapes of the cracks and make decisions for or
against doing something. All this was then recorded on tortoise shells or bone fragments. In other words, the
inscriptions were a kind of goracular writingh.

Apart from oracular writing, shells and bones were also used to recorded major events of the time such as the number of prisoners of war, the gains of a hunting
trip, the dates of floods and the tributes presented by the vassal princes.

The ancient writing discovered so far consists of some 3,500 characters of which about 1,700 have been identified. From these characters we have gained some
idea of the development and change of written Chinese.

These inscribed figures and signs already bore some of the basic structural characteristics of todayfs Chinese words which are believed to have derived from
primitive figures and signs. However, the characters in the ancient inscriptions on shells and bones, although pictographic or iconic, had already got beyond the stage of primitive figures and signs. They had the function of representing the main characteristics of something and led people to see at a glance what they signified. For instance, the figure gh stood for the Chinese word “ú, which is the sun in Englishc But general speaking,
those ancient forms were either onomatopoetic or pictographic, or both. There had also been formed a number of pictophonetic words, that is,combinations
of two elements, one indicating meaning and the other soundcThis method of creating new words through a combination of sound and form had brought forth an increasing number of Chinese words with richer and richer significations.

In short, the ancient inscriptions on tortoise shells and bones are a record of the sociopolitical, economic and cultural life of the times. Hence their immense
significance for the study of that period of Chinese history which is known as slave society.

#109307 - 03/01/05 12:57 PM Re: Stories of Chinese Culture

Tripods and Quadripods of Bronze

The ancestors of today’s Chinese had at very early times developed the technology of bronze making. As early as in the Xia and Shang Dynasties, bronze-making
had already reached a relatively high level. Various kinds of weaponry were then made of bronze, so were drinking vessels and productive tools. There had even
appeared bronze mirrors. Among all things made of bronze, the tripod was by far the most precious. Most of the tripods of those days had a round belly with three legs and two loop handles called ears.

After Yu the Great had got the floods under control, he divided the country into nine administrative districts each of which was called a Zhou. The people of all nine districts were so grateful to Yu that they
decided to give the best of their products to him as presents. Yu the Great had all the bronze presents to him made into nine tripods on each of which were carved the pictures of rare and precious animals.
Each being a beautiful and exquisite work of art, the nine together became the symbol of the rule of Yu the Great over the nine administrative districts. Later an
emperor of the Shang Dynasty decided to have all the nine tripods moved to his capital, to be handed down as national treasures form generation to generation.
From then on, the tripod became a symbol of state and power.

The last emperor of the Shang Dynasty was a man who indulged himself in all kinds of creature comforts and was unconcerned about state affairs. One day he suddenly got the whim that he ought to do something to
commemorate his mother. So he ordered the slaves to make a big four-legged rectangular quadripod. Before
the casting began, he slaughtered several hundred slaves whose blood he offered as sacrifice to the God of Heaven and his ancestors so as to have their blessing and protection.

After offering the sacrifice, the Shang emperor ordered the slaves to begin casting under the supervision of slave-owners. Under a blazing sun, several hundred slaves set to work. Divided into some seventy groups, they began smelting in as many
crucibles. Working without a stitch on their backs,the slaves threw basket after basket of ore into the crucibles and then poured the metal into molds made of
earth. First the body of he quadripod was made, then the legs and the loop handles. The parts were then put together into a huge quadripod 110 centimeters long,
78 centimeters wide and 133 centimeters high. The whole thing weighed, in today’s terms, 875 kilograms.

On the inside wall of the big quadripod were inscribed the three words si mu wu. Since the quadripod was specially made to offer sacrifices to the emperor’s
mother, it was named the si mu wu quadripod. Not only was it a huge magnificent quadripod but it was also an
exquisite piece of artistic creation with decorative patterns shaped like dragon heads on the belly and with strange distinctive patterns on the legs.

Of all the tripods and quadripods unearthed in China so far, the si mu wu quadripod is the largest. It is probably also the largest among the world’s ancient bronze objects. This testifies to the fact that even thousands of years ago the technology of bronze making had already attained a relatively high level. A large quadripod so magnificent and so exquisitely designed
could only be the fruit of the sweat and blood of the laboring people in ancient times and a proof of their great intelligence. This quadripod is now on display in the Museum of History in Beijing.

Strange to say, archaeologists have also discovered that while in the Shang Dynasty the slaves were able to make many bronze objects which indicate a
comparatively high level of technological development they still relied on stone implements or animal boneswhile working in the fields.

#109308 - 03/06/05 02:50 PM Re: Stories of Chinese Culture

Confucius as a Great Educator

In the year 551 B.C., the famous thinker and educator of ancient China, Confucius, was born at today’s Qufu in Shangdong Province, to a family that was far from
being well-to-do. But he was an earnest and
hard-working pupil even in his childhood. When a young man of a little over twenty, he became a minor official of the state. Since he was very knowledgeable and serious in work, he achieved great distinction in
job and thus became quite well-know by the time he turned thirty.

Confucius had been to many of the
principalities of the time, advocating his political views and seeking to have his service accepted by the princes in administering their states. But his views
and opinions seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and consequently Confucius made up his mind to devote all his energies to education. When people learned about
this, many of them sent their children to him to beducated. They were accepted one and all and so Confucius became the first man in the history of Chinese education to start a private school.

There was one young man of humble origin named Yan Hui who wanted to be accepted as Confucius’s student. But the family was so poor that they even had difficulty
providing themselves with daily necessaries. He was afraid he would be rejected as he could not afford the
tuition required. One day he came to where Confucius was giving lectures. He saw a few men sitting under a big tree and overheard Confucius say, “I am ready to accept anyone that can bring 10 pieces of preserved
meat for tuition, whatever his origin.” Yan Hui was greatly heartened by this. He hastened back home and told his friends Zi Lu and ZiGong about it. A few days later, all three became Confucius’s students. Even a man named Gong Ye Chang who had just been released from prison came under Confucius’s tutelage.

Confucius often lectured to his students on the theme of “benevolence”, preaching the importance of loving others. One day he and his students happened to be journeying past the foot of Mount Taishan and saw a woman weeping mournfully at the side of a grave. When asked why she was weeping like that, she said to Confucius, still sobbing, “My father-in-law, my husband and my son had all been eaten up by tigers at this place.” “Why not moving away from here as soon as you can?” asked Confucius. “But the government here is not that tyrannous!” On hearing this, Confucius turned to his students and said, “So you see, a tyrannous
government is even more to be feared than fierce tigers, even harsher.”

Confucius kept a close eye on his students’ attitude towards work. There was one young man, Zai Yu by name, who was not working as hard as the others and often dozed off in class. He was also a boastful type. One
day Confucius told his students to do reading. Zai Yu again fell asleep, bending over his desk. Confucius was very angry. He wakened up the young man and chided him sternly, “You are like a piece of rotten wood. You are also like a bespattered wall which can never be whitewashed again.” Zai Yu said in reply, “Master, I would never do the same thing again.” Nodding his head, Confucius rejoined, “It used to be the case that I would take someone at his words. Now I not only listen to what he pronounces but see what he does in fulfillment of his words.” Zai Yu was so ashamed that he became wordless, his head drooping.

Once Confucius went on a speaking tour in the state of Wei, accompanied by his students. On the way they fell to discussing such topics as poetry, ethics,
government etc. The students had a great respect for Confucius’s learning and wanted to know how he did his own studies. To this Confucius responded, “I used to sit alone thinking about this and that. Sometimes I
even forgot my meals or bedtime. Still I gained very little. Later I shifted to reading omnivorously, but I did not benefit a great deal either. At long last I came to see that reading in a mechanical way without
using my brains was no use. On the other hand, if thinking is divorced from the reality and no due attention is paid to reading, one will continue to feel puzzled by many things. One should constantly
review what he has learned and combine reading with thinking. In thus making use of the theories one has learned to guide his thought and help analyze the problems at hand, progress will be achieved.”

Confucius was a dedicated educator, having accepted a total of 3000 students in his life of whom seventy-two were outstanding scholars. Though educational work, Confucius succeeded inn propagating his political views. Eventually he and his students emerged as an independent school of thought, the Confucian school which exerted a tremendous impact on feudalist China which lasted thousands of years.

Confucius lived until he was seventy-three and his death was deeply mourned by his students. Some of them stayed for as long as three years by the side of his grave and Zi Lu topped all by staying there alone for
another three years. So as not to forget his
teachings, Confucius’s students wrote down all his dialogues with them. Later they set about collecting and editing what Confucius had said on other questions and how he had dealt with various problems and situations. All this was written into a classic of the
Confucian school—The Confucian Analects.

Remark: The English word “Confucius” was originated from a name in Chinese. Confucius, the surname is Kong, given name Qiu, and literary name, Zhong-ni (551-479 B.C.) So in Chinese, Confucius can be also
called Kong Qiu, Kong Zhong-ni, or Kong zi. The Chinese word zi is an address form for learned persons. It might be a little confused for you that the ancient Chinese people have so many names. This tradition of naming remained till the PRC built up in
1949. Some men of letters still preferred this tradition for naming themselves for a long time.

#109309 - 03/30/05 08:39 AM Re: Stories of Chinese Culture

Laozi and Zhuangzi

Lao Dan, alias Laozi, was a man from the State of Chu who was probably born before Confucius by scores of years. He had been a low-ranking official in the palace of the Zhou Dynasty and his job was to look after the library. While he was at the job, he engaged in philosophical studies and came to the conclusion that the universe consisted of sky, earth, humanity and what he called “principles” or “ways” for which he coined the term dao.

According to him, dao is a priori, from which everything else in universe is
derived. According to him, all thins are governed by objective natural laws. A man may live or die. A thing may be big or small. And a human being can be handsome
or ugly. These are contradictions and yet depend on each other. That is to say, without life there is no death; without bigness, there is no smallness; and without beauty, there is no ugliness. Furthermore, bad things can often turn into good things and it is also true the other way round.

However, Laozi was opposed to seeking change through conflict and believed in the
principle of “leaving things well alone.” He proposed that there was no need for intelligence, nor for wisdom, in the world and hoped that man would become as simple-minded as was possible and be easily contented. Laozi was a thinker-philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) in Chinese history.

In his last years Laozi grew very much discontented with the actual conditions of society. He felt a strong nostalgia for the primitive society of bygone days and hoped for a return to the social conditions of that time so that people could live in a world without war and without disparity between the rich and the poor. He envisioned a world where people had no
need to have anything do with each other and where barely knowing of each other’s existence through barking dogs and crowing cocks was enough. So he was thinking of leaving the palace job and living the secluded life of a recluse. One day when riding on the back of a cow on his way through the Han Gu Guan Pass, the local officials said to him, “Now that you have
made up your mind to withdraw from the world, please write down for us all the things you have about and all your theories.” So Laozi committed to paper an
essay of more than 5,000 words which was given the title Dao De Jing (Taoist Teachings of Laozi), often shortened to Laozi. That is why he is considered as
the founder of Taoism in China.

By the time of what in Chinese history is called the Period of the Warring States (475-221 B.C.), Taoist thinking or philosophy was inherited and developed by
a scholar from the States of Song who was named Zhuang Zhou and often referred to as Zhuangzi. As a representative of the Taoist school of thought, Zhuangzi is as well known as Laozi. Hence the two names often go together as Lao Zhuang.

All his life Zhuangzi lived in straitened
circumstances and sometimes had to earn his rice by making straw sandals or even to borrow from others. But he was not at all interested in an official position or offering his service to any ruler. There
was a king that went by the name of Wei Wang in the States of Chu. When he was told that Zhuangzi was very learned and talented, he sent an emissary to the later
inviting him to become his prime minister with a huge salary. Zhuangzi was adamant in declining the offer, saying, “I would prefer never to have anything to do with the official world and hope for spiritual
contentment only.” By this he meant the life of a recluse which would make it possible for him to devote his time exclusively to the study of the thinking of
Laozi. In his life he had authored many essays on Taoism and written a number of humorous fables through which he succeeded in explicating some abstract philosophical theories and making them easy to understand.

For example, there is this fable titled “Creating Features for Hun Tun” (Making Apertures in the Nebulae). According to the fable, there is in ancient
times an emperor in the south named Shu and another emperor in the north named Hu. In between lies the territory of the Central Emperor whose name is Hun Tun. Being close friends Shu and Hu make constant visits to each other and so have to cross the territory of Hun Tun frequently who is ever so hospitable. For this Shu and Hu are very grateful and they have always wanted to repay his hospitality. It occurs to them that although everyone has eyes, ears,
mouth and nose with in Chinese are called the seven apertures. Hun Tun somehow has been deprived of them.

Consequently they decide to create the seven apertures for him. So everyday they go and dig one aperture in Hun Tun. Who can imagine that this should have ended up in a great tragedy! For at the end of the seven
days, Hun Tun is dead. With this fable, Zhuangzi aims to make it clear that man should not be allowed to tamper at will with what is created by nature. This is
the so called Lao Zhuang philosophy of “leaving things well alone” or “doing through not doing.”

Zhuangzi had a friend who went by the name of Dongguozi. He was puzzled by the question of where to find dao which the former often referred to. So he went to Zhuangzi for an answer, only to be told that
it was everywhere. Dongguozi was not satisfied and asked again, “Please be more specific. Where can it be? I still do not know.” Zhuangzi said in reply. “Dao is seen in crickets and ants.” More puzzled, Dongguozi asked, “How can dao be something so worthless?” In answer, Zhuangzi only said, “It is in millet and weed.” More nonplussed, Dongguozi asked, “Why, this is
even more worthless!” But Zhuangzi continued, “Dao is in tiles and bricks.” Getting more and more confused, Dongguozi hastened to ask, “Why are you speaking more
and more lowly of it?” At this, Zhuangzi smiled and said, “It exists even in human waste.” Believing that Zhuangzi was kidding, Dongguozi thought better of
saying anything more. But Zhuangzi went on, “You want me to be specific about where dao is. I can not make you see where it is unless I can make you see that it is found in the most lowly and common things.”
Dongguozi nodded, although not quite understanding.

The philosophy and literary works of Lao Zhuang have had a far-reaching influence all through the feudal age of China, a period lasting thousands of years.


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