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Dai Village

A Weasel & A Rare Swan’s Eggs

Forest covered the surrounding area for as far as the eye could see.

The British officials in neighbouring Burma often sent their people over to survey the land and build roads and bridges. Thus Britons, Burmese and Indians appeared in Banana Vale with their frequent taxes and other ‘fees’ which the widowed innkeeper had to pay. To her annoyance, unlike the Han merchants and grooms, these tax collectors not only flirted with her but tried to cheat her out of her money, and this disturbed and angered her more than anything.

Then, one day, an opium trader on the border, who was a frequent guest at the woman’s inn and who’d had his eye on the well-to-do widow for a while, took it upon himself to protect her from their demands.

“You cheat! How come she has to pay so much?” he argued on her behalf with a Burmese tax collector, telling him in a foreign language, “I tell you, I’ve been to both Myitkyina and Mandalay! I know how it works! You think that just because she’s a widow, you can take advantage of her like this? Well, listen, you can’t cheat me, can you?”

“It includes some wine money too,” the Burmese tax collector was forced to admit, seeing that the opium trader knew what he was talking about.

“Wine money? Nonsense! Why should there be any wine money? Do you deliver wine? I’ll bloody sue you if you don’t! Besides, even if you did include wine money it still wouldn’t come to that much!”

The Burmese man hummed and hawed but decided not to push his luck and left with only the tax money. The woman was naturally very grateful. From then on, every time she had any trouble with foreigners, she would look for the opium trader who was always helpful and attentive. He even brought back silk for the woman and her daughters from the big cities he visited, and left part of his savings with the woman for safe keeping. Every time the opium trader stayed at the inn and had his meals there, he would say, “Let’s eat at the same table. We’re all one family, there’s no need to lay another one.”

Gradually, he became a member of the family and when he thought the time was right, he proposed to the woman. She didn’t feel upset, on the contrary, she felt that to deal with the British officials and the Burmese tax collectors she really needed someone like him around. She knew he wasn’t a simple person like her second husband, but as long as she kept her money and valuables out of his reach then he wouldn’t be able to do her much harm even if he did decide to make any trouble in the future…

So the woman agreed and he moved in with her.

After he had become the innkeeper, life became much more leisurely for the middle-aged opium addict. He spent most of his time lying in bed like a lazy snake puffing away on his pipe. When he did get up, he would put on a pair of leather slippers and shuffle off to the meadow and the vegetable garden, his pipe dangling from his lips. If he saw the woman and her daughters with sweat running down their faces as they ploughed the fields and cleared the meadow, he would do nothing except say half-heartedly that perhaps the meadow needed to be widened this year or better vegetables ought to be planted.

His work-shy nature soon became insufferable. Fed up of doing everything, the woman decided that things couldn’t go on like this…

Feeling that it was improper to complain directly, she began to moan and groan about the business instead.

Unable to understand what she was getting at, he insisted they hire a man-servant.

The woman inhaled deeply before answering coldly, “You don’t understand. Ours is a small business and we eat what we produce. Things are hard enough today – how do we know how we’re going to manage tomorrow? How can we possibly afford to hire a man-servant? We would have done it a long time ago if we’d had the money, in which case we wouldn’t have needed you here to help. Nobody wants to sweat and slave away like a fool. Who wouldn’t like to eat and drink for free?”

The man’s eyes narrowed…

“But I heard that you’ve saved a lot of money.”

“How can you believe that rubbish! To hell with such rumour-mongers! You know that I’ve lost three husbands and I have had to feed and clothe their children all by myself. Yes, OK, I’ve starved myself in order to save a little here and there, but those foreign bastards tax me on everything. Like water, every penny I earn flows their way and I’m left with nothing!

He fell into a sceptical silence…

“Then you can use my money to hire a servant.”

“You’d be better off saving it for yourself,” the woman sneered, “After all, you’ll no doubt be needing it for that pipe of yours, won’t you? No, we are already lost, don’t you worry about us.”

Time passed but still nothing changed. So, one day, instead of beating around the bush, the woman asked him point-blank to help with the work…

“I tell you: my family hasn’t touched a hoe for three generations let alone swept up dung. No, I won’t. I can’t help.”

He could have been more tactful, but when he thought about the woman locking all the money away and hiding the keys he couldn’t help exploding.

The woman arched her eyebrows…

“And just who do you think your family is exactly? The royal family?”

“If they were, then what would I be doing here getting all worked up about your damned cheek?!”

Full of indignation he hurled his pipe into a wooden box.

“What, you’re offended?!”  the woman glared,  “Look at yourself! What kind of man do you think you are? You just lie around all day puffing away on that bloody pipe and eating all our food. With you around, my children and I are doomed! I swear, you’re just a ghost that my children and I had the hellish misfortune to run into when it was dark.”

“It’s not your bloody money I’m smoking is it!” he yelled back at the woman, pummeling the bed with his fist, “Screw you!

Oh! So you think you can frighten us with your threats, do you? I’ll have none of your yelling and banging in front of me!”

Although these arguments put a strain on their relationship for a while, they soon made their peace like any other couple, at least superficially. In spite of everything, the woman still felt that, however greedy and lazy the man might be, he was useful in dealing with foreigners. So in the end she let him have his way.

Yet, in less than six months, he had puffed away all his savings in his opium pipe. He had become more and more dependent on the drug and now smoked more than ever. He asked her for money shamelessly, saying that he knew how much money she had and smoking wouldn’t cost her much. She knew she couldn’t keep everything from him, so following his train of thought, she said, “I just want to save some money so that we can hire a servant. You don’t want me to slave away like a horse, do you? Also, look at Fusheng, he’s nearly thirteen now but he just plays around all day. What are we going to do about him? I was planning on picking an auspicious day and sending him to one of those modern schools in the city. We’ve suffered more than enough through not being able to speak another language!”

She had not actually been that keen on sending her son to school and all she really wanted to do was to save the little money they had. But since she’d been pressed to give a reason, she had to make it sound as if she’d already made up her mind…

“Send him to modern school?! You can’t feed a common weasel rare swan’s eggs! How much money are you going to need for that?”

He had always found the boy, who never called him ‘Dad’, a nuisance…

“Listen, I’ve got an idea: let the boy help you with the work. Isn’t that better than hiring someone else? Look at him: he eats so much every meal and he’s not a small child any more. If he doesn’t want to do it, just give him a damn good beating. Anyway, I don’t think he’ll end up doing any better for himself, even if he does go to school. Like father, like son. What else is he good for besides sweeping up horse dung? Yes, don’t look at me like that, I’ve been thinking of telling you that for quite a while, but I knew that you would shield him! Let me tell you this: that lazy little devil has long been nothing but a thorn in my side!”

Little devil? So what? You don’t take care of him anyway! However much he may eat, you haven’t so much as provided him with a bite. I just don’t want him to sweep up dung, I want him to go to a modern school and make something of himself. Just see if you can stop me. And I’m going to send him there early next month!”

She could and would have kept her anger under control had he not been so foul-mouthed about her son.

“Anyway, who are you to say that my son’s not school material? Shut your filthy mouth! I tell you: scholar-officials are not born that high and even emperors and ministers come from small cowherds. You’re not going to keep my son down. No, I know what you want: you don’t want me to spend the money on him just so that you can puff it all away in that damned pipe of yours! Well, your plan’s failed again!

Bloody hell! You really are thick as shit, aren’t you? OK, go ahead, go on, send him there tomorrow, see if I care! You really think he’s going to go far in this world? Right… Of course… I’ll make sure I keep my eyes open because I can’t wait to see that!”

So, to keep his pipe burning, he quarreled with her every day. Sometimes the woman would back down and throw him a wad of notes, which he would grab from her and mutter coldly, “You don’t have to treat me like a beggar, you know? You just wait till I’m doing business again. Yes, you’ll see, just one deal will bring me in a fortune and I’ll pay you back all the money you’ve lent me with interest and not a penny less. Believe it or not, there was a time when more money passed through these fingers every day than you’ve had in your whole life!”

“Then go back to the old days and stop bloody asking me for money!”

Ha! You think I’d be sorry if I left yo? I’ve been thinking of taking off for weeks!”

“Go on then! Do it! I’ll burn joss sticks to thank Heaven and Earth!”

When quarreling and fighting were of no avail, he stole. Any money lying around would disappear immediately and inevitably made the woman more vigilant than ever. Locking up every trunk and box which contained her savings, the woman moved them into her elder daughter’s room to prevent him from finding them. She then gave the keys to the trunks and boxes to her elder daughter, who hooked them on to a belt which she wore underneath her clothes.

With no money now left lying around, he had to get his opium on credit from passing traffickers and, when desperate, he mixed the ashes with water and drank that instead. They certainly weren’t the best of days for the addict and the only way he could deal with his constant craving for opium was to drink the wine that was supposed to be for the customers and send himself into a stupor both day and night. Having had a son by him by then, the woman just ignored him, however intoxicated he was. But the rest of the children cursed him behind his back, calling him ‘the boozer’ and ‘the chimney’ and prayed for his death so that he would stop stinging them all like some vicious insect.

Soon the traffickers started leaning on him heavily to pay bay back their loans. Scared of what they would do to him if he didn’t, his addled mind could think of only one way out – to steal the keys to the trunks and take it out of her savings…

So, one night, when the inn was quiet and everyone was asleep, he lit his opium lamp and, fortified by wine, went to prize open the elder daughter’s door. In a tropical place like that, the doors and walls were made of bamboo to let a breeze pass through. It didn’t take much to get the door open…

Carefully, holding his opium lamp, he crept into the room and found the girl in a deep sleep, covered only by a thin skirt that left her legs exposed. He had always loathed the girl, calling her a tramp and other names, but now staring at her lying there, he found her young figure bewitching. When he then lifted up her skirt and looked at her naked body underneath, his intoxicated state made him forget all about their kinship.

The violent urge of his flesh pushed him towards the girl’s body…

You bastard!… You drunkard!You beast!You…”

Her daughter’s loud and desperate cries woke the woman up. Immediately, she realised that the thief in their midst was at work again. Springing from her bed, she grabbed a heavy stick and called Fusheng.

Fusheng! Get up! Now! That drunken wretch is stealing our money!”

When Fusheng awoke and realised what was happening, he too jumped out of his bed and ran after his mother with a pair of scissors in his hand.

Inside the daughter’s room, the opium lamp sat on the desk gleaming with a faint, yellowish light. The woman thought that if he hadn’t stolen anything then she would just give him a mild beating and let him go. But when she saw what he was actually doing, she was overcome with the most furious anger. Pulling the drunken addict off her screaming daughter, she threw him to the ground and gave his vital parts a severe and bloody pounding.

Fusheng, young and innocent as he was, just thought he was stealing their money, so was standing by the door, with an angry look upon his face. It was only when he saw the drunken wretch lying on the floor, groaning with his bare backside in the air, that he realised what had been going on and flew into a rage.

Rushing forward, Fusheng stabbed the man in the back repeatedly with the scissors in his hand, until the drunkard had stopped kicking and screaming and Fusheng had assuaged his long pent-up anger at the addict and his nefarious ways.

“Are you in pain?” the woman asked her daughter anxiously, stroking her hair softly.

“Y-yes,” sobbed the daughter, burying her face in her pillow, “Yes Ma, I am…”

Shaking with rage, the woman didn’t hesitate and picking the stick up again, brought it crashing down upon the back of the man’s head. He let out a moan but soon was quiet and motionless, blood oozing from his neck, mouth, back and groin. Bending down the woman examined him for a while then her face turned white with shock and fear.

“W-what are we going to do now? The beast is d-dead…”

Tears fell from her cheeks. For an instant, her long stored hate and spite vanished and she found herself forgiving him. Gone too was her courage and her heart sank. But when she glanced at the wide-open, bloodstained, wrathful eyes of the dead addict, she came to her senses.

‘How could it be my fault?’ she thought, ‘It’s all because he couldn’t control himself!’

When she caught sight of his shamelessly exposed and bloodied privates, hatred and contempt filled her once again. Her courage returned and she quickly tied his body up with a rope and hooked it to a shoulder pole. She asked her elder daughter to help her carry the corpse and her son to light the way. They were to bury him in the mountains and that would be that. The woman’s heart was empty now and her only thought was to get it done as quickly as they could.

Outside, it was still pitch-black and the mountain path was slippery. They could see rain drops splattering where the lantern shed its light. Soaked through, they kept walking forward. Whenever they fell over they would immediately get back up again as if pushed onwards by some inexplicable force. By the time they had reached the mountainside, the rain had become a torrent, which crashed down on the nearby forests with a terrifying sound. Thunder and lightning silver-plated the valley and the forests. At every crack, flash and rumble they jumped with terror as if their very souls were being absorbed by the elements.

‘Is Heaven venting its anger because I killed my husband?’ the woman thought, ‘But why? Why?! I did the right thing! He was a beast! He raped his step-daughter! He wasn’t human!’

By the time they had struggled to the top of the mountain with the corpse, she felt as if she didn’t have the strength to even hold the hoe. But thinking once more about what the man had done, she immediately found what little strength did remain and started digging the grave, when…

Ma! Ma!” screamed her son and daughter, shivering with fear, water streaming down their bodies, “What’s that?! What’s that howling over there? Ma! It’s a leopard! A leopard!!

Dropping the hoe, the woman lost her heart and strength instantly. Pushing the corpse down the other side of the mountain, she ran home with her children as fast as they could, far away from whatever beast it was lurking out there in the darkness…

The next morning when the woman got up to clean up the inn and the dead man’s belongings, she felt little grief or guilt. She only felt the man had got what he deserved and that justice had been done.

Fusheng, who usually woke up late, also got up early to help his mother with the cleaning. When he saw her wrapping up the smoking things, Fusheng walked over and took the pipe and opium cup out of his mother’s hands.

“Ma, let me have these.”

“No!” she replied, “Listen, you won’t learn anything good through them. No, Fusheng, I really am going to send you to one of those modern schools. My son, I would be so proud of you if you worked hard and made a success of yourself.”

Usually, Fusheng would have insisted on having things his way, but today he didn’t. Like a good son, he nodded and handed them back.

“Yes, Ma, OK. Now, let’s throw these away!”

Ai Wu

Extract from:

Banana Vale, Panda Books, 1993

Banana Vale - Ai Wu

…The mountains in western Yunnan and Burma were originally known as the Savage Mountains. Everywhere was primeval forest with not a human trace. It is not known when the Daying River rushed into the Bamo plains through the Savage Mountains and flowed into the Irrawaddy River – along whose banks a southern silk route was established. It took three or four days to travel along the road on foot.

I worked for six months at a place called Cogongrass Fields, which was situated in a small valley by the Daying River, and from where it took three or four days to get to Ganya. Ships from Bamo penetrated as far as the Burmese hinterland to which the railways reached so that exotic goods could be transported back to Bamo and thence to Yunnan. From Bamo and on into Yunnan Province, transportation of goods relied totally on horses, so some people had set up large horse ranches.

In the morning and at dusk, vendors and their horses would come to the inn for the night, creating a hubbub of noise at the otherwise lonely Cogongrass Fields. I was alone in Bamo with no means of earning a living, so, upon the introduction of a fellow provincial of mine – a sedan-chair carrier – I went back to Cogongrass Fields and became a sanitation worker and part-time shop assistant. The Ganya Flatlands, which the Daying River passed through, were rich farming land. In the slack season, groups of Dais would bring local products to sell in Bamo. My task was to take care of them and ensure they slept soundly and rested well.

Cogongrass Fields and the Daying River were under the jurisdiction of the British, so workers in charge of transportation and the repair of roads were stationed there, but the British officials made one tour of inspection to the Cogongrass fields only every two or three months. Consequently, Cogongrass Fields became a resting place for drug traffickers, smugglers and horse thieves. As I became familiar with them, we talked about everything and kept no secrets from each other. Thus, I witnessed the dark sides of society and at the same time the innate kindness of those living on the fringe.

I wrote down my experiences in the Jingpo Mountains and during my travels, compiling my stories into a collection called, ‘Journey to the South‘…

Ai Wu

March 14, 1992, Chengdu

Stillwell Road Map

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[Nán Huáijǐn, 南怀瑾, 南懷瑾]

March 18, 1918 – September 29, 2012


Master Nan Huai-chin



Master Nan Huai-Chin, who passed away on this day two years ago according to the western calendar, was one of the most renowned and revered lay Buddhist masters in Asia. A great teacher in all three traditions of spiritual cultivation in China, namely the Confucian tradition, the Buddhist tradition and the Taoist tradition, he wrote over 40 books on these subjects. While Nan is regarded by many in China as one of the most influential Chán Buddhist teachers, he is little known outside the Chinese cultural sphere. Nan died at the age of 95 on Sept. 29th, 2012 in Suzhou, China.


For a glimpse of his experience, we note that he studied the ancient Chinese martial arts in his youth and mastered the works of Confucian and Taoist sages at the age of seventeen. Nan studied social welfare at Jinling University and later went on to teach at the Central Military Academy in Nanjing. In the late 1930s at the age of 21 years, Nan became a military commander at the border regions of Sichuan, Xikang, and Yunnan during the Second Sino-Japanese War. There, he led a local group of 30,000 men against the Japanese invasion.


In 1942, at the age of twenty-four, he went into a three-year cultivation retreat in the E-Mei Mountains, one of the four sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in China. It was there that he verified his experience against the Chinese Tripitaka and composed gathas for each of the thirty two chapters of the Diamond Sutra. In 1945, he left for Tibet to learn from Tibetan Masters and was conferred the official title of Vajra Master by the Hutuktu Kung Ka, a high ranking tulku of the Kagyu tradition. He was also the most eminent student of the renowned lay Chan Master Yuan Huan-Xian (袁煥仙), making him an adept in both the Chan and the Tantric Buddhist traditions. Master Nan’s Dharma name was Tōngchán (通禅).


Following the revolution in China, Nan moved to Taiwan in 1949 where he became a well-known university professor and author. His first book, “The Sea of Chán” was published in 1956 and was the first in a line of over 40 books and related materials published in his name.


Nan’s books have achieved a great deal of popularity in mainland China and Taiwan. In total, more than 20 million copies of his books have been sold in Chinese-speaking countries. Some of his more popular works have gone to a 20th printing in Taiwan and his works on Confucianism are used as standard university references in the mainland and Taiwan. There is no question that his teaching has transformed many young intellectuals and is one of the main forces of genuine Buddhist resurgence in China. His books are also well respected by the academicians. According to Thomas Cleary, who has translated one of Master Nan’s books:


“There is no question that Master Nan’s work is a cut above anything else available from modern authors, either academic or sectarian, and I would like to see his work gain its rightful place in the English speaking world. … [His] studies contain broad learning in all three main traditions of Chinese thought, Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist. Although this comprehensive purview was common to the greatest minds of China since the T’ang dynasty, it is rare among scholars today.”


The following article provides further biographical and bibliographical details up until the mid-1990s.



Master Nan went to the U.S.A. in 1985, and then lived in Hong Kong in 1988. Later he was invited to act as a bridge for the peace talks between Mainland China and Taiwan by both governments. He was involved in spearheading and promoting a wide array of cultural, educational and philanthropic initiatives, both in China and abroad. In 2006, Nan founded the 200-acre Taihu Great Learning Center (太湖大學堂) on the banks of Lake Taihu near Suzhou. The school curriculum is meant to combine the best approaches of traditional China and the West. It has unique emphases such as meditation, ethics and etiquette, traditional Chinese medical theory, and Chinese and English recitation. The name of the school is in reference to the Great Learning, one of the “Four Books” of Confucianism.



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Books by Master Nan Huai-Chin in European languages:


Master Nan’s Collected Works in Chinese


The vast majority of the books written by Master Nan have not been translated into the English language from the original Chinese. The following is an attempt at a comprehensive bibliography of the works translated into English and into French. The only other foreign language editions we are aware of (with the exception of Korean) are the translations into various European languages of ‘Tao and Longevity’ and ‘Grass Mountain’ from the English editions as indicated below.


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Tao and Longevity - Huai-Chin  Nan - English Editions

Tao & Longevity English Editions



Translated by Wen-Kuan Chu, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1984. Republished by Dongfang Publishing [东方出版社] in 2008. Originally published in 1973 by Lao Ku Books [老古出版社].

  • Tao e longevità. La trasformazione di mente e corpo’, Italian translation by Patrizia Nicoli, Astrolabio Ubaldini, 1986
  • Tao y larga vida : transformación de la mente y el cuerpo’, Spanish translation by Rafael Lassaletta, EDAF, 1990, reprinted 2001.
  • Das Tao des langen Lebens’, German translation by Katharine Cofer, verlag Hermann Bauer gmbh, 1991.
  • Tao i długowieczność : transformacja świadomości i ciała’, Polish translation by Marek Wasilewski, Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo, 1995.
  • Tao: Transformação da Mente e do Corpo’ Portuguese translation, Pensamento, 1995.


Tao and Longevity - Huai-Chin  Nan - Foreign Editions

Tao & Longevity Foreign Editions


Note: The two appendices, ‘Cultivating Samadhi and Wisdom though Ch’an’ 《修定与参禅法要》 and ‘Ch’an and Pointing at the Moon’ 《参禅指月》, together form the last chapter of the work《禅海蠡测》 ‘Chan hai li ce’ – ‘The Sea of Chan’, as yet untranslated into English. The Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Polish editions are based on the English translation by the late Dr. Chu Wen-Kuan [Zhu Wenguang, 朱文光], one of Master Nan’s foremost disciples.


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Grass Mountain English Edition



  • Grass Mountain: A Seven Day Intensive in Chan Training with Master Nan Huai-Chin.’ Translated by Margaret Yuan [Liu Yu-Hung, 刘雨虹] and Janis Walker, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1986.
  • Chan : siete días de práctica intensiva’, translation into Spanish from the English edition by Jorge A. Sánchez, Editorial Ibis, 1992.
  • Góra traw: siedem dni intensywnego treningu ch’an z mistrzem Nan Huai-chin’, translation into Polish from the English edition by Maciej Kanert, Dom Wydawniczy Rebis, 1996.


Grass Mountain - Nan Huai Chin -  Spanish and Polish Editions

Grass Mountain Foreign Editions


Note: Consists of the translation of the transcripts of a seven-day Chan session in 1962, forming part of the series called Profiles of Zen Training, regrouping the accounts of a number of such sessions, first published in 1976 by Lao Ku Books. Includes a Chinese-English glossary.


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 Published in English in 2 volumes as follows:


Working Toward Enlightenment & To Realize Enlightenment


Translated by J.C. Cleary, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1993.


Translated by J.C. Cleary, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1994.


Note: This important work is based on a series of some 28 conferences given in 1978, and published in Chinese in 1989.

Read an excerpt from ‘Working Toward Enlightenment‘:

Read an excerpt from ‘To Realize Enlightenment‘:

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The Story of Chinese Zen English Edition



Translated by Thomas Cleary, published by Charles E. Tuttle (Tuttle Library of Enlightenment), 1995.


Note: Consists of the first part of the dual history of Chinese Zen and Taoism. The appendix on the influence of Zen and the Zen monastic system on Chinese society present in the original Chinese edition was omitted in this translation, but subsequently reproduced in ‘Basic Buddhism’ (see below). Originally published in Chinese in 1968.

Read an excerpt from ‘The Story of Chinese Zen‘:


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Basic Buddhism - Nan  Huai-chin

Translated by J.C. Cleary, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1998. Republished by Jaico Publishing in India on a number of occasions, and by Dongfang Publishing [东方出版社] in China in 2008.


Note: Originally published in Chinese in 1987. The later Chinese-published English edition is slightly censored and lacks the chapter dealing with the history of Buddhism in Tibet, among other things (see below).


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Zen & Tao Chinese Edition



Translated by Dr. William Brown, Top Shape Publishing, 2002.


Note: Consists of the second part of the dual history of Chinese Zen and Taoism, published as an e-book.

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Diamond Sutra Explained English Edition


Translated by Pia Giammasi [Hue En, 纪雅云], Primordia, 2004.


Note: Consists of a translation of the Diamond Sutra from the Chinese of Kumarajiva, and Master Nan’s detailed commentary. The translator Pia Giammasi was a student of Master Nan’s. Based on a conference series held in 1988, and published in 1992.


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With William Bodri [包卓立], Top Shape Publishing, 2010.


Note: An expanded version of the original Chinese lecture series delivered in 1996 and published in two volumes in 2003 and 2004. Previously published as an e-book with the different title: ‘The Insider’s Guide to The World’s Best and Worst Spiritual Paths and Practices’.


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Translated by Joshua BenOr, Top Shape Publishing, 2008.


Note: An incomplete translation of this work on recent Chinese history and culture, omitting the final two chapters and the four appendices, essentially dealing with education and literature. Made freely available on William Bodri’s Meditation Expert website. The work was published under three different titles in Chinese, explaining the various renditions in English.

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Translated by Shi Hong, edited by William Bodri, Top Shape Publishing, 2008.


Master Nan & Peter Senge


Note: Translation of a series of lectures given for Peter Senge of MIT between 2003-2005. Consists of the first half of the Chinese edition, which includes the transcripts of further lectures for the ELIAS group, given in 2007. Published as an e-book.

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Other Writings:






  • Dhyana monastic system and Chinese society

Bilingual Chinese-English edition, English translation by Huang Fu 黄復. Published by 兿文印書館, Yi Wen Shu Guan, Taipei, 1964. Republished by Lao Ku Books.

Note: This edition contains both the Chinese text and an English translation in the same volume, according to the bibliographic sources we have been able to consult. However, as we have not been able to see this volume, any further information is welcome. The content would appear to be identical to the chapter ‘The Zen Monastic System and Chinese Society‘ appended to ‘Basic Buddhism‘.




Zhuge Liang’s Letter to my Son


Translated by Steven Clavey, in: The Lantern: Volume VII, Issue 2 – Article #9


Note: Excerpted from the book 《禅与生命的认知初讲》 (Chan yu shengming de renshiUnderstanding Chan and Life) – a transcription of a series of lectures delivered at the Taihu Great Learning Centre in 2006, published by Dongfang Publishing, 2009. Published as an electronic article in the The Lantern, a journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


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Note: A partial translation of the first section of Master Nan’s seminal work on the Confucian Analects by Dr. Will Zhang, one of Master Nan’s students. Available to read online here:


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Translation of: ‘Ma-tsu, de gesprekken’ from the Dutch by Julian F. Pas; introduced, translated into Dutch and annotated by Bavo Lievens; with a preface and commentary by Nan Huai-chin. Edwin Mellen Press, 1987. The original Dutch edition was published in 1981 by Wereldvenster.


Note: Prof. Bavo Lievens, who produced the initial Dutch translation of this work, was a student of Master Nan’s, and later wrote the book ‘The Mind Experiment’ partly based on Master Nan’s teachings.


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Cundi Bodhisattva



Note: Illustrated description of the Zhunti (Cundi) Bodhisattva sadhana by Master Nan Huai-chin. Read online here:


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Master Nan penned the Foreword to Awakenings : Asian wisdom for every day, Olivier & Danielle Föllmi, Abrams, 2007. Also published in the UK as: The Wisdom of Asia: 365 days: Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Thames & Hudson, 2007.


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Heritage of Change


By W.A. Sherrill; East-West Eclectic Society (Lao Ku Books), 1972.


Master Nan – Heritage of Change Frontispiece



Note: Wallace Sherrill was a Rear-Admiral of the US Navy who lived in both mainland China and Taiwan, where he studied with Master Nan. He also co-authored 2 books on the I Ching with Dr. Chu Wen-kuan; ‘An Anthology of I Ching’, and ‘The Astrology of I Ching’. This book, on the influence of the Book of Changes on Chinese culture as well as its practical applications, contains the syllabus of courses offered by Master Nan in Fu-Jen University, and thus gives an idea of the breadth and depth of his learning. A portrait of Master Nan also serves as frontispiece. The book has been digitized and made available here:


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French Translations – Livres de Maître Nan en français:




Translated by Jean-Claude Dubois, Monica Esposito, Gabrièle Goldfuss, Vincent Durand-Dastès, preface by Catherine Despeux, Guy Trédaniel Éditeur, 1994.


Note: Consists of a series of conferences on Taoism, the Book of Changes (I Ching) and Traditional Chinese Medicine entitled 《道家《易经》与中医医理》, included in the volume 《道家、密宗与东方神秘学》 (‘Taoïsme, tantrisme et ésotérisme en Extrême-Orient,’ – ‘Taoism, Esoteric Buddhism and Oriental Mysticism’). The translation team was directed by Dr. Jean-Claude Dubois, who studied with Master Nan. Prof. Catherine Despeux [戴斯博], who wrote the preface, also studied with Master Nan.


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Translated by Sylvie Hureau-Denis, Françoise Toutain-Wang, Catherine Despeux, Shuhua Liang, Gabrièle Goldfuss, Éditions du Seuil, 1998.


Note: Consists of a translation of 10 of the 28 chapters of the original Chinese edition. Contrary to what one Chinese bibliography states, this translation was done from the Chinese, not from the English edition.


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Compiled and translated by Liao Yi Lin, Guy Trédaniel Éditeur, 2010


Note: Consists of a lavishly illustrated anthology of texts and poems by Master Nan, translated and commented by Liao Yi Lin. Ms. Lin studied with Master Nan in later years.


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Maître Nan signa la Preface à Eveils : 365 Pensées de sages d’Asie, Taoïsme, Confucianisme, Bouddhisme, Olivier & Danielle Föllmi, Éditions de La Martinière, 2007.

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Readers of the Chinese editions should be aware of the censorship of the PRC publications: one will note that any unflattering references to the Chinese Communist Party, any references whatsoever to the Kuomintang Nationalist Party, the Chinese Civil War, the Cultural Revolution, or criticisms of modern political ideology, are entirely lacking from the PRC editions. Furthermore, the Chinese-published English editions of ‘Tao & Longevity’ and ‘Basic Buddhism’ (both Dongfang Publishing, 2008) are similarly censored; the latter omitting the sub-chapter dealing with the history of Buddhism in Tibet, and any other reference to Tibet being inevitably preceded by the word ‘China’ in the genitive case, something neither present in the original nor in the original English translation.


Given that most of Master Nan’s books in English are out of print and some command high prices on the second-hand market, we suggest using a service such as Bookfinder in order to compare prices and purchase hard-to-find titles.


Readers who notice any errors or omissions are cordially invited to contact us in order to make this bibliography as complete and as accurate as possible. Thank you. Contact: thebamboosea[@]gmail[.]com

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Su Tung-po:

Tracks in the Snow


In a previous set of articles on an illustrated Qing-dynasty memoir, 鴻雪因緣圖記 [hongxue yinyuan tuji] by Lin Qing 麟慶, we have presented a number of episodes from those memoirs, or commentaries on the book, along with the corresponding illustrations.

Yet the title of the work itself is worthy of note, being rendered variously into English as: A Wild Swan’s Trail; Tracks in the Snow; Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose; Record of a Goose Life’s Traces in the Snow; Wild swan on the snow; among many others. In fact, it is a reference to a famous poem by Su Tung-p’o [Su Dongpo], or Su Shi 蘇軾, a poet-official of the Sung [Song] dynasty, entitled « 和子由澠池懷舊 », which expresses the impermanence and ephemeral nature of a fleeting human existence.








This poem was written in reply to a poem by his brother, Tseyu [Ziyou]. Lin Yutang, in his biography, The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo, says:



“The brothers often ho, or “echoed” each other’s poems; to “echo” a poem is to answer it with another one using the same rhyme words. It was a good test of poetic skill, for the rhyming had to be natural, and this was one of the accomplishments of all scholars in ancient China. People looked for surprising, or delightful, or refreshing, tunes of thought, expressed with the prescribed rhyme words, and the lines had to have natural sequence. As in a crossword puzzle, the difficulty increased the delight when the rhyming was done with ease and without effort. In one of these earliest “echo” poems, written to Tseyu, Tungpo already revealed a complete mastery. Having to write a poem where the first two rhyme words had to be “snow” and “west,” Tungpo wrote:

To what can human life be likened?

Perhaps to a wild goose’s footprint on snow;

The claws’ imprint is accidentally left

But carefree, the bird flies east and west.

It remained one of Tungpo’s best poems. The flying bird was a symbol of the human spirit. In truth, the events and doings of Su Tungpo we are reading about in this book are but the accidental footprints of a great spirit, but the real Su Tungpo is a spirit, like a phantom bird, that is even now perhaps making dream journeys among the stars.”


In his commentary on Lin Qing’s book, John Minford notes the reference and translates the lines freely as:

To what can this human life be likened?

Perhaps to a wild swan treading on the snow;

it leaves a few tracks and flies on blithely into the unknown.”


In his Selected Poems of Su Tung-p’o, Burton Watson has translated the poem in full:


 Rhyming with Tzu-yu’s ‘At Mien-ch’ih, Recalling the Past

Wanderings of a lifetime – what do they resemble?

A winging swan that touches down on snow-soaked mud.

In the mud by chance he leaves the print of his webs,

but the swan flies away, who knows to east or west?

The old monk is dead now, become a new memorial tower;

on the crumbling wall, impossible to find our old inscriptions.

Do you recall that day, steep winding slopes,

road long, all of us tired, our lame donkeys braying?



Kenneth Rexroth renders the entire poem as:

Remembering Min Ch’e

A Letter to his Brother Su Che

What is our life on earth?

A flock of migrating geese

Rest for a moment on the snow,

Leave the print of their claws

And fly away, some East, some West.

The old monk is no more.

There is a new gravestone for him.

On the broken wall of his hut

You can’t find the poems we wrote.

There’s nothing to show we’ve ever been there.

The road was long. We were tired out.

My limping mule brayed all the way.


(“Love and the Turning Year: One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese”, New Directions, 1970)

One very insightful reading of Su’s poem is that of Chan Master Nan Huai-chin (Nan Huaijin, 南怀瑾), in his commentary on the Diamond Sutra (Diamond Sutra Explained):


Master Nan Huai-chin

“Su Tung-p’o wrote a famous poem which came out of his Buddhist practice:

Human existence anywhere can be likened to what?

One ought to describe it as a bird touching down

On new-fallen snow, leaving by chance a track.

When the bird flies, does it plan to go east or west?

He posed the question; the course of one human existence can be likened to what? Like a bird on a snowy day, alighting on the snow for a moment, leaving a claw print, “leaving by chance a track.” The snow continues falling after the bird flies off, covering over the print, no trace remains. After the bird has flown off, whether it be north, south, east or west, the bird is gone and no print remains.

Most people’s goals in life are to raise a family, have a career, children, grandchildren, etc. The day one’s eyes close, limbs go limp and one passes from this world – when the bird flies – does one plan to go east or west? At that point, there is no such thing. These are Su Tung-p’o’s famous lines.”



(Nan Huai-chin, “Diamond Sutra Explained, translated by Pia Giammasi, published by Primordia Media, 2004).

Lastly, there is one other version of the poem available online, translated by A. S. Kline, entitled “Remembrance”.

 To what can we compare our life on Earth?

To a flock of geese,

alighting on the snow.

Sometimes leaving a trace of their passage.


That Lin Qing named his memoirs after such a poem shows his concern with leaving a “track” of some sort, on the one hand, and his sensitivity to literature – mentioned by Herbert Giles in the first post of this series – on the other.

(Click to enlarge)

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Letter to a Chinese Gentleman



Count Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s “Letter to a Chinese Gentleman” (“Письмо китайцу”), written in reply to Ku Hung-ming (Хун-Мину), and translated by Vladimir G. Tchertkoff, was published in English in 1907 by The Free Age Press. The letter was written in October 1906 after Tolstoy received some books from Ku – “Et nunc, reges, intelligite! the moral causes of the Russo-Japanese war” and the “Papers from a Viceroy’s Yamen“.

The letter was first published in German in November 1906 in the “Neue Freie Presse,” then in French in the “Courrier Européen“, in English in “The Free Age” and only lastly – and partially – in Chinese in 1907, both in China and in overseas Chinese publications (in Paris). The letter in full was published in Chinese in China only in early 1911, after Tolstoy’s death, in the “Dongfang” journal  (东方杂志).


It shall be seen that Tolstoy and Ku were in close agreement on the baneful effects of modernization and the myth of progress.

Constitutions, protective tariffs, and standing armies have rendered the Western nations what they are: people who have abandoned agriculture and become unused to it, occupied in towns and factories in the production of articles that are for the most part unnecessary, people who with their armies are adapted only to every kind of violence and robbery. However brilliant their position may appear at first sight, it is a desperate one, and they must inevitably perish if they do not change the whole structure of their life, founded as it now is on deceit and the plunder and pillage of the agricultural nations.

To imitate Western nations, being frightened by their insolence and power, would be the same as if a rational, undepraved, industrious man were to imitate a spendthrift, insolent ruffian who has lost the habit of work and was assaulting him. It would be to successfully oppose an immoral scoundrel by becoming a similar immoral scoundrel oneself. The Chinese should not imitate Western nations, but profit by their example in order to avoid falling into the same desperate straits.

All that the Western nations are doing can and should be an example for the Eastern ones – not, however, an example of what they should do, but of what they should not do under any consideration whatever.

Tolstoy and Ku’s correspondence was not limited to this single exchange of letters; Ku sent a congratulatory telegram to the Russian author on his 80th birthday in August 1908, signed by many eminent Chinese cultural personalities.

Ku Hungming

Ku Hungming

Significantly, Tolstoy considered this brief letter – which can be read as a manifesto – as one of his most important works, along with his “Circle of Reading”. Further commentary would be therefore superfluous.


Download the PDF:

Letter to a Chinese Gentleman


Papers from a Viceroy’s Yamen” (尊王篇), the title of a book by Ku Hung-ming published in 1901, is a collection of rather vitriolic essays on Western encroachment in China, written in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion.

The “Bogdikhan” (usually written as Bogd Khan) was in fact the title of the last Mongolian Emperor, a Buddhist Lama enthroned as emperor.

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Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

[Ryūnosuke Akutagawa]

A further installment in our series of pieces on and by Ku Hung-ming, [Gū Hóngmíng 辜鴻銘] (1857-1928).


The Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (芥川龍之介, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke), author of “In a Grove” and “Rashomon”, was told before going to China in March 1921: “If you go to Peking, you may skip a visit to the old Imperial Palace, but you must not miss a chance to see Ku Hung-Ming.” Akutagawa’s visit to China lasted four months but due to ill-health he did not write a single article until he returned to Japan. Incidentally, his visit to China also included an interview with the monarchist Zheng Xiaoxu (鄭孝胥), formerly a high-ranking official in the Qing dynasty administration, who was to become Prime Minister of the Japanese-controlled puppet state of Manchuko under the Emperor Puyi.

Ku Hung-ming, Gu Hongming



“Akutagawa did have one other meeting with a Chinese intellectual, though not in Shanghai. Later in his travels, he met with the celebrated arch-reactionary Gu Hongming (1857-1928), who subsequently became an advisor to the warlord Zhang Zuolin. Gu was still wearing his queue, sign of fidelity to the Qing dynasty then ten years defunct, as he greeted his Japanese guest in English, the language they had in common and used for their conversation. While speaking nonstop in English, Gu wrote in Chinese on paper, and somehow Akutagawa conveyed the whole exchange into his travel narrative in Japanese.


Mr. Gu calls himself a man of east, west, south and north. He was born in Fujian province in the south; he studied in Scotland in the west; his wife is Japanese from the east; and he resides in Beijing to the north. He speaks English of course, but German and French as well. However, he is unlike [those associated with] young China. He does not have an inflated opinion of Western civilization. He heaps abuse on Christianity, republicanism, and the omnipotence of machinery. And, when he saw me dressed in Chinese garb, he said: “Not wearing Western clothing is quite admirable, though I do find fault with the lack of the queue!””


[The literature of travel in the Japanese rediscovery of China, 1862-1945 by Joshua A. Fogel.]



Akutagawa dressed in Chinese clothing


[Akutagawa dressed in traditional Chinese garb, as per his description above.]

Read more on Ku Hung-ming

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“I have rented a temple in the Western Hills, to go there for week-ends, and perhaps for an occasional fortnight in the autumn or spring. It is about eighteen miles from Peking, and one can reach the place easily enough on horseback. Also one can go most of the way by motor, along the new road that branches off to the Summer Palace.

The train that goes to Men-to-kou, on the other side of the mountains, stops at a little station two miles distant from the village of Pa-ta-chu. The name means ‘The Hill of the Eight Sanctuaries’. My temple is one of the eight that mount up the hill-side among the oaks, the maples, and the stunted pines. Both temples and trees nestle in the hollows, where they are protected from the north wind, which keeps the hill-tops shorn of vegetation.

The word ‘temple’ comes from the Greek τέμνειν, which means ‘to cut out, to separate, to isolate’, alluding to the exclusive character of that which is sacred to the gods. But Chinese gods, though sometimes fierce and terrifying, are not exclusive. They like company and are not particular what company they keep.” (Varè, ‘The Gate of Happy Sparrows’)

“As on my former mission in China, I rented a temple in the Western Hills. It was an isolated temple close to Pa-ta-chu, but in a little valley of its own. It was called the Pi-mo-yen. So many translations were given to me of this expression that I never really knew what it meant. ‘The Precipice where the Spirit is Refreshed’ was one; another was ‘The Precipice where the Devil is Exorcised.’

The Pi-mo-yen was a live temple, that is to say it had an abbot and a priest living in it, and many pilgrims came to burn incense in front of the effigy of a Buddha in a little grotto inside the temple grounds, under a huge overhanging rock. The pilgrims used to pass through my quarters but without causing me inconvenience. The Abbot and I became friends, though we could not understand each other very well. Sometimes I used to go over my Chinese characters with him. But his pronunciation of the tones was different from that which I was used to in Peking.

The Pi-mo-yen was endowed with property of its own, and the farm produce used to be brought in and stored, so I had the impression of living in a Chinese country-house with all the interest that a country-house gives to its occupants. The place was very old and had once been a centre of religious instruction. It is mentioned as such in some Chinese books. A cousin of the Emperor Ch’ien Lung once lived there and wrote a book in which he described his travels in Turkestan and elsewhere. The title was Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.” (Varè, ‘Laughing Diplomat’)

It was in a Buddhist temple in the Western Hills that I wrote the first chapters of this book. The temple is named Pi Mo Yen. In the eighteenth century a Manchu general, cousin to the Emperor Ch’ien-lung, stayed up there, like myself, and wrote a book. (His was a book of travel, with the quaint title “Footsteps in the Snow of a Solitary Goose.”) Close by were the Hunting Park and the tower whence the emperor used to watch his army manoeuvring on the plain. All around were signs of a past magnificence. (Varè, ‘The Last Empress’ ix, 1936)

This temple, one of the smallest and highest of those in the Western Hills, was known to the foreign community in Peking at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century as Pi Mo Yen [碧默巖]. Chinese sources, however, indicate its name to be Mi Mo Ya [秘魔崖]. Forthcoming installments will further illustrate the Western Hills, using pictures from Lin-qing’s book accompanied by excerpts from contemporary European sources.

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 4 of 6

About the Author:

Daniele Varè (1880-1956) was an Italian diplomat who served chiefly in China, from 1908 until 1920. After he retired from the diplomatic service he devoted himself to writing, translating his own books into English, and writing some of them directly in that language. He wrote works of popular history, such as ‘The Last Empress’ (also published as ‘The Last of the Empresses’), and his novels, ‘The Maker of Heavenly Trousers’; ‘The Gate of Laughing Sparrows’; and ‘The Temple of Costly Experience’; thinly-veiled romans-a-clef, portray expatriate life in China during the end of the Qing dynasty and the beginning of the Republican period. His autobiography, ‘Laughing Diplomat’, was published in 1938. Sir Edmund Backhouse, in his memoirs, describes Varè as his ‘enemy’, doubtlessly because Varè paid him a back-handed compliment by comparing his work and himself with James Macpherson and his ‘Ossian’. – Se non è vero, è ben trovato, we may say.

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Lin Qing was a Chinese government official who visited Shaolin Monastery in 1828. He subsequently published an illustrated book describing his travels. According to Lin Qing, the head monk was uncomfortable showing him martial arts because of government decrees against such practices. Lin Qing described the demonstration using a phrase from Zhuangzi, namely, “xiong jing niao shen”, which describes movements of bears and birds. This in turn refers to physical exercises done during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E., when the Zhuangzi was recorded.

(‘Martial arts in the modern world’, T.A. Green & J.R. Svinth, 2003, p 5.)

… in 1828 prominent Manchu official named Lin Qing (1791-1846) visited the Shaolin Temple. By then, bare-handed techniques had completely eclipsed the monastery’s ancient staff methods, and instead of an armed display, the distinguished guest was entertained by a sparring demonstration:

In the evening we returned to the Shaolin Monastery, and paid our respects at the Jinnaluo (Vajrapani) Hall. The deity’s image is most awesome. He wears thin garments, and wields a stove poker (huo gun). Tradition has it that once he displayed his divinity and warded off bandits. Today he is the monastery’s guardian spirit (qielan). Praying to him is invariably efficacious.

I proceeded to ask the monks about their hand combat method (quan fa), but they refused to utter a word about it. I made it clear that I had heard about the Shaolin Fist long ago, and I knew it had been relied upon solely for guarding monastic regulations and protecting the famous temple. Therefore they need not make pretence.

The abbot laughed and assented. He selected several sturdy monks to perform in front of the hall. Their “bear-hangings and bird stretchings” were indeed artful. After the performance the monks retreated. I sat facing Mt. Shaoshi’s three peaks, which resembled a sapphire tripod. Watching the shaded forests, misty mountains, and emerald green thickets, my body and spirit were equally at peace. I resolved to stay overnight.

Published in 1849, Lin Qing’s account of his visit was accompanied by a woodblock illustration of Shaolin monks practicing hand combat. The martial artists were shown under the gigantic shadow of their tutelary deity, Vajrapani (Kimnara), who still wielded his staff of old. The Manchu official, in ceremonial cap and robes and surrounded by his entourage, appeared in the picture as well. Apparently he was fascinated by the performance. Whereas the elderly abbot remained sitting under the hall’s eaves, Lin Qing rose from his seat to watch the martial artists up close.”

(M. Shahar, ‘The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts’, 2008, pp 126-128.)

According to Shahar, some scholars believe the renowned murals in Shaolin were painted to commemorate this visit:

Lin Qing’s woodblock illustration leads us to another, more elaborate, artwork, which depicts a similar scene: Shaolin’s White-Attired Mahâsattva Hall (Baiyi dashi dian) is decorated with an early nineteenth-century mural of fighting monks, who are demonstrating their bare-handed skills to visiting dignitaries, probably government officials. The guests, identified by their queues, are entertained by the abbot in a central pavilion, which is surrounded by the performing artists. The gorgeous fresco was executed with such attention to detail that some modern practitioners are able to identify in it the bare-handed postures they practice today. (ibid.)

The Shaolin Monastery charts, for the first time in any language, the history of the Shaolin Temple and the evolution of its world-renowned martial arts. In this meticulously researched and eminently readable study, Meir Shahar considers the economic, political, and religious factors that led Shaolin monks to disregard the Buddhist prohibition against violence and instead create fighting techniques that by the twenty-first century have spread throughout the world. He examines the monks’ relations with successive Chinese regimes, beginning with the assistance they lent to the seventh-century Emperor Li Shimin and culminating more than a millennium later with their complex relations with Qing rulers, who suspected them of rebellion. He reveals the intimate connection between monastic violence and the veneration of the violent divinities of Buddhism and analyzes the Shaolin association of martial discipline and the search for spiritual enlightenment. (from the publishers)

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 3 of 6

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