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A Journey to the Sacred Mountain of Siao-Outai-Shan, in China.

By Arnold Henry Savage Landor.

 

Arnold Henry Savage Landor (1865–1924) was an English painter, explorer, writer, and anthropologist, grandson of the writer Charles Savage Landor.

Among his written works we find travelogues of his journeys through China, Tibet, Nepal, Japan, Central Asia and Africa. His witty style is most apparent in this obscure article, which first appeared in the Fortnightly Review, 323, September 1894, pp. 393-409, and subsequently reprinted in Eclectic Magazine, 123 (July-Dec 1894); Littel’s Living Age, 203 (Oct-Dec 1894).

 

 

Direct Download (PDF): A-Journey-to-the-Sacred-Mountain-of-Siao-Outai-Shan-in-China

The original files were first published on the website of the Japanese Toyo Bunko library housing the G.E. Morrison Collection, some of which has been digitised and made available online.

A comprehensive website dedicated to the man and his works may be found here. Other works of his may be read online on Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, or Wikisource.

Jinhesi

 

The mountain range in question, Xiaowutaishan 小五臺山, in northern Hebei province, is sometimes confused with Wutaishan 五臺山 proper. This mountain, an important place of Buddhist worship during the Liao and Jin dynasties, is host to Jinhesi 金河寺, the Golden River Monastery, where the learned monk, Venerable Daozhen 道㲀, wrote the influential Xianmi Yuantong Chengfo xinyao ji 顯密圓通成佛心要集, a text which synthesised esoteric Tang Buddhism with Huayan philosophy and promoted the Cundi (Zhunti) bodhisattva cultus.

Cundi Bodhisattva

Dhyana Monastic System and Chinese Society

禪宗叢林制度與中國社會

南懷瑾 著

黄復 英譯

兿文印書館, 民53

by Mr Huai-Ch’in Nan

Translated by Mr Fu Huang  黄復, his disciple.

Published by 兿文印書館 Yi Wen Shu Guan, Taipei, 1964.

 

Master Nan’s Collected Works Vol. 1, inc. The Sea of Chan and the present text.

 

We are pleased to present one of Master Nan’s earliest works, and in English too. This monograph is a study of the specificity of the Chan/Zen school and its influence on Chinese society. Originally given as a series of academic lectures, this study was first published in book form in 1962, and later compiled with other writings by Master Nan on the same general topic, Chan Buddhism and Chinese Buddhist history.

This early edition contains both the Chinese text and an English translation in the same volume. Later editions have been published by Lao Ku Books 老古文化, though minus the English text. The content is identical to the chapter “The Zen Monastic System and Chinese Society” appended to Basic Buddhism, translated by J.C. Cleary, published by Samuel Weiser Inc., 1998.

The author of the preface, Cheng Tsang-po 程滄波, was a well-known calligrapher, journalist and senior civil servant in the R.O.C. government.

 

 

Read the original Chinese

 

Master Nan and Mr Huang

 

鴻雪因緣圖記 – A Wild Swan’s Trail, Part 5:

 

Yunqi Zhuhong/Lianchi Dashi (1535-1615).

 

Continuing our series of posts on the 鴻雪因緣圖記, here is an excerpt from a study on a major Buddhist figure of the Ming dynasty, Yunqi Zhuhong, illustrated with an engraving from Lin Qing’s book.

 

“[These] illustrations do not directly concern Chu-hung, but they serve as vivid illustrations of popular Buddhist practices in which Chu-hung was keenly interested. Figure 6 shows a tortoise being released at Chiao-shan monastery. This lithographic print comes from a very interesting book entitled Hung-hsüeh yin-yüan (Causes and Conditions of Bright Snow), which contains 240 pictures accompanied by short essays recording important events in the life of the author, Lin Ch’ing. The first volume was published in 1838 and contains entries ranging from the author’s childhood to age forty. The second volume was published in 1841 and covers the decade from his fortieth to his fiftieth year. The last volume was published in 1849 and covers the next five years of the author’s life. The illustration used here appears in the second volume and records an event that took place in the summer of 1836. In late July of that year, the author was visiting the monastery Chiao-shan in the middle of the Yangtze River. Facing Chin-shan monastery, which was about fifteen miles away, Chiao-shan had been famous ever since the K’ang-hsi emperor visited it in 1703. According to the author, he had paid about ten cash for the tortoise at the market a few days earlier. Then he took the tortoise to Chiao-shan and set it free in the river. However, instead of swimming away, the tortoise came back and climbed ashore, as it is doing in the picture. Perhaps this was because the current was too strong for the tortoise, who had become weak from captivity. But the author rather suspected that it wanted to stay on the temple grounds. In the end, he had it put in the pond for releasing life (fang-sheng-ch’ih) at Chiao-shan, and the tortoise swam in contentment.”

  • The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Chu-hung and the late Ming synthesis, by Yü Chün-fang, Columbia Univesity Press, 1981, pp. xv-xvi.

 

Releasing a Tortoise at Chiao-shan Monastery (Hung-hsüeh yin-yüan, chüan 2, p. 67a)

 

Further biographical details, as well as excerpts of the work of Zhuhong may be read here:

 

Yunqi Zhuhong/Lianchi Dashi (1535-1615).

 

麟慶:鴻雪因緣圖記 hóngxuě yīnyuán tújì volume 5 of 6

The Late Mr. Ku Hung-Ming 辜鴻銘

Ku Hung-ming and William Quincey

 

The Late Mr. Ku Hung-Ming 辜鴻銘

August 30, 1934.

Many must have been intrigued by that charming portrait of The Philosopher in Somerset Maugham’s On a Chinese Screen. A philosopher, all the world over, is usually a dull withered thing – an orange sucked dry: a day spent in such company can only be memorable for its boredom. But with Somerset Maugham’s Philosopher, it is possible to pass days, nay weeks, without in the least knowing what it is to be bored. There is just enough grace and just so much mordant wit in him to make conversation with him a matter of excitement rather than of wisdom.

Somerset Maugham’s Philosopher is, of course, none other than Ku Hung-ming. And the most distinctive thing about him is that he is no philosopher – no philosopher, that is, in the sense of a person who thinks first and lives afterwards. Ku Hung-ming has a passion for dainty living; and thought with him is sought after only because it lends colour and dignity to life. Ku Hung-ming is first and last a worldling, but with this distinction – a worldling who thinks. His Confucianism, his monarchism, and his queue are mere decorations to a life that consumes itself in the sheer joy of living. That worn cadaverous frame of his is the victim, not of thought, but of desire and wit and beauty and inordinate wish to be different from others.

In his lifetime, Ku Hung-ming had already become legendary. Now that he is dead, there is a danger that he may pass into fable. Our purpose here is to prevent this by showing him as he really is. And what he really is is not so very different from many other people whom one meets daily in the present day. Ku Hung-ming is only a picturesque instance of a person who is born a rebel.

That ostentatious display of his queue is very symptomatic of the whole man. He is cross-grained: he lives by opposition. What the commonalty accepts, he rejects. What the commonalty likes, he dislikes. What the commonalty idolises, he despises. To be different from others is his joy and pride. Because it is the fashion to have no queue, he retains his. If everybody else had a queue, I am sure Ku Hung-ming would be the first person to have his cut. It is the same with his monarchism. It is not a matter of principle with him, but of a desire to be exceptional. Republicanism is the craze: therefore, he hates it. He flaunts his monarchism as a dandy his cravat. Indeed, in things intellectual and spiritual it is no inaccurate description of Ku Hung-ming to call him a dandy. As a dandy spends his days and nights over his dress, so Ku Hung-ming takes infinite pains to be different from others, in his ideas and manner of living.

Ku Hung-ming is witty. But his wit turns invariably upon a paradox. Now the essence of a paradox is that it should surprise by the opposition of its ideas to common notions. Here again, Ku Hung-ming shows up the quality of his mind – a mind that lives by resistance to what is generally accepted.

Again, his championing of Confucianism is another expression of his wish to be different from others. A few years ago, it used to be the correct thing among the intelligentsia to look upon Confucianism as a tedious set of obsolete rules about the conduct of life. This is a good enough reason why Ku Hung-ming should be a Confucianist. What others discard, he champions. But the last person to be a Confucianist is Ku Hung-ming. He is more native to Chuang-tze and Taoism than to Confucianism.

A rebel who preaches monarchism; a romantic who accepts Confucianism as his philosophy of life; an autocrat who is proud to wear the sign of slavery – the queue: it is this contradiction in Ku Hung-ming that makes him one of the most interesting figures in modern China.

* * *

 

The foregoing piece appeared in 1934 the English-language weekly, The China Critic, and was published the following year in book form. These essays have been compiled and published more recently in: Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, by Wen Yuan-ning and others, edited by Christopher Rea, Cambria Press, 2018. Ku’s portrait appears on pp. 71-73.

Portrait Source: National Galleries of Scotland

 

Nan Huai-ch’in’s Recollections of Li Zongwu

南懷瑾對厚黑學教主李宗吾的回憶

 

Statues of Nan Huai-ch’in (left) and Li Zongwu (right).

 

In his youth, Master Nan Huai-ch’in was in the habit of seeking out all manner of spiritual masters, martial arts masters, and educated people from whom to learn. One such person was the ‘founder of Thick Black Theory,’ Li Zongwu, of whom Master Nan has left this affectionate portrait, presumably written some time in the 1990s, included in recent editions of Li’s Collected Works.  This depiction is in stark contrast to the image given by Li’s written work, that of a cynical, embittered contrarian.

 

An early edition of Li Zongwu’s book

 

In recent years, Li Zongwu’s book Thick Black Theory has become something of a bestseller in Taiwan, Hong Kong as well as mainland China, where many people like to read it. But, contemporary readers quite likely do not understand the historical background to this work, and fewer yet know of Li Zongwu himself. Li Zongwu was a man from Sichuan, who called himself ‘the Founder of Thick Black Theory.’ Thick Black Theory means having a thick skin and a black heart.

I spent some time with Li Zongwu and had a connection with him, and in my mind, Li Zongwu was not in the slightest either ‘thick’ or ‘black.’ In fact, it could even be said that he was very kind-hearted.

I came to know Li Zongwu just before the war against Japan, I don’t recall precisely when. At that time, I was in Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan, and was not at all a big city like Hong Kong, where the pace of life is so fast. In my mind, everyone took life at a leisurely pace, and even until now, I still cherish those memories of Chengdu.

When I moved to Chengdu from Zhejiang, I had just turned twenty years old. Us outsiders foreign to the province were called ‘Southerners,’ and the locals weren’t too fond of us. At that time, I wanted to learn Taoism with all my heart, as well as ‘flying sword kung fu’ in order to go fight the Japanese.

So I often went to visit famous and cultured people, and those who had kung fu skills. In Chengdu at the time, there was a small park, Shaocheng Park, which had a lot of teahouses and chess tables. You could brew a pot of tea and sit there half the day, or all day long, and when you left, you paid. If you had to leave to go do something, you could leave the lid upside-down on the pot of tea, and the owner of the teahouse would leave it there until you came back. If you hadn’t got any money to drink tea, that was alright too. When the owner asked you what you wanted to drink, you could just ask for a glass, and they would bring you a glass of water. I don’t think we’ll see this kind of rural atmosphere ever again.

Shaocheng Park was the gathering place for the famous literati, the old fogeys and young diehards. You would often see people wearing old-style scholar’s robes and cotton shoes, all manner of eccentric characters. These were exactly the kind of people I was looking for, so I became a frequent visitor to the park.

For the people there, I was just a young blow-in. I wore a Sun Yat-sen style suit and I was from Zhejiang, the same place as Chiang Kai-shek. Some people were suspicious of me at first, thinking that I had been sent there by Chiang. After a while, people began to slowly understand that I was there to learn, their suspicions faded, and I began to make friends with some of these older people.

One day, I was at Shaocheng Park drinking tea and playing chess with some of these older gentlemen, when a man walked in. He was very tall, hunched over and wore a felt hat. He looked rather peculiar, like someone from ancient times. When they saw him come in, everyone nodded and said hello. I asked my friend Mr Liang who that was, and he said, “You don’t know who he is? He’s the founder of Thick Black Theory, Li Zongwu. He’s very famous in Sichuan.” Mr Liang then told me Li Zongwu’s story, and I said I really wanted to meet him, so I asked Mr Liang to introduce us. Mr Liang brought me over and introduced me to Li Zongwu, saying, “This Nan lad, he’s not from around here, but he’s a young friend of mine.” I quickly said, “I have long heard of your esteemed name,” even though I had only just heard of it! This kind of faux politeness is sometimes necessary.

The founder of Thick Black Theory invited us to sit down and have some tea and a chat. Our so-called chat consisted of us sitting there and listening to him expound his theories, talk about the Japanese occupation, listen to him curse the Sichuan Army and listen to him curse such and such a person as being worthless. That was my first time meeting the founder of Thick Black Theory, but later, I would often meet him in Shaocheng Park.

One time, the founder of Thick Black Theory told me: “I see you have heroic ideas, and in the future you will be able to make a difference. However, I will teach you a way to become a hero even quicker! If you want to be successful and famous, you have to curse people, curse those who are already famous. You needn’t curse anyone else though, just curse me, Li Zongwu, that good-for-nothing bastard! In that way you will succeed. However, all the while you must paste on your forehead a sheet of paper extolling Confucius, while you hold a tablet honouring me enshrined in your heart!”

I didn’t take his advice, so I never made a name for myself.

One time, I said to him: “Teacher, please don’t speak any more of this Thick Black Theory, please stop insulting people.” He said: “I do not insult people casually. Every one of those people has a thick face and a black heart. I am only ripping the mask off.”

I said: “I heard that the Central Government is starting to pay attention to you, and that there are people out to get you.”

He said: “My boy, you don’t understand. Einstein and I are the same age. He invented the theory of relativity and now he is a world-renowned scientist. Me, I have not even become famous in Sichuan or Chengdu. I hope they arrest me, I’ll become world-famous as soon as I’m sitting in prison.”

In the end, Li Zongwu wasn’t arrested, and thus never became world-famous.

He once said to me: “My luck isn’t good, unlike Cai Yuanpei or Liang Qichao.” Yet, his book on Thick Black Theory has been popular for a half century now. Many people like to read it, something I think he himself never foresaw.

His title of ‘Founder of Thick Black Theory’ was entirely self-styled: he never had a “church,” an organisation, nor a single follower. He was a rather lonely, solitary man.

At the time, many people liked to read his books, but not many people dared to have anything to do with him, being afraid of getting on his bad side. Not me though, I was not afraid and I still often met with him.

After a year or two, a friend of mine, a monk I’d known from Hangzhou, passed away in Ziliujing, now called Zigong. As I owed him a debt of gratitude, I decided to go to Ziliujing to pay my respects. My good friend, a monk called Qianji, also accompanied me.

We walked for eight days, from Chengdu to Ziliujing, found the tomb of our friend, burnt incense and bowed. From Ziliujing to Chengdu would be another eight days trek, and we had gone through almost all of our travel budget and were starting to get worried.

Just then a thought occurred to me: the founder of Thick Black Theory, Li Zongwu, was from Ziliujing. As Li Zongwu was well-known, as soon as we asked where his address was, we found out. His courtyard house was quite large, and the gate was wide open. In the past, it was like that in the countryside, the doors were open from morning till night, not like Hong Kong nowadays, where the doors are always strictly closed.

We called for him from the doorway, and the founder of Thick Black Theory himself came out to greet us. He was very happy to see me, and asked: “What are you doing out here?”

I told him I had come to see off a dead friend. He misunderstood me, thinking I was teasing him, and said: “I’m not dead yet!”

I quickly explained myself to him, and as soon as he saw we were as ravenous as wolves, he immediately had a dinner prepared for us. A chicken was killed, fish were fished out of the pond, fresh vegetables were prepared, and we had an authentic Sichuan meal. After having our fill of food and drink, I opened my mouth to ask him if we could borrow some money. I said: “‘One does not enter the Buddha hall without reason,’ I am afraid I must bother you about something. I am out of travel money to get back to Chengdu.”

He said: ”How much do you need?”

“Ten silver dollars,” I replied.

He got up and went to a cabinet in the living room and took an envelope and gave it to me. I reckoned that there was more than ten dollars in there and asked how much. There were twenty dollars in there. I told him that that was too much, that I only needed ten. He insisted that I take twenty. I said I didn’t know when I could repay him, but he said to just take it and spend it first, and we could figure out the rest later.

Judging from this small matter of borrowing money, we can see that the founder of Thick Black Theory was a decent man, not ‘thick’ or ‘black’ in the slightest, but even very sincere and very kind.

After we had finished dinner and were chatting, he suddenly asked me not to return to Chengdu, but to stay on a while. I asked: “Stay to do what?”

He said: “Don’t you like martial arts? You are here to learn, no? There is a martial arts master here, Master Zhao, his kung fu is amazing.”

He then told me about this Master Zhao: “He was born a cripple, but his kung fu is excellent, especially his ‘light skill.’ He could put on a new pair of shoes and walk a mile in the snow and there won’t be a speck of mud on them. He once had a disciple whose kung-fu was also very good, but who misused what he had learned to do bad things. One night the disciple crept over a wall into a house and raped a woman. In a rage, Master Zhao put an end to his kung fu, maiming him, and he hasn’t taken on any more students since.”

Li Zongwu felt it would be a shame if Master Zhao’s kung fu were to be lost, and so encouraged me to stay on and practice. I asked how I could become his student if he was refusing to accept new disciples.

Li Zongwu replied that it was not the same, as I was from Zhejiang, and Master Zhao had learned his kung fu from a couple from Zhejiang, and that if he were to recommend me, I was sure to be accepted.

He said: “Study martial arts with Master Zhao for three years, develop some martial skill, and in the future, being a warrior won’t be so bad!”

He also said that he would be pay the tuition fees for the full three years, taking care of all expenses. As I saw he was being sincere, I could not refuse him to his face. Learning martial arts was very attractive to me, but three years was too long. I asked for time to consider the matter.

That night, Qianji and I went back to the inn to spend the night. Early the next morning, Li Zongwu showed up to persuade me to stay on and learn martial arts, and in the end, I had to turn him down.

He immediately regretted it, and said: “What a pity, what a pity.”

And I returned to Chengdu.

Soon thereafter, I went on retreat for three years, cutting off all contact with the outside world, not knowing the news nor the great changes taking place out in the world. There was only one young monk who would come back up the mountain from picking rice, who occasionally brought back a little news. This monk was not from the area, and didn’t really care about the war with Japan, so I heard nothing at all about that. One day, the young monk came back, saying: “The founder of Thick Black Theory, Li Zongwu, has died.” When I heard this, I felt deeply saddened. I had borrowed twenty silver dollars from him and would never be able to pay him back. So, every day I recited the Diamond Sutra for him, in order to help him “cross over.”

Later, I heard he had died peacefully at home in bed.

– Nan Huai-ch’in

 

Li Zongwu (1879-1943)

 

A Chin Shih of the T’ang Dynasty,
An immortal of today,
I tread on the purple mist,
And heavenward I go.

Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓)

八仙

The Eight Immortals

The Chinese concept of Hsien or Immortal denotes a being which is at once ethereal and worldly. The character hsien () is composed of two pictographic elements, “man” and “mountain”, symbolising one who has retired from the world in order to live a hermit’s life in the mountains. Chuang Tzu (莊子) has described hsien as a spiritual being dwelling on a mountain, whose flesh was smooth as ice and skin as white as snow; that he was gentle as a young girl and required no food to sustain life, but inhaled the wind and drank the dew.

An immortal sometimes assumes human shape and indulges in human pleasures, but nevertheless is possessed of supernatural powers. He resides in the upper spheres, but sometimes descends to earth to convert and “immortalise” deserving mortals. Like human beings, he may be chastised for misconduct and banished to live on earth for a period of time and then reinstated in heaven.

Immortality is said to be attainable by taking the Elixir of Life, a drug, the secret formula for which is forever eluding ordinary intelligence, although some of the ingredients were revealed to be cinnabar, or red sulphide of mercury, realgar, copper carbonate, mica, sal ammonia, nitre and ochre. Immortality is also attainable by cultivating the mind, with Tao (道) as the model: quietude, passivity, gentleness and self-effacement being the main characteristics to be aimed at.

For one reason or another, many famous figures in Chinese history were included in the ranks of immortals. They might be philosophers, statesmen, physicians, magicians and poets. Li Po (李白), the poet, for instance, was considered one and Chang Liang (張良), the Han Dynasty statesman was another. The list goes on and on. Because of their great number, “hsiens” were classified and described as celestial, terrestrial or divine. Celestial hsiens were those who have ascended on high and make their abode in heaven; terrestrial hsiens remain on earth for an indefinite period without growing any older; divine hsiens or demi-gods dwell on the Isles of the Blessed.

The Eight Immortals are the best known figures in Chinese mythology. They lived in different centuries. How and when they got together was never described. The number “eight” has some peculiar significance, a kind of “perfect” number, as exemplified by the Eight Trigrams, the Eight Regions, the Eight Directions and so on. In this case, “eight” signifies certain conditions of life, namely: youth, age, poverty, wealth, aristocracy, plebianism, masculinity and femininity. It was not until the Yüan Dynasty (1260-1368) that the term was first applied to the specific group that we know today which consists of Chung-li Ch’üan (鍾離權), Chang Kua Lao (張果老), Lü Tung Pin (呂洞賓), Ts’ao Kuo Chu (曹國舅), Li T’ieh Kuai (李鐵拐), Han Hsiang-tzu (韓湘子), Lan Ts’ai Ho (藍采和) and Ho Hsien-ku (何瓊). The “Eight Immortals” theme was often used by the Yüan Dynasty dramatists, on which many short plays were written for performances on special occasions. Hence their traditional popularity and why these Eight Immortals have continued to appear in all forms of Chinese art throughout the centuries.

T.C.Lai (賴恬昌)

The Eight Immortals

Swindon Book Company, Hong Kong, 1972

Count von Keyserling & Ku Hung-ming

 

 

Count Hermann von Keyserling (1880-1946), a Baltic German aristocrat, best known for his travel  writings and philosophical musings, left behind a detailed account of his meetings with Ku Hung-ming in his Travel Diary of a Philosopher, published in 1925.

 

 

I spend many hours each day with Ku Hung-Ming and his friends and supporters. He is a man of such wit and such a fiery temperament that I am sometimes reminded of a Latin. Today he was explaining at great length how wrong the Europeans, and especially the sinologists are, in considering the development of Chinese culture quite by itself, without comparison with that of the West: for both have evolved, according to him, within the frame of an identical formula. In both there has been an equivalent of antiquity and medievalism, renaissance and enlightenment, reformation and counter-reformation, Hebraism and Hellenism (to use the terms of Matthew Arnold), rationalism and mysticism; and the parallel is to be drawn even in detail: even in China, for instance, there has been a Bayard. I do not know Chinese history sufficiently in order to test the soundness of these comparisons, and I rather suspect Ku Hung-Ming, as I do the majority of his countrymen, of practising rather too cheap a form of intellectualism, such as flourishes, for instance, in Southern Italy. This much, however, is true: all historical conditions are special manifestations, brought about by particular circumstances, of the natural forms of human life, which are the same everywhere; and since all possible combinations of circumstances vacillate round a few types whose sequence appears to be subject to one rule, it cannot but be that all peoples of comparable temperament also pass through comparable stages. Now Western Europeans and Chinamen are singularly comparable; they belong essentially to an identical fundamental type, the type of the “men of expression,” to which the Indians and the Russians, for instance, do not belong.

It must be possible, therefore, to establish historical parallels. Nevertheless, my attitude towards the value of such comparisons is sceptical. Time may possess one single significance in itself — it certainly is not so in reference to men. The Chinese are men of long, and we of short, breath, for us mobility, for them quiescence is the normal condition. How, then, can one make valid comparisons? We boast of our rapid progress: thanks to it, we will probably always remain barbarians, since perfection is possible only within given limits and we are perpetually changing ours. Nor do I accept it as agreed that we will continue to advance for long at the same rate: every direction in life is limited inwardly; we too will one day reach the end, and probably earlier than we think. — I have often heard the following argument, especially in India: since all cultures we are aware of start at a relatively high level — and this is correct — this presupposes that there has been before an exceedingly long period of slow ascent. Most certainly not! Every idea contains within itself, not only in theory but de facto, the whole of its consequences; it strives for actuality; it becomes embodied wherever matter permits it to do so, so that, as soon as the mental processes are set in motion at all, they take place with great rapidity. For this reason, as long as consciousness is asleep, aeons may pass before anything new happens; this may occur either in the primordial state or, as in China, at a certain level of culture which has once been reached. But once it has been wakened, development takes place with extreme rapidity. How long was the span of time from the awakening of the Greek spirit to its perfection? A century. How long did it take from the discovery of the principle of aviation until it was applied perfectly in practice? Not ten years. In the same sense it may very well be that we too shall shortly come to an end, and stop progressing at a level of development which will be not nearly so far ahead of that of China as we suppose. For in the modern sense of the word we too are progressive people only for the last hundred years.

Ku Hung-Ming does not miss a single opportunity of having a dig at Laotse. His fundamental thesis is that Confucius is the infinitely greater of the two because he understood significance as profoundly as Laotse, but did not retire from the world, but expressed his profundity in his mastery of it. If Confucius really had been, and had achieved, what Ku asserts of him, then, of course, he would be incomparably greater. However, this is not so. It would appear to be contradictory to nature that the same man should live altogether in profundity and prove himself, at the same time, to be a mighty organiser of the surface; each one of these problems requires a special physiological organisation, and I know of no accredited case in which a man possessed both to a similar degree. Kung Fu Tse and Laotse represent the opposite poles of possible perfection; the one represents the perfection of appearance, the other perfection of significance; the former, perfection within the sphere of the materialised, the latter, within the non-materialised; therefore they cannot be measured with the same gauge. But Confucius must no doubt appear greater to the Chinese because they are practical to the extreme as a nation, and to this extent they have no direct relation to profundity as such. The more I see of the Chinese, the more I notice how uninteresting their thoughts are. Their thinking is not their essential quality: their existence is the expression of their depth. Thus Ku Hung-Ming is far more important as a man than as a writer and as a thinker.

The Travel Diary of a Philosopher, Count Hermann Keyserling, 1925

Volume 1

Volume 2