ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (A TRULY PRIVATE NOTE): Zhēnwŭ 真武 Perfected Warrior

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“Zhēnwŭ, also known as the Dark Warrior (Xuánwŭ 玄武) or Highest Emperor of the Dark Heaven (Xuántiān shàngdì 玄天上帝), is a divinity known for his powers of healing and exorcism. In Han dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE), the Dark Warrior was one of the four animals corresponding to the cardinal directions (see under siling). Usually depicted as a serpent coiled around a tortoise, the Dark Warrior was correlated with winter, water, the color black, and the constellations of the northern quadrant of the sky.”—Theodore A. Cook

Under any circumstances I could imagine myself like the Dark Warrior or Highest Emperor of the Dark Heaven, no. But I am truly correlated several months of the year with winter, water in the form of snow, the color black (typically one week every month when the moon is too small to be visible), and the constellations of the Northern Polar sky. And who we are when we try to be honest with themselves and we cannot be always sure we are right? Dark Warrior is inside us, no matter how light we look in the sunny days.

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Zhēnrén 真人 Real Man or Woman, or THE LIST FOR EVERYDAY CHECKUPS

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The perfected of old did not resent being humble.

They did not take pride in success.

They never plotted their affairs. From this basis, they could be without regret if things went wrong, remain free from self-congratulation when they went right.

They received whatever came and enjoyed it; they lost whatever went and just let it go.

Their food was plain and their breath deep. In fact, the perfected breathes all the way to the heels while the multitude breath just to the throat.

The perfected of old slept without dreaming and woke without concerns.

The perfected of old had no clue about loving life and hating death. They came to life without celebration; they left again without messiness. Calmly they came, calmly they went—and that is all. They never forgot where they came from; they never inquired about where they would end.

They could climb high places without getting scared, dive into water without getting soaked, and pass through fire without getting hot. Their understanding was such that they could rise up and join Tao at all times.

Livia Kohn, Chuang-tsu: The Tao of Perfect Happiness—Selections annotated & explained, 2011 SkyLightPaths Publishing, Chapter 6 (I put this chapter into the list, made it shorter, and changed the sequence a bit: from humbleness of a man to the highness of the Tao)

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (REAL NOTES ON UNREAL EXPECTATIONS): Zhēnrén 真人 Real Man or Woman

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Zhēnrén 真人 Real Man or Woman, Authentic Man or Woman, True Man or Woman, Perfected

“The term zhēnrén 真人 denotes one of the highest states in the Taoist spiritual hierarchy. While the world zhēn 真 does not appear in the five Confucian classics, it is found in both the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi.”—Miura Kunio

The Zhuangzi describes the zhēnrén 真人 as follows:

“What is the meaning of zhenren? The zhenren of ancient times did not struggle against adversity, was not proud of success, did not plan his actions….One who was like this could climb high places and not be afraid, go into water and not get wet, enter fire and not be burned. This is because his knowledge was able to rise to the Dao. The zhenren of ancient times slept without dreaming, and woke without any worry. He ate without carrying about taste, and his breath was very deep. A zhenren breathes through his heels whereas the ordinary man breathes through his throat…. The zhenren of ancient times knew nothing about delighting in life, not did he hate the world of death. He was not glad of coming forth, not reluctant to go in. He merely went with composure and came with composure. (Chapter 6, see also trans. Watson 1968, 77-78)”—Miura Kunio

Now I can suggest to read another translation of Chapter 6, this time it is done by another sinologist, Livia Kohn (of course she is a member of Encyclopedia’s staff too). My opinion is that reading of some translations is always better, and different translators bring us readers closer to the source text. Or not. The last chance to understand what you really love is to study the original language and after reading some translations come back and muse again on the original text. Or translate it by self and sleep well.

“What, then, are the perfected? The perfected of old did not resent being humble, did not take pride in success, and never plotted their affairs. From this basis, they could be without regret if things went wrong, remain free from self-congratulation when they went right.”

“For this reason, they could climb high places without getting scared, dive into water without getting soaked, and pass through fire without getting hot. Their understanding was such that they could rise up and join Tao at all times.
The perfected of old slept without dreaming and woke without concerns. Their food was plain and their breath deep. In fact, the perfected breathes all the way to the heels while the multitude breath just to the throat—bent over and submissive, they croak out words as if they were retching; full of intense passions and desires, they have only the thinnest connection to heaven.”

“The perfected of old had no clue about loving life and hating death. They came to life without celebration; they left again without messiness. Calmly they came, calmly they went—and that is all. They never forgot where they came from; they never inquired about where they would end. They received whatever came and enjoyed it; they lost whatever went and just let it go. This way of being in the world is called not using the mind to oppose Tao, not using human faculties to assist heaven. This, indeed, is what the perfected are like.”—Livia Kohn, Chuang-tsu: The Tao of Perfect Happiness—Selections annotated & explained, 2011 SkyLight Paths Publishing

SRI YANTRA MASTER AND ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (A REAL NOTE ON NON-EXISTING NOBILITY): Zhāng Sānfēng 張三丰 or 張三峰 (both names are pronounced by the same way)

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Unfortunately for straight heart people, I have to cite following lines from Encyclopedia volume (Routledge, 2008) about non-existing Zhang Sanfeng personality: “Zhang Sanfeng (“Zhang Triple Abundance” or “Zhang Three Peaks”) is a famous Taoist said to have lived between the end of the Yuan (1260-1368) and beginning of the Ming periods (1368-1644). His historical existence, however, is unproved.”—Martina Darga

Nevertheless, never mind.

“In the first years of the Ming period, Zhang reportedly established himself on Mount Wūdāng 烏當 (Wudang shan, Hubei), where he lived in a thatched hut. With his pupils he rebuilt the mountain monasteries destroyed during the wars at the end of the Mongol dynasty… As time went on, the legends multiplied and became increasingly exaggerated. Zhang is known as the founder of tàijí quán 太極拳 (a claim without historical evidence) and the patron saint of practitioners of this technique. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a connection to the sexual techniques (fángzhōng shū 房中書) was also established and texts dealing with these practices were ascribed to him.”—Martina Darga

I cannot say I am much bothered by the fact of existing or non-existing a real person behind the name: during centuries of humanity strange and unexplained things do happen every day. What I really like is the time of texts’ creation, it is still my favorite period of Chinese history, and the time after 1644 is definitely stranger than anything else—people begin to write and print too much books and they are too long to read them all. If I have a choice to choose sources for my daytime (and I have the choice) I always prefer shorter and more ancient to prolific and modern. If I am not satisfied a bit what I have already found now I just add a bit silence to my day. This small gesture always helps a lot.—Sri Yantra Master

The idea to attach martial art techniques to sexual guides and all philosophy behind it to the one personality is absolutely marvelous and Asian:) In European culture nobody’s name comes to mind. Am I wrong?

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (A PRIVATE NOTE): Zhāng Bóduān 張伯端 (987?-1082)

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The main book of Zhāng Bóduān is called Wùzhēn piān 悟真篇 Folios on Awakening to Perfection (1075-1078—preface and postface dates). There are seven, eight, or probably more translations of the title of this book into English, and very often it is considered as a sign of special difficulty for translators (just imagine translation of the whole text). I couldn’t agree more.

Every author has an individual coding process to put his life and ideas on paper sheet, every professional reader of his time has a set of decoding traditions depending on his background and education, and so it goes 100 years or 1,000 years or more… Modern generation spend much enough time getting information / texts / books / ideas online and the scientists / authors / students / keep this process of coding their lives and ideas into books / text / manuscripts again and again. And every time I open any book I switch on my decoding rules and habits and I switch it onto coding again writing down any kind of text for myself. And every time somebody’s ideas can live for a couple of millennia it deserves huge respect like in the case of Zhang Boduan’s text.

“A native of Tiāntái 天臺 (Zhejiang), Zhang Boduan is considered the first patriarch of the Southern Lineage (Nanzong) of neidan… According to these sources, Zhang Boduan, a scholar and jinshi, began has career as a civil servant. Shortly afterward, having committed an error while performing his duties, he was banished to Lingnan (the Guangdong / Guangxi region) and placed in charge of the army register.”—Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein, Encyclopedia of Taoism

“Zhang Boduan’s basic premise was the unity of the Three Teachings, i.e., Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism… Zhang himself did not found a school, but was acknowledged as the firs patriarch of Nanzong in the thirtieth century.”—Farzeen Baldrian-Hussein, Encyclopedia of Taoism

The extreme difficulties arising around ancient texts intending for translations into another languages are not anything new to overcome in the professional milieu. For science’s sake, there are always some rules and algorithms and traditions. No rules, no traditions when somebody runs something commercial online / offline (no difference). During one day we meet tens of people, hundreds opinions; just searching one own’s point of view (”your own sweet way”) never is trivial. Once stopped we keep going. Somehow ancient texts written by honest searchers very long ago still help today. That’s only my humble pleasure to remind.
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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (A RED DRAGON AND WHITE TIGER NOTE): Zhăn chìlóng 斬赤龍 beheading the Red Dragon

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Sometimes curious students ask about a difference between Chinese gymnastics for men and women. Well, in some complexes of physical exercises it is difficult to see such kind of variations until you will do private customization. From another point of view such differences definitely existed in strict neidan practice. Lets take a quote to illustrate this statement from the encyclopedia article written by Catherine Despeux.

“Menstrual blood is called Red Dragon (chìlóng 赤龍) in neidan, by analogy with male semen, which is called White Tiger (báihŭ 白虎)… ‘Beheading the Red Dragon’ takes place during the first of the three stages in the Ming and Qing system of neidan practice. In men, this stage consists of refining essence to transmute it into pneuma. In women, it consists of “refining of the form Great Yin,” which is achieved by developing inner concentration and by a controlled stimulation of sexual energy, especially through the massage of breasts.”—Catherine Despeux
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If you don’t have a special goal in your mind any complex of exercises will be good enough. If you stick to something strict and classic, and special, this difference can be important to consider and use authoritative sources to achieve success in your practice. Very often not only regular people but specialist yet do want simple instructions and simple results in short time; speaking friendly it is not always the right way to solve the health problems. The easy idea to regulate your food habits can take years to fulfill, and it is not speaking about other ideas you definitely want to die with in the end of your life.

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (ONE SHORT AND PRIVATE NOTE ABOUT A LONG AND GENERAL PROCESS): Zàohuà 造化 Creation

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Soon after the time I had been graduated from the philological department of my university the 700 pages novel Creation by the American writer Gore Vidal has impressed me totally; that was a history of the ancient India, Cathay (China), Bactria and Persia seeing by the narrator’s eyes in the evening of the 20th December, 445 B.C. But of course, ‘creation’ goes much further down in the time stairway.

The MDBG Traditional Chinese-English dictionary says only two things, Zàohuà 造化 is (1) ‘good luck’ and (2) ’Nature (as the mother of all thing)’. The second meaning sounds more appropriate for the Encyclopedia of Taoism article, Routledge edition, 2008. However, the opportunity to sit at my favorite desk, drink coffee and write down my favorite topics doesn’t harm anything or anybody, and is definitely ‘good luck’ in my life.

“The term zaohua, which means “to inform (zao) and transform (hua),” derives from the Zhuangzi and is generally used as a synonym for the cosmos.”—Isabelle Robinet. That is a good news (cosmos!) and the time of Zhuāngzĭ 莊子 was—once again—the fourth century B.C. (?-290).

“The zàohuà zhĕ (造化者 “what informs and transforms [the world]”) is neither a person nor an entity, and does everything naturally and spontaneously without working. In this sense, zàohuà is a synonym of zīrán 孜然(natural or spontaneous). Zào is the coming of something out of nothing (wu), and huà is the return to emptiness. Zào is movement, and huà is quiescence (see dong and jing)…. The “great zaohua” (dà zàohuà 大造化), however, neither forms and transforms, nor does it not form and not transform: it is the permanent Dào 道.”–Isabelle Robinet

The idea of pulse, or rhythm—Zào is the coming of something out of nothing, and huà is the return to emptiness—is so great and IS in the total agreement that our universe is pulsing existence too. There is no need to be a scientist, an astronomer, an Asian Study specialist; just the feeling of rhythms of cosmos in the everybody’s own breath and stomach, awakening and sleeping, life and death looks absolutely amazing after one second of concentration. Somehow I can come to this sensation everyday and somehow it brings of fulfilment in my life at all.
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