The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Monday, January 29, 2007

China History Forum


I pointed out a website dealing with Japanese history below, and now I'd like to point one out dealing with the history of China.


The China History Forum is outstanding. It's HUGE. I only wish I had the time and intellectual bandwidth to explore it in depth. There is a wealth of very knowledgable people posting on every conceivable topic on the history of China.


It is very high quality and well worth visiting. You can reach the China History Forum by clicking on the title of this post, or by following the link over at the right.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cardinal at my Window



I live in Michigan. It's snowing.





My office is on the second floor of our building, an the treetops come up to the level of my windows.





Sitting outside is a cardinal, just sitting; watching. For myself, I could sit and watch him all day.



まどの外はこうかんちょうにまっています。
雪ふってありまうs。
じむじょのうちは見ています。。。

mado no soto wa koukanchou ni matte imasu.
yuki futte arimasu.
jimujo no uchi wa mite imasu...

A cardinal waits outside the window.
Snow is falling.
Inside my office, I watch...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Zanshin, or "Remaining mind"


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an article on Zanshin, or Remaining mind, which is an important concept in the practice of Japanese martial arts. Below is an excerpt.


Zanshin means “the remaining mind” and also “the mind with no remainder.” This is the mind of complete action. It is the moment in kyudo (Zen archery) after releasing the arrow. This is “ Om makurasai sowaka” in oryoki practice and drinking the rinse water. In shodo, it is finishing the brush stroke and the hand and brush moving smoothly off the paper. In taking a step, it is the weight rolling smoothly and the next step arising. In breathing in completely, it is this breath. In breathing out completely, it is this breath. In life, it is this life. Zanshin means complete follow through, leaving no trace. It means each thing, completely, as it is.

When body, breath, speech and mind are broken from each other and scattered in concept and strategy, then no true action can reveal itself. There is only hesitation, or trying to push oneself past hesitation. This is the mind of hope and fear, which arises because one is trying to live in some other moment, instead of in the moment that arises now. One is comparing, planning, or trying to maintain an illusion of control in the midst of a reality which is completely beyond control.

“Beyond control” does not mean “out of control;” it means that the sense of solidity, comfort and predictability that self-image tries to maintain is completely irrelevant to one's actual experiences. You don't even know what this sentence is going to say until you have read it. Once you've read it, the black shapes and letters become words and meanings and then you have the sense that you have read it. It is only after a thought has arisen that you have the illusion that you have thought it.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Building a Zen Garden




Want to build a Zen garden? Want to read this book for free? This website has "draft chapters of the book, with photographs of each stage of the construction. "




Click on the title of this post to be directed to the book in progress.




Enjoy

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Japanese Medieval History


If you have any interest at all in the history of Japan during it's middle ages, then you have to pay a visit to this website - Sen goku Daimyo. The author is a professor of Japanese language and history, and is an active member of the Society of Creative Anachronisms (SCA). His website is a treasure trove.


You can visit him by finding the link over at the right, or by click on the title of this post.


Enjoy.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The 10 Bulls




I've posted on the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, or the Ten Bulls, before. This website crossed my path, so I thought I'd post again. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the Ten Ox Herding pictures, and their explanations.




The 10 Bulls depict a journey, the goal of which is enlightenment. The bull is the eternal principle of life; one's true nature.



In the 12th century the Chinese master Kakuan drew the 10 bulls, basing them on earlier Taoist drawings. The earlier drawings had only 8 bulls, with the eighth representing the final stage of enlightenment. Kakuan went beyond this, illustrating that the moment of enlightenment is merely a beginning.


These bulls were drawn by the Kyoto woodblock artist Tomikichiro Tokuriki, and published in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Emptiness


Below is an excerpt from an article comparing the concept of Emptiness in Daoist and Buddhist thought. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the complete article. It's interesting reading.


"The most common misunderstanding people have about the Tao is that 'Emptiness' in the Tao has a similar meaning to 'Emptiness' (Sunyata, Chinese: Kung, Japanese: Ku) in Buddhism. This is because different words in Buddhism and Taoism were all translated as Emptiness in English.


Several different Chinese characters are used for Emptiness in the Tao, but Chinese Buddhists mostly use the character on the right (pronounced 'Kung').


'Taoist Emptiness' is completely different to 'Buddhism Emptiness'. The Emptiness in the Tao is about restraint, patience, frugality, simplicity, lack of worldly desire etc. These are all good things for Buddhists, but they have nothing whatever to do with Buddhist Emptiness, which is about the inaccuracy of our 'externalist' perceptions of reality and the fictional objects that are created from that misunderstanding."


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #21 With My Brother ...


The Tang Dynasty was a high point in Chinese culture. Poetry was especially esteemed. No event in a person's life, no homecoming or leavetaking, was complete without an accompanying poem. There is a famous anthology of Tang Dynasty poems called, surprisingly enough, The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the anthology. Below is #21. Enjoy.


Five-character-ancient-verse

Wang Changling

WITH MY BROTHER AT THE SOUTH STUDY THINKING IN THE MOONLIGHT OF VICE-PREFECT CUI IN SHANYIN

Lying on a high seat in the south study,

We have lifted the curtain-and we see the rising moon

Brighten with pure light the water and the grove

And flow like a wave on our window and our door.


It will move through the cycle, full moon and then crescent again,

Calmly, beyond our wisdom, altering new to old.


...Our chosen one, our friend, is now by a limpid river --

Singing, perhaps, a plaintive eastern song.


He is far, far away from us, three hundred miles away.

And yet a breath of orchids comes along the wind.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Black Snake Moan


An upcoming movie in February is Black Snake Moan, starring Samuel Jackson, and Christina Ricci. As if a tied up Christina Ricci isn't enough, it sounds like an interesting movie. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an official page on Myspace, which includes a trailer.


The title, Black Snake Moan, comes from the title of an old Blues song by Blind Lemon Jefferson.


From the movie review at the NY Times:




When a weathered, God-fearing ex-blues musician finds the town nymphomaniac severely beaten and left for dead on the side of the road, he vows to cure her of her wicked ways in Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer's raw and unflinching sophomore drama. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a hard-living ex-blues guitarist for whom the troubled days are beginning to outnumber the good. Rae (Christina Ricci) is a 22-year-old sex addict whose wild ways are finally about to catch up with her. When Lazarus discovers Rae covered in dust and clinging to life on the side of the road, he takes her in and nurses her back to health; but Lazarus isn't your typical caregiver, he's more concerned for Rae's immortal soul than he is for her physical well-being. Now, after chaining Rae down and employing the power of the Good Book to curb the salacious seductress' hedonistic ways, Lazarus will be forced to confront his own darkest demons in order to save the soul of a woman whose one-way ticket to hell has already been paid in full.


Now, as Lazarus wages a righteous struggle to redeem the soul of the fallen Rae while simultaneously ensuring that his own life hasn't been lived in vein, the situation threatens to explode as Rae's possessive boyfriend, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) -- a roughneck Guardsman currently preparing for a tour of duty in Iraq -- comes searching for his missing lover.


~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Monday, January 08, 2007

On Line Daoist Resources




I found a website entitled "Dao House" recently. It's a good jumping off point for a number of online Daoist related references and material. You can get there by clicking on the title of this post. Please pay them a visit.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

300




Frank Miller is at it again. 2007 will see the release of 300, a new movie squarely based on Miller's historical fantasy graphic novel of the same name. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the official website of the movie.








The film was designed to fit exactly, the images shown in the graphic novel.




The story is based on the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held off an army of 1,000,000 Persians; allowing the rest of the Greeks enough time to get organized and eventually defeat the Persians at the naval battle of Salamis.




In the novel, it's the 300 Spartans, and that's that. In fact, these 300 Peers (highly trained warriors) were backed up by some auxilliaries and allies. Still, there were only a couple thousand of them. Also, historians discount the million Persians, but there was still likely a couple of hundred thousand of them. This in no way diminishes the achievement of the Spartans at Thermopylae.




The Spartans held a narrow gap in the mountains. They were betrayed by another Greek, who showed the Persians a path that would allow them to get circle the Spartans and attack them from behind. When the Spartans learned what was coming, they sent their allies home. Only 700 volunteers stayed behind with them to make the last stand. None of them survived.




The Answers.com page on the Battle of Thermopylae is here: http://www.answers.com/topic/battle-of-thermopylae




300 is not to be confused with The Gates of Fire, a historical novel by Steven Pressfield (best known for The Legend of Bagger Vance). The Amazon page for The Gates of Fire is here:








Pressfield's book is historically accurate and gives a fascinating look into the mindset and lifestyle of the Spartans.




In his book, one of the Spartan auxilliaries is found severly injured and unconcious by the Persians after the battle. The Persian king orders that his story be recorded, and so begins the narration.




I was at the bookstore the other day, hoping to get a look at the graphic novel, but I couldn't find it. It's a movie that I certainly want to see.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Did Weather Destroy the Tang Dynasty?


Below is an excerpt from an article at Breitbart.com describing how climate changes might have caused the Tang Dynasty to reach an untimely end. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the article online.



Climate shift helped destroy China's Tang dynasty: scientists

Jan 03 2:25 PM US/Eastern

The Tang dynasty, seen by many historians as a glittering peak in China's history, was brought to its knees by shifts in the monsoon cycle, according to a study.

Famed for a flowering of art and literature and for prosperity brought by trade with India and the Middle East, the dynasty spanned nearly three centuries, from AD 618 to 907, before it was overwhelmed by revolt.

Scientists led by Gerald Haug of the Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) in Potsdam, eastern Germany, looked at sedimentary cores taken from a lake at Zhanjiang in coastal southeastern China, opposite the tropical island of Hainan.

The magnetic properties and content of titanium in these deposits are an indicator of the strength of the winter cycle in the East Asian monsoon system, they believe.

They found that over the past 15,000 years, there had been three periods in which the winter monsoon was strong but the summer monsoon was weak.

The first two periods occurred at key moments during the last Ice Age, while the last ran from around 700 to 900. Each of these monsoon shifts coincided with what was, relative to the climate epoch, unusually cold weather.

The twilight of the Tang began in 751, when the imperial army was defeated by Arabs.
But what eventually destroyed the dynasty were prolonged droughts and poor summer rains, which caused crop failure and stoked peasants' uprisings. Eventually, these rebellions led to the collapse of the dynasty in 907.

Haug's team suggests this shift in tropical precipitation occurred on both sides of the Pacific, not just in coastal East Asia.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The 36 Strategies: #20 Stir up the waters to catch fish


Next the to the Art of War by Sun Tzu, the 36 Strategies is the most widely known book on strategy in China. We are taking them in order. Here is #20.


20. Stir up the waters to catch fish.


You use confusion to your advantage, to take what you want. It may specifically mean taking advantage of a general or particular loss of direction in order to gather followers from among the uncommitted or disenfranchised.


During the Cold War, both the US and SOviets would probe each other's defenses, and listen to the radio traffic that ensued, to determine how their opposite would respond to a real attack.