Chinese tales usually have deep meaning no matter how simple they may sound sometimes. There are thousands of them, folk tales, urban tales and legends. Story telling was one of oldest arts and hobbies among Chinese people. It is really hard to trace since when each story exactly dates.
One of these stories is Tale of Yellow Stork which I have read few years ago. It goes like this: Once upon a time there was very poor young musician. His name was Mi. Mi was so poor that he could hardly afford for a tea even. He didn’t want just to beg, but used to play flute on the streets and make people happy. Whoever passed next to him while he was playing would give him at least one coin. His music was very beautiful and cheerful and could cheer up even saddest person passing through the street. If more generous people passed next to him during a day he could afford to buy a food. But he never could afford to pay for sleep at guesthouse or teahouse so instead for money he used to play there in order to get a bed for a night or two. That’s how Mi lived traveling from city to city and from village to village with aim to make people happy with his wonderful music and earning a little.
One day he arrived to one teahouse where owner was very generous and kind. He gave to Mi a lot of food, tea and was very friendly towards him. Next morning Mi decided to reward him and said” Since I cannot pay you it doesn’t mean that I cannot return you. This will give you 10 more times money than cost of food, tea and bed which I got here”. After these words Mi took out a brush and yellow color and painted Yellow Stork on a teahouse wall. Than he said “When you gather people ask them to clap 3 times and stork will be dancing in front of wall” Musician Mi added:” Remember 1 thing- “never force him to dance in front of only 1 person. Miracles and magic should be enjoyed by everyone, if they are owned by one 1 perrson they can be lost.” After these words musician Mi disappeared. Next evening teahouse owner decided to try it. He told guests to clap 3 times and then miracle occurred. Yellow Stork really came out from wall and started dancing. Everybody was amazed and impressed. They stayed all night there watching dance, drinking tea and eating. Next evening even more people came. Months were passing and more and more people were visiting teahouse every night since Yellow Stork became popular attraction in town. Rumors about Yellow Stork and his dance were spread beyond town and many travelers and artists used to come from whole China to see this amazing performance. This brought large wealth to teahouse owner not because he was charging entrance but because many people were staying all night and ordering a lot of tea and meals. However some people were ready to pay just to see dancing Yellow Stork.
As rumors were spreading it came to ears of one greedy mandarin and governor of county. He decided to come and see if it is true. This mandarin was notorious for greed, evil and arrogance. One evening he arrived with his guards to famous teahouse. When mandarin and his guards entered teahouse there was Yellow Stork dance ongoing. Mandarin ordered to his guards to expel everybody from teahouse and they expelled all happy people threatening them with use of swords. He wanted to enjoy performance on his own. After everybody run away from teahouse mandarin came to teahouse owner with few sacks of pure gold and if he sees dance of Yellow Stork. When teahouse owner saw such big amount of gold he completely forgot words of Mi. Mandarin sat down on table and clapped 3 times. Yellow Stork suddenly came from wall but didn’t make a single dancing step. It was just starring for few minutes completely immovable and then returned back to wall. Teahouse owner was so surprised while mandarin became so angry. Mandarin started clapping many times and then started shouting, giving even more gold and threatening. Despite all these efforts Yellow Stork didn’t come from wall. After 1 hour angry mandarin went away. Later that night someone knocked at the door of teahouse. Owner opened the door and saw musician Mi. Mi played short tune on his flute and suddenly Yellow Stork came from wall and came next to him. Than Mi said silently” I told you never force him to dance in front of only 1 person”. After these words musician Mi and Yellow Stork left together. Nobody ever saw them again.
Its time for legendary figures and deeds again. This time I will speak about Zhuangtzu or Zhuang Zhou. He was one of first most famous Daoist masters and one of most famous sages and philosophers of ancient China. Zhuangtzu has left a work of great importance for Chinese philosophy and Daoist teaching known as Zhuangzi a collection of short anecdotes and stories about sense of life, death, nature, balance with nature, human relations, harmony and Dao.
According to ancient historian Sima Qian (145BC-86BC) and his records Zhuangtzu lived between 369BC and 286BC. Only little is known about his life from Records of Grand Historian. It is only known that he was born in city of Meng of Kingdom of Song. Today this is Henan province. Zhuang was minor official in his hometown but was famous for Daoist thoughts and writing short anecdotes. King Wei of Chu have heard about him and wanted to admit him in state service on position of chief minister. Despite power and wealth that he could get he rejected it politely saying that he is more happy with simple life. That is basically all what is known about life of this great philosopher.
Zhuang Zhou has left great collection of Daoist anecdotes about philosophy and life known as Zhuangzi. Zhuangzi book is second most important Daoist book after Dao De Qing inspired by Lao Tzu. Zhuangzi is together with Dao De Qing part of Daoist Cannon- Daozang. Current compilation dates from 3rd century CE based on originals. This classic hasn’t left only great impact on perception of life, perception of nature, perception of natural statics and dynamics and lifestyle of other Daoist masters. But this book became great inspiration of Chinese poetry, painting and Chinese culture and lifestyle generally. Since Dao De Qing is often considered as too abstract and simple book this one is seen as application of Dao De Qing and application of Daoist philosophy in practice and pushes you to think even more. This book will push you to think about your own existence, natural phenomena, statics and dynamics in nature, relativity and universality in our world. Zhuangzi emphasizes on nature as perfect example where things go simply and slightly without too much attachment and need of questioning. Simply it shows that everything is either static like mountains or dynamic like water or air. It also shows as life in a bit satiric, comedic and even ironic way. Zhuangzi shows self ironizing of all existence and life of its author too. When there are some things which are changeable and some things unchangeable it is better to simply perceive life with joy and do not worry.
Book teaches you how to easier do things which you can do such as to be simple and happy, to strive for success and change some things to better which you can do by doing good and living in harmony with nature and people. Zhuangzi appreciates moderate effort, wisdom, modesty, unconditional love, joy in simple things and similar values. While at the same time Zhuangzi teaches how to stand necessary bad moments and things which you cannot change, how to overcome them and go further in life without too much worrying. Even if you worry you wont change some natural things like periodic unhappiness and necessary death. Zhuangzi appreciates flexibility and need to adapt to new circumstances and use them best but not to go against flow of river. Book also condemns greed, over confidence, too much pride and stupidity. In book also grand rituals are condemned as sage considered that they are waste of time, money and energy. Sage believed that unnecessary things are large celebrations of life and too much mourning for death and grand funeral rituals. He believed that both life and death are natural sides of one coin and natural cycle of changes which occurs among all living beings and doesn’t require too much attention. Zhuangzi relativizes perceptions and whole existence, but says that generally everything is part of universe and path-Dao. Example of this is butterfly dilemma which says that Zhuangtzu dreams about butterfly questions whether he is old man who dreams that he is butterfly or he is a butterfly which dreams that he is old man. Shortly Zhuangzi speaks that relativity of all things unites all things under Dao. Zhuangzi says that everything in world is not ultimate good or evil that everything good has some bad and everything bad has something good. World and nature are in constant transformation which has no beginning neither end. Dao according to Zhuangzi has no shape neither beginning neither end. Universal Dao is composed of all relative circumstances and transformations. Thus Zhuangzi emphasizes on harmony between self and nature and thus spontaneous life is lived equally to spontaneity of Dao. In other words living spontaneously and linking your mind to nature and changes of nature you live in harmony with Dao.
To better understand this book here are 3 stories from this amazing work. Read them and think about their point on your own.
Legendary beings in Chinese mythology is special topic which needs special attention. There are more than thousand of humanlike or animallike deities and beings. There are also half human half animal beings like Fu Xi about which I wrote already. I wrote about few humanlike deities too, but there are some which look like fictional animals such as dragons, phoenixes and some other less known.
Today we are going to review some of these mythological beings. Most famous and most important and probably the oldest Chinese mythological being is dragon. Chinese people consider themselves as descendants of dragon. I have written about dragons, their symbolic meaning and 1 legend about 4 Dragons in chapter 2 of legends and ancient figures. So if you want to revise knowledge about dragons check it please. Here we continue with other creatures.
If not of the same importance as dragon than it is second most important mythological creature in China. Phoenix is symbol of yin, fire, beauty, statics, femininity, Chinese empress and good fortune. . Its major element is fire while dragons is water. Dragon and phoenix are often see as dual, compatible and equal contradictory but balanced forces. Dragon is symbol of yang, masculinity, flexibility, water, emperor and good fortune. Dragon and phoenix are seen as symbol of balanced relationship, ideal love and happy marriage. In past their amulets were worn by couples and their paintings or other decorations which depict dragon and phoenix were used on weddings. Today still their depiction is common on weddings because people consider that their image can bring harmonized energy into relationship and marriage. Some young couples were their symbols on bracelets or necklaces for good luck and harmony in relationship. From this concept it is perceived that ancient Chinese thought equalized men and women.
4 Divine Beasts
Are beasts of yin and yang and 4 directions.
Is symbol of east, spring and wood element.
Represents water, north and winter.
Represents fire, summer and south.
Symbol of autumn, west and metal.
Yellow Dragon as 5th
Often considered as fifth divine beast and symbol of earth, center and transformation.
Is one of most important mythological beings. He is famous for being messenger of big changes such as birth or death of great leader or ruler. Qilin is symbol of benevolence, wisdom and purity. Qilin can throw out fire to fight the evil.
Is half dragon half lion who with wings. Pixiu is symbol of wealth and good fortune.
Is one of most famous legendary beings of China. He is half monkey half human. Sun Wukong is also known as Monkey King. He is famous for great intelligence, diplomatic arts but also a bit foolish behavior. Sun Wukong is a bit rebellious and doesn’t obey much the authorities. This figure originates from Warring States Period( 476-221BC). He cultivates Daoist teaching and principles and is immortal as well.. Monkey King is great martial artist and more about his story can be read in Journey to the West a 16th century novel. He is one of main characters there so if you are interested read the novel.
Is most powerful Chinese dragon. He is dragon of water and weather and 4 Dragons are his incarnations. Dragon King has 9 son dragons.
Is a symbol of moon. According to legend he lives with Chang E( goddess of Moon) on Moon.
Is a combination of unicorn and dragon. Xiezhi is famous for judging on right or wrong and chasing evil away.
Is a lion with long ears. Hou is famous for loud roar and bringing messages from Heaven to Earth.
Represent male and female, yin and yang. Are always in pairs and are considered as guardians of houses, palaces and temples. Therefore stone lion guardians are often in front of houses, palaces and temples.
Is a fox which has magical skills such as to transform into beautiful women to seduce men.
Are ghosts of passed away people who are forgotten by their descendants. Thus they constantly search for food. It will be more about them in chapter about Hungry ghost festival.
Is a bird which looks like crane and has red beak and only one leg. It eats fire. Appearance of Bifang is symbol of fire disaster.
Are demons which reproduce on rain and attack humans.
Are resurrected dead people who seek for live and healthy humans to kill them and steal their qi energy. Jiangshi are some kind of equivalent to vampire.
Diao Si Gui
Are ghosts of those who committed suicide by hanging. They have long tongues stretched out of mouth.
Are ghosts of dead fetuses.
An old witch
Is a women dressed in red who has committed suicide and now is resurrected and searches someone who committed injustice towards her and takes revenge.
Are four evil beings being exiled by Emperor Shun in order to create stability on Earth.
Symbol of ignorance. Looks like boar.
Looks like winged tiger and eats humans and causes wars.
Is a faceless dog and attacks humans of virtue.
Is symbol of greed and eats everything even its own body.
This time I wont write details about Taoism and values deeply but I will speak about basic ideas of Lao Tzu, his life and his core ideas. Lao Tzu alongside Confucius is biggest Chinese philosopher. It cannot be determined who is more important of these two great people. While Confucius was busy with concept of state, society and social norms Lao Tzu was busy about living in harmony with nature and observing natural changes. He was also thinking about how people should live in harmony with each other and nature and how people should perceive happiness, changes, sadness and how to deal with challenges. Basically was searching meaning of life and giving a meaning to it.
What is even more interesting is that no one is completely sure about existence of Lao Tzu and most details about his life. Most of historians believe that Lao Tzu lived between 601BC and 531BC. Its known very little about his life actually. There are many different and contradictory stories about his life which are very unclear and brief. Even most famous Chinese ancient historian Sima Qian 145BC-86BC) didn’t leave one conceptualized story about Lao Tzu but several shorter often not completely reliable. It is believed that Lao Tzu was born in state of Chu, in present day Luoyi Henan province. His real name was Li. Er while Lao Tzu actually means Old Master. There is legend that he was held in mothers womb for 62 years and that he was born with long beard and large eyebrows or in other words old and wise. Other legends suggest that he lived for 129 years. There are suggestions that he worked as historian or librarian on royal court of Zhou dynasty in Luoyang. Records of Sima Qian suggest that Lao Tzu was married and had one son Zong who later became legendary warrior.
Some parts of Records of Sima Qian state that he had few followers while other parts say that he didn’t have any followers before he went to west. It is stated that he travelled a lot observed nature, visited many villages and towns where he was both learning but also teaching wisdoms. There is also an unreliable story that he once met with Confucius and that they spoke to each other in respectful way despite differences in ideas of these two philosophers. According to Records of Grand Historian Lao Tzu told Confucius that he should be more flexible and spontaneous and less ambitious. While Confucius told him that he perceives Lao Tzu as dragon which rides over sky with wind and clouds.
Now even more mysterious thing is where Lao Tzu left and whether he left at all. In some writings of Sima Qian Lao Tzu was becoming more and more disappointed by ignorance of people and hard life during Spring and Autumn Period. Lao Tzu was also disappointed with moral decline of various rulers and often wars between states for their dominance and recognition by Zhou court. Also there are suggestions that he wanted to observe and discover harmony, nature and Tao deeper without interruption. It is often suggested that he didn’t get single disciple and was sad that people don’t want to live according to natural goodness. There is also possibility that he went with the flow, followed his Tao and wanted to live in harmony with all statics and dynamics in nature and Tao. Simply it can be said that he went to observe stillness of mountains and flexibility of rivers without interruption. According to story he took an ox and was riding him towards west from Zhou capital Luoyang.
Legend says that he wanted to leave some trace before he disappears and left the collection of his wisdoms to the border security guard. While getting out of city at western gate Lao Tzu was noticed by one of guards. Lao Tzu was stopped by one of guards. Guard told that his name is Yin Xi and that he recognized Lao Tzu and wants to be his disciple. Lao Tzu wanted to test his devotion and asked about his life. Yin Xi told him that he was interested in astronomy and in all processes of nature, 5 elements and living with virtue. Thus Lao Tzu got sure that he is truly devoted to Tao and that he respects 3 virtues of Lao Tzu. According to legend Lao Tzu still decided to leave but ordained Yin Xi as his disciple. Instead of mentoring him Lao Tzu left him on a bamboo slips his main wisdoms what became known as Tao Te Qing. Lao Tzu went without a trace to the west riding and ox. This action can be perfectly seen as example of Wu Wei.
Further according to legend Yin Xi followed the Tao and preserved and rewrote Tao Te Qing several times and was speaking teaching of Lao Tzu to the people. He left more followers than his teacher Lao Tzu. If we follow this story there were more and more Taoist individuals and smaller movements until 2nd century CE.
Significance of Lao Tzu is very big. Lao Tzu was core person in conceptualizing Taoist teaching. Lao Tzu collected previous ideas about nature, worship, way of living and called it Dao or Tao. It can be translated as Way. Tao Te Qing is collection of his main ideas and views on nature, time, actions, love, competition, spirituality, astronomy, mind, body, morality, justice, contrasts and their balance, harmony with nature, power of mind, balance between people in way of harmony, and many other things. All this things mentioned above and concept of yin yang were systematized by Lao Tzu existed long before in traditional Chinese spirituality, shamanism and astronomy. Lao Tzu named this teaching as Tao meaning way. Tao Te Qing can be translated as Classic Way of Virtue.
Lao Tzu updated this concept with concept of Wuji and Taiji. Wuji is considered as eternal space and eternal emptiness that is everywhere around us. Wuji represents constant stillness, non changes and statics. Second is Taiji which is translated as supreme ultimate. It is something that constantly changes, moves, circles and is constantly flexible. Taiji is constant change of day and night, winter and summer, spring and autumn, good and bad, flowing water, rain and sun, beautiful and ugly, new and old, love and hate…It is considered that Taiji is name for all relative things and that nothing is absolute that there is thin line between all contrary things. Wuji and Taiji together give a Yin Yang which symbolizes contradictious harmony as I spoke before. Yin symbolizes- night, woman, moon, earth, passive, evil and yang symbolizes- day, man, sun, heaven, active, good. Lao Tzu also added his main virtues to Tao Te Qing such as are simplicity( spontaneity, no competing, wisdom, tranquility, peaceful mind,) , patience( stillness) and compassion( kindness). He considers Tao as Way with no name and no shape but that it can be personified in way of harmony and path of wisdom. Also Lao Tzu added famous concept of Wu Wei.
Systematized Taoism and its followers during this period still didn’t function as organized association but several centuries later. Later it became organized and systematized teaching only by middle of 2nd century CE. It never became official state philosophy but was widely respected by various dynasties mostly by Han, Tang Song and Ming. Taoism deeply influenced life of people. Lao Tzu definitely left great significance on Chinese people. Maybe not him directly but Tao Te Qing and inspired Taoist teaching on it. Taoism not only as a organized movement but as a spiritual concept and way of life had and has great impact on life, culture, arts, medicine, architecture, perception of life, relations between people, virtues, perception of nature, understanding changes and unchangeable things and much more. Together with Confucianism Taoism is core of minds and hearts of Chinese people, Chinese civilization and Chinese nation. Maybe not Lao Tzu that much but inspiration by Tao Te Qing created Taoist movements.
Still existence of Lao Tzu and origin of Tao Te Qing is mystery as there are suggestions that he actually didn’t write it but that book was written by his followers and that its collection of things that he taught them. There are also ideas that Yin Xi wrote only what Lao Tzu was telling him. It is often believed that Tao Te Qing was a compilation of works of more philosophers who systematized Taoist ideas. Some think that they cooperated on it while others that even different contributors lived in different centuries. It is believed that they had in common that they were signing their works as Lao Tzu what means old master and that later misunderstanding appeared and people thought it was one person. Oldest found examples of Tao Te Qing were found only by late 4th century BC. Some Taoist followers worship Lao Tzu as deity while in past some schools considered him as individual deity such as Way of Celestial Masters. Todays schools of Taoism Zhengyi and Quanzhen consider Lao Tzu as incarnation of Taishang Laojun one of 3 Pure Ones an important deities in Taoism. Generally Taoists think that Lao Tzu is personification of Tao. Mostly Taoists do not worship Lao Tzu alone but he is considered as incarnation of 3 Pure Ones who are often worshiped together with other deities.
Traces of burial site of Lao Tzu do not exist as it was believed that he went to the West somewhere far completely alone. Some rare suggestions exist that he went to Tibet or India. During Han dynasty( 206BC-220CE) with arrival of Buddhism to China via Silk Road some scholars thought that Lao Tzu actually went to India and that Buddha was his disciple. It was believed like that because of some similarity between two teachings. They believed that Buddha during his retreat met Lao Tzu in mountains who showed him the Tao. Even at beginning Buddha was considered that he found Tao instead of term Buddhahood by Taoist scholars Taoist scholars understood the best Buddhist teaching and using their terminology they were able to translate it to Chinese. Chinese version of Buddhism was created by Taoist adaptation. Chan( Zen) Buddhism appeared in 4th-5th century under influence of Taoism.
So its up to you to read, think and decide if Lao Tzu is myth or reality.
Here I want to focus on biography and life of Confucius and basically some ideas. Also I will focus on some aspects of his life that seem to be legend and a question of his existence.
His Chinese name is Kong Qiu and simply great man with great ideas. He lived during Spring and Autumn Period( 771BC-476BC) a period of formal supremacy of Zhou dynasty in terms of politics and culture while there was large division on many states who often were in rivalry relations and fought wars. Confucius was born in state of Lu in Qufu in todays Shandong province in 551BC. Confucius was born during rule of Duke Xiang of Lu. He became later known as Kongfuzi what means master Kong so from this name he is known as Confucius. Confucius never met his father as he died when he was only 3 years old. He originates from aristocratic family which was impoverished already by time of his birth. His ancestry dates to house of Dukes of Song during Shang dynasty. At age of 15 he was learning classical six arts which were compulsory for scholars of Zhou dynasty and those were rites, archery, music, calligraphy, charioteering and math. At age of 19 Confucius married with Qiguan. At age of 23 his mother died and he mourned for 3 years as was tradition saying. First he tried to be governmental official and worked on some position, He served as magistrate and later as assistant in Ministry of Public Affairs. .Confucius later became Minister of Crime in state of Lu. At that time he was in mid 30ies and decided to become teacher too and spread his ideas and education as he saw biggest value in education and spreading it. By proposing his ethical and governmental ideas he was collecting some disciples. Confucius was trying to give education for more people and never took money from his disciples like at that time aristocratic families were paying tutors for their male kids. Confucius played role of diplomat too in managing relations between rivalry dukes and tried to mediate conflict peacefully and was successful several times.
Confucius was successful at this and centralized power and restored order in state of Lu. But state of Qi tried to distract Duke of Lu by sending beautiful dancing girls. As legend says Duke didn’t attend governmental meetings for few days and Kong Zi was disappointed ad decided to leave the Lu because of lack of morality of duke for whom he served. At that time he was in his 40ties. Kongzi visited many of smaller and bigger states and visited courts there but dukes and kings listened only to his proposals. But never applied them so Confucius was always on road seeking for someone who will apply it and collected disciples on his way. Kongzi considered rituals, governance and music of Western Zhou as core for Chinese culture and state and these ideals he promoted and tried to apply in Lu and other states. Western Zhou was period when state was united and before Spring and Autumn decentralization. Confucius was teaching his disciples all 6 arts, ethics and governance. At age of 68 he returned his home to state of Lu. Before that he climbed a Mount Taishan which was sacred at that time already. In his hometown he continued teaching most until his death. Confucius was very friendly towards his disciples used to joke but also demanded respect but respected them back too. His son and one of favorite disciples died early and he felt sorry for both of them. At age of 73 Confucius died in his hometown in 479BC As a highly respected person he was buried on grand ceremony and state mourning was declared. Kong Zi was buried in his hometown Qufu and his tomb still can be visited and people come there to pay respect.
He believed that basis for happiness is ideal family in which younger give respect to older and women are submissive to men. From a basis of ideal family goes ideal harmonious society with hierarchy respect and where everyone knows its place and deserves place according to education and skills. Education, respect and harmonious relations are basis of society and everyone by self-cultivation improves his position in society. Kongzi believed that every human serves to society for a higher good and functioning of society. He also believed that following virtues, traditions and high education give you better status in society. Confucius is often seen as conservative person promoting old traditions, rituals and customs which keep unity of family and society. In keeping family tradition each family must worship its ancestors what brings family unity. Under ideals of Western Zhou which established concept Mandate of Heaven legitimacy of ruler must be based. He considered that ruler must worship Heaven in order to gets its blessing and govern under divine power. Confucius considered that state must be strong and ruler generous, powerful and ethical. He considered that highest positions could have only people with highest education and highest skills and virtue. He considered that each ruler and member of society must think about his own behavior, morality and educate himself in order of perfection. In order to get respect leader must be self-disciplined and to respect others too. He believed that you must be compassionate and positive to motivate others to follow law. By education he believed you can achieve higher status and respect in society and only if you have high morality and are self-disciplined. Confucius idealized concept of 4 professions and their contribution to society. Hierarchy, respect, self-discipline are a must according to him. Confucius emphasized highly on worship of Heaven and ancestors and with aim to keep order worship must be highly detailed. Which chants and when, number of vessels and all steps of ritual had to be according to some order done. Kong Qui considered major arts: computing, calligraphy, music, ritual, archery and chariot driving. He believed that they require strict self-discipline and hard working and therefore are contributive. Confucius believed that such concept of state and organization of society leads to harmnonius society. He was against wars and believed that justified war only in case of defense. However despite his brilliant ideas there are some controversies related to Confucius such as misogynic ideas and underestimating living beings. There is a story when he asks only about human lives when there was accident in which horseridrers were involved and behaves towards animals as towards property of human. Also sometimes his philosophy may seem to strict with lack of spontaneity and joy but some important ideas are definitely serving functioning of society.
He never left book behind him but his followers gathered his main ideas into few books. Confucius left behind 72 disciples who continued spreading his idea,, Moreover they wrote his basic concepts in Classics of Poetry, Book of Documents, Book of Rites, Spring and Autumn Annals, Great Learning, Mencius and Analects.
During era of Han dynasty he was deified and worshipped by his followers and scholars. His idea of governing was institutionalized during Han dynasty( 206BC-220CE) when such hierarchy, family and social relations were established like he promoted. Also imperial examination of civil servants who studied his classics existed until 1905. Today Confucianism is still important in China but not in terms of empire, inferiority of women and blaming those sick or unsuccessful and keeping them in poor condition. Today Confucianism serves as idea of hierarchy, social harmony and working on your own skills and education for self-achievement and serving your society.
If you read my history articles you will see how on his principles Chinese state and society functioned for 2000 thousand years. About role of Confucianism in modern China will be in last chapter of history.
This legend is about one of very glorified historical and legendary person famous for its honesty, loyalty, kindness and excellent military strategies. He is often considered as first one to apply in practice Sun Tzu military strategies. Zhuge Liang is also a character of Chinese literature work- Romance of 3 Kingdoms.
Lets see first about his life and later about significance and consecration. Zhuge Liang was born in 181 in todays Shandong province. When he was very small he got orphaned. When he was 16 his uncle died too and he moved to Hubei province. While he was hardly studying he was working as a farmer in order to feed himself. About him have heard Liu Bei founder of Shu Han state an important warlord and figure who opposed distorted Han dynasty which was dominated by General Cao Cao. Cao Cao was misusing his post and keeping Han emperor as puppet while he governed and while corruption and famine were on rise..
Liu Bei personally visited Zhuge Liang in his cottage in Hubei province. Liu Bei heard a lot about intelligence and honesty of Zhuge so he decided not to invite him but to come on his own there. They met for the first time in 207 when they created so called Longzhong plan. It was a military strategy and idea of reunification of China under honest and new ruler. It included idea of capturing Xianyang and Luoyang in the northeast and replacing current Han dynasty. For such a large idea king Liu Bei needed to make closer union with another warlord and rebel King Sun Quan who later became ruler of Dong Wu. Liu Bei employed Zhuge Liang as diplomat and sent him to palace of Sun Quan. Thanks to his diplomatic skills and wisdom Zhuge Liang managed to persuade Sun Quan to accept alliance with Liu Bei. Thanks to that in 208 they severely defeated Cao Cao at Battle of Red Cliffs and thanks to that prevented Cao Caos expansion to the south. After this battle Zhuge Liang got position of Military Advisor General in todays Hunan. Between 212-214 Zhuge Liang provided strategy and logistics for capturing of todays Sichuan province. Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei became even friends. In 223 Liu Bei died and Zhuge Liang wanted to continue to stay loyal to his family and than served his son and was friend to his son Liu Shan. They developed close friendship too and Liu Shan perceived him as his second father. He was nominated as marquis of Wu and executed function of the chancellor and soon became chancellor. He was working on reunification of China during 3 Kingdoms Period. But first he knew that unity must be in Shu Han and therefore went to the south to calm down rebellions on the south that held todays Yunnan, parts of Sichuan and Guizhou province. Campaign finished successfully and Zhuge Liang stabilized southern and southwestern borders of Shu Han. So now he was ready to advance to the north against Cao Wei but before that he decentralized economy and promoted industry and agriculture. He knew that for stable state and waging for economy must be strong. His reform was successful. It was like that because many peasants that were escaping Cao Wei during wars they inhabited todays Sichuan and parts of Yunnan. Also large number of peasants from south inhabited Sichuan. Thanks to that agriculture was spontaneously blooming in Shu Han. Trade of silk and natural materials developed. Cooper coins were used as currency. Production of silk, salt and iron and development of transport were under control of state like in case of Han dynasty. With secure resources he initiated conquest of Cao Wei in 228 and in total conducted 5 campaigns. Most crucial battles were at Tianshui in 228 which ended in stalemate, at Jieting in 228 which finished with Zhuges failure, Chengsang battle in 229 which ended in success of Zhuge Liang, at Jianwei in 229 Zhuge Liang won, at Qishan in 231 Zhuge was defeated. At Qishan was one of biggest failures for Shu Han. Despite great strategies and highly motivated soldiers army of Cao Wei was much stronger and much larger so army of Shu Han didn’t have chance to compete successfully. But Zhuge Liang wasn’t giving up and wanted to try until his last breath to conquer Cao Wei. In 234 he initiated his last campaign and battle of Wuzhang started. He felt there seriously ill and died during stalemate. After that Shu Han forces retreated. He was buried at Dingjunshan.
He is known as first statesman who used in practice strategies proposed by Sun Tzu in book Arts of War. He also did a lot of innovations in warfare. Zhuge invented more advanced crossbows and started to use balloons with candles for signaling between troops. He did it first time once when he was surrounded by troops of Cao Wei and he sent signal for help. Zhuge Liang was also a good writer and poet. He liked to spend time in nature and write. Zhuge wrote Mastering Art of War and his own memoirs.
After his death legends and legends were retold about him for hundreds and even more than thousand years. Zhuge Liang was deified by Taoists. There are several temples in Sichuan devoted to Zhuge Liang where his statues are located and people come to worship him for his honesty, bravery and smartness.
Zhuge Liang is one of main characters of Romance of 3 Kingdoms a work which dates from Ming dynasty. He is there described as hero, real warrior, honest and loyal man. There are many fictional events in which Zhuge participated written in this book.
Zhuge Liang is still popular today. He is depicted in many movies and series. Takeshi Koneshiro plays role of Zhuge Liang in 2008 movie Red Cliff. Zhuge Liang is also a character in card games, video games and comics.
It is time for legends again. Today it is turn to speak about one legendary, brave and very famous person. It is Guan Yu. Today he is most famous as god of war, loyalty, bravery, strength and guardian of property. He is idol for many brave people. He is worshipped widely in China. In China after Guanyin, Mi La Fo and Jade Emperor he is most popular deity widely worshipped in folk tradition, Taoism and Buddhism. He is often found in Taoist temples, rarely in Buddhist temples and often in home shrines of population which is devoted to Taoism or Buddhism. Often he is set in front of other deities in shrine as a symbol of protection and guardianship of other deities. In Chinese restaurants worldwide, in offices of companies across China ,in hotels in China, in Chinese shops there are bigger or smaller shrines there is his statue as most important one especially near entrance door of the place. It is with purpose to scare evil spirits and energetically protect property from robbery. In history he was often worshipped as guardians by secret societies related to martial arts, by robbers. Today he is often worshipped by Chinese mafia and police as well. In Hong Kong some police stations have small shrines with his figure. He is often important hero in video games, cartoons, comics, tv series and movies.
Guan Yu was a real person without superhuman abilities. But because his ethics, bravery, martial skills, strength and honesty he was consecrated as a deity few centuries later. He lived between cca 160 and 220CE. He was born during Han dynasty period a dynasty which ruled China between 206BC to 220CE. It was one of most prosperous Chinese dynasties thanks to Silk Road, large trade and cultural exchange between China and other countries, territorial expansion, development of Taoism, arrival of Buddhism, big technological, astronomic and medicine discoveries. Therefore it is considered as first golden age of Chinese civilization. However in during 2nd century prosperity started to decline because of too high taxes, oppressive emperors or regents, famines, corruption and nepotism. When in 189 greedy general and chancellor Cao Cao took primary power in court and controlled Emperor Xian regional governors became even more angry. They declared autonomy and rebellion against imperial court. One basis of power was formed in todays Sichuan what later became Shu Han state governed by king Liu Bei. In east there was another basis created with Sun Quan as head what later became Dong Wu. Guan Yu didn’t want unjust centralization in corrupt court with puppet emperor and joined Liu Bei. He swore there on infinite loyalty to Liu Bei and Zhang Fei an another general of Shu Han. They swore on infinite friendship and always to fight on same side. In one clash troops of Liu Bei were defeated and Guan Yu was captured by General Cao Cao. He treated him very well and he became general in Cao Cao army. Guan YU still felt obligation and friendship towards Liu Bei and Zhang Fei and wanted to return to them. He expressed big thanks to Cao Cao and decided to do one favor for him before he leaves him. In battle against General Yan Liang who was opponent to Cao Cao. During battle Guan Yu broke through enemy troops on a horse with one spear and passed through 10000 soldiers to reach general Yan Liang and killed him. As a proof that he killed Yan Liang he brought his head to Cao Cao. Afterwards he rode away on horse from Cao Cao. Cao Cao was so impressed by his loyalty and braveness and ordered his soldiers not to stop Guan Yu.
Than since 190 Guan Yu served Liu Bei together with Zhang Fei. They initiated several campaigns against Cao Cao which ended successfully. In 208 large battle at Red Cliffs occurred. Guan Yu commanded naval forces and it was decisive battle between Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Guan Yu bravely fought without a step back. At the end Cao Cao was severely defeated and was prevented in conquering all China. Liu Bei sent Guan Yu on many campaigns. In 219 Guan Yu was first time defeated at Fangjing. It happened because he suspected that Sun Quans troop will betray Liu Bei. Therefore he was busy with capturing food supplies of Sun Quans troops and it gave opportunity to Cao Cao to attack. During that time dispute between Sun Quan and Liu Bei appeared and they were in open war. Guan Yu with weakened forces because of battle at Fangjing were retreating in Shu Han territory at beginning of 220. On the road he heard that Jiangling ( a town of Shu Han) was conquered by Sun Quans troops. Captured people and soldiers were very well treated and Sun Quan openly made it known in order to make Guan Yus soldiers not interested to fight and surrender. But Guan Yu didn’t want to give up and started approaching Jiangling. Sun Quans troops surrounded them and set an ambush. During courageous fight almost all Gun Yu soldiers died and only he and his few officers were captured. They were executed very soon.
Guan Yu was consencrated during Sui dynasty( 581-618). During Tang and other dynasties he became main symbol and guardian of soldiers and they worshipped him for courage, success in battles and were expected to be loyal as him.