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Trade, Geography, and the Unifying Force of Islam / The Silk Road

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Trade, Geography, and the Unifying Force of Islam


Inequality in regional suitability for agriculture across the Old World

Inequality in regional suitability for agriculture across the Old World


Percentage of Muslim population in AD 1900 in the Old World

Percentage of Muslim population in AD 1900 in the Old World


Major trade routes in the Old World AD 600-AD 1800

Major trade routes in the Old World AD 600-AD 1800


(…) We start with the observation that, on the one hand, Islam surfaced in the Arabian Peninsula under conditions featuring an extremely unequal land quality distribution across regions. And, on the other hand, Islam surfaced in areas close to lucrative trade routes. As a result, when dwellers from the oases were attempting to cross the surrounding vast arid lands in pursuit of trade profits, they were facing threats to their livelihoods from nomadic groups. These encounters had the potential to bring trade flows to a halt, setting the stage for the emergence of a centralising force that featured redistributive rules. We argue that Islam was such a centralising force and that, accordingly, its economic tenets had to address inherent economic inequities across clans. This resulted in an economic doctrine that promoted poverty alleviation and redistribution, equitable inheritance rules and anti-usury laws.


Fortunately, among the pre-colonial traits recorded by Murdock (1967) there is an entry describing whether a group believes or not in gods that are supportive.. of human morality. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have argued that the belief in moralising gods – gods who tell people what they should or should not do – was necessary to keep societies together by condemning infringements on other group members. Similarly, we  argue that the presence of an unequal geography and proximity to trade opportunities intensified the need for cooperation among heterogeneous clans. Such cooperation could be achieved by adopting a religion which, besides the appropriate economic rules, would provide a coordination mechanism that penalised those who deviate from prescribed norms. With this in mind, it is not surprising to find that a 50% increase in Muslim adherence within a group increases the likelihood that a group believes in gods that dictate what should or should not be done by 40%. If anything, Christian and ethnoreligious groups are less likely to have harboured beliefs in a moralising god in the pre-colonial period.



Our findings show that Islam flourished in very challenging geographical terrains. These terrains harboured inherently unequal economic opportunities and bred conflict. Any political platform that attempted to bring clashing populations together had to address these primordial inequities. Islam was certainly such a movement, and its spread is a prime example of how geography shapes a society’s institutional and societal arrangements. (…)

8 December 2012

Stelios Michalopoulos
Assistant Professor of Economics, Brown University

Alireza Naghavi
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Bologna

Giovanni Prarolo
Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Bologna


Read the full post online at VOX, download  pdf at Brown University here, or as pdf here.

(retrieved 19.04.2014 at


Ann. of the Editor: I personally do not agree to the conclusions. Trade is based on trust. The Quran (similar to the Bible) has the character of a constitution. Moral norms as “Not Lie, Not Steal” are crucial until today’s  international trade. “Being balanced against a feather” is a keyword in Muslim morals. International institutionalised morals can appear as international law (see INCO-Terms).


The Silk Road and Related Trade Routes

Map of  the Silk Road and Related Trade Routes

(retrieved 20.04.2014 at


The Islamic World

Map of the Islamic World

(retrieved 20.04.2014 at


Trade Routes Africa  15th century

Map of Trade Routes in  Africa  around 1500

“History of Africa”  27 February 2008. <>  20 April 2014. (retireved 20.04.2014 at

See the whole article about Africa around 1500 online here or download as pdf here.


Additional Material


Southeast_Asia_trade_route_map_XII century

(retrieved 20.04.2014 at


(…) Perhaps no one has described in more ringing language than Tome Pires the advantages of a port commanding the straits :

Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice. As far as from Malacca, and from Malacca to China, and from China to the Moluccas, and from Moluccas to Java, and from Java to Malacca and Sumatra, all is in your power. (…)

Read the full article about Ancient Asian Trade online here or download pdf here.

(retrieved 20.04.2014 at


Can a Chinese ‘maritime silk route’ cool tensions in Asia?

Many, both in China and in the region, view China’s mooted Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the ASEAN+6 countries as a Chinese effort to push the regional agenda towards softer objectives. For Beijing, RCEP also has the benefit of countering the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership.

Yet the benefit for China of achieving either of these objectives would pale in comparison to the potential benefit of President Xi Jinping’s realising his dream of reviving the ‘maritime silk route’, which he unveiled during his October 2013 visit to Malaysia and Indonesia. The route would build on the East Asia region’s proven strengths in sharing production. It could also enable a greater role for overseas Chinese communities in forging relationships to reduce regional tensions.

The movement of goods along the maritime silk route has a history of over two millennia, which reached its peak in the 15th century when legendary explorer Zheng He led an armada from China through Southeast and South Asia to the Persian Gulf. Today some of these same corridors support East Asia’s unique production sharing network which brings components produced throughout the region to China for assemblage and shipment to Europe and North America.

The production network allows all countries, regardless of their size and technological sophistication, to benefit from deep specialisation and economies of scale by producing parts and components, and adding value to production along the production chain. With labour costs in China now rising, many ASEAN economies stand to gain from any future outsourcing of production. This, combined with the trade deficits that China runs with most of its Asian neighbours (in contrast to its persistent surpluses with the West), makes it easier for ASEAN countries to see China as an opportunity rather than a threat. (…)

Yukon Huang is Senior Associate at the Asia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a former country director at the World Bank in China.

East Asia Forum at is always worth a visit!

(retrieved 06.05.2014 at


Restore the Silk Road

Last September (Ann. of the Editor: meaning September 2013) when he delivered a speech at a university in Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping raised the suggestion that China and Central Asian countries should work together to build the Silk Road Economic Belt. The proposal was met with immediate resonance among neighboring countries and received a warm reception. Some provinces in the western region of China have even begun preparing to participate in the new round of cross-border economic cooperation.

Undoubtedly, the Silk Road Economic Belt will benefit all parties including China and her Central Asian partners. The mutual-benefit economic zone will help accelerate the development of China’s remote northwest regions and also facilitate China’s international cooperation with Central Asian countries.

For both China and Central Asia, the Silk Road played an important role in creating marvelous civilizations and economic prosperity in ancient times. Around 2,000 years ago, a Chinese emperor of the Han Dynasty sent his envoy, Zhang Qian, to the unknown west in search of allies to resist the threat of northern nomads. Unexpectedly, Zhang’s journey pioneered a significant bond between China and Central Asia. Since then, a trade road linking China and Central Asia—even stretching as far as Europe—formed and countries along the road thrived. The historic Silk Road was the world’s longest trade route on land.

Although the ancient Silk Road was eventually replaced by shipping routes via sea, China and Central Asian countries have great incentive to revive the historic link under the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit. Today, China is the largest trade partner of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as well as the largest investor in Uzbekistan. (…)

Read the full article online here or download full pdf here.

(retrieved 07.05.2014 at


Silk Road to Prosperity

Drug production in Afghanistan has increased 40 times since NATO moved in there 13 years ago. The profit from that drug production has become the financial support of terrorism. I think there must be international cooperation among all neighboring countries of Afghanistan, i.e. China, Russia, India, Iran and hopefully others, to wipe out the drug traffic. The drug traffic problem has become a major security problem for Russia—hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of drug smuggling from Afghanistan. It has become a big security problem for China, because one of the drug routes goes through Xinjiang. It is also feeding terrorists in Tajikistan, Russia’s Chechnya, Pakistan and the whole region from Afghanistan all the way to Syria, North Africa and even Central Africa. This has become a major source of threat to the stability of the region.

There must be international efforts to stabilize this region. That is why we have been proposing a very concrete extension of the Eurasian Land Bridge to the whole region, and even to Afghanistan, Syria and North Africa. You have to give incentive to the population and let them see the economic cooperation that gives them the chance to have a better future. There is better incentive than to go to drug production, or to support terrorism, which many people do because it’s being paid. Many people are just poor. You have to change the entire region with an economic development prospect which can only come from the New Silk Road Economic Belt.

Helga Zepp-LaRouche, founder and President of the Schiller Institute, an economic and political think tank headquartered in the United States and Germany


Read the full article online here or download full pdf here.

(retrieved 07.05.2014 at


Read more in the Islam category


(reviewed 07.05.2014)


Colours of Food

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our daily foods include 五行(wu hsin), different color foods may coordinate the internal organs of body, so, it benefits our health if properly arrange those foods.

五行的木火土金水,各以綠紅黑黃白五色代表,並各自聯繫和代表多種器官如下 :

五行 means 木(wood) 火(fire) 土(soil) 金(gold) 水(water), each is represented by 5 colors as Green, Red, Black, Yellow, White. They connect with each other and represent below various organs :


1. 紅色食物代表火(心、小腸及舌頭):如蘋果、番茄、櫻桃、大棗、紅椒、西瓜和紅蘿蔔等

red food represent fire (heart, small intestines, and tongue) : such as apple, tomatoes, cherry, big jujube, red pepper, water melon, and carrot…etc)

o 有助於減輕疲勞,驅寒,可令人精神抖擻,增強自信及意志力,使人充滿力量;

this is helpful to reduce tired, get rid of coldness, to brace people up, increase confidence and willpower, make us full of power

o 富含天然鐵質,是貧血患者的天然良藥,也適合女性經期失血後的滋補;

full of natural mineral of iron, a good and natural medicine for anemia patient, it’s also suitable for nourishing women after menses

o 含豐富的降血壓物質,使血管強壯,有助循環系統健康;

with plenty materials to reduce blood pressure, make blood tubes stronger, benefit circulation system to be healthy

o 含有豐富的β胡蘿蔔素和番茄紅素,是改善焦慮情緒的天然藥物;

with plenty of B carotene and tomatoes-ene (?), it is natural medicine to improve anxcious mood

o 紅色在視覺上也能給人刺激,胃口大開,精神振奮,是抑鬱症患者的首選;

red color can give people stimulation in the sense of sight, to have great appetite, to inspire spirit, it’s the best choice for melancholia patient

o 其中蘋果性溫和,含各種維生素和微量元素,最接近完美;

among all the red color foods, apple with an attribute of moderate, apple with various vitamins and microele, the most one close to perfection


2. 綠色食物代表木(肝、膽囊和肌肉):如白菜、包心菜和菠菜等

Green foods represent 木 (liver, the gall bladd, and muscle) : such as Chinese cabbage, a type of lettu, and spinach

o 含有益肝臟健康的葉綠素和多種維他命;

include chlorophyll and various vitamins which s helpful to liver’s health


3. 黑色食物代表水(腎、膀胱、耳和骨骼):如黑豆、黑芝麻和藍莓等

Black foods represent water (kidney, bladder, ear and bones) : such as black beans, sesame, and blue berry…etc

o 含黑色素,有助提高與腎、膀胱和骨骼關係密切的新陳代謝和生殖系統功能;

with black pigment, helpful in raising metabolism and in raising function of breedlin system that have close relationship with kidney, bladder, and bones


4. 黃色食物代表土(脾、胃和口腔):如柑桔、橙、南瓜、玉米、甘菊、香蕉和紅蘿蔔等

Yellow foods reperesent soil (spleen, stomatch and the oral cavit) : such as orange, orange, pumpkin, corn, sweet chrysanthemum, banana and carrot…etc

o 能幫助培養正面開朗的心情,增加幽默感,更可以強化消化系統與肝臟,清除血液中的毒素,令皮膚也變得細滑幼嫩;

can help to cultivate positive and open and clear mood, increase the sense of humor, more to strengthen digestion system and livers, to clean toxins

in blood, also can make skin smooth and detailed

o 含維他命C;最常見的橙色色素胡蘿蔔素,是強力的抗氧化物質,減少空氣污染對人體造成的傷害,並有抗衰老功效;

with vitamin C ; very often we can see carotene with orange color pigment, which is a material of powerful anti-oxidiz, can reduce the harm to body

which comes from air polution, also with function of anti-oldness and feebleness

o 由於黃色接近光譜中紅色的一端,所以黃色食物也有振奮作用,能讓人精神集中,所以在精神渙散的夜晚,喝一杯甘菊茶就能讓思維重新進入狀態;since the yellow coloer is close to an end of red color in spectrum, so yellow color foods also with sphere of action of inspiration, to make

people concentrate spiritually, so, to take one cup of sweet chrysanthemum tea can make thought back to proper condition on the night when you have lax or slack spirit

o 柑桔的皮、肉、絡、核都可入藥,有理氣健胃、止咳平喘的作用,富含的果膠能降血壓,橙皮甙和蘆丁具有強化血管壁、提高毛細血管抵抗能力的作用,從而可以防治高血壓和動脈硬化等成人病,其含有的類檸檬素、類黃酮、類胡蘿蔔素等各種抗癌活性物質,對胃腸癌、肺癌、皮膚癌等多種癌症有良好的防治作用,對預防成人肥胖症和糖尿病也有一定作用;

the skin, meat, network, and core of orange can make into medicine, to adjust Chi and get stomatch healthy, stop coughing and to even pant, with plenty pectin can reduce blood pressure, 橙皮甙 and 蘆丁 may strengthen blood tube and to raise resistance ability of blood capill, so can prevent adult disease of high blood pressure and artery’s hardeness

o 玉米和香蕉等還是很好的垃圾清理劑,因其有強化消化系統與肝臟的功能,同時還能清除血液中的毒素,玉米還能明眸善睞;

corn and banana are also very good cleansing stuff for trash, because they have function of strengthen digestion system and livers, can clean

away toxins in blood, corn can also bring us bright eyes


5. 白色食物代表金(肺、大腸和鼻):如洋蔥、大蒜和梨等 White foods represent gold (lung, big intestines and nose) : such as onion, garlic and pear

o 具有抗敏感及炎症功能。 with function of anti-sensitiveness and anti-inflammation

使用很簡單,知道自己什麼不好,照套用即可。如咬到舌頭者,吃二個紅色的番茄;容易感冒者,多吃些白色的雪梨;口腔潰瘍者,多吃些黃色的橙……,余此類推。it’s easy to use above knowledge, if you know what no good of your body, just do it abide by above rules, for example, if you bite your tongue, you can take 2 red tomatoes ; those who easily catch cold, you can take white snow pears often ; if the mouth with ulcer, you can take yellow orange often….


some prefer sweetness, some prefer hot and spicy foods, some prefer salty foods, if reflects people’s inner personality by showing people’s favorite about food’s taste.

from the point of view of metaphysics, people who bron in different month, the percentage of 五行 in their fate format are different, if want to naturally raise good luck,

just have to avoid something bad and approach something good when taking foods.


a year with 12 months, people who born in different month with their own representitive 五行’s attribute. the first month in Chinese calendar and the 2nd month are months for prosperous 木 ; the 4th and 5th months in Chinese calendar are months for prosperous 火 ; the 7th and 8th months in Chinese calendar are months for prosperous 金 ; the 10th and 11th months in Chinese calendar are months for prosperous 水 ; the 3rd, the 6th, the 9th and the 12th months in Chinese calendar are months for prosperous 土.

五行多除少補 to delete extra 五行 and to supply more 五行 when insufficient


just because all skills can’t seperate from 五行, so, how to manage or to handle what we need in life is to take more about foods which are helpful for producing goodluck, then, you may promote luck “by yourself”.


in addition to fate format, we can also differentiate food’s 5 kinds of tastes into 五行, among them, bitterness belongs to 金 (gold), sourness belongs to 木 (wood), saltness belongs to 水 (water), hot and spicy belongs to 火 (fire), sweetness belongs to 土 (soil). according to the principle of 五行 that make each of them with positive interaction, people who with prosperous 木, better take gold and soil, can eat more about bitter and sweet foods ; people who with prosperous fire, better take gold and water, can eat more about bitter and salt foods ; people who with prosperous gold, better take wood and fire, can eat more about sour and spicy foods ; people who with prosperous water, better take fire and soil, can eat more about spicy and sweet foods ; people who with prosperous soil, better take wood, can eat more about sour foods.


Translation: Author unknown

Written by NoToes

14/07/2010 at 20:00

Hope in Different Cultures

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Hope in Chinese Language


Traditional: 希望
Simplified: 希望

First Character: 希 (xī) – rare; infrequent
Second Character: 望 (wàng) – hope; expect; to visit; to gaze (into the distance); look towards; towards

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at


The Tao Te King


Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at


Chinese Symbol for Hope (“we always have hope to face fate”)

The Chinese characters have developed long time ago and haven’t undergone many changes in the course of time. The hope symbol in Chinese culture has a mysterious appearance and is painted with the help of a brush. Traditionally, the hope symbol is drawn on a white rice paper. The paper is decorated with a floral silk pattern that is blue in color. The Chinese art of drawing such symbols is known as calligraphy. The hope symbol is also used as a wall hanging artwork. Bamboo could be used to frame this artwork.

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at – sorry, broken link)


In Chinese language, fear and hope refers to 恐惧和希望(kǒnɡjù hé xī wànɡ). Symbols for fear are ghosts, diseases, death, and so on. All these things make people feel hopeless in life, so they try their best to avoid them. Symbols for hope are spring, the color green, the rising sun, and sunflowers. People think green means life is vigorous. The rising sun and sunflowers means life is coming again.

If you have any other questions related to Chinese language, please feel free to contact me at I would be glad to help.-Jennifer

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at


Hope in Western Culture

The Bible

Röm 15,13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at – please make sure, you get the English version)

Hope is termed a theological virtue because its immediate object is God, as is true of the other two essentially infused virtues, faith and charity. St. Thomas acutely says that the theological virtues are so called “because they have God for their object, both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone, as also, finally, because we come to know of them only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”. Catholic Encyclopedia

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at


Greek Mythology – Pandora

The theory of Hesiod,[8] the oldest of all the Greek poets, was that the Titan Prometheus, the son of Iapetus, had formed man out of clay, and that Athene had breathed a soul into him. Full of love for the beings he had called into existence, Prometheus determined to elevate their minds and improve their condition in every way; he therefore taught them astronomy, mathematics, the alphabet, how to cure diseases, and the art of divination. He created this race in such great numbers that the gods began to see the necessity of instituting certain fixed laws with regard to the sacrifices due to them, and the worship to which they considered themselves entitled from mankind in return for the protection which they accorded them. An assembly was therefore convened at Mecone in order to settle these points. It was decided that Prometheus, as the advocate of man, should slay an ox, which should be divided into two equal parts, and that the gods should select one portion which should henceforth, in all future sacrifices, be set apart for them. Prometheus so divided the ox that one part consisted of the bones (which formed of course the least valuable portion of the animal), artfully concealed by the white fat; whilst the other contained all the edible parts, which he covered with the skin, and on the top of all he laid the stomach.

Zeus, pretending to be deceived, chose the heap of bones, but he saw through the stratagem, and was so angry at the deception practised on him by Prometheus that he avenged himself by refusing to mortals the gift of fire. [25]Prometheus, however, resolved to brave the anger of the great ruler of Olympus, and to obtain from heaven the vital spark so necessary for the further progress and comfort of the human race. He accordingly contrived to steal some sparks from the chariot of the sun, which he conveyed to earth hidden in a hollow tube. Furious at being again outwitted, Zeus determined to be revenged first on mankind, and then on Prometheus. To punish the former he commanded Hephæstus (Vulcan) to mould a beautiful woman out of clay, and determined that through her instrumentality trouble and misery should be brought into the world.

The gods were so charmed with the graceful and artistic creation of Hephæstus, that they all determined to endow her with some special gift. Hermes (Mercury) bestowed on her a smooth persuasive tongue, Aphrodite gave her beauty and the art of pleasing; the Graces made her fascinating, and Athene (Minerva) gifted her with the possession of feminine accomplishments. She was called Pandora, which means all-gifted, having received every attribute necessary to make her charming and irresistible. Thus beautifully formed and endowed, this exquisite creature, attired by the Graces, and crowned with flowers by the Seasons, was conducted to the house of Epimetheus[9] by Hermes the messenger of the gods. Now Epimetheus had been warned by his brother not to accept any gift whatever from the gods; but he was so fascinated by the beautiful being who suddenly appeared before him, that he welcomed her to his home, and made her his wife. It was not long, however, before he had cause to regret his weakness.

He had in his possession a jar of rare workmanship, containing all the blessings reserved by the gods for mankind, which he had been expressly forbidden to open. But woman’s proverbial curiosity could not withstand so great a temptation, and Pandora determined to solve the mystery at any cost. Watching her opportunity she raised the lid, and immediately all the blessings which [26]the gods had thus reserved for mankind took wing and flew away. But all was not lost. Just as Hope (which lay at the bottom) was about to escape, Pandora hastily closed the lid of the jar, and thus preserved to man that never-failing solace which helps him to bear with courage the many ills which assail him.[10]

Having punished mankind, Zeus determined to execute vengeance on Prometheus. He accordingly chained him to a rock in Mount Caucasus, and sent an eagle every day to gnaw away his liver, which grew again every night ready for fresh torments. For thirty years Prometheus endured this fearful punishment; but at length Zeus relented, and permitted his son Heracles (Hercules) to kill the eagle, and the sufferer was released.

Read the whole “Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome” from E.M. Berens online at the Gutemberg Project or download the pdf here.

(retrieved 29.05.2010 at



Those of us raised in Western culture were never taught that fear is the price of hope. Rather, we can’t envision life without hope. Hell, according to Dante, is the place devoid of hope; he warned Christians condemned there to “abandon all hope, ye who enter herein.” The Hebrew prophets warned that without vision, the people perish.
Hope is what propels us into action. We’ve been taught to dream of a better world as the necessary first step in creating one. We create a clear vision for the future we want, then we set a strategy, make a plan, and get to work. We focus strategically on doing only those things that have a high probability of success.
As long as we “keep hope alive” and work hard, our endeavors will create the world we want. How could we do our work if we had no hope that we’d succeed?
Motivated by hope, but then confronted by failure, we become depressed and demoralized. Life becomes meaningless; we despair of changing things for the better. At such a time, we learn the price of hope. Rather than inspiring and motivating us, hope has become a burden made heavy by its companion, fear of failing.

Margaret Wheatley

(retrieved 29.05.2012 at – sorry, broken link)


(reviewed 20.02.2014)

Quran Search

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Great Serch Tool on the Quran: the Quran Explorer


Click on the pic to enter!

Religion and Income in the USA

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How economically successful are different religions in the USA?

(retrieved 05.01.2013 at

Get the full survey “Income Distribution Within U.S. Religious Groups”  online here, or download pdf there.


Immigrants and their income in the US 2010


Immigrant’s Top Ten Countries or Origin and the Top Ten Destination Countries 2010

Countries of Origin - Destination Countries~

Religious Breakdown of Migrants 2010


(retrieved 05.01.2013 at

Read the whole survey “Faith on the Move” online here or download pdf there.


(reviewed 05.01.2013)

How Westeners and Muslims view each other

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PEW Survey: How Westeners and Muslims view each other


.(…) A rare point of agreement between Westerners and Muslims is that both believe that Muslim nations should be more economically prosperous than they are today. But at they gauge ths problem quite differently. Muslim publics have an aggrieved view of the West – they are much more likely than Americans or Western Europeans to blame Western policies for their own lack of prosperity. For their part, Western publics instead point to government corruption, lack of education and Islamic fundamentalism as the biggest obstacles to Muslim prosperity. (…)

Read the whole survey from 2006 online here or download pdf here.

(retrieved 19.06.2014 at

PEW- Forum:

(reviewed 19.06.2014)

Mapping the Global Muslim Population

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(…) A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion. While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. Indeed, more than half of the 20 countries and territories1 in that region have populations that are approximately 95% Muslim or greater. More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion. These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined.

Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. (…)


PEW- Forum:

Or click here.

Laotse and Confucius – Fundamental Traits in Asian Thinking

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(…) Nor can it be said truly that a pure-blooded Chinese could ever quite disagree with Chuangtse’s ideas. Taoism is not a school of thought in China, it is a deep, fundamental trait of Chinese thinking, and of the Chinese attitude toward life and toward society. It has depth, while Confucianism has only a practical sense of proportions; it enriches Chinese poetry and imagination in an immeasurable manner, and it gives a philosophic sanction to whatever is in the idle, freedom- loving, poetic, vagabond Chinese soul. It provides the only safe, romantic release from the severe Confucian classic restraint, and humanizes the very humanists themselves; therefore when a Chinese succeeds, he is always a Confucianist, and when he fails, he is always a Taoist. As more people fail than succeed in this world, and as all who succeed know that they succeed but in a lame and halting manner when they examine themselves in the dark hours of the night, I believe Taoist ideas are more often at work than Confucianism. Even a Confucianist succeeds only when he knows he never really succeeds, that is, by following Taoist wisdom. (…)

With special thanks to Milanda: The Chuang Tzu, translated by Yutang Lin at

Gabor Terebess runs a nice online database with many relevant works about the Tao wich is definitely worth a visit.

Download the Chuang Tzu as pdf here.

Download the The Analects of Confucius 論語 as pdf here or read online at


(reviewed 02.10.2013)

Arrow, Circle, Spiral and Cylinder – Different Conceptions of Time and History

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The Arrow

Jürgen Kuhlmann wrote an interesting article about the different concepts of history from a theologist`s point of view (Kreis oder Pfeil, 1982). He noticed, that Christianity (Western thinking) mainly focuses on linear conceptions of time (and history), while Eastern philosophy mainly focuses on concentric structures.

Jürgen Kuhlmann: born 1936 in Swinemünde, 1962 Priest in Rome, 1965 Promotion to Dr. theol. At the University Gregoriana in Rome, 1965-1972 Kaplan in Naila and Nürnberg, 1972 Marriage, 1973 Laisierung.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Norbert Lohfink is a specialist for the exegesis of the Old Testament. He explained the development of a linear construction of history in the „Priestly Source“. Around 600-500 BC the Jews were enslaved by the Babylonian empire and lived under hard circumstances in the „Babylonian Exile“. The consignees of their scriptures should see, that the loss of their motherland would only be a temporary state. In this dynamic, the world seems to be stable (if no human misbehaviour would interfere). (Orientierung 1977,147 f).

In “Messianism in linear and cyclical contexts” Jan A.B. Jongeneel writes: Although scholars write about messianic figures and movements in cyclical contexts, they cannot ignore the matter of fact that not one of the holy books of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or Shinto, but the Bible has given birth to the concept of the Messiah. Since that time the Messiah is really at home in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as linear belief-systems. However, it is questionable whether each of these three monotheistic religions can be labeled as a “messianic religion.” All these three religions are indeed “prophetic,” but merely the Jesus movement, known as Christianity, seems to be “messianic.” Neither Moses as the founder of the Jewish religion nor Muhammad as the founder of Islam is proclaimed as the Messiah. But Christians continuously proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, ardent adherent and renovator of the linear view of time and history in the Hebrew Bible, as the Messiah of Israel and the gentile nations. As such Jesus has axial significance in world history. Asian and African Christians take the lead in the dialogue with the adherents of the cyclical view of time and history. They try to harmonize, speaking about the spiral as a bridge of the cycle and the line. M.M. Thomas does not want to value the cyclical view of time and history negatively. He merely wants to add a dimension which is lacking wherever the cycle prevails: “The Christian understanding of historical and cosmic process need not deny the reality of the cycles of nature and life. But it stands or falls with the doctrine of the ultimate divine purpose of that process”. That doctrine culminates in proclaiming the return of Jesus as the Messiah at the end of the times. (Read his article online here or get the pdf here.)

Annotation of the editor: at the same time the idea of the “Natural Philosophy” spread in Greece, which fits perfectly to the model of the arrow: an individual shoots throughout the time like an arrow. The implementation of the circular model  is the eternal life after death, like the arrival in the Promised Land.

This picture hangs in my home since I can think. It is called “Der breite und der schmale Weg – The Broad And The Narrow Way”. It is a good example for the linear conception of time in Christian cultures. You get this funny picture in 500kb at Luzius Schneider . Also hard copies are available there.


Bible, Jesaja 43

16 This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.


The Circle

Laotzi lived at the same time as the Jews suffered from the Babylonian Exile about 500 years ago. That time China was suffering from never-ending civil wars and a decay of culture. As the leading intellectual of his time, he surely was aware of the great past of his country and searched for the reasons for this cultural decay.  According to the changes in nature following different rhythms (moon, seasons, day and night, …) he developed the Dao (Tao) aka The Way, meaning to follow the natural order of nature. This natural order also includes a magic order of numbers. Like day and night, the seasons or the Chinese dynasties, all is due to a permanent change: up & down, raise & fall. Laotzi described those rhythms as circles in the Taoteking (tao te king),which is probably the main Asian contribution to human culture.

The Buddhist Samsara, the Wheel of Life is a model of human life. The devil holds this wheel, biting into the outer ring, representing the direct influence of the evil on daily life. The inner axle is formed by three animals, representing the deep human inner drives.

Taoism and Buddhism both have in common a circular perception of life. Both form the circular model of Chinese / Asian thinking.

See a nice Samsara here ( – broken link)

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

[dt. v. Richard Wilhelm ,Jena 1921, Nr. 29 and edited by Dan Baruth)

For applications of circular vs. linear thinking please click here.


The Spiral

Swiss journalist Lily Abegg, developed the model of the spiral. She writes according to the limited English skills of the editor: World history is similar to a unique, irreversible process, in which all cultures and individuals swings in a spiral. (…) Eastasians only see the concentric structures and do not see, that the spiral opens. We (i.e. Western people) mostly focus on distances and steps, skipping the concentric structures until the perspective looks linear.

(Ostasien denkt anders (Zürich 1949), 403 f)


The Cylinder

In “Social Change and Modernity” Hans Haferkamp and Neil J. Smelser noted: The original Judaeo-Christian eschatology still conceives history within the bounds of a model based on the action period. By virtue of its covenant with a mighty God and the intervention of his Son, a people remembers and experiences its history as the path toward a salvation that, to begin with, was understood in quite earthly terms. This ultimately magical pattern of interpretation was not so much based on the separation of different temporal levels as on the topological difference between the chosen people and the heathens. It was not until after it became obvious that the return of the Redeemer could not be expected within a single lifetime that—under the influence of classical philosophy—the time horizon and the topological difference between life on earth and the hereafter, between God and the world, between the immortal soul and mortal flesh, and between the terrestrial and heavenly realms were expanded and thus diverted attention away from the division between the chosen people and the heathens. There was an added topological difference between the individual and the world historical levels of explanation. The individual was able to make progress along the path to salvation; the world, via the sequence of the three realms (paradise, life after the fall, and salvation), carried out God’s promise of deliverance. Another development of momentous significance was the new form taken on by the process model for change in the secular sphere. The cyclical view of the rise and fall of empires was supplemented by the perspective of the unilinear and irreversible development of the world and progress toward salvation.

Moreover, for history to be seen as the history of salvation, it was also necessary for humankind to be active in its approach and to strive for salvation. Redemption and the reconciliation of earthly life with the hereafter were not solely the work of God but involved humanity as well. This eschatological dualism introduced a comprehensive, positive moment of tension into historical change. No longer was change merely short-term unrest without underlying hope. It now had as its goal and ultimate end the perfection and redemption of the world. The beginning and end of history were in turn determined by the timelessness of paradise, past and future. Naturally, the eschatological process at first remained completely within the bounds of action-theoretical notions: the world has been created by a personal God who issued commandments, and if humanity followed these it would ensure its own progress to salvation. (Get the whole article as pdf here or read it online at The Center For Sociological Research And Development Studies Of China)

Quran: Al-Fatiha

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1)

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, (2) The Beneficent, the Merciful. (3) Owner of the Day of Judgment, (4) Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help. (5) Show us the straight path, (6) The path of those whom Thou hast favoured. Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray. (7)

Quran Explorer


Additional Material


Mental Representations of Time in Chinese Language (Mandarin)


Examples of spatiotemporal metaphors in Mandarin


The immediate and chronic influence of spatio-temporal metaphors on the mental representations of time in English, Mandarin, and Mandarin-English speakers by Vicky Tzuyin Lai (Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands) and Lera Boroditsky (Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, US) – Front. Psychol., 09 April 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00142

Read the full .pdf online here or here.

(retrieved 31.10.2013 at


J. Gabriell and T. Hedden “How culture influences Brain”

Asians and Westeners had to answer questions about absolute quantities (is, is not, how many?) or relative qualities (bigger than, higher than, more red than,…)

It became obvious, that Western people have to spend more energy to render relative judgments (bigger than, lower than, …) than Asians. Vice versa it showed, that Asians needed more energy rendering absolute judgments (is or is not).


J. Gabriell and T. Hedden from Mc Govern Institute in TechTalk by MIT (Mass. Institute for Technology), volume 52, No. 14 (30.01.2008)

Download the full pdf here, the article is on page 4 below.


Michael Heeney: Spiral Staircases and Cylindrical Pools: The Implosion of “Circular” and “Linear” Gestalts

In modern German psychology, there is a concept called the gestalt which is useful for this discussion. In it, human beings are viewed as open systems in active interaction with their environment. People naturally organize their perceptions according to certain patterns, which have similar structural properties that influence concepts across the spectrum of human thought. It is essential to use this term when discussing “circular” and “linear” structures of thought, since these seemingly simple terms will come to represent their own individual gestalts, encapsulating multiple binary concepts subsumed and ordered under their respective structuring principles. The author Virginia Woolf provides an ideal springboard to expound upon this, since her novels attempt to encapsulate a fusion of the two structures into a singular, universal gestalt, or structuring principle. In many of her novels, particularly Orlando for the sake of this discussion, the goal of this is a synthesis between two different kinds of minds, the rational masculine and the subjective feminine, to produce the harmonized androgynous. This process is created through the synthesis of two different conceptions of time, the linear historical and circular subjective. Finally, the entire new gestalt is illustrated by how the dialectic of circles and lines combine to synthesize a cylinder, a spatial idea which symbolizes how the new androgynous mind articulates itself through time which respectively, as Kant has said, is merely the form of inner sense. (…)

It appears that in this case, the duality between male and female does have biological origins, but those of cognition, not those of gender. (…)

© by Serendip 1994­ 2010 ­ Last Modified: Monday, 25­Apr­2005 11:31:11 EDT

Read the full essay online at or download as pdf here.


Time as the Action Period

(…) An analysis of this kind starts out from an interpretational pattern that makes no distinction between processes of social action, on the one hand, and processes of social order and social change, on the other hand. There is no recognizable social order standing out above processes of interaction within the framework of this interpretational pattern. The perception of change and temporal alteration is limited to the time-period one has lived through and remembered, to the durée of social action.[7] Hence the “narrative” logic by which action is recounted both frames and structures the logic underlying the passage of time.[8] The “stories” recalled are kept in motion by interaction among a number of actors, and the stories’ beginnings and ends are determined by how the theme of interaction is dealt with.[9]

Both the change experienced in the world during the course of action and the change experienced in the subjects themselves that they remember as they consider own personal experience of getting old are of course limited as long as there is no social structure differentiating among time periods. Aging processes take place synchronously and therefore hardly give cause for the social differentiation of periods of time or of temporal levels. Beyond the period of action and the lifetime as directly experienced the world is experienced as something timeless and ultimately chaotic.

Primitive classifications, which by definition are not systematized by any superordinate principle, clearly show the unordered complexity of the world. They barely offer a topological “toehold” for identifying time that reaches beyond one’s own lifetime or beyond the actions of the present (Lévi-Strauss 1962). The only way in which primitive classification allows a number of lifetimes to be linked together is via the kinship link of conception and birth; this pushes the temporal horizon back into the past and creates an awareness of continuity and change independent of the experience of the present. Evidently, the extension of such a genealogical model of time marks out a line of development running from the action-period notion of time to the socially differentiated notion of time.


Apart from the extension of historical space in Voltaire’s philosophy of history, the natural sciences’ concept of time in the eighteenth century also broke through the barriers of the hierarchical model of temporal levels. The concept of an objective measurable passage of time determined and moved by the laws of nature gradually asserted itself as a point of reference. Against it, historical time appears limited, imprecise, and inconstant. The temporality of the world, on the one hand, and that of the passage of history and experience, on the other hand, are hence ever more sharply delineated by different process models. “Objective” time moves according to the eternal laws of nature, whereas historical time is kept in motion by the progress of the human race (Elias 1984).


An analogous paradigmatic switch occurred in biology when the Linnean classification of natural processes was succeeded by the Darwinian theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory of the origin of the species by natural selection, which was to prove extraordinarily momentous for the theory of society that followed, brings out, in its very name, the temporalization of order. A number of observers have noted that Darwinian theory itself took as its model certain economic theories of the day. (…)

The Temporalization of Social Order : Some Theoretical Remarks on the Change in ‘Change’ by Bernhard Giesen; Publ. 1992 in: Social change and modernity / ed. by Hans Haferkamp … Berkeley : Univ. of California Press, 1992, pp. 294-319

Read the except online here or download .pdf here.


See also A Geography of Time


(reviewed 12.07.2013)

Written by NoToes

15/01/2010 at 20:18

Posted in All Articles, Buddhism, China, Christianity, Collectivism and Individualism, Islam, Religion & Philosophy, Time in Different Cultures

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Applications of Circular and Linear Thinking

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Working Culture

(…) For the Chinese, quite a lot of concepts have a circular nature. One clear example is time: the same things happen again and again. History is circular and not lineal like in the West. The best example is the history of China which can be summarized as the continuous succession of the following four stages: “arrival of a new dynasty”, “dynasty at its height”, “decline of the dynasty”, “China in chaos” and start back again. Note that this circular pattern cannot be easily applied to the history of western civilizations.

Another clear example is human relations understood as a continuous exchange of favors or services among people. In China, the idea of doing something for somebody else in exchange of nothing is less common than in the West. The reason is that the favor is circular and it has to come back to the person who did it. For example, at work in China, if a colleague or business partner helps you in something, he understands that he is developing an important link with you and that he will have the right to ask for a favor back in the future. The favor has to come back to him because it is circular. (…)

Pedro on Globthink 14.01.2010: (sorry, broken link.).



After hours of fruitless discussions if there is a God in Buddhism, I found a nice approach of an Anglican priest towards Eastern religions. Bishop Spong reflects the so called “theistic” definition of God in the Mosaic religions (Jewish, Christian and Muslim).

(…) Western religion has regularly and consistently defined God in theistic terms. That is, God is perceived as an external being, supernatural in power, who periodically invades the world in miraculous ways to establish the divine will or to answer our prayers. Eastern religion in general, but Buddhism in particular, does not define God in theistic terms. That has caused some westerners to refer to Buddhism as an “atheist” religion. Well, it is, but only in the sense that “atheist” means “not theist.” It does not mean that there is no sense of God in Buddhism. Language is our problem. The theistic definition of God is so total in the western world that the word “atheism” has come to mean that there is no God. Theism is a human definition of God and, as such, is destined to die like all human definitions do in time. Theism is not God. (…)

Bishop Spong Q&A 28.01.2010


For more info about different conceptions of time please click here.


The Differences between Taoism, Buddhism and Shenism (“Chinese Folk Belief”)

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The Difference between Taoism, Buddhism and Shenism

(…) Chinese folk religion retains traces of some of ancestral primal religious belief systems such as animism and shamanism, which include the veneration of (and communication with) the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Heaven and various stars, as well as communication with animals. It has been practiced by the Chinese people for thousands of years, and since the start of the Common Era alongside Buddhism, Taoism and various other religions.

Rituals, devotional worship, myths, sacred re-enactment, festivals and various other practices associated with different folk gods and goddesses form an important part of Chinese culture today. The veneration of secondary gods does not conflict with an individual’s chosen religion, but is accepted as a complementary adjunct, particularly to Taoism.

Some mythical figures in folk culture have been integrated into Chinese Buddhism, as in the case of Miao Shan. She is generally thought to have influenced the beliefs about the Buddhist bodhisattva Guanyin. This bodhisattva originally was based upon the Indian counterpart Avalokiteshvara. Androgynous in India, this bodhisattva over centuries became a female figure in China and Japan. Guanyin is one of the most popular Bodishisattvas to which people pray. (…)

Read the full article online here or download pdf here.

(retrieved 17.01.2014 at


(…) To distinguish “Shenists” from Taoists and Buddhists is to ignore the reality that it is not possible to define any Chinese belief system as it is practised today as one with a uniform, discreet set of values.

Here’s why:  The act of Chinese ancestral and deity worship predates history. China’s first official religion – really more of a “thought system” – was Taoism, believed to be founded by the legendary philosopher, Lao Zi, over 2000 years ago.

Even then its practice was split three-ways: philosophical, religious and popular Taoism, with the latter two belief systems incorporating aspects of folk religion such as ancestral spirits, divination, and sorcery. Then came Buddhism, which was introduced to China in the Han Dynasty, about 200 AD, around the same time Taoism became the nation’s official religion. Buddhism was thus intertwined with Taoism from the start. Its scriptures were translated using Taoist vocabulary; records show Buddhism at the time was described as a kind of “foreign Taoism”.

The switcheroo went both ways. In competing for the public’s attention, Taoist leaders followed the Buddhists’ example and built monasteries and temples. They also adopted their ideas of vegetarianism and prohibited alcohol. The mix finally coalesced during the Song Dynasty, when Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were patched together resulting in the state-endorsed Neo-Confucian philosophy, which lasted roughly between 960 and 1280 AD.


Venerable Shravasti Dhammika, an Australian who lives in Singapore and is the advisor to the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, is right in that the worship of Chinese folk gods and spirits has nothing to do with the original, philosophical teachings of Lao Zi or the Buddha.


Here is some more about Shravasti Dhammika:

Interesting comment on this article from Jeremy Shiu (extract):

(…) Chinese folk belief is based on the structure of Taoism. E.g, looking at talisman practices in ‘Chinese belief’/Chinese Folklore; we can see the dominance influence is Taoism. Chinese belief – literature and novels like – Journey to the west, Feng Shen Bang etc, although some are ‘degrading’ Taoism, but nonetheless the key structure is still very much Taoist – e.g, in Journey to the West, its background is set on Jade Emperor’s Heavenly administration(Celestial Heaven). Look at the ‘gui ren zhi’ (joss paper) in ‘Chinese folk beliefs’ and it is clearly a form of Taoist talisman (by the writings, pictures etc). (…)

Read the full article online here or download pdf here.

(retrieved 17.01.2014 at


Chinese folk religion

(…) The ”’Chinese folk religion”’ or ”’Chinese traditional religion”’ ( or 中国民间宗教 or 中国民间信仰 / Zhōngguó mínjiān zōngjiào or Zhōngguó mínjiān xìnyăng), sometimes called ”’Shenism”’ (pinyin: ”Shénjiào”, 神教).
The term ”’Shenism”’ (
神教, ”Shénjiào”) was first used in 1955 by anthropologist Allan J. A. Elliott, in his work ”Chinese Spirit-Medium Cults in Singapore”.
During the history of China it was named ”’Shendao”’ (
神道, ”Shéndào”, the “way of the gods”), apparently since the time of the spread of Buddhism to the area in the Han period (206 BCE–220 CE), in order to distinguish it from the new religion. The term was subsequently adopted in Japan as ”Shindo”, later ”Shinto”, with the same purpose of identification of the Japanese indigenous religion. The oldest recorded usage of ”Shindo” is from the second half of the 6th century. is the collection of grassroots ethnic religious+ traditions of the Han Chinese+, or the indigenous religion of China+.Lizhu, Na. 2013. p. 4. Chinese folk religion primarily consists in the worship of the ”shen” (“gods”, “spirits”, “awarenesses”, “consciousnesses”, “archetypes”; literally “expressions”, the energies that generate things and make them thrive) which can be nature deities, city deities or tutelary deities of other human agglomerations, national deities, cultural+ hero+es and demigods, ancestors and progenitors, deities of the kinship. Holy narratives regarding some of these gods are codified into the body of Chinese mythology. Another name of this complex of religions is ”’Chinese Universism”’, especially referring to its intrinsic metaphysical perspective.

The Chinese folk religion has a variety of sources, localised worship forms, ritual and philosophical traditions. Among the ritual traditions, notable examples includes Wuism and Nuoism. Chinese folk religion is sometimes categorized inadequately as “Taoism”, since over the centuries institutional Taoism has been assimilating or administering local religions. Zhengyi Taoism+ is especially intertwined with local cults, with Zhengyi ”daoshi” often performing rituals for local temples and communities. Faism, the tradition of the ”fashi” (“masters of rites”), inhabits the boundary between Taoism and folk religion. Confucianism advocates worship of gods and ancestors through proper rites, which have an ethical importance. Taoism in its various currents, either comprehended or not within the Chinese folk religion, has some of its origins from Wuism.Libbrecht, 2007. p. 43. Chinese religion mirrors the social landscape, and takes on different shades for different people.Wolf, Arthur P. “Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors.” ”Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society.” Ed. Arthur O. Wolf. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974. pp. 131-182. (…)

Read the full article online here or download as pdf here.

(retrieved 24.04.2014 at


“Temple Oracles in a Chinese City” – A Study of the Use of Temple Oracles in Taichung, Central Taiwan” written by JULIAN PAS

“A sample from the Kuan Yin oracles occasionally but by no means exclusively found in Buddhist temples” (Julian Pas)

Get the shortened text only version or see the full pdf with drawings.


Journey to the West by Wu Cheng-en

A mix of Buddhist, Taoist and Shenist dieties appear in the the “Journey to the West” (16th century):

(…) The Jade Emperor then ordered all the gods of the Department of Thunder to split up and invite the Three Pure Ones, the Four Emperors, the Five Ancients, the Six Superintendents, the Seven Main Stars, the Eight Points of the Compass, the Nine Bright Shiners, the Ten Chiefs, the Thousand Immortals, and the Ten Thousand Sages to a banquet to thank the Buddha for his mercy. Then he ordered the Four Great Heavenly Teachers and the Nine Heavenly Maidens to open the golden gates of the jade capital, and Palace of the Great Mystery, and the Tong Yang Jade Palace, invite the Tathagata to take his seat on the Throne of the Seven Precious Things, arrange the places for all the different groups of guests, and set out the dragon liver, phoenix bone−marrow, jade liquor, and magic peaches. (…)

Read the full Text online here or download as pdf there.

(received 05.01.2013 at


Shenism in the 21st Century

Offerings made to the ancestors including modern computer equipment at the Chinese Qingming Festival. It is the Shenist equivalent of the Christian All Souls’ Day (Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed / Feast of All Souls).

shenism 01

shenism 02

shenism 03

shenism 04

See also Qingming Festival: Dealing with death in the 21st century by Runhong Zhang for more information (source: Meanwhile in China).

(retrieved 08.04.2013 at


(reviewed 17.01.2014)

Eastern Dragons and Western Dragons

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(…) The dragon is the single most well known mythical creature of all time. Its origins date back to the dawn of time and its legends spread across the world. Nearly every culture, at some time, has had stories and myths of dragons. At one time, people firmly believed in the existence of dragons. Some were worshipped as gods, while others were seen as demons that should be slayed. Today, due to modern science, the dragon has nearly been ‘explained’ out of existence. It lives nearly exclusively in fantasy, myth, story and film. Still, there are those who believe as strongly in the dragon as did those of old.

Dragons come in nearly every shape, size, color and even disposition. What a dragon looks like and how it acts is largely up to the people who believe in it. Most dragons resemble large lizards or snakes. They nearly all have scales and most are believed to have some sort of magical powers. Some have wings, others do not. There are air dragons, fire dragons, and sea dragons. Some are cruel beasts, while others are wise sages. The dragon is a very versitile being. (…)

Fantasy’s Repose on Dragons

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at


Origin of Dragons

Serpent Theory

(…) Many people believe that the origination of dragons came from serpents. Rather, they came from snakes and eels that people saw. As time went on and art evolved, these serpents became more and more decorated until they looked more like semi-Chinese dragons or sea serpents.

It is also suggested that people saw mutated eels and snakes or thought that some of their surroundings (i.e. for eels, seaweed, for snakes, sticks) were actually a part of them. Thus making them look as if they were draconic. This actually suggest that dragons were formed out of the misinterpretation of artwork, stories, and sights throughout the ages.

Bones Theory

This theory pertains to the remains that people found and called “dragon bones” so it definitely holds no water in battle of where the term dragon came from. However, it does provided an interesting idea that people thought the bones of dinosaurs to be dragons, and they though dragons to be descendants (or parents) to such serpents as the snake and lizard. The Bones Theory suggests that people found the bones and created stories about the fierce creatures that once lived within those bones.

Sadly, this theory is lacking when it comes to civilizations as China and other Asian dragons. Due to their unscientific structures, Chinese dragons and Asian dragons could never have originated from seeing bones. On the other hand, one might think that they either adapted the bones to the dragons or they only found some bones. Whichever the case, this theory is not as likely as the Serpent Theory.

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at


Sumerian Dragons (5000 B.C.)

The first dragons, perhaps, appeared here in the myths of the Sumerians. The Sumerian word for dragon is “ushum.” The story of Zu and Enlil dates back to about 5000 B.C. There is also the dragon known as Kur, and both Zu and Kur were said to have angered the gods. For instance, Zu stole the Tablets of Law from Enlil. Ninurta, the sun god, was sent after each of these dragons. For the most part, he completed the task, and managed to slay both dragons.

Chinese Dragons (5000 B.C.)

A Chinese legend has it, that Buddha told all the animals in the world to come to him. When the journey was over, only twelve animals had made it to Buddha, and so they became the Zodiacs. Among these was the great dragon.

Chinese dragons date back to around 5000 B.C. The Chinese believed that they were the “descendants of the dragons,” too. The goddess Nu Kua was half mortal half dragon, and she spawned dragons that could easily shift from human form to dragons, or vice versa. In addition to this, they could rise to the heavens, go to the bottom of the seas, and even change size.

Chinese emperors were said to be sons of the dragons and wore special robes. Only the Emperor could wear the sign of the celestial dragon because it was the sign of the ultimate power.

Most Chinese dragons did not have wings. However, they would grow branch-like wings when they became one thousand years old. It is then that they are called Ying-Lung.

Some are also known as Chiao or Chiao-Lung. This is usually a fish that has managed to become a dragon. For most fish, the challenge is to jump through miraculous gates on the ocean floor. For some, however, they grow to a certain age and become a dragon.

There is a story of one called Hai Li Bu. Out walking one day, he came upon a goose killing a snake. Hai Li Bu felt badly for the snake, so he stopped the goose from killing it. This snake was the daughter of the Dragon King, and Hai Li Bu was rewarded with a magical gem that could help him decipher what the animals were saying. He, however, was not allowed to repeat anything the animals said, or he would turn to stone. One day, Hai Li Bu heard the animals speaking of the coming of a great flood. Unable to simply let mankind die, he warned them of the flood, and Hai Li Bu turned to stone.

There is also a story of a great flood. Tien Ti, emperor of the heavens, looked down upon the earth and saw that it must be reformed, as the wickedness of the world was too much. With that, he sent down a great flood to destroy it. The god Tu, taking pity upon man, begged for Tien Ti to stop. With that, Tien Ti created a turtle and placed magic earth upon his back so that it would soak up the water. After this was done, Tien Ti sent out a emerald-scaled Ying-Lung dragon that flew over the world, carving the valleys and rivers with its tail. (…)

Kylie McCormick at the The Circle of the Dragon

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at


Overview about Dragons worldwide


Eastern Dragons

(…) The eastern dragons (most notably the Chinese and Japanese ones) are quite different from those found in the west. First of all, they are more commonly seen as benign and wise. The dragon is one of the four celestial creatures (the others being the unicorn, the phoenix and the tortoise) and is held in reverence. The dragon is a symbol of the emperor just as the phoenix is the symbol of the empress. (…)

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Chinese Dragon

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Detail of the Nine Dragons scroll painting by Chen Rong, 1244, Song Dynasty


(…) Given the span of history and span of geography that the Eastern Dragon traverses, it is perhaps unfair to attempt to summarize all variations under a particular heading. Throughout history, the shape and temperament of Eastern Dragons changed, leaving many species of Eastern Dragons as well.

For a brief generalization, the Eastern Dragon inherited today has the body of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, head of a camel, horns of a giant stag, the eyes of a hare, ears like a bull, a neck like an iguana, paws like a tigers, and claws like an eagle. Eastern dragons are described with an angelic authority and beauty. They possess incredible wisdom. (…)

Kylie McCormick at the The Circle of the Dragon

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at


(—) Chinese dragons have five toes. The Chinese believe that all eastern dragons originated from China. They believed that when the dragons flew away, they began to lose toes. The farther and farther the dragons flew, the more toes they lost. So, Korean dragons have four toes, and Japanese dragons have three.

Japanese dragons have three toes. The Japanese believe that all eastern dragons originated from Japan. They also believed that when the dragons began to leave Japan, they gain toes. The farther the dragons went, the more toes they gained. This is why the other dragons have more toes. The breath of Japanese dragons turned into clouds, which could produce rain or fire. Due to a measure upon their heads, they could ascend to Heaven when they chose.

Korean dragons have four toes. The Koreans believe that all eastern dragons originated from Korea. When the dragons leave Korea and go toward China, they gain toes. When the dragons leave Korea and go toward Japan, they lose toes.


Other interesting things to note is the differences between the dragons in pictures. For instance, males usually have clubs in their tails while females hold fans. These dragons can also be depicted as descending from the sky or inside clouds. Sometimes you might even be able to see a pearl, which is considered a ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ that the dragons possess.

Other things to look for include horns. Male horns were thinner near the base of the head and thicker and stronger outwardly.

Females have ‘nicer’ manes. Rather, they are rounder, and thus seen as more balanced than the rigid mane of the males. Their noses are usually straighter, their scales thinner, (after all, they are smaller!) and finally, a thicker tail. ‘Thicker’ meaning throughout the body.


Eastern Dragons are born with their colors based upon the age and color of their parents. The colors of dragons are: white, red, black, blue, and yellow. Each is born to a different parent.

Black dragons are children of a thousand-year-old dragon that is black-gold. They are symbols of the North. They caused storms by battling in the air.

Blue dragons are children of blue-gold dragons that are eight hundred years old. They are purest blue colors, and they are the sign of the coming spring. They are they are the symbol of the East.

Yellow dragons are born from yellow-gold dragons who are one thousand years or older. They hold no symbol. They are secluded and wander alone. They appear at ‘the perfect moment’ and at all other times remain hidden. Yellows are also the most revered of the dragons.

Red dragons descend from a red-gold dragon who is about one thousand years of age. They are the symbol for the West, and are much like black dragons. They can cause storms in the skies when they fight.

White dragons come from white-gold dragons of a thousand years of age. They symbolize the South. White is the Chinese color of mourning, and these dragons are a sign of death.  (…)

Kylie McCormick at the The Circle of the Dragon

(retrieved 27.01.2014  at


Western Dragons

Western Dragons usually have an evil character. It has the body of a reptile with wings. They can fly, spit fire, steal and likes to kidnap princesses. Maybe they keep the princesses as hostages, maybe just for helping in the household. Some demand regular sacrifices of virgins. Western dragons usually live in a deep cave, where they store the immense treasure they stole. Western dragons cause enormous damages, so huge rewards are set out for their killing. Western dragons can get several hundred years old and gather an enormous wisdom. Even if it seems, if they would have no gender, they are usually treated as male. The story about St. George is the most common tale about dragons in the Western world (Ann. of the Author).



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(…) Then said S. George: Fair daughter, doubt ye no thing hereof for I shall help thee in the name of Jesus Christ. She said: For God’s sake, good knight, go your way, and abide not with me, for ye may not deliver me.

Thus as they spake together the dragon appeared and came running to them, and S. George was upon his horse, and drew out his sword and garnished him with the sign of the cross, and rode hardily against the dragon which came towards him, and smote him with his spear and hurt him sore and threw him to the ground. And after said to the maid: Deliver to me your girdle, and bind it about the neck of the dragon and be not afeard.

When she had done so the dragon followed her as it had been a meek beast and debonair.

The Golden Legend via BBC

See the full article online here or download pdf here.

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(reviewed 27.01.2014)

Cultural Maps of the World

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The Inglehart-Wetzel Cultural Maps of the World


Map of Values

The World Value Survey Cultural Map 1999-2004


The World Value Survey Cultural Map 2005-2008

The World Value Survey Cultural Map 2005-2008

Check out for more at

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