Notes on Intercultural Communication

Archive for the ‘Religion & Philosophy’ Category

Laotse and Confucius – Fundamental Traits in Asian Thinking

leave a comment »

(…) 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  http://terebess.hu/english/chuangtzu.html

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 http://www.acmuller.net/con-dao/analects.html

.

(reviewed 02.10.2013)

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

with 2 comments

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. http://www.stereo-denken.de/pfeil-kr.htm

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

http://www.bibleserver.com/index.php

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 (http://brian.hoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu/REL255/03.Jainism.Mahavira.html – broken link)

Taoteking
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)

http://www.iging.com/laotse/LaotseE.htm

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 www.frontiersin.org/Journal/DownloadFile.ashx?pdf=1&FileId=11690&articleId=28033&Version=1&ContentTypeId=21&FileName=fpsyg-04-00142.pdf)

~

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 http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/evolit/s05/web3/mheeney.html 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

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Applications of Circular and Linear Thinking

leave a comment »

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: http://globthink.com/2009/06/10/chinese-working-culture/ (sorry, broken link.).

.

Religion

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  http://www.johnshelbyspong.com

.

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

.

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

leave a comment »

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 http://interfaithnet.wordpress.com/world-religions-spiritual-traditions-2/chinese-traditional-religions/)

~

(…) 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:  http://www.buddhistelibrary.org/library/profile.php?aapath=17

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 http://archive.is/awfj)

~

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 http://shelf3d.com/i/Chinese%20folk%20religion)

~

“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 http://china.usc.edu/%28S%28fa5usj55v1e04q554ndbtt45%29A%28AH44v1t4zQEkAAAAMDc3YzcxOGMtNjc2My00NDZjLTk1ZTItOTU0Nzg1OWE3MDlkwRet7Hje9mO7FUYef0YNyayi_Ks1%29%29/ShowArticle.aspx?articleID=2213&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1)

~

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 http://www.6park.com/news/messages/20227.html)

.

(reviewed 17.01.2014)

Eastern Dragons and Western Dragons

leave a comment »

Dragons

(…) 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 http://fantrepose.iwarp.com/dragons.html)

.

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 http://www.blackdrago.com/theory/origin.htm)

(…)

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 http://www.blackdrago.com/history/outline.htm)

.

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. (…)

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at http://fantrepose.iwarp.com/lung.html)

~

Chinese Dragon

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nine-Dragons1.jpg)

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 http://www.blackdrago.com/types/eastern.htm#power)

.

(—) 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 http://www.blackdrago.com/easterndragons.htm)

.

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).

~

St.Georg

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at http://static3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100328113860/drachen/de/images/6/63/St.Georg.jpg)

~

(…) 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.

(retrieved 27.01.2014 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/saints/george_1.shtml)

.

(reviewed 27.01.2014)

Cultural Maps of the World

with one comment

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 http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/

(retrieved 12.07.2013 at http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs/articles/folder_published/article_base_54)