THE ART MOTIF OF CHINA IMPERIAL CERAMIC FOUND IN INDONESIA
PART III. STUDIES RESULTS
Dr Iwan Suwandy , MHA
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THE UNIVERSAL DOOR OF GUANSHI YIN BODHISATTVA
(THE BODHISATTVA WHO CONTEMPLATES THE SOUNDS OF THE WORLD)
The Chinese large Bronze seated bodhisattva Pu Hsien is the personification of love, virtue, and patience. The bodhisattva holding a lotus flower is shown seated sideways on a recumbent elephant on a oval lotus base. It dates to mid 20th century. Size: 31 ¼” high x 22 ½” wide x 13″ deep (79.4 x 57.2 x 33 cm)
AT THAT TIME Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, placed his palms together, and facing the Buddha, said, “World Honored One, for what reason is the Bodhisattva Guanshiyin called ‘Guanshiyin’?”
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, “Good man, if any of the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of living beings who are undergoing all kinds of suffering hear of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and recite his name single-mindedly, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will immediately hear their voices and rescue them.
“If a person who upholds the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him, all because of this Bodliisattva’s awesome spiritual power.
“If a person being tossed about in the great sea calls out the Bodhisattva’s name, he will find a shallow place.
“If the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of beings who seek gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, carnelian, coral, amber, pearls, and so forth enter the great sea, an evil wind may toss their boats into the territory of the rakshasa ghosts. But if among them there is even one person who calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will all be saved from the difficulty of the rakshasas. For this reason, he is called Guanshiyin.
“Further, if a person who is about to be harmed calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, the knives and staves of the attackers will break into pieces and he will be saved.
“If yakshas and rakshasas enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system come to torment a person, if they hear him call out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, all those evil ghosts will not even be able to stare at that person with their evil eyes, how much the less harm him.
“If a person, whether guilty or not, who has been put in stocks or bound with chains calls out the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, his fetters will break apart and he will immediately be freed.
“If bandits enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system infest a dangerous road on which a merchant chief in charge of costly jewels is leading a group of merchants, but among the merchants there is even a single person who says, ‘Good men, do not be afraid! You should all single-mindedly recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva bestows fearlessness upon living beings. If you recite his name, you shall surely be saved from these robbers,’ and if upon hearing that, the merchants all cry out together, ‘Namo Guanshiyin Bodhisattva,’ then they will immediately be saved because they recited his name.
“Inexhaustible Intention! The awesome spiritual power of the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Guanshiyin is as lofty and sublime as that!
“If living beings who have much sexual desire constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from desire.
“If those who have much hatred constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from hatred.
“If those who are very stupid constantly and reverently recite the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from stupidity.
“Inexhaustible Intention, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has great awesome spiritual powers such as these and confers great benefits. Therefore living beings should always be mindful of him.
“If women who seek sons bow and make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will give birth to blessed, virtuous, and wise sons. If they seek daughters, they will give birth to upright and handsome daughters who have planted roots of virtue in previous lives and who are regarded and respected by all.
“Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has powers such as these. If there are living beings who reverently bow to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, they will be blessed and their efforts will not be in vain.
“Therefore living beings should all receive and uphold the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.
“Inexhaustible Intention! If a person were to receive and uphold the names of Bodhisattvas in number as the grains of sand in sixty-two kotis of Ganges Rivers, and in addition were to exhaustively make offerings to them of food, drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine, what do you think—would that good man’s or good woman’s merit and virtue be great or not?”
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva replied, “Very great, World Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “If another person were to receive and uphold the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and bow and make offerings but once, that person’s blessings would be equal to and not different from the other person’s. They could not be exhausted in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons.
“Inexhaustible Intention, one who receives and upholds the name of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva obtains the benefit of blessings and virtues as limitless and boundless as those.”
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, how does Guanshiyin Bodhisattva roam through this Saha world? How does he speak the Dharma for living beings? How does he carry out this work with the power of expedients?”
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, “Good man, if living beings in this land must be saved by means of someone in the body of a Buddha, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will manifest it the body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Pratyekabuddha, he will manifest in the body of a Pratyekabuddha and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Hearer, he will manifest in the body of a Hearer and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Brahma King, he will manifest in the body of the Brahma King and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of Shakra, he will manifest in the body of Shakra and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the God of Sovereignty, he will manifest in the body of the God of Sovereignty and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Great God of Sovereignty, he will manifest in the body of the Great God of Sovereignty and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a great heavenly general, he will manifest in the body of a great heavenly general and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of Vaishravana, he will manifest in the body of Vaishravana and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minor king, he will manifest in the body of a minor king and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of an Elder, he will manifest in the body of an Elder and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a layman, he will manifest in the body of a layman and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minister of state, he will manifest in the body of a minister of state and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Brahman, he will manifest in the body of a Brahman and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika, he will manifest in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman, he will manifest in a wife’s body and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a pure youth or a pure maiden, he will manifest in the body of a pure youth or pure maiden and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a heavenly dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth, he will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them.
“If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit and speak Dharma for them.
“Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.
“Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha world all call him the “Bestower of Fearlessness.”
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.” He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva, saying, “Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls.”
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva refused to accept it.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace.”
The Buddha then told Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, and accept this necklace.”
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly, the gods, dragons, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and the other to the stupa of Many Jewels Buddha.
“Inexhaustible Intention, such is the self-mastery and spiritual power of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who roams throughout the Saha world.”
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question:
World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks,
I now ask again,
Why is this disciple of the Buddha Called Guanshiyin?
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks,
With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention:
Listen to the practice of Guanyin,
Who skillfully responds in all places.
With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
He has served many thousands of kotis of Buddhas,
And has made great, pure vows.
I shall now tell you in brief,
That for those who hear his name or see him,
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly,
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence.
If someone is the victim of another’s harmful intent,
And is pushed into a pit of fire,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The pit of fire will turn into a pool.
If someone is being tossed about in the great sea,
And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The waves will not drown him.
If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru,
And another person tries to push him off,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
He will stand firm as the sun in space.
If someone is pursued by evil people,
Who want to throw him off a VajraMountain,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
Not a single hair on his body will be harmed.
If someone is surrounded by vicious bandits,
Who threaten him with knives,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The bandits will all give rise to compassion.
If someone is in trouble with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The knives will break into pieces.
If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
His bonds will open and he will be free.
If someone is about to be harmed,
By mantras, spells, or poison,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The harm will all return to the sender.
If someone meets with evil rakshasas,
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
They will then not dare to harm him.
If someone is surrounded by vicious beasts,
With fearsome fangs and claws,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The beasts will quickly run far away.
Poisonous snakes and scorpions,
Have blazing lethal vapors,
But if one evokes the strength of Guanyin,
At the sound of one’s voice, they will disperse.
Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning
May send down hail or great floods of rain,
But if one evokes the strength of Guanyin,
The clouds will immediately scatter.
Living beings are beset with hardships,
And oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Guanyin’s wondrous wisdom
Can rescue the world from suffering.
Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations,
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means,
Going throughout countries in the ten directions,
He manifests everywhere in all places.
The various evil destinies,
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals,
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death
Are all gradually wiped away.
True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
May we constantly behold you with reverence!
Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness
Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds.
Compassionate substance: the thunder of precepts.
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud.
He rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain,
Which extinguish the flames of affliction.
In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits,
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
All his many enemies will scatter and leave.
Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide,
A sound beyond all worldly sounds,
We shall always bear it in mind.
In thought after thought we have no doubt:
Guanshiyin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector.
Complete with all merit and virtue,
His kind eyes watching living beings,
He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea.
Therefore we should reverently worship him.
At that time the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door, you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small.”
When the Buddha had spoken the “Universal Door Chapter,” eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Today there are three celebrations observed by both Taoist and Buddhist that her birthday was on the nineteenth day of the second lunar month, the date of her achievement of immortality was the nineteenth day of the sixth lunar month and date of her attaining enlightenment (Nirvana) was the nineteenth day of the ninth lunar month.
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Jiang Tai Gong, ( Jiang Tai Gong, 姜 太 公 )
The God in Charge of Granting Titles to Gods
Life History of Real Jiang Taigong
Jiang Taigong, native of Donghai in Zhou Dynasty, was said to be a descendant of Emperor Yandi of remote ages. One of his forefathers had been a holding high position during the reign of Emperor Shun. Later, because of his achievement in helping Yu the Great to harness rivers, he was granted the fief of Lu (west of today’s Nanyang City in Henan Province) and addressed as Marquis of Lu. Jiang Taigong was also called Lu Shang or Lu Wang. To show him respect, later generations called him Jiang Ziya. In ancient times “zi” was an honorific title for men.
King Wen way on the journey to seek talents and met Jiang ZIya by chance. Jiang Ziya was a learned man and always wanted an opportunity to put his talents into practice. However under the reign of King Zhou, the last ruler of Shang Dynasty, he was unable to serve him as King Zhou was a tyrant.
Most of his life was spent in obscurity and poverty. He only was able to use his abilities when he was seventy years old. Jiang had heard that King Wen, chief of Zhou clan in the late Shang dynasty, was amiable and easy to approach, respecting the elder and loving children, placing those able and virtuous people in important positions. Thus Jiang moved to Wenshui. Building a hut near Panxi, he made a living by fishing, while waiting for the important post to be conferred by King Wen that would enable him to use his wisdom in assisting King Wen. Despite waiting for the wise ruler for a long time, Jiang hair turned grey and his hope seems futile. However as destined one day he heard the sound of horses and people’s voices coming from afar. A delicate featured man dressed up as a King approached him. When told the distinguished visitor was the King Wen of Zhou, who was eagerly seeking talents, he felt very happy and finally was appointed the Prime Minister!
He carried out political and military reforms. Domestically, he emphasizes on developing production; externally, he deployed forces to conquer small neighboring clans to expand territories and weaken the Shang Dynasty.
With his assistance King Wen defeated Quanrong, conquered Shang Dynasty’s Chongguo, and moved the capital from Qishan to Fengcheng. The territory of Zhou gradually increase and stretched from Mi (today’s Lingtai in Gansu Province) in the west of Yu (Around todays Qinyang County in Henan Province) in the east. Then Zhou territory further expanded to the valley of Yangtze, Hanshui and Rushui rivers. Its political, economic and military strength greatly surpassed the Shang Dynasty, paving the way for the founding of the Zhou Dynasty.
Unfortunately, King Wen died before he fulfilled his ambition of overthrowing the Shang. His son Ji Fa, historically known as King Wu, succeeded to the throne.
With the assistance of Jiang, he sent troops to fight King Zhou of Shang, and carried out his father’s plan to establish the Zhou Dynasty. The regime is called Western Zhou in history. Due to his merits in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty, Jiang was granted the area of Qi (the central and eastern parts of today’s Shandong Province) as his fief, and regarded as the founder of Qi.
Jiang Taigong in Legend
There are numerous legend about Jiang Taigong. One account said that his parents died when he was a child and he followed his aunt to Zhaoge, the capital of Shang. At the age of twelve he started working as a butcher because his aunt’s family needed his help. But he failed at his job and wandered away from Zhaoge, until he met King Wen and found success.
One legend said Jiang fished for three days and three nights without catching anything. Later someone taught him the way of angling. Following the advice, Jiang finally caught a carp. Upon opening it’s belly, he found a cloth roll with characters reading “Lu Wang (namely Jiang Taigong) will be granted the area of Qi as his fief”.
Based on another legend King Wen dreamed of the Heavenly Emperor calling him “Chang (King Wen was named Ji Chang), I am going to grant you a good mentor and assistant. His name is Wang”. He then saw Jiang taigong beside the Heavenly Emperor. It was the same night Jiang Taigong had the same dream. Soon afterwards when meeting Jiang, King Wen asked. “Is Wang your name?”
“Yes,” replied Jiang, smiling. “It seems that I had seen you somewhere,” said King Wen. After Jiang told him the exact date he had the same dream with King Wen, he took Jiang and offered him an important position.
This legend is the most popular among all. Jiang Taigong was originally a famous general of King Wen and a respected figure. He was even believed ton have become a supernatural being. So anyone who wants to drive evil spirits out of his house would put on the wall a poster with characters reading. “Jiang Taigong is here. All evil spirits keep off.”
Jiang Taigong is depicted as an elderly man with white beard and hair, dressed up in imperial robe, one hand holding a flag (flag denotes his power to control or dispatch armies) and the other hand holds a sword.
Jiang Taigong famous quote, ”Jiang Taigong is here. Other gods withdraw and keep off”. Thus declared Jiang Taigong at a platform after he granted titles to other gods. “Since I had offered a title to them, I should at least place myself above them”, he declared.
From then onwards, when people were building a new house, they would paste up a banner reading “Jiang Taigong is here, hundred affairs are not forbidden as taboo”, (姜太公在此, 百事無禁忌) this would prevent evil spirits from occupying the building.
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Taoist Master Zhang, ( Zhang Tian Shi, 張 天 師)
Master Zhang, whose full name was Zhang Ling, or Zhang DaoLing (34-156), was the founder of the Five Pecks of Rice Sect of Taoism during the Eastern Han Dynasty. A native of Fengxian County, Jiangsu Province, he studied in the Imperial College and well versed in the Five Classics. He practiced meditation in Heming Mountain in today’s Dayi County, Sichuan Province in the reign of Emperor Shundi (r.125-144). In 141, he wrote twenty-four Taoist texts and institutionalized Taoism, which was called the Five Pecks of Rice Sect, calling himself Occult Master of Great Purity. Its believers had to pay five pecks of rice as contribution to support his institution. It emphasized repenting one’s mistakes and have faith in Taoists canons. It propagated its doctrine by praying and drawing charms, and gave treatment with blessed holy water or incantations.
Legends of Master Zhang
Many legends are told about him. One said that Zhang DaoLing was the eight descendants of Zhang Liang, a high official of the Han Dynasty, he was a tall man, with extraordinary appearance characterized by full forehead, red hair, green eyes, straight nose and square mouth, bushy eyebrows and big ears. All this features, plus his beard, gave the impression that he looked like an immortal priest. In the tenth year of the Jianwu period under the reign of the Emperor Guangwu of the Eastern Han Dynasty, he was born in the Tianmu Mountain.
Before he was born his mother dreamed about a tall immortal wearing a gold crown and embroidered robe descending from the Big Dipper to her room. He gave her a scented plant, and suddenly vanished. She awakened to find her quilt, clothes and the entire room was lingered with an extraordinary fragrance that last for a month. Then she became pregnant. On the day when she was in labour, the courtyards was permeated in colored clouds, and the room was bright with red beams. The fragrance again fills the air. Daoling was able to walk as soon as he was born.
He was extremely intelligent as he had knowledge and can memorize the entire Dao De Jing, astronomy, geography and mystic diagrams at the age of seven. He passed the second degree Imperial examination, as became the magistrate of Jingzhou. Albeit an official he was determined to practice meditation. Before long he tender his resignation and lived in seclusion in Beimang Mountain. It was said that one day a white tiger bought scriptures in it’s mouth to him. Emperor He Di appointed him as Imperial tutor to the crown prince, and conferred on him the title Marquis of Jixian. He was invited to take up the official position, three times, but he always refused. In A.D. 90, he went to Long He Mountain in Jiangxi Province where he tried alchemy – to make pills of Immortality and delivered sermons for about thirty years, his disciples totaling more than three thousand.
Master Zhang was well known for curing people with Talismans, blessed holy water, and delivered people from danger and disaster.
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The Queen of Heaven (天 后 聖 母, Tian Hou Sheng Mu)
The Queen of Heaven is also known Ma Zu. Originally named Lin Muo Niang; was born in 960 AD, on the 23rd day of the 3rd month in the Song Dynasty. She was born in a village along PuTian, Fujian’s Province.
Based on the book “Gods of Ancient China”, the day she was born, the land was covered by a purple streak, perfumed scent filled every household, and a golden halo appeared above the Lin house, within which emitted a red glow. One month after her birth she had not cried. So her parents called her Lin Muo Niang (Muo is the Chinese character meaning silence).
She was very filial to her parents, intelligent and loved to help people in adversity. She was a good swimmer and had gone fishing since childhood with her elder brother. She often rowed a boat during a vicious storm to save people in distress at the risk of her life. Her heroic deeds gained attention far and wide.
Ten centuries ago on a stormy day she came to aid an overturned merchant ship. She managed to rescue only nine of the ten people on board. The one left was tossed away by a huge wave. Disregarding her own safety, she swam and managed to save the last victim, however she herself drowned due to exhaustion.
Reluctant to accept that she had died, people preferred to assume that she had become a goddess. According to the legend, somebody saw the Goddess in imperial garments soared to the Heavens. To commemorate her people of Pu Tian, her hometown, built a temple dedicated to her.
After her death, the Goddess was said to become more miraculous. On one occasion, a violent storm was raging over the seas and overturned a few fishing boats. All the fishermen fell into the sea. At that moment a streak of light was seen among the dark clouds, the Goddess was seen descending from Heaven, she then miraculously set all the overturned boats and pulled the fishermen into the boats. And then suddenly the wind subsided, the waves calmed down and the sky cleared. All the people were saved.
Emperor of various dynasties glamorized the Goddess. During a period of eight hundred years, on forty occasions they granted her titles which, when placed together, ran to sixty Chinese characters, including “State Protecting Sage”, “Protector of the State and People” and “Goddess of Heaven”.
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The Supreme Lord of the Dark Heaven
( 玄 天 上 帝, Xuan Tian Shang Ti )
Xuan Tian Shang Ti, was originally a butcher, he had killed a lot as days passed he felt remorse for his sins and repents by giving up butchery and retired to a remote mountain for cultivation of the Tao. One day while he was assisting a woman in labor, while cleaning the woman’s blood stained clothes along a river, the words “Xuan Tian Shang Di” (玄 天 上 帝) appeared before him. The woman in labor turns out to be Guan Yin manifestation. To redeem his sins, he dug out his own stomach and intestines and washes it in the river. The river turns into dark murky water then after a while it changes the water into clear pure water.
Unfortunately he loses the stomach and intestines while he was washing it in the river. The Jade Emperor was moved by his sincerity and determination to clear his sins; hence he became an Immortal known as “Xuan Tian Shang Ti”.
After he becomes an immortal his stomach and intestines after absorbing the world essences it was transformed into a demonic turtle and snake harming people. No one could subdue them. Eventually Xuan Tian Shang Ti returns back to earth to subdue them and use them as his transportation or disciples.
Xuan Tian Shang Ti is portrayed as a warrior in imperial robes, the left hand holds the “three mountain mudra” while the right hand holds a prominent sword. He is usually seated on a throne with the right stepping on the snake and left leg extended stepping on the turtle. His face is red with long flowing black beards, looks very stern with bulging pair of eyes. His birthday is celebrated on the third day of third lunar month.
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Imperial Sovereign Wen Chang
( 文 昌 帝 君, Wen Chang Di Jun )
The popular Chinese Taoist god of literature and writing, invoked by scholars to assists them in their works. He is especially venerated by people who require help with their entrance examinations for an official career.
In reality, Wen-chang is a constellation of six stars in the vicinity of the Great Bear. It is said that when these stars are bright, literature flourishes. He visits the Earth frequently in human shape. Taoists texts mention seventeen separate existences of the stellar deity on Earth
In addition to the ancestors of whose worship it really consists, Taoism has in its pantheon the specialized gods worshipped by the scholars. The chief of these is Wen Chang, the God of Literature. The account of him (which varies in several particulars in different Chinese works) relates that he was a man by the name of Chang Ya, who was born during the T’ang dynasty in the kingdom of Yeh (now known as ZheJiang Province), and went to live at Tzŭ T’ung in Szechuan, where his intelligence raised him to the position of President of the Board of Ceremonies. Another account refers to him as Chang Ya Tzŭ, the Soul or Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung, and states that he held office in the Chin dynasty (A.D. 265–316), and was killed in a fight. Another again states that under the Sung dynasty (A.D. Page 105960–1280), in the third year (A.D. 1000) of the reign-period Hsien P’ing of the Emperor Chun Tsung, he repressed the revolt of Wang Chun at Ch’ing Tu in Szechuan. General Lei Yu-chung caused to be shot into the besieged town arrows to which notices were attached inviting the inhabitants to surrender. Suddenly a man mounted a ladder, and pointing to the rebels cried in a loud voice: “The Spirit of Tzŭ T’ung has sent me to inform you that the town will fall into the hands of the enemy on the twentieth day of the ninth moon, and not a single person will escape death.” Attempts to strike down this prophet of evil were in vain, for he had already disappeared. The town was captured on the day indicated. The general, as a reward, caused the temple of Tzŭ T’ung’s Spirit to be repaired, and sacrifices offered to it.
The object of worship nowadays in the temples dedicated to Wen Chang is Tzŭ T’ung Ti Chun, the God of Tzŭ T’ung. Various emperors at various times bestowed upon Wen Chang honorific titles, until ultimately, in the Yuan, or Mongol, dynasty, in the reign Yen Yu, in A.D. 1314, the title was conferred on him of Supporter of the Yuan Dynasty, Diffuser of Renovating Influences, Ssŭ-lu of Wen Chang, God and Lord. He was thus apotheosized, and took his place among the gods of China.
Thus the God of Literature, Wen Chang Di Jun, duly installed in the Chinese pantheon, and sacrifices were offered to him in the temples dedicated to him. But scholars, especially those about to enter for the public competitive examinations, worshipped as the God of Literature, or as his palace or abode (Wen Chang), the star K’uei in the Great Bear, or Dipper, or Bushel—the latter name derived from its resemblance in shape to the measure used by the Chinese and called tou. The term K’uei was more generally applied to the four stars forming the body or square part of the Dipper, the three forming the tail or handle being called Shao or Piao. How all this came about is the next story.
A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was Chung K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which was rightfully due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish or monster called ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters. His abode was said to be the star K’uei, a name given by the Chinese to the sixteen stars of the constellation or ‘mansion’ of Andromeda and Pisces. The scholars quite soon began to worship K’uei as the God of Literature, and to represent it on a column in the temples. Then sacrifices were offered to it. This star or constellation was regarded as the palace of the god. The legend gave rise to an expression frequently used in Chinese of one who comes out first in an examination, namely, tu chan ao, “to stand alone on the sea-monster’s head.” It is especially to be noted that though the two K’ue’s have the same sound they are represented by different characters, and that the two constellations are not the same, but are situated in widely different parts of the heavens.
Images of Wen Chang portray him as an official or as a scholar. He is always seen holding an auspicious scepter “Ru Yi” or a register book. Usually accompanied by his two faithful attendants, namely Tien Lung (Deaf Celestial) and Di Ya (Mute Terrestial). His birthday is celebrated on the third day of second lunar month.
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The Door Gods ( 門 神, Men Shen )
The Door gods are the earliest gods worshipped by the Chinese. They are regarded as the Spiritual Guardians of the Entrance. An altar is usually placed besides the entrance, where offerings are given daily.
According to the legend the Door gods were formerly imperial generals, Qin Shu Bao and Wei Chi Gong. They were both assigned to protect Emperor Tai Zong ( 太 宗 皇 帝 ) , from ghosts and demons during the Tang dynasty. It was believed that the Emperor had nightmares whenever he sleeps during the night. He would always be pursuit by ghosts or demons in his dream, it could be his karma manifesting to him as he had killed numerous people before he was enthroned as the Emperor. His siblings were also killed.
Whenever the two generals stood guard outside his room entrance, he would be able to sleep soundly without any nightmares. It was believed that ghosts and demons dare not enter the emperor’s room whenever the two generals are present.
As the two generals are mortals, the Emperor Tai Zhong feared that the generals would suffer from fatigue having to keep watch over him every night. Hence, he ordered portraits of the imperial generals to be hung on each side of the door.
They wear warrior robes, have gentle dispositions and are usually shown as standing. Qin Shu Bao holds a slender club, whereas Wei Chi Gong holds a mace.
The portraits of the Door Gods are usually changed just before Chinese New Year. Worn out portraits does not have the ability to keep away evil spirits and to protect the house.
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The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven
(九 天 玄 女, Jiu Tian Xuan Nu )
The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven is a female deity. She had been the teacher of the ancient Yellow Emperor. When the Yellow Emperor had been fighting the rebel Ch`i You, the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven descended and bestowed the Yellow Emperor with the military register for dispatching, with a seal and sword. She made a drum that was made out of cow skin with eighty sides, which the Yellow Emperor used to defeat Ch`i You.
During the period of spring and autumn, the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven transformed herself into the Jade Lady of Nan Shan. She helped the Yueh State send a punitive expedition against the Wu State, and taught the army to be equipped with six thousand highly qualified soldiers. Afterwards, she departed without bidding farewell, and soared to the sky. On the Nan Shan mountain, the king of the Yueh State built a temple in commemoration of her. The temple is named the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven.
The Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven has a disciple whose name was Pai-Yun Tong-chun. He received all the dharma-methods from the Mysterious Lady, and later was able to be elevated to heaven to be in charge of the Taoist books that belong to the Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven.
She is depicted as a fair rosy complexion lady, usually brandishing a sword in her right hand while the left hand holds a gourd. The Taoist gourd is a symbol of immortality, healing (contains golden elixir), longevity and good fortune.
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The Great Spirits of The Earth
(福 德 正 神, Fu De Zheng Shen)
The great spirits of the earth possess great spiritual powers that not many spirits can match! Why! There is several aspect of the earth; it is wide and extensive, it supports and nourishes all living beings, it receives the great rain, it produces grass and trees, it holds all planted seeds, it produces medicines, it is impartial and it holds many treasures.
All the lands through out the world receives his protection; all the grasses, woods, stones, sands, paddy fields, hemp, bamboo, reeds, grains, rice, gems, and oil come forth from the ground because of his power. He can even prevent plagues ghosts from spreading epidemics; furthermore he’s the greatest wealth deity on earth! The image on the left is the sculpture of the great spirits of the earth. He’s always depicted as an elderly man with a white beard usually smiling and maintaining a benevolent expression. He holds an auspicious wish fulfilling object called “Ru Yi” 「如意」.While the other hand on the right holds several gold ingots. He is also called “The Upright Spirit of Fortune and Wealth” (福德正神) when worshipped in temples and homes; while in a cemetery, he is called “Hou Tu” (后土)
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The Thunder God ( 雷 公, Lei Gong )
It is believed that a bolt of lightning erupting in the midst of the dark universe disrupts the primordial chaos. Hence at the beginning of time, chaos is altered into order by lightning. Thunder and lightning are worshipped by the primitive because it is one of the greatest forces in the Universe that is feared by man.
In mythology, the Thunder god is in charge of thunder. He is portrayed as having a green face and body, he resemble a bird like creature his face has a beak. Holds a hammer and chisel, when struck together lightning bolts are released.
He could punish on behalf of Heaven, could strike a vicious person, such as unfillial sons or daughter, able to distinguish between good and evil, and uphold justice. In Buddhism he is a Dharma protector.
It is believed his feature derives from the Garuda, a mystical bird-like creature who was the messenger or vehicle of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. He bears a close resemblance to the Garuda as expounded in Hindu text and Buddhist sutra’s as one of the “Eight class of mystical beings” (天 龍 八 部, Tian Long Ba Bu ).
The Garuda is the arch enemy of the snake, dragon or “naga”, which he feeds on them. Historically, from classical Indian mythology, Garuda is the king of birds.
Slightly fierce, with one face in the form of an eagle, round eyes and a curved beak, Adorned with gold necklaces and bracelets, the lower body is covered with feathers and large wings are unfurled behind. Standing on legs of two talons above coiled snake.
If you were to make a comparative study of the features of the Thunder god and Garuda based on these pictures, you will discover that there is a close resemblance in terms of the features.
Lord Vishnu and the Garuda
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Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva ( Di Zang Wang Pu Sa, 地 藏 王 普 薩 )
Di Zhang may be represented in sitting or standing posture. He always has a kind and benevolent feature and carries either, or both, his symbols of the Cintamani or “Wish-fulfilling Jewel’ and the “Ringed-Staff”, which is also called the Khakkhara. This ringed staff is often carried by Buddhist monks in their travels so that the sounds caused by the jingling rings can warn small animals and insects of their approach lest they be trod upon and killed. It is also sometimes called the alarm-staff.
In the much treasured picture of Di Zhang Pu Sa, which is found in many Buddhist homes and temples, he is seen seated upon a lotus throne. His hands holds the precious flaming pearl which has vast magical powers beyond description. He wears the robe of a Northern Buddhist monk and on his head is the “Five-leaves crown, where the representation of a Dhyani-Buddha can be seen on each of the leaves”.
Whenever you have the urge to pray to this Bodhisattva for any help, visualize him a few seconds as you silently recite, “NAMO DI ZHANG WANG PUSA” . Di Zhang Pu Sa is very responsive to sincere prayers of faith and he may yet grant you your wish, if it is not too unselfish or unreasonable. All may pray to him with this simple invocation and, due to, your past karmic links with him may yet make you into another ardent Ti Tsang devotee again in this lifetime.
The standing posture of Di Zhang is particularly popular in Japan where he is known as Jizo Bosatsu. It represents the readiness of Jizo to respond immediately to the calls of help made by those who have faith in his saving powers. Standing upon a lotus, he holds his precious flaming jewel with his left hand while the ringed staff is held with the right, ever ready to force open the gates of Hell with the staff and to dispel the darkness of the infernal realm with his luminous gem.
Di Zhang is at times depicted accompanied by a dog, which also has a significant meaning. On the death of his mother, the Bodhisattva, not as “Sacred Girl’, hastened into the underworld with the view of comforting her and to seek favorable treatment for her. However, he could not find her but later discovered that she had already taken rebirth as a female dog. Upon his return to earth Di Zhang soon traced and adopted the animal, which then became his companion on his pilgrimages.
Another popular depiction of him is in this standing or ‘activity-form’ which has his left hand holding an alms bowl against his navel, while his right hand forms the mudra (hand-sign) of “giving consolation and peace to all living beings”.
Di Zhang Pu Sa has many emanations and he has manifested in countless forms to save beings at different times and places. In the Chinese Buddhist Pantheon his is the only figure in the form of a monk. This is to indicate that Mahayana Buddhism is suitable for both the monks and the laity.
Di Zhang’s compassion is not practiced exclusively for the benefit of the beings of the hell realm, he also gives blessings to those of the world who seek his help and he is a comforter of the poor, oppressed, sick, hungry, and those who are troubled by spirits and nightmares. Those who have firm faith in him can easily receive his protection. With faith one needs to recite any of these simple prayers:
“NAMO DI ZHANG WANG P’USA’ or
“NAMO KSITIGARBHA BODHISATTVA”.
Images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are recognized by the symbols that they are associated with. Each of these symbols has a particular meaning which most people are unaware of. For example, the KHAKKHARA, or Ringed Staff, which Di Zhang holds, is not only meant to warn small and crawling creatures of his approach so as to avoid stepping on them but also to inform people of his presence through the jingling caused by the rings. Often a traveling monk on a pilgrimage has to stop at homes to seek alms and since he does not wish to speak unnecessarily, he usually announces his arrival by shaking his sounding staff.
The Khakkhara is often a wooden staff capped with metal loops or crotchets and rings, which are four, six or twelve in number. The Four-ringed staff is carried by a monk who has perceived the Four Noble Truths of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering. The Six-ringed staff belongs to a Bodhisattva who is constantly practicing the Six Paramitas, while the Twelve-ringed staff is held by a Pratyeka Buddha who has realized the Twelve-fold Links of Causation.
As a result of Di Zhang P’usa having made this promise to Sakyamuni Buddha: “I will fulfill your instructions to continue to relieve beings from their states of suffering and lead them to Salvation. I shall strive to work hard until the next Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, comes to the world “. He is also adored as the “Master of the Six Worlds of Desire,” thus there are depictions of him being surrounded by a Bodhisattva, an Asura, a Man, an Animal (horse or ox), a Preta, and a Demon holding a pitchfork, which symbolizes the six different forms he assumes in the six realms to save the beings there.
In the Chapter 12: The Benefits of Seeing and Hearing of the Di Zhang Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha gave this advice for the benefit of all human beings:
“Listen to me carefully and I shall tell you in detail. If virtuous ones of the future see the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s image, hear the Ksitigarbha Sutra, recite this Sutra, make offerings to Ksitigrabha, pay homage to him, they will receive these benefits:
1. They will be protected by devas and dragons.
2. Their ability to do good will be increased.
3. Opportunities for doing good will increase.
4. They will strive to attain Buddhahood.
5. They will enjoy sufficiency of food and clothing.
6. They will be free from diseases.
7. Floods and fire will not affect them.
8. Robbers will not trouble them.
9. They will be respected and admired by people.
10. Spirits and devas will protect and assist them.
11. Females shall be reborn as males.
12. The females will become daughters of noble and exalted families.
13. They will be reborn with good complexion.
14. They will be reborn in the heavens for many lives.
15. They will be reborn as kings or rulers of countries.
16. They will have wisdom to recollect their past lives.
17. They will be successful in all their aspirations.
18. They will enjoy happy family relationships.
19. Disasters will not affect them.
20. Their bad karma will be removed.
21. Wherever they go, they are safe.
22. They shall always have peaceful dreams.
23. Their deceased relatives shall be free from sufferings.
24. They will be reborn with happiness.
25. They will be praised by divine beings.
26. They will be intelligent and skilful.
27. They will have compassion for others.
28. They will finally attain Buddhahood.
The birthday of Di Zhang Pu Sa falls on the 30th day of the 7th moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. All over the world Buddhist temples offer prayers to Di Zhang Pu Sa during the 7th lunar month for the benefit of the dead.
Di Zhang’s popularity among the Chinese and Japanese Buddhists is second only to Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa as he takes upon himself the fearful and difficult task of bringing relief and consolation to the suffering beings of hell.
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Liu Ren Xian Shi (六壬仙師 ).
A renowned Taoist master during the Tang dynasty originates from ChangAn Province China. His actual name is Lee Shun Feng (李淳風). This Taoist Sect is also known as Shun Feng Tao (淳風道) named after the founder of this Sect. At a young age he had learning disabilities, both his parents were very concern. They invited a Taoist master to view his physiognomy.
Physiognomy, which claims to find correspondences between bodily features and psychological characteristics, often makes use of such supposed similarities. The Taoist master revealed that based on the physiognomy of the child, his learning disabilities are only temporarily. He has the features of a great sage and shall lead living beings to salvations.
After the Taoist master gave the prediction, later at the age of six he can master all the Chinese classics, literatures and even memorize every single word after reading once! He was so brilliant that not anyone can match him at that age. Due to his past karma or affinity with the Taoist master he met him again at the age of twelve and requested the Taoist master to take him as a disciple. However the Taoist master refused as he was told to fulfill his obligations to his parents. In China we place great emphasis in filial piety and repaying the kindness of parents. The Taoist master promised him that when the time is ripe he shall appear again to offer him the discipleship. He didn’t have to wait long as both his parents deceased when he was nineteenth years old.
He followed the Taoist Master and learned Taoist alchemy, spiritual cultivations, meditations, divination, and art of war. With the wisdom and power he possessed he begins helping numerous people, everywhere relieving them of their hardship and suffering. Her was later canonized as a deity and the founder of Taoist sect Shun Feng Tao ( 淳 風 道 ).
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Lord Guan Ti ( 關 帝 聖 君 )
Zhou Chang ( 周 倉 ) Guan Ti ( 關 帝 ) Guan Ping ( 關 平 )
Guan Ti or Guan Yun Chang was born in Shan Xi province during the Three Kingdom (220 – 260 AD). He led a simple life and made his living as a young man by selling bean-curds, thus he is worship by bean-curd sellers as their patron god today. He has an excellent memory power that he had the ability to recite word for word the entire Classics after reading it for once.
Therefore students taking examinations usually pray to him to bless them success. He is also worshipped as the God of Literature by scholars. Some idols of Guan Ti can be found seated while holding a book.
He was known for his righteous, and justice which got Guan Yu into trouble when he interfered with a licentious and corrupt magistrate who forced a poor lady to become his concubine. The magistrate was slayed by Guan Yu. He had to flee for his life and escape to the mountain to seek refuge. As he was on his journey to the neighboring province he stops by a stream to have a wash; when to his surprise he noticed a great changed in his appearance! His facial complexion had changed from pale white to reddish tint which saved him to disguise himself and was able to walk through the sentries who was guarding the mountain pass.
When he reached Chu-Chou of the Szechuan Province he be, befriends Zhang Fei and Liu Bei who shared his noble ideals and virtues. They took the oath of brotherhood in a peach orchard, and sworn as “brothers”. Chang Fei was a butcher, became the youngest brother. He was a man of fiery temper who had an unyielding sense of justice and was well known for his immense appetite both for food and adventure. He had a black face which was full of whiskers and his formidable height of seven feet tall; very few would dare cross his path. His great love and loyalty to Guan Yu has won him a place of honor he is always seen standing beside Kuan Yu in all depictions.
Liu Bei, the elder brother who came from a distinguished but impoverished family with imperial linkage, was known to be a man of honor. Guan Yu, a powerful figure of more than eight feet tall, possessed an enigmatic personality and integrity that won him respect of all whom he met.
Together the three sworn brothers set out and became involved in military pursuits, They displayed great military prowess and fought many battles which is recorded in details in the famous novels of “The Three Kingdoms”. Based on the recorded history of his life Guan Yu had many occasions display his nobility, uprightness, integrity, loyalty and bravery. Despite living at a time of great distress and chaos during the Han Dynasty, he would never be tempted to acquire wealth, fame and power as he remain faithful to his oath that he had taken with his brothers at the peach orchard; “ To be loyal to each other in life and united in death”.
In the year 219 A.D. he was captured by Sun Chuan and executed. It was recorded that on the night of his death, his spirit appeared before a Buddhist monk, to seek refuge to the Buddha dharma. Based on a Buddhist account, Guan Yu manifest before the Tripitaka Master Chi Tsai, the founder of Tien Tai Buddhism, with a retinue of spiritual beings. After receiving the teachings Guan Yu requested the Five precepts and took refuge in the Buddha dharma. He vowed that he would be a dharma protector to the Buddha Dharma. Hence, his idol is usually found in the hall of most Buddhist temples. He had earned his place in both the Taoist and Buddhist pantheon of deities.
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Goddess of the Northern Star
( Dou Mu Yuan Jun, 斗 母 元 君 )
Goddess of the Northern Star ( 斗 母 元 君 )
Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, are worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists. From a Taoist perspective she is a stellar divinity, her full name being Jiu Lin Tai Miao Bai Yu Gui Tai Zu Guang Jin Jing Zu Mu Yuan Jun (九 靈 太 妙 白 玉 貴 台 祖 光 金 精 祖 母 元 君 ). She is also called Du Mu Yuan Jun ( 斗 母 元 君 ).
As told in the scriptures, Madame Zi Guang went to the imperial garden for sight seeing. She was captivated by the hot spring water next to the lotus pool and took a bath there, miraculously nine lotus buds appeared and after a while the lotus blossomed and came out nine infants. After these nine children grown up, the eldest son Gou Cheng Xing ( 勾 城 星 ) became one of the heavenly gods, named North Star (Zi Wei Da Di, 紫 微 大 帝 ). The rest of the brothers were Tang Lang ( 貪 狼 ), Ju Men ( 巨门 ), Lu Cun ( 路存), Wen Qu ( 文 曲 ), Lian Zhen ( 廉 貞 ), Wu Qu ( 武 曲 ) and Po Jun ( 破 君 ) are the group of stars known as the Big Dipper Seven Stars.
After giving birth to nine sons Madame Zi Guang was honoured with the title Big Dipper True Holy Virtue Heavenly Queen ( 北 斗 九 真 聖 德 天 后 ).
There is another legend that states The King of Chou Yue, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yuan-shih T’ien Jun ( 元 始 天 君 ) came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven.
The Big Dipper Seven Stars are in charge of the fate of human and earthly fate in the universe. Every star controls the earthly fate for a period of 20 years. The division of 3 yuan and 9 yun (三 云 九 運 ) of Feng shui originated from this theory.
For these who offend the Grand Duke or Tai Sui ( 太 歲 ) for the year of the Dog 2006, should pray to Tai Sui. However there is another alternative besides praying to Tai Sui, you can also pray to Goddess of the Northern Star or Dou Mu to relieve you of any difficulty, danger and bad luck. Those affected sign are Ox, Ram, Dog, Rat, Dragon and Monkey for this year 2006.
The reason is because the Goddess of the Northern Star is the mother of Nine Stars her power is inconceivable as she oversee the welfare of all beings.
She is depicted with 3 eyes on her forehead, 4 heads on shoulders, a head with 4 faces, 8 arms 2 palms clasp together, the other 6 arms holding a sun, moon, precious bell, bow and arrow, a seal of authority and halberd. She bears a close resemblance to the Buddhist deity Marichi, Goddess of Dawn. Her features and the dharma implements she’s holding are almost identical.
Marichi, Goddess of the Dawn
Marichi, (Tibetan Buddhism : o zer chen ma, English: the One Having Light Rays), Goddess of the Dawn. Marichi is a red-coloured female yidam associated with the sun and with dawn.
Her mantra is traditionally used as protection by travelers. She has three faces, eight arms and two legs. She holds the powerful Tantric tools (in her right hands) of vajra (at the heart in the mudra of teaching), the vajra ax, the arrow, the mudra of generosity (holding a sewing needle. In her left hands: the mudra of teaching hold the stem of a healing plant, a bow, a thread, and loop with hook drawn along by seven white boars.
The goddess Marichi is the manifestation of the twenty-one forms of Tara and has the special power to avert bandits, robbers, and thieves. She is a most sublime goddess who is the ally of beings who are bereft of companionship and support and who are subject to the coercion of others more powerful than they.
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The Eight Immortals
The Chinese character 仙, which signify immortal, is composed of 人 man and 山 a mountain. It denotes the superior class of human spirits, who, having been deified, dwell in remote mountains devoid of human inhabitants. They are imbued with the power of being visible and invisible at pleasure, of raising the dead, of changing stones they touch into gold, and of effecting at pleasure various other wonderful transmutations. The Eight Immortals or Ba Xian (八仙), are legendary beings of the Taoist sect, said to have lived at various times and attained immortality through their cultivation of Tao’s or nature secret.
Their eminent position has been attained by cultivation, to which eight, including one female (He Xian Gu, 何仙姑) have risen higher than other.
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The Chief of the Eight Immortals
Zhong LiQuan, 鐘离權
In Taoism, he is known as Zheng Yang Ju Shi, 正陽袓師. Literally, the True Yang First Master. He is the Chief of the Eight Immortals, is said to have lived during the Han dynasty and have possessed the secrets of the elixir of life, and the power of transmutation. He is also known as Zhongli of Han (漢鐘離) because he was born in the Han Dynasty. He is usually depicted as a fat man exposing his bare belly, always grasping his emblem, a fan, which has the magical ability of reviving the dead.
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Zhang GuoLao, 張果老
Elder Zhang Guo, lived during the 7th and 8th century AD is a hermit who had spiritual powers of magic, i.e. rendering himself invisible, He is accompanied by a white mule, which carried him immense distances and when not, required was transformed into a paper mule, folded up and put away in his pouch. When he wished to resume his travels, he sprinkles some water upon the paper mule revived it and the mule will appear at once. He generally rode his mule backwards. His emblem is the “Yugu” (魚故), a kind of musical instrument in the shape of bamboo tube or drum with two rods to beat it.
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Lu Dong Bin, 呂洞賓
He is the most widely known among the group of deities known as the Eight Immortals and hence considered by some to be the de facto leader. He was born during the Tang Dynasty (AD750). A scholar and ascetic who learnt the secrets of Taoism from Zhong LiQuan, the Chief of the Eight Immortals, and attained immortality at the age 50. He is the patron saint of barbers and is also worshipped by the sick. He is generally depicted wearing a scholar clothes and head gear, holds in his right hand a Taoist fly whisk, and his emblem, a sword, which is slung across his back. He is well known of slaying and getting rids of various forms of evil on earth for more than 400 years.
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Cao Guo Jiu, 曹國舅
He was born during the Song Dynasty (AD930-999) as the son of a military commander by the name Cao Bin 曹彬, that happens to be the brother of Empress Cao Hou 曹后. He is depicted dressed in official robes, a court headdress and he holds a pair of castanets, which is his emblem. The castanets are said to be derived from the court tablets, authorizing free access to the Imperial palace, to which he was entitled due to his birth.
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Li TieGuai, 李铁拐
He was born during the Western Zhou period, and was originally named Li Yüan. He studied with Lao Tzu (founder of Taoism) and Goddess Hsi Wang Mu. He is said to have devoted 40 years to the practice of meditation and cultivation of Taoist esoteric practice.
Before becoming an immortal, he had a pleasant disposition. However, on one occasion his spirit traveled to celestial realm. He instructs his disciple to wait seven days for his spirit to return; but after six days the student had to return to attend his sick mother, so he cremated his body assuming that he had deceased.
Upon returning, Li was forced to enter the only body available, the corpse of a homeless beggar who had died of starvation; who unfortunately had “a long and pointed head, blackened face, woolly and disheveled beard and hair, huge eyes, and a lame leg.” His emblem is the pilgrim’s gourd which identifies him as one of the Eight Immortals, and his iron crutch.
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Han XiangZi, 韓湘子
He is the nephew of Han Yu 韓愈, a famous scholar and statesman who lived during the Tang Dynasty (AD820). He is the disciple of Lu DongBin, he became an immortal when he fell into a supernatural peach tree. He has the ability of making flowers grow and blossom instantaneously. His emblem is the flute, and he is the patron of musicians. He wanders around, playing his flute, enticing birds and beast of prey by the sweet melodious sound of his flute.
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Lan Caihe, 藍采和
He was from Tang Dynasty. His behavior was out of norm and known for its bizarreness. He wore only shorts and thin shirts in winter, and thick jacket and long pants in summer. He walked with one foot bare and another with shoe.
His distinctive emblem is a flower-basket, often carried slung on a hoe over his shoulder. The basket contains various flora associated with ideas of longevity.
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He Xian Gu, 何仙姑
Lived during the 7th century AD, she is the daughter of a shopkeeper of LingLing 零陵, Hunan province in the Tang Dynasty. According to one account at the age of thirteen, she often went to the mountains to collect medicinal herbs. One day, she encountered the Immortal Lu DongBin who gave her a peach and told her, “You shall become an immortal is you eat it”. She did as he said, and miraculously she, never felt hungry or thirsty, can float and jumped from one cliff to another gathering medicinal herbs to help the sick. In addition, she could predict people’s fortune. Her emblem is the lotus, which she carries in her hand. And at times she is also depicted holding a fly whisk on the other hand.
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Er Lang Shen, 二郎神
Erlang Shen (二郎神), named Yang Jian (杨戬), is a Chinese God with a third true-seeing eye in the middle of his forehead. According to the “Story about Li Bing and his son in harnessing the rivers”, After being appointed governor of Sichuan by King Zhao of the State of Qin. Li Bing diverts water from the two rivers of Chengdu to irrigate thousand hectares of farmlands. His son ErLang helps him to build water control systems to prevent flood. Based on a historical record says, “The Erlang Temple of Guan-Kou in Sichuan was established to commemorate LiBing’s merits in opening up wells, building bridges, irrigation of the agricultural lands, developing the Guanxian area and Chengdu plain, and increasing agricultural production.
Here is another legend about ErLang with his seven friends vanquishing an evil dragon. On their journey ErLang and his seven friends approached a thatched cottage by a river near the county town of Guanxian, they heard someone crying inside. They entered and found an elderly woman wailing for her youngest grandson who was to be taken away as a sacrificial offering for the river god-an evil dragon. Astonished, ErLang seek his father advice on how to capture the monster. LiBing taught him a strategy, on the sacrificial procession ErLang holding his three-pointed and double-edged sword in hand, went into the River God Temple with his seven friends, and hid themselves behind the altar.
After a while, the dragon descends with a gust of strong wind and torrential rain into the temple to snatch the sacrifice. ErLang and his mates jumped out immediately and fight it. Defeated the dragon flee out of the temple. As planned by LiBing the villagers beat their drums and gongs to emit loud sounds to petrify the dragon. This scared the dragon who fled into the river. ErLang and his mates pursued the dragon by diving into the river. The dragon was finally captured.
The old woman who had been grievously crying for her grandson gave ErLang a chain to express her gratitude for saving his grandson. ErLang tied the dragon to a stone post of the Vanquishing Dragon Temple and had it detained in a deep pool. From that day onwards, the area was free from flood.
ErLang is depicted carrying a three-pointed and double edge-sword and has a Celestial Hound that follows him around
Introduction to Chinese Seals
Chinese seal carving is not an average skill. It is indispensable to deal with the methodologies of (seal script) calligraphy, ideas, and carving. The ancient Chinese wrote according to the Six Principles to compose Chinese scripts; a minimal error or deviation results in wide divergence. If one creates new scripts without studying and obeying the principles, the writing is not considered calligraphy. As for designing the arrangement of scripts in a seal, one has to consider the disposition of strokes and the various effects. The designs are different for seals with one or several characters – their angles, roundness, and lengths differ. There always exist principles as to modify the angles, roundness and lengths. If there is a minimal incoherence, it is not a good design. As for carving, do not imitate the shapes of a sparrow’s tail or a saw’s teeth. Practicing diligently for many days and months will help the carver obtain proficiency, natural smoothness and coherence, and joyfulness. On the contrary, if one labors to copycat ancient seals without understanding, traces of incoherence will show and this is not considered good carving.
Adapted from Seal Collections of Baojin Studio by Wang Zhuan of Ching Dynasty
Chinese seal engraving can be traced back to more than 3,000 years ago to the Shang Dynasty when the inscriptions on tortoise shells and bronze were available for recording happenings and ideas of human being. The early Chinese seals were in the form of engraved pictographic characters and simple decorative patterns. From archeological finds, bronze seals engraved with pictographic characters are known to have existed in the Shang Dynasty. Some of those crudely made seals, though not matured in a high art form, are indicative of the simplicity of beauty found in early civilization of China.
Inscription of a fish-shaped character in Shang Dynasty
Chinese seals perform a simple, uniform purpose. They serve as a personal signature of their owner, or more significantly, they serve as the symbol of legitimacy for a ruler or a high social status. The use of seals in China originated during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods. There was a need for a formal system to record and preserve records of economic, military, and administrative functions. The development of Chinese seals, either from function or artistic forms, went on from craftspeople and artisans to the emperors and all walks of life.
Until the end of the Warring States Periods, there was only one way to classify seals – official and private, regardless of their use and material.
Official seals 官印
Official seals were conferred to officials to represent their rank and authority. These seals were usually small enough to be carried on the official’s belt. Regulations existed as to the material and shape of the handle of these seals. Up to the Eastern Han Dynasty, the color of ink used to affix official seals was regulated depending on the position of each official.
Private seals 私印
Private seals were not regulated by the governments and therefore they had the largest variety in content, shape, size, material and calligraphy styles. Despite of their varied characteristics, they can still be categorized based on their uses.
Seals with names, pen names, pseudonyms, and etc on them were used as a signature by people in their private life. This is how artists signed their works and letters. Chinese literati commonly used a number of different pen names. So identifying an artist’s name from a seal can be a profound skill.
Collector’s Seals ( 收藏章 ) were mainly used for the purpose of authenticating pieces of art. Thus a seal of a famous collector or connoisseur would become an integral part of a work of art and could substantially raise its value. Thus in the course of several centuries, some Chinese paintings became covered by a dozen of different seals.
The rest of private seals can be conveniently categorized as “Leisure Seals 閑章“. The inscription on these seals is usually a short phrase quoted from a poem or saying that the seal owner thought was poetic or meaningful.
A master seal engraver must be able to write different styles of the Chinese scripts and arrange all the characters in a perfect balance. Sometimes the artist has to exaggerate the thickness or thinness of a stroke, elaborately straighten or curve it, or even deliberately deform an ideogram to create an artistic effect. Basically, a master seal engraver must also be a great Zuan Shu calligrapher.
The strokes of the Zuan Shu character in the middle were deliberately lengthened
A perfect seal also relies heavily on the engraver’s speed and strength of his wrist and finger movements as well as the particular tools used. The engraver should also be very familiar with different materials like jade, gold, brass, and stone, so that he can apply the tool with the right strength and rhythm.
Seal carving is an integration of limitation and infinity. A seal’s physical size and space are totally unproportionate to its spiritual content in a condensed art form. The meaning it intends to express is often extremely delicate and abstruse. Under the carving knives of outstanding seal engravers, dots, lines, raises, concaves, sparsity, density, punching, and cutting have all become demonstrative elements in highly abstract forms.
A good seal stamp on a Chinese calligraphy or painting work will give the artwork a new look. A good Chinese painter or seal maker must be a good Chinese calligrapher because Chinese painting and seal making both have a strong root in Chinese calligraphy. However, a good Chinese calligrapher does not necessarily need to be a painter or seal maker. Nowadays people seem to neglect the strict rules of putting seal stamps on calligraphy and painting works in appropriate positions due to lack of study.
few days ago, we went to a consignment store in Healdsburg to get some puzzles for my sweetie’s collection. While there, I found the best seal yet. Shaped like the head of the Buddha, about 12cm tall, and very well carved; whoever made this knew what they were doing. It’s also unusually large, with an inscription nearly twice the size of any other seal I’ve ever seen.
The inscription reads “皇帝行寶” (“huáng dì xíng băo”). “皇帝” means “Emperor” (as in Qin Shi Huangdi, the name of China’s first Emperor). “行” means to walk, to travel, or a road or path, and also to act or to put into effect. “寶” means “treasure”, and was used as a term for royal and official seals (as opposed to “印”, “yìn”, which was used with personal seals).
From what I’ve been able to discern from searching on this phrase, this appears to be an official seal of some sort. It would be used on documents to give the Emperor’s authority to an official action. The inscription could be read as, roughly, “Carried out in the Emperor’s name”. The size and quality of the carving also suggest this, as official seals were made to higher standards. Seals in the shape of the Buddha’s head weren’t uncommon, either.
I’m not sure how old it is; the dealer couldn’t give me any information on that. If it’s genuine and not a modern recreation, then given the outstanding condition, it would most likely date to the later Qing dynasty–19th or early 20th century, right before the revolution that created the Republic of China. However, it’s most likely a modern imitation. At some point, I should take it to an expert to find out.
Even so, it’s beautiful, and I’m happy to have found it. (It was also an outrageous bargain!) Nothing like serendipity, eh?
Mar 30, 2011
admin art, China, Chinese, hobbies Chinese, seal 11 Comments
One side-effect of my learning about Chinese in this last year has been finding out about seals.
Handwritten signatures aren’t very important in China, certainly less so than here in the West. Part of the reason is, apparently, that the ideographic writing system gives less room for creativity and individuality. But, for whatever reason, signatures never developed the cachet that they did in Europe.
Instead, for millennia, the Chinese have used seals–small stamps, usually of stone (everything from soapstone to jade), with a name, a slogan, or an abstract design.
Most people in China have at least one of these, with their name, usually in a somewhat stylized script. It’s used for all kinds of daily business, in the same way that Westerners use a signature–cashing checks, signing contracts, etc. Artists and intellectuals might also have additional seals for their studios, or seals carved with inspirational sayings. They are also required for all businesses operating in China, as well as for government agencies. A special cinnabar paste is used to give that rich red color that the Chinese love so much. (Cinnabar contains mercury, but that doesn’t seem to be a major concern.)
The seal is an interesting alternate solution to the problem of identity. In many ways, it’s actually more secure than a signature. The seal is tied to a specific physical object that the person keeps in a secure location. And, since seals are mostly handmade, they all contain their own unique flaws and imperfections, which make them nearly impossible to fake without access to the original.
Seals aren’t terribly well-known over here, because they’re not used much outside mainland China. (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea also use them, but they’re not quite as important as in the PRC.) About the only place we ever see them is on Chinese artworks. Chinese artists use them to sign their works–and, interestingly, a collector will mark the work with his or her own seal. If this is tastefully done, it doesn’t harm the value of the artwork at all, and can even enhance it if the collector is important. (I’ve seen reproductions of thousand-year-old Chinese paintings with up to 30 seals from the collectors whose hands they’ve passed through.) They are also often used to mark books, in the same way we might use a book plate.
Naturally, the creation of these seals is an industry and art form all to itself. The top of a seal often has a sculpture, usually with special meaning for the owner. Another specialist carves the imprint on the bottom of the seal–or the owner may do it himself. The final product is a miniature art piece with a practical purpose.
Obviously, when I found out about these, my collector sense went off, and I knew I had to have one for myself.
You might remember when I chose the Chinese name 安彬锐 (An Binrui). To get my seal design, I started with an online generator that could create it using a traditional seal script. The result wasn’t perfect, though; it didn’t match up with images of actual seals that I had seen. So I rearranged a little, and got the above.
So far, so good; now I needed a stone. I soon found a couple in antique stores. The first one I found was this one, blank, with a nicely crafted dog for the sculpture. (My Chinese astrological sign is the Monkey, but never mind that.)
It was originally about 3/4 of an inch taller, but it had some significant damage along one edge. So I simply got out the dremel and cut off the bottom end.
Shortly after that, I found a second blank stone, not as nice, to use for practice.
I didn’t have the proper tools, but I discovered quickly that the stone is soft enough to work without too much trouble. I actually ended up doing most of the work on both with the end of a paperclip–although I had a couple of fine screwdriver blades that also worked well. An hour or so of work, a bit of polishing with the dremel, and voila.
The symbol on this one, 知, means “knowledge”. A little crude, but I still like it.
A few days later, I tackled the big one. I marked the larger stone and got to work. It wasn’t easy, I had to start over a couple of times, and my hands were sore when I was done, but I was pleased with the final result.
And, the moment of truth:
Not bad at all. It’s still crude compared to the work of professional carvers, but for an amateur like me–who had never done any stone carving at all before–it’s pretty good. If I do say so myself. And yes, there are flaws, but that just gives it authenticity, I think.
I don’t know that I’ll be making any more seals for myself, but I can totally see myself collecting them. I found a third pretty quickly–with a Chinese version of “Anna”, probably a souvenir from a Chinatown somewhere–and I’ve since seen some very beautiful ones for sale.
Not that I really need another hobby, of course…
Jul 17, 2010
admin China, Chinese, personal Chinese, name 2 Comments
Back in March, when I was first starting to learn Chinese, I realized early on that I wanted to make use of Chinese websites and social networks to help me learn the language. But I had a dilemma. What name to use? I use my real name pretty much everywhere online–I’ve hated cutesy handles for quite a while now–but I wanted something more appropriate for Chinese sites.
Often, Western students of Chinese receive a name early in their class, usually by choosing it with the help of the instructor; in business contexts, a name might be given by a Chinese-speaking colleague. This is because many Chinese have trouble using and remembering Western names, and also because it makes a useful exercise. But I don’t have an instructor, and so, if I wanted a Chinese name, I had to do it myself. And I quickly discovered that this is harder than you might expect, for several reasons.
First, Chinese names are structured very differently. A standard Chinese personal name consists of three characters. (There are variations–for example, some family names have two characters instead of one–but this is rare.) The first character is the family name, which for Westerners is usually drawn from the most common family names. The second is a generational name, which for native Chinese is typically the same for all children in a family in the same generation; these are chosen in advance by the family. And the third character is the true given name.
In addition to this, there is meaning to consider. In the West, we typically assign names with little thought to what the words mean; probably most people have no idea what the etymology and original meaning of their name was. (I happen to know mine; “Brian” is Celtic and means “noble”.) Chinese doesn’t work the same way; most names are made up of common words that are in wide use. So it’s very important to consider the meaning of the words when choosing a name. This is complicated by the fact that Chinese has so many homonyms; one needs to know not just what the potential name means, but all its sound-alikes as well.
Plus, numerology is important. Characters are assigned to yin or yang, depending on whether the number of strokes in the character is even or odd, and there are particular patterns of yin and yang that are favored. And, finally, there are several cultural factors and taboos; certain qualities are particular to men or women, names are supposed to be well-balanced soundwise and require few strokes to write, and while originality is valued, the name should still be made up of common words.
So, what to do? I spent a good deal of time doing research and reading everything I could find online about Chinese names. After much thinking, playing, reading, and gnashing of teeth, I came up with a name.
Or “ān bīn ruì”, also written An Binrui.
So, why these characters? Well, “ān bīn ruì” (high tone for the first two syllables, falling tone for the third) bears a little resemblance to Brian, and that’s good. Moreover:
The family name 安 (ān) is one of the 100 most common Chinese family names; it means “peaceful”, “tranquil”, or “quiet”, and also has connotations of stability, security, and honesty.
The generational name 彬 (bīn), meaning “cultivated”, reflects a respect for tradition. Also, its most common homonym, 宾, means “guest” or “visitor”, which reflects my outsider status within the culture.
(Incidentally, fans of anime will be interested to know that in Japanese, 彬 is pronounced “akira”. It has the same meaning as in Chinese.)
The given name 锐 (ruì) means “sharp”, and reflects intellect and wisdom. Besides applying well to me (heh), these are traditionally masculine qualities and are therefore appropriate for a male name. It also has a common homonym, 瑞, meaning “auspicious” or “lucky”, which is nice.
These are all common words that require few strokes to write, and the complete name is well-balanced between vowels and consonants. Also, thankfully, the name appears to be unique. I was unable to find any hits for it on Google or on its Chinese competitor Baidu. Uniqueness is very good.
I haven’t had a chance to check with a native Chinese speaker to find out if I messed up, but from everything I’ve read, I think I did okay. And I’ve been using the name on Baidu Space for four months now without comment–although I do intend to write a version of this post there to find out for certain.
So. I already had my Western name–actually, I’ve had two, since I took my spouse’s surname last year–as well as a Tibetan name (Tenzin Galpo) from a Buddhist teacher some years ago. And now I have a Chinese name as well. I wonder if I’ll be getting any more?
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Jun 27, 2010
admin China, photos, travel, web 2.0 China, Panoramio 0 Comment
Last week, I was at the bookstore and came across China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford. This book, based on a series of NPR stories Gifford filed in 2004, chronicles his trip across China on Route 312, a highway stretching across the country from Shanghai to the border with Kazakhstan in the far northwest.
After I read the book, it occurred to me that I had tools for following his journey that did not exist at the time–namely, Google Earth and Panoramio. So I fired up Google Earth to see what I could find.
For those who aren’t familiar with Panoramio, it’s a photo-sharing site, owned by Google, that allows photos to be stored with geotagging information–either added automatically by the camera, or created by hand afterward. The site is loaded with millions of images from all over the world, mostly created and shared by amateurs. And many of them also find their way into Google Earth and Google Maps. So this is a marvelous way to get an idea of what a given place looks like.
Now, I wasn’t expecting to find many images outside of China’s major cities; not too many Westerners find their way into the back country, and I assumed that few Chinese out there would have the motivation and ability to share their photos. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only had some Chinese (mostly cyclists) visited these areas and posted pictures, but a few foreigners had also traveled the long and slow way.
In particular, there was a German fellow that I had already known about, who walked across China in 2007 in a project called The Longest Way. (I found out about him through an awesome video self-portrait he had posted.) So imagine my delight when I found that he had taken lots of photos all along his route–over 7000 in all–and that all of them were geotagged and placed in Panoramio.
So I got to spend several hours over three days virtually traveling Route 312, through his and others’ eyes.
It’s difficult to express how it felt to see all of these places that I probably will never visit in person. I’m not just talking about major landmarks, though those are definitely interesting. I’m much more interested in the little places.
The Emperor Of Shun
Surnamed Yao, Shun was the designated throne successor to Emperor Yao, who set great store by Shun’s moral integrity and unusual talent. Shun was also known for his filial piety.
Legend has it that Shun was born in a humble family. Although the family was descended from Emperor Zhuanxu, they were commoners for five generations, living at the lowest social stratum. Shun was frequently mistreated by the family, but he remained filial to his parents. When choosing a successor, Emperor Yao married his two daughters off to Shun in an attempt to test Shun’s morals and capabilities. Shun not only made his two wives live in harmony with the whole family, but also demonstrated exceptional talent and moral integrity in every aspect of life.
After ascending the throne, Shun made revisions to calendar systems and held various sacrificial rituals. Meanwhile, he attached great importance to connections with local authorities by calling in vassals and local officials on a regular basis as a way of strengthening the control over those areas.
According to legend, one of Shun’s state-ruling policies was “exhibiting (to the people) the statutory punishments and enacting banishment as a mitigation of the five (severe) penalties”. The five penalties were depicted on vessels as a warning and cruel penalties were replaced with banishment as a sign of leniency.
For officials, Shun stipulated that their political achievements should be assessed every three years and their promotion or demotion would be determined according to the results of three times’ assessment.
In his old age, Shun abdicated the throne in favor of Yu, who had both ability and integrity. It is said that Shun was buried in Jiuyi Mountain in the south of the Yangtze River after his death. The tomb was known as “Ling Mausoleum
Chinese early Republican Period, Famille Rose enameled porcelain figures of the Three Star Gods, Fu (Good Fortune), Lu (Prosperity), and Shou (Longevity) standing in elaborately embellished robes, Shou with natural hair inserts. Bases with impressed mark. Fu measures: 24.5″h. Lu measures: 27″h. Shou measures: 24″h.
Chinese blue and white dish with foliate rim, Wanl Ref: R12
Chinese blue and white dish with foliate rim, Wanli (1573-1619), decorated with a central star containing swastika motifs, the rim with Daoist emblems; diameter: 8 in., 20.3cm ; condition: rim frits
Compare with Japanese ware
ANTIQUE JAPANESE BUDDHIST MANJI SWASTIKA CERAMIC PLATE
Meiji era to Showa era Japanese buddhism MANJI (swastika) ceramic plate. The swastika is a buddhist symbol that predates the Nazis by a few thousand years, so it has nothing to do with them. It was also seen as a good luck symbol in the west. Did you know t was a swastika painted in the nosecone of the Spirit of St. Louis? The plate measures approx. 5 inches in diameter. Learn more about the swastika : /wiki/Swastika Winning bidders from Italy, Latvia, Russia and China must pay extra for EMS delivery. No exceptions
CONDITION: Excellent. T is a tiny hairline on the rim only. Still beautiful