Episode One Searching for the Root
O Thou boundless and azure heaven!
O vast Land of God
With boundless glorious feats
that in a flash turn into dust
How many times did the dragon dance
How many times was the sublime hymn sung
How many times did the Great Wall laugh and weep
How many times did the Yellow River live and die
Oh, the crowds upon crowds of people
Oh, the lonely emperor
Where are you standing now
Whereabouts lies your fate
For five thousand years, the Chinese have been calling the land they dwell, Shenzhou, meaning the Land of God.
Approximately two thousand five hundred years ago, just as China had entered into half of her human history, a great change took place, a sea change that was unprecedented in her history.
After that change which lasted for five hundred years or more, the Land of God was no longer what it used to be.
Extended, immense and painful transformations served as the midwife to a group of outstanding individuals: Laozi, Confucius, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Mencius, Han Fei zi, etc.
Chinese civilization, which seemed aged and worn-out, brought forth in a loud cry an age of great philosophical thinkers. It was an unparalleled Golden Age.
The people revered these thinkers and Confucius became venerated as the master, the saint, the most sublime teacher, the teacher of all generations, Confucianism embodied the orthodox teaching of the earlier five thousand years and Confucius personified the virtues of all the ages. He became an idol for worship.
However, this was a great historical misunderstanding, an illusion which was fabricated by posterity for its own self-glorification and self-deception!
The Eras of Spring and Autumn and the Warring States were by no means ideal.They were an age of continuous battles and disintegration of the Chinese people. These were periods of unrestrained revolts and the degeneration of the sons and daughters of the Land of God, an age of great loss and rupture for the orthodox way of the ancestors that had lasted for two thousand five hundred years!
It was none other than Confucius who felt a profound agony and desperation over the hopeless reality.
Once, after the annual ritual of sacrifice to the heavens, Confucius ascended the city tower of Lu Kingdom to view the vast land. Noticing the prevalent poverty, Confucius could not help but utter a loud sigh for the great Tao hidden.
His dejected sentiment lasted till the end of his days: the phoenix will not come any more; he says “I can no longer dream of Duke Zhou; the Tao has disappeared from the world for too long; and my hope of carrying out the Tao is broken.”
Confucius did not stand alone in this view. The whole generation of cultural giants of his time, despite the differences of their philosophical thoughts and political policies, had to face the harsh reality and admit that the great Tao was hidden.
The great Tao remains hidden! This long extended sigh of loss, having passed twenty five hundred years and still lingering today, an age of unabashed indulgence and exploitation, sounds more profound and mysterious today as it disturbs and provokes the people to thought.
History meditates at this moment.
What indeed was the hidden great Tao and the ruptured orthodox way? What enchanting charm did it have to make the prudent masters like Confucius, Laozi and Mozi fret over its loss? Are the achievements made by these cultural inventors of less value and holiness than that which was lost? Could it be said that the legacy the Chinese have treasured for over two thousand was not the best, the truest, and the core of our ancestors?
Oh, the Land of God, the land in constant turmoil and chaos, where is the root that you have lost? Where lies your root, the deep, rich root of life that brings forth peace and stability?
(Caption: Search for the Root)
China, used to be called the Land of God, has turned its back on God for too long.
Anthropologists discovered that in the early ages every nation passed on its story through an oral tradition until the written word was invented. Those ancient and obscure stories were then recorded and became the first historical documents of the people.
The most ancient Chinese documents, The Book of Records and The Book of Odes state that the Chinese are the children of God.
Genetic and archeological researches are inclined to agree on this point that the human race stemmed from one origin and kind, and that we share a common ancestor.
New China News Agency reported on April 28th,1999 that the latest genetic research finds that Chinese were not evolved from the Beijing Man and Yuanmou Ape. All humanity come from a single origin.
Traditionally, the book of Genesis states that in the beginning, God created one man to govern all creatures on earth, and the woman was the bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. This first couple of human was named by Arabians and the American Indians as “Ah Dan” and “Hao Wa”. The early Chinese called them “An Deng” and “Nu Wa”. In Genesis, their names are recorded as “Abam”and “Howwah”.
Qu Yuan, a great Chinese poet, asked in his poem “Questioning the Heaven”: Who made An Deng the governing king? How was Nu Wa’s body created? The Chinese ancestors vaguely attributed many happenings in the natural world and human society to An Deng and Nu Wa.
In Kaifeng of Henan Province there was a stone tablet from the Judaic tradition. On the tablet was carved the names of Ah Dan and Nu Wa and it stated that Ah Dan was no other than“Pan Gu” and that he was the ancestor of Abraham, “Ah wu luo han”, the ancestor of the Jewish people.
More than that, almost all accounts of the early common history of the human race found in the first eleven chapters in Genesis can find some resonance in ancient Chinese folklore.
The Gospel of John states that in the beginning was the word, the word was God, and in Genesis it is recorded that God created the heavens and the earth out of a vacuum. According to Lao Tzu, Tao evolved from nothingness and was the mother of heaven and earth.
Genesis states that on the seventh day, God finished his creation and rested. The Book of Changes also mysteriously records that: the cycle returns after seven days and that is how the heavens run its course.
Genesis records that there are four rivers in Eden and that they flow pearls and onyx. The Chinese Book of Mountains and Seas says: “ There are four rivers under heaven, and “these four waters are the sacred rivers of God, and they harmonize and nourish all living creatures.”
Genesis states that in Eden was a tree of life and knowledge. In the Chinese Book of Mountains and Seas, there is mention of a sacred tree that does not die and that this tree was also called a Tree of Wisdom for eating it makes people wise as a god.
Genesis further recounts how the first humans ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge and were driven away from the Garden of Eden, and the path between God and man was blocked by an angel with a flaming sword. The Book of Records and the Records of Kingdoms both record that human beings committed offenses and that God ordered Chong Li to block the way to heaven, so that the communication between man and God was no longer possible.
The Bible records that human beings flourished on earth and from them came Jabal, the father of those who lived in tents and raised live stock, and Jubal the father of all who played the harp and flute; and Thubal-Cain who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. The Ancient Chinese also note the fathers of these different trades You-Chao, Sui-ren, Fu-xi, and Shen Nong.
There is also mention in the Bible because the world was full of sin, God clensed it with a great flood. The Chinese classic, the Huai Nan Zi, the Lu History, and the Records of Kingdoms all recorded that rebels headed by Gong Gong started a revolt which caused a flood that damaged all the earth. The poles of heaven collapsed, the cables that sustained the earth were broken, and everything drowned.
Genesis records that God gave humanity the rainbow as a sign of God’s promise to never unleash a flood onto earth again. The Ancient Chinese had a myth which tells of Nu Wa melting colored stones to mend the heavenly leak. It is not far fetched to imagine that this was a reference to the arching rainbow in the sky.
Genesis records that the offspring of Noah came to a place called Shinar in the east. There they became proud, so the God confused their language and scattered them all over the earth. This great scattering was called geological archeology “the big float of plates of earth”. Qu Yuan asked in “Questioning the Heaven”: why was the earth divided into nine parts after the great flood?
(Our pious ancestors called the land they dwell upon “Shenzhou”, meaning “the Land of God”. The most ancient languages such as Chinese language, Egyptian language, and Semitic language, all came about at this time.)
This was the age recorded in the Bible as the period when peoples were spread out into their own territories by their own clans, within their own nations, each with its own language. From this point on, Abraham started the history of the Israelites, and the Emperors Yan and Huang started the history of the Chinese. The most ancient languages all came about at this point of history.
The ancient Chinese called the land in which they lived “Shenzhou” meaning the land of God. Oh! As if there was a mysterious ribbon that tied together the old souls of two ancient nations, and as if there were a wind of spirit that spread the story of God’s interaction between God and humanity along the River Jordan and the Yellow River. Oh, the legends that have been told for thousands of years, who would dare to say that you are groundless? Who dare to say that you are merely coincidences? You are the light of heavenly way casting onto the human world--- sometimes clear, sometimes obscure---and just like the moon casts itself in all rivers, every piece of you bears witness to the truth of old times.
(Caption: Search for the Root)
God’s universal revelations and the memory of the Chinese ancestors for holy things were further embodied in mysterious signs carved on the oracle bones. Legends have it that Chang Jie, the official historian to King Huang, invented Chinese characters with the principles of the ideograph, of suggestion, and of signification. Each character either looked like a picture, or told a story or a fable. For example, all characters that contained the same radical “shi”, related to the altar which was then used to offer sacrifices. Some characters, which are hard to categorize within the Six Books--- a book specifically devoted to the etymology of Chinese---, can easily be explained with historical records from Bible.
According to the Bible, Eve was tempted under the tree of life and tree of life and tree of wisdom by the Serpent. Eve seeing that the fruit of the tree of wisdom was pleasing to the eye, and could give one wisdom, became greedy, so she picked the fruit and ate it. The early Chinese ancestors may have remembered the story, so they created the word “lan”, meaning greed, signaling a woman standing under two trees to choose a fruit. The word is at once an ideograph, a story, and sign.
The character “jing”, meaning “to forbid” may recall God’s instruction to Adam: Thou shall not eat the fruit from the tree of wisdom, and the day you eat it you will die. Hence the name “forbidden fruit”.
The word “dan”, which means lonely, is indicated by two persons leaving the field. How similar it is to the situation when Adam and Eve were driven from Garden of Eden and the connections between man and God was severed. What a profound loneliness!
The word “Chuan”, meaning a boat, is made up with the radical “zhou”, meaning a boat, and “eight mouths”, signifying eight people. The ancestors obviously remembered the Great Flood which drowned the whole earth, and how Noah, observing the instruction of God, led his family of eight persons to live in the Arc and thus ensured the survival of the human race.
“yi”, meaning righteousness. The word signifies righteousness by showing I hold up a lamb for sacrifice and the lamb covers me. This is exactly the essential meaning of the whole Bible. Using a lamb for sacrifice started with Noah and his offspring after the Great Flood.
These characters are all ideographs, and they also tell stories and give suggestions.
(Scholar on oracle bones: author of The Enigma Confucius Fail to Solve and God’s Promise to Chinese.)
There are quite a few Chinese characters like these which could not be explained unless with the inspiration of heaven. No wonder legends have it that by inventing Chinese characters, Chang Jie betrayed the secrets of heaven. The whole universe was disturbed to a degree that rice fell from sky and the ghosts cried in the night.
Given the fact that the human race developed from the same ancestor and that are Noah’s scattered descendants, it is not strange for a nation like China, which has a long tradition, to carry the revelations of God and memories of the sacred in its ancient legends and other elements of its civilization.
According to historical legends, King Yan and King Huang were all descendants from Shao Dian who was a descendant from An Deng and Nu Wa, while An Deng and Nu Wa were created by God.
After the defeat of Chi You the cannibal, King Huang replaced King Yan to rule China. Throughout his life, he expanded the frontier, built roads, and whenever he came to a new place, he built an altar to worship God. This was called “feng chan”, offering sacrifice. According to Confucius, King Huang used to write a book San Fen, which was exclusively devoted to the discussion of the heavenly Tao. Unfortunately it was lost in later ages.
King Yao was the fifth generation descendant from King Huang. Confucius used to praise him, “ How great and noble is King Yao! He respected heaven and observed the heavenly Tao! The brightness and breadth of his character are beyond description!”
King Yao did not pass his throne to his son but to King Shun; King Shun did not give it to his son, and gave it to King Yu; King Yu did not pass it to his son but to Bo Yi. In history, this was called “chan rang”, succession by virtue.
The people of later ages who lived in a world full of conspiracies and political struggles could not understand this historical phenomenon. Some called it stupidity, some named it virtuous, and some even termed it “ a system of military democracy”. Let us give it a clear examination based on information which comes directly from The Book of Records and The Book of History.
King Yao feared God and dared not to pass on his throne to his son Dan Zhu, who was arrogant and contentious. When he discovered a virtuous man in Shun, the son of a blind man, he gladly said, “How wonderful, son, the mission of God is now on your shoulder!” Yao then recommended Shun to God and married his daughter to him, while he himself withdrew to the countryside to observe the will of God. Twenty eight years later, Yao passed away. Shun intended to give the throne to Dan Zhu, the son of Yao. Seeing that people did not agree with his will, Shun took the throne with a sigh “this is indeed the will of heaven”. He immediately offered sacrifice to God. During his reign, he once gathered his ministers to discuss state policies, out of the confusions and disputes, only Yu advised: “My king! You should be prudent and careful with your ruling. You should know how to keep peace, know when to stop, and wait for the distinct will from God with a pure and quiet heart! If you act in this way, God will ceaselessly bless you with happiness!” On hearing his words, Shun shouted, “ How wonderful! My minister! You are my eyes, ears and four members!” Music was played at the court and the God of the ancestors descended among them. Phoenixes came to dance and all officials cheered. Facing God, Shun gratefully sang: “Ordered by God to govern the people, I can do nothing but be obedient and pious! Pious I shall remain forever!” And then he recommended Yu to God.
Liang Yancheng Interview
The foundation for succession of the throne by virtue was that the ruler was not a dictator. He had reason. He had morals. He was willing to transfer the power to his inferior. Why was he willing to do that? Because he had a great humility, which meant he knew there was a transcendental god. King Yao had a great belief in God. Originally he intended to pass the throne onto his son Dan Zhu. When he found that Dan Zhu was an imprudent person and Shun a virtuous person, he decided to offer the throne to Shun. Shun believed in God. We may find proof of this from Shangshu and from the words from Confucius. Yao revered heaven as the greatest authority, he took heaven to be the greatest authority, that is, he took the transcendental God as the greatest authority. “Only Yao followed the divine rules.” He acted according to the rules of God. Yao believed in God, so he passed the throne to Shun. Shun also believed in God, so he passed the throne to Yu. Yu told Sun, “You are a person who believes in God with his whole heart and who always waits for the will of God. Consequently, God always bestows you with blessings.” Upon hearing Yu’s words, Shun sighed, “Alas! You see, the God of our ancestors has descended on the earth, the phoenix has come, and all the animals have started dancing.” He also said, “Following the order of God to govern the people, one should only be obedient and pious. One must be pious forever.” He then offered the throne to Yu out of reverence for God.
It could not be more obvious: the real reason behind chan rang was the ancestors’ fear and awe of God. The Chinese classic Zuo Zhuan summed up the Tao of ancient Chinese as “devoted to the people and believe in God”. If not for “the belief in God”, what force could keep those despotic and powerful earthly kings to be “devoted to the people”?
No wonder when Wan Zhang asked Mencius if there was such a thing that Yao gave the kingdom to Shun, Mencius answered that there was not such a thing. Yao had no right to give the kingdom to Shun. It was God who gave it to Shun.
Starting from King Huang, through Yao, Shun, Yu to dynasties Xia, Shang and Zhou, during that twenty five hundred years, piety is the main theme that was played in the Land of God. The ancestors believed firmly in the indisputable blood connections between the Chinese people and God. God is the God of King Yan and King Huang; he is the God of Yao, Shun, and Yu; he is the God of Xia, Shang, and Zhou. In the pristine and pure eyes of our ancestors, God was not very distant. Everything in the universe and every life was the result of the miraculous work of God and was full of the grace of God. The ancestors said that “everyone is a child of God” and “God gives birth to human beings, and he gives them every thing and every principle.”
Oh, Chinese people, you children who hold high the principle of filial piety, do you know that your ancestors used to obey God piously with honest hearts?
This was the age that was admired by Confucius throughout his life, an age when “the Tao was followed and all people served the public interest”. This was the ancient Land of God where people believed in God, feared heaven, obeyed the Tao, and worshipped God. Despite the continuous sinful deeds in the human world, despite the cruel and vicious Jie and Zhou, our ancestors held firm their belief, which is: the justice of God will prevail, nothing could escape the sight of God, and that sinners will receive their punishment. This belief is the moral power of promoting good and discarding the wrong. It is the corner-stone of an ideal universal society. It is the dream of Confucius.
When Cheng Tang led his people to attack Xia Jie, he declared: it is not that I dare to revolt, but that I fear the anger of God and dare not to disobey his will!
Wu Wang of Zhou prayed twice to God before he led his army on an expedition against Zhou of Shang. When in the end he triumphantly entered the capital, facing the cheering crowds, he only said one thing: may God bless you!
The Duke of Zhou, for whom Confucius held the highest admiration, was assisting the young king Cheng Wang to govern the state. Time and again he advised: Oh, be respectful to God. The heavenly God is to be feared and not to be deceived. Officials and ordinary people should not act recklessly. Come, you ministers, let us kneel down and bow!
In China, which has also been called “the country of rites and rituals”, the most important ritual is sacrifice. In the Book of Rites, forty nine long chapters are devoted to the description of various rituals of offering sacrifices to the God, such as the field sacrifice, royal sacrifice, burning sacrifice, etc. It also recorded the sacredness and solemnity of sacrifices and detailed the procedures. As a people with a rich tradition in offering sacrifice, they may be a worthy match to the Jewish people recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. It is not surprising that Hu Shih should think that Chinese culture was deeply under the influence of the doctrines of making sacrifice to heaven.
Once Confucius’ disciple Zi Gong wanted to withdraw the sheep on the altar. Confucius said to him, “you treasure the sheep of sacrifice, but I treasure the ritual of sacrifice. And yet what God likes is neither the sacrifice nor the ritual but the honest heart of the one who offers the sacrifice.” Naturally, a pious heart that worships God can bring about more self-examination and morality than all kinds of laws and suffering deeds, and it has more freedom, peace, and serenity that are beyond words.
A pious life is full of prayers and a pious age is full of singing. Our ancestors sang: Great and glorious God, your magnificent and powerful presence come; Infinite God, you feed all the nations under heaven.
Bo Yang Interview
I don’t think there is anyone who can claim that he has no religious feelings, and who confidently believes that he exists independent of the great nature. Call it God, or call it heaven. The difference lies only in the names. The content is the same.. “When you suffer from sorrow, you call out to your parents; when you suffer from poverty, you call out to heaven.” Alas, heaven! That’s it. He feels that he is so helpless. When he is desperate, he hopes that there is justice, there is righteousness. That is heaven. That is what we imagine to be heaven!
In the Book of Odes, the name Hao Tian, meaning heaven, and Shang di, meaning God, were called as many as four hundred and twenty one times. Confucius commented, a single sentence to characterize the three hundred poems in the Book of Odes is that “they all shared a righteous mind.” Is not a pious belief in God the best explanation to “a righteous mind”?
With the period of Spring and Autumn which lasted over five hundred years, the Land of God utterly changed. There were no more prayers and hymns, no more simplicity and purity. Debauchery and lawlessness were everywhere, blood and killings were everywhere, deceptions and senseless debates were everywhere. The Madman of Kingdom Chu cried out to Confucius: Oh, phoenix, phoenix, have you seen it? How has the morality been corrupted? And Confucius could only give a sigh: the phoenix will no longer come. The age when the phoenix comes to dance is gone forever.
Is it really so? Is it not that at the threshold of the twenty-first century, China, you are about to take flight again? But that which is going to soar up in the Orient, would it be a malicious huge dragon or an auspicious phoenix?
Oh, the Land of God! You must return to the root of life that is deep, rich and profound, if you do not want to have turmoil upon turmoil time and again, and if you do not want to be drowned in tears. Your root of life did not lie in the Spring and Autumn era but rather that it traced back a further twenty five hundred years. In that time lies the dream of Confucius, the smiles of the ancestors, and the fountainhead of your blood. There lies the songs of the phoenix, which descended from the heaven. The songs have lasted till today, only you cannot hear them.