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Dialogues with Scholars
in TV Serial - Shen Zhou

 


Section I

Bo Yang:

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!

Liang Yancheng:

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.

Section II

Su Xiaokang:

The traffic accident took place in 1993. I woke from a coma of seven days and seven nights to face this reality. My wife Fu Li was then completely in coma, which lasted for about a month. When I woke up from the coma, facing such a tragic accident, I thought of many things. One of them was a dragon. It may sound ridiculous. Before the accident, we had just visited Niagra Fall. I had visited Niagra Fall at Buffalo before, we both had visited it before. This time we went to see it again, and we took a boat to see the bottom of the Fall, under the overwhelming waves of water. When I woke up, I suddenly remembered that while I was on the boat, I suddenly hit upon an idea. I wondered if there was a very deep pond beneath the water and if there was a dragon who came from the east. That scene caused you to think of such a thought. I am after all a Chinese and it is natural for me to have such a horrible fear. I even thought of that Li was a dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Now she came down here on a boat, would it bring her bad luck? When I woke up and found her in coma, I was trying to find a causal explanation for the accident. I was wondering if it was caused by the dragon? Why should it take revenge on Li, my wife? Because I have cursed the dragon in my work "The River Elegy".

Section III

Bo Yang

The absence of faith leads us astray on our journey of life, for human beings are fragile. Everyone is fragile. Everyone lives in doubt. That is the reason why there are so many confusing religions. They demonstrate a need for faith. As in actuality we do not have a faith in God, we feel vulnerable and a need for a great power to be relied on, a need for somebody to take care of us. We copied what we have in our earthly world, earthly politics, into the other world. For examples, those kings, emperors, and tyrants have the ultimate power. People feel the impact of their power, so we call it "burning power". That power can burn you finger if you touch it. With such a great power, one can kill. Not only can he kill ordinary people, he can transform the world, and one can create a god. The Christian God created the human world, but Chinese god was created by political power.

Section IV

Liang Yancheng

In the beginning is the word, the logos. The meaning of Logos is information. The word of God gives birth to the world, and becomes the law of the world. Contemporary quantum physics have made amazing discoveries that the world is composed of orderly information. David Bohm, the great master of quantum physics, proposed that there is a hidden order to our world, which is called "Implicate Order". Inside it are many complicated systems of information. They make up the order we see, the "Explicate Order". Information organizes the observable universe. What is the information, then? Let us turn to the sentence in the Bible, "in the beginning is the word". Logos means information. The word Tao in Chinese also means information and language. The age of Lao Zi amazingly sensed the existence of the information of truth hidden beneath the universe. It was mentioned in Zhuang Zi that Tao had feelings and faithfulness. Many people refused to recognize in the feelings of Tao a personality. I think Tao has a personality. Zhuang Zi clearly said that Tao has faithfulness and certainty. We say that God has feelings and faithfulness. The most special thing about God is his faithfulness, his love, and his feelings. "Tao has feelings and faithfulness". From the context of Zhuang Zi's words, we can tell that the god in Zhuang Zi's mind was one with a personality. This is reasonable as the original Chinese tradition had believed in a God with personality. Originally our ancestors believed in God. We see it clearly in the tradition of the Temple of Heaven that there had been no idolatry in orthodox Chinese religions. The traditional belief that God is formless continued till 1911. There was no idol in the Temple of Heaven, no idol in the Temple of Sacrifice. There is only a board written with the words "Heavenly God". Ancient Chinese believed in a formless God, while Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi continued this traditional belief. So did Confucius. That is why he said "only heaven really knows me". He used the word "heaven". Heaven understood his sufferings, his hardships, and his struggles. So he said "only heaven really knows me". It showed his faith in the ultimate God, a God with feelings. Confucius, Lao Zi, and Zhuang Zi all came form a tradition of a transcendental god.

Yu Yingshi

Chinese regimes were not founded on Confucianism, but established through battles and strife. After the era of East Zhou, during the age of Spring and Autumn and the age of Warring Kingdoms, the country was divided. Then a power gradually emerged. It had great military force and effective organizations, and it was good at combat. It was the state of Qin. It was a frontier state and was considered a barbarian state. Like the state of Chu, it was not the mainstream of Chinese culture. But it conquered all other states and established a different system, which was based on the legalist thought. And it worked. Legalists did not concern themselves with fundamental principles. They offered methods to achieve the political rule of the emperor, whatever he wanted. That system had an emperor who held power from the above, with a bureaucratic system of different levels assisting him, each level responsible to its upper level. That was the ideal state of the Legalists. They did not concern themselves with basic values, nor were they against the values. Basically they put the issue of values aside and pursued only one goal, the stable ruling of the country.

Yuan Zhiming

While I was studying at a theological seminary in Mississippi, I found many amazing similarities between Lao Zi and the Bible. I later spent several years doing research on the issue, and finally completed two books, Lao Zi and Bible, and A New Translation of Lao Zi. In Lao Zi's writing, Tao had many attributes. For example, it exists by itself and for itself, it lasts forever, it cultivates things; it transcends the human wisdom; it is kind and righteous; and it is the redeemer. All the attributes put together, we have somebody that is close to God in the Bible. However, as we Chinese are atheists, we classify the Tao of Lao Zi to deism. Actually the Tao of Lao Zi was not a deity, it had many attributes of a personality. For example, it had faithfulness, it exercised reward and punishment, it had love and grace, it could pardon the sin of human beings, and it could teach and cultivate human beings. So we may conclude that Tao is not a deity, it has feelings and faithfulness. A more important discovery is an amazing saint in the writing of Lao Zi. He was the embodiment of the Tao, he descended from heaven onto earth and brought the light and eternity of the heavenly way to us earthly beings. He knew his own glory but humbled himself, and he knew his innocence but tolerated the sinful beings, so that he became the medium between human beings and the great heavenly way. This saint, though he had treasure inside him, looked humble and low from outside. He would suffer and be humiliated, but he would become the lord and the king, the king of all kings. All those under heaven who turned to him would receive peace and serenity. All these descriptions put together, we have someone who is very much alike to Jesus, who as the Bible records, was the incarnation of Word who came to the human world in the first year of the common age.

Section V

Bo Yang:

Western civilization is Christian civilization. There is a very good fundamental faith in Christian civilization, a faith we Chinese do not have. This faith does not recognize the classification of people and believes that we are all children of the one God. We are called brothers in Lord because we are all equal. This concept of equality is the foundation of faith in Christianity. If one denies that we are brothers and believes that he is the greatest, he is not practicing Christian faith, but a different faith. We do not have the concept of equality in China. Confucianism classified people into different levels. Chinese culture lacks another thing, an ultimate concern. Why do we live? What do we love? Do we love our emperor? No. It was faked. Chinese are not honest. We truly love our parents, our children, and ourselves. Our love cannot transcend blood relations. One's learning and endeavor fail once he goes beyond the kinship It is because we lack an ultimate concern. Why do I live? In the word of the west, it is for whom do I fight? For whom do I live? What is the purpose of my life? For the Christians, it is simple. To glorify God. You may mock at him. But he has his ultimate concern.

Liang Yancheng:

We accepted the western civilization without a knowledge of its complete history. We accept the results of its recent development. The west for us is the west after Enlightenment. The democracy Chinese embraced is not the democracy of John Locke, which is moderate and has a God. In fact, if we studied thoroughly, we would find a close connection between western democracy and God. Actually the first people who proposed democracy were Calvinists, and the first people who overturned dictatorship were Lutherens. It was Religious Reformation that started the practice of democracy. It seems that Chinese do not pay adequate attention to Religious Reformation. Kang Youwei paid a little attention to it and no one followed. We only talk about how atheism and gnosticism brought forth Enlightenment Movement, and we only talk about democracy and science in a spirit of replacing violence with violence. I have a very deep discovery into this matter, as I have come to the west to spend much time on understanding the history of the west. The development of western history cannot be separated from Christianity, and the most successful revolutions in western history, the revolutions that shed least blood, were Christian revolutions. This was mostly due to a spirit of forgiveness.

Section VI

Liang Yancheng:

The so-called strategy of "learning from the west in order to subdue the west" by the advocators of the Self-strengthening movement, was proposed by Wei Yuan, a very discerning person. Yet this saying is a paradox, as it meant to learn from the west first and then to defeat the west. From the beginning it lacked a modest learning mind. How can you constantly think of defeating your teacher while you are learning from your teacher? It is not right. How can you really learn in this way? This conflicting paradox became a common karma in modern Chinese history, a common fate, a common state. One was locked inside and could not escape from it. It may also be a common original sin, a sinful state from which no one can escape. Later developments in China all followed the same path, "learning from the west in order to subdue the west". They learn from the west in order to defeat it.

Zhang Xueliang:

I was not a Christian in the past, I was a military man. Now I am, and can be called a docile Christian. The most important thing for a Christian is to have a real faith in your heart. To believe in God is to entrust in him everything. He will be close to us, if we are close to him. Only when you have faith in him will you get to really know him. God deserves our praises.

Section VII

Bo Yang:

Chinese culture is a political culture, and the content of this political has as its head an emperor, a surrogate god. It is therefore a bureaucratic culture. It is then a culture of flattery, of submission, of slavery. How can human beings create a god? And yet ours is a culture in which god is made by man.

Su Xiaokang:

At least from my own experience, I have a sense of what this animal, or animal with a spirit , a human being is. I began to know a little about why western cultures put so much emphasis on human rights, why they emphasize on the importance of religious beliefs, why they are too permissive towards humanity. Because humanity is such a thing, it has both its good side and bad side. All in all, it is a very fragile, very sensitive, very vulnerable thing.

Yu Yingshi

On what foundation is the regime of such a big country established? It is built on a so called Marxist theology, a secular theology. There is an interpretation of the universe, which is matter; there is an interpretation of history, which is the law of historical development. Now that the two interpretations are controlled by the Communist Party leaders, they can sustain their regime. Under the situation, how can they let other religious ideas to attract people, and to marginalize their own ideology?

Chinese people believed in sciences and scientism. Take the example of the May Fourth generation. They had high sounding pro-science slogans, and believed that religions were superstitions. Among people who held such opinions were many of great intelligence. Cai Yuanpei, for one, proposed to replace religions with aesthetics and arts. This may be the result of a limited understanding of religions, without a knowledge of their more profound meanings regarding human beings. These meanings may have nothing to do with our daily lives, but no matter how advanced the material life is, how advanced the sciences are, life and death are a pass people cannot transcend. Tragedies of various kind in human lives, sufferings of various kinds cannot be overcome with sciences.