30 October 2010

Headcoverings in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

The Christian headcovering is a veiling worn by various Christian women from a variety of traditions. Some cover only in church or while praying; others cover their heads all the time. They refer to 1 Corinthians 11, or to custom, as the basis for their practice. Many contemporary Christians, however, see no need for this practice.

Genesis 20:16, Genesis 24:65, Numbers 5:18 and Isaiah 47:2 are references in the Old Testament referring to a headcovering for women. 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 contains the only reference in the New Testament referring to a headcovering for women and to an absence of a headcovering for men. Various early Church Fathers, such as Hermas, Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustine of Hippo and Tertullian also mentioned women's headcoverings. Early Christian art shows women wearing headcoverings.

During the ensuing centuries, women definitely wore the head coverings during the church service, especially when praying or prophesying (1Corinthians 11:5). At different points in history, the style of the covering varied.

The requirement that women cover their heads in church is a universal law for the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church with canon 1262 of its first Code of Canon Law in 1917.

Among the early Protestant reformers, Martin Luther's wife, Katherine, wore a headcovering and John Knox and John Calvin both called for women to wear headcoverings. Other commentators who have advocated headcovering include Matthew Henry, A. R. Fausset, A. T. Robertson, Harry A. Ironside, and Charles Caldwell Ryrie.

Headcovering, at least during worship services, is still promoted or required in a few denominations and among the more traditional Orthodox and Catholics. Some Anabaptist denominations, including the Amish, some Mennonites, the Old German Baptist Brethren, the Hutterites, and the Apostolic Christian Church; some Pentecostal churches, such as the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, The Pentecostal Mission, and the Christian Congregation in the United States; the Plymouth Brethren; and the more conservative Dutch Reformed churches.

Those espousing the practice of headcovering have used Apostle Paul's appeal to universal principles in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 to argue that since the passage mentions “every man” and “every woman,” as well as the universal order of creation, this passage must apply to all Christians in all ages and of all cultures. Also, some Christians wear head coverings because Sarah (Abraham's wife) Genesis 20:16 and Rebekah (Isaac's wife) Genesis 24:65 wore head coverings. They hold that the Bible is not merely referring to hair, long hair, or submission, but rather a literal cloth headcovering. They support this understanding from the original Greek, which uses two different words: one meaning covering, referring to the woman's head, i.e., her husband, and the other meaning veiling, referring to a literal cloth covering. 1 Corinthians 11:6 is also cited to refute the notion that the headcovering intended by Paul is merely long hair, ("For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.") because it would be akin to saying "If a woman has short hair, let her hair be cut short."

The word "hijab" or "ḥijāb" (Arabic: حجاب, (he-zjab)pronounced [ħiˈʒæːb] / [ħiˈɡæːb]) refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general.

The Arabic word literally means curtain or cover (noun). Most Islamic legal systems define this type of modest dressing as covering everything except the face and hands in public. According to Islamic scholarship, hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality; the word for a headscarf or veil used in the Qur'an is khimār (خمار) and not hijab. Still another definition is metaphysical, where al-hijab refers to "the veil which separates man or the world from God."

21 October 2010

FengHuang, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the Chinese Phoenix

The phoenix (Ancient Greek: Φοῖνιξ, phoínix, Persian: ققنوس, Arabic: العنقاء) is a mythical sacred firebird that can be found in the mythologies of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, and (according to Sanchuniathon) Phoenicians.

The phoenix originated in ancient times and has gone through a variety of representations in art/literature. Typically, it is considered benevolent, but some tales suggest that humans are not always safe around it. Further, many tales share elements with those of the phoenix.

Flavius Philostratus (c. AD 170), who wrote the biography Life of Apollonius of Tyana, refers to the phoenix as a bird living in India, but sometimes migrating to Egypt every five hundred years. His account is clearly inspired by Garuda, the bird of the Hindu god Vishnu. He considered the bird as an emanation of sunlight, being in appearance and size much like an eagle. His contemporary Lactantius is probably the author who wrote the longest poem on the famous bird. Although descriptions (and life-span) vary, the Egyptian phoenix (Bennu bird) became popular in early Catholic art, literature and Catholic symbolism, as a symbol of Christ representing his resurrection, immortality, and life-after-death. One of the Early Catholic Church Fathers, Clement, related the following regarding the Phoenix in chapter 25 of the First Epistle of Clement:
Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.
Michael W. Holmes points out that early Christian writers justified their use of this myth because the word appears in Psalm 92:12 [LXX Psalm 91:13], but in that passage it actually refers to a palm tree, not a mythological bird. However, it was the flourishing of Christian Hebraist interpretations of Job 29:18 that brought the Joban phoenix to life for Christian readers of the seventeenth century. At the heart of these interpretations is the proliferation of richly complementary meanings that turn upon three translations of the word chol (חול) — as phoenix, palm tree, or sand — in Job 29:18.

In critical editions of English translations of I Clement, it is also noted that the story of the phoenix, with variations, is also found in Herodotus (ii. 73), Pliny (Nat. Hist. x.2), and used as above by Tertullian (De Resurrectione Carnis, §13) and other Church Fathers.

Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.

The Greeks subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle and identified it with their own word phoenix (Φοίνιξ), meaning the color purple-red or crimson (cf. Phoenicia) or a palm tree. According to the Greek mythology the phoenix lived in Phoenicia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Helios stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song. Featured in the painting Heracles Strangles Snakes (House of the Vettii, Pompeii Italy) as Zeus, the king of the gods. Herodotus spoke about the unique capabity of the bird to be consumed in the flames and be reborn from the ashes.

Fenghuang are mythological birds of East Asia that reign over all other birds. The males are called Feng and the females Huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and the Feng and Huang are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which has male connotations.

The Fenghuang is also called the "August Rooster" (traditional Chinese: 鶤雞; pinyin: kūnjī) since it sometimes takes the place of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac. In the West, it is commonly referred to as the Chinese phoenix or simply Phoenix. Fenghuang Ancient City is an ancient community in Hunan Province.

A common depiction was of it attacking snakes with its talons and its wings spread. According to scripture Erya - chapter 17 Shiniao, Fenghuang is said to be made up of the beak of a rooster, the face of a swallow, the forehead of a fowl, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, the hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish.[1] Today, however, it is often described as a composite of many birds including the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow.

Its body symbolizes the six celestial bodies. The head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail is the planets. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, blue and yellow. It is also sometimes depicted as having three legs.

Chinese traditions cites it as living atop the Kunlun Mountains in northern China.

Images of an ancient bird have appeared in China for over 4,000 years, the earliest as Shang Dynasty pottery motifs, then appearing decorating bronzes, as well as jade figurines (many consider the most beautiful from the Liao Period). Some believe they may have been a good-luck totem, believing that it is a totem of eastern tribes in ancient China. Current theories suggest that it is likely based in part - for example the snake-like neck - on folk memory of the Asian Ostrich which was common in prehistoric China but became extinct several thousand years ago. That this bird was well-known to the early modern humans in Asia, noted for its peculiarity, and hunted for food, is attested by numerous archaeological finds, such as pottery decorated with what appear to be painted ostriches, and bones by early campsites.

Fenghuang seems to have no connection with the phoenix of the Western world, which derives from Egyptian mythology. Peculiarly, the Egyptian phoenix may also in part reference a prehistoric bird, the Bennu Heron. Unlike the Fenghuang, which is a chimera not very much like any one extant bird, the Egyptian phoenix is most often considered similar to a heron or eagle.
During the Han Dynasty (2,200 years ago) two phoenixes, one a male (feng, 鳳) and the other a female (huang, 凰) were often shown together facing one other. Later, during the Yuan Dynasty the two terms were merged to become the generally translated "phoenix", but the "King of Birds" came to symbolize the Empress when paired with a dragon as a dragon represented the Emperor. From the period of the Jiajing Emperor (1522–66) on, a pair of phoenixes was differentiated by the tail feathers of the two birds (typically together forming a closed circle pattern—the male identified by five serrated tail feathers (five being an odd, or yang number) and the female by what appears to be one, but is in fact, two (two being an even, or yin number) curling or tendrilled tail feathers. It was also in the Ming Dynasty that phoenixes first began to appear with combs, hence comb-less phoenixes are pre-Ming, and phoenixes depicted with combs, Ming or post-Ming.

Also during this period, the feng huang was used as a symbol representing the direction south. This was portrayed through a male and female facing each other. Their feathers were of the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow. These colors are said to represent the Confucian virtues of: loyalty, honesty, decorum, and justice.

The phoenix represented power sent from the heavens to the Empress. If a phoenix was used to decorate a house it symbolized that loyalty and honesty were in the people that lived there. Or alternatively, phoenix only stays when the ruler is without darkness and corruption (政治清明).

The Fenghuang has very positive connotations. It is a symbol of high virtue and grace. The Fenghuang also symbolizes the union of yin and yang. Shan Hai Jing - chapter 1 Nanshan jing records each part of Fenghuang's body symbolizes a word, the head represents virtue (德), the wing represents duty (義), the back represents propriety (禮), the abdomen says belief (信) and the chest represents mercy (仁).

In ancient and modern Chinese culture, they can often be found in the decorations for weddings or royalty, along with dragons. This is because the Chinese considered the dragon and phoenix symbolic of blissful relations between husband and wife, another common yin and yang metaphor.
In some traditions it appears in good times but hides during times of trouble, while in other traditions it appeared only to mark the beginning of a new era. In China and Japan it was a symbol of the imperial house, and it represented "fire, the sun, justice, obedience, and fidelity".

The Vermilion bird is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. According to Wu Xing, the Taoist five-elemental system, it represents the fire-element, the direction south, and the season summer correspondingly. Thus it is sometimes called the Vermilion bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què) and it is also known as Suzaku in Japan, Jujak in Korea and Chu Tước in Vietnam. It is often mistaken for the Fenghuang due to similarities in appearance, but the two are different creatures. The Fenghuang (Similar to the phoenix in western mythologies) are legendary ruler of birds associated with the Chinese Empress in the same way the dragon is associated with the Emperor, while the Vermilion Bird is a mythological spirit creature of the Chinese constellations.

Like the other Four Symbols, the Vermilion Bird corresponds to seven "mansions", or positions, of the moon.
  • Well (Chinese: 井; pinyin: Jǐng)
  • Ghost (Chinese: 鬼; pinyin: Guǐ)
  • Willow (Chinese: 柳; pinyin: Liǔ)
  • Star (Chinese: 星; pinyin: Xīng)
  • Extended Net (Chinese: 張; pinyin: Zhāng)
  • Wings (Chinese: 翼; pinyin: Yì)
  • Chariot (Chinese: 軫; pinyin: Zhěn)
The Vermilion bird is an elegant and noble bird in both appearance and behavior, it is very selective in what it eats and where it perches, with its feathers in many different hues of reddish orange.

20 October 2010

Lóng, the Chinese Dragon

Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore, with mythic counterparts among Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, Western and Turkic dragons. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs. In yin and yang terminology, a dragon is yang (male) and complements a yin (female) fenghuang "Chinese phoenix".

In contrast to European dragons that are considered evil, Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck.

In Chinese culture today, it is mostly used for decorative purposes. It is a taboo to disfigure a depiction of a dragon; for example, an advertisement campaign commissioned by Nike, which featured the American basketball player LeBron James slaying a dragon (as well as beating up an old Kung Fu master), was immediately banned by the Chinese government after public outcry over disrespect.

In Chinese daily language, excellent and outstanding people are compared to the dragon while incapable people with no achievements are compared with other, disesteemed creatures, such as the worm. A number of Chinese proverbs and idioms feature references to the dragon, for example: "Hoping one's son will become a dragon" (望子成龍, i.e. be as a dragon).

Historically, the dragon was the symbol of the Emperor of China. In the Zhou Dynasty, the 5-clawed dragon was assigned to the Son of Heaven, the 4-clawed dragon to the Zhuhou (seigneur), and the 3-clawed dragon to the Daifu. In the Qing Dynasty, the 5-clawed dragon was assigned to represent the Emperor while the 4-clawed and 3-clawed dragons were assigned to the commoners. The dragon in the Qing Dynasty appeared on national flags.

The dragon is sometimes used in the West as a national emblem of China. However, this usage within both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan as the symbol of nation is not common. Instead, it is generally used as the symbol of culture. In Hong Kong, the dragon is part of the design of Brand Hong Kong, a symbol used to promote Hong Kong as an international brand name.

In European-influenced cultures, the dragon has aggressive, warlike connotations and it is conjectured that the Chinese government wishes to avoid using it as a symbol, but most Chinese disagree with this decision. Westerners only sometimes confuse the disposition of the benevolent Chinese dragon with the aggressive Western dragon.

Many Chinese people often use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" (simplified Chinese: 龙的传人; traditional Chinese: 龍的傳人; pinyin: lóng de chuán rén) as a sign of ethnic identity, as part of a trend started in the 1970s when different Asian nationalities were looking for animal symbols for representations. The wolf was used among the Mongols, the monkey among Tibetans.

While depictions of the dragon in art and literature is largely consistent throughout the cultures in which it is found, there are some regional differences. The remainder of this article deals with aspects common across cultures, as well as features peculiar to cultural China.

The origin of Chinese dragon is not certain, but some scholars believe that it originated from totems of different tribes in China. Some have suggested that it comes from a stylized depiction of existing animals, such as snakes, fish, or crocodiles. For example, the Banpo site of the Yangshao culture in Shaanxi featured an elongated, snake-like fish motif. The theory of snakes or fish as the origin of the Chinese dragon is not widely accepted.

An alternative view, advocated by He Xin, is that the early dragon depicted a species of crocodile, specifically, Crocodylus porosus, the saltwater crocodile, which is the largest living reptile, and once ranged into China during ancient times. The crocodile is known to be able to accurately sense changes in air pressure, and be able to sense coming rain. This may have been the origin of the dragon's mythical attributes in controlling the weather, especially the rain. The association with the crocodile is also supported by the view in ancient times that large crocodiles are a variety of dragon. For example, in the Story of Zhou Chu, about the life of a Jin Dynasty warrior, he is said to have killed a "dragon" that infested the waters of his home village, which appears to have been a crocodile.

Others have proposed that its shape is the merger of totems of various tribes as the result of the merger of tribes. The coiled snake or dragon form played an important role in early Chinese culture. Legendary figures like Nüwa (女媧) and Fuxi (伏羲) are depicted as having snake bodies. Some scholars have noted that a myth arose that the first legendary Emperor of China Huang Di (黃帝,Yellow Emperor) used a snake for his coat of arms. According to the myth, every time he conquered another tribe, he incorporated his defeated enemy's emblem into his own, thus explains why the dragon appears to have features of various animals.

Jade badges of rank in coiled form have been dated to the Hongshan culture.

From its origins as totems or the stylized depiction of natural creatures, the Chinese dragon evolved to become a mythical animal. The Han Dynasty scholar Wang Fu recorded Chinese myths that long dragons had nine anatomical resemblances.

The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as 'three joints' and 'nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit: from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following: his horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam (shen, 蜃), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called [chimu] (尺木). If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky.

Further sources give variant lists of the nine animal resemblances. Sinologist Henri Doré lists these characteristics of an authentic dragon: "The horns of a deer. The head of a camel. A demon's eyes. The neck of a snake. A tortoise's viscera. A hawk's claws. The palms of a tiger. A cow's ears. And it hears through its horns, its ears being deprived of all power of hearing."[7] He notes that, "Others state it has a rabbit's eyes, a frog's belly, a carp's scales." The anatomy of other legendary creatures, including the chimera and manticore, is similarly amalgamated from fierce animals.

Chinese dragons were considered to be physically concise. Of the 117 scales, 81 are of the yang essence (positive) while 36 are of the yin essence (negative). Initially, the dragon was benevolent but the Buddhists introduced the concept of malevolent influence among some dragons. Just as water destroys, they said, so can some dragons destroy via floods, tidal waves and storms. They suggested that some of the worst floods were believed to have been the result of a mortal upsetting a dragon.

Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity.

Chinese dragons are occasionally depicted with bat-like wings growing out of the front limbs, but most do not have wings, as their ability to fly (and control rain/water, etc.) are mystical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes.

This description accords with the artistic depictions of the dragon down to the present day. The dragon has also acquired an almost unlimited range of supernatural powers. It is said to be able to disguise itself as a silkworm, or become as large as our entire universe. It can fly among the clouds or hide in water (according to the Guanzi). It can form clouds, can turn into water, can change color as an ability to blend in with their surroundings, as an effective form of camouflage or glow in the dark (according to the Shuowen Jiezi).

In Singapore and many other countries, folktales speak of the dragon having all the attributes of the other 11 creatures of the zodiac, this includes the whiskers of the rat, the face and horns of an ox, claws and teeth of a tiger, belly of a rabbit, body of a snake, legs of a horse, the beard of a goat, wit(or brain) of a monkey, crest of a rooster, ears of a dog, the snout of a pig.

In some circles, it is considered bad luck to depict a dragon facing downwards, as it is seen as disrespectful to place a dragon in such manner that it cannot ascend to the sky. Also, depictions of dragons in tattoos are prevailent as they are symbols of strength and power, especially criminal organisations where dragons hold a meaning all on their own. As such, it is believed that one must be fierce and strong enough, hence earning the right to wear the dragon on his skin, lest his luck be consumed by the dragon.

Chinese dragons are strongly associated with water in popular belief. They are believed to be the rulers of moving bodies of water, such as waterfalls, rivers, or seas. They can show themselves as water spouts (tornado or twister over water). In this capacity as the rulers of water and weather, the dragon is more anthropomorphic in form, often depicted as a humanoid, dressed in a king's costume, but with a dragon head wearing a king's headdress.

There are four major Dragon Kings, representing each of the four seas: the East Sea (corresponding to the East China Sea), the South Sea (corresponding to the South China Sea), the West Sea (sometimes seen as the Indian Ocean and beyond), and the North Sea (sometimes seen as Lake Baikal).

Because of this association, they are seen as "in charge" of water-related weather phenomenon. In premodern times, many Chinese villages (especially those close to rivers and seas) had temples dedicated to their local "dragon king". In times of drought or flooding, it was customary for the local gentry and government officials to lead the community in offering sacrifices and conducting other religious rites to appease the dragon, either to ask for rain or a cessation thereof.

The King of Wu-Yue in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period was often known as the "Dragon King" or the "Sea Dragon King" because of his extensive hydro-engineering schemes which "tamed" the sea.

According to Chinese legend, both Chinese primogenitors, the earliest Emperors Yan Di and Huang Di were closely related to 'Long' (Chinese Dragon). At the end of his reign, the first legendary Emperor, Huang Di, was said to have been immortalized into a dragon that resembled his emblem, and ascended to Heaven. The other legendary Emperor, Huang Di's brother, Yan Di was born by his mother's telepathy with a mythic dragon. Since the Chinese consider Huang Di and Yan Di as their ancestors, they sometimes refer to themselves as "the descendants of the dragon". This legend also contributed towards the use of the Chinese dragon as a symbol of imperial power.

The dragon, especially yellow or golden dragons with five claws on each foot, was a symbol for the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. The imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. During the late Qing Dynasty, the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. The dragon is featured in the carvings on the steps of imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In some Chinese legends, an Emperor might be born with a birthmark in the shape of a dragon. For example, one legend tells the tale of a peasant born with a dragon birthmark who eventually overthrows the existing dynasty and founds a new one; another legend might tell of the prince in hiding from his enemies who is identified by his dragon birthmark.

In contrast, the Empress of China was often identified with the Fenghuang.

In modern times, belief in the dragon appears to be sporadic at best. There appear to be very few who would see the dragon as a literally real creature. The worship of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and weather continues in many areas, and is deeply ingrained in Chinese cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year celebrations. Dragon kites are also used in these celebrations.

Dragons or dragon-like depictions have been found extensively in neolithic-period archaeological sites throughout China. The earliest depiction of dragons was found at Xinglongwa culture sites. Yangshao culture sites in Xi'an have produced clay pots with dragon motifs. The Liangzhu culture also produced dragon-like patterns. The Hongshan culture sites in present-day Inner Mongolia produced jade dragon amulets in the form of pig dragons.

One such early form was the pig dragon. It is a coiled, elongated creature with a head resembling a boar. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese writing has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang period.

Chinese literature and myths refer to many dragons besides the famous long. The linguist Michael Carr analyzed over 100 ancient dragon names attested in Chinese classic texts.[9] Many such Chinese names derive from the suffix -long:

  • Tianlong (Chinese: 天龍; pinyin: tiānlóng; Wade–Giles: t'ien-lung; literally "heavenly dragon"), celestial dragon that guards heavenly palaces and pulls divine chariots; also a name for Draco (constellation)
  • Shenlong (Chinese: 神龍; pinyin: shénlóng; Wade–Giles: shen-lung; literally "god dragon"), thunder god that controls the weather, appearance of a human head, dragon's body, and drum-like stomach
  • Fucanglong (Chinese: 伏藏龍; pinyin: fúcánglóng; Wade–Giles: fu-ts'ang-lung; literally "hidden treasure dragon"), underworld guardian of precious metals and jewels, associated with volcanoes
  • Dilong (Chinese: 地龍; pinyin: dìlóng; Wade–Giles: ti-lung; literally "earth dragon"), controller of rivers and seas; also a name for earthworm
  • Yinglong (Chinese: 應龍; pinyin: yìnglóng; Wade–Giles: ying-lung; literally "responding dragon"), winged dragon associated with rains and floods, used by Huangdi to kill Chi You
  • Jiaolong (Chinese: 蛟龍; pinyin: jiāolóng; Wade–Giles: chiao-lung; literally "crocodile dragon"), hornless or scaled dragon, leader of all aquatic animals
  • Panlong (Chinese: 蟠龍; pinyin: pánlóng; Wade–Giles: p'an-lung; literally "coiled dragon"), lake dragon that has not ascended to heaven
  • Huanglong (Chinese: 黃龍; pinyin: huánglóng; Wade–Giles: huang-lung; literally "yellow dragon"), hornless dragon symbolizing the emperor
  • Feilong (Chinese: 飛龍; pinyin: fēilóng; Wade–Giles: fei-lung; literally "flying dragon"), winged dragon that rides on clouds and mist; also a name for pterosaur (compare Feilong kick and Fei Long character)
  • Qinglong (Chinese: 青龍; pinyin: qīnglóng; Wade–Giles: ch'ing-lung; literally "Azure Dragon"), the animal associated with the East in the Chinese Four Symbols, mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations
  • Qiulong (Chinese: 虯龍; pinyin: qíulóng; Wade–Giles: ch'iu-lung; literally "curling dragon"), contradictorily defined as both "horned dragon" and "hornless dragon"
  • Chilong (Chinese: 螭龍; pinyin: chīlóng; Wade–Giles: ch'ih-lung; literally "demon dragon"), a hornless dragon or mountain demon
  • Fewer Chinese dragon names derive from the prefix long-:
  • Longwang (Chinese: 龍王; pinyin: lóngwáng; Wade–Giles: lung-wang; literally "Dragon Kings") divine rulers of the Four Seas
  • Longma (Chinese: 龍馬; pinyin: lóngmǎ; Wade–Giles: lung-ma; literally "dragon horse"), emerged from the Luo River and revealed Bagua (concept) to Fu Xi
  • Some additional Chinese dragons are not named with long 龍, for instance,
  • Hong (Chinese: 虹; pinyin: hóng; Wade–Giles: hung; literally "rainbow"), a two-headed dragon or rainbow serpent
  • Shen (Chinese: 蜃; pinyin: shèn; Wade–Giles: shen; literally "giant clam"), a shapeshifting dragon or sea monster believed to create mirages
  • Bashe (Chinese: 巴蛇; pinyin: bāshé; Wade–Giles: pa-she; literally "ba snake") was a giant python-like dragon that ate elephants
  • Teng (simplified Chinese: 螣; traditional Chinese: 螣; pinyin: téng; Wade–Giles: t'eng) or Tengshe (simplified Chinese: 腾蛇; traditional Chinese: 騰蛇; pinyin: téngshé; Wade–Giles: t'eng-she; lit. "soaring snake") is a flying dragon without legs
Chinese scholars have classified dragons in diverse systems. For instance, Emperor Huizong of Song canonized five colored dragons as "kings".
  • The Azure Dragon [Qinglong 青龍] spirits, most compassionate kings.
  • The Vermillion Dragon [Zhulong 朱龍] spirits, kings that bestow blessings on lakes.
  • The Yellow Dragon [Huanglong 黃龍] spirits, kings that favorably hear all petitions.
  • The White Dragon [Bailong 白龍] spirits, virtuous and pure kings.
  • The Black Dragon [Xuanlong 玄龍] spirits, kings dwelling in the depths of the mystic waters.
With the addition of the Yellow Dragon of the Center to Azure Dragon of the East, these Vermillion, White, and Black Dragons coordinate with the Four Symbols, including the Vermilion Bird of the South, White Tiger of the West, and Black Tortoise of the North.

Several Ming Dynasty texts list what were claimed as the Nine Offspring of the Dragon (龍生九子), and subsequently these feature prominently in popular Chinese stories and writings. The scholar Xie Zhaozhe (謝肇淛, 1567-1624) in his work Wu Za Zu (五雜俎, ca. 1592) gives the following listing, as rendered by M.W. de Visser:
A well-known work of the end of the sixteenth century, the Wuzazu 五雜俎, informs us about the nine different young of the dragon, whose shapes are used as ornaments according to their nature. The [pulao 蒲牢], dragons which like to cry, are represented on the tops of bells, serving as handles. The [qiuniu 囚牛], which like music, are used to adorn musical instruments. The [chiwen 螭吻/鴟吻], which like swallowing, are placed on both ends of the ridgepoles of roofs (to swallow all evil influences). The [chaofeng 嘲風], lion-like beasts which like precipices, are placed on the four corners of roofs. The [yazi 睚眦/睚眥], which like to kill, serve as ornaments of sword-grips. The [bixi 贔屭], which have the shape of the [chilong 螭龍], and are fond of literature, are represented on the sides of grave-monuments. The [bi'an 狴犴], which like litigation, are placed over prison gates (in order to keep guard). The [suanni 狻猊], which like to sit down, are represented upon the bases of Buddhist idols (under the Buddhas' or Bodhisattvas' feet). The [baxia 霸下], finally, big tortoises which like to carry heavy objects, are placed under grave-monuments. Further, the same author enumerates nine other kinds of dragons — there are so many, says he, because the dragon's nature is very lewd, so that he copulates with all animals —, which are represented as ornaments of different objects or buildings according to their liking prisons, water, the rank smell of newly caught fish or newly killed meat, wind and rain, ornaments, smoke, shutting the mouth (used for adorning key-holes), standing on steep places (placed on roofs), and fire.
The Sheng'an waiji (升庵外集) collection by the poet Yang Shen (楊慎, 1488-1559) gives different 5th and 9th names for the dragon's nine children: the taotie (饕餮), which loves to eat and is found on food-related wares, and the jiaotu (椒圖), which looks like a conch or clam, does not like to be disturbed, and is used on the front door or the doorstep. Yang's list is bixi, chiwen or cháofēng, pulao, bi'an, taotie, qiuniu, yazi, suanni, and jiaotu.

Oldest known attestation of the "children of the dragon" list is found in the Shuyuan Zaji (椒园杂记, Miscellaneous records from the bean garden) by Lu Rong (1436-1494); however, he noted that the list enumerates mere synonyms of various antiques, not children of a dragon.

The first Ming Emperor copied the Yuan ruling and decreed that the dragon would be his emblem and that it would have five toes (or claws) The four-clawed dragon was typically for imperial nobility and certain high ranking officials. The three clawed dragon was used by lower ranks and the general public (widely seen on various Chinese goods in Ming Dynasty). The Long, however, was only for select royalty closely associated with the Imperial family, usually in various symbolic colors, while it was a capital offense for anyone - other than the emperor himself - to ever use the completely gold-colored, five-clawed Long dragon motif. Improper use of claw number and/or colors was considered treason, punishable by execution of the offender's entire clan. Since most East Asian nations at one point or another were considered Chinese tributaries, they were only allowed four-clawed dragons.

The five toes rule was first enforced in AD 1336 (Yuan the second year). "(For commoners) It is forbidden to wear any cloth with patterns of Qilin, Male Fenghuang (Chinese phoenix), White rabbit, Lingzhi, Five-Toe Two-Horn Long, Eight Longs, Nine Longs, 'Ten thousand years', Fortune-longevity character and Golden Yellow etc." ("禁服麒麟、鸾凤、白兔、灵芝、双角五爪龙、八龙、九龙、万寿、福寿字、赭黄等服")

The number nine is special in China as it is the largest possible single digit, and Chinese dragons are frequently connected with it. For example, a Chinese dragon is normally described in terms of nine attributes and usually has 117 scales - 81 (9x9) Yang and 36 (9x4) Yin. This is also why there are nine forms of the dragon and the dragon has nine offspring (see Classical depictions above). The "Nine Dragon Wall" is a screen wall with images of nine different dragons, and is found in imperial palaces and gardens. The wall has 9 large dragons, as well as small dragons that cover the edge. In all there are 635 dragons on it. As nine was considered the number of the emperor, only the most senior officials were allowed to wear nine dragons on their robes - and then only with the robe completely covered with surcoats. Lower-ranking officials had eight or five dragons on their robes, again covered with surcoats; even the emperor himself wore his dragon robe with one of its nine dragons hidden from view.

There are a number of places in China called "Nine Dragons", the most famous being Kowloon (in Cantonese) in Hong Kong. The part of the Mekong in Vietnam is known as Cửu Long, with the same meaning.

The dragon is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac which is used to designate years in the Chinese calendar. It is thought that each animal is associated with certain personality traits. Dragon years are usually the most popular to have babies. There are more babies born in Dragon years than in any other animal years of the Zodiac.

The Azure Dragon - Qing Long - 青龍 is considered to be the primary of the four celestial guardians, the other three being the Zhu Que - 朱雀 (Vermilion Bird), Bai Hu - 白虎 (White Tiger), Xuan Wu - 玄武 (Black Tortoise-like creature). In this context, the Azure Dragon is associated with the East and the element of Wood.

At special festivals, especially the Duan Wu festival, dragon boat races are an important part of festivities. Typically, these are boats rowed by a team of up to 12 rowers, and with a carved dragon as the head of the boat. Dragon boat racing is also an important part of celebrations outside of China, such as at Chinese New Year.

On auspicious occasions, including Chinese New Year and the opening of shops and residences, festivities often include dancing with dragon puppets. These are "life sized" cloth-and-wood puppets manipulated by a team of people, supporting the dragon with poles. They perform choreographed moves to the accompaniment of drums and music.

In many Buddhist countries, the concept of the nāga has been merged with local traditions of great and wise serpents or dragons, as depicted in this stairway image of a mufti-headed nāga emerging from the mouth of a Makara in the style of a Chinese dragon at Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkol on the premises of Wat Pha Namthip Thep Prasit Vararam in Thailand's Roi Et Province Nong Phok District.

Tigers have always been an eternal rival to the dragon, thus various artworks depict a dragon and tiger fighting an epic battle. A well used Chinese idiom to describe equal rivals (often in sports nowadays) is "Dragon versus Tiger". In Chinese martial arts, "Dragon style" is used to describe styles of fighting based more on understanding movement, while "Tiger style" is based on brute strength and memorization of techniques.

Ironically India has long been represented by a tiger. Tiger has much symbolic importance throughout Indosphere, and along with Garuda, it has been the most used animal in Indic heraldry. While Royal Bengal Tiger is the national animal of India and Bangladesh, and Malayan Tiger of Malaysia. It was also symbol of many royal houses of South and SE Asia region and in modern times even revolutionary activities are represented by tigers like Indische Legion or LTTE. Tiger's close cat relatives, the Asiatic lion is also widely used in region as in flag of Sri Lanka, national emblem of India and many other nations around like Cambodia, Singapore, etc., and is also national animal of Singapore. The snow panther is the national mammal of Pakistan and the snow lion was the national animal of Tibet.

As a part of traditional folklore, dragons appear in a variety of mythological fiction. In the classical story Journey to the West, the son of the Dragon King of the West was condemned to serve as a horse for the travellers because of his indiscretions at a party in the heavenly court. The Monkey King's cudgel Rú Yì Bàng was stolen from the Eastern (Donghai) Dragon King áo guǎng. In Fengshen Yanyi and other stories, Nezha, the boy hero, defeats the Dragon Kings and tames the seas. Chinese dragons also appear in innumerable Japanese anime movies and TV shows, manga, and in Western political cartoons as a personification of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese respect for dragons is emphasized in Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels, where they were the first people to tame dragons and are treated as equals, intellectuals or even royalty, rather than beasts solely bred for war in the West.

18 October 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix

In China, the dragon and the phoenix are traditional animals symbolic of auspiciousness. Along with the lin/kirin (white tiger) and the tortoise, they were known as the "Four Supernatural Spirits." According to ancient records, the dragon appeared in a magical variety of forms. It could be long or short, small or gigantic. It could be both secretive yet active, and it also inhabited everywhere from the heights to the depths. Traveling between the skies and earth, dragons were considered the mounts of heavenly deities. They also had the power to control rain. During times of drought, dragons could bestow precious water, and in times of flood, they could stop the rain and clear the skies.

The dragon and the phoenix are the principal motifs for decorative designs on the buildings, clothing and articles of daily use in the imperial palace. The throne hall is supported by columns entwined by gilded dragons, the central ramps on marble steps were paved with huge slabs carved in relief with the dragon and phoenix, and the screen walls display dragons in brilliant colours (such as the Nine-Dragon Screen in Beihai Park). The names in the Chinese language for nearly all the things connected with the emperor or the empress were preceded by the epithet "dragon" or "phoenix"; thus, "dragon seat" for the throne, "dragon robe" for the emperor's ceremonial dress, "dragon bed" for him to sleep on, and "phoenix carriage", "phoenix canopies" and so on for the imperial processions. The national flag of China under the Qing Dynasty was emblazoned with a big dragon. The earliest postage stamps put out by China were called "dragon-heads" because they showed a dragon in their designs. Even today the dragon is sometimes adopted as the symbol of Chinese exhibitions held abroad or the cover designs of books on China printed by foreign publishers. "The Giant Dragon of the East" is becoming a sobriquet for the country.

Belief in the dragon, and drawings of the imaginary animal, can be traced back to primitive society when certain prehistoric tribes in China adopted the dragon among other totems as their symbol and guardian. Some of the recently unearthed bronze vessels of the Yin Dynasty, which existed more than 3,000 years ago, are decorated with sketches of dragons of a crude form. Earliest legends in China described the dragon as a miraculous animal with fish scales and long beards. As time went on, it became more and more embellished in the minds of the people, acquiring the antlers of the deer, the mane of the horse and the claws of the eagle -- in short, appropriating the distinctive features of other creatures until it became what we see today everywhere in the palace.

The Chinese phoenix, Sovereign of all birds, it has the head of the golden pheasant, the beak of the parrot, the body of the mandarin duck, the wings of the roc, the feathers of the peacock and the legs of the crane; gloriously beautiful, it reigns over the feathered world. An early design of the phoenix can be seen on the silk painting discovered in a tomb of the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) near Changsha in Hunan Province.

The phoenix was commonly referred to as the "King of Birds." A supernatural bird, it embodied the five virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity. As such, it harmed neither a single insect nor blade of grass. It perched only in the finest firmiana tree, eating and drinking nothing but bamboo seeds and sweet spring water. Therefore, any reported sighting of a dragon and a phoenix was considered an extremely auspicious sign, said to herald a glorious period of peace and prosperity for the people and the country. This is reflected in the Chinese saying, "When the dragon soars and the phoenix dances, the people will enjoy happiness for years, bringing peace and tranquility to all under heaven."

The dragon and the phoenix often served in classical art and literature as metaphors for people of high virtue and rare talent or, in certain combinations, for matrimonial harmony or happy marriage. As an important part of folk arts, dragon lanterns, dragon boats, dragon and phoenix dances are still highly popular on festivals among the people of all localities.

The dragon and the phoenix, in addition to serving as auspicious symbols, were often metaphors in ancient China for the gentleman and the sage. For example, Confucius reportedly compared Lao-tzu to a dragon; both reserved yet elusive spirits capable of freely transcending the boundaries of heaven and earth. Lao-tzu is also said to have compared the wisdom and grace of Confucius to the lofty virtues associated with the phoenix; both took benevolence as the ultimate virtue in treating others. Consequently, we know from ancient texts and artifacts that the dragon and the phoenix were auspicious animals as early as the Neolithic age in China. Highly revered and appreciated, images of dragons and phoenixes found their way onto ceremonial jade ornaments and were carved, painted, or sewn onto objects of everyday use--representing reverence for the spirits and desire for auspicious fortune. This custom was passed down through the ages. From references of dragons and phoenixes in local festivals and rites to the heights of literature and fine art, they all reveal the glory of these legendary animals.

Ever since the Ch'in dynasty (221-206 B.C.), when the First Emperor of China proclaimed himself descendant of the dragon, almost every ruler was referred to as "The True Dragon, Son of Heaven." The dragon thereby became a symbol of the ruler, while the phoenix became an embodiment of his mate. The forms of the dragon and phoenix were transformed gradually into images associated with the court, representing imperial nobility and authority. Almost everything related to the court, from the decoration of palace architecture down to the insignia on everyday objects and clothing--even covers and cases for books--were adorned with images and patterns bearing imperial dragons and phoenixes. These appear in a variety of materials, ranging anywhere from jade to paper. Even in the same medium, they take on different appearances, such as the case with paintings in monochrome ink or color. Of every imaginable type and pose, dragons and phoenixes not only serve as decoration, but also seem to come alive, making them "true" treasures of ancient Chinese arts and crafts.

The core of the National Palace Museum collection is based on the treasures assembled by the Ch'ing court, and many are adorned with or depict images of dragons and phoenixes. The year 2000 not only designated a new millennium, but it also coincides with the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese lunar calendar. In celebration, the Museum has selected from the collection more than 60 works of different artistic media for a special exhibition of the dragon and the phoenix. It was hoped that these all-mighty dragons and virtuous phoenixes will combine their power and virtue to bless the land and usher in a new era for the people and the country.

16 October 2010

The Double Ninth Festival: Chóng Jiǔ

The Double Ninth Festival (Chinese: 重九; pinyin: Chóngjiǔ , also simplified Chinese: 重阳节; traditional Chinese: 重陽節; pinyin: Chóngyángjié or Chung Yeung Festival in Hong Kong, Vietnamese language: Tết Trùng Cửu), observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the East Han period (thus, before AD 25).

According to the I Ching, nine is the yang number; the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (or double nine) has too much yang (a traditional Chinese spiritual concept) and is thus a potentially dangerous date. Hence, the day is also called "Double Yang Festival" (重陽節). To protect against the danger, it is customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum wine, and wear the zhuyu (茱萸) plant, Cornus officinalis. (Both chrysanthemum and zhuyu are considered to have cleansing qualities and are used on other occasions to air out houses and cure illnesses.) Also on this holiday, some Chinese also visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.

It is said that in the ancient China, probably in the Han dynasty, on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, the emperor and his attendants would wear the zhuyu plant, eat rice cakes and drink chrysanthemum wine to dispel bad omens and pray for longevity. But afterwards, the empress of Han GaoZu (the emperor) killed his lover Mrs Qi cruelly. Consequently, Qi's attendant, a girl, was dismissed from the palace and married a civilian, so the custom in the palace was in circulation.

In 1966, the Republic of China (Taiwan) rededicated the holiday as "Senior Citizens' Day", underscoring one custom as it is observed in China, where the festival is also an opportunity to care for and appreciate the elderly.

Double Ninth may have originated as a day to drive away danger, but like the Chinese New Year, over time it became a day of celebration. In contemporary times it is an occasion for hiking and chrysanthemum appreciation. Stores sell rice cakes (糕 "gāo", a homophone for height 高) inserted with mini colorful flags to represent zhuyu. Most people drink chrysanthemum tea, while a few strict traditionalists drink homemade chrysanthemum wine. Children in school learn poems about chrysanthemums, and many localities host a chrysanthemum exhibit. Mountain climbing races are also popular; winners get to wear a wreath made of zhuyu.

Year & Corresponding Date in the Gregorian Calendar

  • 2008 October 7
  • 2009 October 26
  • 2010 October 16
  • 2011 October 5
  • 2012 October 23
  • 2013 October 16

There is an often-quoted poem about the holiday:
"九月九日憶山東兄弟" jiǔ yuè jiǔ rì yì shān dōng xiōng dì 
王維 wáng wéi
獨在異鄉為異客, dú zài yì xiāng wéi yì kè
每逢佳節倍思親. měi féng jiā jié bèi sī qīn
遙知兄弟登高處, yáo zhī xiōng dì dēng gāo chù
遍插茱萸少一人. biàn chā zhū yú shǎo yī rén
"Double Ninth, Missing My Shandong Brothers" 
— Wang Wei (Tang Dynasty)
As a lonely stranger in a strange land,
At every holiday my homesickness increases.
Far away, I know my brothers have reached the peak;
They are planting flowers, but one is not present.

12 October 2010

John of Montecorvino

John of Montecorvino or Giovanni da Montecorvino in Italian (1246 - 1328) was an Italian Franciscan missionary, traveller and statesman, founder of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in India and China, and archbishop of Peking (BeiJing), and Patriarch of the Orient. John was born at Montecorvino Rovella, in what is now Campania.

As a member of a Roman Catholic religious order which at that time was chiefly concerned with the conversion of unbelievers, he was commissioned in 1272 by the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos to Pope Gregory X, to negotiate for the reunion of the 'Greek' (Orthodox) and Latin churches.

Commissioned by Pope Nicholas IV to preach Christianity in the Nearer and Middle East, especially to the Asiatic hordes then threatening the West, he devoted himself incessantly from 1275 to 1289 to the Eastern missions, first that of Persia. In 1286 Arghun, the Ilkhan who ruled this kingdom, sent a request to the pope through the Nestorian monk, Rabban Bar Sauma, to send Catholic missionaries to the Court of the Great Khan (Mongol Emperor) of China, Kúblaí Khan (1260-94), who was well disposed towards Christianity. About that time John of Montecorvino came to Rome with similar promising news, and Pope Nicholas entrusted him with the important mission to Farther China, where about this time Marco Polo, the celebrated Venetian lay traveller, still lingered.

In 1289 John revisited the Papal Court and was sent out as Roman legate to the Great Khan, the Ilkhan of Persia, and other leading personages of the Mongol Empire, as well as to the Emperor of Ethiopia. He started on his journey in 1289, provided with letters to the Khan Argun, to the great Emperor Kublai Khan, to Kaidu, Prince of the Tatars, to the King of Armenia and to the Patriarch of the Jacobites. His companions were the Dominican Nicholas of Pistoia and the merchant Peter of Lucalongo. He reached Tabriz (in Iranian Azerbeijan), then the chief city of Mongol Persia, if not of all Western Asia.

From Persia they moved down by sea to India, in 1291, to the Madras region or "Country of St. Thomas" where he preached for thirteen months and baptized about one hundred persons; his companion Nicholas died. From there Monte Corvino wrote home, in December 1291 (or 1292), the earliest noteworthy account of the Coromandel coast furnished by any Western European. Travelling by sea from Nestorian Meliapur in Bengal, he reached China in 1294, appearing in the capital "Cambaliech" (now Beijing), only to find that Kúblaí Khan had just died, and Temür (1294-1307) had succeeded to the Mongol throne. Though the latter did apparently not embrace Christianity, he threw no obstacles in the way of the zealous missionary, who soon won the confidence of the ruler in spite of the opposition of the Nestorians already settled there.

In 1299 John built a church at Khanbaliq and in 1305 a second opposite the imperial palace, together with workshops and dwellings for two hundred persons. He gradually bought from heathen parents about one hundred and fifty boys, from seven to eleven years of age, instructed them in Latin and Greek, wrote psalms and hymns for them and then trained them to serve Mass and sing in the choir. At the same time he familiarized himself with the native language, preached in it, and translated into Chinese the New Testament and the Psalms. Among the six thousand converts of John of Montecorvino was a Nestorian Ongut prince named George, allegedly of the race of Prester John, a vassal of the great khan, mentioned by Marco Polo.

Giovanni wrote letters of 8 January 1305 and 13 February 1306, describing the progress of the Roman mission in the Far East, in spite of Nestorian opposition; alluding to the Roman Catholic community he had founded in India, and to an appeal he had received to preach in "Ethiopia" and dealing with overland and oversea routes to "Cathay," from the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf respectively.

After he had worked alone for eleven years, the German Franciscan Arnold of Cologne was sent to him (1304 or 1303) as his first colleague. In 1307 Pope Clement V, highly pleased with the missionary's success, sent seven Franciscan bishops who were commissioned to consecrate John of Montecorvino archbishop of Peking and summus archiepiscopus 'chief archbishop' of all those countries; they were themselves to be his suffragan bishops. Only three of these envoys arrived safely: Gerardus, Peregrinus and Andrew of Perugia (1308). They consecrated John in 1308 and succeeded each other in the episcopal see of Zaiton, established by Montecorvino. In 1312 three more Franciscans were sent out from Rome to act as suffragans, of whom one at least reached East Asia.

For the next 20 years the Chinese-Mongol mission continued to flourish under his leadership. A Franciscan tradition that about 1310 Monte Corvino converted the new Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, also called Khaishan Kuluk (He was also the third Emperor of the Yuan dynasty; 1307-1311) is disputed. His mission unquestionably won remarkable successes in North and East China. Besides three mission stations in Peking, he established one near the present Amoy harbour, opposite Formosa island (Taiwan).

John of Montecorvino translated the New Testament into Uyghur and provided copies of the Psalms, the Breviary and liturgical hymns for the Öngüt. He was instrumental in teaching boys the Latin chant, probably for a choir in the liturgy and with the hope that some of them might become priests.

John of Montecorvino died about 1328 in Peking. He was apparently the only effective European bishop in medieval Peking. Even after his death, the Mission in China endured for the next forty years.

An embassy to the French Pope Benedict XII in Avignon was sent by Toghun Temür, the last Mongol emperor in China (Yuan dynasty), in 1336. The embassy was led by a Genoese in the service of the Mongol emperor, Andrea di Nascio, and accompanied by another Genoese, Andalò di Savignone. These letters from the Mongol ruler represented that they had been eight years (since Monte Corvino's death) without a spiritual guide, and earnestly desired one. The pope replied to the letters, and appointed four ecclesiastics as his legates to the khan's court. In 1338, a total of 50 ecclesiastics were sent by the Pope to Peking, among them John of Marignolli. In 1353 John returned to Avignon, and delivered a letter from the great khan to Pope Innocent VI. Soon, the Chinese rose up and drove out the Mongols from China however, thereby launching the Ming Dynasty (1368). By 1369 all Christians, whether Roman Catholic or Syro-Oriental, were expelled by the Ming Dynasty.

Six centuries later, Montecorvino acted as the inspiration for another Franciscan, the Venerable Gabriele Allegra to go to China and complete the first translation of the Catholic Bible into the Chinese language in 1968.

08 October 2010

Forbidden Knowledge of The Tower of Babel, The Beijing Temple of Heaven and Ancient Chinese Art of Noah's Ark

It is highly likely that humans descended from one man and one woman. The scientific community that dictates what we are taught in secular schools partially agrees with this, placing it as occurring billions of years ago in Africa. Their teaching refutes the forbidden knowledge of the Genesis account of Adam and Eve given in the Genesis 1 Bible Scripture, along with the time given in the Bible Scripture for its occurrence. It forbids knowledge of why we wear clothing, believe in sacrifice of humans or animals or accept Christ's sacrifice and why we have a day of rest on the Sabbath. While the Hebrew account of creation is the most clearly written account in history, the religions and beliefs of most all civilizations carry traces of the Biblical account given in Genesis 1 of the Bible.

According to the Bible, God rested on the seventh day and He decreed that we should also rest on the seventh day of each week in memory of His marvelous creation.28 Why do even the ungodly over all the earth still rest on the seventh day?

According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were special to God. He created them after His spiritual image29, and gave them eternal life the same as God has.30 Adam and Eve were like the animals in that they were naked, and they were not ashamed of their nakedness. 31 And God gave them authority over every living thing on earth.32 He only made one rule, and that was that they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.33

In the beginning, God and the angels existed in the spiritual realm. And Satan was free to go wherever he wanted.34 Then Satan came like a clever and deceitful serpent and caused Adam and Eve to disobey God35. The animals were made without sin. A bird may kill and eat a worm, but it is for the importantly useful purpose of perpetuating life on earth, and is done without malice and without knowledge of good and evil. Along with the knowledge of good and evil, it became necessary for God to make The Law. The Law was that humans must not engage in the evil, or they would not be fit for God's perfect Heaven and would surely die.

Knowing that humans could not resist the allure of evil, God required a sacrificial payment for our sins. This payment, out of God's unimaginable love for us, first was the sacrifice of animals and ultimately became the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus.

Immediately after Adam and Eve received knowledge of good and evil, they became ashamed of their nakedness36. God sacrificed the first animals as a result of their sin, and covered their nakedness with the skin of the animals37. Why do we still wear clothing today, even most nonbelievers? Is it a reminder of our disobedience and our shame?

He then had humans sacrifice animals as a penance for our sins. While the Hebrew sacrifice was animals, the sacrifices of other religions included babies or other humans. And why do some cultures still sacrifice animals to attempt to pay for their sins? The purpose is often to appease their gods who are angry with them for something they did wrong. The appeasement is to prevent natural disasters such as droughts, floods, etc. Why do many civilizations that never heard of the Bible sacrifice animals and even children or other humans to their gods? Could it be because the Bible is true?

God told Satan that one of Eve's offspring would destroy Satan's power, and Satan would harm his flesh.38 This was God's first prediction of many that God's only Son would come as an offspring of a woman, would destroy Satan's power, and would be put to death by Satan.

If the Genesis 1 Biblical account of Adam and Eve is not true, why do civilizations all over the earth have a day of rest on the Sabbath, wear clothing and make human or animal sacrifices to their gods or accept Christ's sacrifice? The answer to this question should be discussed in our secular schools, simply because these abnormal habits that are not characteristic of any animal are so commonly performed by humans.

It is highly likely that Noah's Ark was found in April 2010. See http://www.noahsarknews.com/. This chapter gives sixteen proofs of the the Flood of Noah and its time was about 4,200 years ago. Five more proofs are based on evidences of rapid radioactive decay in rocks and residual helium and 14C in rocks and crystals. The following italics is taken from the book Little Thinkers, of which I am joint author with two others, Greg Hickle and Roger Rosenquist.
Many people cannot believe the Bible because it is impossible to pack that many animals into Noah’s ark.It may at first seem to be impossible. However, a few simple mathematical calculations indicate that it is not only possible, but also reasonable.
The dimensions of Noah’s ark were 300 cubits long by fifty cubits wide by 30 cubits deep. A cubic is about 18 inches. This comes out over 1.5 million cubic feet. Zoologists believe there are about 1.5 million species of animals and more than 265,000 species of land plants. Of these, about 750,000 are insects, crustaceans, arachnids and their kind, 90,000 mollusks, snails, clams squids, octopuses and their kin, 18,000 flatworms, 12,000 roundworms. There are only 4,000 mammal species known today, about half of which are aquatic animals. It was not necessary to put aquatic animals or bacteria on the Ark. It was not necessary to put plants on the Ark, as the seeds were abundant to re-seed the earth after the flood subsided. This leaves about 400,000 pairs of terrestrial animals, including insects. The insects were most likely clinging to floating debris such as logs. Ants and other insects take up very little space, and could be on the surfaces in the ark.
This leaves about 2,000 pairs of animals for which to find significant space. So there was an average of about 750 cubic feet per pair of animals, and this is plenty of space for all the animals. At the county fair, a typical pair of animals such as a pair of sheep takes up about 75 cubic feet. This would leave 675 cubic feet of extra space on the ark for each pair of animals to move around or group with others. Many pairs of birds could fit in 750 cubic feet, and two elephants might take up 1,500 cubic feet. Most animals are much smaller than an elephant. A pair of horses, for example, might take up 750 cubic feet. So you can plainly see that there was considerable room left over for passageways, food and other needs. We suggest you read Dr. Walter T. Brown, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood (7th Edition) by Dr. Walt Brown. Copyright © 1995–2002, Center for Scientific Creation and John C. Whitcomb’s and Henry Morris’ book, The Genesis Flood, 1964. Philadelphia Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, available from Amazon.com.
It is not only the Jewish historians that have records of the great flood. The ancient Sumerians, Chinese, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, and Egyptians all recorded a world-wide flood.
The Chinese today sell stone and jade carvings, replicas of an ancient original carving at the beginning of the Chinese race. It is a boat with eight people on it four women and four men. Any Chinese will tell you that these are the eight immortals who sailed on a boat from heaven to found the Chinese nation.
Note that Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives also came off a boat and repopulated the earth. According to Genesis, Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood and died at nine hundred and fifty years of age (Genesis 9:28-29). Shem lived five hundred and two years after the flood, living to be six hundred and two (Genesis 11:10-11). Before the flood, the Bible tells us, people lived from eight hundred to almost a thousand years. After the flood, the average age dropped to seventy years. So to the descendants of Noah, the eight people on the ark appeared to be immortal.
In 1883, the Turkish army discovered the ark on Mount Ararat. They entered it, and brought back pieces of its petrified wood. This was rejected or ignored by the modern world because of Darwin’s theory of evolution. But because of the report, the Czar of Russia sent his army in 1917 to thoroughly investigate it, make drawings of its architecture, and photograph it. When the Czar’s government was overthrown by the communists, these records disappeared. The records were reported by the Czar’s daughter, who made a cross from pieces of the wood.
Since then, there have been numerous sightings and photographs from a helicopter. It was used as a landmark by US pilots during World War II. Reportedly, there are US satellite photographs, which are not released for security reasons. The Russians, and most recently, the Kurds have prevented people from visiting the site. The Turks visited the ark many times before the Kurds recently made it impossible.
Probably the best book on evidence of the flood is written by Dr. Walter T. Brown, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood (7th Edition) by Dr. Walt Brown. Copyright © 1995–2002, Center for Scientific Creation.
Should not the time of the Flood as given in the Bible be studied? All recorded history begins at the time of the Flood except for the Hebrew history, which begins at creation before the Flood. Except for the carefully preserved chronology of the Hebrew people, factual history of every nation on earth including China only goes back to Sumerians around the time of the Flood of Noah. The earliest dated recordings that we definitely know about any nation before the Flood are recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. An example is Egypt, which was overrun by one tribe after another beginning a few hundred years after the Flood. While most of the leaders of these civilizations and their astounding monuments are known, it is not until the time of Christ and Cleopatra that Egyptian history, other than what is recorded in the Scriptures, really becomes clear.

Britain's history from 500 AD to 1000 AD is mixed with mythology.39 The history of Britain does not leave the realm of 'mythsteries' until about 3500 years after the Flood, sometime around 1000 AD. Beyond that, British history fades into mythology mixed with some history. There were many civilizations from the time of Adam and Eve to the Great Flood that ceased to exist at the time of the flood. Archeologists have found many evidences of the civilizations described in the Hebrew Scriptures predating the Flood, to which evolution-believing historians attach dates with wild abandon, ranging from 10,000 to 30,000 or even 100,000 to a few million years BC. Why then, do we not get serious about the time of the Flood, which has been recently discovered and reported in the news media on April 27, 2010? This chapter cites five indications of the time of Noah's Ark and the Flood.

Like the Chinese, the ancient history of Babylon begins in 2200 BC about fifty to one hundred years after the Great Flood. It records the famous epic of Gilgamesh which describes the second most famous account of the flood as the result of the anger of their wise and benevolent God Ea. Ea tells Utanapishtim to tear down his house and build a ship. The size of the ship is approximately the same size as that described in Genesis, except the height is equal to the width and it is seven stories high. The dam of the waters beneath the earth is broken, just as in the Bible, and the water on the earth rises. A storm so intense that darkness prevails seven days, and the ark is surrounded by sea in every direction. Then some islands appear that are the peaks of mountains. Utanapishtim sends out a dove, which returns. Then he sends a swallow, but it found no resting place, and it returned. Finally he sends a raven, which found food and a resting place, and it did not return. Utanapishtim then released everything from the ark and made a sacrifice on the top of the mountain, the same as Noah did in the Bible. Ea then told the god Enlil that he would not flood the earth again, but instead would cause a famine because of sinners. Thousands of Babylonian inscriptions on clay tablets and pottery as well as Egyptian papyrus and writings found in other ancient countries coincide with Biblical scripture. This is sufficient reason that the Flood of Noah's Ark history in the Bible should be studied in detail.

Archaeologists place the time of this flood at the end of the ruling city Eridu to the beginning of the new ruling city Erech to the south, the King's List of eight kings before the flood, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the original coastline of Babylon to about 3000 to 2900 BC. Ancient pre-Flood history of Babylon is so obscure that the Babylonian Kings List cites one king reigned 28,000 years, another 36,000 years and two others as reigning a total of 64,800 years.40

Could it be that with the scattering of civilization from the Tower of Babel, just a few years after the flood, the Native Americans migrated across the Aleutian Islands, bringing the Genesis creation stories with them? The Delaware Indians were one tribe of many that had powwows with ancient myths, religion and creation stories.

The Delaware Indians also had an account of creation that they handed down from one generation to another in the form of pictograph symbols or glyphs. Their traditional chants went like this: "At first sea water covered all the land. Above the water in the mist was the God-Creator. He caused to be much water, great land, many clouds, the wide sky. He caused the sun and moon and stars. Winds blew hard, clearing the deep water and making it run off. Light shone and an island appeared. Then he created the first beings, also angels, also souls. Afterward he created the man-being, ancestor of man. He gave to man the first mother of men. Fishes he gave to man, and turtles and beasts and birds. But an evil spirit created bad beings, snakes, and monsters. At first all beings were friends together. But then, while secretly on earth, the snake-god led men to worship evil. Wickedness, crime, unhappiness, thus came to the world."41

The American Indians see Intelligent Design in all that they behold. Even the wind makes them think that there would be no wind unless an Intelligent Designer made it possible. Now they have nothing but their powwows, dance, chants and myths to give them pride and purpose in life. But because of their insight of Intelligent Design, the day will come when they will become world leaders, thanks to their powwows.

People lived in many parts of the earth before the time of the Great Flood. There is evidence that people lived in China then, but disappeared either thousands of years before or during the flood. After the Flood about 2348 BC, with the scattering of the nations from the Tower of Babel about 2247 BC, before the first Chinese dynastic rule beginning forty-two years later with the Hsia (or Xia) dynasty in c. 2205-7 BC until 1911 AD, resulted in an ancient Chinese art carving of Noah's Ark model replica and annually sacrificed unblemished bullocks to their god ShangDi, a name that in Mandarin sounds like the Hebrew 'Shaddai', meaning God Almighty. About 118 years after the flood in 2230 BC, the first Chinese ruler of the Hsia dynasty built a three-tiered Temple of Heaven to the triune God that still exists in splendor today, although the Chinese do not remember the purpose of it, and for many centuries the emperors recited a prayer very much like the first chapter of Genesis. The Chinese writing in its English translation goes something like this:
"Of old in the beginning there was great chaos without form and dark. The five planets had not begun to revolve nor the sun and the moon to shine. In the midst thereof there existed neither forms nor sound. Thou, Oh Spiritual Sovereign, came forth in Your presidency, and first divided the grosser parts from the purer. You made the heavens and the earth. You made man. All things with their reproductive power came into being."
The earliest account of the Chinese Emperor Shun's worship of the triune God ShangDi in 2230 BC is recorded in SHU CHING, the BOOK OF HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS and the oldest Chinese historical record. On this structure, the ritual known as the "Border Sacrifice" was performed. Its location is described by ancient authors as being in the eastern Tai mountains, but it was later moved to Beijing. It is more likely the simple but huge three-tiered tower found in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

The three-tiered Temple of Heaven in Beijing was built in 1420 AD. Covering an area of 2,730,000 square meters, it was the site on which the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties annually offered sacrifices to God. The three-tiered Altar of Heaven in the foreground below may be one of the oldest structures in the world today, built immediately after the Flood of Noah and the scattering of the people from the Tower of Babel. The three levels represent the triune God. The prayers offered were very similar to the creation of the world as described in the Book of Genesis.

Many of the Chinese words are Chinese symbols that describe the events in Genesis. For example, the Chinese symbols for 'gate' is similar to two cherubim guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24).

Ancient Chinese art stone carving of the eight immortals, probably representing Noah's Ark with Noah, his three sons and their wives sitting on a boat that sailed from heaven and founded the Chinese nation. I bought this carving in 'Snake Alley' in Taipei, Taiwan, a lively bazaar where souvenirs and other goods are sold. The name given the market is because live snakes are bled and locals drink vials of their blood, supposedly to increase their virility.
The Chinese carve a boat of stone carrying "The Eight Immortals". They say these eight immortals sailed from heaven and founded the Chinese race. Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives lived six hundred to nine hundred and fifty years, while those born after Noah and the flood lived about seventy to one hundred and seventy-five years. So the people after the flood believed that Noah and his family were immortal. The Chinese writing symbols for 'boat' is made up of three words, vessel, eight, and 'mouth' . . . or person (meaning eight persons on a boat)42.

Based on the Chinese symbols which are pictographs made up of stick drawings mostly of things that happened in Genesis and the Chinese history, it appears that Noah may have carried the Genesis record of creation on the ark with him. Even if not, Lamech was alive when Adam and Eve were alive. Genesis 5 tells us that Noah's father, Lamech, lived 56 years while Adam was still alive.43 So Adam and Eve and all Adam and Eve's descendents down to Lamech in all probability told Lamech the entire Genesis story. Lamech then lived 595 years after Noah was born, and obviously told Noah. Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood (Genesis 9:28), and his son Shem lived five hundred years after the great flood (Genesis 11:11). It is probable that the Chinese got the Genesis account directly from Noah, and that Moses wrote the Pentateuch or Torah, as the Jews call it, the first five books of the Bible, as given him not only by God (Exodus 17:14; 24:4, 7; Numbers 33:1 – 2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 11; John 5:46 – 47), but also by the descendants of Noah.

Thus, the forbidden knowledge of the Tower of Babel, the Beijing Temple of Heaven and ancient Chinese art of Noah's Ark has been preserved.
  • 28. 2 Peter 3:8.
  • 29. Genesis 1:1 - 31; 2:1-6. Exodus 20:8 - 10.
  • 30. Genesis 2:1 -3; Exodus 20:9 – 11.
  • 31. Genesis 1:26, 27.
  • 32. Genesis 2:17.
  • 33. Genesis 2:25.
  • 34. Genesis 1:28.
  • 35. Genesis 2:16, 17.
  • 36. Job 1:6, 7.
  • 37. Genesis 3: 1 – 11, 21.
  • 38. Genesis 3:15.
  • 39. O.R. Gurney, 1990. THE HITTITES. Penguin Books, Ltd., reprinted 2003 by the Folio Society, London; Sir Alan Gardiner, 1961. EGYPT OF THE PHARAOHS: AN INTRODUCTION. Clarendon Press, reprinted as THE EGYPTIANS, 2003 by the Folio Society, London; J.M. Cook, 1983. THE PERSIAN EMPIRE. J.M. Dent & Sons, reprinted as THE PERSIANS, 2003 by the Folio Society, London; Geoffrey Ashe, 1990. MYTHOLOGY OF THE BRITISH ISLES. Methuen London Michelin House, London; Ellis, Peter Berresford, 1990. THE CELTIC EMPIRE – THE FIRST MILLENIUM OF CELTIC HISTORY C.1000 BC – 51 AD, Carolina Academic Press, Durham, NC.
  • 41. Fuller, Edmund and B. Jo Kinnick, 1963. ADVENTURES IN AMERICAN HISTORY- LAUREATE EDITION, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas , Burlingame.
  • 42. James Legge, THE CHINESE CLASSICS, VOL. III, THE SHOO KING: CANON OF SHEN (Taipei, Southern Materials Center, Inc., 1932 pp.34, 35; Jacques Gernet, 1972. Le Monde Chinois, Libairie Armand Colin, Paris; Nelson, Ethel R. and R.E. Broadberry, 1994. GENESIS AND THE MYSTERY THAT CONFUCIUS COULDN'T SOLVE, Concordia Publishing House, Missouri..
  • 43. Genesis 5:32; 7:6; 9:29; 11:10, 11.5
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