2011年10月31日 星期一

The Trappist Monastery on Lantau

Sunday was one of mixed feelings: both happy and sad. I was happy that I was able to take time off to relax in the quiet bosom of nature. I was sad because I witnessed in concrete the ineluctable passing of an age. I went to the old monastery which used to produce and sell full cream milk of excellent quality under the brand name
Milk 十字牌牛奶" or "Priest Milk 神父牌牛奶". Perhaps due to the dwindling number of
young people prepared to undergo a life of simplicity, working with their hands and body, prayers, hymn
singing and contemplation as a form of religious
worship, the dairy farm there was forced to cease operation for lack of
manpower. The supply of milk has now been entrusted to another private company in which the monks own 30% shares and the relevant dairy farm is now relocated to
somewhere in  Yuen Long and Guangdong. The monastery concerned is
the Trappist Haven Monastery (熙篤會神樂院 now 聖母神樂院), at Tai Shui
Hang, on Lantau Island. Only a small
number of monks are still staying there now. On January 15,
2000, it changed the name by which it was known to most old timers of Hong Kong, from "The Trappist Haven Monastery" to "Our Lady of Joy Abbey".

According to
internet sources, Trappist monks follow the kind of monastic life based
on rules first laid down by Saint Benedict, in 6th century Italy.
Formally, they are called the "Order of Cistercians of the Strict
Observance", founded in 1098 in France but the name "Trappist" has stuck
because of the 17th-century
reform movement of the order that started at La Trappe, France. It was
in 1883 that the first Trappist monks arrived in Asia and established
Our Lady of Consolation Abbey at Yangjiaping, northwest of Beijing, the only
one at that time in Asia. Then in 1928, the parent house the present Our
Lady of Joy Abbey, was founded. It was somewhere near Zhengding in Hebei
province, quite close to Beijing. It is there still. However, when the atheistic communists took control of Hebei in 1947, the 65 monks there fled, first to Chengdu in
Kuomintang-controlled Sichuan and then in 1951, two years after the CCP took control of the whole of China,  20 of their
number escaped to Hong Kong . Three of them had to disguise themselves in fake
PLA officers' uniforms whilst one pretended to be mad. Those who failed
to escape were jailed for the next three decades. Only a few of them
survived until their release in the early 1980s.

The 73 hectares of land on which the monastery now stands was first rented from the Hong Kong Government in 1951 at the nominal rent of $20 per year, which they are still paying. When they
first  arrived, they settled down in Mui Wo. But after 9 months, they succeeded in building a rough shed at its present site, to
be used as a dormitory. They had to carry the building
materials for four kilometers all the way from Mui Wo to Nim Wan across the mountain path joining the two places. In 1955, they laid the foundation stone of the permanent monastery. By the early 1980s, when China changed its policies, most of the old-timers returned to
the mainland to visit their families. Some of them continued to work
at the Hebei monastery which struggled on. Most of those who were released
from jail continued to work in the "underground" Catholic Church
but a few of them have since joined the sanctioned Chinese Catholic
Patriotic Association,
which does not recognize the primacy of the Pope.Perhaps, Although not very many
people know it, the abbey has a guest house for people doing what
Catholics call "retreats", a period of time in which they would observe
silence and contemplate on the mystery of the salvation and upon the
way they have led their lives and spend time to pray.

I really admire people who have
the courage to resist all the temptations offered by contemporary
secular society to lead a life of prayers and contemplation. I was struck by a strange sense of inconsolable melancholy in my heart when my
eyes fell on to the broken windows,  wooden doors with peeled off
paints, broken locks, the discarded motors, plastic buckets. loose wires, stopped electric meters, rusting roofs of
corrugated iron, metal fences and other dairy implements lying at the
side of the path, stacks of bamboo poles which were probably used for
processing hay during the hey days of its dairy business standing erect
but idling on a wooden stand in front of a disused shed, the rough
surface of the concrete path now overgrown with all sorts of grasses,
weeds, flowers and its floor covered with a carpet of brown pine needles
and cones. They all seem to
be singing to me, each in their own peculiar voice, as in an orchestra of whispers:  "Don't
look at us as we now are. We 've seen better days. There were cattle
then. You should have seen how those monks in brown gowns,
enthusiastically carrying fodder to the cow in the morning sun as their
form of prayer, the clatter of the hooves of the cow as they trotted down to be milked, jostling against each other with their their bursting udders swaying left and right and dangling up and down in synchrony with the motion of their bodies, the moo-ings of the cows as evening approached, when being milked or when they were in heat, how excited the friars were when
new calves arrived with their wobbly legs, the sloshing sound of the milk as it was poured
from containers to containers, the tinkling of the glass bottles with
red crosses as they were shoved along the conveyor belt to the dull
whirring of the motor supplying the electricity to the belt, and how the
cows would stare when they hear the heavenly hymns coming from the chapel close
by, the honking of the milk vans to signal their arrival for collecting
the full-cream milk ..Those were the days...Now hardly any one ever look
at us and those who do would merely cast a few cursory glances at us and would
quickly move away to resume clicking at their cameras or their chit
chats and then leave." 

A wooden statue of St. Benedict at the entrance to the Chapel

A closer view of the founder of the order.

A view of the chapel

A statue of Jesus. Behind him, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, both facing the light from the windows.

Figures of Jesus and Mary in barest outline at the top of the altar.

The simplicity of the Chapel windows. No colors. It was an order stressing control of sensory desires.

Solidly but simply built arches inside the church

A candle to remind us of the passing of time as our life burns away.

A brother in meditation.

The entrance to the monastery off limits to the visitors where the friars are supposed to spend their
time in quiet contemplation, prayer or work.

Their private chapel hidden amidst trees.

Another view of the chapel from higher up.

The abandoned cow shed with rusting roof and two creepers competing to colonize it.

The barn for storing fodder or the milking the cows?

Rows of bamboo poles on a stand. They have been laid off for redundancy without pay! It appears
that they still got an occasional coat of new paint as a reward for past service though.

The former milk processing facility?

Its doors have fallen off from the door frame and are bent inwards.

A concrete reinforcing wall holding the mud back. It looks as if it hasn't been cleaned for a really long time.

The implements for processing milk now lying abandoned to their fate.

Creepers taking advantage of the lack of attention to propagate themselves upon the granite
supporting wall.

The rusting lock to what used to the the cowshed.

Discarded metal implement rusting on the ground by the side of the path beside the carpet
of dried pine needles..

Another broken wooden door, all overgrown with plants and under heaps of pine needles.

Another door, padlock broken and rusty and a window pane missing replaced by a board.

Plants growing behind an abandoned window.


Plants taking advantage of the wooden frame to grow higher

Another abandoned window with rusting hinges and discolored paint amidst fallen leaves and
being overgrown with plants

Fallen leaves all curled up in front of a discolored window pane with dried lime?


A rusty metal angle which might have served as the support for a kerosene or gas lamp to light the
path during the night now having nothing to do but staring at the sky.

Pine leaves doing the same. There's a difference though. It's still growing. There's life in it yet!

Ensconced between trees and sky, the monastery is a real enclave, away from the hustle and
bustle of our world, a place for the friars to contemplate the mysteries of existence and to pray
for man's salvation.

2011年10月30日 星期日

Brownian Movement

Saturday this week was quite unlike other Saturdays. I attended a talk on Islamic worship, followed by a short photo shooting session at an adjoining park, a meal at an Indian restaurant and then, instead of the usual concert at the Cultural Centre, I saw a film from the land of windmills, tulips and Philips.

The film won the Golden Calf awards for the best director and the best screenplay at the 2011 Nederlands Film Festival. Directed by writer-director Nanouk Leopold and acted by Sandra Hüller( as Charlotte) and Dragan Bakema (as Max, her husband), the film, the fourth by Leopoldf, has a most peculiar title, Brownian Movement. A quick search at Wikipedia shows that Brownian motion, named after the Botanist Robert Brown who first discovered it,technically known as "pedesis", a Greek word meaning "leaping", is the "random drifting of particles suspended in a fluid (liquid or gas) or the mathematical model used to describe such movements, often called a particle theory" e.g stock market fluctuations due to unrepeatable and unforeseen events.

As the film opens, we are shown a room fitted with the barest of furniture, predominantly in white : a bed, a one-seater sofa in soft fabric and a wooden chair and a small wooden table. Everything is contained by long straight lines and rectangles. There is an enormous bed. We are shown Charlotte looking around. Off screen, we hear a voice telling her what is included in the rent and where the bathroom is. Charlotte looks at everything, in silence, her face calm. At the end of the inspection, she takes the room. We see several tens of 100 dollar Euros changing hands as deposit.. Charlotte did not say a single word throughout the entire episode except to answer a question that she came from Germany. In the background, we hear the sound of someone breathing heavily. We see her carefully laying down a grey blanket of her own, lie down on its enjoying its texture. She takes a bath, her white towel wrapped around her. She holds on to her towel, which she presses very close to her body, apparently enjoying the tightness of being caressed by its innumerable soft threads. Next we are shown one after another men enter the room, looking at each other, disrobe, make love in various positions and then leave,. But we never hear a word exchanged between them. Some of such lovers are young, some older, some thin, some hairy, some obese, some rough, some gentler. However, we are seldom shown their faces, only the backs of their bodies and those parts of their torso involved in sexual activities.

Next we are shown Max and Charlotte making love in their domestic bed, also in silence, the only sound we hear is the sound of their heavy breath. We learn later that they are husband and wife, Max, an architect and Charlotte, a lady German doctor engaged in research on in a Brussels hospital, apparently happily married with a child of about 5 or 6 Benjamin (Ryan Brodie) . She tells a bedtime story to their son, about how the king and queen re-celebrated their marriage and lived happily ever after. Her son asked for a second one. She refused and left. 

In part 2 of the three part film, we see Charlotte attending the office of a psychiatrist. We see her struggling to answer some of the questions posed to her by in the psychiatirst clinically clean office. She said she only wanted to touch Max and say with regard to the other men,"I shouldn't tell it. It only makes it
worse.". She says, "I really don't know what I am supposed to feel.". Indeed how could she articulate and verbalize how she actually felt: she is simply a tactile, not a verbal animal. It is an episode in which she meets one of her previous string of lovers which she encounters in her bare apartment expressly set up for such sexual rendezvous, when out of a momentary impulse from the way the man, one of her patients, attempts to touch her, she hits him with such uncontrollable violence which leaves her with sore knuckles which triggers a medical inquiry which eventually leads to her being pronounced unfit to continue to practice medicine. Before the verdict was handed down, we see her visit an open field, lying down, feeling the ground, the grass around her, her eyes looking up at the sky, listening to the birds and sirens, rapt her own thoughts, apparently taking comfort in her closeness to the ground and feeling it viscerally with her skin. After the verdict was pronounced, we see her husband sitting by her side in the countryside, both rapt in thought. Again, silence. No words of comfort or any embrace.

In part three of the film, we see her in India or somewhere in some Middle Eastern country whither his husband had to go in connection with his work.They had three children by now. We see her playing with the children, sewing, helping with domestic work. Apparently her previous "unacceptable" behavior was no longer an issue. But we are shown shown her lying on rough concrete
surface of the roof of the unfinished building, looking up at the sky, in an unfinished building by the side of the river, apparently in a reverie.  She must feel close to the ground, which is her true home. Next we see her go to one of her husband's work site, a tall and
imposing building on construction. From the ground, we see her husband
observing her talking to one of the men working there on a staircase
landing through an opening without windows. We see her husband crying
during the night. Next we see her all nude, begging to be let inside the
room during the night. Then we are shown her husband observing her from a distance sitting down
at a dark corner of the unfinished building, a shawl around her,
enjoying the roughness of the concrete, wrapped in her own thoughts. The film ends as we see her and her husband take a trip, the yellow of the grasslands passing rapidly from screen left to screen right.

I do not know what Leopold was trying to say in this film. I suspect that he might be trying to explore coldly, and objectively the mystery of human sexual desire, something as real as our breathing, the silent inexplicable urges we feel for sexual union with a member of the opposite sex, as unpredictable and as natural as brownian motion of particles in liquid. Words fail at such a level. No words are ever adequate to describe the actual movement of our sexual desire, when, where and how and why. They cannot be imprisoned by words, nor by conventional social and religious morality. He shows it by pure images, ably done by photographer Frank van den Eeden through a very formal structure of squares and rectangles in three parts, reproduced by the static almost still shots without panning, without camera movement which seem to mimick the structure of the prison of mainstream rational control of what is basically an emanation of the animality lying at the core of human civilization. He shows by the closeness which the heroine feels with Nature, with all it roughness, uncouthness and her need to touch everything with her skin in her environment and her ability to communicate only with children and to be "in tune" with them and their innocence.  A most unusual film shot with a minimalist style, without any conventional plot line, without any dialogue to speak of, with very sparing use of music but no less powerful for all that and perhaps because of such lack. Under the the almost static scenes, we can feel the powerful currents of Charlotte's unarticulable emotions and her urges and her instinctual needs to be in physical contact, expressed most eloquently by her facial expressions and body gestures.  This is definitely not a film for the squeamish or your regular Sunday churchgoer.

Sandra Huller is excellent as Charlotte. She conveys her utter inability to understand or rather her indifference to how the world might judge her. She must remain faithful to herself, to who she really is, whether the world accepts her or not. Fortunately, she got a husband who did. We can wish her the happiness of the bedtime story she told her son Benjamin.

2011年10月29日 星期六

Saturday Fun on the Afterlife

The past week has been spent writing up about what I read and heard about death and nirvana. Boy, it's really back breaking work trying to find out first the the English translations and then the relevant stories associated with the large number of names of people long dead and gone which appear in the various Chinese classical texts referred to in the blog articles. Certainly time for something much easier and rather lighter! So here they are.


Two men are waiting at the gates of heaven and strike up a conversation.

 "Man, how come you're here?" the first man asks the second man,

 "I froze to death," says the second.

  "That's awful," says the first man, "how does it feel to freeze to death?"

"It's very uncomfortable at first," says the second man. "You get the shakes, and you get pains in all your fingers and toes. But eventually, you get numb and you kind of drift off, as if you're sleeping. How about you, how did you die?"

" I had a heart attack," says the first man. "You see, I knew my wife was cheating on me, so one day I came home early to catch her in the act but found her alone watching television. I looked in the closet. There was nothing. I looked under the bed. There was nothing. I looked behind every door and even the garden shed and even the barn. There was nothing. Finally, I tried to climb up the stairs to the attic.  I had a massive heart attack and died."
The second man shakes his head. "That's really awful," he says. "

"What do you mean?" asks the first man.

 "Had  you stopped to look in the freezer, we'd both still be alive!"    


After a preacher died and went to heaven, he noticed that a New York cab driver had been awarded a higher place than he.

"I don't understand," he complained to God. "I devoted my entire life to my

"Our policy here in heaven is to reward results," God explained. "Now, was your congregation well attuned to you whenever you gave a sermon?"

"Well," the minister had to admit, "some in the congregation fell asleep from time to time."

"Exactly," said God, "and when people rode in this man's taxi, they not only stayed wake, they even prayed."


Two men died and went to heaven. God greeted them, and said "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but your mansions aren't ready yet. Until they are, I can send you back to Earth as whatever you want to be."

"Great!" said the first guy, "I want to be an eagle soaring above beautiful scenery!"

"No problem," replied God, and POOF! The guy was gone.

"And what do you want to be," God  asked the other guy.

"I'd like to be one cool stud!" was the reply.

"Easy," replied God, and the other guy was gone.

After a few months, their mansions were finished, and God sent an angel to fetch them back. "You'll find them easily," he says, "One of them is soaring above the Grand Canyon, and the other one is on a snow tire somewhere in Detroit!"


Three buddies die in a car and go to heaven for an orientation. They are all asked, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"

The first guy says, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man."

The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."

The last guy replies, "I would like to hear them say, ‘LOOK, HE'S MOVING!!!!!'"


Three persons arrive at heaven and St. Peter greets them before the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to Heaven. We have just one last thing to do before you enter. Are you ready for your last test?"

The first person says, "I've prepared for this moment for 73 years."

"Okay," says St. Peter, "spell 'God'."


"Very good, enter your eternal reward."

The second person says, "Well, that was easier than I thought; I'll take my test now."

"Okay," says St. Peter, "spell 'love'."


"Excellent, enter your eternal reward."

The third person, a lawyer, says, "Boy, is _this_ is gonna be a snap. Give me my test."

"Okay," says St. Peter, "spell 'prorhipidoglossomorpha'."


A priest dies and goes to heaven. There, he is met by a reception committee, and after a whirlwind tour is told that he can enjoy any of the myriad recreations available.

He decides that he wants to read all of the ancient original text of the Holy Scriptures, and spends the next eon or so learning the languages. After becoming a linguistic master, he sits down in the library and begins to pore over every version of the Bible, working back from the most recent "Easy Reading Version" to the original script.

All of a sudden there is a scream in the library. The angels come running to him, only to find the priest huddled in a chair, crying to himself, and muttering, "An "R"! They left out the 'R'."

God takes him aside, offering comfort and asks him what the problem is. After collecting his wits, the priest sobs again, "It's the letter "R" ... the word was supposed to be CELEBRATE!"


Three men died in a car accident and met God in heaven.

"I will ask you each a simple question. If you tell the truth you will enter heaven, but if you lie ... hell is waiting for you," God told them.

To the first man God asked, "How many times did you cheat on your wife?"

The first man replied, "I was a good husband. I never cheated on my wife."

God replied, "Very good!  Not only will I allow you in, but for being faithful to your wife I will give you a huge mansion and a limo for your transportation."

To the second man God asked, "How many times did you cheat on your wife?"

The second man replied, "I cheated on my wife twice."

God replied, "I will allow you to come in, but for your unfaithfulness, you will get a four-bedroom house and a BMW."

To the third man God asked, "So, how many times did you cheat on your wife?"

The third man replied, "I cheated on my wife about eight times."

God replied, "I will allow you to come in, but for your unfaithfulness, you will get a one-room apartment, and a Yugo for your transportation.

A couple of hours later, the second and third men saw the first man crying his eyes out.

"Why are you crying?" the two men asked. "You got the mansion and limo!"

The first man replied, "I just saw my wife riding a skateboard!"

Have a nice Weekend!

2011年10月28日 星期五

Chinese Perspectives on Death. 2


Righteousness and/or justice appear to occupy the mind of most Chinese scholars. Apart from those already cited, there are many other Confucians who think the same eg. Sung dynasty Confucian thinkers Chan Leong (陳亮) and Ming dynasty thinkers Liu Zongzhou (劉宗周),  and Wong Fu Chi or Wang Fuzhi (Wang Fūzhī or Wang Fuchih) (王夫之) or Ernong (而农),  Chuanshan (船山)(1619–1692) a Chinese philosopher of late Ming and early Qing:
Chan Leong, a patriotic poet of South Sung dynasty who advocated putting knowledge gained from studying the classical texts to practical use and who had a heated debates with another famous Chinese scholar Chu Hei,  says: "It's difficult for man to avoid death. The difficulty of death is precisely this. When the country is experiencing risk of the ninth stage of its positive pole(note" according to Chinese numerologist calculations, the positive 9 normally indicates the happening of droughts but here it refers to invasion by foreign ethnic groups), there will be a certain limited number who will resist enslavement by death but when the emperor's personal guards corrupt themselves and do not wish to know anything of righteousness, that would the the last straw.."「人固難于一死,而一死之難又如此。國家遭陽九之危,能以死拒擄者故有數,而禁卒內潰,人不知義,極矣。」(陳亮集,書趙永豐訓之行錄九). Thus it is not always easy to uphold righteousness by death. 

To Liu Zongzhou, (a famous Confucian scholar (1578-1645) belonging to the Mind School of Yang Ming (陽明心學) and Eastern Chekiang School ( 浙東學派 )in late Ming dynasty who held the belief that there is no knowledge which is not mediated through the human mind and that all knowledge can only be fully understood if put into practice), it is impossible to understand or assess life and death by their own nature. To him life and death could only be assessed from the point of view of righteousness. He says, "How can one crack the secret of life and death through analysis of themselves? Only from the perspectives of righteousness and advantages can one make clear distinctions and truly see whether life and death is worth talking about. If righteousness demands life, then live. If righteousness demands death, then die. There is only righteousness before one's eyes. There is no life and death before one's eyes."  「若從生死破生死,如何破得,只就義利辨得清認得真,有何生死可言,義當生則生,義當死則死。眼前只見一義,不見有生有死。」( Liu Zongzhou (劉宗周): Records of Meetings, The Complete works of Master Liu  劉子全書.會錄) and elsewhere he says,"If it profits the world to die, then die. If it profits not the world, what does it matter if one were to give up easily that still useful body?" 「 死而有益天下,死之可也,死而無益天下,奈何以有用之身輕棄之?」(The Year Book,The Complete works of Master Liu 劉子全書.年譜).

To Wong Fu Chi or Wang Fuzhi, (王夫之) aka 王夫之(1619年-1692)  而農薑齋夕堂一瓢道人雙髻外史船山病叟王船山先生, one of the three most outstanding Chinese thinkers in late Ming and early Tsing along with  顧炎武(1613年-1682年)aka 忠清寧人蔣山傭亭林先生,  another famous thinker, historian, linguist  and 黃宗羲 (1610-1695) aka 太冲, 梨洲, 南雷先生, an economist, historian, thinker, geographer, astrologist, educator, and "father of Chinese Enlightenment, life may be looked upon a little more than a vehicle for the realization of the principles of righteousness. If those principles cannot be upheld, there is little choice but to choose death. He says: "If power no longer comes from within one's own self and the trends cannot be reversed then though one's body may be humilated, one's life can be given away, one's country may be annihilated, one's will (resolution) can never be taken away." 「若其權不自我,勢不可回,身可辱,生可捐,國可亡,而志不可奪」 and 將貴其生,生非不可貴也;將舍其生,生非不可舍也。...生以載義,生可真;義以立生,生可舍」(Volume 2 , General Comment on Continuation of Jor's Annals of Spring and Autumn (王夫之 『續春秋左氏傳博議』卷下) and in another book, he says " When you are about to treasure life, it's not that life is not precious; when you are about to give up life, it's not that life can't be given up...when life is a vessel for righteousness, then life  can be precious; when you do the righteous to complete life, then life can be given up" 「將貴其生,生非不可貴也;將舍其生,生非不可舍也。...生以載義,生可貴;義以立生,生可舍」(Big Announcement, Volume 5. The Explanations of the Imperial Secretary『尚書引義』卷五. 大誥」)


To the Confucians, immortality does not involve immortality of the body at all, as in the Western Christian idea of resurrection of the physical body for the just or the righteous at the end of the world when Jesus Christ will come again to judge both the living and the dead. Nor does it involve the reputation of having generations of one's family serving as high government officials. It is something much more spiritual or moral. We may achieve a kind of "immortality" through the effects of our works in this mundane world done whilst we are still alive and another kind of immortality through the kind of words of value we leave behind before we die. In Sheung Kung of Zuo Zhuan (Tso Chuan, or zuǒ zhuàn), sometimes translated as the Chronicle of Zuo or the Commentary of Zuo, it is written: " In the spring of the following year, Mo Shu (Note: otherwise known as Shuk Zuan Pao (叔孫豹), a master scholar) arrived in Jin, Fan Zuan Tzu (Note: a Jin minister named Gai 丐) welcomed him and asked him, " It has been said in olden days "dead but incorruptible" (Note: immortality) , what does that mean? Mo Shu didn't reply. Zuan Tzu said: Gai's ancestors, prior to Yu dynasty was the clan Tao Tang Shi, in the Shia dynastic, it was the clan of Yu Long Shi; in the Sheng dynasty, it was the clan of Tuan Shu Shi; in the Chou dynasty, it was the clan of Tang Du Shi; In the Jin dynasty, the head of the Hsia Alliance was Fan shi. is that what that means?   Mo Shu replied: "According to what Pao (i.e. himself) heard, that is what is called "generations of government officials". That is not "dead but incorruptible"(immortality). In the country called Lu, there was a formerly a scholar called Bin Man Chung. deceased, but his words stood. That is what is meant. What Pao heard is this, at the top and the greatest is the establishment of virtue,  what follows is the establishment of meritorious works. What follows next is the establishment of words. A long time may have passed, but they remain. That is what is meant by immortality. If immortality means merely the protection of the name of the family or of the clan, so that there will unending respect by the world, there is no country without it. Immortality is not measured by the size of one's  official remuneration." 「二年春,穆叔如晋,范宣子逆之,問焉,曰 "古人有言曰 "死而不朽" ,何謂也?」穆叔未對。宣子曰:"昔丐之祖,自虞以上為陶唐氏,在夏為御龍氏,在商為豕書氏,在周為唐杜氏,晋主夏盟為范氏,其是之謂乎! 穆叔曰:"以豹所聞,此之謂世祿,非不朽也。魯有先大夫曰臧文仲,既沒,其言立,其是之謂乎!豹聞之,大上有立德,其次有立功,其次有立言,雖久不廢,此之謂不朽。若夫保姓受氏,以宇宗祊,世不絕禮,無國無之。祿之大者,不可謂不朽" (Year 24 of Sheung Kung in Zuo Zhuan 左傳,襄公二十四年).

To Confucius, what we should be afraid of is not that we should die but that we got a bad name after we are gone. He said in Wai Ling Kung of the Analects (論語 衛灵公): "A complete ( perfect/ideal/model) man hates to disappear from this world without living up to his name" (子曰:"「君子疾沒世而名不稱焉」and  that the most important thing a man should leave behind him is his name for being virtuous and not for how much worldly goods what he once owned. He said in Kwai Shi of the Analects : " King Keng of Chi had a thousand chariots. When he died, no one praised him as virtuous. Ba Yi Shu Chi lay under the grounds of Sou Yang, but the people are praising him even now'" (「齊景公有馬千駟,死之日,民無德而稱焉。伯夷 (Baiyi )叔齊(Shuqi) 俄于首陽之下,民到今稱之」(Note: Baiyi and Shuqi were respectively the elder and second son of the King of 孤竹, one of the kingdoms paying homage to the Shang Emperor. When their father died, Shuqi did not want to be the king because that was against the tradition that the eldest son should be made king but Baiyi would have none of it. For lack of any better plans, both of them escaped to the kingdom of Chou and conceded the throne to another of their younger brothers. There in Chou territory, they became friends with King Chou Wen (周文王) but when the latter received orders from King Chou Wu (周武王) to rout Emperor Zhou of Shang Dynasty (商紂王), they rode to King Chou Wen to urge him not to go ahead but when refused, and out of loyalty to the Shang Dynasty, they swore not to eat anything further given to them by the Chou officials and ate only grass and tree barks and eventually died of hunger at the foot of a mountain called Saoyang (首陽).) Hsu Kan (除幹) explains in the Discourse on Dying and Longevity in his Book on the Middle  (中論. 夭壽) what is meant by "immortality"." " Shun Song of Wing Chun (a scholar in East Han) ..thought that the ancient have already talked about "dead but incorruptible" (immortiality)...his body is gone, but his Tao or way persists, That is what is meant by immortality...  Of course, the body is something that will corrupt and disappear, whether one has longevity or not is a matter of a few tens of years; whether one has established virtue and righteousness (justice) is a matter of thousands of years. How can they be spoken of in the same breath? "「穎川荀爽...以為, 古人有言, 死而不朽...其身殁矣,其道猶存,故謂之不朽....夫形體固自朽弊消亡之物,壽與不壽,不過數十歲;德義立與不立,差數千歲,豈可同日言也哉?」

Han Ying (200 -130 BC ), a doctor at the time of Han Wen Ti (漢文帝) and later the teacher of the emperor Han King Ti (漢景帝) and a famous scholar of Jin Wen Jing (今文經), (a school of thought based on the then "recently" discovered version of the ancient Chinese classical texts in the Han Dynasty, specializing in the Book of Poetry (詩經), popularly known as Han Poetry (韓詩)) said in his Outer Text of Han Poetry (韓詩外傳):"Prince Pi Kan got killed to establish loyalty, Wei Sang got killed to establish his fidelity, Baiyi and Shuqi got killed to establish their purity. These four are examples to all scholars. how would they not love their lives. But because their righteousness is not yet established, their names not prominent, hence a scholar would be ashamed of himself, hence they got themselves killed to accomplish their conduct. From this perspective, low status and poverty are not the same of a scholar. What is a shame is when everybody upholds loyalty and they fail to follow, everybody upholds fidelity and they fail to follow, everybody upholds purity and they fail to follow. The three qualities being embodied by them, their they are renowned. never resting like the sun and moon. Will cannot kill them and the earth cannot bear them and even in the times of Kit and Zhou, they will not be sullied. It is not that they detest life and rejoice in death or hate wealth and delight in poverty. Where worthy principles involve their person as scholars, they will not be daunted."(「王子比干殺身以成其忠,尾生殺身以成其信,伯夷叔齊殺身以成其廉。此四子者,皆天下之通士也,豈不愛其身哉?為夫義之不立,名之不顯,則士恥之,故殺身以遂其行。由是觀之,卑賤貧窮,非士之恥也。夫士之所恥者,天下舉忠而士不與焉,舉信而士不與焉,舉廉而士不與焉。三者存乎身,名傳于世,與日月并而不息,天不能殺,地不能生,當桀紂之世,不能污也,然則非惡生而樂死也。惡富貴好貧賤也,由其理尊貴及己而仕,不辭也」

To LaoTsu, what is most important is not to lose one's true nature. He said in Chapter 33 of LaoTzu :" One who does not lose what he is will last and one who dies but is not gone possesses  longevity" (不失其所者久,死而不亡者壽:)

What do Chinese Buddhists think about death and immortality. According to T'ai Hsü Ta Shi 1890-1947 Master Taixu or T'ai Hsü Ta Shi ( 太虛大師))(1890-1947), a Buddhist modernist, activist and thinker who advocated the reform and renewal of Chinese Buddhism, the word "Life" (生命) is some living being (所謂生命, 就是活的生) and only those being with awareness/consciousness and knowledge are full beings (有覺知情識才是充足的生命) But death is not equivalent to the termination of life but when this life terminates, another life begins.According to the Buddhist view, "The human life, formed with five material and mental/spiritual skanda, will ceaselessly grows and develops, weakens, ages until it finally dies. That's why it is said: where there is life there must be death. But death is not equivalent to the termination of life. Rather, when this life terminates, another new life will begin. Thus it has been said: "This dies, another lives. Another dies, this lives." The two may appear to be unconnected with each other, In fact, it is a process of one leading to the other. Although the material part of human life dies, the spiritual part never dies, especially the part which forms the core of the spiritual subject(ego, or self), the king of all consciousness, the 8th consciousness (Note: alaya), which contains all the man's previous karmic causes, which leads to the karmic effect in the current life during which his conduct will form indelible karmic sees, stored in the karmic field (alaya) to be the principal cause of another new life, thus forming a man's three lives: past, present and future. " (由精神與物質等五蘊所組成的人類生命, 是不斷成長, 不停的衰老, 而終至死,所以說:有生必有死,但死並不等如生命的完結, 而是此一生結束時, 又開展另一新的生命。所謂:"此死彼生, 死彼此生",彼此間似乎互不相關,實際上彼此是繼往開來的過程.人的生命物質部分雖然死亡, 但精神部分卻永恆不死,特別是作為精神主體的八識心王,含藏着八過去所造的業因,引生現世的結果,再由現世行為形成不可磨滅的業種子, 儲藏放入識田中,作為引生未來生命的主因,遂成為過去,現在、未來三世生命). Thus from the point of view of Buddhist doctrine, only our physical bodies die upon our death. Another part of our "self", its spirit, will live on in the form of what they call "karma" (業) which will "seed" another life in the constant recycling of our karmic spirit  in the process they call samsara (輪迴),  whether as hungry ghost, asuras, animals, human beings etc, until we achieve nirvana when we become finally and permanently free from such recycling of our karmic spirit. If so, "immortality" is not a long life, not even a long spiritual life, which in the Buddhist perspective, is not necessarily "good" because if we did not have sufficient good thoughts, right thinking, and do sufficient good works in our current life, we shall continue to be subjected to that endless samsaric cycle of constant deaths and rebirths during which we may take on the form of various kinds of "beings" who differ from each other only in the amount of suffering they have to endure during the relevant stage in the samsaric cycle.

Professor Chan ends his talk with a brief note on how Zen (Chan) Buddhism proposes to help us terminate the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths through a form of enlightenment by grasping and perceiving the ultimate Buddhist truth directly, without the use of words. He cites the story of how the 6th patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism came to be selected. The story has it that one day, the 5th Patriarch Hongren (弘忍) called all his disciples in front of the main hall and told them and rebuked them saying that to people, life and death is always an important matter but all that they were doing everyday was to look for their own blessings(福田) instead of seeking to lift themselves off the cycle of death and rebirth in that sea of suffering and that if their individual natures were deluded, how it was possible to have "salvation" (世人生死事大,汝等終日六求福田,不求出離生死苦海,自性若迷,福何可救) and urged them to each meditate on what level of wisdom (智慧) they have achieved by looking  into their own heart or mind at their own wisdom and then to write a Buddhist song of praise (偈) to show him what wisdom they had achieved and that if they had achieved great enlightenment, then he would pass to such a monk his position as the head monk and that they must do so "immediately" because if they were to use their mind to think hard, that could only mean that they were using their mind to discriminate between things ie. they hadn't got the gist of the Zen method which is perception of the truth without going through the use of verbal distinctions in our mind. In his view, Zen required no book learning, only intuition and unreflected perception of the ultimate Buddhist truth, direct from the human heart and mind (明心見性). The word "智 " means "to be enlightened" (照有) and to understand everything( 明暸萬象) and the word "慧 " means to observe the void/the illusoriness/the emptiness of everything  and to thoroughly understand the nature of the ultimate truth( 觀空, 洞徹理體). In the end, he passed his robe and his bowl to Hui Neng (惠能), who had been charged with sweeping the floor of the monastery instead of to Shen-Hsiu (神秀), who had been teaching Buddhism to the younger monks. He did so because 神秀 wrote one poem, and hesitated for several days whether to present it because he was afraid of being accused of wanting power and after much mental struggle, he decided to post it up outside a room dedicated to the the Lankavatara 楞枷經 (one of the three items given to Huike (慧可), the first Chinese Zen patriarch) instead of giving it directly to Hongren. The song read "The body is a Bodhi tree, the heart a mirror like table. it requires constant sweeping Lest it be filled with dust" ( 身是菩堤樹, 心如明鏡臺, 時時勤拂拭,勿使惹塵埃). Hongren, the fifth patriarch read it and didn't like it and urged 神秀 to do another one but in the meantime told all the other monks to read it. But Hui Neng could neither read nor write and asked for it to be read to him by another monk. But once he heard it, he felt it was wrong and asked the other monk to help him write down a better version. His version is: "There never was a Bodhi Tree, Nor is the clear mirror a table, There's nothing. Whence the Dust?" ( 菩堤本無樹, 明鏡亦非臺, 本來無一物,何處惹塵埃.). He was made the sixth patriarch. So there's hope for everyone, including even the illiterate, just so long as we realize the emptiness and the illusory "permanence" of everything , everyone and all the phenomena we see, hear, touch, smell, taste. That's the beauty of Zen!

2011年10月25日 星期二

Beauty, Subtlety & Near Abandon --Anne Sofie von Otter in HK

Autumn is good. Autumn with songs is even better. It's such a wonderful experience to be able to escape from the humid heat of Hong Kong once a year and be regaled with the beautiful and relaxing sound which flew in half a globe away from Sweden to find a temporary wooden perch on the stage of the Cultural Centre. I had such an experience last night.

The experience was delivered by a golden bird from the land where the sun seldom rises above the horizon and never sets for months on end at different times of the year. She sauntered on to the stage in a long slim purple glistening velvet evening dress, her short blonde hair above her bare shoulders, a radiant smile on her face, followed closely behind her by a rather plump gentleman with thinning hair in big curls on a ball-like head and a loosely fitting dark suit on a white shirt without wings , with an equally charming but slightly impish smile on his face. They were opposites in every way except in their good humor. The golden "nightingale "was mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the plump dark "gander" her piano accompanist Bengt Forsberg, accomplished musicians both, each in their own way.

They started the evening's programme with songs from a composer from their neighboring country Norway: Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), who trained in Leipzig, Germany, moved back to Norway, then Denmark, finally back to his own country and went on to become one of his country's greatest composers: Med en vandilje (With a Water Lily), Våren (Spring) and Lauf der Welt (The Way of the World) based on three of the six beautiful poems by one of the most famous Norwegian playwrights and poets Henrik Ibsen. The first one is about a mother's warning to her daughter about how behind the beauty of water lily in a quiet little spring stream. there may lurk hidden dangers in in the form of dreams of love that it triggers. The second sings of flowers budding again, ice melting into gurgling streams, the voices of one's forefathers' souls speaking  through dancing spring flowers and the riddles hidden amidst the birches and evergreens of its wood and the weeping voices of carved flutes. The third sings of the wordless language of love ,spoken each evening along a meadow lane, by the lips of young lovers which begins and ends naturally amidst gentle breezes through some rose bushes until they are embraced by the morning dew without anyone of them ever saying, "I do love thee". The first is a bit sad but you can feel the joy in the second and the third, although they're all sung in Norwegian.

Next we had songs from another country in the land of steep mountains, endless snow and coniferous evergreens: Finland. We had three songs from Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), who trained in Helsinki, Berlin and Vienna and who wrote 7 symphonies and more than a hundred songs. The first was Till kvällen (To Evening), based on a poem by the Finnish poet Forsman-Koskimies about how a man yearns for the coming of the evening, to wrap him in the tresses of its starlit splendour, silent, yet warm and tender and to take him to the land of dreams, free from the clamor, the cares and the burdens of the nitty gritty of daily living and to rest forever in its embrace. The second was Les Troi soeurs aveugles (The Three Blind Sisters), a song from Maeterlinnck's Pelléas et Mélisande for which Sibelius wrote the programme music for its staging in Swedish translation in 1905, sung by the mysterious Mélisande from her tower window, as Pelléas, her lover, the half-brother of her husband Golaud, comes to her. The Three Blind Sisters are about three different views on achieving union with man or God through love, the first held on to hope and  the second to the light from an ascending King but the third, the chastest says that "Our lights have gone out". It's a very sad song. The third song, Var det en dröm (Was it a Dream?), was a song of lost love, of memories of a silent, shy and tender glance, a rose given  him by his lover, a glistening parting tear and the residual vibration of the strings from a song which has become silent and as evanescent as the life of an anemone out in the spring meadow whose beauty is quickly overshadowed by the profusion of other new flowers, leaving behind only the the occasional sounds of sobs hidden deep within her breast.

Before the next composer was introduced. we had a piano solo by Forsberg, who played for us Sibelius's Romance in A. Opus 24. No. 2, a piano piece which aspired to be orchestral in its range, its dynamics and its idioms. It was a very romantic piece, full of strain, contrasts, color and to me, joy. Forsberg is good. He appears to thoroughly enjoy what he is doing, playing with a certain nonchalance and a certain spontaneity which you do not always find in other pianists. He would certainly have made an excellent jazz pianist, had he not been playing classical music.

Then we had a most famous piece which had been adapted for solo piano and for choirs. It was Schubert's (1797-1828) Die Forelle (The Trout), which is based on part of a poem by Christian Friedrich Schubert about how a trout would race through a clear brook, secure from the angler's hook but once the water was befouled by the angler's "crafty agitations" , it got caught and the song ended with a warning to young girls never to lose their head. I like the way Otter sang this song. She caught the irrepressible joy hidden amongst the musical notes and the first part of the lyrics, which matched so closely the lively motions of the trout splashing and jumping upstream in the clear water. Next we had Du bist die Ruh (You are my Rest), a song based on a poem by Friedrich Rückert. written in a poem collected in Ostliche Rosen (Oriental Roses). It's about the poet's longing for the tender peace of mind which would relieve him from both the more ordinary pleasures and pains of life so that it may rest in the more calming pleasures of its tranquility and silence. The final piece from Schubert was based upon the first part of Goethe's. Faust. Gretchen am Spinnade (Gretchan at the Spinning Wheel), It's about how the movement of her thoughts and her feelings: how restless she has become after having fallen in love with the young Faust, how her heart has been turned into a  silent grave in his absence, how angry she got, how her heart messes up her head, looking out at the window all the time for him, how the sound of his voice, the touch of his hands and his kisses are to her streams of pure bliss, how she yearns to feel him close against her breasts, to clasp him, to kiss him until she sinks and dies as she spins. We hear the steady rhythm of the spinning wheel as she sings. 

After the intermission, we had songs from that whimsical genius Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Es muss ein Wunderbares sein (It must be a wonderful thing), Es war ein König in Thule (The King in Thule) and Die drei Ziegeuner (The three Gypsies). The first was based on a short poem about love written by Oscar Freiheir von Redwitz for Princess Augusta of Prussia, the sister of the Grand Duke of Weimar., about how two people locked in love would share their most intimate secrets, joys and griefs together from their first kiss to their death. The second is also based on Goethe's Faust and is also sung by Gretchen about how the King of Thule who was given a golden goblet by his beloved at the hour of her death , would drink from it at every feast when his eyes overflowed with tears, how before he himself died, he took one last draught of "life's fire" with his knights surrounding him, then tossed it into the sea after which he drank not a further drop until his eyes sank and he closed his eyes upon the world forever. It sounded almost like a hymn. The Three Gypsies, based upon a poem by Lenau written in 1860, is about how the poet met three gypsies who suggested to him three different ways of handling troubles. The first is a fiddler whom he found lying below a willow tree, as his cart crawled over a sandy heath, playing a merry tune in the glow of sunset, the second blew smoke from his pipes and watched it as if he had not a care in the world and the third simply slept and dreamt  his cymbalom hanging from the tree. Their clothes were full of holes and colorful patches, as if there to mock the world, teaching the poet how when life grew dark, one can always smoke, or sleep or play music.

Then it was the turn of Mahler. We had four of his songs: Es sungen drei Engel (There sang three angels), Das irdische Leben (Earthly Life) Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (Where the Beautiful Trumpets blow) and Um schlimme Kinder artig zu machen (To Make Naughty Children Behave). These four songs were taken from the German folk song collection called Das Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn), assembled, edited and published between 1805-1808 which Mahler adapted in the 1890s. The first, Es sungen drei Engel was composed by him originally as the fifth movement of his Symphony No. 3. It is about three angels singing happily for St. Peter when Jesus asked his 12 apostles at the last supper why they should be so sad for having broken the 10 commandment and told them to fall on their knees to pray to God and to love God at all times, whereupon the song resumes it joyful mood. The next song was much sadder. It was a song about a conversation between a mother and a hungry child. The child asked the mother for a little bread but the mother asked the child to wait because she got to sow the seeds first and when the corn is sown, the child asked for bread again but was told that the harvest would be done the next day. After the harvest, the child asked again but was told that the corn will be threshed quickly, then that it would be ground, then baked but by the time the bread was baked, the child was dead. The song about the trumpet boy is a love song between a young maiden and her lover who will go live in a battle zone where the beautiful trumpet will blow. He waited for her outside her door at dawn, she led him in with her dainty white hands of snow and he begged her not to weep because he would marry her next year but in the meantime, he would have to go to war. The last Mahler song is about a mother who peeps out of her window to find a gentleman on a beautiful horse, tells him that her husband is not around and that she is left alone only with her maid and her children. The gentleman says he's got many presents for obedient children but is told that her children are very naughty so he rides off far far away from the castle. It's a very lively song.

The second last composer introduced was Erich Wolfgang Konrgold (1897-1957). We had three of his songs from Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night from the clown who sang "Come Away, Death" and "O Mistress Mine" and "Adieu, Good Man Devil" later in the play. Duke Orsino fell madly in love with Olivia, then in mourning for her brother and so the clown sings "Come away death" asking to be laid in sad cypress because, he has been slain by a fair cruel maid, where sad true lovers never  find his grave, In the song "O Mistress Mine," he sings to plead with his beloved to stay and kiss him because "present mirth have present laughter" but "what's to come is unsure"  and there's little in delay because youth is not something which endures. In the last song, Molvolio, Olivia's steward has been tricked into professing his love for her, causing him to be ridiculed as a mad man, including the clown, who first posed as the parson and then later later leaves as himself, singing "Adieu,  Good Man Devil" promising to return later. The final song Glückwunsch (Greetings) was taken from a film called "Devotion" for which Korngold wrote the film score and is based on a poem written by Richard Fedor Leopold Dehmel. It's a happy well wishing song in which the singer wishes someone happiness which is more than vain delight, wishing him gazes free from longing, full of the kind of strength that makes spring out of winter and for a bouquet that glow in his house each day.

The evening's official programme ended with three Broadway songs from jazz composer Kurt Weill: "One Life to Live", taken from a 1940 musical "Lady in the Dark" and two other jazz favourites  "Speak Low" and "I"m a Stranger here myself". both from another musical called "A Touch of Venus" The first song is sung at the first dream sequence of the play, called "Glamor Dream" by the heroine Liza Elliot, an editor of a lady's fashion magazine then undergoing psychotherapy, a kind of spoof on the Pygmallion story of a girl who rose from the gutter to glamor . In the first song, the heroine says since there is only one life, if there is party, she wants to be its host, if there is a haunted house, she wants to be its ghost and if there's a town, she wants to be its toast, and wants her imagination to soar because she thinks that what she collects at the grindstone may become in time a millstone and that she doesn't mind being called an escapist but just wants to be led straight to the bar and laugh at her old repression. The next song "Speak Low" is a bit sad. It's about the fleetingness of time when one is in love: the summer day withers away too soon, and lovers are swept away too soon, and love's spark too, is lost in the dark too soon because time is a thief and the curtain may fall down too soon. In the last song, "I'm A Stranger here myself", she asks whether murmuring she loves him embarrasses him,  whether she has gone astray in doing so, whether love is now outmoded, whether true romance is fleshly, whether love has lost its glamor, why the Victorian views and complains that she is a stranger to herself. Otter was happy. She gave us two encores, a little "Swedish?" song on summer and then "Autumn leaves". She is an excellent singer, sensitive to the nuances of the various kinds of feelings she must convey in her songs and sings with obvious enthusiasm but I think her voice is more suitable for studio production or some rather more intimate singing venues like cabarets , chamber music environment because much of her talent for subtlety may get dissipated in the vast space of a concert hall, unless of course, she does not mind the horror of a good mike.  I know she tries very hard to sing with the abandon of a black female voice in the last part of the programme but nature is nature.   

. .

2011年10月24日 星期一

Chinese Perspectives on Death. 1

Just heard another talk at the HKSHP Friday last night. It was given by Professor Kwong Kwok Keung (鄺 國 強) of the Hong Kong Taoist College. Quite enlightening..

Kwong thinks that since death is a problem which has troubled many people both in the past and even now, what some ancient Chinese thinkers thought about this perennial subject may well be worth our attention. What strikes him is how pragmatic Chinese philosophers have been about this question. They all think that death is closely connected with two other questions: human immortality and the meaning of life. He summarizes his conclusions under two short phrases:"Life  and death are natural. Justice is all" (生死自然, 唯義所在). He elaborates his views under the following sub-headings: 1. Life and Death as the Tao of Nature.  2. Ignorant about Life, wherefore Death? 3. Meaning of Life and Immortality.

The Naturalness of Life and  Death

The Taoists think that
(1) at the root of life and death is "Ch"i (氣): life arises naturally when chi gathers (聚)and death arrives when "Chi" is dissipated (散)/They also think that  they know nothing about being pleased with life nor detesting death (不知說(悅)生.不知惡死) and may even think that death is returning to reality (歸真).e.g. In ChuangTzu 莊子, the following passages are relevant:
(a) The Northern Adventures of the Sage/Knowledge  (知北游): "Man lives between heaven and earth, like a white horse observed through the crack of a wall. All of a sudden, it's all over: arising, thriving, none can  stop life; vanishing and leaving in silence, none can prevent it going away.It begins in changes and dies in changes....life is the follower of death and death is the beginning of life. Who knows the laws which govern them! Human life is the accumulation of Chi. Where there's accumulation, there's life; where there's dissipation, there's death. If life and death follow each other, why should I be bothered? "("人生天地之間,若白駒之過郤, 忽然而已, 注然勃然, 莫不出焉; 油然漻然, 莫不入焉, 巳化而生, 又化而死...生也死之徒, 死也生之始, 孰知其紀!人之生, 氣之聚也, 聚則為生, 散則為死,.若死生為徒, 吾又何患," 
(b) The Great Master (大宗師) :" In the old days, a man who has attained Truth, takes no pleasure in talking about life and knows nothing of detesting death, He won't make any announcement about birth ; nor does he resist death. He goes suddenly, he comes suddenly . That's all. " (古之真人, 不知 (悅) 說生, 不知惡死; 其出不訢, 其入不距;翛然而往, 翛然而來而已矣往) and "Death and Life.That's fate. There's a law about evenings and mornings, That's sky.There are things which man cannot control because that is the truth of the matter." (死生, 命也,其有夜旦之常, 天也, 人之有所不得與,佳物之情也.") and "The Great Earth gave me form,  hard work with life, leisure with age and rest with death" (夫大塊載我以形,勞我以生,佚(逸)我以老,息我以死)
(c)  Ultimate Joy (至樂):   "ChuangTzu' wife died. WeiTzu (惠子) went to grieve her, ChuangTzu was singing, hitting a vessel squatting on the ground. WeiTzu (惠子) said: She having lived with you and now dying of old age. Isn't not crying enough? Why are you singing and hitting the vessel? Isn't that a bit too much?" ChuangTzu replied: " No, When she died, how could I not regret it at the beginning? But having noted that she never had life to begin with, not only did she not have life, she never had form, not only did she not have form, she never had Chi and then she slipped in between the tips of some brushes and started to have a bit of Chi, the Chi changed into form and form into life and now she has changed back to being dead, just like the marching of the seasons of spring, autumn winter and summer. The person is now silent, sleeping in the big room and I wailed after her. I then thought that that meant I did not understand what life is all about and I stopped. (" 莊子妻死, 惠子吊之, 莊子則方箕踞鼓盆而歌. 惠子曰: "與人居, 老身死, 不哭亦足矣,又鼓盆而歌,不亦甚乎?莊子曰: "不然, 是其始死也, 我獨何能無概然!察其始而本無生, 非徒無生而本無形,非徒無形而本無氣,雜乎芒芴之間, 變而有氣,氣變而有形,形變而有生,今又變而之死, 是相與為春秋冬夏四時行也,人且偃然寢於巨室,而我噭噭然隨之而哭之,自以為不通乎命,故止也。")
(2) It is as natural for there be death as it is for there to be life. Thus 揚雄 said in 法言.君子: "There must be death where there is life and there must be an end where there is a beginning. It's the Tao of Nature.." ("有生者必有死,有始者必有終,自然之道也" ) (楊雄 法言. 君子)
Their views have been adopted even by the later Confucians e.g.Chang Tsai (張載) (1020-1077 CE), a Sung scholar and moral philosopher who thought that so long as we follow the right practice, we may die with peace of mind. He said " 存, 吾順事, 沒, 吾寧也" ( 張載集 正蒙 乾稱) and "if we follow our nature and then we shall know that if we got nothing during life, then there is nothing for us to lose in death ( 盡性然後知生無所得則死無所喪) (ibid 誠明). He think that just like the sea freezing will produce ice which will gather together when they float but that the sea had nothing to do with the character and nature of ice and the relevant accumulation or their life and death. The same principle will apply to our exploration of life and death." ("海水凝則冰, 浮則, 然冰之才, 之性, 其存其亡, 海不得而與焉, 推是足以究死生之說"(ibid 動物). The two Chings  ie. Cheng Yi  程颐; or  Ch'eng I, 1033–1107), with courtesy name Zhengshu (正叔), also known as Mr. Yichuan(伊川先生), a Song Dynasty philosopher who worked with his elder brother Cheng Hao (程灏), also think like the Taoists. According to them, life is
unceasing and when something reaches it furthest point, it will return and for the same reason, whenever we have life, there death will follow. They said, "the way that birth comes about is the unending work of nature, as if 7 days which go and come. In the interval, its source never stops to renew itself  and the positive is reborn and when it reaches it furthest point, it returns because that is the way that it is. Where there is life there is death. Where there is beginning, there is end." (生生之理, 自然不息。如復言七日來復,其間元不斷續,陽巳復生,物極必返,其理須如此。有生便有死,有始便有終" (二程集,可河南程氏遺書. 卷十五) as are the thinking of 李贊, who thought that life and death are like day and night and that after death, there will be no rebirth about which we can do nothing and hence upon death, there is no need to grieve but on the contrary, what we need to grieve is about what damages life. (生之必有死也. 猶晝之必有夜也。死之不可復生 猶逝之死之不可復返也。人莫不欲生,然卒不能然卒不能使之久生;人莫不傷逝,然卒不能然卒不能使之久生。既不能然卒不能使之久生,則生可以不欲矣。既不能止之勿逝,則逝可以無傷矣。故吾直謂死不必傷矣,唯有心乃可傷耳。勿傷逝。願類傷生也). 王夫之 also thinks that life and death, like success and failure follow the tendency inherent in the application of reason and that if we set ourselves the aim of dedicating ourselves to the good of the world, then death and failure cannot be treated as dangers outside of our contemplation whilst our life and our success can be planned and that we can know that perhaps we may die and death may alert us to the possibility of life and when we meet with failure, we may think of the possibility of success and if we meet with success, we may reflect on our chance of failing and whether we succeed or fail, whether we live or die is a matter of changing trends  but if we keep to the centre of our Chi, we can calculate everything and if we run well, we should never exceed our limit ; if so, we shall be as unmovable as a mountain or as flexible as water. This is the so-called centre of our Chi". (生之與死, 成之與販, 皆理勢之必有...既以身任天下,則死之與敗,非意外之凶危;生之與成,抑固然之籌劃;生而知其或死,則死而知其固可以生;敗而知有可成,則成而抑思其且可以販。生死死生,成敗敗成,流轉于時勢,而皆有量以受之,如凡善走,不能踰越于盤中。其不動也如山,其决機也如水,此所謂守氣也。)

Ignorance of Life after Death

But there is another type of view represented by Confucius who think that if if we can't serve man, how we can be expected to serve spirits  and that if we don't even know about life, how we can expected  to know anything about death. (未知生, 焉知死) . Thus In the Confucian Analects (論語)   asked Confucius asked the master how he could serve spirits and gods and death and got the above answers( Zi Lu/Tsze-lu 子路 (or 季路) 問事鬼神, 子曰: "未能事人, 焉能事鬼?" 曰: "敢問死".  子曰: "未知生,焉知死"

No matter whether they are Confucians or Taoists, they all share a common disregard of death which to him is perfectly reasonable. But what do they think about the meaning of life and immortality. Dr. Chan thinks that the Confucians all think the path to immortality are, as first mentioned by Gongsun Long or Kung-sun Lung
(公孫龍) (ca. 325–250 BC) of the period of Warring States,  ie. either to uphold
virtue or to put it into practice in our community or to leave behind some memorable words (立德,立功, 立言).

Meaning of Life and Immortality

What is immortality in the view of Chinese philosophers?

Wang Chong or: Wang Ch'ung (王充) (AD  27–c. 100 AD),otherwise known as Zhongren
(仲任), a Chinese philosopher in the Han Dynastic who was the first to
give a materialistic and naturalistic account of the universe and the
writer of nhéng 
or Critical Essay (論衡 ) Chapter on Taoist Untruth( 道虛篇) said, "Wherever
you find blood vessels, there'll always be life. Wherever there's life,
there'll be death. From the fact of birth, one knows that there must be
death. Heaven and earth are not born, hence they'll never die. Yin and
Yan are not born, hence they'll never die. Death is the result of life.
Life is the proof of death. Thus wherever there's a beginning, there'lll
be a final termination and wherever there's termination, there'll  will
be a beginning. Only if there's no beginning or termination will you
find immortality."

To the Confucians, the purpose of life is to serve as a vehicle for justice or righteousness or benevolence (以生載義 or 仁). Thus Confucius advocates benevolence as the highest value, and even to die for it. (殺生成仁). In  Wai Ling Kung of Confucian Analects (CA)(論語 衛灵公), Confucius said: "No willing scholars and the benevolent will hurt benevolence for the sake of seeking life. They would only kill themselves for the sake of fulfilling benevolence. (志士仁人,無求生以害仁,有殺身以成仁). But the kind of benevolence that he has in mind is the kind that looks after the public good, not merely one which just satisfies personal honour. Thus in CA, Hin Wen,(論語. 宪問) "Tsze-kung (子貢) said, "I understand that Kwan Chung is lacking in virtue. When Duke Hwan caused his brother Master Chiû to be killed, Kwan Chung failed to die with him. He even turned Duke Hwan's prime minister. The Master said, "Kwan Chung became Duke Hwan's prime minister, became the first amongst the nobility, united the country and even now, the people are enjoying his gifts. Had it not been for for Kwan Chung, we should still be wearing unbound hair and have the lapel of our gown on the left hand side. Would you have him observe the faith of the ordinary  men and women, who would have committed suicide in some unknown stream or a ditch?"  (子貢曰:“管仲非仁者與?桓公殺公子糾,不能死,又相之。子曰:“管仲相桓公,霸諸侯,一匡天下,民到于今受其賜。微管仲,吾其被髮左衽矣。豈若匹夫匹婦之爲諒也,自經於溝瀆而莫之知也!”)

What are the criteria by which to tell whether a person is a complete or ideal man according to Confucius? In Hin Wen, CA (論語,宪問) "Tsze-lû (子路) asked
what makes a complete/ideal man. The Master said, "Assume a man with Tsang Wû-chung's knowledge, Kung-ch'o's lack of greed, Chwang of Pien's courage, Zan
Ch'iû's multiple talents and add thereto manners and music, that'd be close. He then added, "But what is needed of complete man nowadays? One who thinks of righteousness/justice when faced with profit, one prepared to sacrifice his life in the face of danger. one who remembers his promise long ago--one might then call him a complete/ideal man." (子路問成人。子曰:“若臧武仲之知,公綽之不欲,卞莊子之勇,冉求之藝,文之以禮樂,亦可以爲成人矣!Elsewhere he said: "What is required of a person nowadays to be complete? To think of righteousness vis a vis profit, to obey the call of his life when confronted with danger and never to forget what he promised a long time ago. That would be close." (曰:“今之成人者何必然?見利思義,見危授命,久要不忘平生之言,亦可以爲成人矣。” )

Mencius however, advocates justice or righteousness and if necessary to give up one's life for the same (捨身取義). Mencius said, 'Fish is something I like. Bear's paws are also something I like. If I cannot have both, I will forgo the fish and have the bear's paws. Likewise, life is something I like and so is righteousness. If I cannot have both, I , I will forgo life and have righteousness. Life is something that I like but there is something I like more than life, hence I will not seek it improperly. Death is also something I dislike but there is that which I
dislike more than death. But there are times when I would not avoid such a risk. If there is nothing which a man likes more than life when he can have life, why should he not take advantage of it?  If there is nothing which a man dislikes more than death when he can avoid death, why should he not take advantage of it?  But there are cases when men will not avail themselves of that which preserves life nor avert the risk of death. That's when there is that which they like more than life, and that which
they dislike more than death. It's not that only good people have this capacity. Everybody has it. It's just that the good has the ability not to lose it. A small
basket of rice and a bowl of soup. If you have them, you'll live and if not, you'll die. If offered in an insulting voice, not even a tramp will have them. If offered with a kick, not even a beggar will consider it beneath him to take them....That's what one would call, losing his nature" (Mencius; Gaozi I 告子上: 孟子曰:“魚,我所欲也;熊掌,亦我所欲也,二者不可得兼,舍魚而取熊掌者也。生,亦我所欲

Mencius thinks that whether we may want to preserve our life or not depends on whether the Tao is being followed. He said. " If there is Tao within the realm, then  we dedicate our lives to it. If there is no Tao within the realm, then we sacrifice our lives for its sake. It's unheard of that we should sacrifice our lives for the sake of men" (meaning those rulers who don't follow the ways of the Tao) ("天下有道,以道殉身;天下無道,以身殉道")(Mencius Giving it All part 1 孟子. 盡心上)

Xun Zi ( 荀子 or  Xún Zǐ or  Hsün Tzu,)  ca.312-230 BCE ), another Confucian legalist philosopher living in the period of the Warring States, think that there are all kinds of courage and that it takes a complete man to uphold righteousness and justice in the face of death. He says in Honour and Dishonour (荀子.榮辱篇). To him, there are different kinds of courage in the face of death. He says in that discourse that "There is the courage of dogs and swine. There is the courage of merchants and robbers. There is the courage of little people. There is the courage of scholars and the perfect or complete man. To fight for food and drink, to lack moderation and shame, to be ignorant of right and wrong, unafraid of death and injury and fearless about various boundaries. To see nothing but food and drink. That is the courage of dogs and swine. To serve only profit, to fight for goods and money, to be uncompromising  to be brave and strong, to be violent out of strong greed, to see only profit. That is the courage of merchants and robbers. To be violent out of contempt for death. That is the courage of the little people. Where righteousness and justice are concerned, not to lean towards those in power, to ignore his personal advantage, to remain unflinching in front of the whole nation, to remain unyielding in upholding righteousness even in the face of death. That is the courage of the ideal or complete man." ("有狗彘之勇者,有賈盜之勇者,有小人之勇者,有士君子之勇者。爭飲食,無廉恥,不
義之所在,不傾於權,不顧其利,舉國而與之不為改視,重死持義而不橈,是士君子之勇也 ).  He says in The Correct Title,(正名) : " Man most desires life. Man most detests death. But there are those who would go from life to death, not that they do not desire life and desire death but that they cannot properly live but can properly die. (人之所欲生甚矣,人之惡死甚矣;然

In "knowing Distinctions of Lui's Annals of Spring and Autumn" (呂氏春秋. 知分) , it is written that a person who has reached the peak would not allow his life and death to be determined merely by advantages to be gained. "One who thoroughly understands, understands the distinction between life and death. If one understands the difference between life and death will not be baffled or tempted by advantages  or disadvantages.". (達士者, 達乎死生之分。 達乎死生之分,則利害存亡弗能惑矣). Sima Qian or Ssu-ma Ch'ien (ca. 145 or 135 BC – 86 BC)  ), the Grand Historian (太史公 taishigong) of the Han Dynasty, also distinguishes between different kinds of death. He says in 報任安書, "All people must die once. There is a death heavier than Mountain Tai or one lighter than a feather. It really depends on the difference in the directions in which it is employed." (人固有一死,死有重于泰山,或輕于鴻毛,用之所趨異也). Other scholars have different notions about what a benevolent person is like e.g. in the Legends of Li Dao, chapter 93 of the Book of Late Han (後漢書.卷九十三,李杜列) it is written "The Tao of the benevolent is great indeed. He puts into practice that which he declares and would never fish for honour and for self-protection and would use benevolence as a criterion to decide on whether to stay or to leave and to set right the trend within the country so that life may be completed by reason, and death will fit the notion of righteousness" ("夫稱仁人者,其道弘矣!立言踐行,豈徒徇名安己而已哉,將以定去就之概,正天下之風,使生以理全,死與義合").

Other Confucian scholars also share the view that we should die for the Tao. It is said that "The fish live in water, dies in water; flowers and trees live on earth and die on earth; man lives in the Tao and dies in the Tao, That is the law of the gods or heaven. " (魚生于水,死于水;草木生于土,死于土;人生于道,死于道,天經也。") in Chung Ni, Knowing the Motto, the Wu Wang Collection ( 胡宏集. 知言. 仲尼)