Discussions on Ancient Chinese Culture and Prophecy Starting with the Author of "Plum Blossom Poem"

Zhang Tianliang

PureInsight | July 8, 2002

The author of the "Plum Blossom Poem" (an ancient, well-known Chinese poem commonly thought of as a prophecy) is Shao Yong, a famous scholar in the Northern Song Dynasty who specialized in the study of The Book of Changes. His style name is Raofu, and he was honored a posthumous title of Kangjie. [In ancient China many people, especially the literary, had a given name, a styled name which one would choose for himself when he entered adulthood and a posthumous title, which was an honorable title for the dead.]

The legend says that Shao Yong chose to live in seclusion on a mountain in order to concentrate on studying The Book of Changes. Although he studied The Book of Changes with painstaking effort, he was far from understanding the essence of the Number of Changes. [The Number of Changes is a complex technique derived and described in The Book of Changes for divination.] He made little progress until one afternoon when a mouse roamed by him while he was taking a nap. The noise of the mouse bothered Shao so much that he grabbed his porcelain pillow and threw it at the mouse. He missed the mouse and the porcelain pillow was smashed into pieces. Among the broken pieces of the pillow he found a note which stated, "On a certain day of a certain month of a certain year, Shao Yong will break this pillow into pieces." The note made Shao Yong speechless. The prediction of the date and event was completely accurate; every single Chinese character in his name was an exact match.

Shao Yong found himself curious about the writer who was able to make such an accurate and precise prediction. With the clues on the note, Shao Yong managed to find the house of the author of the note. As he was about to knock on the door, a middle-aged man came out of the door to meet Shao Yong as if he had been expecting him. The man said, "Before my father passed away several days ago, he told me to pass this book to a man named Shao Yong, who would come and visit the house today." Then he presented a book to Shao Yong. After studying the book just once, Shao Yong became an accurate fortuneteller. This is the origin of divination by the Plum Blossom Number of Changes. [Shao Yong had since mastered the Number of Changes and made many accurate forecasts. One of the most famous forecasts he made was the Plum Blossom Poem. The Number of Changes was, hence, called the Plum Blossom Number of Changes.]

It is very "easy" to find the divinatory symbol in the divination by the Plum Blossom Number of Changes. [In the school of Changes, a fortuneteller must first find an initial number or symbol. The number or symbol is very essential because it provides the important crucial hint. A fortuneteller will then combine the hint with other information collected from the inquirer to tell the fortune.] One finds the divinatory symbol from the heart. The divinatory symbol may be a color, a number, a sound, a rhythm, and so on and so forth. When decoding the divinatory symbols, one needs to take many factors into account, such as the time and direction before divination, and the posture of the inquirer, i.e., standing, sitting, laying down or walking. Finally, one will find correspondences in the Five Elements of these factors. Based on the theories that the Five Elements mutually promote and restrain one another, one will interpret these correspondences and tell the fortune. Actually, the use of divinatory symbols in the school of Plum Blossom Number of Changes is the true study of "numbers" in that the studied factors correspond to the variables of multivariate equations in modern western algebra. Except the Plum Blossom Number of Changes is a more advanced science of numbers, because it integrates the factors of time and space.

Chinese divination is also a small branch of the cultivation of Taoism. There is a strict requirement of the cultivator, regardless of the schools of divination. A fortuneteller must be as calm as water and free of miscellaneous thoughts in order to be able to communicate with the universe. In that case, Chinese divination is not just a "pure technique." It also requires that the fortuneteller have a pure heart. The cleaner and clearer one's mind is and the fewer impure thoughts one has, the easier it is for him to communicate with the universe and the more accurate his fortune telling will be. The cleansing of one's heart and eliminating impure thoughts is actually a process of purging one's attachments to fame and self-interest in order to achieve moral perfection.

According to the legend, Li Zhicai was the author of the note in Shao Yong's pillow. Li Zhicai was a student of Chen Tuan, another legendary figure in Chinese history.

Chen Tuan is a well-known figure who is recognized by both Daoism and Confucianism. There is a story of Chen Tuan that took place during the time of the Five Dynasties and Ten Countries, before the Initial Emperor of the Song Dynasty unified China, during a time of war and disaster. Chen Tuan chose to live in isolation on Mount Hua in order to escape from the chaotic world. When Chen Tuan heard that the Initial Emperor of the Song Dynasty was inaugurated, he became overjoyed and fell off from his donkey's back and said, "The world will be peaceful from now on." According to the legend, Chen Tuan was capable of sleeping for a long period of time. He often fell asleep for years without waking up. The general public interpreted his sleep as a means to escape from politics and war. Besides the legends, stories of Chen Tuan were also recorded in 'Collected Biographies No. 216' of The History of the Song Dynasty; "Chen Tuan enjoyed studying The Book of Changes. He was always seen with The Book of Changes in his hand. He often called himself Sir Cyclone. He wrote 81 chapters of The Mystical, which described cultivation and the making of immortal pills." It is evident from the stories and legends of Chen Tuan that he was a cultivator. Mr. Li Hongzhi said, "Some in the Tao School also teach it. In particular, some practices in the Qimen School teach sleep as a form of practice. One can sleep for decades without exiting the trance state, and one will not wake up." (From "Whoever Practices Cultivation Will Attain Gong" in Lecture Eight of Zhuan Falun). I feel that Chen Tuan must have cultivated his Assistant Spirit instead of his Primordial Spirit.

In addition to sleep, those who cultivate their Assistant Spirit will drink to meet the purpose of disabling their Primordial Spirit. Mr. Li Hongzhi said, "Why do some Great Taoist cultivation practices require drinking alcohol? It is because they do not cultivate one's Main Spirit, and drinking can make one's Main Spirit lose conscious." (From "The Issue of Eating Meat" in Lecture Seven of Zhuan Falun). In my humble opinion, Li Bai, the great poet of the Tang dynasty, is an excellent example of cultivating the Assistant Spirit by drinking. Li Bai called himself Li Zhexian. Zhexian means demoted deity in Chinese.

Li Bai is famous for drinking. His poem, "Bringing in the Wine," says a lot about himself and his drinking:

"My flower-dappled horse,
My furs worth a thousand,
Hand them to the boy to exchange for good wine."

Li Bai never stopped drinking until he was drunk. The Stories as Warning to the World describe his disposition perfectly in the following prose:
"Having heard the reputation of Wucheng Wine in Huzhou, Li Bai traveled a thousand miles only to savor it. He went to bars and drank to his heart's content as if no one else would notice his behavior. When Jiaye Sima, a government official, passed by and overheard Li Bai's wild singing in the bar, he sent his subordinate to find out who the man was. In response to their inquiry, Li Bai answered casually with a poem:

'A demoted deity, titled Lay Buddhist of Blue Lotus, I am,
Escaping the earthly fame in the bars for thirty years.
Sima of Huzhou, you do not need to bother ask who I am,
Just see Tathagata Jinsu behind me and you should know who I am.'"

Both his title of "Lay Buddhist of Blue Lotus" and self-designated identity of "Demoted Deity" suggest that he did not come from this world. When his mother was pregnant with Li Bai, she dreamed of the Taibai Venus entering her bosom. That's why Li Bai was also called Mr. Taibai. Tang Xuan Zong, the second emperor of Tang Dynasty, especially favored and trusted Li Bai. He once asked Li Bai what his ambition was. Li Bai answered, "I don't need anything in my life. I will be happy with just enough money to drink everyday." His indifference to fame and wealth was shown vividly in his poetry. There are often fabulous thoughts in Li Bai's poems, such as in "Bringing in the Wine," "Gazing at the Cascade on Lu Mountain" and "Tianmu Mountain Ascended in a Dream." It is absolutely impossible for someone without the mind of a cultivator to write these enlightening words.

Gazing at the Cascade on Lu Mountain
"Where crowns a purple haze
Ashimmer in sunlight rays
The hill called Incense-Burner Peak, from far
To see, hung o'er the torrent's wall,
That waterfall
Vault sheer three thousand feet, you'd say
The Milky Way
Was tumbling from the high heavens, star on star."

Tianmu Mountain Ascended in a Dream
"A seafaring visitor will talk about Japan,
Which waters and mists conceal beyond approach;
But Yueh people talk about Heavenly Mother Mountain,
Still seen through its varying deeps of cloud.
In a straight line to heaven, its summit enters heaven,
Tops the five Holy Peaks, and casts a shadow through China
With the hundred-mile length of the Heavenly Terrace Range,
Which, just at this point, begins turning southeast.
...My heart and my dreams are in Wu and Yueh
And they cross Mirror Lake all night in the moon.
And the moon lights my shadow
And me to Yan River --
With the hermitage of Xie still there
And the monkeys calling clearly over ripples of green water.
I wear his pegged boots
Up a ladder of blue cloud,
Sunny ocean half-way,
Holy cock-crow in space,
Myriad peaks and more valleys and nowhere a road.
Flowers lure me, rocks ease me. Day suddenly ends.
Bears, dragons, tempestuous on mountain and river,
Startle the forest and make the heights tremble.
Clouds darken with darkness of rain,
Streams pale with pallor of mist.
The Gods of Thunder and Lightning
Shatter the whole range.
The stone gate breaks asunder
Venting in the pit of heaven,
An impenetrable shadow.
...But now the sun and moon illumine a gold and silver terrace,
And, clad in rainbow garments, riding on the wind,
Come the queens of all the clouds, descending one by one,
With tigers for their lute-players and phoenixes for dancers.
Row upon row, like fields of hemp, range the fairy figures.
I move, my soul goes flying,
I wake with a long sigh,
My pillow and my matting
Are the lost clouds I was in.
...And this is the way it always is with human joy:
Ten thousand things run forever like water toward the east.
And so I take my leave of you, not knowing for how long.
...But let me, on my green slope, raise a white deer
And ride to you, great mountain, when I have need of you.
Oh, how can I gravely bow and scrape to men of high rank and men of high office
Who never will suffer being shown an honest-hearted face!"

Another characteristic of Li Bai is that the drunker he became, the more magnificent and powerful his poems were. It is just like what Mr. Li Hongzhi said, "When one's Main Consciousness relaxes, the Assistant Consciousness will project what it knows into the brain. Because it can see the nature of a matter in another dimension, the work will, accordingly, be done, a paper written, or the music composed." (From "Mind-Intent" in Chapter Nine of Zhuan Falun.)

I had thought that Chen Tuan's sleeping and Li Bai's fondness of drinking were odd characteristics of those holy hermits and recluses. After I obtained the Fa, I realized that behind these unique habits were ways of cultivation. In the past, many people were staggering in the cultivation of the small branches of Taoism because they couldn't obtain Falun Dafa. They paid a hefty price for their cultivation, and suffered a lot only to enlighten to a very tiny portion of the Fa. Although they appeared to be extraordinary in the eyes of ordinary people, they were not much more enlightened than ordinary people.

In the Chun Qiu period, there was a Chinese zitherist named Shi Kuang, who could foretell the result of a war based on how a person's mood was expressed in Shi's music. According to the legend, Jin Ping Gong, ruler of Jin, asked Shi Kuang to prophesy the outcome of the war when he heard that the Chu were about to attack the Zheng. Shi Kuang played the Chinese zither, and sang different songs in northern and southern China. He then reported to Jin Ling Gong, "Chu dominates the weak by being strong and will definitely lose in the end." As Shi Kuang expected, several days later the news of Chu's defeat was delivered.

Shi Kuang was not born blind. Records of the Countries in the Eastern Dong Zhou Period said that he smoked his eyes to blindness with wormwood. His story stuck me as incredible when I first read it. Later I came to understand that it's because he felt that the things he saw with his eyes distracted and confused him. That was why he chose to attain peace by ruining his eyes. The sheer will to cut off distraction from his cultivation was no different from that of Huike, Patriarch II in Zen Buddhism, who broke his arm in front of Boddhidarma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, to prove his will to cultivate. Huike was comparable to Shi Kuang in the way that they both had adopted an "intentional" way to obtain a clear and clean mind in the small branches of Daoism. Seeking outward, however, cannot fundamentally help Shi Kuang arrive at a clear and clean mind and a high level of cultivation. As a result, his achievement was limited to divination or, "telling the fortune by playing the Chinese zither and singing songs." Although he seemed to have acquired supernormal abilities in the eyes of ordinary people, he suffered more than he gained from the Fa in the eyes of someone who has obtained the Fa of Falun Dafa.

Mr. Li Hongzhi has disclosed numerous heavenly secrets in Zhuan Falun. The principles he described in the book completely cover the profound mystery of the universe from the most microscopic to the most macroscopic. Looking back at ancient Chinese culture after acquiring the Fa of Falun Dafa, I began to understand many seemingly strange and unreasonable stories. These strange stories were actually individual cultivation stories at different levels. When I looked at the broad and profound Chinese culture from the perspective of a cultivator, I found that many profound and mysterious matters in history to be straightforward and simple. I believe it was because the Fa has unlocked my wisdom.

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