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History of Chinese Culture

07-09-2003
 

Zhang Tianling

Ever since the pre-Qin period, through the successive dynasties, Chinese thinkers have searched tirelessly for the eternal Great Tao that Confucius and Lao Zi praised so highly. Where did the Great Tao come from and why and when did it decline? Is there any force that can rectify and renew the origin, and bring about a radical change in the universe?
When people have tried all means to seek the Great Tao, they have had to face a question that no one can escape: where does humanity come from?

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution holds that humans evolved from apes. However, Darwin said in the forward of the book that set forth his theory of evolution, The Origin of Species, “For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived.” And he discussed “the difficulties of the theory” in some detail in the last two chapters. At the beginning of the sixth chapter, “Difficulties of the Theory” are mentioned. “Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered.” Incredibly, the theory of evolution, which is hard to prove and is full of flaws, is considered one of three great discoveries of the 19th century. Nowadays, this theory is incorporated into textbooks and is highly regarded. As a result, it has become a powerful tool for humans to use to worship themselves, and places them against the true principle of the universe.

In 1999, the Report of Great Archaeological Discoveries around the World, a series edited by several well-known archaeologists, caught the public’s eye. This series has eight volumes and contains important archaeological discoveries from around the world with colorful pictures. The massive changes that have happened on Earth with the passing of time have almost erased all traces of ancient civilizations, however, what these bits of existing relics show is that, untold hundreds of thousands of years ago, people in pre-historic periods that we consider primitive and uncivilized had advanced civilizations that modern society doesn’t even measure up to. There is a pyramid some 200 meters high located on the bottom of the ocean in Bermuda. The Gabon Republic in Africa has a nuclear reactor that went critical 2 billion years ago and operated for 500,00 years. A human footprint has been found on a trilobite fossil formed 260 million years ago. Egyptian pyramids were built according to astronomical changes, calendar calculation, geometry and mathematics. The topography of Antarctica was drawn from upper air at least 6000 years ago. These examples are a small part of those great discoveries. With more and more undeniable evidence revealed to the public, it can be inferred that the theory of evolution is just an assumption. Yet, we still don’t know where pre-historic culture originally came from. How we can uncover the truth of the origin of human history?

The history of every nation in the world is portrayed in myths. It’s incredible that, no matter how many nations there are in the world, no matter how far they are from each other, they all have a common story: that a god made man using soil.

According to Chinese legends, Nu Wa made clay figurines, and then these clay figurines were given life.

According to the Bible, God formed man of soil, and breathed into the soil’s nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, named Adam. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and He made a woman named Eve.

The Moari tribe in New Zealand has a tale that God took some red mud from the river and made a clay figurine in His own image using His blood. Then, He breathed into the clay figurine’s mouth and nostrils, and made the clay figurine come to life.

In Australia, there is a myth about the creation of man, which says that a god used his broadsword to cut three pieces of bark. He put some soil on one of them, mixed the soil in the mud using his sword, then put some mud on another piece of bark, and created a figure of a human. Then, he breathed into its mouth, nostrils and navel, and these creatures immediately moved, surrounded the god, jumping up and down again and again.

The natives who live near the White Nile River in Africa have this legend, “The creator of the world decided to create humankind. He picked up a piece of soil and told himself: I will create human beings.”

Ancient Greek mythology says that Zeus took the soil and water from inside the Earth. He asked Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus to create animals and human beings.

The Pima Indians from the state of Arizona in the U.S. still think that the Lord of the Earth created everything in this world. He also created a beautiful soil sculpture. He called the human sculpture.

Arabian mythology says that God asked an angel to create humans. The angel brought some soil and came to Arabia. He created a human shaped sculpture, put it in one place and let it dry. After forty days, when the sculpture dried up, God gave life to the sculpture and gave it a soul.

In South America, the bible from the Guise Maya people states: In the beginning, there was nothing in this world except for two creators. They wanted to create living beings, so they created humans using soil.

Above are only a few examples of mythological stories about the creation of humankind. These kinds of stories can be found almost everywhere around the world: China, Middle Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, ancient Greece, Arabia and America. It is definitely not coincidental that different civilizations everywhere around the world talked about the same story. Especially during ancient times, there were no convenient methods for long distance travel or communication and so the different civilizations didn’t communicate much do to the geographical distances between them.

If human beings were truly created by God, then how did they live when they were first created? There is no concrete way for us to confirm the existence of prehistoric civilizations, however, fortunately, from ancient books, records and legends we can find bits and pieces of evidence of the very first human beings.

Once there were four ancient civilizations in the world, Babylon, Egypt, India and China. They have each had a very long history and created splendid cultures in this world. But the cultures of all these civilizations went through ups and downs. For example, the cultures of ancient Egypt and Babylon became degenerate around two thousand years ago. The ancient Indian culture was destroyed by tribal people from central Asia. The Mayan culture which built the Sun Pyramid, was destroyed by droughts in central America. The ancient Greek culture, which had shone with boundless radiance, was replaced by the Roman culture, which was destroyed after invasions by Germanic tribes. Only the Chinese civilization that was developing along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers in eastern Asia’s mainland continuously developed for thousands of years. During those years, Chinese culture was influenced by the rise and fall of different dynasties but never disappeared. Chinese culture has developed into a unique and profound culture and is the only ancient culture in the world that has continued to endure to the present day.

Chinese people have called themselves the children of the Yellow Emperor. The book The Historic Records (or Shi Ji in Chinese) calls the Yellow Emperor, Zhuan Xu, Di Gu, Rao, and Shun the five emperors. The book Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature (or Si Ku Quan Shu in Chinese) contains a volume by Sima Zhen from the Tang dynasty entitled Supplemental to the Historic Record – History of the Three Emperors. In the volume, the Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature the stories of the three Emperors who were the predecessors of the Five Emperors: Fu Xi, Sheng Nong and Nu Wa were described. The legend said that Fu Xi and Nu Wa were brother and sister and that they have the same last name “Fong.”

During Nu Wa’s later years, there was a battle between the Water God, Gon Gong, and the Fire God, Zhu Rong. Gon Gong was defeated by Zhu Rong and got very angry. He used his head to hit Mount Buzhou, which “caused the Heavenly Colon to break and the gaps on the earth and in the sky were created.” Nu Wa generated the five colored stone to repair the sky. She used the feet of crabs to support the four corners of the sky and used ash to stop the flood.

The name of Fu Xi’s mother is Hua Xu. She became pregnant after stepping on the footprint of a big person in the Leize region, and twelve years later Fu Xi was born. According to The History of Various Countries of Eastern Zhou Dynasty, Fu Xi made a musical instrument called Yao Qin, which was based on the number of heavenly circulations and the five elements in addition to inventing the Xiao, imitating the shape of the wings of a phoenix. The Biography of Three Emperors recorded Fu Xi as “someone with the head of a human and body of a snake, possessing holy virtue.” He taught people to replace knot tying with letters and symbols in record keeping, to catch fish with nets and to raise livestock for food. “He observed the cosmic climate when looking up, the law of Earth when looking down; and he observed the characters of the birds and beasts, going along with the flow of nature, obtaining various living beings from nearby and various materials from afar. Thus was the beginning of the Eight Diagrams, which was used to understand the minds of Gods and to sort out the feelings of everything in the world.”

It is said in Yuan Ming Bao of Spring and Autumn that Shen Nong started talking six hours after his birth. He could walk 5 days later and got all his teeth in only 7 days after he was born. When he was 3 years old, Shen Nong already knew how to grow crops. According to Huai Nan Zi-Xiu Wu Xun, when Shen Nong saw that people often got poisoned or were facing illnesses due to their improper diet, he came down to “teach people the growing of crops” according to the conditions of the soil--dry or wet, rich or lean. While we’re mentioning Shen Nong, nothing is more famous than his legend of “Tasting a Hundred Herbs.” At the beginning, Shen Nong would get poisoned more than 70 times a day after tasting a hundred herbs. Later on, he received a red whip with which he could know the properties of all the herbs – “neutral, poisonous, cold or warm.” Ever since then, China started to practice traditional medicine.

From these historical records and folk legends, we can see that in addition to their great virtue, the three emperors all possessed great divine power. When human beings were first created, God personally granted them the ability of independent living so humans could thrive and multiply, and at the same time, create a period of time when the human and divine culture coexisted. The young mankind walked out of the cradle step by step under the protection of God. In the Bible’s Book of “Genesis,” it is written that after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, “the God Jehovah made clothing of leather for Adam and his wife”.

The cultures of ancient times were very pure and simple. People admired nectar, bowed to the spring, started to work at sunrise and went to sleep at sunset. They knew neither amusement in life nor hatred at death, living a life completely following the course of nature. In the Ancient Theory of Supreme Truth (or Shang Gu Tai Zhen Lun in Chinese) of the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic, it states that “people in the ancient time knew the Tao, followed Yin and Yang, and went together with skill and fate. They had a well controlled diet, regular living routine and didn’t rush in work; therefore they could keep a good body and spirit and live out their natural life span, and leave after a hundred years.” Lao Zi said, “The Tao and Fa come naturally.” When people completely follow the natural course to live, they are in a state of being within the Tao without cultivating the Tao.

The time of coexistence of humans and Gods endured, and didn’t stop even until the time of the Five Emperors. In Volume 15 of the Royal Book of Tai Ping Period, it is says that Chi You used his arms to attack the Yellow Emperor, and both sides waged a great battle in the region of Zhuo Lu. Chi You used a magic skill and summoned a heavy fog, which did not go away for three days. As a result, the Yellow Emperor ordered Feng Hou to make a compass cart to tell direction. It is described in Shan Hai Jing’s Da Huang Bei Jing that Chi You invited the wind and rain master to come and cause strong winds and heavy rains. Then the Yellow Emperor summoned a fairy called “Ba” to help by stopping the rain, and then killed Chi You.

The time when humans and Gods coexisted has also been recorded in Greek mythology. In 1870, a German man, Schliemann, discovered the remains of the city of Troy in Hisarlik, Turkey, proving that the war between Greeks and Trojans as described in Homer’s epic poem was not a product of imagination. The title of the 12th volume of the epic tale, the Iliad, is “All the Gods dashed to the battle field, with each showing their invincible might.”

Almost all the Gods in Greek myths, such as Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes, Apollo, Ares and Athena were involved in the Trojan War.

The scenes of war with humans and Gods mixed together also appeared in China. They are depicted in the Historical Story of Apotheosis written by Xu Zhonglin during the Ming dynasty. Lao Zi, the primary heavenly God and the Tongtian priest jointly endorsed the list of Apotheosis and passed it onto Jiang Ziya by the primary heavenly God. During the time when Wu Wang struck Zhou, a lot of Gods and Taos died in the battle. Their souls were appeared at the Apotheosis desk and Jiang Ziya apotheosized them to be the righteous Gods or evil spirits according to the investiture on the Apotheosis list and the good or evil nature of these spirits. Gods who didn’t die during the war, such as Yang Jian, Ne Zha, Li Jing and Lei Zhenzi, also said good-bye to Wu Wang, then went to live in privacy to cultivate and no longer got involved in worldly affairs ever again.

The original culture of the gods finally degraded into the original human culture.

“When the Great Way was cast aside, humanity and justice at human levels subsequently appeared.” When Confucius spoke to his disciple, Zigong, in tears he said, “The Great Way has vanished from the earth for a long time,” the ideology of Confucianism has been established. In the remote past, when Emperor Wu (Zhou Dynasty [11 century to 711BC]) defeated Emperor Zhou (Shang Dynasty [16 Century to 11 century BC]), and as all the Gods were leaving the human world, the actual history of the human race began. Confucius’ teaching about not discussing the evil, violent force, disruption and distortion of systems, and disrespect of gods, were derived from Zhou Gongdan, the younger brother of Emperor Zhou Wu.

A few years before Confucius was born, a person who would shake Heaven and Earth was born in Southern Asia. He was vastly respected and was known as the great and magnificent Buddha Shakyamuni. He was born in a period when India was in a state of change and turmoil. At that time, the only religion in existence in India was Brahmanism, which was in decline and in its Dharma-ending Period, and was being replaced by various different cultivation practices such as the Unorthodox Teachings of the Six Masters, Sixty-two Perceptions, Philosophy of the Six Schools, and so on. During that period, India was not united. India’s torn state was recorded in Chang A Han Jing, which mentioned at least sixteen larger states, such as Serwei, Mojieti, and others. When Shakyamuni descended to earth to teach and save all sentient beings, India was known as the evil country of the five poisons.

Five hundred years after the birth of Confucius and Shakyamuni, a great enlightened being was born in Israel, located in the Middle East. He was Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity.

When Jesus Christ was born, Israel was also in turmoil. The “Exodus from Egypt” of the Old Testament says that after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, Jehovah gave him the Ten Commandments (Decalogue) at Mount Sinai, which forbade the Israelites from doing ten things. Nevertheless, the Israelites often did not obey the Ten Commandments. They prayed to idols and worshipped evil spirits of other tribes. The nations of Assyria (722 BC), Babylon (586 BC), Persia (539 BC), Greece (168 BC) and Rome (63 BC) in turn annexed Israel. When Jesus was born, Emperor Augustus was ruling Israel, and Judaism was divided into a number of religious factions, like the Pharisee, Sadducee, Karaites and Essenes. During this period, Jesus descended to the world as a human, performed miracles, spread the gospel and provided salvation.

After the gods departed after completing their historic missions, no matter whether it was Lao Zi, Confucius, Jesus or Shakyamuni, they all descended to Earth to standardize human civilization. They were also here because the morality of the human race had begun to decline. It was as Jesus said, “A healthy person does not need a doctor, only sick ones do. I did not come to seek righteous people, but to look for sinners.” Religions were born out of the decline of the Great Way and the advent of the human culture. In China, after the Spring and Autumn era (722-481BC), the three teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism remained. The curtain to the real history of the human race was thus raised.

Category: Chinese Culture

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