Episode 10: The Pursuit Of Tao

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Everyone heard of Tao and everyone wants to get Tao. But not everyone understands Tao and how to pursue of it. In the book Tao Te Ching 道德经, the first chapter, it says “ Tao (the Way) that can be spoken of is not the constant Tao. The name that can be named is not a constant name. Nameless, is the origin of Heaven and Earth; the named is the mother of all things. ” Our today’s story is about a guy who failed to pursue the Tao.

This story is from the book Strange stories from a Chinese studio 聊斋志异, which I introduced in our last episode. The name of the story is Lao Mountain Taoist 崂山道士. Lao Mountain is a Taoist mountain in northern China. There was this young man called Wang Qi 王七. Wang is his last name. Qi means seven because he was the seventh kid in his family. I feel like the author really has a preference. For people he doesn’t like he just gave a random name like this guy. For the beautiful fox ladies, he would give a more sophisticated name. Wang Qi heard there were immortals in Lao Mountain so he went there since he wanted to learn from them. Ascending one peak, he reached a temple and saw a priest with long hair siting on a mat. Wang Qi made a bow and addressed himself and expressed his eager to learn Tao and it would be a honor if he could be his master. The priest said,” I fear you could not tolerant the fatigue. “ Wang Qi begged him and he became one of his pupils. For he first month, Wang Qi was asked to cut firewood in the mountains since very early mornings like other pupils. He respectfully obeyed. It was hard work and his body sufered. There were times he secretly meditated going back home. It’s a typical setting in Chinese stories that if a person wants to learn Kungfu or Tao, he or she had to start with long time of boring labor work as training both physically and mentally. That’s even in Star Wars which was inspired by Asian philosophy where Luke had to practise a lot of boring exercises he got tired of before learning the real stuf.

One night, he found his master was drinking two strangers. It was dark and one priest took a pair of scissors and cut out a circle on a piece of paper. Then he stuck it against the wall. Immediately it became a bright moon. The pupils all came in to see them. One of the strangers said,” We ought to have some fun on such a festive occasion” Accordingly he took a bottle of wine and presented to the others. Wang Qi wondered how could a small bottle of wine be enough for 7~8 people. The other pupils were worried too and tried to get the first served. How weird! The bottle never got empty. It was a bottle with endless wine. It sounds like Jesus making water into wine and multiplying bread. At this time, one of the strangers said,” You have given us a bright moon and it is boring to drink by ourselves. Why no let Change嫦娥to join us?” Change is the goddess of the moon. We will tell stories about her in the future. What would he do this time? Guess. Not a paper cut though. He just threw a chopstick into the moon and a goddess walked down from the moon. At first she was as big as a chopstick and when she approached the ground, she was a normal sized person. She started to sing and dance. When she concluded her song, she jumped on the table and turned into a chop stick again. The three priests laughed and one of them said,”We are having a wonderful night. However, I am a little bit drunk. Will you guys join me for a farewell shot in the palace of the moon?” They then walked into the moon. Pupils could see them drinking very clearly in the moon. After a while, the moon became obscured and the pupils brought in a lighted candle and found the priest sitting in the dark alone. The other two strangers alread disappeared. The priest saw the pupils and asked them to go to bed so they would not miss the wood cutting the next morning. After that night, Wang Qi didn’t want to go home and thought he could really learn something here not just cutting woods.

But after another two month of wood cutting, he got tired and lost his patience finally. He begged the master and said, “ I have worked for you for a long time. Teach me some thing that my way of coming here is not in vain.” “What do you want to learn?” “ I have noticed that when you walk, walls are nothing for you. Teach me that and I will be satisfied.” Walling through walls is a great thing to ask for teaching like Harry Potter. The priest laughed and taught him a formula to walk through the wall. The firs time he tried he was afraid to walk into the wall. However, the priest said,” Don’t go too slowly. Rush at it.” So Wang Qi closed his eyes ad ran into the wall. When he opened his eyes, he was on the other side of the wall. He thanked the master who told him to be careful to use the power otherwise it wouldn’t work. When Wang Qi got home, he bragged his experiences to his friends and wife. Since his wife didn’t believed his story, he tried to show his ability to go through the wall. What would happen? He bumped into the wall and fell on the ground. Shamed and embarrassed, all Wang Qi could do is to curse the priest. You can’t get the results without the efforts since the Way is not the easy way.

崂山

Mentioned:

道德经Tao Te Ching

聊斋志异Strange storeis from a Chinese studio

崂山道士 Lao Mountain Taoist

嫦娥 Change

Star Wars

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