Friday, February 24, 2012

Chen Tuan 陳摶(2)

Chen Tuan (871-989) was a legendary Daoist sage. His birth name was Chen Tuan (陳摶); his other name was Tunan (圖南). He was posthumously named Xī Yí (希夷) by the emperor. He was also called fondly as Fu Yao Zi (扶搖子).

Traditionally in China, a person’s birth name and his other name are closely related with the other name an annotation of the birth name. However, in Chen Tuan’s case, his birth name is actually intimately related to the name given by the emperor.

Let us take a look at Chapter 14 of the Dao De Jing 道德經:

視之不見﹐名曰夷﹔

聽之不聞﹐名曰希﹔

摶之不得﹐名曰微

Look without seeing is called Yi;

Listen without hearing is called Xi;

Touch without feeling is called Wei.

Chen Tuan’s birth name wants him to put everything into practice in order to understand. The emperor knew him too well to be a superb Daoist. Therefore, he gave him the name Xi Yi希夷 meaning he already reached the state described by Dao De Jing. He looks without seeing, listens without hearing and touches without feeling. It is this state that qualifies him to be a real Daoist.

JY

23 comments:

Chris Allen said...

Dear Joseph,

I find this very, very interesting. My Chinese is appalling and I won't pretend to understand the complexities of this profound linguistic relationship. However, as master of 'feeling', 'inner sound' and master of 'that which is invisible', this opens up a completely new perspective of Chen Tuan and of Feng Shui for me.
The energies we work with in Feng Shui are certainly invisible, and sound according to Daoist scriptures plays a fundamental part in the creative process, the inner sound (both in the microcosm and macrocosm) which vibrates constantly underneath the din of the ego. Hence, the reason metal sound is so powerful, not just elementally at reducing unwanted earth Qi.

It's very difficult to get quality literature on Daoist immortals and practitioner's of internal alchemy.
Reading on Wikipedia it sounds as though Chen Tuan was adept in internal alchemy. From what you have just written it makes me wonder if he had mastered the Hun soul (liver and vision) and the Zhi soul (Kidneys and hearing)? If so it's likely he had mastered the others too as they are all related. The alchemy of turning base metal (Po soul, lungs) had been turned into gold by mastering the inner sight of the HUn, the opposite intelligence.
Touch would come under the heart, and this is interesting from a Feng Shui perspective possibly as the Shen of the heart is regarded as the Emperor, the toughest intelligence to master, a bit like the 5 Star in Fei Xing. To touch without feeling would qualify him to have attained immortality/full enlightenment the realisation of self or enlightenment. He had dissolved the ego and attained the ability to experience and therefore harness the powers which underpin existence in other words. Not just from an internal perspective but from an external which made it possible for him to observe the patterns of intelligence that exist within a building as well as a human being. What a man!

Brilliant, I'm inspired even more than before. Thank you again, this kind of teaching to my knowledge is unavailable anywhere else. Apologies, I know I went on a bit, these are just thoughts really...

jneurater said...

I practice Meditation with Shamanic drums and Chime sounds.
Powerful

Chris Allen said...

Dear Joseph,

Now that I've been able to research Chen Tuan a bit more thoroughly, it appears he was a master of Yi Jing. It has been said he gave Feng Shui, the 'Fang Yuan Tu' (square circle diagram used in Da Gua). Do some people believe he invented this diagram or that he passed it down?

From what I have read his calligraphy can still be read in the cave he practiced internal alchemy in on Wudang mountain...

Best Wishes
Chris

Joseph Yu said...

You are right, Chris. Chen Tuan used pictures to illustrate his ideas rather than lengthy writings. I have posted his caligraphy in this blog sometime ago.

JY

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

Just curious, I wonder if the two translations mean the same thing:

視之不見 Looks without seeing
聽之不聞 Listens without hearing
搏之不得 Touches without feeling

視之不見 Sees without looking
聽之不聞 Hears without listening
搏之不得 Feels without touching

HC

Joseph Yu said...

Howard,

If I translate the second translation back into Chinese, it will read:

Sees without looking 未視先見
Hears without listening 未聽先聞
Feels without touching 未搏先得

This is another state of the mind. Usually, the family doctor will recommend a neurologist to take care of the person. :))

JY

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

To me a "short" translation of the classical Chinese would read something like this:

視之不見 Look it, not see
聽之不聞 Listen it, not hear
搏之不得 Roll it in hand, not hold

(The character "zhi" 之 in each case refers to the verb before).

Which can be lengthen to read something like this:

視之不見 (We) look at it, (but can) not see (it)
聽之不聞 (We) listen (to) it, (but can) not hear (it)
搏之不得 (We) roll it in (our) hand, (but can) not (get) hold (of it)

The second parts of the three sentences can be translated like this:

名曰夷 It is called "Minute"
名曰希 It is called "Inaudible"
名曰微 It is called "Subtle"

Making the full translation read something like this:

視之不見﹐名曰夷﹔
We look at it, but can not see it; It is called "Minute",

聽之不聞﹐名曰希﹔
We listen to it, but can not hear it; It is called "Inaudible",

搏之不得﹐名曰微。
We roll it in our hand, but cannot get hold of it; It is called "Subtle".

"It" refers to the Dao (a person is not involved) and the Dao is very subtle visually, audibly and physically and often beyond our grasp with our senses.

But all this is just my opinion, translation from classical Chinese to English is not an easy task and everyone has their own take on how to do it.

No offense is intended, just sharing some of my thoughts on the matter.

HC

Chris Allen said...

Joseph, Howard, Jneurater,

Yes, he who 'hears bells' without listening, 'sees pigs fly' without looking, and I'm not even going there with 'feels'...is in need of some cortisol reduction. lol

Wondering if Yi in this context has any connection with Yin Wood (Yi), or the spleen spirit (Yi), which bear the same name?
If we went literally opposite here and changed the order of letters, "see without looking" we would end up with Iy (eye)

Chris

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

I forgot to mention, if you translate the second translation back into Chinese, it will read:



Sees without looking 未視先見 

Hears without listening 未聽先聞

Feels without touching 未搏先得

And if I translate the first translation back into Chinese, it will read:



Look without seeing 未見先視
Listen without hearing 未聞先聽
Touch without feeling 未得先搏

Both state of mind will mean the family doctor has to recommend a neurologist to take care of the person. :))

Just joking, Yi, Xi and Wei is just too Wei!!! 玄之又玄。

HC

Joseph Yu said...

Chris,

Yi 夷 is not yin wood 乙. It does have some connection with pancreas 胰 but not spleen 脾.

JY

Chris Allen said...

Thank you Joseph, though my classical Chinese is bad I'm kicking myself about Yin wood, it's one character I do know, it's my day stem!
Back to the drawing board..

Joseph Yu said...

In Chapter 14 of the Dao De Jing, Lao Zi played with three words Yi 夷, Xi 希 and Wei 微. He used Yi 夷 to represent the state of being invisible. He used Xi 希 to represent the state of being inaudible. Then he used Wei 微 to represent the state of being formless. These three ideas were formulated in Lao Zi’s mind and were unknown to people at that time and even incomprehensible to most people today. He randomly picked the three words to associate with the three situations he described.

In this way he illustrated what he taught in Chapter 1: A name that can be named is not the eternal name 名可名 非常名.

Therefore, I do not translate these three words as invisible, inaudible and formless or any other similar words. Once the three states are named, they are not the eternal names.

JY

Chris Allen said...

Unless we've eaten chocolate, it's impossible to explain it's taste.

Workable constructs, natural paradigms are the language of nature....

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

What you said is very true, Laozi did say “A name that can be named is not the eternal name 名可名 非常名,” so there is no need to translate the characters “Yi”, “Xi” and “Wei”, but once he added the two characters 名曰 (it is called or it is named) in front of each “Yi”, “Xi” and Wei”, may be they are not longer meant to be eternal names, but just terms to express one manifested aspect of the Eternal Dao that cannot be named, (like you said also that “Yi” 夷 to represent the state of being invisible, “Xi” 希 to represent the state of being inaudible, Wei 微 to represent the state of being formless), so may be it is OK to translate them into English by adding an explanation, like we are doing now, to the translation, at least that would be my approach but I can see what you are saying also makes sense.

You know I had trouble at first understanding your translation “Holy 0” and “Holy 1” for “Ling Shen” 靈神 and “Zheng Shen” 正神 (most people used “Indirect Spirit” and “Direct Spirit” respectively for these two terms), but once I realized that they are “literal” translations and I can see the Chinese characters next to the translation, I understood what they are.

Translation of Chinese terms is very tricky, I often wonder where the term “Cure” came from; do you have any idea what is the Chinese characters for this? I suspect it is “Jie Hua” 解化 from the context it is being used but I am not sure, so far I cannot find a reference anywhere.

HC

Howard Choy said...

Hmm.. just realized I used the wrong character for "Ling", it should be 零 and not 靈,must be a Freudian slip at work. :-)

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Howard,

The reason why I said there was no need to translate the three words -Yi 夷, Xi 希 and Wei 微 was because I did not want to add anything on top of what Laozi said. I may be wrong but my feeling is that Laozi randomly chose the three word in this context.

The word 夷 comes from the picture of a person carrying a bow: 一,人,弓. It is used to mean something we take as the norm. If we translate this as "invisible", we have to first ask the question, "Is it the norm to be invisible?". Well, the picture has disappeared.

The word 希 means hope or expect. I don't hink anyone hopes or expects to be inaudible.

The word 微 means microscopic. It is closer to being subtle but still not quite.

Therefore I think it is better to leave the three words in the as-is condition. Even in Chinese the three words are almost meaningless.

JY

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

Thank you for being so patient with me, I am getting more and more confused now.

If what you said is true that even in Chinese these three words Yi, Xi and Wei are almost meaningless, does that mean when the emperor posthumously named Chen Tuan "Xi Yi", this name has almost no meaning as well?

Then what made you came to the earlier conclusion that the emperor "gave him (Chen Tuan) the name Xi Yi希夷 meaning he already reached the state described by Dao De Jing. He looks without seeing, listens without hearing and touches without feeling. It is this state that qualifies him to be a real Daoist"?

I can understand it is better not to translate the three Chinese terms because it is difficult to find a precise equivalent in English, but to say that they are almost meaningless got me really confused. To me they obvious have meanings, even though they are very subtle and very profound.

HC

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Howard,

The three words are not meaningless. It is only that they are almost irrelevant to what they are supposed to describe. I think Laozi purposely did this to illustrate his teaching 名可名 非常名. Again here I avoid the translation "A name that can be named is not the eternal name" as I do not like it at all.

The emperor 宋太宗 honoured him by the name 希夷先生 (may be while he was still alive or posthumously). The emperor took the meaning of these two words according to Chapter 14 of the Dao De Jing.

Here when I was thinking aloud, I was tossing out a tile to attract pieces of jade 拋磚引玉 and I am waiting patiently.

JY

Howard Choy said...

Hi Joseph,

I was looking for that piece of jade as well when I wrote about Chen Ying-Ning's 陳櫻寧 words in my blog back in October 2008.

http://howardchoy.wordpress.com/2008/10/24/absolute-truth-juedui-de-zhen-li-絕對的真理/

“ Absolute Truth happens when there is a mouth and no speech; when there is a mind and no thought. Once you open your mouth, once you start to think, it falls on two sides, it changes to mutual opposites and no longer is absolute. Therefore to seek the (Absolute) Truth in written and spoken words are all a waste of efforts. You studied philosophy, maybe it is because in philosophy you cannot find the Truth, and so you asked me this question. To be honest, there is no (Absolute) Truth as such in this world and it is not worthwhile searching for it. But let’s say you have somehow discovered the (Absolute) Truth, what good will it do (for you)? When (you are) old and sick, when (you) have no cloths and food and when (you are) in suffering and despair, will the (Absolute) Truth that you have found get rid of them?”

May be it is best we stop here, nice talking to you.

Cheers,

HC

Chris Allen said...

Dear Joseph,

Chen Tuan 'put everything into practice in order to understand', he learned through experience as an initiate of Nei Dan. He devised the Wu Ji diagram which is very similar to the tree of life in Qabalism and the very complex Samkhya system devised by Kapila.

Look, listen and feel are all linked to the three dantiens and therefore Jing, Qi, and Shen.
Perhaps as the trinity relates to the mind; intention, will, and consciousness are yi, Xi, and Wei?

But maybe you are looking for a less abstract explanation? Chen Tuan was known for his dream practices which is really the same as meditation. More obviously though, lucid dreaming allows one to experience a state and a world without 'time' and 'space'. Xuan Kong?
Seeing as you are trying to gift your students something, I imagine it relates to either Yi Jing, astrology, and/or Feng Shui. Another trinity I considered was heaven, earth, and man, though he didn't practice Feng Shui he created the Da Gua 64 hexagram formation.
To me at least, these are pretty much the same, the microcosm Jing Qi and Shen is seen in the dan-tiens, while the macrocosm Jing Qi and Shen, can be seen in the triplex unity of heaven, earth, and man.
These concepts are not Christian to my knowledge, not unless Lao Tzu, or the Indian Rishi Kapila was a Christian anyway.

Thanks for being patient with me too. Though I am obviously a beginner I get obsessed with understanding these concepts, and I do like to go on, I leave my ego at the door however.

Howard, my understanding of the absolute truth is that we are all the same, only the ego distinguishes and keeps us locked in this illusion (matrix) of our own, and societies making. The light which shines through our neighbours eyes is the same as shines back at us in the mirror.

Best Wishes

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Chris,

You are very dedicated to your search of knowledge. Chen Tuan is famous for his sleeping practice but no one knows whether he dreamt or not. He could sleep for months to rejuvenate his spirit. That is for sure.

JY

Unknown said...

Dear Joseph

As you know my grasp of written Chinese is basic. Although I have read some books, my grasp of Daoism is also basic.
However,I recognise all the characters in the phrase: 名可名 非常名. 可 means can or cannot depending on the context, 名 means name, 非常 means very or extremely in the conversational Cantonese that I know. Therefore, I would translate this phrase as 'There cannot be a name (or description) that is very suited to describing what is being named.' or 'Whatever name or description you use is not really the most suitable name or description.' or 'Once you have a name or description you are not naming or describing very well.'

Anyway, there could be some subtle nuance in written Chinese about 'eternal' in the phrase which I cannot understand, yet.

Thank you some very enlightening blog posts, recently.

Best Regards,
Foon

Jodi Brunner said...

Dear Joseph,

Look without seeing is called Yi;
Listen without hearing is called Xi;
Touch without feeling is called Wei.

Is this not the ultimate goal of Wu Wei? To still be a part of the world but not use the mind to make judgements or assessments, rather to live in a state of non-doing?

Jodi