Trips and Tales: Part 128
Truer Paths #4
The selective use of religious text is a phenomena throughout the various faiths and denominations it would seem. Often used in an attempt to validate whatever particular standpoint or agenda the speaker is expounding at that particular moment. Look, it says so here in the Bible, Koran, Torah, so it (my use of it) must be true.
In the Shangdong region, PA visited the sacred Mount Taishan, symbolic home of China’s ancient cultural beliefs and one of the five most sacred mountains within China itself. It was a historical seat upon which ancient emperors would gaze down upon the sprawling extent of their territory, whilst also being central to the ancient Chinese cult-worship of mountains, which along with other natural homes of supernatural deities, figured importantly in traditional folk-religion across the last 3000 years. PA could embrace the spirituality and authenticity of such a place in his ongoing desire to trace the mother-lode of the real deal.
The town of Qufu, Confucius’s birth place, was a different matter entirely. Whilst only 56 miles away, geographically; it was now (to him at least) spiritually unreachable, and disappointingly so. He tells me of teachings within Confucianism that are about deferring to those “above” you and of respecting your position and that of others. Certainly not shocking or Earth-shattering stuff. A little conservative perhaps – or possibly considered “old-fashioned” in our relatively liberal culture?
However, in the hands of the Chinese Communist government, the overtones could be positively sinister. PA claims that during his travels throughout China, he could see Confucianism being “pushed as a way to tap into Chinese culture and to keep the population in place”. Re-interpreted as codes and instructions to respect authority (i.e. the authorities) and to “know your place” with deference to the governmental line, these ancient lessons were in danger of being used as insidious cudgels with which to coerce the masses into “shape” and get them to stay there. Well, as another tool in Red China’s box at least.
So having drawn a mental line in the sand at the threshold of Qufu, with regret PA turned away, not wishing to condone this perceived high-jacking of Confucius himself by his very presence. So was the hand of Communism becoming less overt in his experience then? “There were still lots of Mao pictures in 2007,” he tells me. “And in 2009, much less”. Well the jury is out, make of that what you will.
One place that PA would have no qualms about though is Hainan island, once regarded as a corporate dumping ground for sub-par officials, now China’s Hawaii. In 2007 he wasn’t there for a suntan and cocktails on the beach, more for his own holistic work, centered around the practice of Qi Gong. That’s Zhineng Qi Gong to be specific, a healing-centric version of the ancient art and one that came recommended by a friend who had ventured to Hainan before him.
Now, with this particular strand of the practice especially relevant in light of his medical condition, and with funds at his disposal, PA decided to make the trip.
More next time
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 129) Arrival Beijing #18
[Photo by travelourplanet.com]