Chinese Fables

2012, Year of the Dragon

Chinese folklore notes that the Year of the Dragon is a year of major events including great prosperity and equally great disasters.

The Years of the Dragon are 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012.

In 1904, the Russo-Japanese war began. In 1916, Congress expanded the armed forces and President Wilson was reelected with “he kept us out of war” slogan. In 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawed war and was signed in Paris by 65 nations, and Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In 1940, Hitler invaded Norway and Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France while Churchill became British prime minister. Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico. In 1952, George VI died and his daughter became Elizabeth II. In 1964, Jack Ruby was convicted of murder in the slaying of Lee Harvy Oswald, and the Warren Report was issued. In 1976, US bicentennial was celebrated. Israeli airborne commandos attacked Uganda’s Entebbe airport and freed 103 hostages held by pro-Palestinian hijackers of Air France plane. The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak occurred in Philadelphia in July. Jimmy Carter was elected US president. In 1988, US-Canada free trade agreement was reached. Republicans elected George Bush as presidential candidate. Benazir Bhutto, first Islamic woman prime minister, was chosen to lead Pakistan. Pan Am 747 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 on board and 11 on the ground (December 21, 1988). In 2000, Taiwan held its first democratic election that elected Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party as president. Chen Shui-bian was arrested for bribery almost immediately after Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang won the 2008 presidential election. Thawing of Taiwan-Chinese mainland relatioins began immediately.

Responses to enquiries about deities of folklore

About Guandi on horse
Posted on November 6, 2011 by masterchensays
In response to the enquiry: “Guandi on horse”

I have seen Guan Di standing with his big knife in hand, sitting on a wide chair holding a book in his left hand reading. I do not recall seeing Guan Di either on horse back or standing with a horse.

Of the four brothers of Long Gong, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zhao Yun, only Zhang Fei, the big guy with a big beard, and Zhao Yun, the kid with bow and arrow on horseback, have been portrayed as riding horses. When Liu Bei was on horseback, he had a horseman leading the horse on foot. Guan Yu seemed to stay his ground to fight and was thus surrounded and captured honorably.

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Response to the phrase:  “Japanese water goddess”

The Water Goddess is worshipped in Hinduism, Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Tibetan Buddhism.  The Water Goddess is the giver of water, thus the giver of life, the giver of fertility of both humans and the land, the watery manifestation of the Mother Earth.  It is worshipped for irrigation and in Japanese Shintoism, it is worshipped for the protection of the coastal areas of the sea and by extension fishermen.

The Japanese name for the Water Goddess is Suijin, (sui is water, jin is person or deity), or Suiten (sui is water, ten means sky).  This name and the image of Suiten are of Hindu origin.  The original designations of the Water Goddess, Suijin, were stone plaques or slabs with the two kanji characters “water” and “deity” carved on them and  placed on the ground near water. Besides the image of Suiten, there is no other “official” image of the Japanese Water Goddess. 

On Taiwan, and now in Fujian province across the Taiwan Strait, there are two major temples dedicated to Ma Zu (Ma Tzo), the Taiwanese and Fukienese patron saint of fishermen.  She was born in Fukien and lived near the sea with the fishermen.  After seeing too many fishermen disappear at sea, she went searching for them and rescuing them as a young woman.  She was born with a very dark face.  Nowadays, if you get a chance to see her being paraded in San Francisco, Taiwan, and Fukien, you will notice that she has a black face.  She is the black faced patron saint of fishermen.  She is the southern Chinese provincial guardian of fishermen.  Fishermen worship her as their mother, therefore the name Ma Tzo (literally ancestral mother).   She is a local provincial deity of southern China.  In northern China, the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, is the Chinese Water Goddess.  The most popular statue and image of Guan Yin is the Di Shui Guan Yin, or Dripping Water Guan Yin.  You can see her image with a tall necked water jug in her hand.   Her story is the story told by Elena Kovalenko.

In both Japanese and Chinese folklore, the dragon is a deity of both Heaven and Sea.  The Chinese name for the water dragon is Shui Long Wang, or Water Dragon King.  In Chinese Taoism, the title “wang” or “king” is bestowed on all its deities.

Chinese Folklore

Chinese folklore includes many historical stories and moral fables of reincarnation and Buddhist teachings. 

 They are in the genre of stories by Elena Kovalenko.  

Folklore of the Nine Scenes of Ling Qiu in Shanxi

Once upon a time a family lived at the foot of Ling Qiu Peak.  The family had a cow.  This cow was very well tempered and it worked hard.  The family loved the cow and the cow seemed to do its best to return the family’s love.  There was a kind of yuan fen* between the family and the cow.

One day, the son of the family went to get the cow to go to work in the fields as usual but on this day, the cow refused to budge.  The son tried to pull and shove it but it simply refused to move.  Suddenly the cow spoke:  “Don’t bother.  I have worked hard enough and long enough for your family up to now, and I have repaid all my debt to you.”  After a short pause, the cow spoke again:  “In my previous life, I was your father’s uncle, and I borrowed some money from your father.  During that life, I was unable to repay my debt, so the King of Hell decided that I reincarnate as a cow in this life to pay back my debt.  I have now repaid all of my debt.”  After hearing this, the boy went to his father to tell him the story.  The father acknowledged that the story was indeed true.

From then on, the family left the cow alone and no longer forced it to work in the fields.  The family began spreading the word about saving money, not going into debt, not borrowing money without paying it back, doing good deeds, and began doing a lot of charity (bu shir) work.  Soon, the entire village became prosperous and all the villagers engaged in charity.

Then one day the cow spoke again:  “tonight, ten bandits will come to your home to rob you.  But do not be frightened.  You will be safe if you do exactly what I tell you.”

After nightfall, ten bandits jumped over the fence into the courtyard and entered the house.  The bandits saw the house fully lit and a banquet was already set on the table as if the family was about to entertain a lot of guests.  The master of the house soon appeared gesturing with his hands in welcome as he said:  “We have been waiting for you for some time.  Please come in!”

The bandits were surprised:  “How did you know we were coming?”  “We knew,” said the master of the house.  He then told the bandits about the story of the old cow.  After listening to the story, the bandits fell silent.  They walked over to the cow thinking:  “We must take a look at this curious animal.”  However, the cow looked no different than other ordinary cows.

The bandit leader was the first to speak:  “It seems that doing bad deeds really brings on bad punishment.  An uncle who owed a debt has been reincarnated into a cow to repay the debt.  We rob and steal from families and we have done all sorts of bad deeds.  We don’t know what kind of punishment we will get.  From now on, we must do good, seek out a good master and learn to accumulate good karma and practice self improvement.”

After hearing this, the cow spoke:  “There is a White Cloud Temple on the South Mountain.  The master monk there is a high priest.  You can go to him and ask him to be your master and you will attain the Way of the Buddha.”  The bandits were not only surprised that the cow spoke but also received guidance from it.  All ten bandits were convinced and realized that this cow was not an ordinary cow.  They spoke to the cow with full respect:  “Thank you for giving us good guidance.”  Then they mounted their horses and rode away into the night.

The White Cloud Temple, located at mid mountain, rose above the morning fog as if floating in mid air.  The head monk of the temple was a high priest who could tell the past and foretell the future.  He knew that ten bandits would come to him this day.  So he told them:  “You have come to me to ask me to be your master and become Buddhist disciples, so you must obey me and undergo hardship to cleanse yourselves of your past sins.”  The bandits knelt down on their knees and begged:  “Yes, Sifu, we shall obey your every word and command.”  The master monk said:  “Since you have all made up your minds, I will accept you, and I will give each of you a Buddhist name.”  The master monk then assigned the names according to age:  “Jueshan, Baima, Dengfeng, Huangtai, Sanan, Dayun, Shuangfeng, Longquan, Tiantang, and Renxin.”

Then the master monk said:  “Now that you all have your Buddhiswt names, you are now Buddhists.  You must regard yourselves as Buddhist practitioners.  Starting from today, you will go into the mountains to gather wood and you shall return to me on this day after three years.”

The ten disciples went into the mountains and began cutting wood for the next three years.  They gathered the logs into a big pile.  After three years of hard work, they returned to the master monk and led him to the pile of logs they had accumulated.  The master monk then lit a fire and ordered the disciples to watch their hard earned work go up in flames.  Then the old master monk said:  “Now jump into the fire to rid yourselves of your worldly womb.”  The ten disciples looked at each other and remembered that they had promised to obey every command.  Without further hesitation, nine of the ten jumped into the fire.  The disciple named Renxin however was too afraid to jump into the fire.  The old master monk sighed and said:  “When I named you Renxin (people’s hearat), I figured that you were too attached to the mundane.  Even after three years of practice, you have not been able to build up trust in the righteousness of Buddhism.  It seems that you can only be a human being.”  And before the master monk could finish speaking, nine arhats (lo han) with golden bodies jumped out of the fire and appeared before the monk.  He then told the nine golden arhats:  “Now that you have attained the Way, you must go down the mountain and do your good deeds.  You must travel (yun you) and accomplish some wishes.”  The nine golden arhats obeyed the monk’s words and went traveling, doing good deeds and accomplishing wishes.  And they built temples at various places.  Each one built a temple after his buddhist name:  The Jueshan Temple, the Baima Temple, the Dengfeng Temple, the Huangtai Temple, the Sanan Temple, the Dayun Temple, the Shuangfeng Temple, the Longquan Temple, and the Tiantang Temple.  These became the original “nine scenes” of Lingqiu in Shanxi province. 

Historically, the nine temples were built at different times.  Jueshan Temple was the earliest to be built in 452 A.D. when Emperor Xiao Wen of Northern Wei moved south.  Today, the temple walls still show wall paintings from the Liao dynasty (907-1125 A.D.)

Separately, I will talk about yuan and yuan fen.  Yuan is a very important concept in Chinese Buddhism.  The concept is verbalized in Buddhist greetings (feng yuan, you yuan), in describing friendship, marriage, partnership between two people, as well as in Buddhist explanations of reincarnation, spirit-human and spirit-spirit interaction and communication. 

Marriages are made in Heaven

The Chinese matchmaker is the yue xia lao ren (yue lao), or the old man under the moon.  He carries two things.  One is the Heavenly Book (tian shu), and the other is a ball of red thread.  He comes from the world of the spirits and appears in the world of the living.  He is in charge of marriages.  He matches the destinies of two people and ties them together with his red thread for marriage.   This belief in predestination is both a traditional Chinese folk belief and an Indian and Chinese Buddhist belief.  Chinese Buddhists call it yuan.  

 In the year 628 A.D. of the Tang dynasty, a young scholar named Wei Gu wanted to find a bride.  One day, a friend told him that there is a matchmaker who has a match for him and told him to go to the temple the next morning.  Wei Gu was very excited so he got up before dawn and went to the Long Xing Temple.  When he arrived, he saw an old man with a pouch beside him sitting on the steps of the temple reading a book by moonlight.  Wei Gu approached the old man to see what he was reading but the young scholar could not recognize the writing, so he asked the old man:  “Sir, what kind of book are you reading?  I am a young scholar, and I know how to read, but I have never seen writing like that before.”  The old man looked up, smiled and said:  “This is not a book of the human realm.  How could you have seen it before.”  Wei Gu asked:  “Then where did your book come from?”  The old man said:  “This is a book of the spiritual realm.”  Wei Gu became curious about the old man so he asked:  “Then you are from the spiritual realm.  Why are you here?”  The old man said:  “You came here too early.  Officials of the spiritual realm also manage the affairs of the living and therefore they also walk among the living.”

Wei Gu then asked:  “Then Sir, what affairs do you manage?”  The old man answered:  “I manage all marriages.”  Wei Gu then told the old man the reason he came to the temple and asked him whether the proposed match would come true.  The old man said:  “No.  Your future wife is only three years old now.  You will have to wait until she is 17 years old before you can marry her.”  Wei Gu then saw the pouch beside the old man so he asked:  “What is in that pouch?”  The old man answered:  “Red thread that I use to tie the feet of a man and a woman together.  Yours are already tied to those of that girl.  You are predestined to be husband and wife.  There is no use trying to find anyone else.”

Wei Gu asked:  “Then who is my future wife?  Where does she live?”  The old man said:  “The girl of the vegetable vendor north of the inn.”  Wei Gu said:  “I would like to take a look.”  The old man said:  “An old lady often carries the girl with her to the market.  I will go with you and point her out to you.”  Wei Gu waited for the matchmaker until dawn but nobody else came. 

The old man and the young scholar then went together to the vegetable market.  They saw an old lady who was blind in one eye carrying a little girl.  They looked dirty and ugly.  The old man pointed at the little girl and said:  “That is your future wife.”  Wei Gu became angry and said:  “I will have to get rid of her and kill her to break this predestination so that I can find a young woman to be my wife.”  The old man said:  “Do not do that.  This girl is destined to enjoy a life of riches and she will enjoy a life of prosperity with you.”  After saying this, the old man left and was never seen again.  Wei Gu went home, sharpened a knife and told his servant:  “I will give you a reward of 100,000 pieces of gold if you take this knife, go to the vegetable market and get rid of that little girl.”  The servant accepted the offer, hid the knife in his sleeve and went to the vegetable market.  He mingled with the crowd and at an opportune time, brought out the knife and stabbed the little girl.  Then the assassin slipped away and returned home to report to the young scholar.  The servant said:  “I wanted to stab at the little girl’s heart but I missed.  Instead, I stabbed her on the forehead between her eyebrows.”  Wei Gu thought now he was free to find a wife.  However, all attempts were unsuccessful. 

Fourteen years went by.  Wei Gu was now working for the Xiang Zhou military garrison commander and governor Wang Tai.  The governor appreciated Wei Gu’s abilities very much so he betrothed his daughter to the young scholar in marriage.  The bride was 17 years old and very pretty.  However, she always wore a red paper dot between her eyebrows.  Even when she was taking a bath, she would not remove that dot on her forehead.  [This is the first Chinese fable I have come across that mentions the origin of the bindi, or bindu in Sanskrit]

One day, Wei Gu asked his young bride about the red dot on her forehead.  She began to sob and said:  “I am the governor’s niece, not his biological daughter.  My father was the former county governor of Soong Cheng township.  He died on the job.  At that time, I was still in diapers.  After my mother and my brother died, the only place left for me was at South Soong Cheng where I went to live with my wet nurse Lady Chen.  We survived by selling vegetables.  One day when I was three years old, Lady Chen was carrying me at the market and some crazed man stabbed me between the eyebrows with a knife and left a permanent scar, therefore I use a dot of red paper to cover it up.  Seven or eight years later, my uncle came to Lu Long to work so I went with my uncle.  I married you in the name of being his daughter.”

Then Wei Gu asked:  “Was Lady Chen blind in one eye?”  The bride said:  “Yes, but how did you know?”  Wei Gu then told his wife the truth.  The couple soon had a son named Wei Kun who became garrison commander of Yanmen and his mother became Madame Governor of Taiyuan Prefecture.  From then on, the matchmaker became known as the “old man under the moon” (yue xia lao ren, yue lao) and thus began the saying:  “One thread binds a predestined couple even if they are a thousand li apart.”  Yuan fen is predestined in Heaven.  Man cannot change that which is predestined.   

Lo han or arhat is defined as a Buddhist who has attained Nirvana or a Buddhist who has achieved enlightenment.  However, in Chinese Buddhism, a Lo han (arhat, arahant) is depicted in Buddhist paintings as a fierce Buddhist warrior with non-Chinese facial and physical features, a vanquisher and a destroyer of foes, one who destroys afflictions.  In many Tang dynasty paintings, the horse keepers were depicted as husky non-Chinese men with bushy beard and fierce looking eyes.  He is depicted not only as a horseman but also as a protector.  A Lo han in Chinese Buddhism is a fierce non-Chinese protector of Buddha and the Buddhist realm.  A Chinese Buddhist Lo han is usually not worshipped on an altar.  A Chinese Taoist Lo han is one who has achieved the Way and who roams the world helping people even when he is often depicted as being constantly drunk.  He is worshipped as a minor Taoist deity.      

Yun you literally means clouds wondering, , to travel on clouds, and it is used in popular Buddhist stories as a verb, to travel on clouds.  Master monks often describe themselves as going on yun you or traveling on clouds in the spiritual realm of dreams.

Chinese Buddhist verses of causality

Chinese Buddhists talk a lot about yin guo, causality.  There is a collection of Chinese Buddhist verses which are actually two-line cautionary fables that illustrate causality, how bad karma begets bad karma, and how good karma begets good karma through reincarnation.  If one accumulates good karma in one life, then each successive reincarnation would bring a better material life as a reward but reincarnation itself does not guarantee that one continues to accumulate good karma.  One accumulates good karma in one life based on the decisions one makes in that life.  Although the general Buddhist concept of life is based on predestination and determinism, one’s personal decisions can change one’s predestined fate.  Thus, a personal decision to be good is the only way one can improve one’s fate.   Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists take these verses seriously.   Their origin is most likely cautionary folk tales for the illiterate commonfolk.  If nothing else, they provide a source of amusing material for a rather playful exercise in translation.

The Buddha says that one’s fate in this life is brought about by the karma of one’s previous life. 

A high ranking bureaucrat in this life had decorated the statue of the Buddha with gold in his previous life.

A rich man in this life had donated purple robes to the monks of the Buddhist temple in his previous life.

A rich man with a lot of fine clothes in this life had decorated the statues of the Buddha in his previous life.

A high ranking bureaucrat in this life had practiced Buddhism in his previous life.

A man privileged to ride horses and travel in sedan chairs in this life had worked to build roads and bridges in his previous life.

A person who wears silk and luxurious robes in this life had donated clothes to help the poor in his or her previous life.

A person who has plenty to eat and plenty to wear in this life had provided meals and tea to the poor in his or her previous life.

A person who has nothing to eat and nothing to wear in this life had been a miser in his or her previous life.

A person who lives in highrises in this life had given rice to the poor in his or her previous life.

A person who has wealth, prosperity and high social position in this life had contributed to building temples and roadside pavilions in his or her previous life.

A handsome man or a beautiful woman in this life had offered fresh flowers on the altar of the Buddha in his or her previous life.

An intelligent and wise person in this life had been a Buddhist who conscientiously chanted the Buddhist scriptures in his or her previous life.

A man who has a beautiful wife and pretty concubines in this life had married as a Buddhist in his previous life.  [This reminds me of the promises made to Islamic suicide bombers that virgins will be waiting for them in Heaven, Master Chen]

A married couple who stay together for a very long time in this life had offered streamers and silk pennants on the altar of the Buddha in their previous lives.

A person who has long living parents in this life had been respectful of lonely people in his or her previous life.

A person who is orphaned in this life had been a hunter and killer of birds in his or her previous life.

A person who has many sons and grandchildren in this life had released birds from their cages in his or her previous life.

A person who has a dwarf as a son in this life had been a person who hated other people in his or her previous life.

A person who is childless in this life had been a person who hated other people’s sons and grandchildren in his or her previous life.

A person who has a long life in this life had saved animal lives by buying the animals and releasing captured animals in his or her previous life.

A person who has died young in this life had killed animals and living beings in his or her previous life.

A man who does not have a wife in this life had violated other people’s daughters and wives in his previous life.

A woman who becomes a widow in this life had abused her husband in her previous life.

A person who is a slave and servant in this life had been a person of ingratitude in his or her previous life.

A person who has good eyes in this life had offered money for burning oil to provide candle light on the altar of the Buddha in his or her previous life.

One who is blind in this life had been a person who had read obscene books in his or her previous life.

A person who has cleft lips in this life had been a person who spread rumors and lies about other people in his or her previous life.

A person who is a deaf-mute in this life had been a person who scolded his or her parents in previous life.

A hunchback in this life had been a person who ridiculed Buddhists in his or her previous life.

A person who has crooked hands in this life had been a person who had slapped his or her parents in previous life.

A person who has crooked feet in this life had been a person who had destroyed road bridges in his or her previous life.

Cows and horses in this life had been people who did not repay their debts in their previous life.  This verse is the basis for the talking cow in the folk tale about the Nine Scenes of Lin Qiu.

Pigs and dogs in this life had been people who cheated and conned other people in their previous life.

A person who has good health in this life had provided medicine to treat the sick in his or her previous life.

A person who is in prison in this life had been a person who did not help others in danger in his or her previous life.

A person who dies of starvation in this life had been a person who laughed at beggars in his or her previous life.

A person who has been poisoned to death by others in this life had been a fisherman who dammed rivers to poison the fish in his previous life.

A person who lives a lonely life had been a person who had schemed against others in previous life.

A person who is physically short in this life had been a person who was miserly and stingy towards others in previous life.

A person who vomits blood in this life had been a person who spread malicious rumors to separate others from their friends in previous life.

A person who is deaf in this life had been a person who disbelieved in Buddhist doctrines in previous life.

A person who has sores in this life had mistreated animals in previous life.

A person who has foul body odor in this life had been jealous and hateful of other people’s achievements in previous life

A person who hangs himself or herself in this life had harmed others for his or her selfish benefits in previous life.

A widower in this life had been a man wo did not love his wife and children in his previous life.

A person who is hit by thunder and lightning and suffers burns in this life had slandered monks and nuns in his or her previous life.

A person who is bitten by a tiger or snake in this life had made many enemies in his or her previous life.

A person who is always sick in this life had been a person who rejoiced at other people’s misfortunes in previous life.

Namo Amitabha

Chinese God of War

The Chinese God of War, Guan Gong, Guan Di, Guan Shen Da Ti, the red faced general, is also the Chinese God of Merchants. 

 Guan Yu was a general during the Period of the Three Kingdoms (221-263) and is featured in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a general who never succumbed to bribery or captivity, and his honesty and courage were admired so much that he was finally released and when he was released, he returned every coin that was ever given to him as a bribe during his captivity.  That is why he is venerated both as the Chinese God of War and the Chinese God of Merchants. 

Guan Gong is worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists and there are many temples known as Guan Gong Miao (temple) dedicated only to him.  But many large Taoist and most Buddhist temples do not have any altar dedicated to him.   Guan Gong is the God of Merchants and his statue occupies the heavenly position in Chinese businesses and stores.   

In San Francisco and New York Chinatown, there is a benevolent association called the Lung Gong Gong So.  The building and office of the San Francisco Lung Gong Gong So is on Stockton street at Clay, half a block east of the Stockton Street Tunnel that runs under Pine Street.  The Lung Gong Gong So is originally a brotherhood association of the four surnames of Liu (Lao, Lew), Guan (Kuan, Quan) Zhang (Chang), Zhao (Chao, Chew, Chiu, Jew).  Liu was Liu Pei, king of Shu (221-263 A.D.) of the Period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), Guan was Guan Yu (Guan Gong), Zhang was Zhang Fei, and Zhao (Chao) was Zhao Yun. 

According to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the four took an oath to become sworn brothers.  These four historical figures are worshipped not only by the association members but they have also become Taoist deities.  Guan Gong (Guan Yu) is worshipped as the God of War and as the God of Merchants.  It is said that Guan Yu was born with a red face.  Liu Bei is depicted in Chinese ceramic art as a Han king, a gentleman.  Guan Gong is depicted as a Chinese general, sometimes with a book in his left hand, Zhang Fei is depicted as a wild looking barbarian (most likely a non-Han Chinese) warrior with fierce looking eyes and big bushy black beard (like the depiction of Black Beard the pirate), and Zhao Yun is depicted as a chubby white skinned kid who is very skillful with bows and arrows on horseback.

Central News Agency, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, August 25, 2011:  At the week-long conference to popularize the “culture of loyalty and justice” sponsored by the Hung Men World Alliance, Guan Ying-chai, the 72nd generation offspring of Guan Gong and an overeseas Chinese businessman from Singapore, donated a sum of one million yuan renminbi to the Special Fund for the Protection of the Artifacts related to Guan Gong, a subsidiary of the Chinese Artifacts Protection Fund, to launch cultural programs to popularize “Guan Gong culture”. 

Taiwan has more than 3000 Guan Gong temples.  They are religious entities and are not involved in education and cultural activities.  The Guang Gong culture fund seeks to establish schools and produce videos to popularize Guan Gong’s virtues. 

Guan Gong, aka Guan Yun-chang, of Yuncheng county, Shanxi province, is considered a saint.  Chinese culture is a dual culture of literature and scholarship (wen) and martial arts (wu) which are traditionally represented by Confucius and Guan Gong.  There are 161 Guan Gong Temples around the world.  The Guan Gong fund plans to establish a Guan Gong school in Beijing to teach Guan Gong’s virtues of loyalty and justice.  The Hu Guo Shuang Guan Di Miao (Protect the Nation Guan Emperor Temple) in Beijing that has a history of over 800 years will be repaired, and three bronze statues of Guan Gong each 3.9 meters tall will be cast.  They will be given to the United Nations, the Hung Men World Alliance and a Taiwanese businessman Kuo Tai-min. 

In Houston, Texas, there are the Teen How Taoist Temple at 1507 Delano Street, Houston, Texas 77003, tel.: 713-236-1015; the Texas Guandi Temple (Chua Quan Thanh) at 3711 Gulf Freeway, Houston, Texas 77003, tel.: 713-224-0880, E-mail:; and the Texas Teo Chew Temple, 10600 Turtlewood Ct., Houston, Texas 77072, tel.: 281-983-5668.  

Welcome to the enquiry: Chinese weight training.

In ancient China, there were no martial arts per se. Most wars were fought by foot soldiers with long lances and Chinese swords and shields. It was only when the bandits began robbing and killing Buddhist monks did Shaolin Temple began to train its monks as taught by Dharma who was said to have come from India and who stayed in a cave in the mountains for 19 years practicing meditation, internal energy exercises and self defense martial arts.

Basic Chinese weight training involved carrying large stones back and forth, somewhat like that cable TV program “The World’s Strongest Man.”

After martial arts became popular, Chinese weight training included carrying a huge earthern vat filled with water. Later on, big stone balls the size of basketballs were the weight lifting “equipment.”

Some Chinese martial arts practitioners used heavy logs and tossed them around. This practice originated from the “lance dance”. It was said that Guan Gong, the red faced Chinese God of War, was the only one able to lift and “dance” with the “Guan dao”. The “Guan dao” refers to the spear with a big Chinese knife at the end and it was said to have weighed “qian jin” or 1,000 jin (about 1,000 lbs).

The Chinese God of Wealth — Cai Shen Ye –Choi Sun

The Chinese God of Wealth is the one holding a gold bullion in his hand adn the Chinese character cai (Mandarin) or choi (Cantonese) on his robe.

About the Chinese term qi si and qi si le

There is a Chinese vernacular term that means “died of anger”.  It is also used as a coquettish term meaning “frustrating” as in “I am dying of anger!”  The term actually originated from historical Chinese fables about loyal officials who were betrayed and died from anger. 

Although these are historical accounts, “dying of anger” is real and physically possible. 

Anger hastens circulation and shortness of breath, quickens the heart beat, and causes a sudden rush of blood to the face and the brain, and tenses the muscles.  This can bring on immediate cerebral hemorrhage and a sudden heart attack.

So, be happy and do not get angry. The Happy Buddha, Mi Le Fuo, is a Buddhist-Taoist and Folkloric figure who can remind us to be happy. He has no job, he is drunk most of the time, he does not wear shoes, but he is rich, fat, and he eats meat.

The Liang Tyan Temple, Houston, Texas, USA 9511 Stroud Drive, Houston, Texas 77036 USA
Tel.: 713-270-7203

Fortunetelling with incense

The Fu

In Chinese Taoism, there is something called a Fu.  It is a sheet of red paper with drawings and unrecognizable characters and symbols drawn by a Taoist priest.  The character Fu is defined as magic figures drawn by Taoist priests to invoke or expel spirits and bring good or ill fortune.


On Taiwan, there are at least four sects of Buddhism but only three can be truly called Buddhist sects.  They are the Tzu Chi, the Lotus Sect and the Sakyamuni buddhists of Fuo Guang Shan near the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung.   There is another so-called Buddhist sect that publishes a True Buddha News Weekly under a guy called Lian Sheng Fa Wang who writes a weekly column for the Chinese print media and who toured several US cities and states, including Seattle, Houston, Florida, New York, from September 24, 2011 to October 10, 2011.  He talked about the Esoteric Ceremonies of the Time Wheel Dhyana and the Eight Seals.  The Eight Seals (ba ying`) refer to eight hand seals (shou ying`) or hand gestures (shapes).  Photos of his lectures show him wearing a half Japanese style samurai garb, a gold watch, and a tall square crown.  His ceremonial vest is orange colored, his long sleeve top and lower pants are faded red, and he wears a pair of black open toed rubber sandals (clogs).   An apt description of the way he dresses is a typical dressed up Taiwanese country bum. 

He represents pseudo-buddhism, a mixture of Taiosm and vulgar Buddhism.    The Eight hand Seals represent eight deities, all of which are of Hindu origin, and they are not really Buddhist.  Not included in the Eight Hand Seals are the following ones that originate from Taoism.

The Water and Fire Hand Seal

 The Hand Seal of the Three Ways of Life of a Buddhist


The Heart Seal



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