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Quest For Chinese Culture

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  • Author: Yu Qiuyu;
  • Language: English
  • Format: Papercover
  • Page: 212
  • Publication Date: 01/2010
  • ISBN: 9787510407017
  • Publisher: New World Press
Details
One thousand years after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese civilization as a whole was nearly on the verge of distinction. However, just at this time, a mysterious cave full of sutras was discovered all of a sudden at Mògāo Caves in Dūnhuáng, Gānsù Province. This discovery brought back to people’s minds the reminiscence of the Tang Dynasty, a reminiscence that was not just sentimental, but also forceful.

Outside the Mògāo Caves there’s a river. Across the river is an empty field with several stupas of various heights. They are round, gourd-shaped and painted white. When I went there, some had already collapsed and not yet been restored. I could only see that they had a wooden post at their center, a body made entirely of beige earth, and a base made of dark bricks. In the setting sun, the chilling winds of ages past blew, and the entire group of stupas appeared dreary and desolate.
There was one stupa that appeared to be relatively complete, so perhaps it was constructed in a more recent era. Conveniently, the body had a stele—which upon reading a bit further revealed(much to my surprise) that its master was none other than that Wáng Yuánlù!
Even such a short stature can leave a long, long shadow in the desert. Even such a minor figure can make history let out sigh after sigh. Wáng Yuánlù was short in stature and of minor importance in history. I’ve seen his picture with him wearing muslin clothes and a timid, catatonic look—this was the image of a common Chinese of that era. Originally he was a farmer from Máchéng, Húběi, who entered military service in Gānsù Province and ended up becoming a Taoist for living out his days. After a few twists and turns, he became the master of Mògāo Caves, managing the affairs there.
The Mògāo Caves chiefly are relating to Buddhism, so how is it that a Taoist could be allowed to manage the affairs there? Chinese grass-roots religions have always been mixed and integrated together. That he was nearly illiterate, not exclusively devoted to Taoism or averse to Buddhism, yet could host religious ceremonies and seek alms—having a man like this watch over that stand of cold grottoes and desolate temples was still considered normal.
However, much of what seems to be the normal ways of the world is actually concealing a very sinister cavern. The astonishing collections within the Mògāo Caves created a huge cultural declivity between Wáng Yuánlù and the object of his care. That declivity was a cavern.
I have read a few books written by some experts in Dūnhuáng studies which describe the everyday life of Wáng the Taoist. He often went out seeking donations, and after getting some money he’d find some no-so-brilliant local craftsmen, first dip a grass brush in some lime and paint intricate, ancient frescoes white, brandish an iron hammer and smash sculptures to pieces, and pile up mud to make something like a statue of Língguān(because he was a Taoist). But he thought, too, that this is after all a Buddhist place, so he had those craftsmen paint the lower temple walls white with lime, then paint on top of that a mural about Xuán Zàng's western quest for sutras. After looking around, he’d feel the caves were too stuffy, so he’d have the craftsmen open them up, which would quickly destroy a vast section of frescoes, turning them into a mere hallway. After doing these things, he’d head out again to get donations, preparing to paint, smash, pile up, and draw all over again.
These technically-toned writings are all very sober, but every time I read them, its as if the inner chambers of my mind have been painted with lime and all has become a sallow white. I’m practically motionless and speechless as the constantly swinging grass brushes and iron hammers float before my eyes.
"Stop!" I cry from the bottom of my heart, but then Wáng the Taoist only turns his face, looking completely confused. I even want to beg him in a whisper, "Please wait a minute, wait a minute ..." But wait for what? Those chambers in my mind are as sallow as before.
Table of Contents
Preface

Who was Huángdì?

Chīyóu's Progeny

Lǎo Zǐ and Confucius

Brilliant Black

The Táng Posts

The Taoist's Tower

Shānxī Guilt

Shànghǎ
Quest For Chinese Culture
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