|[a] From Middle Heaven Gate RL|
After a good night's sleep, spent dreaming of rocky crags in the world of 1919, I got up, made myself a little omelet, prepared a pot of coffee, and settled down with the cats to read The Sacred 5 of China. My goal was to process Geil's work by moving methodically through the book, page-by-page. In the spirit of systematic reading, this was to be the first close encounter—not too fast, but not as slowly as a second reading would require (if it warranted that kind of attention at all). Yesterday, I had skipped around and considered bits and pieces, on the one hand, and developed a birds-eye sense of the whole, on the other. Today and tomorrow—and maybe the day after that—would be devoted to a methodical reading of every word, as well as careful study of every photograph and diagram in the volume.
|[b] From Middle Heaven Gate (in The Sacred 5 of China)|
I turned the page. "Every book has many authors: the title-page names but one." Geil thanks five people, including his wife, various academics, and "a very distinguished scholar whose name, for political reasons, is set down in a strictly secret place." The rest of the dedications page is equally odd and inspiring. The "fly on a fleet horse's tail" called to my mind several idiomatic phrases in Chinese about brevity and the general insignificance of a single individual or moment. Very nice, like viewing the flowers while galloping on horseback (走馬觀花).
In the words of magistrate Chên of the Hua Yin District:
"I have undertaken the labour of seeing this book
to completion, and have the privilege of
inscribing my name at the end,
like a fly on a fleet horse's tail."
WM. EDGAR GEIL.
5th sun of the 5th moon of the
5th year after visiting
THE SACRED 5 OF CHINA.
|[c] 5 RF|
THE LARGEST MOUNTAIN DOES NOT REJECT THE SMALLEST DUST.
And then it began. I wish to quote directly from Geil's preface. No paraphrase can do justice to the peculiar combination of insight and idiosyncrasy that I was just beginning to discover in the writing of William Edgar Geil.
THE MAGIC OF 5
5 is a number most remarkable to the man of the Central Kingdom. When
he looks into the sky at night he sees 5 planets, which we of the West term
Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, Mercury. When he studies the tints of nature
he distinguishes 5: Green, Red, Yellow, White, Black. In the world there are
5 elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. If in the orchard the stems or
the flowers of apple, pear, and cherry be admired, 5 reveals itself again. If
space be analysed, there are 5 directions: East, South, Centre, West, and
North. So, too, in the little world of the body. The human frame has 5
constituents: Muscle, Vein, Flesh, Bone, Skin-and-hair. The trunk contains
5 organs: Kidneys, Heart, Liver, Lungs, Stomach. It has 5 offshoots: Head,
two Arms, two legs.
|[d] En petit RF|
Be still my beating heart-mind (心), I mused. Could this unknown writer really be hinting at one of the most profound ideas in all of Chinese thought? Could it be that he understood the brilliant, though circuitous, tradition in Daoist text and practice connecting the human body with the cosmos? Is it possible that Geil understood the insights of perspicacious French scholars of his time—Edouard Chavannes and Marcel Granet—who wrote fluently of this idea in the context of mountains and even society? Could it be that he had already, in 1926, anticipated the work of Granet's student, Rolf Stein, who wrote—long after Geil's death—that the human body is a "world in miniature" that mirrors the action, flow, and refulgence of mountains themselves? Was it possible? If so, the world of Chinese studies had missed a serious link in its own intellectual history.
I kept reading.
All other things, therefore, should manifestly be sorted into 5's. In music,
where where the white man talks about an octave, but really discriminates
popularly 12 sounds within that octave, the Son of Han recognizes only 5
notes. 5 tastes are distinguished: Salt, Bitter, Sour, Acrid, Sweet. From his
ancient semi-mythical kings he singles out 5 as worthy of remembrance.
And for more than 4 millenniums he has known 5 degrees of nobility.
As there were 5 constant or cardinal virtues, so there were 5 punishments.
The calendar depends upon the Pillars of Heaven, or pars of stems. And
many of these matters are mentioned in the 5 Classics, and brought up to
date by the 5 stripes in the Chinese Flag.
It is, therefore, only to be expected that mountains should be mentioned in
5's. And among the holy mountains, it was inevitable that 5 should be
prominent; and natural that these should become associated with the 5
elements, the 5 directions, the 5 colours. Hence, we find:
Tai Shan, the East Peak, corresponds to Wood and Green.
Nan Yo, the South Peak, corresponds to Fire and Red.
Sung Shan, the Centre Peak, corresponds to Earth and Yellow.
Hua Shan, the West Peak, corresponds to Metal and White.
Hêng Shan, the North Peak, corresponds to Water and Black.
These 5 are the sacred Quincunx of Hills; the devout pilgrim will fulfil his
duty by visiting these.
|[e] Yin-yang RF|
I poured myself another cup of coffee, and continued reading.
Accidental 6e Accidental 6f Accidental 6g Accidental 6h
|[f] Pilgrims RF|