From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project: http://magazine.beloit.edu/?story_id=240813&issue_id=240610

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

From the Geil Archive (5)—Curly Fives

Two years ago on Round and Square (20 August 2011)—Displays of Authenticity: Real Coffee
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Please Note: All photographs marked "DHS" are with permission of the Doylestown Historical Society. All marked "RL" are my own pictures. None of these may not be reused without permission (e-mail me about mine, and I will put you in touch with DHS if you need to contact them). Photographs marked "RF" are "royalty free."
[a] Five in the Middle (中) DHS
Click here for other posts in the Round and Square series "From the Geil Archive":
               Introduction                          1-Southern Mountain Museum             2-Sacred Mountain Map           
               3-Hat and Cattle                   4-Seeking Anthropology                       5-Curly Fives
               6-How to Write the Book      7-Mortarboard Man                               8-Orator
For the fifth installment in this series, we focus on fives. 

As I have emphasized elsewhere, William Edgar Geil came slowly to a realization that the number five was the quintessential cosmological ingredient in Chinese thought. He did not come by this knowledge easily, and it is apparent that he did not always understand its implications very well. Still, he knew a key cultural component when he saw it and—ever the showman from a lifetime of preaching—he was not going to let a good five go to waste.

Geil does...and overdoes, in large doses...the idea of five on the opening pages of his last, and best, book, The Sacred 5 of China. What I find utterly fascinating is Geil's utter fascination with writing out the number. It is not just the idea for Geil, but the Arabic numeral, and all of its other friends (Roman and otherwise). 

He has little five and big fives and fives all over the place. As I wrote in one of my spring posts on the British website "New Religion," it's a matter, when reading Geil and his interpretation of Chinese cosmology, of "What's black and white and five all over?" Well, the answer is yin-yang, five-phase cosmology, and Geil knew just barely enough to convey a little bit of its excitement to American readers who could barely keep up with the idea that there are sacred mountains in China, much less that they are aligned cosmologically with colors, seasons, early rulers, and planets (and a few hundred other things). Geil expected a lot from his readers...or he wasn't really paying attention. Like a current-day academic obsessed by their own studies and unable to explain to others just how it works without growing frustrated by their inability to "see" what they see.
 
Geil was a little bit like that.

 So, as a unit, these are some of my favorite "five" texts from the Geil archive. Yes, I am partial to the idea of five sacred mountains. Only Geil has written about all five, and I propose to be the second person, almost ninety years later. I admire him in many ways, even though his little predilections and extremely uneven interpretations of Chinese history and culture drive me crazy. Let me say this. He had gumption, but many (many) people in 1910, 1920, and 1925 (when Mr. Geil passed on) knew China much better, and with much more nuanced understandings of the language than he did. And yet...and yet...he just keeps fascinating me with his curly fries (er, curly fives).

Click here for other posts in the Round and Square series "From the Geil Archive":
               Introduction                          1-Southern Mountain Museum             2-Sacred Mountain Map           
               3-Hat and Cattle                   4-Seeking Anthropology                       5-Curly Fives
               6-How to Write the Book      7-Mortarboard Man                               8-Orator

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