Saturday, April 27, 2024

Beginning of Winter Li Dong 立冬

According to Chinese calendar on November 8th starts the 15-day solar term "Beginning of Winter" Li Dong 立冬.
In ancient times this signified that all the crops in autumn have been harvested and stored, and the animals have also hidden to prepare for hibernation. All things enter a period of dormancy and recuperation. 
In the Book of Changes Yijing, this period of the year is symbolized by the Earth hexagram (the 2nd hexagram - Kun gua 坤卦), which consists of only Yin lines and denotes the characteristics of November in the Northern hemisphere: a lot of mists and fogs, less sunshine, longer nights, colder weather, etc. In the beginning of December this will change and the Yang energy will return and start to increase. This hexagram is auspicious because it is peaceful, calm, soft, tolerant, nurturing all things like a mother. The peaceful nature of the earth is due to its virtue of generosity. Thus, it can accommodate and provide for all things. By modeling himself on the Earth, a man of virtue will care for all people and all things. 地势坤:君子以厚德载物.
Now it's a good time to take nourishing tonic foods and herbs, which assist the blood circulation and tonify the qi. As the old Chinese saying goes: "in the Beginning of Winter tonify for the Winter" 立冬补冬. The foods that are high in energy are eaten now, in order to warm up and strengthen the body: soybean milk, walnuts, chestnuts, lotus seeds, longan, lotus root, mushrooms, pumpkin, carrots, etc. 
In the different places in East Asia there are different local customs. For example, in Beijing and Northern China today the people will enjoy eating dumplings, in Nanjing and Jiang'an area - will eat green onions, while in Guangdong province - glutinous rice balls (Tang yuan).

In Vietnam the people celebrate Lập đông ("Beginning of Winter") as the new rice festival and enjoy eating together the freshly harvested rice.

The Korean people also celebrate this solar term (they call it ipdong 입동) by eating rice cakes, but besides, this is when everyone starts to prepare the kimchi. Winter kimchi is said to be the tastiest when it's prepared no more than five days before or after Ipdong (November 7th)!

The great Chinese doctor from Tang dynasty Sun Simiao says: "It is not advisable to go out early in the winter morning and return home late at night." 冬月不宜清早出夜深归,冒犯寒威。And, as another Chinese medicine sayinv goes, "In the winter get up late, in order to preserve the Yang qi." This is such a great advise! We all need Yang qi for good health. Stay healthy and well, enjoy inner peace and be happy!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

“The rain in spring is as precious as oil" - Grain rain solar term 穀雨

   It's the rainy and florishing time of the year! Nine more days till "Start of Summer" solar term in Chinese calendar. The current 15-day solar period is called "Grain rain" 穀雨 (April 19 - May 5) and there is a great wisdom in this! The dry grains need rain water in order to push through the hard protective hull and sprout. In other words - "use soft to overcome the hard" 以柔克刚. As the saying goes, “all grains wake up during the Grain Rain period” 雨生百穀. This shows that this time of rainfall is extremely important for the growth of crops. It is also essential for us, the humans, as we need to gently hydrate the body, and refresh and clear the mind. “The rain in spring is as precious as oil" 春雨贵如油.

   In the traditions of China, Korea and Japan, now it's a perfect time to drink green tea. The "Grain Rain" tea 穀雨茶 is especially fragrant and delightful, rich in vitamins and amino acids, it can help to remove pathogenic heat, dampness and toxins from the body, and improve the eyes and the skin.
Let's enjoy the spring, the tea, and the healing power of nature!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The nine refined activities of the scholars in ancient China

Here are the nine favorite things the cultivated scholars in ancient China enjoyed doing: 

1. 尋幽 searching for a secluded quiet place

2. 酌酒  pouring and drinking wine

3. 撫琴  playing gently a zither

4. 蒔花  cultivating flowers

5. 焚香 burning incense

6. 品茗 savoring and appreciating tea

7. 聽雨 listening to the sound of rain

8. 賞雪 appreciating the snow

9. 候月 waiting to see the moon


Monday, August 7, 2017

The realm of lost souls

   It is well know that during deep sleep the soul often comes out of the body and wanders to other realms. At such moments, one may encounter all kinds of creatures, demons, spirits, immortals and celestial beings.
    Here is a curious story that happened last year: once, while sleeping in the night, I found myself entering a door that leads to a ghostly place.  
Lost Souls of "King of Shadows"
art by Bobby Rawland
It was an immensely depressing site in dark colors and with suffocating air. Countless of lost souls where walking gloomy one after another. They all followed one direction,   while I was walking to the opposite way. 
Somehow I knew that I should not touch or 
get into any contact with these souls,
otherwise I may get into serious troubles.
 Soon I decided to turn back and go "home".
  But, in a split of a second I felt a slight sense of compassion toward one of the lost souls. The lost soul immediately reacted
and grasped my hand, desperately asking me to take him (it) away from this place. I knew that I should not allow this happen, but it was holding my hand firmly. I said politely: ”Get away from me!", but the 
creature was whining and desperately hoping that I will take him with me. I repeated few more times, trying to free my hand, but in vain. And then, all of a sudden, my voice changed and became very powerful, like a thunder penetrating from the lower dantian (the energy field in the belly), and firmly commanded  the lost soul: "Leave me immediately! Ji ji ru lu ling!" The lost soul  was so shocked and scared that it disappeared instantly.
    Giving commands to cast out demons is a powerful method and it is used in many spiritual traditions. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The secrets of Yueyang Tower


  The Yueyang Tower 岳阳楼, located in Yueyang city, Hunan province, i
s one of the three great towers in south China, along with Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan and the Pavilion of Prince Teng in Nanchang.

The first time I visited Yueyang Tower was in the winter of 2000, together with some qigong and Buddhist friends. The managing director of the tower complex was a local friend, and he showed us around, revealing some truly fascinating stories about the ancient building. He said that not long ago the ‘needle’ on the top of the roof started emitting strange smoke. The fire brigade was called, but nothing that could cause the smoke was detected. A group of scientists were asked to come as well and check the situation, but they also could not find any explanation. The smoke was generated by something invisible and miraculously disappeared few weeks later.

Yueyang Tower was built 1700 years ago and had been damaged and reconstructed a number of times. Since Tang dynasty it became a big attraction and many poets, artists and scholars have visited this impressive place. Great poets in the history of China, such as Li Bai, Du Fu,Meng Haoran, Bai Juyi, and Ouyang Xu left poems and articles on Yueyang tower.  Fan Zhongyan (989 - 1052) from Song dynasty wrote:
"On top of the tower the mind relaxes, the heart delights;
All honors and disgrace are forgotten.
What pleasure, what joy to sit here and drink in the breeze!"
  I still remember very clear, as soon as we climbed the second floor of Yueyang Tower, an energy cloud in bright orange color floated around us. And the most amazing thing was that it had 
an undescribeable sweet fragrance, like nothing else on this world! When such phenomenon 
happens in front of you, there is nothing else you can do but just stay quiet and appreciate 
it with great respect and joy. You cannot say even a word!

Next to Yueyang Tower is the Thrice Drunken Pavilion, dedicated to Lü Dongbin, one of the legendary Eight Immortals in Daoism. It is said that he often visited and still visits the Yueyang tower and its area.  
The famous painting "Immortal Lü Dongbin Appearing over the Yueyang Pavilion" 
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY) depicts Lü Dongbin (in the upper right corner) flying above Yueyang tower,
 and the visitors looking at him with astonishment.
Later the same day, after departing Yueyang, already in the train, I suddenly felt sleepy and 
had a wondrous dream. I was taken 1000 years back in time, visiting Yueyang tower, which 
then was brown wooden style building with different architecture and blue roof tiles. Inside, the center of the tower was open empty space from the bottom to the top. It  was filled with orbs - spherical representation of souls - all shining with beautiful colors: pink, yellow, lavender, 
light blue, red... Most of the orbs were floating at the first and second floor, while only a 
few could reach the top of the building. But if you gently press the orbs with your hands, 
they would bounce up to the 3rd floor.  What a delightful way to play!  

The ceiling of Yueyang Tower had the most amazing secrets. It had a hidden cabinet, locked with a 
silver dragon padlock (have never seen such before!). The drawers contained ancient 
scrolls with beautiful calligraphy and sacred writings. A true blessing to be able to see and 
read them! And, imagine,  at this very special and sacred moment, the train conductor opened 
the door of our compartment and uttered loudly: “show your tickets, please!”. That’s how 
ended one of the most marvelous dream journeys I have ever had.  Yet, the subtle connection 
with Yueyang tower continues till today. It teaches that all living beings (and orbs) shine in their own beautiful way, and all need love, gentle care and kind attitude, in order to 
thrive vigorously and advance.

Yueyang Tower overlooking Lake Dongting
and Junshan 君山 island (one of the 72 Blissful Lands 福地 in Daoism).