Things Chinese with Nature / Penjing
- Here are some bits and pieces.
the Purificatory Fast of Water and Land (shuilu zhai),
leading to some bonsai...Penjing
I found this article.
SOCIETY AND THE SUPERNATURAL IN SONG CHINA.
By Edward L. Davis. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. Pp.
xi + 355; appendix; glossary; index. Cloth, $60.00, ISBN 0-8248-2310-
9; Paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-8248-2398-2.
Based on the author's Ph.D. dissertation (University of California at
Berkeley, 1994), this well-researched study focuses on the relation
of Chinese society with the supernatural and on experiences of the
supernatural as an aspect of social relations. In particular, this
work examines "spirit-possession" the descent of gods, ghosts, or
ancestors, and their habitation within a human body (1)during the
Song dynasty (Northern: 960-1126; Southern: 1127-1279).
In some sense, then, Society and the Supernatural in Song China is a
social history of spirit-possession and exorcism in twelfth-century
China. According to Davis, spirit-possession is a social
experience: "Spirit-possession was both a role assumed in public and
a shared and universally recognized idiom that allowed an individual
person to convert emotion into culture, and symptoms into symbols"
(1). Davis in turn draws attention to the relations among various
religious specialists during the Song, specifically among Daoist
priests (daoshi), so-called Ritual Masters (fashi; a newly-emerging
group during the Song) and Tantric exorcists, as well as spirit-
"[M]y aim is to examine the religious interactions and social
functions of the Daoist priest, Buddhist monk, Ritual Master, and
spirit-medium in local society during the twelfth century, and to
present a description of Song religious life richer than any
available to date" (4). (For a partial justification of Davis'
categorization of Song fashi traditions as "Daoist" see 4-13.)
The book consists of nine chapters: (1) Introduction; (2) Therapeutic
Movements in the Song: Texts; (3) New Therapeutic Movements in the
Song: Practitioners; (4) The Cult of the Black Killer; (5) The Daoist
Ritual Master and Child-Mediums; (6) Tantric Exorcists and Child-
Mediums; (7) Daoist Priests, Confucian Literati, and Child-Mediums;
(8) Spirit-Possession and the Grateful Dead: Daoist and Buddhist
Mortuary Ritual in the Song; and (9) The Syncretic Field of Chinese
Religion. There is also an appendix that discusses the Yellow
Register Retreat (huanglu zhai), a Daoist ritual for the dead, in
comparison to the Purificatory Fast of Water and Land (shuilu zhai),
a Buddhist rite for universal salvation (pudu).
This book is especially helpful for gaining a more nuanced
appreciation of the religious landscape during the Song period,
specifically the complex interaction occurring among practitioners
and communities usually assumed to participate in distinct traditions
(passim). Davis provides important insights concerning the "profound
shift" and "sea change" in Daoist history occurring in the Song; this
was the emergence and flourishing of "popularized" forms of Daoism
associated with the above-mentioned Ritual Masters (especially chs.
2, 3, and 5). According to Davis, the overwhelming concern of these
lineages was therapeutic and exorcistic (21).
In addition, Society and the Supernatural in Song China covers poorly
understood Song traditions of Daoism such as Tianxin (Celestial
Heart) and thunder magic (leifa) (especially ch. 2). Although some
may find the concluding chapter to be overly theoretical and, at
times, an "insider" discussion of critical historiography, it
deserves careful reflection by anyone employing a historical approach
to the study of Chinese religion. A book this important to the fields
of Chinese history, Chinese religion, and Daoist Studies also would
have benefited from a more comprehensive and detailed index.
Nonetheless, Davis' study is strongly recommended for those
researching Song and post-Song religious traditions, for those
seeking a fuller understanding of Chinese history, and for anyone
engaged in Daoist Studies. In addition, this book clarifies the
historical developments that led to some of the defining
characteristics of modern Chinese religion, both in mainland China
and Taiwan. Research libraries and scholars in Chinese area studies
should have this book.
Jan 1, 2003
From there to another interesting aspect of Chinese culture,
Penjing is the Chinese art of creating a miniature landscape in a
container. The word consists of the two characters shown on the
left: "pen" - "pot" or "container", and "jing" - "scenery".
Read the original here:
and the homebase
Penjing is the Chinese art of creating a miniature landscape in a
container. The word consists of the two characters shown on the
left: "pen" - "pot" or "container", and "jing" - "scenery". An artist
may use plant material and natural stone to portray an idylllic
mountain retreat with a murmuring brook or a waterscape with a lush
tropical island. Or he or she may design a much simpler scene where
one single tree makes up the entire composition.
Penjing and bonsai are closely related art forms. Penjing is the
older form from which bonsai derived. While the similarities by far
outweigh the differences, there is a significant variance in
scope: "Bonsai" literally means a "tree in a pot" and therefore as an
art form, bonsai is more narrowly defined than penjing, a "landscape
in a pot". Many of the beautiful, elaborate tray sceneries created by
Chinese artists clearly defy the parameters of bonsai.
While penjing can be found in many variations, the Chinese themselves
recognize three distinct categories:
Tree Penjing (shumu penjing)
Landscape Penjing (shanshui penjing)
Water-and-Land Penjing (shuihan penjing)
2. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT
Penjing as an art form spans over a thousand years. Our earliest
historical records of a stone and a plant arranged in a container to
form an artistic scenery date from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). By the
Song Dynasty (960-1279 ), the Chinese already practiced the art at an
advanced artistic level. Paintings from that period depict pieces
that would be prized among seasoned collectors today.
Penjing artists have drawn much of their inspiration not only from
nature, but from nature poetry and landscape painting. Similar
aesthetic considerations have guided all three art forms. With
landscape painting attaining unprecedented heights during the Song
Dynasty (960-1279), penjing, too, was poised for vigorous artistic
development. By the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the
art had become very popular, and the first manuals appeared. With
increasing popularity, however, more commercial, folkloristic, and
regionally defined strands of penjing sprang up alongside the more
sophisticated, artistic forms. In addition to aesthetically refined
penjing, one could find trees whose trunks had been coiled to
represent dragons or whose canopies were to depict cloud layers, or
trees shaped to resemble the strokes of fortuitous characters. The
variations were endless.
In the later years of the Qing Dynasty, the 19th century, foreign
aggression and domination led to a decline in penjing, and this
development was exacerbated during the years of foreign occupation
and humiliation, war, civil war, and cultural revolution that China
experienced during much of this century. Old collections were lost,
artists struggled to survive and to pass on their wisdom and
insights. Only in the last twenty-plus years have the conditions in
China allowed for a renaissance of this ancient art form. Today, a
quickly growing number of enthusiasts and collectors have discovered
their roots in penjing.
It is assumed that the art of creating miniature trees reached Japan
by the 13th century. Beginning in 600 A.D., Japan sent envoys to
China to study her arts and architecture, her language and literature
as well as her law and the forms of Buddhism evolving there, which
were grafted on the original Indian teachings. During China's
Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 ) in particular, the Japanese
imported Chinese culture and arts on a large scale. It was during
that time that the Chinese form of Buddhism known as "Ch'an" was
introduced to Japan and given the name "Zen" - the name by which it
is known in the West today. This massive transmission of culture
begun in the the 1200's would last for centuries as Japanese artists
continued looking to their Chinese counterparts for guidance and
The penjing artist's goal is not only to re-create a natural scenery
in a container, but to capture its essence and spirit. To achieve
this objective, a wide palette of artistic devices comes into play.
Like a Chinese landscape painting, a penjing is a study in contrasts.
On a philosophical level, this presentation of opposites is evidence
of the Chinese artist's conceptualization of the universe as being
governed by two poles of cosmic energy, the yin and the yang.
Artistically, the contrasts create rhythm and dramatic tension which
then is resolved in a dynamic balance, a delicately tuned equilibrium.
The attainment of overall structural unity is critical, especially in
a more complex composition like a water-and-land penjing where design
elements such as trees, rocks, mosses, small grasses, and water all
need to harmonize with each other and contribute to the design in a
meaningful fashion. Careful selection is critical. In addition to
deciding on a container and determining the tentative placement of
the composition, the artist will consider the tree species, number of
trees to be used, their sizes, trunk angles and the density of their
foliage mass. He or she will choose rocks for their size, color,
shape, surface details, and compatibility with the trees. In the end,
each and every element in the design needs to relate to all the
others so that the entire landscape appears as an all-embracing,
Penjing artists do not seek to create perfection. As a matter of
fact, trees trained into highly stylized forms where every angle and
every root and branch placement has been meticulously calculated by a
rigid formula do not suit their tastes. Apart from being beautiful,
an outstanding penjing must look entirely natural. It should look as
if Nature herself had spontaneously created it - like a marvellous
accident of Nature.
4. SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND
Bonsai and penjing may be viewed as objects of meditation. The act of
creating bonsai or penjing by itself is a contemplative, meditative
exercise - a practice of Zen. The little trees and miniature
landscapes can be seen as a celebration of Nature and the healing
powers extended by an intact natural environment. Creating and taking
care of bonsai and penjing will draw you closer to Nature, enabling
you to experience her in a more direct, intimate way.
For a more in-depth understanding of bonsai and penjing, the practice
of creating miniature trees and landscapes should be viewed against
the backdrop of two of China's great philosophical traditions, Daoism
(Taoism) and Zen Buddhism. Daoism has exerted a profound influence
over Far Eastern arts for over two thousand years. It's a way of
thinking and living that can liberate mind and body. Daoism proposes
the return to a state of original spontaneity by discarding the rules
of rigid conventional behavior and thinking. It suggests that by
learning to go with the flow and allowing our minds to function
naturally, tremendous creative power can be unleashed. Tuning into
the rhythm of Nature and understanding the interrelatedness of all
things around us are key components of Daoist teachings.
Zen Buddhism - known as "Ch'an" in Chinese - evolved as a new strand
of Buddhism with unique Chinese features after Indian monks
introduced Mahayana Buddhism around 500 A.D. It came about when a
form of Indian Buddhism was grafted upon the native Chinese Daoist
tradition. Chinese-style sitting meditation ("zuo Ch'an", a concept
called "za zen" in Japanese) does not seek to bring the mind under
rigid control as does traditional Indian Buddhism, but instead seeks
to liberate, encouraging the mind to flow without impediment and to
follow its own, intrinsically good, nature. Ch'an, popularized in the
West under its Japanese name, Zen, teaches that the receptive mind
can find Enlightenment everywhere, at any time, in the form
of "sudden awakening".
And so it is that a bonsai or penjing artist, working with natural
materials and concentrating moment to moment, may come upon sudden
insights, inspirations, and resolutions. This is the creative
process. It finds the artist quietly absorbed in a state of active
meditation. Arranging trees and placing rocks, he suddenly discovers
something new, not pre-meditated - a composition that flows naturally
and harmoniously, engendering great beauty and universal, eternal
truths with seemingly little effort.
© Karin Albert
I will leave it here for tonight.
>Here is another link about this festival
> Checking about
> the Purificatory Fast of Water and Land (shuilu zhai),
The Great Festival to Liberate All Beings of Water and Land
What is this Festival About?
It may seem unscientific to talk about gods and ghosts in this modern
age, but they do exist. There are other beings that most of us cannot
see. In fact, there are ten realms of existences. In six of the
realms, the beings are more capable and happier than humans. In the
lower three realms, the beings endure much suffering.
In this festival, we invite the beings of the higher realms to help
the beings in the lower realms get out of their sufferings. By doing
so, everyone will benefit. The beings in the lower realms escape from
their pain and anguish. The gods and sages fulfil their compassionate
vows of rescuing others. The organisers and participants receive
great blessings and benefits from the goodness done. Even those who
do not contribute may share the merits generated.
This festival is one of the grandest Buddhist rituals. By serving all
beings, it is a majestic example of universal compassion. The
opportunity to participate in such a meritorious event is most
precious, and should be cherished by all.
How Do I Participate?
One simple way is to donate money towards defraying the cost of
running this festival. You can also dedicate prayers to your loved
ones, or join in the recitation services at the various halls. Best
of all, you can practise the five wholesome conducts and the Noble
Eightfold Path, and offer the acquired merits to all beings.
"If by making offerings to one Buddha and one monk can bring
limitless merits to an individual, imagine the magnitude of merit
that can be created by offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of
all directions and all sentient beings of the six realms. It benefits
the giver and his long line of ancestors, bestowing well-being and
happiness upon them."
How Did this Festival Begin?
The festival is attributed to Emperor Liang Wu Di of the Liang
Dynasty. The emperor had a dream in which a holy monk advised, "The
suffering of the beings in the lower realms is immense, why don't you
make offerings to liberate them from their suffering? Among all good
deeds, the accumulation of merits through such services is the
greatest." So Emperor Liang Wu Di invited Chan Master Venerable Bao
Zhi to organise such a ceremony. Venerable Bao Zhi spent three years
creating the concept and compiling the texts for this seven day
What are the Ten Realms?
The ten worlds of existence consist of the Four Enlightened Realms
(Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pacceka-Buddhas and Arahants) and Six Worldly
Realms (Gods, Asuras, Humans, Animals, Hungry Ghosts and Hell-
The great Buddhist sages reside In the Four Enlightened Realms. These
sages are no longer trapped in the cycle of birth and death. They are
able to enter and leave the other realms at will, so as to guide and
teach all beings.
The Six Worldly Realms are categorised into three spheres of
existence - namely the Land, Water and Heavens. Celestial beings such
as Gods and Asuras live in Heavens and enjoy much happiness and
pleasure. Humans are able to control our instinctive desires, act
with reason and live in harmony. Beings such Hell-Beings, Hungry
Ghosts and Animals suffer more. They live on land and in the water.
Hence, this festival is known as the ¡°Great Festival to Liberate
All Beings of Water and Land¡±.
What are the Five Wholesome Conducts?
The five wholesome conducts are as follows:
1. Respect for Life - do not kill, but Protect.
Practise Compassion by protecting and benefiting all life.
2. Respect for Personal Property - do not steal, but be Generous.
Practise Generosity by sharing or giving material and spiritual
3. Respect for Personal Relationships - do not commit acts of sexual
misconduct, but act Responsibly.
Persevere in personal development.
4. Respect for Truth - do not to lie, but be Truthful.
Communicate positively by telling the truth in a pleasant manner.
5. Respect for Mental and Physical Well-being - do not take
intoxicants, but be Mindful.
Live a physically and mentally healthy life.
How is the Festival organised?
There are a total of 7 different halls. The first hall is also known
as the Inner Shrine. The other six halls constitute the Outer Shrine.
Each hall serves a specific purpose.
A. The Inner Shrine
This is the hall where the beings from the lower realms are
liberated. Access to this hall is limited to monks and participants
The services conducted in this hall include the following:
a) Chanting of Mantras
Mantras are special invocations to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Reciting mantras is also a form of meditation.
The mantras use in this hall help to bring ease to the beings of
the lower realms.
b) Recitation of the Ksitigarbha Sutra
Ksitigarbha is a Bodhisattva who vowed to rescue all beings from
the hells until all the hells are empty,
no matter how long it takes.
c) Recitation of the Scripture of Confession & Repentance
This service explains what are unwholesome actions and assists
all beings in repenting past misdeeds.
d) Recitation of the Precepts for the beings from the lower realms.
Precepts are the basis for virtuous conduct. Virtuous conduct is
the foundation of a better life.
Introducing precepts to the beings gives them a chance to break
free of their current suffering.
e) Offering of Food and Incense
This service provides the beings with the necessary sustenance
which they are deprived of in their normal conditions, as a
healthy body is as important as a healthy mind.
B. The Outer Shrines
There are six Outer Shrine halls:
a) The Grand Shrine - Service of the Prayer of Repentance of Emperor
Liang Wu Di.
This is a service that explains and brings the participants
through a thorough process of self reflection,
repentance and purification.
b) The Lotus Shrine - Recitation of the Lotus Sutra
The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important sutras in the
Buddhist canon, in which the Buddha explains that
everyone has the potential to be a Buddha like Him, and teaches
the practices to become one.
c) The Avatamsaka Shrine - Recitation of the Avatamsaka Sutra
The Avatamsaka Sutra explains Buddhism's philosophy and the
concept of Buddhahood.
d) The Surangama Shrine- Recitation of the Surangama Sutra
The Surangama Sutra is the most important sutra for spiritual
cultivation. It gives specific instructions on
how one should train to progress spiritually. It also provides
powerful antidotes against forces of evil.
e) The Pureland Shrine- Recitation of the Amitabha Sutra & Amitabha
Amitabha is a Buddha of a world system called the Pureland of
Ultimate Happiness. It is a paradise He had created after a very
long period of self-perfection. He created it so that all beings will
have the most conducive place to learn Buddhism. In His great
compassion, He personally brings beings from any world to this
f) The Shrine of Other Sutras- Recitation of other Sutras:
(i) The Sutra of Golden Light
(ii) The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment
(iii) The Sutra of Infinite Life
(iv) The Sutra of Contemplation of Infinite Life
(v) The Diamond Sutra
(vi) The Sutra of the Master of Healing
(vii) The Sutra of the Bodhisattva Precepts/Vows
In addition, a tantric ritual of offering food to the beings in the
Hungry Ghost Realm will be held every night.
Need more information?
You can get more information from books at the distribution points
around the monastery.
You can also check out these websites:
1. Buddhism - http://www.TheDailyEnlightenment.com
2. Five Precepts -
3. Noble Eightfold Path -
4. About Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery - http://www.kmspks.org
The Above in Chinese:
Enquire & Register @ Tel. 64584454 / 64531009