Chinese Dragons

Dragons are mythical animals, but it seems every culture has afacsination with them. To some they are evil creatures, to others they are gods and to others still they are bringers of luck and fortune.

Powerful, fearsome, clever, wealthy and rarely malevolent, Chinese dragons are the antithesis of the ravening Western species; of reptilian monsters much given to devouring innocent virgins or to being slaughtered by valiant knights. Chinese dragons whilst differing in temperament vary in appearance too. According to the Pan Tsao Kang Mu, a fifty-two volume work written around 1600, and drawing on much earlier lost works, the dragon is the biggest of all creatures. It has a head like a camel, with deer's horns, hare's eyes and ears like a bull's. It is armed with jaws like a tiger's and claws like an eagle's. It has eighty-one scales, being nine times nine, like those of a carp, and its' voice is the beating of a gong. The mouth has whiskers and under the chin is a bright pearl. The breath forms clouds, sometimes changing to rain and at other times fire. The character is fierce and it loves beautiful gems and jade, eats swallows, and dreads iron, centipedes and silk dyed with five different colours.

Whilst supreme amongst this scaly race are the dragon kings, villages are more likely to have lesser dragons, usually living in water, for Chinese dragons are aquatic. These though, generally keeping themselves to\themselves, may be petitioned for help. Their association with water lends them the ability to control the rain, an attribute much

respected by the farmers, and the larger the expanse of water that the dragon has made his home, the more powerful he is.

A traditional proverb says, "The earth joins up with the dragon", meaning it is raining. This aquatic association was not lost on the emperors. They lined the roof ridges of their buildings with small zoomorphic creatures called Wenshou, the greater the number the more important the resident, and put above them was the Chirwen. The Chirwen was one of the sons of the dragon king of the sea, a mighty and fierce beast, who had the magical ability to raise the sea into a frenzied storm, take up the water and cause it all to fall as torrential rain. Thus, if the building ever caught fire, a constant worry in a land of wooden buildings, the Chirwen could help to quench the flames. Builders recognised that a ferocious nature is not without drawbacks. Worried he would eat up all the smaller animals, like an Asian Pac Man, they called him the ridge devouring beast. Their precaution against his destructive hunger was to transfix him to the ridge with a sword.

People connected dragons to the sky through rain and, believing the dragon kings could fly, legends grew of the Yellow Emperor riding on a dragon's back to the heavens. If dragons were magical and powerful and flew, it was natural that they should inhabit the heavens as well, and so one quarter of the sky was called the Palace of the Green Dragon. This was in reference to the stars of this quadrant, which in Chinese astronomy make the constellation of the dragon. However, these heavenly creatures could not cut their watery links and the appearance of the Dragon constellation is said to be the precursor to the rainy season.

Ruling around the same time as the pyramids were constructed was the first emperor of China, called Yu The Great. Reputed to have been born with the likeness of a dragon, he maintained his ties to them both on the earth and in the heavens. Once when Yu was crossing the Yellow River, two dragons took his boat on their backs and terrified the passengers. The emperor simply laughed and said:

"I am appointed by heaven. I do my best to look after men. To be born is natural: to die is heaven's decree. Why be troubled by dragons?"

Deeply ashamed of their actions, the dragons swam away dragging their tails.

Subsequent emperors recognised the importance of the dragon as a symbol of power and the imperial court sought to convince common folk that the emperor was the 'Son of Heaven', all-powerful, a dragon upon the earth. Court symbolism reinforced the image and the dragon, along with the phoenix, became the principle motif for decorative designs on buildings, clothing and articles of daily use in the imperial palaces. Throne rooms were supported by columns entwined by gilded dragons and the central ramps of marble steps were paved with huge stone slabs of the dragon and phoenix carved in relief, whilst screen walls displayed dragons in brilliant colours. The names for nearly all the things connected with the emperor or the empress were preceded by the epithet 'dragon' or 'phoenix', so the throne became the 'dragon seat', the emperor's ceremonial dress became the 'dragon robe' and he slept in the 'dragon bed'. As for the empress, she rode in a 'phoenix carriage' under a 'phoenix canopy'.

The phoenix was also used as a symbol of imperial power. It is a gloriously beautiful, legendary creature, sovereign amongst birds, as the dragon is sovereign over all animals. It has the head of the golden pheasant, the beak of the parrot, the body of the mandarin duck, the wings of the roc, the feathers of the peacock and the legs of the crane.

Where does this leave the dragon today? Preserved in quaint folk tales or as ornate statues in the Forbidden City? Chinese culture is more resilient than this. Ferociously competitive dragon boat races are the most visible sign of a living dragon culture; the race commemorates the suicide by drowning of a loyal but disgraced minister two thousand years ago. Sayings concerning dragons still live, connecting them to the heavens and water. Probably strongest of all are the links to Feng Shui where dragons are powerfully symbolic. Recently, in Hong Kong, a long narrow hotel was designed which flowed along the contours of a hillside overlooking Repulse Bay. Before it was built, Feng Shui experts warned of a huge dragon who lived in the hills above the site. They came up with a solution to the problem and, remarkably in a land where real estate prices are amongst the highest in the world and every square centimetre is valued, a large square hole was designed into the final construction. The reason? The hole allowed the dragon to come down to the water of Repulse Bay to drink by Nick Battersby

Suitable Path

People's beliefs may vary greatly especially on the subject of spiritual guidance. What one person believes to be the right way may not suit another. So each of us has to choose our own paths in life and only we can tell if they are right for us.

As a child, I was introduced to Christianity through fleeting visits to Sunday school and then through more serious attendance to our local church when I was ten years old. I remember sitting in the third row shyly looking up at the pulpit where our kind faced pastors would stand to share the "Good News". At this age my mind was like fertile soil, so the seeds that fell there took root quickly and affected me quite deeply.

I once asked my grandparents if they believed in Jesus and had been "saved" as I did not want them to die and not be with me in heaven. Calling myself a Christian was often a joyous experience but at other times it was quite painful. I read my little white leather Bible daily to look for guidance on how to become a better person, which perhaps made me a bit more serious than a child of that age should be.

As I grew older, however, the stories that had once been an inspiration became more like condemnation. Page upon page proclaimed me to be a sinner. I found it ever more difficult to reconcile what seemed to be overbearing strictures on conduct, and I finally left the church at the age of seventeen. However, I never ever lost the yearning for spiritual guidance.

When I began to study Qigong, I knew very little about its origins. I knew, however, that as I continued to practise I began to feel more relaxed and have more energy to cope with things. After some months of practise, I began to feel other changes. My heart was beginning to become more generous and my mind more balanced. I felt myself going back to my original nature, caring more for others and less for myself. My taste for the business world in which I was working long and stressful hours continued to diminish and I began to look for other means of employment where my primary concern was not a high salary but helping others. By now I had also learned more about the Qigong I was studying and found that its origins lay with the Daoist monks of the Kunlun Mountains in China.

So I began to read more about Daoism and there I found the spiritual home that I had been seeking. There was no God, no Satan, no hell or heaven. Only myself and responsibility for my own actions. I learned that in Daoism one's actions will dictate one's future, whether it be in this lifetime or the next. One often hears, "What goes around comes around." It seems that in practising Qigong one's awareness of this cycle increases, especially as the speed with which things come back around seems to accelerate.

This makes it difficult to hide when you have done something wrong. Although it is hard to admit your guilt, doing so will free your mind and help you to be more clear in finding a solution. Unlike in Christianity, there is no need to carry your sins with you as you wait for a judgement day. How you handle today will shape what tomorrow will bring.

As one continues to practise Qigong, the mind is more balanced and our emotions are more steady. This is because the emotions of anger, sorrow, joy, worry and fear are directly related to the organs; respectively, the liver, lungs, heart, spleen and kidneys. As one becomes healthier, the internal organs become stronger and we can handle difficulties more easily.

Daoism has helped me greatly. Looking back, I see many seeds of Daoism in Christianity. For instance, the saying, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you", is similar to the principles of Daoism. In another part of the Bible it tells us to care for the Temple of God, in effect our bodies. In Daoism, Qigong was evolved as a way of caring for the body in order that longevity and hence immortality could be achieved. However, there is one major difference and this is that in Daoism there is no Saviour but ourselves; that we and we alone are responsible for the outcome and results of our actions by Tse Sihn Kei

Dayan Gong 2nd 64Part 1

With each passing year, Dayan (Wild Goose) Qigong gains in popularity. Many of you may have seen the First 64 movements but how many have seen the Second 64? Well for the very first time in the pages of Qi Magazine we present the Second 64 Movements of Dayan Qigong

Having completed the 1st 64 movements of Dayan Gong, it is very important to be able to do it properly and understand it well. This usually takes six to nine months of solid practise before you can go on to the 2nd 64 movements of Dayan Gong.

After the end of the 1st 64 you continue into the 2nd 64 with the movement 'Stretch Claws'.

1. Stretch Claws.

i. From the squatting position, Fig 1, straighten your legs, but keep your waist bent and you hands still at the Dantien. Fig 2.

ii. With the back of your hands touching your body, release your hands by sweeping them down from your Dantien along the stomach channel, down to your legs.

iii. Finish by holding a Qi ball in front of your Middle Dantien, Laogong points facing the Shenzhong point. Fig 3.

This is the startingmovementofthe 2nd 64 that helps the Qi to grow.

ii. Turn your body to the left ninety degrees, then close the fingers of the left hand and touch the Jing Men point on your back. The Jing Men point belongs to the Gall Bladder Channel.

iii. Bring the hand back to the front, circling it round to the left, so you are once again holding the Qi ball in front of you. You should look at your hands.

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan

Fig 5

iv. Turn the right hand outward.

v. Turn your body through one hundred and eighty degrees, Fig 6, and repeat touching the Jing Men point for the right side.

3. Looking for the Wind.

i. Bring your right hand back round so you are once again holding the Qi ball in front of your Middle Dantien.

ii. Lift up your head and body slightly. Make sure the chin rises a little, Fig 7. This opens the Lianquan point, which is on the Ren channel. Look forwards.

iii. Turn one hundred and eighty degrees to the left side. Fig 8.

iv. Turn back to face the front.

Fig 6

Fig 7

Acu-Points

Jing Men si PI

Lianquan

Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan Gong 2nd 64 Dayan

Fig 9

Fig 10

Acu-Points

Jian Jing

Jian Jing

The descriptions of the Acupoints of Dayan Gong in issue 35 of Qi Magazine contained an error. In the description of the Ming Men point the text refered to the movements 'Draw Wings to the Back' and 'Cloud Hands'. In these movements the Hegu points actually connect to the Shen Shu points not the Ming Men point.

Fig 10

Fig 11 Fig 12

4. Bring the Claws to the Shoulders.

Turn your palms outwards. Fig 9. Separate your hands out to your sides, as if you are collecting the Qi. Straighten up your body. Fig 10 Bring your hands round and up to your front.

Continue to raise the hands and close the fingers of each hand. Fig 11. Bring them up over you shoulders and touch the Jing Jing points. The Jing Jing points belong to the Gall Bladder channel. Fig 12.

Cultivatin Mind and Body

"They expelled all the toxins from the body, and constantly preserved their true energy. Having accumulated these effects over a long time, their bodies were transformed, and they became immortals."

The Daoist arts of health and longevity are founded on the principle of the dual cultivation of mind and body. An unhealthy body cannot support a clear mind and an egotistical mind will weaken a healthy body. Clearing the mind and strengthening the body are equally important whether our goal is health, mental well being, or spiritual enlightenment.

As students of the arts of health and longevity, how should we go about cultivating both mind and body?

Today, cultivating the body is usually associated with techniques of Qigong, Daoist callisthenics, and internal martial arts such as taijiquan and baguazhang. On the other hand, cultivating the mind is usually associated with long sessions of sitting meditation. Westerners, who are more comfortable with movement than stillness, have gravitated more toward the techniques of cultivating the body than those of cultivating the mind. In Europe and especially North America, the dropout rate in meditation classes is higher than that of say, taijiquan.

The perceived differences between cultivating mind and body, moreover, have separated practitioners into those who prefer "mind only" and those who prefer "body only" programs of training. This is unfortunate, because to benefit fully from

the Daoist arts of health, the training of body and mind must be integrated in a balanced and harmonious way.

Knowing that a strong spine, articulated joints, flexible tendons, and relaxed muscles are necessary for practising sitting meditation, the Daoists have recommended that new students start their training with a gentle physical exercise such as taijiquan. Once the body becomes soft and relaxed a form of

meditation known as quiet sitting is introduced. In this way, the practitioner can work on emptying the mind without being distracted by backaches and cramped muscles. As the mind begins to empty its thoughts, the practitioner will become more comfortable with stillness. Subsequently, when he or she practises the physical techniques, thinking will stop spontaneously, body and mind will be united, and stillness will become the guiding force behind movement.

As the practitioner progresses into increasingly challenging physical movements designed to massage the internal organs and open blockages in the circulatory system, the techniques of cultivating the mind also change. Because the physical foundation has been built, meditation can now be used to gather and conserve internal energy or Qi. Once internal energy is gathered, physical movements are used to circulate it through the body thus, alternating movement and stillness and simultaneously cultivating mind and body, health, longevity, and spiritual enlightenment can be attained.

Attitude and lifestyle are important in cultivating mind and body. This is where the wisdom of the Daoist sages can be a valuable guide. Many people do not see the connection between 'classroom training and daily lifestyle. Consequently, they lose what was gathered in the training session the very next day. The Daoist sages tell us that too much thinking can dissipate energy, too much desire can confuse the mind, and too much activity can harm the body. Therefore, those who cultivate mind and body should refrain from a lifestyle of excess. Many

■Hi

practitioners of the Daoist arts of health think that they can indulge in spen ding energy, believing that energy can always be replenished by practising Qigong or meditation. This is unfortunate, because if energy gathered is spent immediately, there will be no net improvement of health in the long run.

Attitude can also affect how much we can benefit from the Daoist arts of health. Negative and competitive attitudes are not conducive to learning. Neither is the desire for fame and power. The Daoist sages and founders of the arts of longevity lived a simple life and were at peace with themselves. They had few desires and did not seek social recognition and political power. They were not excited by gains or worried over losses. They did not compete with anyone; therefore no one competed with them. Because they integrated the practices of strengthening the body and clearing the mind with their lifestyle, they were able to attain the highest levels of physical health, mental wellbeing and spiritual development. In the words of the Triplex Unity of the foremost Daoist texts of the arts of longevity, these sages "Carried the mystery and embraced the ultimate reality... They covered their traces and hid from the world. They conserved their energy and nourished the spirit... The sweet nectar moistened their skin and flesh. Their tendons and bones were soft and strong. They expelled all the toxins from the body, and constantly preserved their true energy. Having accumulated these effects over a long time, their bodies were transformed, and they became immortals."^

by Eva Wong

Eva Wong is the author of Seven Taoist Master, Cultivating Stillness alongwith many other titles.

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