Katherine Alexander On Journey To The West (Xiyouji)

hi everybody this is Scott Park Phillips and we have a real treat for you today Catherine Alexander who is a professor of Chinese language and literature at the Cu called University of Colorado in Boulder and uh she’s probably the best tire they’ve ever made she’s really fantastic she she finished her PhD at the University of Chicago she has actually a degree in physics she grew know something like that anyway it’s a science degree she’ll fill you in and if you wants to she grew up in Taiwan and are you obviously fluent in Mandarin are you fluent in one of them in languages one of the Taiwanese languages well query Donahoe sawatya how come – you are by geek I heard Huckabee how come you with Aggie don’t stick Ohio I go along city ta da gone misty one wrong way which in English is I said I can of course speak Mandarin but I can also speak Taiwanese although my Taiwanese is better at listening than spoken because most of my Taiwanese was learned at church and when you’re at church you’re listening to someone else talk and you’re not talking of a lot yourself. that’s an important detail there is that you have a missionary family I came from a missionary family and you have. a deep religious awareness of of Chinese culture and and one of the reasons another of the reasons it’s fascinating to talk to you and. what I’m hoping to bring to everybody today is a discussion of Journey to the West GOG which is some people might know as the story of the monkey and it’s a really fantastic story and for people in the martial arts world it plays a key role in the development of Chinese martial arts and. our Chin’s sheet lectures I’m gonna try and let her do a little lecturing and then I’m gonna be you know the bad student and ask questions and and then we’ll have a conversation – it’s a good student right oh well I’m that’s just not my thing but yes I will I’ll be an inspiring student how about that all right excellent go for it. when Scott and I were meeting what a month and a half ago I think we had coffee one morning and talked a bit about what are some of the things that I’ve been working on and teaching this semester and what kind of conversations could we have and I said well you know I’m teaching Journey to the West in passing in both of the classes I’m teaching this semester both for the undergraduates as an introduction to Chinese civilization because the monkey king is always absolutely the best ambassador for Chinese culture and often is used as an ambassador for Chinese culture and then also for my master students because this journey to the west this novel from the 16th century gives us a lot of different ways at looking at how scholars approach a large work which never wants to really resolve into a single coherent interpretation. then what do you do with a text like this how do you approach it what are many different ways you could kind of parse it that allow for us to explain why it was. popular continues to be. popular and is useful for us in understanding Chinese popular culture Chinese popular religion and pretty much a grab bag of anything else that you would want but I don’t want to assume too much familiarity with the novel. I just want to go through a few kind of main points and then Scott please interrupt me at any point in this and asked for clarification okay my cats may pop up every once in a while. this is who you got right now all right we have a mouse here but hopefully we won’t see it oh I’m gonna move you down there all right. the journey to the west of the novel that we talked about coz our oldest excellent version is from 1592 and it’s this hundred chapter version now this novel doesn’t come out of nothing it’s not like one creative person sat down and imagined the whole thing and it’s their singular authorial creation I’ll get back to that in a second the story itself of a monk who went to India to get scriptures and had some supernatural assistance to help him along the way goes back much much further in Chinese popular oral traditions and popular written traditions we have scattered references to the monkey and the monk in poetry from the tongue and sown periods onwards song especially there are actually is a series of clays that were written in China in I want to say the 14th century I’m blanking him over right now but these plays were rediscovered in Japan and they are twenty four sections long of the various Adventures of the monkey and the monk another early source that shows us that these were stories that were had a wide range of currency and even interestingly enough traveled in a way is a long section of a Korean textbook for merchants going to China called the puck tone song on hey and it has sections teaching these Korean merchants Chinese using elements of the story of the monkey and the monk also of we don’t have a lot of oral stories that are written down but from the little bits and pieces that we have that remain to us written before that 1592 story we know that this was pervasive throughout kind of the popular mindset and culture of storytelling in China from the song onwards. the song starting in the 1960s right but what we have to go back to is thinking about where does the story come from and with that actually I’m going to skip ahead first and then I’ll come back to where this yeah who is this guy who’s Jean. again like I said the story doesn’t come out of nowhere it helps it comes out of actual historical fact but highly highly embellished over the centuries as we go from historical monk who really made a journey to India to get scriptures being turned in the popular imagination into a completely fictional monk who goes to India to get scriptures on a much more kind of spiritual adventure type journey than the actual journey of the monk Xuanzang but first taking us back to the historical moment because even this story that is such high fantasy is itself rooted in some kind of historical fact we have the monk shinsung and he is he was born to an elite family he became a Buddhist monk quite young and what he realized in his own practice as a monk was that he really wanted to go back to the source of Buddhism and what but the problem at this time is that to leave China you actually needed a permit from the Emperor basically and the monk was not able to get one of these permits and. he actually illegally left China snuck out with traders on the Silk Road went through what we have to assume are considerable difficulties to get to India toured all over India did kind of his Buddhist tour of all the best sites and actually did bring back a serious amount of scriptures but when he got back to China he’d been gone for. long that when he went to the Emperor he was pardoned for the crime of having left illegally and especially because the Emperor was really interested in not. much the scriptures that he brought but what kind of kind of intelligence to be pick up along the way about those other kingdoms what kind of intelligence do you pick up about you know trade routes and diplomatic things and things that would be useful for a man in political power he was actually offered position in court but the monk being himself an actual incredibly devout and really learned member of the Buddhist clergy said that he wanted to instead work to translate all of these texts into Chinese for the sake of Chinese believers and we do still have shinsung translations of some of these Buddhist texts that came from India and. this is the real historical person that we’re talking about an incredibly accomplished monk multilingual deeply dedicated to his Buddhist faith fact now we once we get into fiction we get a completely different kind of character. I’m going to go back to the slide where I talk about methods of interpreting the story and then I want to go forward and just talk a little bit about some of the main characters in the story starting from our fictional monk what we want to keep in mind is that our historical monk is in many ways quite heroic and inspiring and our fictional monk is going to be basically the opposite he’s kind of he’s kind of doesn’t really have it together that much does oh no not at all he’s hilarious I have a two quotes to share from that too you know Xuanzang.

Schwinn obviously people who are been listening to my talks that have anything to do with ours and we’re familiar with that character as dark or mysterious mm-hmm and the other character gets used as a pun for organs is that right I’m not sure it’s on. the the twelfth dog. I just you know I because because part of part of having a conversation about martial arts and literature is to look at the most transgressive elements and in this case mysterious organ as a name is profound in its own certainly how it offers up also room for the story to go off in all kinds of different directions where all it takes is somebody who’s you know telling a story about hey did you know about this monk I think Wow hey let’s think about his name what if he were actually a secret Taoist and you start to see how we’re really looking at the beginnings of fiction being inspired or you know drawn out reinterpretations I also want to point out though this this little culmination because one of the points that we’re not going to talk about it today but I always want to point this out whenever I talk about Journey to the West is that although we have that hundred chapter edition from 1592 it’s not like the tradition freezes there at all in fact the tradition goes on I’m gonna try to grab a book from my makeshift bookshelf here the tradition goes on long after that we have subsequent adaptations of the story we have the monkey kind of going off into other adventures and this book is utterly delightful transforming monkey it’s all about the monkeys life after the journey to the west’ novel including how he appears in contemporary film contemporary American literature written by Chinese Americans and even sort of 20th century communist uses of the monkey and. when I say culminating in this novel that we would say that that’s kind of the big point the hundred chapters right but it doesn’t mean that like it ends there the story is still within the popular realm and still developing even as we speak right yeah yeah I would just quickly point out that there are temples just some oh I should have put in a slide of the temple I went to was an altar to him that I have a photo of yeah yeah altars and and very common trance God to possessing God for trans people of course in the boxer uprising but contemporarily absolutely and. you know there’s still contemporary relevance and belief in. home hmm as a deity yeah and and the the oldest film I don’t know if you know this we did a talk on it I did it an interview on what we talked about film it’s the the Spider Woman uh what’s it called the oldest surviving Chinese film is actually a monkey story that’s marvelous that’s. perfect right it’s almost like the monkeys been planning it all along yeah okay keep going sorry for that no this is I love sort of thinking about you know if literature is really just using us for its own self perpetuation sometimes alright let’s go back. the America Tiny’s American scholar Anthony who died in 2015 if I’m I think. yes look I got mine too okay. he is really defined the study of The Journey to the West in the US for decades found especially because of his full-length translation of the hundred chapter novel and then eventually he translated a shortened version which is utterly delightful to read and in general he says that he takes kind of three approaches to the novel that you can read it as a tale of travel an adventure right that it’s just it can be a fun story and that’s how I think a lot of pop culture has taken it for like the movies and you know this Spider Woman original movie even on stage and Peking Opera and things like that but there are multiple levels to read it the next way that a lot of people tend to take it is as it’s a story of Buddhist karma and redemption. like one of these in Yin two in urine tales where all of the various people who are populating the story are working through their karmic debts and have to work through them over the course of the journey. that by the end of the journey they can achieve Buddhahood because they have been able to create enough merit to make up for those deaths and then we kind of see the laws of karma play out in the story and then another level which is pervasive from the Ching dynasty actually is that the story can be read as an allegory of Taoist alchemical self cultivation and you’re gonna have to kind of talk a little bit more about that because all I know about it is what I’ve read from Anthony use explanations but in general he’s said that. there’s an early Ching abridged edition of the hundred chapter novel in it tends to be that the full-length novels don’t get as much readership as in as an abridged Edition anyway right which is why we have this one but this early one from the Ching called Co sunchun which kind of puns I guess off trends in Taoism also right right but she owes an Shin by chance of being is an abridged version that consisted of a lot of commentary as well where he takes the story as like a full and he basically looks at the story and he looks for in young cosmology he looks for alchemy and he looks for references to the eating and he parses the story on those terms and basically says that the entire story is a treatise on internal alchemy and this interpretation was actually quite dominant throughout the chain. as much as we’re talking about the story as being based upon a Buddhist monk we have to think about as it’s circulating in the Ching it really has this Taoist sense to it as well. we’ll come back to all of these things and I’m sure we’ll have some interesting conversation about yeah Jung yeah I would I would probably I’d probably even just add a fourth but built on that but we’ll oh well what would your form be because this is new year’s levels right these are exactly three ways that he says like let’s look at it these ways yeah that’s start. the fourth way would be to say that this is theater and that what you’re doing autumn without effort when you read it is immersing yourself in a world through Sun through visualization a hunch which in the Taoist sense could also be actualization yes and. you’re you’re engaged in in the personal version of a much larger ritual which you would see on the stage and as an audience member if you were to watch it on the stage you would in fact be spot without effort visualizing because you know there just have an occasional prop right what entire scene is visualized by the audience and in a replication of dowsed ritual although a very funny one a very narrative one and that the practice of being an actor. the base practice everybody learned animal roles before learning human roles. you learned Gowen or Dow yen which you know is also Taoist alchemy you did you learn all the five elements as kind of character training and also as alchemy. that you are performing ritual Taoist alchemy on the stage and the audience is contributing to the Vigilant visualization without again without it in a way right don’t effort and that’s just me cracking this open because it doesn’t stop is it what kind of exorcism is it mm-hmm well and then that would fit in like I know very little about the dodgy plays the ones that are predecessors to the novel well know we don’t know if it’s direct link it probably isn’t a direct link but what a hundred hundred fifty years earlier at least yeah exactly and that’s perfect right that these are like staged kind of collective ritual because what is the stage if not kind of participating in a master performance all right we’ll have to talk about that war if we can find you know. notice I have much more to offer on that one there’s more links okay cool yeah all right butts. let’s think about the fictional monk what does Tong shinsung become or tired what does shinsung become when he becomes Tong Suns own the character he becomes a quite a different sort of monster close that for a second alright. we get a completely different backstory instead of our hero monk who is dedicated to Buddhism you know as a teenager and then heroically sort of sneaks out of China to get his texts we have a fascinatingly different story which very clearly has its origins instead of the popular mid-year Thomson song is born to a woman who has been kidnapped and once she gives birth to him he is abandoned he’s found by a monk and then later he’s able to rescue his mother and what I think is really interesting about this is that it makes him out to be a pure Buddhist from basically the moment that he was picked up by the monk. he has never been part of kind of the dusty human secular world and then also because he’s able to rescue his mother and do all of the things that are like a filial Chinese son is expected to do we have him being perfect in many differently he ticks all the boxes right fictionally speaking and then this journey instead of being one that he conceives of on his own as wanting to go and sneaks away from China we have it flipped. what happens instead is that Guan Yin says I would like somebody from China to get these scriptures and. she creates the conditions necessary to make it. that someone from China has to go to India to get the scriptures and she does it in such a way that the Emperor himself seeks out tongues endzone to be the scripture pilgrim and. instead of leaving without anybody approving instead we have the highest levels of approval both in the secular world of politics with the Emperor but also guan yin who matters even more i hate’s we also he is just such how do you describe him but he’s just kind of a pill right he’s he’s sanctimonious cowardly he’s really pious but in ways that show that his piety is incredibly shallow he really needs his supernatural assistance because he’s non-functional wise and he is also constantly being tricked by kind of exterior appearances. much. that he kind of can’t see through the sort of surface lies that even the readers can see through as they’re going through the novel and. we’ve gone from our hero becoming almost like our comedic foil and really there are ways you can look at him as a stand-in for sort of the the useless mortal who has to try to blunder their way through life in the hopes that they can one day achieve some kind of transcendence I just want to point out and this is from the Whaley translation because I signed this to my undergraduates the Whaley translation is an older translation. not the you translation it’s a little bit easier to read but it is much less scholarly and it’s modified a lot more just for the sake of reading ability but I just want to point out. in the first chapter where the monk goes off on his journey how quickly this facade of him being somebody who is a religious expert who can handle the trials of the pilgrimage falls in the space of two pages. we begin with this. tang sanzang Tripitaka is about to leave China and he’s at a monastery and he’s talking to all the different monks about this journey he’s about to go on and they’re all really worried about how difficult the journey will be and they keep praising him for how you know brave he is and. they asked him about you know how wide the rivers are high the mountains are the roads being full of Panthers and tigers and demons he says nothing and he keeps just pointing at his own the priest did not understand what he meant and when at last they asked him to explain he said is the heart alone that can destroy them. he begins the journey basically by saying that he is already able to surmount all difficulties because he has kind of perfected his heart because he’s made this vow because he kind of has this particular devotion to the Heart Sutra especially then they all say oh what a loyal and valiant cleric they cry in chorus this all goes to hell very soon on the very next page he is captured by ogres his assistants his human assistants are eaten and he now doesn’t know what to do because he’s been completely destroyed in the space of a few hours he’s in the depths of despair and he lost all hope of escaping with his life this happened in the space of two pages. we’ve already seen just how weak he is an old man appears carrying a heavy staff and of course he is a Taoist immortal – and the Taoist immortal helps to petaca get out of this situation and begins to show us that this journey is not going to be the kind of journey where a human can manage it at all he is going to need the help of all of the various deities and immortals and spiritual forces out there to help him get all along the way because his human imperfections are no match for everything that’s going to be thrown at him what’s funny is once he meets the monkey it happens again right the monkey goes off they have a fight the monkey runs off and when the monkey comes back to find Tripitaka to Pittacus as well I don’t have the heart to go on and this imagery of the heart is you used constantly throughout the novel about can you control your heart do you have the heart do you know is the heart going to hold you back or is it something that will help you along the way what does it really mean to have heart alright um yeah can I stop you for a second therapy because I’m glad you chose the white Whaley translation that’s the Whaley translation right this is just yeah yeah I have I have that one to the. the term Shin here is means both heart and mind and and it’s see it seemed to me we get a lot of you know you have to make a choice as a translator because it’s very awkward to say heart mind unless you’re writing a some kind of Buddhist Chuck yeah and and. so in the within the two translations we there would be a lot of difference in whether it’s the heart or it’s the mind and one of the that comment there about you know having refined your heart will allow you to face tigers and rhinos and stuff is actually like a doubt aging there’s a damaging chapter number but it’s the one that’s they go three and ten choose life three and ten choose death three and ten though they choose life it doesn’t work you’ve no doubt heard of those who are good at cultivating dow they walk through mountains without you know without getting clawed and that that the buddhist showed up basically in china and and said well you know we don’t need that because our heart is refined or our mind is refined it’s like a mirror and we could just you know we don’t need we don’t need your talismans to get into the wild earnest we yeah we are a talisman right and how quickly that falls apart doesn’t it well right. then you. so that the reason I brought it up is because you the book appears to be on the surface you know Pro Buddhists and then other times Pro Taoist and other times Confucian and I think from maybe from chapter to chapter it might actually be different like that one point being that the chapters may be written by different people who have different opinions but that in a sense it’s this wonderful critique of like everybody’s view yeah oh it absolutely is I really enjoy kind of the way that the novel skewers absolutely everybody particularly I think because what it’s curing is people who are I don’t know not insincere but perhaps believe too much in their own perfection without necessary the the need to actually engage in constant cultivation. so South Park yes we could make a parallel with monkey and all kinds of things see where am I going next aha. in chapter 13 of the full hundred chapter novel that’s where the monkey and the monk connect up with each other and this is the first of his disciples and he is in many ways the most powerful of the disciples and this is why the monkey kind of ends up stealing the show except that I don’t think it was the story about the monk at all in the first place the novel the hunter chapter novel begins with the story of the monkey it begins by talking about his cultivation his kind of awareness that just being a monkey is not enough becoming a Taoist immortal ascending to what we considered to be kind of a heaven causing all kinds of a mess there and eventually the Taoist deities say well we we gotta call him the Buddha to get this monkey under control to get this heart mind under control right because he represents the mind yes he absolutely does they call him the mind monkey throughout the novel and it’s very clear that he’s one aspect you could you could maybe see all of the pilgrims as like one like one whole person perhaps that’s one way of going through the novel is thinking about all of these pilgrims as component parts of the human self or the human psyche perhaps and. the monkey is very clearly like the the mind and heart and emotions the next character we get is the pig zu Bhatia and he can be seen as a representation of like appetites and desires. he is not only sort of constantly hungry like a pig would be but he also has a lot more sort of sexual desire than anybody else does in the story we kind of first meet him as somebody who’s like stolen someone’s wife and then another the third of these labels. sex drugs rock and roll and he’s a foodie too yeah yeah although he’s not a foodie cuz he’s indiscriminate about his food choices he just wants to eat. he’s appetites out of control yes. we have a kind of a mind out of control we have appetites out of control the thing about the journey to the west’ is that there’s no one perfect allegory and that would make it be. easy if this was just like what the Christian pilgrims progress or something right for every one of the characters is just like strictly one thing or the other it would be also a lot more boring because the next character we get the her song the sandy monk he’s really almost a nonentity in many ways he doesn’t have you know a particular way that we can typify him as like if the monkey is the mind out of control and the pig is the appetite or desire out of control then what is the sandy monk out of control it doesn’t map that well but he ends up being the third disciple and then we have one more figure along the way well here’s gone in who’s leading the whole the whole journey in the background right and our last figure here is the horse because the horse is actually a print a dragon Prince who also has something that he needs to kind of account for or you know pay his debt for karmically. he is transformed into a supernatural horse who can actually handle the journey because the journey is too difficult for an immortal horse. we have our you know our various figures here right. the he’s sort of represents strong and sensitive or something you know and he is it’s it’s you almost forget for most of the book that the horse is actually like sentient entity because. often he’s just well and then they got they brought the horse along to but he too is an immortal being alright but isn’t there a part of your body like right. it’s it’s particularly interesting not that you could take a very psychological view of this as well yes yes you could. he’s that he’s the part of your body that you’re sort of dragging along or something where then suddenly runs off on its own well under they play often throughout the novel with this Chinese idiom senior and EEMA the heart mind is a monkey and the intentions are a horse terrible translation off the top of my head but we don’t often see the sort of e the intentionality as the horse aside you know as the horse actually acting that out but we throughout the entire book see the the hardest monkey fully realized in the entire book there’s another there is there’s a pretty important Chinese idiom to that school teachers like to badger their students with I think that’s you know tame the wild horse you know otherwise how you know basically it’s do your homework but pay attention in class right but this this idea that everybody has a wild horse and if you’re gonna learn you need to tame it yeah yeah but I mean this horse is tamed through the whole story. it doesn’t end up being we don’t get the lesson that mmm you know a different author might want to put into the story with the horse cool okay all right what do I have next oh yes I just love these woodblock prints there’s just something that’s. sweet about them. but when we look at the novel itself I just want to point out another kind of set of structure to it. we meet the monkey at the beginning and I think that this really tells us that you know Co G is about the monkey I this version of the story it’s it’s entirely about the monkey yes we have tong Shen Zhong and you know going off on this whole journey but that’s kind of secondary to the fact that you know people really have latched on to the monkey as that character that kind of grasps their imaginations is good to work with in many ways then we get the set up and then from chapters 13 99 it’s the journey and what we learned by the time we get to chapter 99 itself and just think about the numbers here this is very consciously crafted in chapter 99 the Buddha and his disciples are looking over all of the trials that they’ve gone that the pilgrims have gone through and realized that they’ve only gone through 80 and that they needed to go through 81 to complete the required number and. what we end up with is in chapter 99 we have a completion of the 81 trials. 9 times 9 is 81 and that ends up also being 3 times 3 3 for perfection times 3 times 3 times 3. it all kind of works together to a cohesive whole and then they like get back to China and it just kind of happens at the end and like the story’s over alright the point of the story is not getting them back to China a. 981 is the number of chapters in the daodejing 81 is also the number of years of gestation that lotsa lived in Chuang Moose belly or depending on the version you hear yeah it’s used a lot in in in in exorcisms too. that there’s something about a yeah completion there and you know when you think about this number you start to realize again that although the surface level of the story is of a Buddhist pilgrim going on a pilgrimage Anthony says and some of his scholarship on the novel that basically there’s a pervasive use of Taoist vocabulary throughout the entire novel and that we see it in the poetry we see it in the opening couplets to every chapter and that we you know see it coming out throughout the narrative in sort of moments of allegorical clarity right not an allegorical structure that goes throughout but clear moments where an expertise in Taoism is necessary to really understand the depths of what the author was doing with the story what’s really interesting to me as I was reading through huge scholarship again was that he says basically I don’t want to put this that there are many details throughout the novel that are directly traceable to sources in the Dom in the Dom that’s Canon yes the Taoist canon and. like snippets of poetry that have been changed a little bit elements where you can actually trace through a ritual guide to internal alchemy or to ritual itself and weirdly enough. that these are like directly traceable quotes to all sorts of texts in the Taoist Canon for a text but on the surface level is about Buddhism we don’t have a lot of quotes from Buddhist sutras we don’t have a text that like shows us that the author was an expert on canonical Buddhism in fact most of the Buddhism that’s within the novel is in many ways kind of popular understandings of Buddhism popular Buddhist motifs of course we have the Heart Sutra because everybody knew the Heart Sutra. we’re not seeing that kind of level of like scholarly engagement with the Buddhist Canon in the novel the way that the novel has an incredible scholarly engagement with the Taoist Canon now whatever this person was doing who put the novel together remains a mystery to all of us perhaps even them but it does show us that that hunter chapter novel is just through with Taoist imagery in a way that the Buddhist imagery is not mirroring it I I think I think it was essay by Paul Katz you know it could have been somebody else but I I i maybe I can find him put in links I hope but it was you know you basically saying you know comparing gog and function Yanni the canonization of the God and saying I think if I get this right that GOG was written by a Dallas to criticize Buddhism uh and and and and function Ghani was written by a Buddhist to criticize Taoism and they ended up creating these these wonderful texts on Buddhism Taoism accidentally I haven’t read that before but that makes a lot of sense also sounds kind of like something that Paul Katz might say if it wasn’t him it was someone yeah but I I like that I like that it’s it’s I hope you find the link because I’d like to see that one too all right I’m trying to remember what I have else here ah. hey this is exactly what we were just talking about how do we end up reading the novel you know do we do it from a Buddhist standpoint as there are scholars out there who read it as Buddhists allegory do we Rita’s Taoist allegory in any sense you know from the Ching dynasty interpretation that it’s like actually a secret manual for internal alchemical cultivation you’re really secret really secret. secret it’s. hard to figure out okay that we had to write a novel to hide all of the secrecy is it a Confucian interpretation that you it’s all about sort of like that kind of neo-confucian self cultivation is it three at once right is it the Sun Java EE the three schools are together which the novel kind of continuously comes back to this idea of the three schools all are united in their sort of roots of the religion or is it as Cuccia said in the early 20th century that we shouldn’t be looking at it as a religion at all it’s just a novel of profound nonsense and we should appreciate that it’s just all nonsense and you know story about a monkey I think I disagree with the last one but I do right I disagree – that was their attempt at monitoring adjoining modernity and and and getting rid of some things and and bringing something forward yeah and boy did they get it you can’t read and Anthony you said this he said this a number of times when I’ve heard it and talked about the novel is that like it would be like trying to understand something from the Western literary canon without realizing the influence that like all of Christian tradition had on you know Shakespeare for example mm-hmm like how can you read Shakespeare without thinking about the language of the King James Bible the imagery from Catholic saints and from other aspects of Western European traditions how can you read gog without putting it fully into the world of chinese religions Oh sense I would take it even stronger position uh-huh I would say it actually meets the most the most reasonable definitions of religion like not just Christianity as the only measure but right make a world definition of religion it is religion it’s not a novel in in that sense but the Prophet can’t see it is because we have this assumption that religion should be be serious oh yeah you know serious this is comic religion.

I think this transitions really well into I just want to talk about my absolute favorite moment in the entire story oh wait actually no this is related to martial arts. I read among among reading other things first I was reading about some of the other moments in the story and one of the really interesting points that came up that I wanted to just kind of put out there is that in Chapter 88 the three disciples end up taking disciples of their own in one of the points along the way in the story and being chapter 88 of course is also numerologically significant but when they take disciples of their own they don’t just kind of impart spoken wisdom to them they don’t just teach them about internal chemical cultivation earn or whatever it was that they did along their way to become immortals they actually also specifically teach them martial arts with their specific weapons and what that does is that shows us this integral part of martial arts and the link between each character and their specific weapon that they’ve been given the staff the rake and what’s it called for The Bachelor priestly staff yeah but it’s got a little it’s yeah sometimes like that sometimes a little bit more like a spade yeah I’m I’m not trusting that the woodblock print got it all right but that like that’s really interesting right that they’re showing that the cultivation when they get their disciples they’re saying that it’s not just about cultivating the DAO sort of silently it’s also about taking part in that martial arts practice right it requires vigilant practice with this kind of these divine weapons that they have as well I think that’s quite fascinating too because it shows again this kind of integration of like bodily practice with the internal practice as well I think. one of the things I kind of wanted to bring up is that is this sort of idea that it’s there there’s always this sort of in in the theatrical realm right there is this story you know you could actually have the book backstage but then a lot of it in the theatrical realm was improvised mm-hm and and you know and oftentimes the actors were illiterate. they were learning they were stacking up a bunch of coins and then for each line you’d get a coin you could move it move it over that was the method of teaching until all the coins are on your side then you have to give them back and do it again or whatever but it’s like that was a way they would memorize these routines but they also had these huge improvisational parts and that they were then after midnight the sort of idea after midnight you were you would then improvise the same stories but with lots of sexually explicit material and jokes and that that that. there’s always this crazy this it’s it’s like these narratives if you look at it through that mind is always threatening to spin off into some kind of bizarre sex ex capade thing or like lots of sex jokes or like just sort of hidden there if you just changed the way something’s pronounced it’s just blossoms into hysterical laughter which by the way the laughing action was thought to swallow Jing Jing being not not well it could be semen it could be the physical body but it actually would being reproducing itself but actually meaning demons like. it was you make them laugh in order to make the audience laugh in order to complete the exorcism because nobody eats the demons. there’s this whole thing around the sex jokes and and the other on the unseen world of ghosts and demons and that these weapons are all sticks and these the the pornographic version of the story is was for a class of people called bear sticks uh yeah of course the the single men who could never get a wife because there were way too many women or way too many men anyway right right and the bear sticks is describing the male genitals always being bear and driving the family tree being a bear branch that can never fork ooh that too though but the the if you notice the weapons here are not blades long weapons are sticks mm-hmm in this story even the rake has it’s not really a blade it’s a stick with a thing on the end right and the rake is just meant to be kind of a scatological joke to write because it’s a mock rake and he the pig is in the and stuff yeah exactly um. but the monkeys a weapon particularly is you know it’s it’s initially I guess there’s initially that the weapon wasn’t a weapon it was a tool for measuring the the value the great you measured how deep the rivers were and then took the stick and like put it under the ocean in the palace as a pillar in the palace of the dragon king and the monkey gets in a fight and down there and ends up stealing the pillar and then it becomes his he calls it needle and he keeps it behind his ear. it’s really small until he’s excited and then it gets big right it’s represents again male genital organs and. there’s this this thing about the way in which Jing the reproduct the entire metaphor of of the golden elixir is like consolidating Jing is making the physical body much more robust with a kind they’re like always carrying their erections with them in a kind of like there’s no where the women or where they come in contact with women here we are you know with their sticks you know it stares off there’s a whole thing like when I visualize it as theater I’m like oh they’re playing off of that metaphor all the time as well little ramp well I’m yeah I think there are parts of the even just the novel version where you can see that kind of sticking through a little bit macaws like you said the kind of the novelistic version is the one that we don’t actually get to see where the anarchy fully breaks out but we see the potential for where the anarchy will break out after midnight right mmm yeah that’s great yeah yeah I mean it’s interesting right you think about your your okay. this just leads I don’t know if you were going to get to this but let me ask it as a question uh-huh. um the language how much education did you need to be able to read this how much education did you need to be able to understand it read aloud now I think if you were there are a couple ways that I’ve been thinking about this first of all why would you if you were somebody who was not incredibly well educated or even you know or well educated enough to kind of have a knowledge of the Taoist Canon right why would you go to a hundred chapter novel if there were many other different venues in which you could encounter this same story. that’s one sense. if you’re fully if you are illiterate you can get your kind of monkey fix from some other place than having to go to this novel but that being said could somebody read aloud from the prose passages of the novel to you and you would enjoy it absolutely both we know this also just from Anthony use backstory and you write had the introduction to monkey in the monk but he says that you know when he was a child refugee fleeing with his family during world war two in China his grandfather would tell him these stories but then also use the novel to teach him to kind of read as a young boy and. when Anthony when do you read this novel the first time it was all just like what’s the fun of it and then what happens is that when he started to translate it thinking I’m just gonna translate this fun novel I read as a kid he started to realize just how utterly difficult it was because once you start actually reading it closely it becomes really really hard to grasp all the stuff that you kind of just gloss over like oh I don’t get the stylist reference but whatever I just want to see what the monkeys gonna hit next yeah you know. I think that you could read it as an educated but not you know highly educated person to read the poetry and the novel is just a fused with poetry you would need a pretty good education to read the poetry though but to follow along with the prose you could do that with you know a few years of what we’d consider at that point would be considered primary level education that being said it’s not like literacy rates were all that high in the Ming and Qing anyway. the primary way that anybody in China would have encountered this story would be through oral medium. so could you talk a little bit about about the oral medium like you know illiterate villager what are they hearing with text no no this is this is this like I’m not trying to like weasel out of the question right but this is the constant frustration that is my life because what really do we know about the majority of people who lived in this time period if what we have is only what’s written right what like what does this give us and yeah go ahead well well I was I was gonna just push back on that a little bit yes that’s the problem let me know the problem and and what do you do well no no let me say this like no well I could go off on various rants here but let me just say that that if we don’t if we drop some of the I don’t want to go pretest it’s not I mean there’s a reason for it but if we if we drop some of our rigor let’s call it say that let’s we drop some of our rigor and just go well what’s more likely mm-hmm what would you say all right I think it’s really interesting also that we kind of do still get hung up on the idea of like rigor is text only there’s there’s this there’s a book that I read last year I think it just recently came out by Luhan called becoming Guan Yin and she writes about women’s practices of Buddhist devotion and she says we have to kind of divorce ourselves from this strict depends on text if we want to learn anything about anybody who wasn’t literate or wasn’t you know writing representing themselves in their own writing. she analyzes things like women’s embroidery instead to say like what can this give us as a sense into their lives I love that she’s challenging that sense that like we can only be rigorous if we can read some firsthand accounted something. what else do we have we do know that there were sorry cat bump that we do know that there were traveling storytellers and there were oral storytelling venues that this would be you know something that if you were you know in the marketplace somebody might be telling a story probably kind of prose a metric right going from spoken full sentences to then poetry sung or chanted we also can assume that people would be seeing these at temple dramas I mean you go to go to Taiwan these days and you still see the same sort of thing right we’re on certain days the temple will have a stage set up you know directly across from where the gods are looking out and the play is ostensibly for the gods to watch but everybody local brings their stools and sits in front of the stage and watches the play happen as well I you know that would be a place where people would see these stories performed – oh. there they are still and they always were for educating the gods mm-hmm or entertaining them I think it’s entertaining yeah right unless it’s didactic play right well well that’s that’s the problem is that you get that kind of concern from you know the moralists that be saying what do you mean the gods like these raunchy plays gods would never like such things and then trying to say well you know we should have nice boring plays because the gods only like nice boring things but we know that’s not true that’s not true okay okay. I was just gonna add a little bit to that that was great well actually you sent me some stuff on water margin that the name for that all men are brothers or something or outlaws of the marsh yeah I was the marsh um. but you know that there were this there’s actually storytellers material was like constructed around there was they had their there were like books for that were just like little sort of titles books table prompt books that’s what the yeah prompt books yeah that you know we’re in the entire this massive story was actually mostly improvised but it had all the little bits yeah I mean in many ways the water merjan shows us what we can kind of imagine a proto Journey to the West novel would be because water margin is much more like piece by piece like oh this storytellers episode and then he met this guy and then that guy went off and had an adventure and then he met this guy and this guy went off and had an adventure in ways that you know the journey to the West with its 81 set number of adventures kind of borrows from but really structures much better. the last episode I wanted to talk about is really my favorite in part because it always comes up in conversation with anybody who’s ever read the novel and like brings it back to talk about with each other perhaps especially maybe among academics who we would really like to believe in the futility of all writing but at the same time writing is. important for us and. are the written words in chapter 98 of the full novel when they get to the Buddha they meet the Buddha and he says yes I will give you scriptures go off and my assistants will give you some and the assistants acting like kind of true bureaucrats say well where’s our bribe basically where’s our gift and the scripture pilgrims don’t give them any gift at all and. what happens as the pilgrims are leaving is they open up one of the scriptures and find out that they’re just completely blank and it’s it’s hilarious because they then they’re like wait they gave us all blank books and they go back to the Buddha and they complain that we got these crummy blank scriptures and we don’t like what are the use of these the Tripitaka ethan says i’m gonna be executed by the emperor if I show up with all of this you know nonsense because he thinks that I you know went on this journey for nothing and they’re all really really upset and they get back and the Buddha says to them since you people came with empty hands to acquire scriptures which is funny he’s saying that like the bribe is real we’re given over to you this is hilarious right I think the Buddha is like you should have bribed my assistants what’s wrong with you people but these blank scriptures are actually true worthless scriptures and they’re just as good as those with words however those creatures in your land of the East are. foolish and unenlightened they have no choice but to impart to you now the text with words and what I love about this coming at the end of the whole book is that in a way I like it becoming a metaphor for the book itself but like if you were able to read Journey to the West without having to read any of the words at all maybe you would actually get the truth but since you are unenlightened and foolish here is this fun novel and I hope that somehow through it you see some kind of enlightenment coming through and I just think this this idea is just. delightful to me because at the end of the whole thing there’s this moment where it seems like everything is futile we went all this way we got these blank scriptures and they’re supposed to be enlightened by the end of the whole journey and if they were really enlightened wouldn’t they know that the blank scripture just were better but they’re not. they still have to be given scriptures with words and I still have to go back to the land of the East the foolish unenlightened and try once again to just give some measure of truth to them in the facade of texts that we all have to use because we can’t talk wordlessly yeah it’s it it can be read as a critique of. many things yeah and I’m gonna stop sharing now because that was my last slide yeah cool the yeah. in a martial arts world I’ll just say that you know and I think this is really true that people people with a lot of experience with violence have access to a kind of emptiness that they can use to fight and of course if you you never want to fight force against force because that’s dumb you will always want to fight into emptiness the problem is people can’t see the emptiness or they can’t find it or can’t feel it or don’t trust it because you can’t feel it you can’t see it. there’s you know that it’s of course it’s always and this is true throughout I think too that not just this story but many stories in Chinese schools are being completely empty is the highest level mm-hmm you know or or doing the empty version and the word empty if they’re more than one word right but shoot I’m cold yeah shook all right. call. so we’ll Kong the name in fact some who come to become aware to emptiness right or enlighten to emptiness but there’s my butt there’s more right if you’re not reading just as characters if you’re hearing it as a pun yes yeah there’s like it’s you know uh nem do something or oh I don’t know I don’t know if you want to dive into that at all different ways his name is a pun I wouldn’t know where to begin it’s like it’s like. I we could go down quite a rabbit hole we’re thinking about what it means to be not empty but to also be empty but to yeah it’s a setup anyway for like you know in it for an improvisation I mean the whole novel is in a way yeah yeah gonna say about emptiness the. meditation right itself is threat this practice of resolving to emptiness perhaps right there’s also a critique here right. in of Buddhism this relationship that I I think this is really interesting and maybe this is my own take but the Buddhism and Daoism sort of in certainly in our contempt well I put this Buddhism is has a huge advantage like Christianity in the world because they come up up front they’re saying hey we’re gonna alleviate suffering. you should be a Buddhist right it’s like this this great thing and then you and then you practice maybe some Chong Buddhism and it’s like kind of indistinguishable from being depressed you’re like hmm you know it and you meet these people you meet these Buddhists are like hi my name is God it’s rude would you like some vegetarian food and you know they’re just deficient right because the term Shu empty also means deficient in medicine anyway and and. there’s this like um the Dow is take on that right is like about like. long it’s like to forget right rather than they don’t put the emptiness upfront in the basic meditation training it’s actually it’s it’s sitting and forgetting and that it seems to me. this is me my very disorganized way of saying something about legal and elixir which is that it seems to me that the kind of straight version of Tuan Jun teachings of the golden elixir are are really difficult to access and it gets even worse when that stuff comes into the 20th century and they tried to describe the the you know that the circulation of Qi by where it is in the body and stuff and then this picture of that really that really fat guy with like you know his lungs over here and there’s like a there’s like an ox climbing up the spine and stuff wonderful chapter in coz right where the carts low Kingdom where they actually illustrate it but they don’t illustrate it they they they act it out and they’ve analyzed it right visualizing the two the two ridges on the spine but not on the spine on the sides of the back right have to be really really big. that the circulation could pass through or something there’s a there’s that that kind of stuff seems to be way more accessible that’s kind of what I wanted to say is that and and and because it’s putting it all forward as a joke mm-hm doesn’t you you don’t risk that you know I’m doing meditation and now I’m in some dark place trying to overcome suffering you know anyway that wasn’t very well organized thought but I think you get it I think I get it yeah uh let’s see if I had any more questions for you specifically that was great that covered all the things I I think we covered everything I wanted to cover I I personally have a couple thing more things to say and then I should dig into some of your scholarship we don’t run out of time um well I I just wanted to say okay this is this thing about about the the golden elixir is throughout this story and in English we keep getting translations like the first one I think was one that young had in German translation of the golden flower. it’s been in English for 100 150 years or something quite a while I’m sorry who’s been in Western languages and then William that same guy who translated the aging have that original one over here somewhere oh well and and then Michael Sasso and like late 70s translates the the secret of the golden flower and then and tries to like describes these visualizations but then also describes the body parts and then you get and then and then we start to get like serious scholarship about you know translations of you know Li Wei Ming people who are are you know were experts in the golden elixir and the Ching dynasty and and also the early history of the golden elixir and and you know go home and all all this stuff is getting translated and and it’s incredibly inaccessible I think I I think that that there’s an increment there’s a terrible irony the the scholars are doing this wonderful job of doing translation you know of translating this material for people who might be interested in doing it or have been introduced to it in some way and they’ve made a commitment to not do it you know to not learn it themselves. they’ve actually made it kind of impossible for themselves to understand it if it’s a thing you do and this is terrible paradox that I think we’re facing and and I don’t know it’s my hope actually it’s it’s my current thinking that it’s through stories like Journey to the West that people can actually gain access to this stuff because it gets repeated. many times and in such visually dynamic ways and it’s all about lightening up you know if you get it you don’t get doesn’t matter. much and if I’m really ranting cuz I came up with this this morning cuz it’s it’s kind of funny and oh it was it seems like the entire scholarly community has decided and this came up because I I wrote an article for The Journal of Taoist Studies and I had one of the fights I had with my editor and my editor was wonderful I mean it’s this is not a critique really of her it’s just that I like I was losing the battle about whether or not to translate the term Jing that there’s this convention that and there’s problem with Qi to want to translate Qi but you know why the Jing has to be translated as essence and I was like well if I’m gonna do that she’s like you must do this and I’m like well if I’m gonna do that you have to let me put my definition of Jing in there and then um and then when you switch the essence you realize that now people are gonna have to real they think in their head Oh essence means Jing and Jing means his definition like it makes it really hard like I think it made my work less understandable it was very frustrating although I I fought every good spot for it but this is a thing right like the term Jing what is this thing that arises spontaneously when like you wake up in the morning or something and it comes out of the kidneys and uh and remakes your body and. it is your body but I mean yeah you could call that essence but that that’s really a very specific context and then it also means sperm or you could say spermatic essences as Anthony you did I’m like oh man that’s getting weird and what do you think about the IO of it I guess I was gonna follow it up with bison yeah yeah like what are we doing when we translate like that it’s self is a question that has no single answer well Nabokov had made four rules to need you know the four rules I for I forget them but I think this breaks all four it’s anyway it I guess I I guess that’s really just for me to get you to talk a little bit about translation oh man I mean I talk about translation all this time with my MA students because like this is not something like it doesn’t have one answer ultimately it’s about your audience it has to be right like what is who are you trying to translate for are you trying to translate for a mass audience to enjoy and like The Journey to the West is a great example because you know the Anthony new versions when he translated the full hundred chapter version is because he said that you know as much as Whaley’s translation monkey did in a way a great service to the book by getting it in sort of the minds of people who were English readers it also did an incredible disservice to kind of the the complex nature of the book because it took it from being a you know a unitary whole particularly a unitary hole between the poetry sections and the prose sections and just sort of made it into a different sort of text and. we wanted to translate the entire novel with everything including all of the poetry to say look we if we’re going to read this book we should do it with respects to the entire piece that being said though once he’d translated that whole book it became clear that that wasn’t going to attract people to read his massive 4-volume incredibly well footnote work and. that’s why he ended up coming out with the condensed version because the condensed version tries to kind of do the best of both worlds where it both has all the footnotes but also is is short enough that you could pick it up and read it and enjoy it yourself and. we can kind of see that you made this compromise in one way but he didn’t compromise on kind of the language and the scholarly apparatus of all of these you know notes although there are not as many notes in this as I would expect right there’s quite few. that’s once it’s like who’s your audience are you trying to talk to a bunch of other scholars who have scholarly conventions in which case you are talking to a group of about this many people and you know I talked to those people a lot they’re like my friends but I know that when I’m talking to that group I’m going to be using different vocabulary and really carefully pick my words because there are sort of agreed-upon norms or agreed-upon kind of complexities right. if I’m talking to people who work on late Imperial Chinese literature I probably wouldn’t even use the word novel honestly because that doesn’t really describe zang-ga social but she’ll saw a piece of fiction that’s divided into chapters what happens when you’re you know this this is I think where this issue of Jing as essence becomes a bit strange is because I would just want to leave it as the word Jing right and just kind of move on with that rather than choosing one English word because that’s where we get into troubles and we try to pin down this massive abstract Chinese term into one abstract but not in the same way English word. Jing and she even shall show that I just had trouble translating now because we don’t translate it as novel because novel is too limiting then what do we call it hate or when we talk about gel right the three schools the three religions families families home yeah teachings see like we get into all kinds of trouble that way hey and the best that we can do is just kind of explain to our audiences the choices that we make. I tend to like informative footnotes yeah well we both love footnotes thus you know I I think that yeah yeah it makes you know it it it it it often argues for like writing the same passage three times sometimes I think sometimes especially when we talk about these things with with dance metaphors and I don’t know I mean I’m not I’m not a translator I didn’t I’m just sort of saying that you know or you know it interesting as a rut as a translator like how do you get the how do you get the reader to slow down and go well what how else could this what else could this mean what else could this mean you know just when you just said writing the passage three times have you ever read its Marjorie Wolf’s book the thrice told tale no but it sounds like something else I’ve read. what she does in this is that. she was you know doing fieldwork in Taiwan and what she does in the thrice told tale is she takes the story of a woman who was claiming to be and kind of having medium like experiences and going into trances and she what she shares as she shares her own kind of personalized narrative of being the field worker sort of observing this she then share and it almost like in a fictionalized way where you know it’s told narrative Li then she shares I think her fieldwork notes and then she shares the academic article that she writes based off of that and she says you know in a way none of these tales really gets you back to the moment of those weeks in that village where we didn’t know if this woman would become another medium for the village or would be you know just rejected as being crazy and the the ending is she’s rejected as being crazy but maybe if I tell you the story from three different ways you’ll be able to start to get back to that experience which i think is utterly fascinating yeah I think that kind of approach is really valuable I actually have been advocating various versions of that oh yeah – well that’s nice um I’ll have to read that you know I I just reminded me of you you actually recommended I watch teen psychic yes which I haven’t I’m gonna binge that this week if I can but it’s on Showtime right and it’s a taiwanese showtime it’s on HBO HBO yeah yeah.

Katherine Alexander On Journey To The West (Xiyouji)

I was able to buy the DVD of the first season which is six episodes long and unfortunately the DVD only has Chinese subtitles but I’ve talked to other scholars because I was like I would love to teach with this like it’s just. much fun it’s both you know pop culture but it’s also you know quite respectful of being immersed in Taiwanese religious society as well but if you subscribe to HBO online or whatever their service is called you can get the English subtitles they did come out with a second season I have not yet seen the second season I think the first season is you know it’s both a ridiculous team drama about a kid who wants to be a normal teenager but she also has to go to the temple every night and be a medium because she’s been chosen she has yeah graffiti yeah cool Oh pop culture of do you have a favorite version of the film or TV version of Journey to the West you really haven’t watched much. I don’t okay I don’t either but you know I mean there’s a bunch there’s a lot of boys there are a lot out there yeah I think I think people are seeing them let me ask you about your about your your current scholarship you you you’ve done a lot of interesting work you you well why did you talk about it I’m not gonna introduce you you do it but what are you working on all right. in general I have been using Chinese I’ve been engaging with Chinese religious narratives to try to kind of put them back into a larger context of Chinese history and literary culture more broadly. one way of describing the book that I’m working on is using texts that were intended to become popular religious texts to then understand where broadly what was really going on in the late 19th century guard to sort of society starting to fall apart as a result of both the opium wars and also the typing civil war but also what sort of mid-level charismatic Confucians were trying to do to rebuild society by kind of grasping at every possible way they could to bring morality back into society and. where this takes me is looking in specifically at some precious Scrolls this is a genre called Paul Gen that were written by these confusions in the hopes that they could reach out to popular audiences like maybe if we can use the genres that they like they’ll you know not only will they become more moral but ultimately by kind of spreading this morality throughout society the heavenly response will be peace instead of the constant drumbeat of war and disaster that we can describe the 19th century as in China the roots of the genre go back into the Ming actually into kind of that same era that we were just talking about with the Journey to the West if you want I can kind of go through a really brief presentation of what this precious scroll genre is because I really think that you know as much as people have read precious scrolls as like okay this is you know some religious text that’s over here this is some popular practice that what happens when we look at religious texts not just precious scrolls but also morality books those Ledger’s of merit and demerits Taoist talismans or ritual manuals all of these different texts it’s what we can’t just look at them and say okay we’re looking at religion as this like separate box over here right we need to use these texts to figure out or to views them as lenses into economic history social history intellectual history literary history and our understandings of culture more broadly than just kind of our understandings of culture more broadly than just like what was happening at kind of the upper echelons of politics and society and maybe if we look at religious texts seriously then we can have a better sense of history overall. I would like to share just a little bit yeah good I have. many questions but go go well I don’t know if we’re going to get to all the questions we’ll try all right okay. I work on a lot of different things in the book project that I’m working on now I have a few bhauja and precious scrolls that I’m focusing on but I’m also looking at morality plays elementary school textbooks poetry collections all sorts of stuff like that but let’s just talk about this genre in particular because that’s how I got started down this long road ultimately I’ve always been interested in narrative and expressions of religious practice and belief and when I realize that there is this shot on recalled Belgian precious Scrolls precious volumes translated how you well this helped me to kind of narrow in more on things that I was interested in. what are about you and overall when we’re talking about boh-chan we’re looking at I’m sorry about that let’s just look at Scott okay Bal Gennaro. metric again. we’re looking at a mix of prose narration and then some or chanted sections of poetry sometimes rhyming sometimes not these change over time the earliest fella turn that we have are from rather early from like I want to say the 13th century we have examples of texts that we can see as being beginning of the genre ultimately when we’re looking at these texts we’re talking about written texts but they are written texts that allow for performance either they’re meant to be performed by a cleric or even a layperson they link particularly in the Ming Dynasty when we first begin to see kind of the first fluorescence of the genre links to Buddhist preaching kind of popularized stories of the Bodhisattva Guanyin in one of three incarnations there’s a lot of early examples of stories relating to Lully on the the filial monk who goes down to hell and saves his mother from hell but they very quickly also become a vehicle for new religious expression and in the late Ming that means relating to the eternal mother cult and the eternal mother was seen or the unborn mother as she was also called la longue Musa Ocean Lao mo. the unborn old mother quite literally was seen as being a consort to the old Buddha who had given the Ghul for who had given birth to a certain number of children sent them into the world and now that the world was on the verge of collapse late Ming now that the world was in the verge of collapse we the eternal mother is now drawing all of her children back into her bosom. long as they you know believe in what she says this led to kind of a a sense that Raja and overall were often quite heterodox but that’s not necessarily the case pauldron itself is just this Prometric genre alternating between songs and poetry and prose that quite honestly do create a ritual space by saying you know the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas are now down here with us they’re going to listen as we listen to the story and then the end of the ritual we will send them back and we will have achieved a certain kind of merit and. by the time that we’re looking at late Ming and into the Ching it’s not just Buddhists it’s not just heterodox it also includes a significant amount of Taoist belief you can have there’s a about Rouen dedicated to the three mal Lords of Mao Shan and also popular Confucianism. stories about Confucian luminaries as well let me just show you what these look like oh go ahead -. we’re talking there thousands of them right yes to study and and there’s also the the in some sense belong to this other category of religion that that no but that was been called popular religion or something that no one quite knows what to call it because it keeps mixing and there is it and right and Marshall I it’s my suspicion strong supposition suspicions that martial arts often interacted with these Bodrum because in the sense that that that invocation for teaching was also used to teach martial arts whether or not there was about you and involved that you you when you practice you’re bringing down the Bodhisattva – mm-hmm well and then I mean with this is all part of a larger complex of performed ritual and lay ritual right that you are able to practice as part of mph illing in many different needs with paul john you’re fulfilling in in one sense the same way that with Journey to the West you’re getting an entertaining tale out of it at the same time as also having an edifying experience at the same time is also performing a necessary ritual that the audience participates in. when we look at early about Jen they really do you don’t need to see that I don’t think when we look at early Biogen they really do look a lot like Buddhist sutras you know they have these this is this wonderful opening image from what I believe is an early Ching ball gentle though it’s not dated perhaps it’s late Ming it’s got that accordion style full do you have Buddha you have a very cute Ceylon mullion is labeled here we also have you know a various different other deities who are represented and you kind of see how we have the setting up a song of setting up the incense we have a Gotha on the opening of the Sutra and then it begins the ball Jen. we really do see kind of the ritual opening and we even see represented all of the various deities who are sort of showing up for the event this format shifted during the chain in the main dynasty we actually have tuned titles from popular opera that are in Belgian as well which I know that you like seeing that right. you would sing this song to the little red shoes and you would sing this song to the – you know going up the little pagoda are going up the stairs and these tune titles fall out of Bajoran formatting but this time we get to the Ching and the stuff that I work on but it’s just this wonderfully evocative moment of real kind of like worthy performance in these these Buddhist texts right this one is about the medicine King once to the Ching though pauldrons start to look very different they start to look more just like your average book they’re not bound most of the time do you still get some of these sutras style ones they start to look more like a regular book like a string bound book that we’re used to this is one that I’ve spent a lot of time working on. I just was able to throw these slides in here this is a story about a incredibly devout lay Buddhist woman named Leo Xiang nu and I just want to show you a few kind of images. first of all what you notice is that she borrows from a lot of like guan yin style imagery to there is a version of Leo Joan Beltran that’s retold down in Pujo where she’s actually more of a Taoist Saint and she rides a cloud this is not that version this is the much more lay Buddhist version where she’s you know a vegetarian and she recommends the info and things like that reciting the name of the buddha but you see here that we still have this invocation o first set up your incense then read the opening invocation. here’s your incense prayer then you say nom all and you you recite this three times then you give this opening. now we’ve opened the spell Jen and then we give another opening and we have now that the Leo Sean Waldron has first been opened the various buddhas and bodhisattvas all come down and join us and what you see in something like this is this when I say Pro symmetric this is really what I mean is that we have seven line poetry then we have a prose section that explains something a little bit more and then we can switch into these 10 line poetry as well for this kind of metrical variation there are a few songs within this text but they don’t have titles for their tunes. I guess you would expect that whoever was reading it either knew the tune or at least could just kind of come with the tune on the fly interestingly even though these are sort of really active during the Ching even into the Republican era we see that Aldrin tradition persists in the Republican era we see that it gets modified even further they are spread in Shanghai with these lithographic presses. just taking a look at the quality difference between the image here of our heroine of the ocean Belgian and our image here of our heroine we see that the the impact of the technology itself on the kinds of imagery that can be used right this is this beautiful lithographic print with the graphics print also allowed for text to get a lot smaller a lot less paper what I want to point out here is that this is the close of the story and at the close of the story we still have this kind of invocation about. they say something about blessing the emperor.

Hong d112 and Hong he wants fun. the Emperor will have tens upon tens of thousands of Springs and then we get now our merit has been cultivated in this way and it will kind of spread out throughout the world and then some other kind of closing instructions. we really do have an opening ritual a narrative and the narrative itself has little rituals spread throughout it and then a closing ritual. that at the same time as you are enjoying this wonderful story about a woman who is kind of going on her own spiritual quest in the end she wins she really wins then you have kind of also created that sense of merit you have had a full religious experience the last thing I want to show is just something that I find utterly delightful still just in this realm of this one the ocean well Jen because this is a very popular story is I found this one from Taiwan and it printed in the 1950s and what we had here at the closing invocation of the Emperor the Emperor the Emperor yeah in this Taiwan when we have the president the president and the Republic of China. its own told well once and someone wins would and then we get the closing of you know here are merit has been completed it is without limit its spread out throughout the world. yeah and that’s I’m gonna stop sure and let’s just talk Civil War that was fantastic thank you thank you well you answered. many questions let’s see oh all right. so in the research you’re doing right now that there’s this sort of I there are these these well-educated scholars who are maybe government officials or or white officials right they’re marginalized maybe in some way and but they want to fix the world and. there’s they’re taking something from the past right there taking a mode that they now think has failed and they’re no I think they’re putting in something a new mode which they think will work and then and then that’s particularly important because they end up being a bridge to something now something now being well our current understanding or or or current religion as its practiced and I wanna or something you know like I’m not exactly sure but I just was I was thinking in terms of their particular importance like that you can understand what these people were doing but also that it how did it car does it come to us or in it ended up influencing what we see the subject as yeah trying to figure out what really how to answer that because I was completely with you right at the beginning right the the weird project that I’m working on is kind of like a sidebar to kind of mainstream 19th century publication and devotion and practice of bawdry and that sort of mainstream baldra and practice of looking at you know these popular Buddhist texts or these kind of popular diffuse religious texts is something that although it kind of dies out in China during you know the post 49 through into the 80s after that we actually see a present-day revitalization of Bajoran performance in places like Shanghai and Suzhou I don’t do field work although there is a wonderful amount of field work out there by Chinese scholars and a few scholars in the US who do go to these these rituals and kind of observe what it’s like to go to a Bajoran performance in 2020 right. the the what I’m interested in the the kind of current project I’m working on is actually instead looking at this excite bar which is like you described people in a moment of crisis trying to say well our way of communicating what we believes that our social order should be and moral order which then you know cosmologically speaking you know continues to preserve order rather than sending down disorder or our way of trying to teach people that has failed and what can we do in a moment of crisis but perhaps look for other options to get the message out and that’s where this this kind of sidebar version of understanding pauldron comes in because i think it’s fascinating that we have this effort to take a popular practice and say well let’s try using that container instead alright let’s try to put our sort of messages of it’s not just kind of Confucian morality it actually has a lot of Taoism in it too there’s a particular reverence for the five grains and written paper that is is in many ways very mystically Taoist let’s try to put that into a medium that people will appreciate they can then grasp on to it it’s not just about Jen when I we were talking about theater earlier the same guy who was writing a few of these ball gin and publishing them was also really a strong advocate for morality theater he really hated that people would perform what he called immoral plays at temple festivals and he said that the the performance of these immoral plays was one reason why like the typing war happened right because it’s punishment the gods actually really hate seeing those plays and. we have to do is we that this guy was saying that one of the reasons why things like the typing war and other you know famines and disasters and natural disasters were happening was you know pervasive immorality one of which is that the kinds of plays that are being performed for gods at temple festivals were immoral plays and the gods were angry and people think that when they perform immoral plays for the gods the gods enjoy them but really the gods hate that and they want to watch good you know firm morality instead and. he actually wrote a 28 morality plays that we have now that we can look at and see how he thought he could maybe entertain the gods with his um rather boring jokes I was gonna say are they boring I mean what what did he have a theory that if the gods are bought isn’t there a saying like when though when the emperor is obsessed with his horses the country is at peace or something like that yeah I think I’ve heard that phrase yeah I don’t know I think it was mostly like I’m not entirely sure what he you know he didn’t want to bore the gods I think he thought that the gods themselves just only want to see you know good moral stuff on stage well. but there’s this moot there’s this kind of popular ISM that like that actually gets started right yes because you have this concept in China right of like the the Emperor like if the Emperor’s conduct is perfect the country will run perfectly from inches and instead we’re starting from the other way right this is in a way quite neo-confucian where we actually have to start with every single individual person and their conduct has to be perfect and we have to work our way back up because the guy on top screwed it or because for me because maybe there’s a work that way anymore maybe we tried the GUP maybe we tried getting the guy on top to be moral and like that didn’t mean that the people on the bottom were moral even if we had a super moral Emperor. what if we start instead by saying let’s try to do something we can control and start with like the individual self and the cultivation of the individual self and maybe that can work outwards but this is a quintessential issue in in sort of Chinese civilization yes that right that loud sir is originally seen as there’s you know a book for princes and kings and then it’s like we’ll wait anybody could do this and anyone can remake the world you know buy through food they’re perfect not doing whoo perfectly not doing or something like that at and that and then you know the Confucian version of it is is this good right that same doubter that uh is that you know if if if someone really has it you know this charismatic duh all the neighboring countries will come to the border and lay down their arms right that’s very mention right yeah and want to join up right and that and but then will you get juicy in the Sung dynasty it’s kind of reworking that are you saying that they’re they’re now trying to take juicy and make it more popular my guy is you’re babying like a group the sort of again this could like this this one reformer as a really interesting example of somebody who was like hey guys I think I figured out what we can do in this moment of crisis and he had a lot of supporters who were you know fairly high up as as reformers who were actually in government. I’m still you know figuring out how exactly to communicate this project in a way that makes sense to people but what it has meant is that I can get really stuck into some really wonderful weird resources. I get to look at these these morality plays that you know are not funny but they try to be funny there’s clowns in them right like they have their you did try to put in humor because the people like humor I’m just not quite sure how good he was at humor you know there’s a there’s a scene where everybody you know laughs and taunts the decapitated corpse at the Taiping rebel haha dogs yeah and I you know I’m looking at like his elementary school textbooks he’s got a series of Illustrated morality tales that were meant to teach little boys classical Chinese which are just delightful you know the Thunder gods are striking people down left and right and like I think that like there’s. much like vitality and interest and just weird fun stuff if we kind of get beyond just like the official narrative histories in these classical essays right which needs to also wrote kind of classical language essays trying to advise people on governance but that wasn’t his only medium instead he was also working in all of these genres meant to kind of talk to people where they were and I really want us to spend more time looking at stuff like that and trying to figure out like what else was going on well you really care David yeah if I didn’t care right like well I. I mean I think I just came out but um which was me just stating the obvious but what what I want it you really care about literature language in Chinese culture what I mean first my first English is like why not well I I do yeah but I think and I think we one of the reasons why we enjoy each other but but I just thought I’d since you’re I put you on the spot before I say goodbye yeah. we should we should wrap this up but I think why you. when I started when I came to America for college at 18 right I spoke Tiny’s I figured I wanted to do something with my Chinese and I didn’t know what. I’d been born and raised in Taiwan I’d gone to American schools but I you know I’m by trilingual I don’t I don’t know me and I’m desert in my head but through college reading these novels and kind of getting into the sense that like oh I have in some ways a way to read these these texts that is both very much like part of me already like I would see like oh now I understand why there was this play in from the temple outside my house when I was a kid Mason somebody’s it was trying to understand the world that I had lived in and then going to graduate school that’s really where it became clear is that like as much as I’ve been reading literati novels instead of high culture work the truth is that like I had like lived an average life in Taiwan right like you get to know your neighborhood aunties you go to the market you do the kids stuff you take your stool out to the temple and watch the shows you hear the the parade’s on the streets you know you you have an auntie who teaches you how to do this even though you don’t know what it means and I really thought like I’m sick of studying. much stuff about the Ming and Qing that is just about that upper level of society right like isn’t it is it at all possible to get at least closer to some kind of lived experience of the past like is there a way to know the the neighborhood auntie of the late 19th century now there probably isn’t really but can I find hints of what she was listening to in other things that I read right is there a way to make the past of Chinese literature Chinese culture intimate in the way that like I intimately lived my present in Taiwan. maybe that’s a way of answering why I care. much dogs good answer Oh what do you really what do you really listen what do you really like about it what’s what’s you what’s unique about the culture that you study or art are encouraging people to understand that you really like our there’s. many things I like to pick one is very difficult I’ll take one you can I don’t generally you can especially in. little time I really like especially when I’m teaching Civ especially because I’m teaching it to kind of a lot of students in the u.s. who maybe have a very serious impression about Chinese civilization and culture both could have in the present but especially in the past right like everybody was really conservative and well behaved in the past to bring to them a sense of just how much fun there is to be had in engaging with this it’s like reading these stories from the past is never just about staying in the past right it’s about kind of connecting with the present and seeing parallels or reuses of images and being able to kind of like identify that say hey I know where that’s from I know what that means that kind of recognition I think is really important right to help to bring that sense of fun of literature of the past and of relevance to the present as well I don’t know if I answered your question well no thank you. much I mean I I mean I I know I you know exact that was great because I know exactly what you mean that that you know and one of the things I I I’m always trying to impart to my martial arts students but you know if I sit down if somebody asked me about it’s a poem you know I’m like yeah just dive in look this whole there’s this quality of Chinese culture which is like there’s a little bit of a surface and then it’s if you start to get the associations it’s often Islay bluh yeah absolutely well it’s been an absolute pleasure it always is talking to you Scott thank you and and that was fantastic people are going to love this um thank you thank you. much that and thank all of you for listening if you like this interview and you’d like more one way you can support me is through patreon com it’s my account in Scott Park Phillips and for ten dollars you often get previews of these videos and other videos and articles that I linked to in the meantime please buy my book it’s available at amazon.com