In his Ocean of Theosophy William Q. Judge speaks of “ancient and honorable China” — ancient it is, for as the Secret Doctrine tells us, the Chinese reached their highest civilization when the fifth Aryan race had hardly appeared in Asia. The original Chinese belong to the seventh sub-race of the Atlantean Race, and from them branched off not only the Malayans, Mongolians and Tibetans, but also Hungarians, Finns and even the Esquimaux. These true Chinamen are of the inland, the aborigines who, in their purity, form the highest and last branch of the fourth Race, whose headquarters are in the province of Fo-kien where H.P.B. reports the existence of a “sacred library” which contains some most ancient Mss. in the Lolo language. The other Chinese are one of the oldest nations of our fifth race, whose latter-day Emperors are the degenerate successors of the Dragons or Initiates who ruled the early races of that fifth humanity. As to China being honorable, who has not heard of the integrity of the Chinese? In such spheres as commerce and politics they have a reputation for honesty and honor worthy of emulation by the modern world. Ancient and honorable China is dying, but her spiritual resources will be inherited by those who evolve out of that branch race.
The wisdom of China comes to us in certain great books, withstanding the ravages of time. In spite of changes and more omissions than interpolations, these texts are not so fragmentary and disconnected as those of Zoroastrianism, examined in previous articles. We are indebted to Confucius for this.
The Chinese divide their eras into three antiquities — the most recent commences with the period of Confucius, who was contemporary with the great Buddha; the second, called the middle antiquity, goes back from Confucius to about 1200 B.C.; while the highest covers a period of 2200 years, commencing with Fu-hsi 5000 years ago. It will not be far wrong to regard Fu-hsi, as the Krishna of China, the opener of its Kali Yuga, first in the line of earthly rulers who “broke up the Primal Unity,” of the preceding age.
Beyond the three antiquities is the “fabulous” and “mythological” era. It covers millions of years. Beginning with the epoch of Pan-ku in whose time “heaven and earth were first separated,” we come to the 12 Tien-hoang, Kings of Heaven, 12 To-hoang, Kings of Earth, and 9 Gin-hoang or Kings’ men, who ruled for some 500,000 years. These 12 Tien-hoang are “the twelve hierarchies of Dhyanis or Angels, with human Faces and Dragon bodies; the dragon standing for Divine Wisdom or Spirit; and they create men by incarnating themselves in seven figures of clay — earth and water — made in the shape of those Tien-hoang, a third allegory.” (S.D. II, 26-7.) Among these mythical beings is one Sui-zan, “The Man of the Burning Speculum,” the Fire-Producer, the Prometheus of China. Superb culture, heavenly knowledge and high civilization are reported in these prehistoric eras. Very scanty is the information about them available to the non-Chinese. These mythical figures, truer than their historical counterparts, remain unknown and unappreciated by the modern world, whose culture is too gross and narrow to grasp the meaning of the cosmic and evolutionary events which they embody.
Fu-hsi, also called Po-hsi, the first Human Ruler of the Chinese people, is even today regarded as a superhuman being. To his credit stands the task of recording the Eight Kwa or Trigrams. In the Yi King, an ancient work “written by generations of Sages” says H.P.B., which the Theosophical Glossary describes as the Kabbalah of China, it is said:
Anciently, when Pao-hsi had come to the rule of all under heaven, looking up, he contemplated the brilliant forms exhibited in the sky, and looking down he surveyed the patterns shown on the earth. He contemplated the ornamental appearances of birds and beasts and the (different) suitabilities of the soil. Near at hand, in his own person, he found things for consideration, and the same at a distance, in things in general. On this he devised the eight trigrams, to show fully the attributes of the spirit-like and intelligent (operations working secretly), and to classify the qualities of the myriads of things.
These eight trigrams are lineal figures of great interest to the student of universal metaphysics and occultism, both of which form such an important part of H.P.B.’s Secret Doctrine. These figures are made up of three lines: the first is made up of three unbroken lines, and is followed by one broken and the remaining unbroken lines, till the eighth is evolved, which is composed of three broken ones. These represent (1) Heaven (2) Still Waters (3) fire (4) Thunder (5) Air (6) Running Waters (7) High land or mountains, and (8) Low land or earth — the eight-fold universe described by the Bhagavad-Gita. Each of these is representative of a material plane and a hierarchy of conscious beings who all play their shadow-game on the illusory eighth, the earth, this man-bearing globe. Therefore, each also has its corresponding virtue. These eight form a circle, the first at the South and the last at the North.
These eight result from Four Hsiang or Emblematic Symbols, which in their turn come from the Two Elementary Forms, and the two from the One, the Great Extreme. James Legge, the well-known Chinese authority asked in 1882: “Who will undertake to say what is meant by ‘the Great Extreme’ which produced the two elementary forms?” The Secret Doctrine did undertake to answer him, and the student will find an explanation in Vol. I, 440-41, and Vol. II, 554.
Further, to the credit of Fu-hsi stands the construction of musical instruments and the spread of the Science of Sociology; he was par excellence the advocate of a pure family life and the dignity of the home. His successor invented agricultural implements, and thus gained for himself the title of “the Divine Labourer.” Yi-King attributes the discovery of Agriculture to “the instruction given to men by celestial genii.” (S.D. II, 374.) Hwang-Ti, the third of the prehistoric, semi-divine emperors was the builder of sacred shrines and libraries. Under his influence arose a regular board of historians, the chief of whom was the reviser and amender of the hieroglyphic writing. Hwang-Ti also regulated the calendar, to which he added the intercalary month. His wife is credited with the invention of the several manipulations in the rearing of silkworms and the making of silk.
All this in the night of time. For thousands of years China has been famous for her discoveries — artesian-wells, compass, glass, gunpowder, paper, printing, porcelain, etc. Much of this knowledge has come down from these mythical periods. Most probably it is to the board of sage historians of the reign of Hwang-Ti that the Chinese owe their habit of preserving records and their custom of maintaining archives. Our knowledge of ancient China comes from certain great books which have been transmitted with faithful care down the generations.
The first of these ancient volumes is the Shu King, which is history with proper chronology, which chronology is based on a very accurate astronomical knowledge; their astronomical sphere is assigned an antiquity of 18,000 years (S.D. I, 658; also II, 620). The book acquired this title in 202 B.C., before which period it was known only as Shu — “the Pencil speaking.” A fourteenth century General Examination of Records and Scholars by Ma Twan-lin says that “the Pencil of the Recorders was busy from the time of Hwang-Ti” which is 2697 B.C. But the Secret Doctrine tells us that it was derived from the “very old Book” referred to in Isis Unveiled. Therefore it contains pointed references to events in the third and the fourth races. (S.D. Vol. II, 280-81; also Vol. II, 372.)
The first two books of the Shu King are regarded as legendary. They deal with the rules of Yaou and of Shun who had to contend against the floods and the deluge. Of Yaou, the ancient book narrates that when he found a handful of his subjects a little discontented, he said. “The fault is mine. I must study to increase my virtue and see wherein I have departed from the Way of Heaven.” And again on hearing some sage advice, thus:
“We come by many branching roads and devious ways to the understanding of wisdom … I perceive that the forest trees are of many sorts and sizes and that those which bear fruit do not put it all forth upon a single branch. I will think upon it.” And this was what he had heard from the Keeper of the Hwa Mountain: “If you have many sons and they be well occupied, what need is there to fear? If you are rich, you can distribute your wealth to others, and then what need is there for care? And if you live a long while and follow the true way, should the empire prosper you will flourish with the rest. But if you live a long while, and the world is filled with wickedness, you have only to retire into obscurity and cultivate your virtue, then when life is done and human ties are severed, you will go to join the gods. And thus transcending the clouds, you will attain the regions of the Supreme; so what occasion is there for decline?”
Of Shun it is written:
Wherever he ploughed the people forgot their landmarks, wherever he fished, the people took in their lines. He made pottery on the banks of the Hwang-Ho that was perfectly smooth and non-porous. He made implements at Show-shan. Wherever he lived for a year, the people formed a community; wherever he lived for two years they built a city; and wherever he resided for three years they erected a capital.
Then came Yu when the chronological accounts begin. Of this ruler H.P.B. writes:
The Emperor Yu the “Great” (2207 B.C.), a pious mystic, is credited with having obtained his occult wisdom and the system of theocracy established by him — for he was the first one to unite in China ecclesiastical power with temporal authority — from Si-dzang. That system was the same as with the old Egyptians and the Chaldees; that which we know to have existed in the Brahmanical period in lndia, and to exist now in Tibet — namely, all the learning, power, the temporal as well as the secret wisdom were concentrated within the hierarchy of the priests and limited to their caste.
Yu was also the inspirer of nine urns with engravings on them which in a later age became the basis of Shan-Hai-King, i.e., Wonders by sea and land by Chung-Ku, B.C. 1818. H.P.B. adds that in the last quarter of the third century of our era Kwoh P’oh wrote a commentary on the same. Besides these historical records of Shu-King there are the Odes (Shi-King) and the Books of Rituals (Li-Chi).
To the Theosophical student of today what is of paramount interest in Chinese literature is the ethical philosophy of this ancient race. Our task is somewhat difficult but we will not lose our way in the labyrinthine maze of records if we keep these landmarks in mind. Three great rivers of religious, philosophic, and mystic tradition empty themselves in the ocean which today is China. Confucianism resulted from the activity of the sage who has played the most important role in Chinese history. He was the resuscitator of the Wisdom of his ancient people. He stitched the loose pages of old records in a coherent volume; he explained the metaphysics of Fu-hsi, of Yaou, of Yu; above all he taught noble ethics equal in rank to those of Jesus and even Gautama. The second is the Tao, the Path that Lao Tze and his school walked and advocated others to tread. The third influence is that of Buddhism, which took root in the Chinese soil in the first century of our era. Like three sacred rivers in a confluence, these meet reaching a profounder depth and become more inspiring. The three rivers lose their different courses and become one in the life of the people. The current gathering force becomes clear of dross and in it the whole past of this great people is mirrored. These rapid and engulfing waters contain for the daring soul an experience not to be met elsewhere in the ocean of worldly knowledge.
The influence of the “Brothers of the Sun”, as the Masters are called in the Chinese literature, has exerted an immemorial influence on the race and its achievements. Says H.P.B.:
The aphorisms in the oldest books of China, moreover, say plainly that the “Dragon” is a human, albeit divine Being. Speaking of the “yellow Dragon,” the chief of the others, the Twan-ying-T’u says: “His wisdom and virtue are unfathomable … he does not go in company and does not live in herds (he is an ascetic). He wanders in the wilds beyond the heavens. He goes and comes, fulfilling the decree (Karma); at the proper seasons if there is perfection he comes forth, if not he remains (invisible).” …. And Kon-fu-tyu is made to say by Lu-lan, “The Dragon feeds in the pure water of Wisdom and sports in the clear waters of life.”