I Am But a Very Small Pebble
In the suburbs of the city where I spent more than ten years before coming to the states is a site of sedimentary miracle. A bed(s) of pebbles buried deep in the earth turned themselves into agate stones. They are normally small pebbles the size of a human thumb. Within the pebbles are the nature's craftsmanship of layers, waves, and beautiful colors, each seem to tell a story, if men can understand. I cannot remember its geological story any more. But I think it was a deposit of estuary of the Yangtze River, washed many years and travelled very long distances in this world before they are finally buried in the depth of the earth. There, they went through even more transformation to become what they are today.
They are called the Rain Flower Pebbles.
Now Nanjing is the southern capital of China vs. the Northern capital of Beijing. These are the meaning of the names of the two cities: Nan mans south, and Bei means north. Jing means the capital. The city of Nanjing was the capital of six dynasties in the Chinese history. The founding emperor Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty chose his capital in this city, but one of his sons moved the capital to Beijing after taking the throne from the heir Zhu Yuanzhang established. Nanjing is the city dwelled by the tigers and entrenched by the dragons in the spirit. However, it seems that compared to Beijing, Nanjing fell short of its majesty. Even in history, it only served as the capital for the small and temporary kingdoms. The last days of its glory (not counted in the six dynasties) were right before Chairman Mao established the capital of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. His opponent Jiang Jeshi established the capital of the short lived Republic of China in Nanjing before he retreated to Taiwan.
Nanjing has a long history of Buddhist influence. The famous Master Xingyun was a monk in the Qixia Temple in Nanjing at his youth before he went to Taiwan. I was ignorant of all these when I lived there. Even though I visited many of the historical sites, I really did not care of the meanings underneath. I had too many struggles in life and was very muddle headed in the depth of my heart to enjoy any of such beauties, in history, or in nature.
This song is sung by Li Yugang (female voice) and Shitou, or the Pebble. This is what Shitou means. And below is the rough translation of the lyrics. The song personalizes the rain and the pebbles in their love for each other. Though one is buried in the depth of the earth and the other is above the earth, yet their affections grow even stronger and more enduring in the longing. Again, I wish I were more artistic that I could convey the poetic conception of the words, so that the water from deep within their broken hearts may be brought to surface:
Female voice (Li Yugang):
The rain gently flies
My heart is burning like fire
Whose tears are those
gently caressing on my face?
Male voice (Shitou, or the Pebble)
The love of the pebble to the rain
is like the crystalized blue sea
Though I my heart bursts with many words
I do not know how to express
Ah! where are you?
Ah! I cannot see!
I am but a very small pebble
Buried deeply in the earth
Even though your shadow
has faded away
Yet I am still searching
for your smile in the beginning
I am but a very small pebble
buried in the depth of the earth
female (male) voice:
After a thousand years
When the glory has been veiled in the dust
I am still in the rain (earth)
waiting for you.....
There is a depth and lasting sense in this song. I really appreciate that they kept their clothes on. I have been contemplating about Tang Xuanzong's life, and Solomon's life. On the surface, they failed by men's standard in the end of their lives. Tang Xuanzong lost his reign. He lost his kingdom and his reign to the wicked hands of his son. Many blame such failure on the love, with Lady Yang as the witch, because their own lives were disturbed by the rebellion. Yet the love story between a great emperor and the love and compassion of his heart has been lasting and enchanting. Unlike the other favored concubine, the Lady Yang had no impure motives in the love relationship with the emperor. The Tang Dynasty has been long gone, yet their love, and their songs are still resounding even today. I am thinking, we probably (at least I will) continue to enjoy them in eternity.
Solomon lost his favor from the God of his youth. He built a grand temple which did not last. The kingdom his heroic father established was shaken because of him. Yet he wrote three books in the Bible, jewels of lasting wisdom.
Hazekiah did not want to leave this world without having lived his life as a free soul. So he strived for another fifteen years. He was punished for such stubbornness. Yet to the face of the rebukes by a prophet, he said: It is good news the Lord pronounced peace in my life. He did not care about the world after him. That was, and still is God's problem.
These are the real stories of life. I truly cannot judge them, but I know they lived their lives making the choices as they wanted, right or wrong, good or bad. Did some choices cause pain and failure in life? For sure. Do they all have noble causes and eternal values? I don't know. God alone can judge. I only know that they truly lived as free souls.
I flipped the Christian TV for maybe five seconds today, and ran across TBN's Praise the Lord program. I did not stay long enough to know what was going on in there, but I heard some big swelling words:-) very sugary. Thought there may be truth in it but without contents. A lady said, you are living in a small one bedroom apartment with five kids, but your father is preparing an executive suite for you. Then I flipped to Crefflo Dollar. He said: Everything is already completed by Jesus two thousand years ago. We are told to build on his rock. That was all I heard.
Well, I have no problem you want to build your house on Jesus, but I do not believe Jesus is that poor, that he is only a bare rock, or maybe a slab of thin rock hanging in the mid air. First of all, the Bible commands that you need to build. Don't just stop at Jesus. Second of all, I know Jesus is quite rich, judging by the knowledge and wisdom in the Bible. Some gospel teachers will cancel everything in the Old Testament, because Jesus came and did away with everything. Never mind Jesus himself said clearly that this was NOT what he came to do. Some preachers will go as far to cancel even Jesus' teachings, because he said what he said before he died. Their entire gospel is only one sentence: I am saved because Jesus died. But then, when they preach faith and favor, they do not mind quoting the cows and sheep from the ten thousand mountains.
I will not judge anybody's heart, but that one sentence is simply not enough for me. I still have a life to live and daily decisions to make. It is not unusual to see sometime such 'extraordinary' faith even confounded our common sense. Christians become very confused souls. They do not know how to walk. You take the chain off them and they lose balance so they bump everywhere hitting other people. They are miserable having no peace and lack of sound mind. I was there myself.
I really do not want to elevate myself or trying to portray myself as some great soul with a big vision out of this world. I am truly not. I just want to live a normal life in peace and serenity and security. I admire souls with great aspirations and lived in sacrifice for a bigger vision. I would think that Tang Xuanzong and the Lady Yang do not regret the choices they made in their life, even with such a great price to pay and grave consequence even to the nation. Such love was pure and they were happy. Therefore, I admire them.
There are others who did not choose to live the kind of lives they did, because of a call, a mission which is greater than they are. Therefore, they sacrificed themselves. So I admire them as well. Here is the story of such a soul.
Wang Zhaojun lived in the Western Han Dynasty established by Liu Bang. At that time the middle kingdom was not strong so it was constantly harassed by the Huns. A strategy was set to pursue peace with such a neighbor by marriage, sending a princess from the middle kingdom to marry the king of the Huns. This strategy started from Liu Bang's time. Empress Lu only had one daughter. She was unwilling to send her own daughter to the remote and yet uncivilized nation, so they sent a daughter from the family clan and gave her the title of princess. This strategy lasted a long time with more than just the Huns, and there are many touching and moving stories around such marriages as the princess were truly sent as ambassadors of peace. Some great heroines were made from these princesses or ladies with such missions.
Wang Zhaojun was no princess. She was a peasant girl in a remote village. Because of her beauty she ended up in Han Yuandi's palace, the eleventh emperor of the Han Dynasty. Legend says that Han Yuandi was weak and muddle-headed. Because of the vastness of his harem, he relied on a few painters to judge the beauties in his palace. Other girls would give the painters bribes, but Zhaojun was ashamed of doing so. Therefore, even though her beauty was exceptional, yet the painter deliberately defiled her portrait. After years in the palace, she still never saw the emperor's face.
Just then the king of the Huns sent ambassadors to the middle kingdom, pleading marriage and peaceful relationship. Zhaojun was among the five beauties Han Yuandi chose from his own palace to be given to the king of the Huns. At the departure banquet, they were called before the court to be presented to the messengers. It is recorded that Zhaojun's beauty brightened up the palace. No one else in the palace was as beautiful as she was. Han Yuandi for the first time saw her and was shocked by her beauty. He wanted to keep her for himself, but was afraid of breaking his words to the Huns. He sent Zhaojun away with generous gifts and killed the palatial painters.
Zhaojun was married to the king for three years before he died. She had one son with him. After his death, she sent message to the Han emperor pleading to return to Changan (today's Xian). But she was given the order to stay and follow the custom of the people she was married to. So she married her late husband's son who inherited the throne. It was another even years in this marriage. She had two princesses in this marriage. Then her second husband also died.
Some legends say that she could not bare the thought to marry her first husband's grandson, therefore she took her own life. No one today was sure how she died, but her grave remains in today's Xingjiang province. The land once considered barbarians is now part of the nation she belonged. In her mission to the Huns, she brought the culture, tradition, technology and everything the civilized and educated middle kingdom had to offer to a different people. She convinced her husband to stop war and killing, but live in peace and build, thus she brought prosperity to the Huns. She and her descendants and relatives all worked for this cause. Sixty years since her marriage there was peace between the middle kingdom and the Huns. She did not just blessed the middle kingdom, but also brought peace and blessings to the people she was married to. She was indeed a peacemaker, heaven's blessing to a yet uncivilized and suffering people. For that mission she paid a great price. She gave her life, not by her own choice, but by fate, or destination. She is remembered, and honored till today. I believe what she build with her life will be a lasting one as well. Maybe should could continue to live and sacrifice losing herself, but taking her life in the end is demonstration of the extraordinary sacrificial life she lived, and the commitment of the dignity of her noble soul. She lived a free soul to love and to serve, and died so as well. She was truly an amazing soul.
Legend says that on her way to a remote and undeveloped kingdom, she was overtaken by sorrow and grieve. She played pipa, a Chinese string instrument, and mourned. Because of her beauty and her exceeding sorrow, the wild geese in the sky forgot to fly. So they fell on the ground. So in Chinese there is an expression till today to describe someone's beauty, we say her face can cause the geese to fall. Zhaojun is one of the four most beautiful ladies in the entire Chinese history.
Below is the video of another one of Li Yugang's brilliant performances with the title of the Departure of Zhaojun, singing of her dilemma and her resolution to devote her life for a noble cause to bring peace and blessings for two people she was commissioned to touch with her life.
This is the lyrics of the song:
With the wind from the north curling,
the Moon dilapidates over the Guansahn Mountain
Startled from the dream early in the morning
I saw the lights turning so chilly
The mourning of my pipa cuts deep into my heart
I cannot bear to remember
the city of Changan, my hometown
Where there are railings of sculptures
and the beauties like flowers
Once I was there longing for love
year after year
I was hoping but it is only too late
In painful remembrance I restrain from the memories
In tears of longing I gaze at the wild geese
migrating to the south
till I can longer see
I journeyed again and again
In the wind and in the rain
beyond ten thousand mountains
This is my destiny by Heaven
With my love I carry this burden
For my nation and for my family
Even though I may never return again.
All of these building took labor in pain and suffering, in tears of broken heart. We can build our own lives on the rock of salvation of Jesus. We have to participate in building his kingdom, in his behalf. This building of your life, will be your crown for eternity.
I am posting a few more of Li Yugang's performances here for simple artistic appreciation.
The Burial of Flowers
The Dream of the Red Mansion is a Chinese classical written by Cao Xueqing. He was birthed in to a extremely prominent family, with his granduncle being a trusted companion of the emperor Kangxi in his youth. His grandfather was a faithful and loyal servant of the emperor throughout his life. He earned the emperor's trust. He was given a post as the had of the textile office in Jiangning, or close to Nanjing, which made him rich and prosperous. He died without a heir, and Chao Xueqing's father was appointed as his heir. This is the best I remember, but I am not hundred percent sure about the facts as I am not trying to write history books.
In his youth his family got in trouble because of bribery and the government raided his home and took all their possessions. I think that happened in the time of the reign of Emperor Yongzheng as a part of his effort to exercise discipline in the government and strengthen the national power. He crushed some rich and powerful in order to fill up the national treasury in support of an ongoing war defending the northern border.
Cao Xuaqing since lived in poverty. yet he maintained his noble character of a well educated man. Because of the experience in his youth, he did not pursue a governmental career, instead, he devoted much of his life writing this famous novel : The Dream of the Red Mansion, from a heart of an enlightened man, seeing through the power, the fortune, the fame, and the wealth and prosperity which are all indeed a phantom, or vanity.
In my youth when I only had the eight model dramas to watch and very limited resources for reading, I got a set of the Red Mansion which I read again and again, shedding many tears for the love of the two main characters of the book. Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu. They were both in this world and yet out of the world. Even in the midst of rich and powerful environment, none of them was the least attracted for the worldly glory. They simply longed for each other and were affectionate towards each other. Lin Daiyu, the girl was orphaned so she lived in her maternal grandmother's house. Jia Baoyu was the beloved grandson of this old lady. In the strives and competitions of difficult and complicated relationships inside this big mansion, Lin Daiyu lost favor to another cousin, who was also beautiful, and traditional, earthly and resourceful. She was very much in this world and its pursuit. the Jia Baoyu's family chose her to be his bride.
Lin Daiyu died of illness and heart brokenness. Jia Baoyu went back to be a monk, from where he came from only to experience the prosperity of this world and be elevated from the illusions of this world's phantoms.
Lin Daiyu was very talented in poetry. Probably because of that she was overly sensitive and so unrealistic. One day she and Jia Baoyu had some misunderstanding. Lin Daiyu was heart broken. She swore to distance herself from Jia Baoyu who betrayed her. In her extreme sorrow, she went to gather the fallen flower pedals in the garden to give them a burial. From their fate she personalized herself, and wondered of her own fate, being an orphan in this world, shedding many tears.
Below is the lyrics of the song, performed by Li Yugang:
In the three hundred and sixty days of a year
Thou endured wind like knives and frost like swords
Only very briefly thou blossom with beauty and brightness
As if right away thy sweet scent drifts away
To the ends of the Heavens and the earth,
where may I bury thy fragrance?
At thy passing today I gather your soul
Who will know the day of my decease?
I am considered a fool to bury thou
Who will it be to gather my soul
in what year?
To the ends of the Heavens and the earth,
Where may I bury thy fragrance?
Neither shall be
when the flowers fall
and my soul vanishes.
The Moon Over a Fountain
A Bin was an illegitimate son of a master of a Taoist Temple. At age four, his mother died and he went to live with a remote aunt. At age eight, his father took him into the temple to be an apprentice without telling him his true identity. At age twenty one, his father passed away. On his death bed, he told A Bin that the master was truly his father.
A Bin took over the temple in his father's place. Nevertheless, he lost composure and fell in all kinds of sin. He committed adultery, got drunk and even got addictive to opium. He was not following the rules of the Taoist temple, so he lost control. From there he went on to live with remote relatives and lived his life playing music on the street for food. Somewhere in the process he lost his eyesight and became blind.
His father was an extraordinary musician and he told the young A Bin all kinds of musical instruments. He got married and had other relationships. He lived in a perilous time of China in wars and groaning under oppression. I think his own heart and his own life were a reflection of such sorrow of a great people and nation. He expressed such emotions in his music, only on the streets in exchange for a few coins. It is said that he composed two hundred something pieces of music, but only four of them are preserved today. He lived to see the birth and establishment of the new China, when Chairman Mao stood on the Tiananman and announced to the whole world: The people of China have stood up from now.
The most well known of his music is "The Moon Over a Fountain". It was only a fountain flowed out of his heart, with gentleness, longing, confusion, and hope. Regardless of what men think of his life as a total failure, the heart flowing with such beautiful melodies cannot harbor evil within. It is only that when the light came into this world, the world does not recognize it and the darkness rejects it, because their deeds are evil.
Someone wrote lyrics to the music and made it into a song of beautiful blessings for this world of misery. Li Yugang's performance is a reflection of the pure fountain in his own heart:
The Moon Over a Fountain
The sound of the Qin gently flows in the air
Who is this walking on the streets
carrying a pipa late in the dusk
with a pipa on his back walking in the dusk
When the waves of the autumn wind
stir up the sleeves of his clothe
In the gentle moonlight
His meager figure is reflected on the road
paved by rocks
Slowly he steps outside of the small alley
Gently he turns unto the small bridge
In the quietness of the open expanse
are the faint lights on the painted houses
The one who carries the qin is wondering
where he may find a friend of his heart?
Therefore, he sings to himself and turns around
only to find the moonlight over an island of reeds
And the sound of his music twirling around the forest
The heart of the music is shaking
as if the howling of the autumn wind
yet again, like the rushing water of the fountain
In the timelessness of Heaven and earth
Only enduring are love and compassion
So let us share our prayers
May peace and serenity cover all over the land and sea
May the music resound in every household
May people rejoice without sorrow and worry
no sorrow and no worry year after year
Even though men are like yellow cranes
one day they fly away
with only the dust to be found
Ah, these love and compassion are still long lasting without end
Even to the ends of heaven and earth
there are those who know your heart
Your music is still resounding
with the water flowing from a fountain.