A great Chinese epic and allegory (1913) PDF book by Zhichang Li

A mission to heaven: a great Chinese epic and allegory

great Chinese epic

Translated by Timothy Richard. It is a translation of  Hsi yu chi (Se yew ke) 
 I think is it a philosophical novel about the teaching of Qiu Chuji, also known by his Taoist name Master Changchun, who was a Taoist disciple of Wang Chongyang. He was the most famous among the Seven True Taoists of the North.

There are two books in Chinese whose titles sound very much alike, viz. , the Shi Yvi Ki and the Shi Ye Ki, but they are very different. The first is a genuine record of travels in Western Lands during the Tang dynasty by the Great Buddhist Monlc Huen Chwang,* \vho left Sianfu for India in A. D. 629, 
and returned to the same city in A. D. 645 after an absence of sixteen years.

 It is a record of what he saw and heard and was translated, first by Julien and then by Beal many years ago, with valuable notes by Watters in 1904, and many writers have written notes on these travels. The other book 0j^|ii is an Epic and an Allegory, which I have now translated, and for which I write this Introduction. So far as I know it has never before been translated into any foreign tongue. The Master in the Epic is of the same name as the monk who traveled to India, but he started on his journey in 639, ten years after the other. His destination was Heaven, not India. This book is not a drama like the book of Job, but it introduces a number of persons who play an important role in life, and whose names are given at the end of this Introduction.

This book is not an epic, like the Indian Malmbarata by Vyasa, or the Iliad by Homer, nor like those of Dante or Milton, yet it deals with the two great forces of good and evil, worked out in heaven, on earth, and in hades, with the final triumph of good. It is not a book of travels, yet it describes a journey across Asia and scenes in various continents of the then known world, and it describes imaginary regions in heaven, earth, and hell, unfamiliar to us in the West. It is not a collection of stories like the Arabian Nights, or Haji Baba, though it abounds in marvelous adventures of gods, men, and demons.

 It is not a book of Cosmogony, though it describes creation in seven periods, and the evolution of man from a monkey, who originally was born from a peach stone, and who eventually became one of the Great Buddhas in Heaven. It is not a book of the Forces of Nature like Hesiod's Theogony, though it suggests that these forces are true immortals. It is not a book of magic, though it abounds in magic ways of transporting its heroes, from* one part of the Universe to another, on the wings of the wind, with the rapidity of lightning, without any accident to their airplanes. 

By means of their magic they can grow tall, to the height of a hundred thousand feet, to terrify anybody, or, when imprisoned in a strong castle, they can escape through a crack, by being able to become as small as a fly. The hero possesses himself of a tiny steel wire which he can carry in his ear, and which, when necessary in battle, he can magnify into a terrible club of enormous length and weight which none can withstand. It is not a book of astrology, but it brings in the service of the angels of some of the planets. 

It is not a Pilgrim's Progress from the city of Destruction to the Celestial city but describes the progress from animal life to the human and intellectual, and then from the selfish intellectual life to the higher life of consideration for others, which joins in the service of God and the immortals, who count a thousand years with men as but one day with them, and who war with evil. It is not a book on anthropology or the progress of man in civilization, yet it traces bun from infant ignorance, selfishness, untruthfulness, and mere animal existence, through the experience of varied temptations to power and ease, up to manliness, nobleness, and through Divine ideals into Di'^'ine actuals. It is not a textbook of science, but it is a great collection of rare experiments in human experience on the working hypothesis of the wisest philosophers of the medieval East. It describes creation in seven days, or periods, or kalpas. When first written it matched in the interest those experiments made with ether and radium in our days. The author regards whirlwinds, blizzards, and cyclones as the highways, or express trains, of spiritual forces, carrying terrible destruction to all who oppose them, but of unfailing help to those who are to be saved. 

 It is not a book on comparative religion, but it contains a record of great religions, especially of Higher Buddhism, the aim of which is to save men from the evils and sufferings in this world, and of the lost in hell, and it records the change of character experienced by those who follow it. It is to be noted that each of the heroes of the story is a changed (converted) man, and one is a dragon of the deep sea. It embodies the main teaching of Confucianism and Taoism, of Nestorianism in Chap. 88, though its main objective is to magnify Higher Buddhism, the great Mahayana religion, a singular position when it is remembered that the author was a leading Taoist worthy. In Chap. 100 he even includes Mohammed and Brahma as among those worthy to be honored. It is a record of pilgrims traveling for 14 years without purse or scrip, in countries where, and in times when, hospitality was more universal than now, and when many had all things in common, whilst exclusive ownership) or monopoly in anything was branded as selfish and tyrannical. 

It is not a book on religion, written by a narrow-minded author who could only see good in his own creed, and only evil in all others. The author, Chiu Chang Chun, was originally a Taoist, but he represents the God of the Confucianists, and the God of the Buddhist, as well as his own, as great rulers in Heaven, whether as sages (Sheng), the equals of Heaven, as Confucianists call them genii (Shen), the recipients and dispensers of the elixir of immortality, and magic power, as the Taoists call them, or Buddhas perfected saints, as the Buddhists call them, while the wicked, whether Confucianist, Taoist or Buddhist, are all equally blamed, and sent to the lower regions if they do not conform to the righteous law of the Universe, which he regards as the foundation of all true religion.

this unique work on the solution of the problems of life, and man's relation to Heaven, of Hell, and of Earth. No modern book in the West emphasizes the importance of character more than this does. The ' ' Imitation of Christ ' ' has its equivalent in the "Imitation of Julai the True Model," referred to in the Epic. It is not without significance that, after the introduction of new literature with a higher conception of religion and life in general, the barbaric wars of the Mongols gave way to a peaceful civilization. "What influence his religious ideas had on producing the great Reformer Tsongkapa of Tibet, two hundred years later, who can tell?

Some Contents of the book:

  • Search for Immortality 
  • Monkey studies Magic 
  • Visits Dragons and Judges 
  • Declines to be a Stud Master. 
  • Upsets the Peach Banquet 
  • The Great Holy One captured ... 
  • Imprisoned for 500 Years 
  •  Buddha provides Scriptures 
  • Hucn Chwang's Parentage 
  • A Dragon executed 
  • The Emperor in Hades 
  •  All Souls' Day 
  • The Monkey joins the Master — 
  • The Monkey converted 

Download PDF book 10.5 MB

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