In the west, we generally expect philosophy to come from books.
在东方 人们有一种更智慧的认识是 哲学也可以从其他事物身上发现 比如石头
In the east, more wisely, there’s an awareness that it may also come from other things, for example, rocks.
This is a brief history of a remarkable eastern tradition of philosophical rock appreciation.
公元826年 中国唐朝 江苏太湖
826 AD, Tang Dynasty, Lake Tai, Jiangsu Province, China.
A middle-aged gentleman is taking a stroll around a large lake ,the Yangzi Delta Plain in eastern China,
when something on its shore catches his eye. It’s an apparently trivial
yet momentous discovery, a pair of oddly shaped rocks.
This is perhaps no less than a founding moment in Chinese petrophyllia.
this cultivated pedestrian is someone special. After numerous ups and downs in his career as a state official,
including periods of imperial disfavor and exile, Bai Juyi has finally made it.
He’s been appointed prefect of the nearby city of Suzhou. He also happens to be one of China’s major poets.
It’s not a chance combination of talents. The ideal administrator doesn’t just know maths and time keeping.
在中国 他还得博学和懂得艺术 中国史上许多著名诗人和画家都有过公职
In China, he’s meant to be a man of learning and the arts. Many of China’s leading poets and painters have careers in public service.
So struck as Bai Juyi by these rocks, with that twisted angles and perforations that he has them taken back home to Suzhou.
回来后 他即刻坐下来为此赋诗一首 名为《双石》
Soon after his return, he sits down and writes a poem about them, a Pair of Rocks.
Bai Juyi starts by meeting that the rocks are not typically beautiful.
Dark sallow, two slates of rocks,their appearance is grotesque and ugly.
They are also covered in dirt and begrimed with smoke, their cavities thick with green moss. He described himself washing and scrubbing them.
So just what is the value of these unprepossessing specimens?
Taoism, which began as a philosophy in ancient China before turning into a popular religion,
cherishes nature , and its evidence of nature’s force that Bai Juyi welcomes in these rocks.
-the holes, perforations, and indentations signal the patient mighty forces of the universe.
而我们应该尊重这种力量 欣赏它 并试着与其和谐相处
which we should respect, admire and attempt to find harmony with.
The ancient rocks are also a consolation for aging Bai
“渐恐少年场，不容垂白叟。” 他写到 :
who feels excluded from the world of youngsters, as he writes,
Turning my head around,I ask the pair of rocks
“Can you keep companywith an old man like myself?”
Although the rocks cannot speak,They promise that we will be three friends.
Thanks to Bai Juyi’s enthusiasm and poetic talent, a wave of interest in rocks follows.
公元12世纪 中国北宋时期 安徽无为县
12th century AD, Northern Song Dynasty, Wuwei District, China.
Mi Fu, another rather eccentric scholar official, has just been appointed as a magistrate in Wuwei County.
On arrival, he has to pay an important social visit.
he’s been invited to meet and greet all the other important administrators with whom he’ll be working.
They stand waiting for him in the front garden of the official residence.
But as he walks towards them, they are shocked at a sudden breach of protocol on his behalf.
for he’s been stopped in his tracks by an unusually large rock in the garden.
Instead of offering his respects to his hosts, Mi Fu turns and bows ceremoniously to the rock
then addresses it as “elder brother rock” and makes an elaborate speech in its honor
Only after fully expressing his devotion to this amazing rock does Mi finally turned to his flabbergasted hosts.
It was this story that earned Mi Fu his sobriquet, Crazy Mi
and captured the imagination of aethetician painters,
for whom Mi Fu and Elder Brother Rock remained a favorite image for centuries to come.
Mi Fu goes on to write a treatise on rocks that enumerates four main aesthetic qualities he detects in them:
“瘦” 优雅正直之态 “皱” 褶皱沟壑的纹理
“Shou”, an elegant and upright stature; “Zhou”, a wrinkled and furrowed texture;
“Lou”, or cracks that are like channels or paths through the rock,
and “Tou”, the holes in the rock that allow air and lights to pass through.
In the 11th and 12th century, Chinese Northern Song Dynasty,
the passion for collecting rocks among scholar officials like Mi Fu takes off in earnest.
Stones are mounted on wooden bases and placed on desks as constant sources of inspiration.
The decorative stones become known as Gongshi, spirit stones, popularly mistranslated as “scholars’ rocks” in English.
their peculiarly twisted shapes are admired as the evidence of the
Qi energy that is believed animate nature and the human body alike.
Any cultivated person is expected to have an appreciation of rocks,
that are valued quite as highly as any painting or calligraphic scroll.
During the Song Dynasty, the most favored rocks are quarried from the limestone of Lingbi
in the northern Anhui Province. Lingbi rocks are dark black and glossy in texture.
公元1127年一月 中国北宋末期 开封
January 1127 AD, end of the Northern Song Dynasty, Kaifeng, northern China.
宋朝首都开封府 兵临城下 即将被女真族的金朝攻破
The imperial capital of China, Kaifeng, is under siege, and about to fall to the Jurchens,
a nomadic people from Manchuria.
Soon Song emperor, Huizong, will be taken captive and forced to abdicate,
他儿子 钦宗则南下逃亡 重建朝廷
while his son, Qinzong, would flee to the south and restablished a new court.
And the Southern Song Dynasty, China will be split in two. In these desperate final days of the Northern Song,
the order is given for the trees in Huizong’s spectacular imperial garden at Kaifeng to be cut down for firewood.
And for its incredible array of fabulous rocks to be pulled out to the ground and used in catapults against the invaders.
It’s a sad end to what was reputed to have been one of the most remarkable gardens in world history.
The royal park is set to have been teeming with striking rocks,
but emperor Huizong’s passion for rocks has clearly got rather out of hand
and explains his neglect of security issues. Huizong had in previous years
appointed a royal official to explore the whole of China in search for precious rocks for his garden.
Tales abounded with his officials’ abuses.
It’s said that he dismantled a bridge to let boats with huge rocks pass by on a particular cannel.
A love of rocks appears to have hastened the collapse of the Northern Song Empire.
1450AD, Muromachi Period, Japan.
In 15th century Japan, a new type of rock garden develops.
As with much in Chinese culture, the obsession with rocks has crossed over to Japan,
but has been adapted there in a particular way.
In Japan, the spirit of rocks are called “suiseki”.
and the Japanese favored much more subdued smooth rocks than the Chinese.
In Japan, rocks are treasured for their weathered appearance that exemplifies the worn simplicity
of the aesthetic known as Wabi-sabi.
In Japan, the rocks are not so much placed on wooden stands
as positioned in trees surrounded by sand or water
and are meant to evoke mountains and corresponding lakes.
At several Zen Buddhist temples, and most remarkably at Ryōan-ji in Kyoto,
the stones start to be set in very minimal settings so as to emphasize their qualities.
The raking of the gravel around the rocks by temple monks grows into a careful and precise art.
There are various patterns once meant to use including the water pattern
of concentric rings or ripples like those produced when a stone is dropped in a lake;
the stormy water pattern of haphazardly overlapping semicircles;
and the continuous wave effect of parallel or gently undulating lines.
The originator of the east nation reference for rocks, Bai Juyi,
was well aware of how powerful the love of rocks can become
In his essay, Account of the Lake Tai Rock
he speaks of an addiction that some rocks can bring about.
Truly wise people should, he says, restrict their rock worship to a few hours a day.
When few of us spent more than a few minutes a year looking at a rock, the advice seems less than urgent.
Indeed, the tradition of rock reference has a lot to teach us.
that the wisdom can hang off bits of the natural world just as well as issuing from books
that we need to surround ourselves with objects that embodies certain values,
we’re in danger of losing sight of day to day, and some of our most precious moments
是可以不喧闹 不张扬 不排场地在赏玩一块上了年头的旧石中度过的
can be spent in the presence of nothing more chatty, prestigious or costly than an old stone riped with years.