Sacred Places in China, by Carl F. Kupfer, , at sacred-texts.com
On the southeastern slope of the Lü Mountains, in a little valley at the junction of the two rippling brooks, one flowing east and the other south, stands one of the oldest universities of which we have any knowledge; Salerno, the oldest European university, not excepted. With Wu lao fung, "five old peaks," standing like parapets on a rampart for the background, and the Poyang Lake winding up the valley beyond the lower undulating hills, it can claim a situation at once attractive and grand. The grotto shows no sign of ever having been a natural cave, being dug into the hillside and arched over with masonry work. It contains the image of a deer hewn out of stone placed there by Ho Tsing in the fourteenth century. According to historical statements it was the studio and home of the illustrious poet Li P’u, who flourished during the T’ang Dynasty in the reign of Chêu Yuan, the latter part of the ninth century. He and his elder brother Shê made this cave their private home. P’u had a tame white deer which always accompanied his master in his walks over the hills; and thus he was called peh lu sien-seng, "the white deer gentleman," and his residence the cave of the white deer.
During the reign of Pao Li, A.D. 825, P’u was promoted to be sub-prefect at Kiang-chou, now Kiukiang. To perpetuate the memory of his old sequestered-home, he built a kiosk over it, from which time the cave of the white deer became famous. At the end of the T’ang Dynasty, when there was great confusion in the Empire, the scholars from far and near assembled in the cave for research. During these troublous times when five successive dynasties rose and fell in two
Click to enlarge
THE FAIRY BRIDGE-ENTRANCE TO THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
years (A.D. 805–807), a school was opened here, fields bought, buildings erected, and students gathered. The scholarly Si Shan-tao, who had thoroughly mastered the Nine Canonical Books, was chosen from the Imperial Academy of Learning to be the president of this institution, and it was called the Government School of the Lü Mountains. The institution soon increased in number and influence, and many of the early students became famous in public life. In the year A.D. 960, the institution was raised to the grade of a university, and stood equal in rank and influence with Chi Yong, Shih Ku, and Yo Lao Universities. The attendance of over one hundred students is mentioned at this time.
In the cyclical year Ting-cheo (A.D. 976), during the reign of the two Emperors, T’ai Ping and Hsin Kuah, the sub-prefect of Kiukiang begged the Emperor to present a set of the Nine Canonical Books of the Imperial Academy of Learning Edition; this modest request was granted, and the books were sent to the cave by the government postal service.
The institution passed through various changes, more failures than successes following each other, until the cyclical year Chi-hai (1174) in the Sung Dynasty, and the reign of Shun Hsi, when the great philosopher and expositor of the Confucian Canon, Chü Hui-ngan, became the prefect of Nang-k’angfu. No sooner had he arrived than he ordered the official director of students to proceed at once to the cave and investigate conditions. Later he personally went there and carefully looked all the property over, whereupon he sent a message to the President of the Board of Works, informing him that the building might be repaired, and also reminded. him that the White Deer Grotto was a place where the former worthies had concealed themselves, and where students had been supported by previous dynasties, which favors should not be forgotten. In pathetic terms he appealed for help: "The buildings are falling down, and the prefect can not but take the burden of repairs upon himself; he has measured
the place and calculated the expenses. Why should he do this? Because the name of this institution is recorded in the national annals."
After a lapse of time he sent another message to the Senior Secretary of the Board and to the Minister of State, begging to be appointed President of University, and to ask for some grants to be bestowed. If this could be done, he would be asking for no other favor in his life than to be allowed to study with his students until death. He also pointed out how much better this would be than to add glory to the heterodox priests who only burn incense and do nothing for the good of mankind nor for their food and clothing. And he further pleads that this institution receive recognition as well as Yu Lao University and a tablet be bestowed naming it the White Deer Grotto University, and that some parts of the classics be written upon this stone tablet by the Emperor Kow Tsun himself. It is well known that at this time the publication of the Classics of Confucius and Mencius was forbidden, in consequence of which education had also fallen to a low ebb, and all classes, the officials and common people, complained of this, feeling deeply chagrined. When Chü Hui-ngan was acting as Inspector of the State Department, he had an audience with the Emperor, and he again made a plea for more liberal education. Said he: "The Taoist and Buddhist temples are built everywhere. In the provincial capital there are more than one hundred, in every prefecture several tens, all well established publicly and privately, and yet there is desire for more; while there is only one school or college open in a prefecture, and small districts have none. Thus temples are prosperous, while schools and colleges are neglected; temples are numerous, while schools and colleges are few. Why this inequality? Is it not wrong that the civil authorities do not make this right, and that they even look upon any information with suspicion? If this continues the Grotto University will soon be despised
by the common people, and not be kept open unless an Imperial Tablet be bestowed. Is it not the way by which your Majesty can praise your meritorious predecessors and do the scholars a favor? This I venture to beg at the hazard of my life." When the Emperor Hsiao Tsung heard this he granted the request; but the tablet did not assure the institution perpetual peace and blessings. At the end of the following dynasty—the Yuan—it was cast out into the brushwood during a commotion, and not until the sixth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty was it found and replaced.
History does not clearly state how long Chü Fu-tsz labored here, but hereditary legend claims that he spent the rest of his life in this institution, and was buried in the shady grove back of the college. The legend also pretends to know the origin of his superhuman wisdom. When he came to live at the grotto, a hu li sien, "fox-fairy," in the likeness of a young woman, came to live with him and serve him. She brought with her a pearl of great value, and insisted upon Chü swallowing it. After long persuasion he yielded to her entreaties, and the pearl became in him the fountain of wisdom, such as is not possessed by mortal man. Soon after this a ka ma sien," frog-fairy," also in the likeness of a young woman, came to dwell with him. But alas, the women did not live together long in peace. In an altercation the last arrival said, "And who are you but a fox?" Replied the other, "And what are you but a frog?" The next day the two fairies were missing, and a dead fox and a dead frog were found lying under the old bridge below the college. They were buried with due ceremony in the college grove, where a little stone marks their resting place, to the credulous belief of the student and admirer of Chü Fu-tsz.
A visit to this historical spot is least desirable in summer, when the students are here from all parts of the central provinces; during the Chinese New Year vacation it is a pleasure and profit. If a well-informed student can be secured
Click to enlarge
as guide, much that seems to have no significance becomes interesting. Being thus provided, we left Kiukiang two days before the New Year, early in the morning, and arrived there late in the evening. A young man from Fou lan hsien, an unsophisticated youth, who had never seen a foreigner, was the only dweller within these walls. He had come here to spend the holidays, having heard that a man having done so the year before, worshiping Confucius on New Year's Day, took his degree at the next competitive examination. On the morning of the last day of the old year he walked five miles to Nank’ang to buy candles and incense, and that night and the following one he kept them burning upon all the altars in those labyrinthian rooms. He was radiant with hope.
If the present condition of this institution is a criterion of the state of the religion it stands for, then Confucianism is in a most hopeless and woeful plight. It is an institution without a recognized president or faculty, without a Board of Trustees, or even a janitor. The tipao was said to be in charge, but during three days’ stay we did not see him. The director of the literary class of Nank’ang, having heard of our arrival, called upon us, but he did not assume any responsibility. The students seem to be a law unto themselves. They bring their own cooking utensils with them and build a little hearth for their private use; some unite in clubs. This explains the dilapidated condition of the buildings; whole sections of the wooden partition being broken out and used for fuel. Over some parts the roof is crushed in, and weeds are flourishing in the rooms. The memorial tablets, of which there are many, have sagged in all directions, and many have fallen down and are broken. It is now nothing more than a quiet place for students to hide away from the disturbances of home life, and so be better able to prosecute their private studies.
The Literary Assembly Hall is a large, substantial building, but entirely void of all furniture, there being not even a scroll to decorate the black walls. But the learner here
Click to enlarge
THE CONFUCIAN ALTAR.
The Image of Confucius, veiled with red curtains, is here dimly seen. In front is the altar where all professors and students of this institution have worshiped. The curtains are moth-eaten and the altar is a rendezvous for bats.
Click to enlarge
THE CHIEF DISCIPLES OF CONFUCIUS.
Click to enlarge
stands face to face with the eight virtues which are indelibly inscribed in large, bold characters upon stone slabs set in the walls:
Ti—Respect of younger brothers.
Chih—The feeling of shame.
On the inside of the back door of this hall is written an amplification by Chü Fu-tsz on the Five Relations as taught by Mencius; upon these Chü based his Rules of Order: "Between father and son there should be affection; between sovereign and minister righteousness; between husband and wife attention to their separate duties; and between old and young respect; and between friends fidelity." These are the instructions regarding the five relations, and the observing of them was also enforced by Yao and Shun, who appointed Su to be the minister of instruction and to teach carefully the relations of humanity. The students should learn them in the following regular order: Study them extensively, enquire about them accurately, reflect upon them carefully, discriminate clearly, and practice earnestly; such is the order of learning: study, enquire, reflect, and discriminate thoroughly by examining the principles. To practice earnestly refers to the cultivation of moral conduct, the managing of business affairs, and the making acquaintance with others.
"In regard to the cultivation of moral conduct, the most important thoughts are: let the words be sincere and truthful, the actions honorable and careful, the anger restrained, and the lust chastened. Reform and be good.
"In regard to the managing of business affairs two things are necessary, the action must be orderly without scheming
to gain profit, and the doctrine must be thoroughly understood without counting too much the toil in getting the mastery of it.
"In regard to making acquaintance with others, the important part to be remembered is: not to do to others as you would not wish others to do to you; and when you do not realize what you need, then turn inward and examine yourselves in every point.
"We learn that ancient worthies instructed men to investigate the principles of righteousness and to cultivate a moral conduct by which they might influence others. They did not merely wish men to commit to memory, write compositions, by which they might gain fame,' vaunt themselves and gain profit. But the student of the present time (the days of Chü Fu-tsz) do not follow the methods of instruction as taught by the ancient worthies. Let the students who have earnest thoughts give due attention, inquire and discriminate. If one knows what ought to be done and forces himself to do it, will he not eventually know intuitively what his duties are without rules of order? The rules which have been established are for students of a lower grade than those of ancient times. And as the methods of the present day students do not agree with those of the ancients, I do not put the rules of ancient methods in this hall, but on the lintels of the door. Those important subjects which the ancient worthies taught, I myself will investigate and follow with all the students, and we will force ourselves to practice them. Moreover, we will endeavor to be even more rigid and careful what we are thinking, speaking, and doing, than these subjects require of us. And those who are inclined to abrogate and neglect these regulations should at least try to follow them. May all think of my words over and over again!"
Among the numerous other inscriptions upon walls, lintels, and tablets, we would only mention one. It is composed of four characters, but when verbally translated it teaches
volumes of truth in practical life: Yü T’ien Ti T’san, "with the heavenly earthly is mixed." However, the Confucianist sees a very different meaning in this inscription. He reads from it: "The virtue of Confucius is equal to heaven and earth."
In a little room in front of the Confucian Temple is enshrined a tutelar god. Upon inquiring why this wayside shrine was in this unusual place, we were informed that this room had become noted for the remarkable success which all students who had studied here had met with in their examinations—all having taken high degrees. In consequence of this inexplicable favor conferred upon all who studied here, there was a great rush every season for its occupancy, and when quarreling and even murder ensued, it was relegated to an idol, and no student was allowed to study there. The propitiousness of this room is ascribed to an idol—a literary god—standing in a little pavilion across the brook. This idol is facing the college and is holding a pencil in his right hand, and this pencil points directly to that room, and guides the pen of the favored student to supernatural success.
Another evidence that these Confucian scholars are far from being free of the belief in idols and images is clearly seen in the Confucian Temple located in the midst of the college buildings. In the main hall of this building are large images of Confucius, Mencius, and fifteen of the most famous disciples of Confucius. And what is not seen even at a Buddhist temple there are here four gods standing on the top of the roof, two looking northward, and two southward. In the room in front of the grotto is also a large image of Chü Fu-tsz.