Monday, December 19, 2016

Zhuge Liang and the Stone Maze

While Zhuge Liang did not follow the same teachings as the Yi Fa descends from, he was a true master of the I Ching.  Liang was a famous general and prime-minister during the period in Chinese history known as the "Three Kingdoms" period, after the fall of the Han dynasty, when China split into three warring states in the early part of the 3rd century AD.  He was the Prime Minister of the state of Shu, one of the three Kingdoms. He was also famed as one of the greatest strategists of all Chinese history, comparable to Sun Tzu (who is more famous in the west).

In the stories relating to the wars between the three kingdoms, there is a famous account of Zhuge Liang making use of the power of the I Ching in magick to confound his enemies.  In of the many military campaigns, Liang's King, Liu Bei, was defeated in battle against an enemy general. His army retreated toward a famous temple-complex called Baidicheng, where Zhuge Liang was waiting. While the troops escaped, Liang arranged a set of stones into 64 piles, of about 5ft in height each. The pattern he arranged them in was corresponding to the arrangement of the eight trigrams of the I Ching. 

When the enemy general arrived, he felt the presence of heavy Qi in the area. He suspected a trap but saw only the strange field of stones. He chose to enter it with his men, thinking it some kind of cheap trick.

But once they'd entered, they suddenly found that the stones seemed like vast mountains. The mists of the temple seemed like a storm of cloud and dust. The men were soon totally bewildered, like in a maze.

They would have perished there, had it not been for an old man who appeared in the maze, Liang's father-in-law. He guided the general and his men out, explaining that Liang had created the maze with his understanding of the eight trigrams and the mysteries of the elements, and that only through understanding could one make one's way through it.  The enemy general, realizing that Zhuge Liang's superior wisdom was unbeatable, chose to halt and turn back from his invasion of the Shu kingdom.

This story is meant to be allegorical, about the maze-like qualities of the contemplation of nature and the eight trigrams and 64 hexagrams, and the gifts that it's contemplation can provide.
However, it is also not solely allegory. The Stone Maze was a real place, found at Baidicheng, where remnants of it had survived all the way until modern times, and had been visible until the area was flooded by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

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