Sunday, February 4, 2018

Carpe Diem #1362 Gansu (Northern route)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I hope you all have had a wonderful weekend and that you all will have new energy for a new week full of the beauty of the ancient Silk Road. This month we are on a journey "Along The Silk Road" and especially we are following the Northern and Southern Route. That means we especially are following the "Silk Road" through China and "around" the Taklamakan Desert. While we are on this journey we are reading a wonderful "esoteric" novel written by Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, in which we are following a young Brahman son who is on a journey to find himself, his inner peace, to become enlightened. Why are we reading this novel? Well Buddhism entered China along the "Silk Road", so Siddhartha is a nice novel to read while on our journey.

Samanas in the forests
[...] " The first light of day shone into the room. The Brahman saw that Siddhartha was trembling softly in his knees. In Siddhartha's face he saw no trembling, his eyes were fixed on a distant spot. Then his father realized that even now Siddhartha no longer dwelt with him in his home, that he had already left him.
The Father touched Siddhartha's shoulder. "You will," he spoke, "go into the forest and be a Samana. When you'll have found blissfulness in the forest, then come back and teach me to be blissful. If you'll find disappointment, then return and let us once again make offerings to the gods together. Go now and kiss your mother, tell her where you are going to. But for me it is time to go to the river and to perform the first ablution."
He took his hand from the shoulder of his son and went outside. Siddhartha wavered to the side, as he tried to walk. He put his limbs back under control, bowed to his father, and went to his mother to do as his father had said." [...]
(Source: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse)

And so started Siddhartha's journey ... his first step was going to his father to ask his permission to leave his home to become a Samana.
For us there is no need to ask permission to leave the home for our journey along the Silk Road, but we are on our way. Today we arrive at Gansu. Let me tell you a little bit about Gansu in the time of the Silk Road.
Panorama shot Daxia River Valley
In imperial times, Gansu was an important strategic outpost and communications link for the Chinese empire, as the Hexi Corridor runs along the "neck" of the province. Hexi Corridor or Gansu Corridor refers to the historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The corridor is a string of oases along the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. To the south is the high and desolate Tibetan Plateau and to the north, the Gobi Desert and the grasslands of Outer Mongolia. At the west end the route splits in three, going either north of the Tian Shan or south on either side of the Tarim Basin. At the east end are mountains around Lanzhou before one reaches the Wei River valley and China proper.
Hexi Corridor
The Han dynasty extended the Great Wall across this corridor, building the strategic Yumenguan (Jade Gate Pass, near Dunhuang) and Yangguan fort towns along it. Remains of the wall and the towns can be found there. The Ming dynasty built the Jiayuguan outpost in Gansu. To the west of Yumenguan and the Qilian Mountains, at the northwestern end of the province, the Yuezhi, Wusun, and other nomadic tribes dwelt, occasionally figuring in regional imperial Chinese geopolitics.
By the Qingshui treaty, concluded in 823 between the Tibetan Empire and the Tang dynasty, China lost much of western Gansu province for a significant period.
After the fall of the Uyghur Empire, an Uyghur state was established in parts of Gansu that lasted from 848 to 1036 AD. During that time, many of Gansu's residents were converted to Islam.
Along the Silk Road, Gansu was an economically important province, as well as a cultural transmission path. Temples and Buddhist grottoes such as those at Mogao Caves ('Caves of the Thousand Buddhas') and Maijishan Caves contain artistically and historically revealing murals.

Magoa Caves (Caves of the Thousand Buddhas)
Buddhism entered China along the Silk Road. Some say Buddhism came to China by the maritime route, but after scientific researches by several scientists, the over all conclusion was that Buddhism came along the Silk Road.

Did Samanas live along the Silk Road? Maybe at the places were traders stopped, the caravanserais, but I don't know that for sure. Could it be that Siddhartha was along the Silk Road while he was with the Samanas. Personally I think that wasn't possible, but in Siddhartha's later journey we will see a connection with the Silk Road. 

above the valley
hidden in his cave
Buddha meditates

without listening to the traders
beneath his feet

© Chèvrefeuille
Pff ... that wasn't easy. It was for sure not an easy task to create a haiku or tanka inspired on this episode, but I think my tanka fits the episode in a way.
This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until February 11th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, Taklamakan Desert (Northern route), later on. For now .... Be inspired

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