Ascending Louguantai, the Observatory Tower Temple

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Front gate to Daoist temple Louguantai

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詹 石 窗


Ascending Louguantai, the Observatory Tower Temple
        Zhan  Shichuanɡ

Standing tall and elegant on Zhongnan Mountain,
Overlooking the Qin River,
The only temple of its kind,
In this vast and powerful land.
Observe the auras of stars and planets;
Observe the patterns of all under heaven;
Observe birth, age, sickness and death;
Observe the bitter, pungent, sour, and sweet;
Observe all that's past and all that's present;
Observe all that's evil and all that's good.
Alas, the water in the Pond of Highest Good has turned into muck!
When will the Highest Good prevail in this universe?
Shànɡ Lóuguāntái
Zhān Shíchuāng

Xiù lì zhōnɡnán,
Yī lǎn qínchuān.
Yānɡyānɡ dàɡuó,
Wéi cǐ yī lóu ɡuān.
Guān mánɡmánɡ xīnɡhuán,
Guān tiānxià wénzhānɡ,
Guān shēnɡ lǎo bìnɡ sǐ,
Guān kǔ là suān tián,
Guān ɡǔ wǎnɡ jīn lái,
Guān rénjiān è shàn,
Shànɡshànchí shuǐ huà wūzhuó,
Hé rì shànɡshàn mǎn kūn qián.

Translator: Charles Q. Wu 吳千之

From May 21 through June 11, 1999, Charles Wu led a 24-member Taoist tour to China. "We visiting seven mountains, ten cities, and numerous temples, mostly Taoist, some Buddhist, and one Confucian. Throughout the tour we were accompanied by outstanding Taoist scholar, Professor Zhan Shichuang of Xiamen University, who shared with us his great wisdom as well as rich knowledge about the philosophy, history, and practice of China's native-born religion. I had the privilege of being his interpreter, and the two of us developed a great friendship emanating from a common qi field. On several occasions, after visiting an inspiring site, Professor Zhan's poetic creativity would be set ablaze and once back on the bus he would start composing a poem, which I would immediately or subsequently translate and read to the group."

Nearly two hours' bus ride through the affluent countryside southwest of Xi'an, passing fields of wheat ripe for harvest and orchards of kiwi fruit, took us to the Louguantai Taoist temple, where, according to legend, Laozi was invited to complete his manuscripts of the Dao De Jing and lecture on it. On the site of the temple was a badly littered pond. Next to it stands a stone tablet with the inscription, "Pond of Highest Good," not intended to be ironic. Laozi teaches us, "Highest Good is like water. Water benefits all things but never contends." (8) This graphic juxtaposition of ideal and reality inspired one of our tour members to initiate a campaign for donations to clean up the pond and restore its symbolic image. A thousand U.S. dollars were subsequently remitted, with all the donors praying that the money has been put to its proper use.

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