Decoding the Principles of the Universe
Zhang Hongbao’s Tianhua Philosophy
The Mystery of Heaven’s Way and a
Classic of Humanism
My Interpretation of The Law of counterbalance of Five Elements
It is a consensus that the Tianhua Culture contains both the ancient and the contemporary, both the Chinese and the foreign; it has excavated the ancient treasures and is permeated with the modern flavors at the same time. People also agree that the Tianhua Culture integrates the Way of Heaven, the Way of Land, and the Way of humanity into an organic whole, emanating the dawning brilliance of the renaissance of the Eastern civilization. The truth of these sayings can be verified by a reading of The Law of counterbalance of Five Elements by Mr. Zhang Hongbao.
The Law of counterbalance of Five Elements is the second great universal principle as explicated in the Tianhua philosophy. It is another masterpiece offered by Mr. Zhang Hongbao after his revolutionary theory of The Basic Law of Yin and Yang. The Law of counterbalance of Five Elements divulges the macroscopic classification, categorization, re-grouping and the inter-relationships among all the things in the universe. It is a law about the inter-dependence and transformation of life and death, freedom and restraint, as well as circuitous movement. It is a law based on the positive interaction between cognition and natural laws, between knowledge and action. From this fundamental universal law can derive miraculous strategies of governing, highly effective ethical codes for social enlightenment, ingenious tactics and stratagems, and the epitomes of personal perfection. Therefore, learning and understanding this basic law is clearly significant.
One. It is based on the tradition but transcends superstitions.
The classical theory on the five elements brought up the concept of “birth” and “existence.” The explications on the importance of the five elements to birth and existence first appeared in The Book of Shang and The Book of Change. As The Book of Shang-Zhou-Hongfan put it, “Of the five elements, the first is water; the second is fire; the third is wood; the fourth is metal; and the fifth is earth .” This classification refers to the number of birth of the five elements. As The Book of Change-Xici puts it, “The first is heaven; the second is earth; the third is heaven; the fourth is earth; the fifth is heaven; the six is earth; the seven is heaven; the eighth is earth; the ninth is heaven; the tenth is earth.” This categorization refers to the number of birth and the number of existence of the five elements.
Hongfan Six of the twelfth volume of Annotations of the Book of Shang further expounds on birth and existence: “Heaven as the first gives birth to water; earth as the second gives birth to fire; heaven as the third gives birth to wood; earth as the fourth gives birth to metal; heaven as the fifth gives birth to earth. These are numbers of birth. If it stops in this way, then yang does not have a counterpart, and yin does not have a companion. Therefore, earth as the sixth gives birth to water; heaven as the seventh gives birth to fire; earth as the eighth gives birth to wood; heaven as the ninth gives birth to metal; and earth as the tenth gives birth to earth. Thus, both yin and yang have their companions, and everything received their lives. That is why they are numbers of existence.
As the citations indicate, The Book of Shang-Annotated by Hongfan presents a very clear explanation of the way in which the five elements constitute birth and existence. According to the explanations as presented by The Annotations, in our probe into the relations between the five elements on the one hand and birth and existence on the other, we need to make sure that we understand three major points:
First, the odd numbers of one, three, five, seven, and nine belong to the category of yang, and the even numbers of two, four, six, eight, and ten belong to the category of yin.
Second, heaven located above is yang, and earth located under is yin.
Third, The birth and existence of the five elements can only be accomplished on the basis of integration between the yang of heavenly qi and the yin of earthly qi.
In the explications on the formation of the five elements offered by the ancient books, the emphasis is placed on the integration between heavenly qi and earthly qi, i.e. the integration of yin and yang. Hereby lies the awareness of the Way of Heaven.
The numbers involved in the birth and existence of the five elements illustrate the integration of odd and even numbers, i.e. the integration of yin and yang. It is evident that in the ancient times the five elements were already considered to be connected to the theory of numbers.
It is stated in the medical classic of Huang Emperor Inquires-Grand Symposium on Yin and Yang, “yin and yang are the Way of Heaven and Earth, the basic law of everything in the universe, the parents of change.” “The accumulation of yang forms the heaven; the accumulation of yin forms the earth.” “Yang transpires into qi, and yin transpires into shapes.” It is also sated in The Book of Alchemy and Taoist Classics: “Yin by itself cannot contribute to birth; yang by itself cannot grow.” There is complete compatibility between the explications in these ancient classics and the theory of the “birth” and “existence” of the five elements; this consistency enables us to gain a better understanding of issues concerning the relations between yin/yang and the five elements, the intrinsic connection between yin/yang and the five elements, and the organic integration between yin/yang and the five elements.
In addition, in ancient times, the determination of the sequence of the five elements was very important. According to The Annotations, from the perspective of the ancient philosophies, the order of the five elements should be determined respectively under two different circumstances. In one arrangement, the order is determined according to the shape and size of each of the five elements. The one with smallest size should be placed first, and the one with the largest size should be placed last. “Water, as the slightest element, is the first;” “fire, a little larger, is the second;” “earth, a much larger substance, is the fifth;” Another order is determined according to the density or solidity of the five elements. The one with the least density is placed first, and the one with the most solid substance is placed last. “Wood, as an element of substance, is the third;” “Metal, as a solid element, is the fourth.”
The classical concept of the five elements relates them to the way of humanity. Judging from the sequence of the birth and existence of the five elements, we can find that this sequence is not only limited to the explications in The Annotations, but it also allegorizes the sequence of the development of the ancient Chinese society. Although the ancient philosophers did not raise this issue in definitive terms, the sequence itself reflects the historical development of the ancient society. The period that was plagued by floods (water) developed into a period when the fire was used to prepare food (fire); it further developed into a period when the woods and forests were used as shelters (wood); then ensued the period in which wood and metals were used to make containers and utensils (metal); then came the period in which the instruments made of wood and metals were used to plow the land (earth). Thus the development of the ancient society can be studied by referring to the order of the five elements.
From the connotations of the ancient concept of the five elements, we can conclude that the traditional Chinese theory of the five elements is a very valuable component in the traditional Chinese culture, giving a profound insight into an extremely intricate, brilliant system of movement, and divulging a legion of derivative laws. Specifically, it reduces the components of the universe into the five common, concrete materials of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth; it interprets the development and change of everything in nature as the result of the continuous movement and interactions of these five elements of various characters. This ingenious conjecture, as the essence of Chinese philosophy, indicated an inception of a growing perception of the rules and causes of the births and extinctions of everything in the universe. However, the sages and philosopher throughout the history have been assiduous in their attempts to seek further discoveries but failed in attaining its quintessence because of historical limitations. Unfortunately, the theory of the five elements gradually became nothing more than a word game popular in the secular world, having assumed an appearance of mystery and deteriorated into something that contains both superstitions and truth. A contemporary philosopher, Mr. Zhang Hongbao, based on the result of his assiduous research and tenacious exploration, with his perspicacity and courage, conducted a reformation and restructuring of the traditional theory of the five elements. The weakness of the traditional theory of the five elements consists in its status as an immaturity as a scientific endeavor. What is lacking is a comprehensive theoretical system of truth. That is why the traditional theory of the five elements appears to be simple, instinctive, fragmentary, and obviously empirical. It is truth that it contains the embryo and seeds of science, but it would be something far-fetched to call it a science. On this basis, Mr. Zhang retained the refined and deleted the crude, kept the genuine and spurned the spurious, used the method of induction and reduction in his innovation of the traditional theory, He removed the coarse overcoat from the traditional theory of the five elements and instilled the most recent achievements in the contemporary science and technology. He transplanted the best of the contemporary scientific methodologies such as systemizations, control theory, and structural theory of dissipation into the theory of the five elements, raising it to the level of microscopic categorization of the universe and turning the old theory into a science that divulges the laws of movement of all things in the universe. Thus, Mr. Zhang ushered this previous esoteric, mysterious intellectual product of an old civilization into a realm of new light, endowed with a new light and emanating more energy. Mr. Zhang rendered the theory of the five elements into an organic component of the Tianhua philosophy, turning it into a brand-new scientific principle that serves as a guideline for human life in the real world, thus realizing its transcendence over the superstition and the sublimation of the tradition.
Two: An earnest pursuit of knowledge resulted in the innovation of an old tradition.
How do we correctly comprehend and master the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements?
First of all, we must attain a correct understanding and a sound comprehension of the position and function of this law in the entire system of the Tianhua philosophy. Among the eight great laws in the Tianhua philosophy, the Law of the Five elements is the second after the Basic Law of Yin and Yang. The Basic Law of Yin and Yang deals with the fundamental law of everything in the universe, focuses on the basic issue of the Tianhua philosophy, and thus serves as the foundation for the Tianhua philosophy as a whole. The Basic Law of Yin and Yang gives rise to the other laws and determines them. The law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements, on the other hand, divulges the basic universal principles of the intrinsic relations and interactions among all things in the universe. The former tries to answer the questions of what the world is and how it operates, while the latter tries to answer the question of “what to do.” Therefore, this law is a very important theory that provides guidance to our understanding of the being of the world, our mastering of the trend of development, and our directions in the society and life in general.
Secondly, to reach a genuine understanding and comprehension of this scientific theory, we must have a thorough knowledge of the basic characteristics of this theory.
One of the characteristics of the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements is its novelty. Of course, what is called “new” or “old” is only relative. To attain a correct understanding and an accurate interpretation of this law, we should try to access the scientific nature of this law from the altitude of the world’s cultural systems and from the perspective of comparative cultural studies and comparative philosophical studies. That is to say, to discover the new connotations of this new law, we need to conduct our comparisons, analyses, and syntheses from both vertical and horizontal directions. Vertically, we should compare it to the traditional Chinese culture. Let’s take Taoism and Confucianism for example. The Book of Ethics by Laotze is the epitome of an extremely profound cultural system in the traditional culture; it probes the issues from the way of heaven to the way of humanity, from the evolution of the universe to the etiquettes of the society. With only five hundred characters, the book contains rich, prodigious content. However, as Mr. Zhang has pointed out, in expounding the theories of the Big Way, both Taoism and Buddhism only place emphasis on yin, on “instinctive comprehension.” That is why their works are laconic, esoteric, full of metaphysical nuances and understatements, with meanings elusive to many people, who can only remain on the surface meaning of the words and engage in constant disputes without being able to achieve a more complete understanding. As to the integrity of the theory, there is much to be desired. Confucianism, on the other hand, is focused on humanistic researches, proposing some valuable rules about governing the nation and cultivating personal virtues. Although its tenets are implicitly compatible with the Way of Heaven, (for instance, the rule of golden mean is compatible with Tao), Confucianism does not seek consciously to follow the Way of Heaven, and its tenets have tended to be formalized and sterilized into unbending orthodoxies, resulting in the deviation of those rules from the Way or even moving in directly opposite directions from the Way. Mr. Zhang Hongbao, from the advantage spatial and temporal point that comprises both the present and the future, succeeded in an organic integration of the Way of Heaven and the Way of Humanity and offered us a cogent and laconic exposition of the Great Way. This is the result of the successful “fusion” of Mr. Zhang’s prodigious erudition. Thus the traditional theory of the five elements was endowed with a new core. A horizontal comparison is a comparison between the Chinese and the foreign. We can compare this law with the classical and modern western philosophical thinking. The orthodox philosophy of materialism also expounds on the status of movement, change, and development of the world, but it is limited to the relations and movement of three-dimensional things that are yang in nature; therefore, materialism as a philosophy is of a lower dimensional level than the law of the five elements. In addition, in its cognition of the movement and change of the world, materialism is not related to spirituality. The law of the five elements, on the other hand, is the natural extension of the basic law of yin and yang; therefore, in its divulgence of the relations, movement, and change of the world, it is endowed with spirituality and therefore of a higher order than materialism per se. The Tianhua philosophy is also built upon the highest achievement of contemporary intellectual development, absorbing the essence of various theories such as systematization, control theory, information theory, theory of dissipation, and field theory. Therefore, we can compare the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements with other western schools of thought in order to attain a better understanding of the profound and prodigious connotations of this law as well as a genuine appreciation of its novelty.
The second characteristic of the law of counter balancing of the five elements is its balanced emphasis on the theory and methodology and its unity of cognition and practice. The Tianhua philosophy presents an organic unity of its worldview and its methodology. On the one hand, it presents a general view and basic perception of the essence of the world (i.e. what is the world and how does the world operates); it is a view of the world. On the other hand, this view or perception can serve as a intellectual tool that can be used as a guideline in our endeavor to know the world and to transform the world; it is a methodology. Therefore, in his explications of this law, Mr. Zhang placed an equal emphasis on the theory and the methodology, on cognition and the practice; he used the theory to elucidate the method and the cognition to guide the practice; he laconically and cogently the connotations of the law in a concise and clear language, and at the same time he paid special attention to the integration of the theory and the practice, offering guidelines for our thinking and actions and providing a the light of the Way for the society and the public in general. Therefore, Mr. Zhang’s works provide a felicitous reading, full of shining thought and brilliant ideas, illustrious with his wisdom and perspicacity. Such as the methodology of Zhonggong can be broken down to small fragments to accommodate easy practice, single tenets and ideas of the Tianhua philosophy can also be digested and comprehended alone with unlimited benefit to our enlightenment and capability.
The third characteristic of the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements is that, similar to the Tianhua philosophy as a whole, the law of the five elements is endowed with integrity and scientificality of a theoretic system. It is not a mélange of some desultory understanding of bits and pieces of the world; it boasts of its own complete theoretical structure and framework. It is this completeness that indicates the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements has overcome the fatal weaknesses of fragmentality and primitiveness of the traditional theory of the five elements and rebuilt the old theory on a foundation of scientific, systemic and theoretic unity. Therefore, systematization, completeness, and scientificality are the fundamental features of the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements.
How do we proceed to understand and grasp this theory? I think the emphasis should be placed on “research,” “comprehension,” and “application.” “Research” refers to study, exploration, and investigation. To understand such a prodigious, rich, and profound theoretic system, to probe its depth, it obviously takes a time-consuming process, which involves assiduous work, contemplation, logical analysis, and tenacity. This process of research and exploration demands from us a broad range of knowledge and the mastery of a scientific method of study. Someone has put it this way: if you want to master the knowledge on a certain area, the best way is for you to write a book about this area. It means that to write a book requires you to have the possession of comprehensive materials and to employ various methods to conduct analysis and summation. Therefore, regarding the method of research, the emphasis should be placed on flexibility and variety: such as the direct method, the indirect method, the method of causality, the method of reversion, the method of analysis, the method of summation, the method of comparison, the method of abstraction, and the method of specification. “Comprehension” can be regarded as a shortcut by which we come to an understanding of the Way through inspiration. The qigong science has accrued a host of valuable materials and experience in this respect. We can combine practice/exercises with learning, i.e. integrating the external learning process with the internal learning process, so that we can learn while we are practicing, practice while we are learning, and seek inspiration while we are practicing. “Application” is an empirical concept that Mao used to emphasize. The purpose of learning is to apply what we have learned. There is certain distinctions among the truth that we perceive, the truth that we conceive, and the truth we hold in hand. It is through application that we are able to integrate the theory that we have learned with what we do in the real world, and through this integration we can test the correctness of our understanding, attain a more profound comprehension of the theory, and realize the ultimate purpose of learning the theory by applying it. Mr. Zhang’s theory is not a dogma; we are firmly opposed to the way in which truth is treated without any flexibility and plasticity. To treat truth as a dogma is not conducive to the mastery of truth; instead it will lead us astray. Just as our fingers can point at the direction of the moon, but our fingers are not the moon itself. By the same token, we can come to an understanding of the Big Way through learning Mr. Zhang’s theory, but the theory cannot be identify with the Big Way itself. We should not lose the priority here. The speed at which we learn a subject is usually commensurate with the avidity of our pursuit of the knowledge. Of course, study is an arduous job. Just as Marx put it, during the process of pursuing the truth, there is no thoroughfare we can take; only those who do not fringe from difficulties and adversities, who are persistent and resilient, can hope to reach the brilliant summit.
Three: A Three-Dimensional Diagram for the Five Elements of the Universe
The law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements can be divided into two major parts. The first part sets up the original standard for the microscopic taxonomy of the universe as perceived by Tianhua culture, shedding an entirely new light on the scientific connotations of the five elements. The second part focuses on the counterbalancing of the five elements, offering a comprehensive explication of the way in which everything in the universe is intrinsically inter-connected, mutually related and interacted, as well as six sub-laws. In the following, we will try to follow Mr. Zhang’s thinking in our exploration of the profound connotations of the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements.
(One) The Grand Table of the Macro-Taxonomy of the Universe
Mr. Zhang Hongbao not only possesses the yin capacity of magical intuition, but also boasts of the yang capacity that surpasses the ancient sages, as demonstrated by the macro-taxonomy the universe as prescribed by Tianhua culture, which was initiated in his new theory of the five elements.
To clarify the classification of the five elements, Mr. Zhang provided us with a grand table of a macroscopic view of the universe so that we can transcend the conventional categories of the universe. Mr. Zhang’s macro-taxonomy of the universe classifies the laws of the universe into six levels: grand system, order, class, category, family, and study, and explicates respectively the content of research at the particular level. This vivid three-dimensional diagram further elucidates the position of the five geneses, pointing out that “five” belongs to the category of “genus” as the result of the five-dimensional temporal and spatial internal vertical division.
The following is a brief illustration of Mr. Zhang’s macro-taxonomy of the universe.
In the long history of the development of philosophy, there have been few philosophers who ventured to provide a detailed categorization of the universe. The one worthy of being mentioned here is the great philosopher of ancient Greece, Aristotle.
Aristotle was a prodigiously erudite thinker of ancient Greece. His areas of study included philosophy, logic, psychology, physics, politics, history, ethics and esthetics, and he made outstanding contributions in each of these areas. His works, On Instruments, (the earliest study on formal logic), Physics, and Zoology are explications on specific branches of learning based on the philosophical thinking of classification.
Evidently, taxonomy is not only the classification standard for scientific research but also an effective tool for scientific research.
From a full-dimensional temporal and spatial aptitude, Mr. Zhang Hongbao’s macro-taxonomy of the universe absorbed the essence of Aristotle’s thinking of categorization and at the same time transcended his standard of categorization. There is not concepts of grand system and order in the Aristotelian classification; even in the classification of genus, Aristotle did not probe deeply enough. For instance, Aristotle categorized the causes of the development of things into four categories: substantial (material) causes, formal causes, purposeful causes, and dynamic causes. Aristotle seemed to be unaware that substance has energy, and energy has dynamic. Mr. Zhang Hongbao used only four Chinese characters “yin and yang substance” to divulge the truth that Aristotle delineated in his Metaphysics with ten thousands words. It is quite remarkable.
Mr. Zhang Hongbao used, as the starting point of his logic, the laws governing the universe, including classification, induction, integration, the intrinsic relations among things, their counterbalance and interactions, the control within the systems, mutual restraints and circuitous movement. Therefore, in the first part of the article, Mr. Zhang delineates for us, in static terms, the framework or structure of the categorization of the universe. Then, in dynamic terms, he depicts the process of movement of the universe before its genesis, after its genesis, and during its existent status, presenting a complete dynamic model of the universe. From these two status, both static and dynamic, Mr. Zhang establishes the spatial position of “five” in the macro-system of the universe, clarifying the position and the role played by the law of the five elements in the whole system of the Tianhua philosophy. It seems as if, under the guidance of Mr. Zhang, we can go beyond the bound of the universe and take a bird’s view of the five elements. It is both a close-up, panoramic, and all-inclusive view. Later, the article gives an analysis of the characteristics of the five elements and creatively proposes the theory of sub-categories and change of categories, thus overcoming the rigidity of the traditional theory of five elements. Through this step-by-step approach, from the macroscopic view to a close-up view, from a far away distance to the near vision, we gradually come to an understanding of the true connotations of the five elements, setting a pre-condition for a further and deeper understanding of the content of the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements.
(Two) What is “five”?
Fronted with a chaotic world, if we want to know the essential characteristics of things in the universe and their mutual relations, we need to adopt the methods of analysis and synthesis. Taxonomy, as a combination of these two methods, is mankind’s most fundamental way of thinking. What is “five”? Essentially, it is number that indicates the result of the classification reached by the sages among our ancestors after their analyses and syntheses of things in the universe. It indicates that all the things in the universe can be classified into five major categories, i.e. water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.
According to Mr. Zhang Hongbao’s theoretic system of macro-taxonomy of the universe, “five” belongs to the level of “category” in this system. “Category” is the study of the laws governing the movement and change of things that are less than five-dimensional (length, width, height, time, and space). Within the five dimensional time/space, there are five major categories in the vertical direction, and three worlds in the horizontal direction (heaven, earth, human). This taxonomy is permeated with the concept of yin and yang. Therefore, what “five” reveals is not only “five elements” but also the contents of heaven, earth, human, yin, and yang. According to Mr. Zhang’s taxonomy, “five” belongs to the level of “category,” which is above “family” and “study,” but below “grand system, order, and class. Evidently, “five” contains the characteristics of “grand system,” “order,” and “class,” but is devoid of the character of “family” and “study.” Therefore, it is an semi-abstract, semi-concrete philosophical concept.
(Three) What is “Tao”?
According to the law of the five elements, these six levels are not isolated and static; they are dynamic, changing, developing, and constantly evolving, thus ushering in the theory of the genesis and movement of the universe. The genesis and movement of the universe begins with “the grand system” at the macroscopic level, and “the grand system” has “Tao” as its subject of research. Therefore, to understand the law governing the genesis of the universe, we must first understand “Tao.”
In Taoism, “Tao” is an elusive metaphysical concept. People can never hope to reach a clear, lucid understanding of “Tao.” With his outstanding wisdom, Mr. Zhang used his incisive, clear-cut language in his delineation of the content, characteristics, special features, and function of “Tao.” However, determined by its own special features, “Tao” at its core remains something extremely difficult to understand. What is required here is perspicacity and intuitive comprehension. Its existence can be intuitively approached and felt through practice and cultivation. Anyway, what on earth is “Tao”? What follows is my personal view, offered here for the readers’ reference only. First of all, I think, “Tao” is not an abstract intellectual concept; it is, rather, an actual existence that is amorphous, invisible, and traceless. It does not have the distinction of time and space, where space and time are mixed together, nothing is specific or distinguishable, and everything seems to be illusionary and can be anything else. It is something that can only be intuitively comprehended but cannot be conveyed by language. It can be infinitesimal; it can be colossal at the same time. It can be very simple and crude; it can be extremely refined and subtle at the same time. It is both ephemeral and eternal, everything and nowhere, void and substantial, non-existence and real at the same time. It gives rise to everything in the universe. That is why Mr. Zhang said that “Tao” is the progenitor of nature and the source of the universe. Its content is the general law or general tenet that governs all the things in the universe. All the existent things in the world, all categories and all rules are its derivatives.
(Four) The Dynamic Model that Generates Everything in the Universe
Then how does everything in the universe derive from “Tao”? To put it briefly, it is this simple: Tao begets one, one begets two, two begets three, and three begets all things.”
1. “One” is the Primal Chaos
How do we understand “Tao begets one”? Tao is in the middle of an eternal, spiral, and circuitous movement, without a beginning and without an end. Determined by its internal laws, at a certain stage of its movement, its energy reached a high density. Finally, this accumulation of energy forms a chaotic, egg-shaped body. This egg-shaped body is the beginning status of the universe. We call it the primal chaos. Simply put, “one” is the primal chaos. “One” is called body in the macro-taxonomy of the universe.
2. “Two” is Yin and Yang
Then how did “one” beget “two”? And what is “two”? The primal chaos begotten by Tao was an ocean of energy in the form of gas. It was similar to water in nature and, in the process of it movement, it produced the status of wood. The status of wood, in turn, continued in its movement and produced fire, and the fire produced heat, and the heat resulted in an expansion. When the expansion reached a certain border point, a big explosion occurred. The big bang resulted in yin and yang materials. There came “two.” In the macro-taxonomy of the universe, “two” belong to the level of class. Because of the big bang of the universe, the pure yang ascended and became the heaven; the impure yin descended and became the earth, which gave rise to the class of earth. In its continuous movement, earth produced metal. And the contraction of metal caused the dew to congeal into water, thus forming an organic cycle.
3. “Three” Equals “Five”
The integrations of yin materials and yang materials at different temporal/spatial points produced a great variety of different double materials, which is “three.” The “three” which consists of everything in the universe can be reduced to five categories: i.e. water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. That is to say that these five categories of double materials constitute everything in the universe. Therefore, these five categories are the “three” that Laotsu referred to in his theory of the genesis of the universe. That “three” begot everything in the universe is tantamount to five categories gave rise to everything in the universe. “Three” equals “five”! With his laconic explications, Mr. Zhang magically resolved the problem of the relationship between the theory of yin and yang on the one hand and the theory of the five elements on the other, a relationship that has puzzled people for a long time. After the genesis of all the things in the universe, they operate according to the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements and develop under the impact of this law. Based on the above exposition, we can use a diagram to illustrate the dynamic model of the genesis of the universe. (See the diagram below)
(Five) The Idiosyncratic “Five Brothers” and Their Blood Ties
With his laconic language, Mr. Zhang highlighted the characteristics, special features and classification of the things belong to the five categories, as if he were lining up five brothers born of the same mother for a comparison in order to distinguish them in terms of facial features, temperaments, and dispositions. It is the same case in our attempt to understand and grasp the law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements. Our successful application of this law can only be based on a solid, substantial comprehension or understanding of the characteristics of the things belonging to these five categories.
On the basis of his explications of the characteristics of the five elements, Mr. Zhang went further to put forward the innovative theory of sub-category and change of category, which was not covered by the traditional theory of the five elements. The world we live in is changing constantly, and all the things in the world are of great varieties; therefore, it seems to be arbitrary to try to embrace everything in the universe within the characteristics of the standard theory of the five-elements. Actually, besides the things that can be included in the standard five elements, there are things in the universe that are similar to but not identical with the five elements. Besides the five brothers, there are their cousins and other relatives. Therefore, Mr. Zhang put forward the theory of sub-category and change of category, developing the categories of the five elements and greatly expanding the scope of the five elements so that they become more inclusive and comprehensive. In this way, the theory of the five elements was liberated from the rigid framework of its tradition and entered a new phase of development with renewed energy. This is an important aspect of the novelty of this novel theory. This is a positive result of taking a flexible approach to the development of the theory of five elements.
So far, we have obtained a clear idea about the connotations of “five.” Then what is “element”? “Element” refers to the movement, change, and circuitous operation of the “five.” Five elements refer to the circuitous movement of the things of the five grand categories according to their internal laws. This is really a very concise exposition.
Four: The Sacred Hand that Manipulates the World � The law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements.
So far Mr. Zhang has expounded profoundly on the essence of “the five elements,” solved the problem of what are “the five elements,” and presented a basically static picture of the system of the universe. The present section will be focused on the exposition of the why everything in the universe is mutually related to each other and interacts with each other. The central issue is about the general order of things and special rules. The problems to be solved here is “how.” The approach is a dynamic research the law of movement and change of things.
The first part places its emphasis on the theory. The second part will place equal emphases on both the theory and the methodology, on both the law governing the mutual relations and interactions among things and the application of this law on the actual work, design, and application of control and restraint within the system, as well as on how to understand the approaches and methods of counterbalancing, circulation, and operation. The research is focused also on the law’s application feasibility as well as its unprecedented novelty, its brilliance of wisdom and strategy. The law of mutual promotion and restraint and counterbalancing of the five elements consists of six sub-laws. What follows is an introduction to these sub-laws.
(1) The explanations of the law of mutual promotion and restraint
According to the Tianhua philosophy, there are countless ways in which things in the universe relate to each other and interact with each other. The interaction between yin and yang begets the five elements, the five elements beget everything in the universe, and everything in the universe in its turn plays its respective functions in its own ways. However, one of the most basic functions is “life-promotion” and “restraint.” Therefore, in his exposition, Mr. Zhang gives priority to the law of mutual promotion and restraint.
To understand the connotations of the law of mutual promotion and restraint, we need to approach this topic in the following respects:
1. What is “life-promotion”? What is “restraint”?
Mutual promotion refers to the positive impact, promotion, or enhancement a thing exerts upon another thing. Restraint refers to the negative impact, constraint, limit a thing exerts on another thing.
2. How are mutual promotion and mutual restraint carried out among the five elements? What is the result of the mutual promotion and mutual restraint?
Each of the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal promotes the next in order and restrains the one after the next in order in an endless, circuitous fashion. And everything itself relates to the other in self-promoting, promoting the other, self-restraining, and restraining the self. Mutual promotion results in the transition of status, leading to enhancive circulation, while mutual restraint results in restrictive circulation.
3. The universality of mutual promotion and restraint and their mutual relations.
The relations of mutual promotion and mutual restraint exist in all things. This is an universal phenomenon. Mutual promotion and restraint is tantamount to mutual reliance, mutual penetration, and mutual assistance. To better understand this law, we can resort to the examples given by Mr. Zhang. Here let’s analyze one of the examples.
In the United States, in Alaska natural conservation area, people can sometimes see packs of wolves running amuck and devouring deer everywhere. The result is a pause in the natural growth of deer population and the ensuing human campaign to eliminate wolves. What is unexpected is that, without their natural enemies, the deer population grows without any restraint, which results in the imminent destruction of originally fecund vegetation. Consequently, the previously flourishing deer begin to die in great numbers because of lack of adequate food source and because of weak physique as a result of insufficient exertion and ease of life. So how should we do to make the deer regain their strength? Americans start to reintroduce wolves into this area as “doctors” who can cure deer of their atrophies. And for the first time, wolves become the protected species in this area. And for the first time, wolves become comic characters. Eventually this natural conservation area regains its vitality. This story demonstrates the relation of mutual promotion and restraint within the system of vegetation, deer, and wolves. They are mutually dependent and inseparable. Without the restraint of the wolves, the deer will find themselves in a crisis of survival. Wolves are meant to restrain deer, but this restraint contains a factor that ensures deer’s salubrious existence. This is what is called promotion in embodied in restraint. The deer are meant to promote the wolves, but the reduction in the deer population inevitably leads to a crisis in the wolves’ survival. This is what is called restraint is embodied in promotion. Therefore, the two things are mutually promoting and restraining, interdependent and inseparable. Of course, there are plenty of similar examples that can serve demonstrate this law.
The connotations of the law of mutual promotion and restraint as explicated above are part of the theory. What follows will be the specific application of this law in social lives. This is a demonstration concerning methodology. Here Mr. Zhang mainly introduces the principle of “self-promoting” and “promoting the other,” with the emphasis placed on “promoting the other,” and applies this principle to the issue of talent discovery and cultivation. The result is a systematic view of talent as advocated by the Tianhua philosophy.
Talent is an important factor in social development. For a unit or an institution to develop and gain strength, an important condition is the existence of talent and the use of human resources. If mistakes are made in talent identification of talent and the employment of human resources, then the business will suffer losses, setbacks, or even failure.
This view of talent includes how to identify talent, how to use talent, and how to cultivate talent. To use talent, we must know how to identify talent first. And to identify talent we must have a criterion for judgment, to make sure what kind of human resources we need. The talent criterion set by the Tianhua philosophy is the coexistence of virtue and talent. Specifically, the criteria are what Mr. Zhang describes as “the six virtues:” moral integrity, sense of justice, loyalty, dependability, courage, and wisdom. How to identify a talent? One thing we can do is to make a distinction between the genuine and the spurious and avoid judging a person by his or her appearance; in this respect, Mr. Zhang has provided us with a list of characteristics of fifteen types of people. Another important thing we should do is to test a talent. Mr. Zhang summarized the successful experience of testing talents in history and proposed ten methods of testing talents, which are of very important reference value in our attempts to identify talents. According to the Tianhua philosophy, to use a person is to use his/her strengths and avoid his/her weaknesses; guide him/her with “six virtues” and warn him/her with “six vices.” Mr. Zhagn also introduced the episodes of “six virtues” and “six vices” about Liu Xiang in West Han Dynasty. The method of cultivating talents is about educating and developing talents. According to Tianhua culture, to facilitate talent cultivation we need an environment characterized by magnanimity and tolerance. As Mr. Zhang put it, the Big Way of the universe allows the coexistence of the pure and the impure, of benevolence and malignance. The sages must have munificence, tolerance, and open-mindedness to embrace the whole society. An environment that is favorable to talent discovery and cultivation is one in which magnanimity is upheld as a high virtue and the public mentality is one of tolerance. Of course, tolerance should not be identified with indiscrimination; it should be based on principles. With this mentality, there are three specific methods: first, the establishment of a favorable environment and a positive public mentality as fertile soil for the cultivation of talents; secondly, a genuine respect for knowledge, for ability, and for talents. We should provide a stage for talents to develop their abilities and give them full confidence; thirdly, acceptance of talents from everywhere and make friends with various kinds of people. Identification of talents is the precondition for using talents, using talents is the purpose of identifying talents, and identifying and using talents are based on cultivation of talents. Without human resources, how can we use talents?
All in all, we should understand the way of “promoting self” and “promoting the other, and at the same time, we should learn to employ the method of “promoting self” and “promoting the other.” We should be wise in selecting talents, hire people according to their abilities and virtues, be magnanimous with our colleagues, and make friends with as many capable people as possible. This is especially important for those who are in the leadership positions. For them, to enhance personal cultivation is particularly significance.
(Two) The Explications on the Law of Cheng Ru
This sub-law divulges the principle of contravariance: things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme. The mastery of this law will enable us to apply the rule of moderation to our daily lives to avoid the transition of things towards an unfavorable direction. This law contains two levels of connotations:
1. “Cheng” refers to the peak of prosperity, and “Kang Cheng” refers to excessive prosperity. So “Kang Cheng” is the prelude to contravariance. “Kang Cheng,” therefore, is deleterious.
2. “Ru” means humiliation and bullying. “Fan Ru” means counter restraint. “FanRu” disrupt the movement of mutual promotion and restraint, resulting in a situation where the natural process of mutual promotion and restraint comes to a dead end, thus giving rise to problems.
The Law of Cheng RU actually refers to the degree of moderation concerning the mutual promotion and restraint of the five elements. Whether it is called “excessive prosperity” or “immoderation,” it both refers to the loss of balance. This law tells us the importance of temperature control, especially referring to the strategic steps concerning the battlefield as a whole. If “Kang Cheng Fan Ru” occurs, it will result in a great loss. Therefore, it is necessary to exert control over the change and limit it to a certain range; otherwise, things will get out of control.
The law of Cheng Ru can also be used in reverse. That is, we can mislead the other side in the direction of “Cheng Ru” in order to reach our own goal. In the modern management theory, it is called “the incitement mechanism.” For instance, in the period of warring states, Tian Dan was defending the city of Jimo against a siege staged by the state of Yan. He purposefully spread the rumor that what he feared most was for Yan army to cut off the prisoners’ noses and put the prisoners in front of the attacking division to cause fear among the people who were defending the city of Jimo. The Yan army heard the rumor, believed it to be true, and did exactly what was stated in the rumor. The Qi soldiers and civilians who were defending the city of Jimo saw that the enemies had cut off the noses of the prisoners, was outraged, and became more determined in their resolution to fight for their city. As the next step, Tian Dan sent an espionage to leak the information to the Yan army: what Tian Dan was most apprehensive about was for the Yan army to exhume the corpses out of the graves outside the city wall, for that would break the Qi people’s heart and make them too weak to fight. The Marshall of the Yan army heard about it and thought it was a most effective strategy. So he ordered his soldiers to dig the Qi graves and burn the bones in public. The Qi soldiers and civilian watched the scene from the top of the city wall, were outraged at what they saw, and became even more determined to fight the Yan army to the end. Knowing that the right moment had arrived, Tian Dan made preparations for a counterattack. He arranged for a fake surrender to make the Yan army less vigilant and then used the bulls with their tails on fire to defeat the enemies. In this way, the state of Qi defeated the state of Yan and regained all the land they had previously lost.
(Three) The explications on the law of counterbalance
Counterbalancing belongs to the category of “restraint.” In human society, “restrain” must be realized through “counterbalancing.” If we compare the law of counterbalance with the law of mutual promotion and restraint, we can see that “mutual promotion and restraint” is a universal phenomenon and law of the universe, while the law of counterbalance can be applied to a society with intelligence. In other words, the law of counterbalance is a special application of the law of mutual promotion and restraint within the scope of human intelligence, a special expression of the law of mutual promotion and restraint in an intelligential society. Therefore, it is of special significance for us to determine its application range to facilitate our understanding and employment of the law.
The connotations of the law of counterbalance include the following aspects:
1. What is “Zhi” (counter)?
“Zhi” has two connotations: first, it refers to the regulations and restrictions imposed on people’s thinking and behaviors, to the restraints, limitations, constraints and control people impose upon themselves through law, rationality, and compassion. Secondly, “Zhi” refers to the restriction, control, manipulation, and conquest realized through the means of plotting or through the adoption of means including law, rationality and compassion to achieve balance or counterbalancing.
2. What is “Hua” (balance or resolution)?
“Hua” is resolution or a solution that brings out life; it is a realization of solution or life through the means of “counterbalancing.”
3. The relationship between life-promotion and restraint
“Life-promotion” and “restraint” are interdependent. It does not work if there is no promotion, and its does not work either if there no restraint. Without life-promotion, then there is no source of birth or growth; without restraint, there will be excesses that will be deleterious. Life-promotion and restraint rely upon each other; they coexist not only in spite of but also because of their differences.
How do we understand this law? The Big Way is relentless. The Big Way demands that our world should maintain a peaceful coexistence of yin and yang and a balanced development. It is the same case with the human society. As the most basic unit of the society, a person should also follow the Way. The law of counterbalance is about humanism. In the human society, an individual is connected to a variety of other individuals and things in different ways and restrained by a variety of factor, including life-promoting factors and restraining factors. The life-promoting factors are favorable factors in an individual’s environment, factors that enhance his existence, development and progress; there are also restraining factors that regulate and control an individual’s thinking and actions. Restraint has two levels of meanings: first, if an individual follows the way and practice “self-restraint” and “self-conscious control” in accordance with the law of life-promotion and restraint, then he or she is practicing restraint, control, and limitations on the self and others in the framework of law, rationality, and emotion. If a person conscientiously abides by law, then he or she is practicing self-restraint. By the same taken, in a working unit, a person first of all has to follow the regulations and rules set by that unit. Secondly, one can also practice restraint on others according to the regulations and rules, through adopting tactics and strategies and using such means as law, rationality and emotions to realize restraint, control, manipulation and conquest to attain a resolution or balance. These two meanings are mutually inclusive and interdependent. If one only practices self-restraint and self-perfection, that can only results in an enervated self subject to bullying from the others. On the other hand, if one only focuses on restraining other people, that may result in excess self-expansion and cause the self to move in the opposition direction, heading toward self-destruction.
This principle is of special importance in today’s society, which is characterized by plurality, multi-dimensions, and multi-perspectives, multi-orientations, and rapid, radiating developments. Our negligence of one of the links in today’s society may cause chain-reactions and lead to imbalance of yin and yang in the whole society, resulting in negative social consequences. That is why, from a macroscopic perspective, we need to know how to adjust the relations among various social links and learn to use various means to dissolve and transform various unfavorable factors.
After divulging the content of this law, Mr. Zhang goes on, from a practical perspective, to explicate on the counterbalancing methods of self-restraint and restraining the other.
In his discussion on the concept of self-restraint, Mr. Zhang touches upon the fifteen areas of governing a state, leading an army, managing a household, social ethics, human resources, inter-personal relationship, business, international relationship, litigation, restraining the other, inability to fight back, the time of prosperity, adversities, confidentiality, and mundane affairs. In great depths and detail, Mr. Zhang brilliant expounds upon the essence of self-restraint, asking us to follow the law of counterbalance. If we let our actions be guided by the law, and we will enjoy good fortunes; if we act in contrary to the law, we will suffer from ill fortunes.
This law has resulted from experiences accumulated in the human struggle for survival and development over a long historical period of social practice. At the same time, this law is a scientific conclusion reached by Mr. Zhang after his creative application of the law of life-promotion and restraint to his research in the special area of the human society. This law should be the guiding principle for our work and daily activities. With a firm grasp of this principle, we are able to find our positions in our society quickly, no matter where we are and no matter from what angles we are looking at the world. This is a philosophical concept that we must study assiduously and experience repeatedly so that we can conscientiously practice self-restraint. We must use this principle as a guiding light that directs us in our struggle toward independence, survival and development.
In his article, Mr. Zhang also gives a detailed discussion on the essential qualities a general must possess in leading an army. As an intelligent person in a modern society, a person actually should regard himself/herself as a marshal leading himself in the battle of life. Having a sagacious attitude towards life is a benchmark of wisdom and maturity. A person’s life is full of vicissitudes, sometimes prosperous and sometimes out of luck. A great success in your career may cause other people to misjudge you and tend to give you an assessment that surpasses your actual merits, which makes you feel as if you are equally good in other aspects, like carrying a “halo.” At a moment like this, you need to maintain your sobriety. Otherwise, you will find yourself in danger of “being murdered by accolade.” Actually, what is needed is self-restraint.
There are periods of low tides in our lives. Sometimes we may suffer fatal blows, resulting in depression. But we should not allow ourselves be tied up by this type of mood. Nor should we allow ourselves to be buried in pessimism, isolation, cynicism, or even a suicidal mood. An individual who understands life can feel sad, but he or she does not indulge in sadness. This is an important distinction between sagacity and lack of sagacity in life. Essentially, this can be called the art of self-restraint in life. This principle as expounded by Mr. Zhang deserves to be ruminated over and over again, for it is so rich and profound!
Another important aspect of counterbalance is restraining the other, which is the restraint imposed upon the object by the subject of self. Here counterbalance can be further divided into two major categories of check & balance and conquest. It is to attain the goal of governing by imposing restrictions, restraint, control, and limitations on the object through the employment strategies and power.
The first category is check and balance. The ultimate purpose is, through the use of tactics and power, to achieve balance in a dynamic system and to ensure its movement towards the orchestrated goal. The precondition for check and balance is the establishment of relatively stable managerial order, such as the installation of a constitution, a legislative system, and a educational system after the establishment of a state. The establishment of the managerial order makes it possible to effectively implement a variety of check and balance measures. The methods of check and balance include containment, restraint, enforcement, and dissolution.
Mr. Zhang goes on to discuss specifically the methods of containment, restraint, enforcement, and dissolution. This actually involves a whole set of managerial methods and managerial art, including both macroscopic strategies and microscopic tactics and their organic integration. These methods used to be secret ancient governing art stratagems and social tactics. After Mr. Zhang’s innovations, they have become a series of very practical managerial blueprints. The depths and profundity of these methods can be appreciated only after assiduous studies and researches.
The second category is conquest. Mr. Zhang’s discussion here is very detailed, vivid, and scientific. Conquest is the main content of “restraining the other and also an important way of achieving counterbalance. The content of this category involves five aspects
□ the purpose of conquest: to make things move in the direction favorable to our interest and our objectives;
□ the criterion of conquest: the extent to which our interest and political and military objectives are realized;
□ the method of conquest: there are two kinds: to achieve conquest by means of tactics and to achieve conquest by means of skills. Conquest by means of tactics can be further divided into complete conquest and conquest through fight. The former is to win without fighting, while the latter is to win through fighting.
□ Conquest by means of tactics: Tactics can be further divided into theories and methods.
In the section dealing with theories, Mr. Zhang explicates from various perspectives and at various levels, on the principles of conquest by means of tactics; in the section dealing with methods, Mr. Zhang breaks it apart into thirteen separate parts, with the emphasis on the basic principle of being flexible in the employment of specific methods, which should be determined by every particular situation.
□ the essentials of leading an army to victory
Mr. Zhang points out that one of the essential principles in leading an army to victory is the establishment of clear criteria for rewards and punishments. He goes on to present a list of twelve most effective methods in achieving military goals.
Mr. Zhang apparently is only talking about the art of military strategies and tactics. Nevertheless, the significance of his discussion here goes far beyond military applications. The art can also be applied to politics, economy, culture, enterprise, commerce, social relations, mundane affairs, and other areas of human society. For example, he focuses his discussion on the art of war because the true way of conquest can be typically demonstrated in the art of war and military strategies. A careful research on the law of balance and art of conquest will lead us to discover that it can be successfully applied in the macroscopic area of governing a nation and in the microscopic field of managing a household or cultivating personal virtues. What it reflects is the crystallization of the Chinese people’s wisdom that has thousands of years of history. It is the classics of oriental thinking.
(Four) Explications on the Multiple Arrangements
The law of multiple arrangements refers to the advisability of arbitrary design and setup of various arrangements in response to specific time, space, and particular conditions. The principle of setting up the multiple arrangement is flexibility, responsiveness, and avoidance of rigidity.
This law is Mr. Zhang’s creation, signaling a great leap forward from the traditional theory of five elements. What the traditional theory of five elements provides is a thinking model of enclosed, circuitous development. On the basis of the theory of five elements, the Tianhua philosophy put forward the theories of standard status, sub-status and change of status, greatly expanding the external range of the five elements, signaling a breakthrough of the enclosed movement model of the five elements and replacing it with an open, flexible, and dynamic movement model. According to the Tianhua philosophy, there are a great variety of changes in the interactions among things. Therefore, the connections among things will result in a great variety of arrangements and combinations. That is why we are required to look at the world from a comprehensive perspective and learn to deal with issues in a flexible fashion. Hence arises the need for arbitrary setups
With the precondition of following the law, the setups can be arranged arbitrarily and in countless ways. The purpose of setting up the arrangements is to taking advantage of the arrangements. The principle for using the arrangements is “flexibility.” Taking a flexible approach towards a dynamic situation as a whole can ensure the movement towards the goal through containment, check and balance, and conquest. The word “flexibility” contains the meaning of “change.” Poverty makes us think of change, and change will create channels towards a long-term success. Therefore, “flexibility” is the soul of success.
In the history of Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong was an expert in setting up arrangements in order to attain the goal of revolution. During the period of the First Great Revolution in 1927, because Chen Duxiu carried out a surrender policy that caused a failure in the revolution and a separation between the communists and the nationalists, the contradictions escalated and there emerged a situation of intensified conflicts. There existed a gap in the strengths of the two sides, our side was much weaker, and the revolution was in a low tide. At this crucial moment, Mao Zedong rapidly adjusted the setup to engage in a new struggle, establishing revolutionary bases in the rural areas where the enemy’s forces were relatively weaker. Thus, Mao opened a new path characterized by staging a siege of the cities from the countryside before finally capturing the cities, reserved the revolutionary forces, and successfully made the revolution to change in the direction favorable to our side.
As we often put it in our daily lives, if people move they tend to prosper; if trees move they tend to die. This is the pattern of changing the arrangement. In a working unit, because of various reasons, a person may be entangled in serious conflicts with his superiors or subordinates. The adoption of the method of leaving or changing the environment is a good way out. Of course, the way to change the arrangement is very flexible. When we have a firm grasp of this law, we will be able to survive and develop more felicitously.
(Five) Explications on the Law of Power of Situation
1. What is the law of power of situation?
Things in the world always develop along a tortuous and spiraling track. This track can be divided into several phases. It is the same case with the movement of five elements. In the process of things’ development, according to the change of time, place, and conditions, the energy stored in a particular phase and the relevant condition is called the power of situation. There are intrinsic connections such as movement, change, continuation, and restraint between different powers of situation, referred to as the law of power of situation.
2. The significance of mastering the law of power of situation
The mastery of the law will enable us to make correct assessments about various situations, take advantage of the normal situation, grasp the trend, set up favorable arrangements, adopt good policies, have a complete control of the situation, and gain great freedom at a higher level.
3. The categorization of the powers of situation
According to the temporal/spatial criteria, the powers of situations can be classified as temporal situation, temporal power; spatial situation, spatial power; from the perspective of change and development, the powers of situations can be classified into normal situation, normal power; changing situation, changing power. In addition, there are various combinations of powers of situation: high-position power, low-position power; external power, internal power; network power, spot power; single-direction power, multiple-direction power; axel power, block power; as well as acupoint power, line-surface power. In the traditional theory of five elements, in accordance with the change of powers of situation in response to different spatial and temporal points, the processes of things’ development are classified into five powers of situation: prosperity, semi-prosperity, pause, closure, and death. The law governing the change of these five powers of situation is as follows: when a certain element is situated in prosperity, the element it begets is situated in semi-prosperity, the element that begets the first element is situated in pause, the element that restrains the first element is situated in closure, and the element restrained by the first element is situated in death. Therefore, the law that governs the five elements in prosperity, semi-prosperity, pause, closure, and death can be expressed as below: When the time comes for me to be prosperous, those that I beget will enjoy semi-prosperity, those that beget me will find themselves in pause, those that restrain me will find themselves in closure, and those that I restrain will find themselves in death.
This law divulges the different powers of situation for different things in different powers of situation.
Following this basic principle, we should be able to constantly adjust our positions in the social life, set up different goals to strive for, make sure that our actions follow the way, and attain complete liberty both physically and spiritually.
To be more specific:
□ According to different characteristics of things in different temporal and spatial power situations, we identify our own positions in the society. First of all, we should identify our temperaments and dispositions. Mr. Zhang sums up five basic types of personalities: those of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. We can identify our types according to our character and temperament. Secondly, judging from the perspective of the life-promotion and restraint relations, we can look for an environment that will be life-promoting, which includes superiors and professions that will be life-promoting to us, or geographical surroundings that will be life-promoting to us.
□ According to different temporal and spatial conditions and different temporal and spatial power situations, we can find the track of movement of our own prosperity, semi-prosperity, pause, closure and death, before we can determine our own strategies of action and goals in different phases and stages. In this way, we can avoid unnecessary waste and concentrate our energy and effort on the realization of our values in life.
Mr. Zhang also conducted researches on the methods of applying the law of powers of situations in military and commercial fields. All in all, no matter where we apply this law, we should try to set up a favorable arrangement and be flexible in adopting our plans and strategies.
How to set up a favorable arrangement and to adopt a position according to a particular situation?
First of all, we need to make a judgment about the situation. Make sure that we understand the historical moment, the current situation, the allover arrangement, the power situation of the time and the opportunities; make sure that we know the temporal/spatial point we occupy; make sure that we know the various relationships. These are preconditions.
Secondly, apply the law in our decisions on setups and arrangements. Make efforts to create an arrangement or environment or power situation that is favorable to us. Strategically, we need to create an overall favorable environment; tactically, we need to create an overwhelming condition in our own favor.
Next, in our attempts to set up a favorable situation, we need to possess the qualities of subtlety, tenacity, resilience, latency, brevity, and flexibility. Of course, the purpose of setting up a favorable situation is to take advantage of it. In fact, Mr. Zhang uses these examples to remind people to use their own wisdom to ensure their survival and prosperity. The mastery of these tactics will enable us deal with future situations with more confidence.
(Six) Explications on the Law of Transmitting Change
Things in our world affect each other and interact upon each other. The change of things of one category will inevitably influence and incur changes to adjacent things, and in due course further impact others of other categories. And changes of things of other categories will in turn produce impacts on things of the first category. This is called the law of transmitting change.
The transmitted change of the five elements can be classified into two categories. One is the transmitted change of things that are mutually promoting; the other is the transmitted change of things that are mutually restraining. Things that are mutually promoting form a linkage; when the energy of one link increases, it will benefit the other links. For instance, when Taiping Tianguo Revolution was in its peak, the internal sections should be mutual promoting. However, Hong Xiuquan was unable to manage well the contradictions or conflicts between Yang Xiuqing on the one hand and Wei Changhui and Shi Dakai on the other. He hanged Yang Xiuqing, who was one of the most important generals and who played a balancing role within the Taiping army. The consequence was catastrophic: the internal conflicts intensified and the strength of the uprising army was seriously weakened, resulting in the failure of the entire revolution. Things that are mutually restraining also form a linkage. For instance, when Xiang Yu marched into the interior China, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity created by the situation that all the warlords were still far away in Xianyang City. He did not take this opportunity to create inner turmoil among them, induce them to fight each other, and try to eliminate the most powerful leader in the confusion. Instead, he allowed them to coexist peacefully. The consequence was fatal: Liu Bang rose to become Xiang Yu’s formidable opponent and eventually defeated Xiang Yu to become the first emperor of Han dynasty.
The law of transmitted change is universally applicable, whether it is transmitted change among things that are mutually promoting or transmitted change among things that are mutually restraining. From the medical perspective, Mr. Zhang illustrates this law through the example of the relations between the eyes and the liver, and between the liver and the kidney in order to help us to better understand the law. Of course transmitted changes take place ubiquitously. For instance, the humid climate in the temperate zone produces grasslands, grasslands in turn make it possible for the herbivore animals to flourish, and the existence of herbivores create the condition for the survival of carnivores. If bad weather occurs and causes a decrease in rainfall, a series of chain reactions are likely to ensue, having a negative impact on cattle farming. This is an example of transmitted change among mutually promoting things. There is an interesting phenomenon in the rural areas. Many farmers believe in a long-held superstition that the snake is the dragon reincarnated. If a snake is found in someone’s home, it is regarded as an auspicious sign, for people believe that the snake can protect people and bring peace to the house. This superstition was actually originated from transmitted change. Since the snake is the natural enemy of the rat and the rate to a certain extent is humans’ natural enemy, the presence of the snake in the house will keep the rat away and prevent the loss of food. In this sense, the presence of the snake in the house will bring peace to it. This is an example of the transmitted change among mutually restraining things. There are countless similar examples in our lives. Therefore, our mastery of the law of transmitted change and our ability to apply it in various fields will enable us to reach our goals in those fields. This law is of special significance as a guiding principle in our social practices.
The Tianhua philosophy represents a great leap forward in the history of philosophy. Its profundity and prodigious ingenuity endow it with an irresistible, magical appeal. It may be too early to attempt to carry out a comprehensive, systematic examination, analysis, or assessment of the innovated philosophical thinking and its far-reaching impacts on our society. Therefore, what I have written so far is only intended to elicit more responses and comments from other readers who are interested in this philosophy. I look forward to corrections and criticism from my readers.
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