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"Ta Ssu Ming"

[The Greater Master of Fate]

The following poem is from the Chiu Ko, the "Nine Sings" by Ch'u Yuan, c. 200 BCE. Normally, one thinks of the whirlwind as driving leaves or animals before it. In this poem, the Ta Ssu Ming reverses this cliche formula--he drives the whirlwind before him. In essence, the whirlwind becomes transformed into a beast of burden, the horse pulling the chariot that is the cloud.

Open wide the door of heaven!1

On a black cloud I ride in splendour,

Bidding the whirlwind drive before me,

Causing the rainstorm to lay the dust.

1. The word translated here as "Heaven" is tian in Mandarin Chinese. The written symbol for tian literally means "the highest," and can refer to both "the sky" and "the gods." The written ideograph shows an inverted V shape with two horizontal lines crossing the top, the highest of which hold blank space, indicating that there is nothing above this highest point. Again, the idea of celestial power is linked to both the skies and to righteous destruction.

The word translated as "door" in line one might refer to the door of a stable, which would match the image of the rider setting forth to bring the rain clouds.





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