D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi




The counterpart or balance to the descending Kun 鲲 is the ascending Peng 鵬. The Kun comes from the darkness of the North Sea or Lake of Heaven. It transforms into the Peng which journeys to the darkness of the South Sea or Lake of Heaven. Peng was originally a variant of the word feng 鳳 as in fenghuang 鳳凰 or Chinese phoenix. The Kun and Peng are giant "imaginary" animals.


International Zuangzhi Conference at Great Hall Beijing
Poet wears a blue shirt in back row


                The fish image sees me as I seize it.
                It leaps free to break bonds that hold.
                A bold bound upward does unfold.
                Gold drops fall off of scales sunlit.

                D. Carlton Rossi copyright 2016

The title may be translated as "The fish is happy"


The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi started out with the fish-bird myth in his philosophical writings. The first chapter ("Free and Easy Wandering" 逍遙遊 begins with one of three versions of this myth.

In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is K'un. The K'un is so huge I don't know how many thousand li he measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is Peng.... (Wiki Peng mythology)

The cicada 蜩 laughs at the distances the giant Peng travels. It is unbelievable to the cicada since it can only fly to the nearby tree or nearly to it. However, if a Peng eats a cicada cannot the cicada fly great distances and become a Peng?


                                        Korean Temple

It seems that the original meaning of Kun 鲲 was "fish roe"; fry; spawn" (ca. 200 BCE Erya). In the same way, if a bird (seagull) ate one of them then the fry would become the bird which is large in comparison (ie similar or small difference). At the same time, the bird would become one of them since, as they say, you are what you eat.

                                       Yukiang increasing


                                        Increasing  Peng


                                              Sol rising

Yet, when the white kuan got angry he rose from the ocean depths with the rising of the blazing sun in the east. The "Kuan" transformed into Peng or gigantic bird. Its waves and winds whipped up terrible storms. (M. Soymi, in P. Grimal, 1963)


                                Rectangles, Peng and Yukiang


                                          Decreasing Peng
It is hardly surprising that the Peng and white kuan are next to a set of rectangles of emptiness. Together the mythological creatures symbolize the rising Sun of the east or anger associated with the increasing rectangle. On the opposite side of The Selden Map is the falling Moon of the West. In addition, there is a falling turtle-bird along with a falling kuan with hands and legs of human which are represented by the decreasing rectangle.


According to the Prajna Sutra of Mahayana Buddhist teachings "That which is profound, has sunyata and non-attachment as its significance. No form nor deeds, no rising nor falling, are its implications." It is also said "Materials are form, which by their nature, imply obstruction. The special characteristic of the "great void" is non-obstruction." In other words, it does not obstruct the material world to exist or function. This expression of Buddhism where there is no rising or falling seems on the surface to be different than the Daoist concept expressed by Zhuangzi.


Journey to the West  西游记 is attributed to Wu Cheng'en and published circa 1592 or just prior to the drawing of The Selden Map so it would not be irrational to assume it might have influenced the cartographer. The Monkey King is a satirical figure who along with protectors accompanies a monk named Xuanzang in this alchemical classic of the Ming Dynasty.

Withn the Peng image is found the protectors of Tan Sanzang who was a fictional character. One doesn't want to be disrespectful but it might be thought that the real Xuangzang was reincarnated and did not escape earthly travail. Tan Sanzang's protectors had disturbed the order of Heaven and were cast out or down. They seek redemption by aiding the monk on his quest for Sanskrit scrolls of Buddhist wisdom from India. The most famous protector is the Monkey King known as Sun Wukong 孙悟空. Basically, he is a Trickster demon.


                                       Sun Wukong

At the birth of Sun who was awakened to emptiness, two beams of light shot toward the Pole Star palace of the Jade Emperor. One might conjecture that a long time ago one beam went to Draconis 11 and another to Draconis 10 which form a binary star system in the North Circumpolar Rectangle or a shape similar to The Selden Map. These stars rotate around a common mass or barycenter and the other stars seem to rotate around the center.


                                            Zhu Baijie

The second protector is Zhu Baijie 猪八戒 who is better known as Pigsy. He proves the old saying though that one can't change a pig's ear into a silk purse. Of all the characters he shows the least redemptive qualities.


                                            Sha Wujing

The third protector is Sha Wujing or Sandy. He is known as the Water Buffalo. He lived in the Liúshā-hé 流沙河, "flowing-sand river". Basically, though, he is an embellishment of a supernatural figure in Monk Hui Li's 慧立 7th century account of the historical Xuanzang. While he was in the desert near Dunhuang the spirit appeared to him in a dream and led him to water at an oasis.

The poet draws the reader's attention to the small horns on top of Sandy's head which represent vestigal water buffalo horns of a monk protector. Furthermore, there appears to be a broken vase (turned upside down) within the head which Sandy had deliberately or accidentally broken in the Jade Palace. As a result, he was expelled from the Jade Palace.


                                      White Dragon Horse

The White Dragon Horse (白龍馬) is the third son of the Dragon King of the West Sea. He typifies the theme of transformation which the animals undergo. For example, in The Selden Poems there is a Chinese vessel which is part horse and part dragon. It is called 中国帆船. In Journey to the West, the dragon swallows Xuanzang's white horse to become White Dragon Horse which is a powerful steed.

The monk Tan Sanzang of Journey to the West fame is a fictional character. However, he is based on the Tang dynasty monk whose name was Xuanzang who might be regarded as a great sage. It was said by Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清, 1546-1623) who was a master of esoteric Buddhism that the Peng is the image of the Daoist sage. Therefore, one might consider the Tang Sanzang character of Journey to the West to be equivalent to the Peng.

If one considers there to be a Peng drawing on the Selden Map then one might argue that it is probably derived from the Peng-Sanzang representation in Journey to the West published in 1592. The beak of the drawing of the Peng is symbolically touching the outside rectangle whose core is emptiness. On the other hand, it is at least conceivable that the Peng drawing could be directly derived from the real Tang Xuanzang who is much further back in time during the 7th century.

So far, the poet and probably everyone else has regarded the larger rectangle to be fully four sided; however, it is not. There is a small opening in the upper right hand corner. There is a tendency to dismiss this opening on the basis that it was perhaps hastily drawn. On the other hand, what if the opening is intentional?

If the largest rectangle represents the map as a whole then there is a part of it with an opening. That part seems to coincide with the rising Sun. In other words, sunlight streams through the void. There is now color in the void as opposed to the lack of color or blackness. At the same time, the sunlight reflects off the Moon.

There is another image connected with the Peng which has an irregular shape. It is generally defined with whiteness. There is the whiteness of two, tree trunks on either side. On the right side, the whiteness then curves upward around the white, whale's head at the top and cuts downward through the neck of the Peng. The dominant feature enclosed within the whiteness appears to be the face of a man which has an oval shape. To the poet the entire shape may be Xuanzang himself.


                                Stone Egg representing Sanzang's Head

In this drawing of the perfect sage, the tree of life springs from the third eye. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism the mark on the center of the forehead is called the Urna or Eye of Wisdom. Hinduism regards the right eye as the Sun and the left eye as the Moon. The third eye sees beyond the apparent and protects the good. In Buddhism, the third eye sees beyond the senses. Taoism teaches one to focus on the third eye to tune into the correct vibration of the universe in order to reach a higher meditation level.

The poet through imagination regards the oval shape of Xuanzang's head to be also representational of an egg. Not surprisingly, it would be the egg belonging to the Peng bird. The egg is made of stone. Within the stone egg is a stone monkey who hatches to become the Monkey King or Sun Wukong. This would mean that the location is the imaginary Flower Fruit Mountain. According to the Selden Map the birthplace of Sun Wukong might be construed to be Tyr, Russia (特林; pinyin: Tèlín).

However, Flower Fruit Mountain could also be an island in the Amur River or perhaps off the coast. It appears Ming Chinese had known for at least two centuries that Sakhalin was an island, but European cartographers realized this later. Chinese of the Ming dynasty knew the island as Kuyi (苦夷 Kǔyí) or Kuwu (Chinese: 苦兀; pinyin: Kǔwù), and later as Kuye (Chinese: 庫頁; pinyin: Kùyè), as it is known today. There is also a small island off the western coast of Sakhalin called Ush.

                                             Bat Boy

There are now two images of Bat Boy in the Peng image which means double luck. The reason that this is important is because it establishes a relation with the Bat Boys of the Kun image directly across on the western side of the map. It also generally develops the Kun theme.


                                           Baby Bat

The first image of Bat Boy appears as if he were riding on top of the blue Peng. It is almost as if he is tucked under the blue, wave covers. The second image appears in the white horse. He is so cute so he is called  Baby Bat. In fact, there is a heart shaped symbol underneath as if to punctuate his cuteness. What distinguises this pair of Bat Boys in the East is that they are younger than those in the west. Baby Bat is clearly born in the East.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi


revised February 12, 2018