D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi

Peng II

                                                            Peng II



It is of utmost importance to try to pinpoint the exact location of the Peng. On the surface, this assertion may seem absurd because it can be pointed out that the Peng is an imaginary bird used by Zhuangzi for purposes of illustrating Daoist philosophy. As well, it can be argued that there is no reason for an imaginary bird or for that matter an imaginary Yukiang (kuan or whale) to be on The Selden Map which is concerned only with trade routes whether or not they are maritime or land; nevertheless, they are there.


                              In pursuit of the white whale

The poet who doesn't know it, though, contends that whether or not the Peng and Yukiang are real or fictional is moot. They are archetypes within mythology and therefore are relevant to The Selden Map. What might be argued as one of the best American novels called Moby Dick was concerned with Ahab's existential pursuit on a sailing ship for the white whale. If you think that Jonathan Living Seagull is just about an ordinary seagull then you have missed the underlying meaning.


                        Charting the trip down the Mississippi

Of equal importance in the corpus of American literature is the journey of Huckelberry and Jim rafting down the Mississippi to Cairo. There is no question about how Samuel Clements whose pen (imaginary) name was Mark Twain did serve as a riverboat captain carrying passengers and freight on that river. Even the name Mark Twain signifies a measuring of depth on the river or one's life. There is no question that there is a little bit of Huckleberry and Jim within the character of Clements or Twain. The meaning of the journey though is that it reflects how there is a little bit of Hucklelberry and Jim in all of us. Finally, even if someone is illiterate the archetype is important because it dwells in the subconscious and occasionally surfaces.


                                         Buriyat Shaman

There is another reason that is no less significant to sailors. Whether sailors are on Lake Baikal or in the strait between continental Russia and Sakhalin Island they are superstitious. Even, today, shaminism is practiced by some who are on land or venture on the water in these areas. They want smooth sailing in life and they try to propitiate the spirits. They neither want to be swallowed up by a giant whale or its equivalent nor picked up by big bird or face any other natural disaster so they display a totem.

It would be useful to categorize both Moby Dick and Adventures of Huckelberry Finn in terms of what kind of novels they are. Moby Dick may be regarded as a tragedy while Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be seen as a satire. They were highly influenced by the King James Version of the Bible printed in 1611. One wonders if John Selden who was a dutiful member of the Church of England was ever consulted about a translation issue. The KJV contained the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale. It is repeated iteratively in Moby Dick when Ahab is lashed to the white whale. In a sense, too, Huckelberry and Jim are escaping to the promised land of Moses.


                          Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso c. 1955

There was an earlier novel that influenced them; although, it was written in Spanish. It is called Don Quixote which was a farcical comedy by Cervantes completed in 1605. It was imaginatively poetic in style. The reader may like to refer to the poet's Knighte Errant who rides a mouse in the Selden Poems.


                           Tom Thumbe carried off by giant bird

One may wish to keep in mind that the days of King Arthur were told in Richard Johnson's The History of Tom Thumbe which was published in 1621 as a booklet. It was based on folklore that went back almost a century to a real dwarf named Tom Thumbe who was born about 1519 and died in 1620. In a later narrative, a marble monument is raised to Tom Thumb with the following epithet:

Here lies Tom Thumb,
King Arthur’s knight,
Who died by a spider’s cruel bite.
He was well known in Arthur’s court,
Where he afforded gallant sport;
He rode at tilt and tournament,
And on a mouse a-hunting went;
Alive he fill’d the court with mirth
His death to sorrow soon gave birth.
Wipe, wipe your eyes, and shake your head
And cry, ‘Alas! Tom Thumb is dead.

(Wiki Tom Thumb)


Cervantes wrote a second novel 10 years later called The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. It may be classified as a satire which uses a philosophical form. Together these novels set the format and formula for the western novel.


                            Journey to the West characters

However, Journey to the West preceeded Don Quixote. It was published c. 1895 and is attributed to Wu Cheng'en. In some respect, it resembles the novel Don Quixote since the hero Sanzang also goes on a quest with a sidekick. Some might regard Journey to the West as the first novel. It combines imaginative poetry in a comedic form with satirical prose which is critical of the times.


                            天篷元帥  (tian_peng_yuan_shuai)

To the poet, the Peng image on The Selden Map which includes Sanzhang, Monkey King, White Horse, Sandy and Pigsy (among other images) is a poem. It is a wordless poem filled with archetypal images. Doesn't the reader regard it in the realm of probability that the presence of an archetypal character such as Zhu Baijie who was Marshall Tang Peng in charge of 80,000 marines is a symbolically necessary presence to secure the lower Amur Region and Sakhalin Island, act as a precursor and promoter of trade, and finally foster spiritual values on behalf of the Ming Dynasty? The poet suggests that Journey to the West with its Buddhist, Confucianist, and Daoist concepts which manifest themselves in archetypes was bound to have influenced the cartographer in the drawing of The Selden Map.

If The Selden Map were not used at sea as some suggest due to its highly developed artistic aesthetic then why would it be necessary for the map to be drawn in a one hundred percent realistically accurate fashion based on the standards of the day? To be specific, if a particular landform looked like a dragon to both map's designer and sailors then would it not be natural to accentuate the dragon features? If it were common knowledge that China resembled a rooster then would an artist ignore that impression either consciously or unconsciously? If a yellow compass rose were added to the map in a western fashion then wouldn't it be logical for a reader to assume that it resembled the Sun with multiple spokes of sunlight since the real Sun rises on the map and because the compass rose sun is right above what the poet recognizes to be an outline of the Yellow Emperor with flaps on headdress? This same image of the Emperor conveys the message that he controls the wind with his breath--something that is of paramount importance to sailors.

Let us assume that the map was commissioned by a wealthy, merchant trader. It may be that he requested the map to depict accurate, maritime trade routes. On the other hand, he might have found them difficult to remember or recognize unless they were drawn in a familiar pattern such as an errant knighte riding on a mouse or on a dragon horse. Indeed, this was the reason that sailors navigated by stars grouped in constellation patterns such as the dragon. Perhaps the map was intended as a gift, so, a familiar pattern would be highlighted to please the recipient. It is conceivable that the commissioner of the map did not want certain, secret trade routes to be disclosed since there was a trade war undertaken at the time. It is not suggested though that the trade routes are imaginary or invented or that the general pattern is not accurate, but rather that small changes might have been made in terms of what was included or excluded from the map.


                                South China Seas Claim Map

It is obvious to all concerned that The Selden Map has come to the attention of scholars because of China's claim of sovereignty in regions of important trade routes. Trade routes were important at the time of the Ming Dynasty and King James' England. The debate was raging over open and closed seas around the coasts of England where pirates were roaming and in the South China Seas where the Dutch were aggressively pursuing trade. John Selden was right in the middle of the debate of whether the seas were open or closed. He wrote a book on the closed sea at the request (demand) of the monarch, but it is uncertain how much those expressed views reflected his own.


                                       Painting by Picasso

However, one should not be biased to the point where one solely concentrates on trade and ignores potentially important cultural and civilizing aspects which may be relevant to the understanding of the map. Why wouldn't the Spanish or English traders as knightes errant want to slay the Dutch dragon or why wouldn't the Chinese want to scare it away with loud noises? Why wouldn't issues of the power of Parliament at the time of James I be relevant or Xuanzang's trip to India without the permission of the Tang Emperor as later reflected in Journey to the West. Today, one may argue whether or not free-trade influenced by wealthy corporations, conglomerates and executives who have little accountability except to themselves should be at the expense of human rights, minimum wages, the environment or the right to earn a living without being sacrificed to the bottom line or automation.


By Kmusser - Own work using Digital Chart of the World and GTOPO data., CC BY-SA 3.0

Without further ado the location of the Peng is revealed. To be specific it was 特林 Tèlín near present-day Tyr, Russia. Tyr is currently a settlement in Ulchsky District of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia, located on the right bank of the Amur River, near the mouth of the Amgun River, about 100 kilometers (60 mi) upstream from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur" which is on the left bank of the Amur River. (Wikipedia). At 特林 Tèlín a Nurgan Regional Military Commission was established in 1409 on the order of the Ming Emperor Yangli. A Buddhist temple was built in 1413.

It may seem strange that both the Kun and Peng images which are Chinese oriented are in Russia; namely, Kun at Lake Baikal in the west and Peng within the Khabarovsk Krai region of Russia. Incidentally, the Russian Anton Chekhov visited both locations in the last decade of the 19th century. It may be no coincidence though that both locations are on a similar degree of latitude. The coordinates for the northern end of Lake Baikal (Kun) are Latitude: N 55° 46' 35.6629". For the southern end of Lake Baikal (Kun) they are Latitude: N 51° 30' 31.4729" . These latitudinal coordinates correspond roughly with the northern and southern end of the Peng on the Selden Map.

The Selden Map is provided courtesy of the Bodleian Library, Oxford

The above chart was extracted from The Seldon Map and then highlighted to depict the northern boundary zone of the Ming Empire. The reader will notice that the western and eastern end of the land mass are marked by two drawings which are symbolically sign posts; namely, Kun and Peng respectively. Professor Batchelor has identified the river as the Amur. Ironically, both the Kun and Peng are today on Russian territory. However, Chinese troops had reached Kun (Lake Baikal) during the Han-Xiongnu War. They reached Peng (特林 Tèlín) which was located on the right bank of the Amur about 100 kilometers upstream from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur and where it meets the Amgun River through nine military expeditions begining in 1411 during the Ming Dynasty. The expeditions also included the island of Sakhalin, Russia known in the Ming Dyasty as Kuyi (苦夷 Kùyí) or Kuwu (Chinese: 苦兀; pinyin: Kùwù), and later as Kuye (Chinese: 庫頁; pinyin: Kùyè), as it is known today. However, 苦夷 Kùyí or Sakhalin is not on the Selden Map.

A brief description will ensue. The upper red line goes from the top of Kun (which includes bat symbols) to the top of the compass rose to nearly the top of the set of rectangles to above Peng. In other words, the bat symbols and Peng are winged which suggests soaring ambitions. The bat symbolizes good luck while the Peng might be considered lucky as it would carry off enemies, but, at any rate, is associated with ascending and descending to one degree or another as well as transformation. Both Kun and Peng also have Yekiang (kuan or whales) which are associated with ascending and descending to one degree or another and are also linked respectively with the North and East Seas.

The middle, yellow line which is the most important goes from the middle of Kun to the center of the compass rose. With respect to the compass center it is also evident that if one draws a north-south line through it then one finds The Seldon Map is divided into two equal parts. The yellow line then continues to the middle of the set of rectangles and to the middle of Peng. It appears on the Selden Map that this location is below the Amur. However, if one looks at a modern map then it is manifest that the Amur snakes considerably in a water dragon-like fashion to the south-east and then slithers a great distance to the north-east where it empties into the sea.


                                           Lake Baikal

It is standard practice today to measure the latitude of a lake in the middle. This takes on more significance because Lake Baikal which is shaped like a new moon is 636 kilometers long. Remember that the phases of the moon were observed by the poet within the Kun image. The latitude of Lake Baikal is 53°30′N. In the middle of the Peng to the east is 特林 Tèlín at 52° 55' 43" North. This seems to be a close enough match. However. if one wanted a closer match to the latitude of Lake Baikal then it would have to be Ush Island.


                                             Ostrov Ush

The island of Ush is found off the northern coast of Sakhalin. It is located between a shallow bay and the Sea of Okhotsh at the mouth of the Sakhalin Gulf. The fourteen kilometer island does not run north-south as does Lake Baikal, but rather west-east, so directions are opposite. In another way, they are opposites, too, because the North Sea (Lake Baikal) is fresh water while Ush Island is land within a salt sea (East Sea). Ush Island is found at coordinates 53°33′N 142°22′E. The Selden Map indicates Peng (bird) to be located at the juncture of the Amur and Amgun Rivers.  

The lower red line begins in the west between the middle of Kun and the Moon and then on to the bottom of the compass rose then proceeds to the bottom of the set of rectangles. It next extends between the rectangles and ruler. Finally, it goes to the bottom of the Peng.

Within the Baikal Band one becomes aware that Kun and Peng are not the same size. The Peng is shorter than Fuxi. This might lead to the erroneous conclusion that Kun is male and Peng is female. However, Kun is both male and female while Peng seems to be male since it is referred to by Zuangzi in a translated version as "he"; although, this does not exclude that it might also be "she". The question remains open though why the symbols are not of equal height.


               Shen Zhou: A Crying Cicada on an Autumn Willow

There is a curious association between the 53rd parallel and the length of the summer solstice. At this latitude the sun is visible for 16 hours and 56 minutes. This is nearly 17 hours. Seventeen years is the hibernation period of the cicada 蜩. It is claimed that Xuanzang in the Tang Dynasty took 17 years in total for his journey to India and the return. Also, in the opening paragraphs of Zhuangzi's treatise it is the small cicada which laughs at the large Peng. This image has had conflicting interpretations for the last 17 centuries. In nature, the cicada remains in statis for 17 years before it is rejuvenated and resurrected so to speak.

The poet will add to the controversy by saying that the Peng stands for the summer solstice. In the winter it is a white bird during as found within Kun in the west at the location of Lake Baikal on The Selden Map. It may migrate to the south in the cold weather. Then, in the summer it returns to the east on the same 53 degree latitude as the blue Peng.

The cicada also represents the summer soltice. This is because it stays in the cold ground as an insect for 17 years and then emerges as a flying insect at the height of summer. Since it doesn't travel very far it remains within a short distance at the Peng location. Of course, other cicadas emerge every year for the entire seventeen year period. The issue though is rather complicated because as Zhuangzi observed the mantis eats the cicada and the bird eats the mantis.

There may come a time when one is developing an original hypothesis where the facts or reality intrude. The poet has reached just such a point. He has introduced a modern map to help readers understand the ancient Selden Map. However, it seems to present more problems to the poet himself than provide answers. If the poet is confused then it certainly won't provide clarity to his readers. He cannot consult other scholars who are concerned with different matters which are important to them. Therefore, he must listen to his own internal critic.

The basic problem is that a modern map relies on the most up-to-date information using sophisticated GPS technology. On the other hand, an ancient map such as The Selden Map was drawn at some point up to 1654 ie. after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.  Its depiction of land components relies on accounts of traders, itinerant Buddhist monks, government officials, available maps, historical accounts and one might even say hearsay if that is not heresy. The key is neither to overrate the relevance of a modern map nor to underrate its referencet in order to understand an ancient map. However, the ancient map must always take precedence.

Let's provide an example. The poet has designed and designated a banded section of the Selden Map which is called the Baikal-Amur Band. It runs from Lake Baikal in the west, to the Amur River in present day Heilongjiang Province and finally to the north-east section of the Amur as it empties through its delta region into the Tatar Strait. In addition, the Selenge River System which discharges partially into Lake Baikal and then becomes the Uda River tributary running to the Chumikan Delta is prominently displayed.  However, the problem is that it seems the cartographer has neglected, minimized or has been ignorant of the southern loop of the Amur. In other words, the Amur seems to discharge in an easterly direction directly into the Tatar Strait without considering the loop.

If one uses a modern map one can clearly see the Amur Loop . In the past, it mightn't have seemed too important because there were relatively few people in the region. However, the poet wants to stress the importance of ancient 特林 (Tèlín) near modern Tyr where the Amur comes out of its loop and meets the Amgun River. It is not necessary to establish a fearful symmetry in the modern sense between an Ordos Loop of the Yellow River in a northerly direction and on the other hand an Amur Loop in a southerly direction. It is required though that one identify the location of the Peng marker on The Selden Map. The important point is that the Peng is located at a point that's a relatively short distance upstream from the Amur Delta and to which riverine expeditions were sent. Its relation to the center of the compass rose and Kun's relation to the center is the critical factor as this establishes the yellow line of the Baikal-Amur Band.

As said previously, it is a custom today to measure longitude and latitude in relation to the center of a lake or for that matter any other landform. This may not have been the custom in the past. It should also be recognized that degrees of longitude and latitude may differ from the past to the present. It is enough though to use the imaginary horizontal line running through the compass rose to go to the middle of the Kun and Peng symbols. In the same way, an imaginary, vertical line can be construed running through the middle of The Selden Map dividing it into two equal parts. It can also be imagined that vertical lines of longitude can run through both the Kun and Peng symbols at the ends of the Baikal Amur Band.

In conclusion, the poet will display a modern map without superimposing a Baikal-Amur Band upon it. The map will be included as a general reference to the public; however, specific inferences should not be derived from this source. It is true that the island of Sakhalin does not appear on the Seldon Map; however, it has been substantiated that both the Yuan and Ming Dynasties have sent military expeditions to the island and to the north-east Amur Region so it is pertinent to use Sakhalin as a general reference, but under no circumstances should the Band be extended to Sakhalin Island. In addition, the band should not be applied to other boundaries of the map.

Finally, with regard to the poet's perception of animals, human images and semi-divine figures on the Selden Map it can be said that his interpretation may be incorrect or subject to alteration. However, the poet does not cite singular instances but rather establishes that a series or pattern of three or more has been perceived and reproduced along with explanations which draw on other sources for examination which include the historical. He prefers to recognize complete sets such as twelve from the Chinese zodiac, five ancient directions, five characters from Journey to the West, four Selden family members and at this point three representative ages of John Selden himself.

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi


revised February 12, 2018