Paradise Found, by William F. Warren, , at sacred-texts.com
The rationalistic genius of the matter-of-fact Chinese is apparent even in the way in which they conceived their primitive history; and in this respect, as in many others, it brings them into nearer relations with the best modern science than belong to the other Oriental races.Samuel Johnson (of Salem).
It is through this wonderfully pure seer [Lao-tse], as it appears to me, that we ascend to the primitive revelation of truth given to this ancient people.William Henry Channing.
Approaching this theme, a reviewer of the Shin Seën Tung Keëna "General Account of the Gods and Genii," in twenty-two volumesoffers the following observations: "All nations have some tradition of a Paradise, a place of primeval happiness, a state of innocence and delight. The Tauists 1 are by no means behind in referring to an abode of lasting bliss, which, however, still exists on earth. It is called Kwen-lun." 2
In another article, by a student of Chinese sources, it is stated, "This locality, being the abode of the gods, is Paradise; it is round in form, and like Eden it is 'the mount of assembly.'" 3
Like the Gan-Eden of Genesis it is described as a
garden, with a marvelous tree in the midst; also with a fountain of immortality, from which proceed four rivers, which flow in opposite directions toward the four quarters of the earth. 1
In the language of the writer first quoted in this chapter, "Sparkling fountains and purling streams contain the far-famed ambrosia. One may there rest on flowery carpeted swards, listening to the melodious warbling of birds, or feasting upon the delicious fruits, at once fragrant and luscious, which hang from the branches of the luxuriant groves. Whatever there is beautiful in landscape or grand in nature may also be found there in the highest state of perfection. All is charming, all enchanting, and whilst Nature smiles the company of genii delights the ravished visitor." 2
Where, now, is this Paradise mountain located? At the North Pole.
The sentence before those last quoted reads as follows: "Here is the great pillar that sustains the world, no less than 300,000 miles high."
This world-pillar, or axis of the earth, is sometimes conceived of as slender enough for the use of a climber. Thus we read, "One of the Chinese kings, anxious to become acquainted with the delightful spot, set out in search of it. After much wandering he perceived the immense column spoken of, but, trying to ascend it, he found it so slippery that he had to abandon all hopes of gaining his end, and to endeavor by some mountain road which was rugged in the extreme to find his way to Paradise. When almost fainting with fatigue, some friendly
nymphs, who had all the time from an eminence compassionated the weary wanderer, lent him an assisting hand. He arrived there, and immediately began to examine the famous spot." 1
Such a pillar connecting the earth with an upper Paradise, and affording a means of access thereto, necessarily recalls to mind the analogous conception set forth in the Talmud: "There is an upper and a lower Paradise. And between them, upright, is fixed a pillar; and by this they are joined together; and tis called 'The Strength of the Hill of Sion.' And by this Pillar on every Sabbath and Festival the righteous climb up and feed themselves with a glance of the Divine majesty till the end of the Sabbath or Festival, when they slide down and return into the lower Paradise." 2
In this conception we have a twofold Paradise, one celestial and one terrestrial. Among the Chinese
we find the same. The upper is situated in the centre or pole of heaven, the lower directly under it, at the centre or pole of the northern terrestrial hemisphere. The Pillar connecting them is of course the axis of the heavenly vault.
We quote: "Within the seas, in the valleys of Kwen-lun, at the northwest is Shang-te's Lower Recreation Palace. It is eight hundred le square, and eighty thousand feet high. In front there are nine walls, inclosed by a fence of precious stones. At the sides there are nine doors, through which the light streams, and it is guarded by beasts. Shang-te's wife also dwells in this region, immediately over which is Shang-te's Heavenly Palace, which is situated in the centre of the heavens [the celestial pole], as his earthly one is in the centre of the earth [the terrestrial pole]." 1
There can be no mistaking this use of the term "centre" for pole, for the Chinese astronomers expressly state, "The Polar star is the centre of heaven." 2
Elsewhere, instead of Kwen-lun being a World-pillar in the "valleys," or "plain," or "mound" of the terrestrial Paradise, we find it described as a stupendous heaven-sustaining mountain, marking the centre or pole of the earth: "The four quarters of the earth incline downwards. . . . On this vast plain or mount, surrounded on all ides by the four seas, arise the mountains of Kwen-lun, the highest in the world according to the Chinese geographers: 'Kwen-lun
is the name of a mountain; it is situated at the northwest, fifty thousand le from the Sung-Kaou mountains, and is the centre of the earth. It is eleven thousand le in height' (Kang-he)." 1
The significance of the foregoing as respects the location of Paradise cannot be doubtful. But compare further the sixth head under chapter third of Part fifth; also chapter fourth of the same Part.
143:1 "Die Secte der Tao-sse hat die Sagen and religiösen Gebräuche des alten China's noch am Meisten aufbewahrt." Lüken, Traditionen des Menschengeschlechtes, p. 77. "Lao-tse abounds in sentences out of some ancient lore, of which we have no knowledge but from him." Samuel Johnson, Oriental ReligionsChina. Boston, 1877: p. 861.
143:2 The Chinese Repository, vol. vii., p. 519.
143:3 The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal, vol. iv., p. 94. Compare Isaiah xiv. 13, 14.
144:1 Lüken, Traditionen des Menschengeschlechtes, p. 72.
144:2 The Chinese Repository, vol. vii., p. 519.
145:1 The Chinese Repository, vol. vii., p. 520.
145:2 Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, Bd. ii., p. 318. (English translation, vol. ii., p. 25.) Compare Schulthess, Das Paradies, p. 354. Also the story of Er, the Pamphylian, in which we have the same "column, brighter than the rainbow, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth;" here also the spirits visiting the earth are allowed seven days before ascending. Plato, Republic, 616. Also the Chaldæo-Assyrian conception of "the celestial and terrestrial Paradises, supposed to be united by means of the Paradisaic Mount itself." The Oriental and Biblical Journal. Chicago, 1880: p. 293. Also the Greek idea: "Sehr merkwürdig ist, was Pindar (Olymp., ii., 56 f.) von den Seligen sagt. Wenn sie nämlich auf der Insel der Seligen sich befinden, steigen sie zum Thurme des Chronos empor. Dieser Höhentendenz entspricht nun die alte Vorstellung vom Naturcentrum am Nordpol und so führen uns denn auch die griechischen Dichter auf einem langen Umwege doch zuletzt nach Nysa, wo uns die griechischen Künstler alle Wonnen des dionysischen Himmels aufthun." Menzel, Die vorchristliche Unsterblichkeitslehre, ii., p. 10. Finally, the Japanese idea in Griffis, The Mikado's Empire, p. 44.
146:1 The Chinese Recorder, vol. iv., p. 95.
146:2 The Chinese Repository, vol. iv., p. 194. Compare Menzel: "Der Polarstern heisst Palast der Mitte." Unsterblichkeitslehre, Bd. 1, p. 44.
147:1 The Chinese Recorder, vol. iv., p. 94.