2. New Media Gallery at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth [taking part of Boston Cyberarts Festival]/April 24 – May 10, 2009
Performance Theme/Cultural Background
From Spring and Autumn to Warring States Period, during nearly 500 years, thought was freed, learning was unrestricted. Scholars without official responsibilities, were able to develop their views freely; “heterodoxies” thus could widely prevail. Men of profound thought and far vision inevitably were moved to make critical inquires into the causes and influences of these great changes, and quite naturally voiced opposition or offered constructive proposal…
In this performance, six major philosophers, Confucius （孔子）, Han Fei Tzu （韩非子），Lao Tzu （老子）, Mo Tzu （墨子）, and Sun Tzu （孙子）and Zhuang Tzu （庄子) reside in the Grand View Garden, presenting or advocating their thoughts and strategies freely. While the characters are identifiable by appearances and activities through historical accounts, performers, six artists and educators from China, Australia and America, have been encouraged to interpret the profound cultural message with their own reading when retaining their personal virtual identities as certain degree.
Viewers are invited to log in Second Life for an immersive experience of this performance reflecting on not only Chinese history and philosophy, but legend and personality.
Confucius (performed by Xilin Yifu)– Nourishing, Teaching and Governing (the instruments with which to nourish and to teach are “virtue” and the rites, while the instruments with which to govern are “politics” and punishment.)
Performance: Confucius’ Chariot is created as a symbol of Chinese intellectuals political pursuit.
Main Idea: Confucius was a great political thinker but a failure as a reformer. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Mo Tzu (performed by Lily Jun) – Universal Love and Mutual Benefit
Performance I: removing cloud ladder by the city wall
Main Idea: “Universal love is the basic of Mohism. Reverence for heaven, proving the existence of spirits, identification with the superior, and economy of expenditures are its branches. Anti-fatalism, anti-music, and simplicity in funerals are merely other issues upon which circumstances provoked him to take such stands.”
Performance II: going through fire or treading on sword-blades
Main Idea: “Mo Tzu’s followers number one hundred and eighty men, all of whom will obey his command to go through fire or tread on sword-blades, and who will die without turning away.”
Life and Activities
As a youth Mo Tzu lived chiefly in the State of Lu, and frequently engaged in debate with the Confucian scholars of Lu, and he also on one occasion engaged the Duke of Lu in questions and answers. But because his doctrines were not adopted in his native state, he sought opportunities to test them in practice n other states. At the time Kung-shu Pan [the facts of this famous craftsman’s life cannot be established] was building “cloud ladders” [a wall-scaling device used in offensive warfare] for Ch’u to use in an attack on Sung. Mo Tzu heard of it and, starting from Lu, traveled ten days and ten nights until he reached Ying [the capital of Ch’u], persuaded the King of Ch’u, and succeeded in having him call off the campaign.
Moism and Confucianism
As we examine the accounts of their [Confucius & Mo Tzu’s ] lives, it is apparent that the two truly had many points of similarity. Both set forth the learning of antiquity in order to open up the basic tenets of his own school. Both sought to establish methods of governing in order to overcome the evils of their age. Both traveled about among the different stages, yet, to the end, met no opportunity to try their methods. So they both instructed large groups of followers in the hope that these would carry their teachings into practice and transmit their learning to later generations. They differed in that:the one held office and other did not; the former started life in humble status, but worked is way up to the ranks of Great Officers, while the latter chose to remain a humble man all his life, wearing his haircloth clothing and straw sandals, clinging to this manner even in his advanced old age. …we may well feel that, in very general terms, Mo Tzu was a common-man Confucius, and the Mohist doctrines are common-man Confucianism.
Mo Tzu received the training of a ju and was educated in the doctrines of Confucius, but he was displeased by their rites [li], which were to him complicated and troublesome; by their elaborate funerals, which were so costly that they impoverished people; and by their extended periods of mourning, which were injurious to the health and which interfered with work.
– Hsiao, Kung-chuan, Mo Tzu, A History of Chinese Political Thought, volume one p216-226. 1946
Lao Tzu(performed by Yukihira Oanomochi) – “Taking no action, yet leaving nothing undone.”
Performance: meditating on the back of buffalo
Main Idea:“Reversal is the Movement of Tao”, “No Action”,Egocentric Doctrine (see below)
Zhuang Tzu (played by Victoria Bury) – Equalizing Things and Transending Life
Performance:transforming to a butterfly in his dream
Main Idea: Beyond traditional accounts, it inquiries the boundaries between real and unreal, social and natural being, suggests the unlimited transformation between identities, exsitences, ultimately, freedom and individaulality.
“Reversal is the Movement of Tao”
He who knows the male but clings to the female becomes the ravine of the world. He who knows the white yet clings to the black becomes the valley of the world. Others all stove for good fortune; he alone bended and yielded, thereby keeping himself whole. He took the most profound as his base, and he toodk simplicity as his standard. He was always considerate and deferent toward things, and he never encroached on or took from people. That can be called ‘reaching the extreme’.”
The thought both of Lao Tzu and of Zhuang Tzu clearly elusates an “egocentric” doctrine. Lao Tzu developed his yielding softness, humility, and the other practices in order to ensure the individual’s personal existence. Zhuang Tzu developed his own theaories about the relativity of things and of transcending life. In consequence, “heavenly happiness” became the highest level of human existence, while “enduring safely” and “freedom from peril” were demoted t a secondary order of importance. Zhuang Tzu acknowledged that all the myriad things were produced from the formless Tao, and that the Tao was omnipresent, in all things.
“The truly right person does not fail to maintain his life’s destined nature. Therefore, for him webbed toes are not abnormally joined, and the extra finger is not a superfluous appendege; what is long is not too long and what is short is not too short.” So it is clear that what is called transcending life has as its basic tenet to accord with life’s innermost nature, while the equalizing of things functions in letting things be as desparate as it is in their natures to be. Were one to cling stubbornly to one standard against which to equalize things, their natural reality would perish… And as for the petty man who dies seeking profit, the scholar who dies for fame, the Great Officer who dies for family, or even the sage who dies for the world, …enslaved themselves to the interests of others. The nature of the other person did not necessarily gain thereby, and their own lives were lost. Thus, in the search to perserve both the other and the self, the only way is to cause both the other and the self to be unconcerned with each other. If this method can be put into practice, then, with the exception of one’s own ego’s natural predilections, there is virtually no matter and no thing in the whole world that is to be regarded as having value. Moreover, all of the santions and institutions of government, as also the preprieties and conventions of society, become nothing but restrictions and restrains having no usefulness at all. In Chuang Tzu’s though, the political ideas of “non action” thus inevitably offer the ultimate resolution.
– Hsiao, Kung-chuan, Lao Tzu and Zhuang Tzu, A History of Chinese Political Thought, volume one p302-303. 1946
Han Fei Tzu (performed by PumpkinWeirdo Keng):“Clearly Establishing the Law”, “Unifying People”, Power
Performance: symbol of power – dragon riding on the clouds
Main Idea: “That by which the ruler is a ruler is power. A flying dragon rides on the clouds, and a soaring serpent strolls through the mists [both are auspicious symbols of the ruler]. When the clouds disperse and the mists clear away, the dragon and the serpent are then no different from mere earthworms or ants, for they have lost that on which they were conveyed. When worthy men are held subject to the unworthy, it is because their authority is slight and their status is low. When the unworthy can hold the worthy in their service, it is because their authority is great and their positions are high. When the [sage emperor] Yao was just a common man, he could not keep three persons in good order, while [the incompetent tyrant] Chieh, in the role of Son of Heaven, could bring chaos to the whole empire. From this I know that power and status are dependable supports, while worthy qualities and knowledge are scarcely worth ones respect.” The ruler’s own capacity cannot achieve effective governing, but as dependent on the legally established authority and on the real sources of strength.
If the one exercising powershould be of inferior talent and bring the world to chaos, what should be done? Han Fei Tzu firmly maintains his elevation-of-the-ruler doctrine. He believed that servitors and common people alike must display loyalty even to a vicious overlord, and opposed Mencius’ statement [that a king so unkingly as those symbolic tyrants] “is but a common fellow who can killed.”
– Hsiao, Kung-chuan, Lord Shang and Han Fei Tzu, A History of Chinese Political Thought, volume one p383-385. 1946
Sun Tzu(performed by Hua Yifu):Planning, Competing and Creating
Performance: Riding on horse and advocating his theories in The Art of War
Main Idea:The Art of War is the first and one of the most successful works on strategy and has had a huge influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, and beyond. Sun Tzu was the first to recognize the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment. He taught that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through a to-do list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment, but in a competitive environment, competing plans collide, creating unexpected situations.