By Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée
Digital Goods, Ebooks
Coming to eBook in August 2020
Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée’s remarkable digital work, “The Banner for a Chinese Lady Going to Paradise,” will be coming soon. It is a major contribution to the literature on Chinese philosophy and medicine. It also is an innovative eBook that enhances readers’ ability to study the text with frequent color illustrations and, not inconsequentially, at an affordable price.
In 1972, archaeologists excavated two burial mounds in the outskirts of Changsha the capital of an ancient kingdom of the land of Chu, and present capital of Hunan Province. Approximately twenty meters high, these mounds were assumed to be the sethe tombs of Prince Ma Yin of Chu and his family during the period of the Five Dynasties (907-960 BCE). Hence the place-name: Mawangdui. Three tombs were discovered and proved to be something entirely different from a simple tomb of the era. The sepulchers dated from the second century BCE, at the beginning of the Han Dynasty. The second tomb had been violated and pillaged, but the first and third were intact. The funeral chambers harbored more than one thousand objects, including copies of medical writings on moxibustion that describe 52 diseases, and explore ideas of health, illness and longevity.
In addition to more than a thousand art objects the tombs also contained two copies of “The Book of the Way and the Virtue,” (Daodejing) that authenticate the relatively late versions that are available to us today; a text of “The Book of Changes,” (Yijing), and the “Spring and Autumn Annals”, (Chunqiu).
Elisabeth comments on the work:
In 1974, a short time after discovery of the Mawangdui Tombs in 1972, I was introduced to the Banner through a presentation made by Fr. Claude Larre during an International Symposium on relations between China and the West. He had understood the importance of this painting, not only from the archeological viewpoint, but also for the unique insight that it provides into China at the beginning of the second century BCE.
Through the use of symbols and mythic animals, the Banner reflects the beliefs of the Chinese people on how life appears, develops and disappears, as well as their hope to pass into the peace of Paradise. With splendid drawings and sumptuous colors, it offers anyone a direct grasp and a feeling for the emerging of life as a crossing of yin and yang, of its development as an ascension from the depth of the Earth to the everlasting serenity of Heaven.
The Banner is like a vivid illustration of what we read in the Chinese classics, a diving into the soul of ancient China. Reaching the depths of hope and beliefs of people living far away and long ago, we access what they have in common with us. The Banner speaks directly to us, not only of ancient China but of our present-day life and expectations.
These are the reasons why I fell in love with the Banner and accepted the challenge to present it to my readers.
Does the book tell you how to treat a dread disease? No.
Does it make the use of medicinals in formulas crystal clear? No.
Does it describe previously unknown distinctions between acupoints? No.
What then does it teach us, if not the keys to treatment?
It teaches us the context in which the most profound thinkers of the era understood the medical classics at the root of Chinese medicine. It shows us what they thought about life and the afterlife. Specifically, it tells us how they applied the concepts of yin and yang to the make-up and function of the world beyond human senses. This is one of the most important things we can know because how we interpret Chinese medical principles can only wander away from their origin if we have a false sense of the culture in which those ideas arose and flourished. Without the view this e-Learning gives us, we risk accepting ideas that would be impossible for the ancient scholars to have believed.
In this regard, one of the most interesting aspects of The Banner is the elaboration of yin / yang and the five phases in its cosmological symbols. In exactly the same way the qualities of the organs are complexes of yin and yang – yin within yang, yang within yin – the dragons portrayed on the banner are symbolic lessons in five phase and yin – yang distinctions, expressed as shapes, colors, contours and symbols. The Banner shows us a cosmos where the principles of systematic correspondence are the only principles, yin – yang is the only reality.
Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée has given us a look inside the minds of humans who speak to us through the human arts of millennia past. This doesn’t happen very often. That a small group of scholars had penetrated this deeply into the classical literature of China so soon after Soulie de Morant’s first comprehensive acupuncture text is as remarkable as the book itself.