Kun Lun – The Ladder to Heaven

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Yin and Yang, the ever present principal of Chinese culture, forms the basis for the history of the K’un Lun mountains as they moved from mythology to reality. In the second century B.C. the Han Emperor Wu Ti named the mountains of China “K’un Lun”, after the most westerly of the five holy mountains of Chinese classical mythology.

Picture 2Originally K’un Lun was the earthy capital of The Lord Of The Sky. It was populated and protected by strange monsters and was so remote as to be inaccessible, existing on, or just beyond the most western edge of the world. K’un Lun was supposed to be circled three times by a vermilion water, which bestowed immortality to those who drank it, but was so thin that nothing could float on it, not even goose down. This was supposed to be the source of the Yellow River.

Later, the Taoists adapted the myth, until K’un Lun became a cosmic mountain , a ladder to the shy, and a kind of earthly paradise.

This was the residence of Hsi Wang Mu. The Golden Mother of Metal, who also had a similar rehabilitation by the Taoists. Originally, in folk mythology, Hsi Wang Mu was a witch, with wild hair flowing to the ground, a leopard’s tail and tiger’s teeth. She was supposed to be very skilled at whistling and governed the spirits of plague and calamity.

Under the Taoists she became the embodiment of the principle of Yin. She was the guardian of the orchards of K’un Lun where the peaches of immortality ripened every six thousands years. Thus Hsi Wang Mu held the means for acquiring immortality and a channel for communicating with Heaven: K’un Lun mountain itself.

Her consort Tung Wang Kung, Lord of the East, also known as the Wood Duke, was her Yang counterpart. Thus Tung Wang kung lived on P’eng Lai, Isle Of The Blest, which floated on the extreme eastern edge of the world. P’eng Lai was covered with mulberry bushes that gave immortality.

Picture 3As legend has it, each day, the sun rises from P’eng Lai, and climbs the Fu Sang Tree before making its way West, where at the end of the day it plunges into the Yu Yuan, the Jasper Lake, at the foot of K’un Lun mountain.

The moon follows the reverse journey, starting from Yu Yuan and appearing further East at the sunset of each month. As such the Lake of Yu Yuan, at the foot of K’un Lun is representative of tiny Yin amid the extreme Yang of the mountains, and the island of P’eng Lai of tiny Yang amid the extreme Yin of the sea. Hsi Wang Mu and Tung Wang Kung, who are spirits condensed from the quintessence of the airs of the East and West, form a mythology demonstrating the cosmology of five element theory and the principles of Yin and Yang.

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Originally published by Glen Gossling
Posted with permission of Master Michael Tse, Qi Magazine Issue 4.