The Emperor and the Forest of K’an

In Old China, The Emperor of the Fourth Dynasty of Chao did not know what to do. Around him was disagreement. No matter what he tried, his ministers could not get along with one another. They were always fighting. His wife and children he could not understand. The people he was told about, the royalty, the governors, and those of the provinces throughout China — many times there was difficulty understanding them.

But specifically, he had difficulty learning what their strengths and weaknesses were. One minister told him that to be able to do this, he needed to have those that would spy secretly. Others told him that he needed a great magician or mystic that could sit and whisper into his ear if a person was telling the truth. Others said that he must be extremely harsh and strong and, no matter what was said, not rely on it. He was always to know that the words that came forward were not true. He did not know what to do.

Soon he walked within his garden, each evening; and as he would touch the leaves or sit beneath the tree or watch the birds fly, he wondered. The old sage of the forest of K’an had taught him, when he was younger, of nature. What had he said? His memory was old. It was so far away. He had once asked: How do I know when a person is truthful?’ What had the sage answered…what were his words? He could not remember. But as he sat beneath the tree he remembered that the sage had taught him these things. And so he rose, and walked to his most trusted minister, and said, `Go to the forest of K’an and bring back the sage. You will enter through dark trees. Go forth for one half day until you come to a lake, the lake of purification. Sit beside it until the sage comes to you.’

‘And so the minister went and he found the forest and went into it. He sat beside the lake and waited for the sage. As the sun was setting over the mountains, as the birds were beginning to quiet their day, as the insects were defying the silence, he felt a touch on his shoulder. `What can I do for you, messenger of the Emperor?’

The minister replied, ”The Emperor would like you to go to him. He has much trouble’. And so the old sage said, `Three days from this day the old sage will be in his garden, beneath the willow tree.’ And so the minister went back to the Emperor. He told the Emperor what was said, and he was happy. Three days later he went to the tree and sat, and the sage appeared. They talked for many hours. And the sage said, `I cannot teach the way to do this in one night or two. Being a dictatorial ruler will not bring this wisdom. Mystics and magicians cannot. Spies will not. You must leave your court for one year.

The Emperor said, ‘But I cannot.’

And the sage said, `Let me tell you how you can.’ And so they prepared. And the Emperor was told how he would begin each day for the next five days, to prepare his court for his leaving.

And so the routine was changed, and the Emperor would sit upon his throne and he would say, ‘Listen. I will sit now.’ And the ministers would come and talk; and he would wave them away. This went on for three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. And the Emperor would dismiss his court. At the end of five days, the sage said, ‘We are now ready for you to leave’.

And as the Winter Solstice approached, in the cold of the night, as the sun was shining in the other parts of the world, and as the moon was high, they slipped through the garden of the palace. And each day, at exactly the same time, the old sage would appear in the guise of the Emperor and sit upon his throne. He would sit and listen, as the Emperor was in the forest of K’an learning to deal with people.

It was three days before the Solstice, and the sage must prepare him. He told him what his role was to be. He said, `First you must know that man is like nature. Man is but a cycle, as your world is a cycle. Each thing has its seasons, as man has a cycle of the seasons. This is not only within man, but also within the history of mankind.’ He pointed that in time he would be learning of the people who identify with the seasons. And the Emperor was glad. As the Solstice approached, the Elements of Man were revealed. Years later, Emperors later, when the Emperors no longer went into the forest of K’an, these were lost.


Excerpt from The Elements of Man — A Transcription from the Full-Trance Lectures by Chung Fu. London, Fall, 1975.

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