A Master Bao tale from the T’ang Dynasty

Artist Fan Zeng (b.1938) on Unsplash

Master Bao rode his great ox Xi along a river road in the district of Hue-Pen. His student Ping walked alongside.

“This is a wide river, Master,” Ping exclaimed. “with a lot of boat traffic.”

Master Bao turned to Ping. “Indeed, Student Ping,” Master Bao said. “Wide and long. The Hue River stretches over a thousand Li, from Shannandong Province to the sea. The next village, Peng Li, is well-known as a trading port.”

Just ahead, a group of six men dressed as merchants were huddled together deep in conversation. They stood on a dock to which a small boat…


Cover by Kristi Ryder of www.kryderdesign.com for the author

A Charles Goodfoote Mystery in Old San Francisco

1868

Prologue

Deep in the San Mateo Mountains of the Territory of New Mexico, the Apache warrior woman, Kaya-Te-Nse, of the Red Paint band, poured more water on the red-hot rocks to bring up the heat and steam of the sweat lodge. She inhaled through her nose to keep the burning sweetgrass and sage from making her cough, then forced the air out through her mouth. A long, soft sound accompanied each exhalation, as Kaya bent her naked body forward, close to the coals.

As she prayed for a vision, a sign that would help all the People, she closed…


“This moment is all we have in which to live our joy.”

artist Fan Zeng (b. 1938) in Unsplash

A tale of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Master Bao rode his ox, Xi, along a trail that led through a beautiful forest of vibrant green leaves, and ground cover of blooming flowers. His pupil Ping walked alongside his master.

“This is a most beautiful forest,” Ping said. “And the day is sunny, with no clouds in the sky.”

Master Bao turned to Ping and smiled. “How do you feel, Ping, on such a day in such a forest?”


An attack on Master Bao is thwarted

artist Fan Zeng (b. 1938) on Unsplash

Master Bao and Ping stopped for the night at a small shelter in the forest. They had traveled from the village of Peng Lui in Qian zhong to the deep forest of Jiannan Province. After the great ox, Xi, was rubbed, fed, and bedded down for the night, Ping lit a small cooking fire, and the travelers enjoyed their evening rice with vegetables. After he had poured their tea, Student Ping stood, bowed deeply to the Monk, his hands clasped inside his capacious sleeves.

“Master, please enlighten this ignorant student. You never douse the fire with water, but sit up…


A tale of the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Artist Fan Zeng (b. 1938) on Unsplash

Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a trail that ran between two villages in the province of Hedong in the northern region of the Empire. His student, Ping, walked alongside.

“Master,” Ping said, “we were fortunate to find shelter in the village of Lanhi when the storm broke yesterday. If we had been on the road, we would have been soaked and cold. Because of our good luck, we were warm, dry, and well fed.”

“Yes,” the Monk replied. “Luck was with us yesterday.”

In the road ahead, two men were walking toward Master Bao and Ping. One…


Of course. Master Bao was observing. I believe, that theoretical philosophy works best on a full stomach. When the reality of life sets in, getting the next meal is no longer theoretical. Discussion of this nature works best over final coffee or tea.

Thanks, Rigopoula, for your wonderful insights.


“Master,” Ping said, “is life an illusion?”

Artist Fan Zeng (b. 1938) on Unsplash

A tale of China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a trail in the southern province of Lingnan. His student Ping walked alongside.

“This part of Lingnan is thought to be haunted by ghosts, Master,” Ping said. He kept sweeping his gaze of the deep forest quickly from one side of the road to the other.

Master Bao asked, “Do you not fear your head will become loose if you keep twisting it back and forth?”

“Master, I keep seeing strange creatures moving among the trees. And it is well known that…


“Who is this monk who does not bow to the Dragon Throne?”

A tale of China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Artist Fan Zeng (b. 1938) on Unsplash

Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a road paved with flat stones. His pupil, Ping, strode alongside.

“The ‘Summer Palace’ is in this province, Ping. If the Emperor and his family are in residence, we will be stopped by Imperial Guards before we reach the village of Hwe-Shin.”

“Perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of some of the people from the royal court,” Ping said.

“Perhaps,” the monk responded.

After about an hour, the travelers stopped at a well near the side of the rode. The well-tender bowed to…


“Demons are created in one’s mind, Student Ping.”

A Tale of China in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains by Zhao Mengfu (1295) in public domain

Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a well-traveled road through He-dong Providence in the northern part of the Empire. His pupil, Ping, walked alongside.

Ping glanced up and saw a few white fluffy clouds floating serenely in an azure sky. Both sides of the road were flanked by waving tall green and yellow grasses.

“This is a most pleasant road, and a pleasant day,” Ping remarked. “It is neither too hot nor too cool.”

“Yes, Ping. And we can enjoy the present moment to its fullest. In a…


When to help and when to wait on the Will of Heaven

Map of Chinese providences during the Tang Dynasty — Creative Commons on Ancient History Ency.

A story from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)

Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a road that ran through a burned over forest. His pupil, Ping, walked alongside.

“This providence of Jiannan has suffered a long drought, Ping. The trees became dry and a fire last year burned this large area. Many people and animals perished in the blaze.”

Ping sniffed, smelling charred wood. “Many trees and plants died, also.”

The monk smiled at his pupil’s awareness of all life, and the universality of suffering.

Tom Hanratty

www.thomashanratty.com Forensic Investigator, writer of mysteries, lover of words

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store