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April 24, 2010


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Beautiful and enlightening post, as usual. Thank you!

Did you ever hear the flowers pop, or is that just something old people say to young people on certain occasions?

The practice of matching colors to directions is profound, I suppose. We make order by trying to relate the kinds of order we already recognize.

No, Bill, I never heard them pop...(not yet...)

But hearing the story from two different people in two dfferent countries-- both about large lotus-- makes me wonder... I really, really would like to *hear* a flower bloom...

"We try to make order by trying to relate the kinds of order we already recognize"

That is only half the equation, though, don't you think? Isn't something else necessary as well when you are considering matching colors to directions.


By the way, I like the tune well enough-- it's the story of the video I cannot quite grasp --or is that grapple??:)

Something else necessary -- you mean, experience along with thinking? or some principle to decide which color goes with which direction? If it were up to me I'd choose white for north, for reasons that might not be apparent in Vietnam. I wonder if you meant to suggest in the post that north is a dark color because it is associated with a part of the night sky.

Imaginative, collective memory.

Conrad may get annoyed by this, but these are his words: "Seeing not only with his eyes but through the lens of [collective] story and memory"...

_Seeing_ through texts and memory

I mean, I also would see north as white, not black, but these Chinese notions were not individual whims were they?

Last year, I was working on a translation for a luxery cosmetics brand PR campaign (which was so effective I spent all the money I made on translating, on tiny bottles of creme)... their theme colors were black and cream... but the black had to be 玄 so how to diferentiate 玄 from 黒 ...it was quite a nightmare as in Japanese there is already a word for charcoal and they said, "definitely not that"...

This is on the subject of collective memory-- take a look later after you finish all the work in front of you (when you have time to kill) Red Cliff 1 and Red Cliff 2

When I said "we make order ..." I really didn't mean each of us does it separately!

玄 ...
Outer Space

You didn't say it, and yet your "north is white" is really along the lines of an individual whim (or at best, a collection of individual people's whims). It lacks the seeing through collective memory and seeing through text aspect, don't you think?

And on that note, do you think it possible to make cosmologies like this anymore? When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a cosmologist. Because, of course, cosmologists still do weave inspired interpretations of the universe. My so-called grammar school friends had had enough with my talk of cosmology though and said, not only will you never become a cosmologist but we will bet you 50 cents each that it'll never happen.

Aren't kids mean?

Well, the entire 1st grade class wanted in on the action but being dumb little kids-- them not me!--the bet ended up that I would never become an astronaut! So, I guess there are even more people out there I owe money to!!

Regarding 玄
"Our prestige cosmetics has cream and goth as theme colors"... ??

There is no way to convey this in English-- because the color means "profound" "deep" it's also the 1st character in 唐三藏 real name --among other historical greats (唐玄宗etc). It also means mysterious and is one of the big words in traditional Japanese aesthetics.

It was a nightmare and I've blocked out the painful memory from my brain so I don't remember what I went with. I think, knowing me, I just said "gen" and then explained the concept.

Also, about Kara (karakhoram, karakhoto, karakash,
I think you might call it yuan? I call it gen.

"The color of the night sky"-- are you talking about the 元朝? Because if you are, you are not the first man to mention that the Mongolian Supremacy was referred to as "The sky is black"...

Black was just a code word for "authority" and north-- and I think maybe ancient maps would show Japan and Korea south of China (maps even produced by the Japanese). (This is what I meant that the Chinese mapping of colors goes perhaps beyond the mere mapping of one thing we know to another thing we know since it's an entire system that encompasses ancient mthyology, ancient philosophy, collectively known codes which point not merely north to black because the night sky is black, but actually is based on philosophy/cosmology-- maybe?)

Poor Adonis, I love board games and he has three geography board games--one from japan, one from america and one from europe-- the countries are placed in completely different places in all three games and Adonis is really annoyed. Why is Japan in the middle of this one but Germany is in the middle on this one?

I'd better get going...

I think the association of white with north is pretty standard in North America these days. I’ll refrain from attaching a link to an episode of “Great White North.” When I wrote my comment what I had in mind concretely was American Indians with their colored directions and Mary Douglas on “The Abominations of Leviticus”. I absolutely agree that such mappings are many-leveled and deep. I'm always looking for simple shallow principles to explain the deep and mysterious.

Farther back in my mind I was sort of thinking of the genre of the pithy saying in Confucius’ day, and how that genre might differ from Theories and Poems. But my mind is a muddle on this matter.

If it’s licorice and cream, I’m in.

玄 is xuan in pinyin, second tone. But in the traditional (Wang Bi) manuscript of the Daodejing it’s replaced by 元 (yuan) because of who was emperor at the time. Which I don’t know. Sometime in the Han.

I didn’t know that about the 元朝!

When I wrote “I wonder if you meant to suggest in the post that north is a dark color because it is associated with a part of the night sky,” I was thinking only of this: “It should also be noted that black, according to this ancient system, was considered the position of authority. The Imperial Palaces of China were always positioned in the north -- facing south.They sat, in fact, beneath the Northern Pole Star, which was associated with the color purple”.

I think Wiccans still do constructive cosmology of this sort, but not without respect for tradition. Here’s something Google found for me:


To Those who are interested in the Wiccan

The Four Airts is a Gaelic term for the
four points ofthe compass, north, south,
east and west. The magick circle usually
has a candle or lamp at each of the four
quarters (N,S,E and W) and the Four Airts
are connected to the Four Elements.
The true relationship of the Elements to
the four Airts is dependant on the prevailing
winds where the circle is cast. In example,
my circle is cast in Portland, Oregon. The
West wind comes right off the Pacific and
is the source of water. Very much like the
Britain or Western magickal tradition the
Northern wind comes down from the Arctic
cold front and is easily associated with the
cold dark Element of Earth. Unlike Western
magickal tradition, for my local, the warm
and hot winds come down the Columbia Gorge
from the aired high plain deserts further
east--the Airts of fire. The South wind is
cool and dry thus the nature of the Element
of air. In other localities this may be
quite different; so the truly talented
magician, unlike one who simply has read up
on the subject, will note the nature of the
prevailing winds and invoke the Elements

The Gaelic Airts had a traditional
association with colors attributed to
them. The east took the crimson of dawn;
the south the white light of high noon;
west the brownish-grey of twilight; and
the north the black of midnight. Again,
it will depend on your locality and
personal observance; for me crimson goes
to the magnificent Pacific sunsets
(especially spectacular in the fall) in
the west; to the east, the land of the
rising sun goes the blue-white/gray color
of dawn the dawn.


In Beijing in 1990 the headquarters of the beer company Wu Xing (Five Stars – after the Chinese flag) had a big neon world map mounted on the top of the building, with the shapes of the continents distorted just as they must be in an Eckert IV projection with China at the center. Only in the neon map, China was at the edge. The continents had been moved. Cans of Wu Xing beer had a blue field with white stars around the top third, beneath which which were vertical stripes alternating in red and white.

Did you know the Tibetan word for "China" is rgya nag, literally "black expanse" and "India" on the other hand is rgya dkar, literally "white expanse"? I think, though, that in this case the notion of colour (or lightness) is rather supposed to refer to clothing habits (Turkestan being the influence for "dark expanse").

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