Chapter 228 – Thus We Shall Perceive Them (Part Two)
Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as the seventeen monoliths of the front mausoleum. When they suddenly appeared, naturally there would be some sort of meaning behind it. What Chen Changsheng sought to do was to find this meaning. Of course he had already realized that this meaning most likely had to do with the missing Heavenly Tome Monolith. It had long since disappeared and he was incapable of finding it. Yet he knew that his process of deciphering the monoliths was not satisfactory. If he did not even attempt to find that missing portion, then the hole in his heart would never be filled. This was a situation that was unbearable to him.
Reflecting Monolith, Cloud Piercing Monolith, Bent Osmanthus Monolith, River Guiding Monolith, Fowl Language Monolith, East Pavilion Monolith… the seventeen monoliths of the front mausoleum simultaneously appeared before his eyes.
In the center of his field of vision was the Reflecting Monolith, while the other sixteen monoliths orbited it as he attempted to piece them all together. It was just that those monolith inscriptions were too abstruse and complex. Those lines were too inexplicable and incomprehensible. Between lines, there was not a single natural connection, and between marks there was no intervening mark to be found. No matter how he combined, he could find no signs that these monolith inscriptions were originally one.
He even had a feeling that even if that broken monolith had been restored and he had been able to read its inscription, he still would not be able to put the monolith inscriptions together.
For several hundreds of years, no one had been able to realize the profound mysteries of the seventeen monoliths of the front mausoleum, or perhaps it had already shown that all his efforts were futile. He serenely sat outside the monolith hut. At some point, his eyes closed. The seventeen Heavenly Tome Monoliths swiftly moved through his sea of consciousness, combining in all sorts of ways. They did not pause, causing his spiritual sense to be consumed faster and faster, and his face became paler and paler.
Outside the Mausoleum of Books, the world was similarly quiet. Of the lights of the innumerable houses of the capital, more than half had been extinguished. Only the mansions of the aristocracy, as well as the two important places of the Imperial Palace and Li Palace, were still brightly lit. Chen Changsheng’s determination to comprehend the monoliths of the front mausoleum again caused many people to be extremely shocked. It prompted ridicule, and it also made some people unable to sleep.
Time slowly but steadily passed. The vast sky of brilliant stars gradually grew dimmer. Once the darkness had passed, the light of dawn once again rose, brightening the earth. Unconsciously, Chen Changsheng had spent the entire night sitting in front of the monolith hut. There were many people within and outside the mausoleum that had also stayed there for the entire night waiting for him.
With the slight warmth of the morning light, the monolith viewers began to arrive from the mountain path one by one. When they saw Chen Changsheng sitting inside, eyes closed, and not saying a word, each of their expressions were different. Perhaps it was admiration, perhaps it was ridicule, and some even had a sense of absolution that was hard to describe. Last night’s circumstances were special, so Nian Guang was able to turn away all monolith viewers, but that could not be kept up forever, and thus the area around the forest gradually began to liven up.
Some people shook their heads at Chen Changsheng before proceeding to their own monoliths. Some people decided to purposely stay around the monolith hut just to see what Chen Changsheng would be able to comprehend. They took joy in his suffering as they thought back to how yesterday, Chen Changsheng had seen the entire front mausoleum and could clearly have departed with confidence. However, he had chosen to stay which was as if he had taken a rock and broken his own legs with it.
The people living in the grass hut also came over. Tang Thirty-Six carried a pot of porridge. It was clear this scion of Wenshui Tangs, born with a golden spoon in his mouth, had never done a day of housework in his life. He dripped porridge the entire way, even dropping quite a bit of it on to his shoes. He seemed somewhat battered and exhausted. Zhexiu brought along some side dishes and steamed buns, while Qi Jian carried bowls and chopsticks.
Chen Changsheng opened his eyes, took the bowl of porridge, and with a word of thanks to Qi Jian, he began to eat.
He ate two bowls of porridge, then ate a steamed bun accompanied with some pickled tofu. At this point, he felt full enough, so he put his chopsticks down.
Tang Thirty-Six saw his clearly pale face and worriedly asked, “Won’t you eat some more, or how else will you keep pushing forward?”
Chen Changsheng replied, “Eating too much makes it easier to get sleepy.”
Tang Thirty-Six frowned. “Although I’m not clear just what the hell you’re trying to comprehend, since you insist on it, I know there’s no way to persuade you otherwise, but don’t tell me you really plan on doing this with no sleep?”
Off to the side, Gou Hanshi said nothing. He knew that the reason why Chen Changsheng was in a rush was because the day which the Garden of Zhou opened grew closer and closer.
Zhexiu offered a wet towel to Chen Changsheng.
The towel had been soaked in a creek, so it was very cold. Chen Changsheng forcefully rubbed it on his face and felt his energy restored somewhat. He told the group, “You guys don’t have to worry about me.”
Saying these words, he once again closed his eyes.
Although he had closed his eyes, Gou Hanshi and the others knew that he was still viewing the monoliths. Perhaps this method did not hurt the eyes, but rather injured the spirit.
The morning birds flew out to welcome the rising sun, shaking the dew from their wings and feathers. Around the monolith hut, silence was restored. It seemed that all the people had already left.
Eyes closed and legs crossed, Chen Changsheng sat before the monolith hut and continued to attempt to comprehend the monoliths.
Time flowed by. Noiselessly, noon arrived, and then dusk, the twilight dense.
Today, the capital was as peaceful as the Mausoleum of Books. Within the Li Palace, the archbishops were in no mood to pay attention to the reports from their subordinates. In the Imperial Court, the chancellors had no mind to use on government affairs. The speed at which Mo Yu read through memorials had critically decreased. The Divine Empress brought the black goat on a slow stroll through the Palace of Great Brilliance, thinking about something or another. In one day, the Pope watered that Green Leaf seven times.
Those who did not know, who did not understand, viewed Chen Changsheng’s actions as entertainment, or the topic of idle chatter.
Those who knew of how Zhou Dufu had comprehended the monoliths, who understood the inside story of the Mausoleum of Books, were anxiously waiting for something to happen, or not happen.
Up until this point, that something had not occurred yet.
Within Chen Changsheng’s field of vision, or perhaps his sea of consciousness, the seventeen Heavenly Tome Monoliths formed countless combinations and permutations. Although he had not exhausted all the possibilities, he had already exhausted an enormous amount of effort and consumed an innumerable amount of spirit. Regretfully, he had still not found what he was looking for. To him, the world was still missing something.
Suddenly, he had a flash of insight. He no longer attempted to assemble the seventeen monoliths together. To be precise, he no longer attempted to put the monoliths on the same plane together . Instead, he organized the seventeen monoliths into a straight line.
In front of him was the Reflecting Monolith, behind that was Cloud Piercing Monolith, and behind that was the Bent Osmanthus Monolith. In succession, he arranged them into a straight line.
Then he thought to himself, only the monolith inscriptions were needed.
Hence, the bodies of the seventeen monoliths disappeared, only leaving those inexplicably complex lines.
The seventeen layers of monolith inscriptions, from near to far, hovered before his eyes.
His vision could see through the monolith inscriptions of the Reflecting Monolith and see the inscriptions of the other sixteen monoliths behind it.
When these inscriptions were superimposed one in front of the other, they formed a brand new, never seen before, impossible to imagine design.
He looked at this design, and was astonished.
In the seventeen monoliths of the front mausoleum, the farther back they were, the simpler and more orderly they seemed. The lines when superimposed seemed to become more orderly the farther back they were. Perhaps the thing that he wanted to find was concealed within?
However, the lines on the Reflecting Monolith were already exceedingly complicated. Although the lines on the monolith behind it were relatively simpler, they were still complex and incomprehensible, but if they were superimposed into a single design, their complexity was multiplied by several times. Relying on a human’s mental strength alone, one would never be able to decipher it. Even if they only tried, they would still encounter problems.
Chen Changsheng only glanced at it, his spiritual sense barely stimulated, and he found it absolutely unbearable. His sea of consciousness shook in unrest and a sharp pain came from his stomach.
He spit out blood, wetting his shirt.
From the ever peaceful, seemingly deserted, surroundings of the monolith came a cry of alarm.
So as not to affect Chen Changsheng, those people had forced the volume of their cries down.
Chen Changsheng’s eyes were still closed, so he was unable to take in the situation. In addition, his mind was fixed completely on that unfathomably complex design, so he did not notice their cries.
He only needed a glance to understand that the design could not be comprehended through human powers.
He inwardly said to himself: A little simpler.
These three words were not meant for that design, but for himself.
In the sea of consciousness of a cultivator, if one saw the world a certain way, the world would change to match what one imagined.
He forcefully curbed his spirit. Relying only on his mindset, which was calm beyond his years, as well as his spiritual sense whose suppleness even moved the Divine Empress, he once again looked upon the design.
He no longer attempted to arrange and calculate those lines, and just simply looked at it. In response, that design also became somewhat simpler.
Within that design, he saw countless scribblings of children, saw countless characters, saw countless songs and poems, saw countless ink paintings, saw the beautifully arranged and built buildings of the Li Palace, saw the Orthodox Academy’s great banyan tree, saw the high mountains wreathed in clouds, and saw the three thousand classics of the Daoist Canon.
Everything that existed in this world also existed in that design.
However, it was still not enough. It was still too much, still too complex.
Chen Changsheng silently said to himself: Even simpler then.
He forgot the three thousand classics of the Daoist Canon, which he had studied since he was young, forgot the songs and poems that he had previously seen, forgot that he had once been to the Li Palace, forgot that he had once climbed that great banyan tree, and with Luo Luo by his side watched the sun set over the capital with satisfaction, forget all the characters that he had learned. He forgot everything about everything.
This sort of forgetfulness was obviously not true forgetfulness; it was only a self-imposed isolation of the mind.
Only in this way would he be able to ask himself a single question.
If he was an illiterate child who saw the lines of this design, what would he think?
These were traces.
These were traces of flowing water.
These were the traces of clouds.
These were the traces left behind by a flock of geese as they flew through the blue sky.
Whatever walks must leave behind traces…no, that is something invented in essays and consolation when feeling sore.
When snow geese fly through the sky, not leaving behind a single trace. The lines of snow were really only an image to the eye.
Just what were these lines pointing at and indicating?
What the lines of snow were pointing at and indicating were the snow geese at the very front of the line.
What these lines pointed at and indicated was the end of the line.
If there is no end, then the line must have intersected somewhere.
Chen Changsheng stared at the incomparably complex design, and repeated these words to himself.
Seventeen monoliths superimposed themselves before his eyes.
The bodies of the monoliths were the first to disappear.
Then the lines disappeared.
More and more lines continued to disappear before his eyes, slowly, ceaselessly disappearing.
More and more empty space, before his eyes, slowly, ceaselessly appeared.
The seventeen monoliths had completely disappeared. The lines on the monolith had also disappeared. A new design had been born.
It was a countless number of isolated points.
Chen Changsheng was sure that he had never seen this design before.
Yet for some reason, he felt that the design was very familiar.
(TL: The title of these two chapters, “Thus We Shall Perceive Them”, is from the last section of the Diamond Sutra. The section emphasizes that reality is an illusory and temporary construct and should be viewed as such.)