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Tiny Travelers:
People and Nature

(Chinese philosophical views)

Even though the simple and rustic rural life drastically changed into complicated urban structure, and even though our pace of life becomes faster and more diverse, these changes altered little of the Chinese' respect for nature. The Chinese still maintain a belief that human life and nature is intimately interrelated.

Fear and Respect
Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the Chinese learned to use fire to break away from darkness, to vent off danger in nature, and to begin a civilization of enlightenment. Later, the Chinese transposed their fear of the nature into various kinds of burial and worshipping rituals. For example, when they were frightened by beasts and animals, they decorated their daily tools with the images of these animals. By doing so, they hoped to show respect for these fearful natural objects who had great power, which would in turn protect them.

Since the legend of Tsang Chieh, the reputed inventor of Chinese writing, the Chinese forebears were known to record their experiences in writing and pass on their knowledge and teachings through literary means. These practices were also believed to prompt the development of legal systems and rituals which promised to bring stability and peace to the society. When the Chinese achieved a peaceful and stable society, they began their desire for immortality. This desire is reflected by the excessive burial objects that were excavated from the tombs.

Chinese have changed their perception with respect to nature over time. They first had fear of nature and thus devised objects to express their respect for it. Later, when words were invented, the Chinese developed a will to challenge nature, in particular, the natural phenomenon of death, and thus conceived contenting burial objects to express their will. Finally, the Chinese realized that natural phenomena, such as natural landscapes and seasonal cycles, are truly immortal phenomena, whereas human life is merely a transient phenomenon, like the life of a traveler passing through many different places and scenes throughout his/her life. Because of this realization, the Chinese expressed their inner appreciation of the natural landscape by painting them, and hoped that through a meditating experience with these landscapes, they could find meaning, values, and the rhythms of life.

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