Blue Sea, Mulberry Field and
The Peach of Immortality
Ma-Gu asked Wang Yung: “Since obtaining the Tao and taking in the order of heaven,
I have seen the Blue Sea become a land of mulberry trees three times already.
Shortly before I went to Penglai and found the water about half shallower than before.
Can it be that landmass would soon rise from the sea again …”
-Ancient Chinese Legend
Ma Ma told me that I would be dancing a most auspicious dance on Gung Gung’s sixtieth birthday.
Gung Gung was my grandfather on my father’s side. He was a famous teacher who had students from all over the country.
Ma Ma said that his students would hold a grand party for him … and I was to be the Deity Ma-Gu, offering him a Chinese classical dance
called: “Ma-Gu Presenting the Peach of Immortality. “
Ma Ma said that Ma-Gu was a heavenly maiden who had lived hundreds of thousands of years in the appearance of a youthful maiden.
She also said that the phrase “Blue Sea and Mulberry Field” represented the transience of worldly affairs
and had been in use for thousands of years.
“A little girl like you is innocent enough to present great blessings through dancing the deities,” Ma Ma said proudly.
I often thought that there were many things Ma Ma would like to do but she thought she was too old,
so I became her “other self” to perform these dreams.
Father specially offered one of my dance teachers, Lady Chan, to be my tutor for this dance.
I was to be very deity like to honor our family tradition. My little world was filled with important people in those days.
Almost everyone on both sides of my family told us historic stories, to remind us how important it was to keep the reputation of our family shinning
like the mid-day sun. The best way to get along with these important people was to keep silent and to be deity-like when offering auspicious dance.
It was much easier to dance the deity than to live peacefully with “important” human beings.
Lady Chan taught me that each movement should be very slow. The communication was in between the movements with my focus and intent.
It was called the Rhythm of Spirit instead of the rhythm of flesh and blood.
My Chinese dance teacher did not approve of my ballet lessons. She said they would only destroy my gift of subtlety as a fine Chinese classical dancer.
Lady Chan told me that I should not treat the Peach of Immortality as a prop, but treat it as the real mythical peach in my mind,
and I should not only do the dance steps but to become the Deity Ma-Gu herself.
Which was actually not hard at all if you could see Her in your mind‘s eye.
“The Peach of Immortality” was mounted on a golden plate.
Lady Chan taught me how to dance with that golden plate in a figure 8, like the symbol of infinity.
The Peach should float around without people noticing it was moved by my hands and I should float around it like the cloud circling around the mountain.
Nobody should notice my movement but only see the Peach and I floating up and down,
like sky and rivers dancing together into the Ocean of Enlightenment.
Finally Gung Gung’s birthday arrived.
The party was held at one of the finest restaurants where Golden Dragons and Golden Lotus Flower were carved along the walls.
After putting make-ups on my face, Ma Ma added a red dot on the center of my forehead .
That was a signature for the deity -me. My younger brother, Little Gold, said that I looked as old as my aunt.
There was neither stage, nor audience seating. People were everywhere.
I asked Ma Ma where was the front. Ma Ma said wherever Gung Gung sat would be the front.
I should only think of dancing my purest intent for his longevity and for the happiness of all his guests.
Step by step … very, very slowly approaching Gung Gung, I was the very deity Ma Gu from an ancient painting:
long hair, long sleeves, long skirt, long ribbons, long earrings. Everything was long to symbolize a very long life for my beloved Gung Gung.
The Peach of Immortality was floating from heaven to earth… to the smiles on everyone’s faces … to the pure intent that danced from my heart…
to every external movement. I gave my purest blessing with every breath and every glance … for him and for all his guests.
After the dance was offered, all the guests held glasses of shimmering wine and toasted for Gung Gung’s longevity.
Gung Gung was the Emperor that night.
He had the brightest smile while watching me offering him the Peach of Immortality. I knew in my heart that he was very proud of me.
D D D D D D D
Soon after that night, I got a gift from Gung Gung. It was a very big book. It smelled so good.
The brownish cover smelled of leather, the pages smelled like a fresh forest and the words smelled like -- hmm --- the words smelled like ---hmm--
The words smelled like sun rays and thunder storms spinning together.
Gung Gung said it was a dictionary.
“What is a dictionary?” I asked.
“A dictionary is like a sacred temple of words that contains all the meanings of every word you could ever think of.”
Gung Gung proudly raised his palms like an Emperor announcing an oracle.
“Hmm!??? Every word I could ever think of? Impossible!”
First, I looked up our family’s last name. It was supposed to be very grand, according to what the adults told me.
Behold, there it was, the name of a dynasty.
“Wow! This book is so smart. It knows exactly how important we are.” I cried. Meanwhile all the adults were laughing with their teeth shining and eyes rolling.
Then I looked up every word in Gung Gung’s name. No-way!!!???
This book was too smart. It knew exactly what Gung Gung’s name was made of.
Then I checked the names of every adults, and mine as well.
Then my brothers’ name and the names of our dogs and cats…
Yup! Gung Gung was right.
This book knew them all.
Then I checked up Ma-Gu, Blue Sea, Mulberry Field and The Peach of Immortality… It was even smarter than Ma Ma.
It told me more than what she had ever told me.
It said the Blue Sea could become the Mulberry Field and the Mulberry Field could become the Blue Sea.
It said that everything could be turned around, upside down, and inside out in this transient world.
That night I slept with that big brown book and wished that one day I would be as smart as it was.
According to legend the Chinese are the off-springs of the Dragons. The Emperors had always been called “True Dragon.” That means a true Royal Blood.
I have always wondered, if we are all the off-springs of the Dragon, then what is the real meaning of a True Dragon?
I guess this might be something like wondering which church is the real church for the real G-O-D.
The most amazing thing is that this wondrous book had every word for everyone’s name. It had words and meanings for dragons and none-dragons,
and all mythical creatures. It even had words and meanings for the “barbarians.” You see the Chinese used to think of every none-Chinese as a barbarian.
Later when I traveled around the world, I found every race had the same prejudice against other outsiders.
What would the dictionary say about this?
I was very busy checking up word after words, meaning after meanings, page after pages … True Dragon or not, I was busy.
I wanted to become a good scholar like Gung Gung. Sometimes Father would let me read my writings in front of Gung Gung.
They both would smile when listening to my reading.
Perhaps those were the rare moments that Father and Gung Gung were in good communication.
D D D D D D D
Gung Gung was from the tail time of the old China. He had many wives.
Gung Gung was a scholar landlord, and Father as the first born of the first wife, should have inherited the land.
Being a scholar landlord was actually a very respectful lifestyle in the old China --
that you worked with the land and you were also cultured in your mind.
Later when the communists took over the massive lands of China, landlords and intellectual people became “the enemies of the people.”
Gung Gung and many other intellectual people had to escape to a different land. Most of them ended up on the island, Taiwan.
The two sides of my family would have never met if the communist had not held knives over their throats.
Father had knotted emotions of both love and hate toward Gung Gung, who was a better teacher than a father.
All Gung Gung’s students loved him and treated him like their own father. Father felt like an orphan among Gung Gung’s scholar party.
Father was born in a time of chaos when the Japanese, warlords, Communist were occupying different provinces.
He left his land and his family to join the student army to fight against the Japanese invasion. He was only a teenager then.
I often thought how strange it was for a landlord’s son to leave his land. But, if he stayed with his land, he might have been killed by the Communist.
When his famous father escaped to Taiwan with group of his students, Father went with the Student Army to the same island.
All those mothers and sisters were left behind to stay with the land.
One day father met Gung Gung on the street unexpectedly. Without a handshake or a proper greeting, Gung Gung asked him--
“Well, how come you are here too?”
Father was very hurt by this encounter. I guess that they might just not have been the best friends in their previous lifetimes.
Ma Ma side of family thought Gung Gung’s lifestyle was totally old fashion and unthinkable. I did not realize all these dynamic when I was a kid.
Now I can see so clearly that Ma Ma side of the family was “liberal” and Father’s side was “conservative.”
They did not like one another even though they always maintained their polite manners.
There was something very mysterious about Gung Gung. Father had few words to say when asked about Gung Gung.
He would just say:“ This is not a child’s business.“
If you have question about anything, ask Ma Ma. Ma Ma might not know what she was talking about, but she would always have some answer for you.
I used to think that Gung Gung was the President of his school but Ma Ma said that he was only one of the teachers, though a famous one.
I then thought maybe Gung Gung would someday be the President for our country, but Ma Ma said that was impossible.
I asked Ma Ma what Gung Gung like the most? Ma Ma said she was not too sure - maybe books and women.
Ma Ma was also Gung Gung’s student. She met her teacher’s son over a ping pong table. She was 16 and he was 29.
Nai Nai said that Father was an “old man” who was almost twice mom’s age when they first met.
I have always secretly thought to myself that maybe it was I who made the match from the Land of Spirit.
The genetic wisdom from this kind of blood combination was surely exciting.
If the communist had not taken over the mainland China, and if these families did not meet on a small island, surely this person called “me”
would have been born differently: with different genetic wisdom, different background, different childhood, different human dramas
and different social programming, perhaps I would be born into an entirely different culture or race.
D D D D D D D
Many things happened dramatically after Gung Gung’s birthday. One of them was that Gung Gung went into a hospital.
It was not the kind of hospital where most people went. It was a hospital where “crazy” people got locked in.
It started from all the hush-hushes from adults… then visitors, then body guards from the hospital… And Gung Gung was taken away.
There was no secret in a small town. Soon all my classmates knew that my grandfather was in a mental hospital.
Little Gold, Little Firewood and I had gone through very hard time being ridiculed by our school mates.
Father and Ma Ma were busily in and out of the house and stayed in the hospital from time to time.
I thought our family was supposed to be very “important” and now we were facing all kinds of prejudice and whispers behind our backs.
One day I was in tear running home to seek refuge. A group of boys from my class were trying to cut my hair off simply because
my grandfather was a mad person. They said that one day I would also go mad, so it was good for them to remove a future threat from our society.
Ma Ma said they were just jealous about how smart I was. I asked Ma Ma if I would become mad someday?
I would rather die than be a mad person.
Ma Ma said that Gung Gung’s madness was not because our family blood but because some unclean women.
That was the part of Gung Gung’s life that father had a hard time to talk about. Ma Ma said I should have nothing to worry about.
I would not tell my classmates that my grandfather got his madness from unclean women. That would make things even worse.
Guess what! I made up a brilliant lie and told those boys the exact opposite.
I said I had the madness in my blood and if they messed up with me they were going to be very sorry.
A crazy person could do many things that a normal person could not even dream about.
In the meantime I was the champion girl who just got more and more championships to show -
- how unfortunate they just did not have this kind of madness in their blood.
It was fun to play games like these. They were always in group and I was always by myself.
I do not remember when those boys became my friends . I only remember that sometimes I had flowers on my desk from some of those boys.
Once I lost a championship in a lecture contest, they got so upset. They said the teachers were unjust. I had to smile secretly to myself.
After Gung Gung went mad I became much older than my classmates, even though I was the youngest one.
They were just simple kids but I was not any more. I became so complicated just to protect myself and my brothers.
Nobody was going to mess up with us. If they did, they might have to remember us for the rest of their lives.
Once Little Firewood came running toward me with tears and blood all over his face.
It was done by the same girl whose family was very prejudice toward us since...
She was bigger than Little Firewood, but she was not the biggest kid yet.
I made up my mind and made up a prayer:
“Oh, dear God, Buddha, Jesus, angels and all Saints… please give me strength just to do this once and for all. I shall marry one of you when I grow up someday.
I then found her and skillfully punished that "chicken brain” while she was alone.
“Nice and clean, now walk away calmly,” I said to myself.
Now it was her turn to cry and go to her teacher. Her teacher held her hand, came to my class and asked her to point out who did that.
She pointed at me. I said nothing, but stared at her as if it was she who went mad, not my grandfather.
Then those boys stood up and told the teacher that was impossible. They said I would never do anything like that.
Now she was crying and cursing madly. Later her mom showed up acting madly too. They were no different than my grandfather.
If they mess up with us again, they should be put into the same hospital where Gung Gung went.
You might get curious and want to know what I did to her. Well, it was a secret between God, Buddha, Jesus, angels and all Saints ... and me.
I had no problem to be a little dragon lady if I had to. I would not mess up with anyone if they did not mess up with me.
If they did once, may God bless them… Twice, may God give them wisdom … Three times, may they ask themselves, "WHO Walks With Whom?"
I was totally at peace with this. Let those who want to be sheep be sheep, and let the dragon lady be the dragon lady - only if necessary.
It takes some complexity to be crazy. Now I am not afraid of being crazy any more -- I like to be crazy.
It gives me the privilege to stand outside the box mocking those who stay inside.
It gives me courage to roam from land to land and live with the unanswered questions.
It gives me pleasure to stand alone and be free. I have no problem of being “crazy” no matter how many others might.
D D D D D D D
Gung Gung lived a pretty long life.
Father bought a house next to ours just for him to live near us. Father said that nobody could live in a mental hospital for too long.
There were times Father had to have a body fight with Gung Gung just to get him to take a bath.
My job was to bring meals to him daily. Little Gold and Little Firewood were naughty, that sometimes offended Gung Gung.
In return Gung Gung did some pretty dangerous things to them as well.
Gung Gung was mostly kind with me and in my heart he was mostly “normal.”
There were many tears, confusions, hush-hushes in those years. My very “important” family members gradually forgot how important we were.
We were just trying to live with prejudice, hurt, hope and some simple joys over our humble dinner table.
Little Firewood and I became addicted to championships. It was great to bring some smiles back to father’s aged face. He loved champions more than we did.
Little Gold did not give a poop for any of these things.
“ The tails of a peacock and a turkey are actually the same. The only difference is the way we view the colors.
Why give so much importance to the ways people view us? “
He was the center of attraction for many girls. Ma Ma was happy just to know that we all had our “places” in our little world.
Neither do I remember when did I stop perform the dance of Ma-Gu offering The Peach of Immortality,
nor do I know what happened to those costumes and The Peach.
As years went by, I became skilled enough to dance “high” technical ballet.
Every dance group had their opinions toward the other dance form. I did not even mention to other ballet girls that I was once a “deity.”
Gung Gung left his earthly life when in deep sleep. There was no pain, no drama.
I was the first person to discover this when bringing him breakfast. He had a peaceful smile on his face like having a sweet dream.
I said:” Good morning, Gung Gung.” There was no answer…
It was a grand funeral. His students came by the busload. After all those years of isolation he was still loved by his students.
He got some make-up and was dressed up in a blue silk robe.
I was still trying to comprehend why he smiled in his final moments.
Had he not suffered enough?
Did he know something that we did not ?
What was he thinking in those moments?
The good scholar looked like an Emperor in his final ceremony.
One of his cousin showed up. She was also from the old world. Crying loudly as if having an opera performance, she screamed:
“ Oh, oh, oh, my good cousin…oh, oh, oh, how could you leave us behind.” She screamed those “Oh. oh, ohs” throughout the entire ceremony.
Little Gold, Little Firewood and I had to keep elbowing one another to stop the giggling…
That night, Gung Gung came to visit me in my dreams. He cupped his hands and bowed to me as if I were the elder.
I was that little girl again wearing the dance costume of Ma-Gu. There was no peach in my hands. None of us were sad.
When I waved good-bye to him, there were golden rays between us.
I was a deity on his birthday, then a little dragon lady after he got sick.
I had realized that “important” people also have important secrets.
I did not know shy kids like Little Firewood and I could become intense winners for the family reputation.
I did not know Little Gold had totally different views.
One thing I did know in my dream was that we would meet again.
What will we be when we meet again?
Maybe I will be the grandma and he will be the grandkid …
Maybe I will be a wise writer and he will be my young reader …
Maybe I will be a great teacher and he will be my student.
Blue Sea, Mulberry Field …