- The Black Pearl and the White Pearl
A practitioner of Chinese medicine, I am also co-founder of Infinity Foods—an organic and natural food business—and the Brighton Natural Health Centre, a charity devoted to health and well-being. I am principal author of A Manual of Acupuncture and of Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition, plus numerous articles on Chinese medicine and related subjects. I regularly give lectures and workshops on Chinese health promotion and qigong throughout the world. After several decades of writing academic works, I was moved to attempt fiction and attended a creative writing course at my local university. This short piece arose out of an assignment to write a "fairy story." It is informed by my experiences of qigong, psychotherapy and a love of the Daode jing. Fiction generally suffers when it has a message to extol, but I hope this is not too blatant here. The message of course is that we have to embrace both the dark and the light, learn from suffering, and hold to the vision that by always remaining open to learning we can eventually attain some level of wisdom.
"Come, children, your grandfather wishes to speak to you."
Kun and her brother Tian followed their mother into Old Li's rooms. They loved their grandfather but there was always something a little intimidating about passing through his red lacquered doors.
Grandfather Li was sitting cross-legged on the raised platform where he now spent most of his daylight hours. When they were younger the children were allowed to jump onto the carpeted platform and marvel at the woven tigers and curl in grandfather's lap. But now they [End Page 225] felt a new constraint. It was partly that they were older now, and partly because today there was something different about Old Li. He sat very still and seemed a little stern.
"Sit down, my children," he said, and then spent an age looking down at them and sipping his tea. Finally he nodded to himself. "Yes, you are old enough. I have decided that it is time you learned the legends."
Kun, the eldest by less than the time it took to clean and wrap her, turned towards her twin brother. Her eyes warned him that they were to say nothing and to sit absolutely still. She knew this moment marked a turning point, a step on the path to adulthood.
"You have only known peace, my children, and so have all of us alive today and for many generations back. But it was not always so. There was a time, long long ago, when all harmony was lost. War broke out between the provinces, and even between villages and families. The love between men and women turned to bitterness, and children were lost and bewildered. Farmers destroyed the irrigation ditches and crops of their neighbors, and soon hunger added to the misery of the people.
"Some appealed to the gods of heaven for mercy and others turned to the older spirits of the earth. Yet even this became grounds for hatred and fury, as the followers of the different religions came to blows and burned each others' temples. It was as though a fiery darkness had fallen on the whole civilized world and many gave up hope.
"Now in those days our own family was blessed with a powerful leader. Because of his courage and great strength he was known as Warrior Li, although he was gentle by nature. You children have kowtowed and burned incense in front of his portrait since you were babies. But until now you have never known why.
"Warrior Li watched with great pain as the conflict raged. He was a strong man and able to intervene physically in most disputes, but now he felt helpless and saw that his strength was like dust in the wind. He could neither eat nor sleep and just lay on his bed in the heaviness of despair. Then one afternoon he finally did fall asleep and a vision came to him in a dream. He was standing by the edge...