Never having been one to follow others or any path not my own, I now find myself a fully fledged member of the Sanfeng Pai. Which makes me a “disciple”, “follower”, or more neutrally expressed, “lineage holder”. You can guess which of these labels I feel most comfortable sellotaping to my identity.
In a previous post, I described the ceremony and said that George had recorded the proceedings. He has now edited it all together into a video that put a smile on my face. It shows a bit of the ceremony at 9:09am, the Pai’s playing around with their horse whisk presents and then the tea symposium at the Woodland Training Ground.
My full Daoist name is 丹宁姿和 dān níng zīhé. Here’s me pronouncing it:
丹 dān: the family name comes first in Chinese and 丹 dān mimics my surname, van Dantzig. I like it because it is a rather Daoist word that means “elixir”, “red” and “cinnabar” (a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulphide); it is the first part of the much-used word dāntián or “elixir field”, which is where qi is stored and cultivated in the body. It has connotations of alchemy, both inner and physical. In addition, it is actually an existing surname in Chinese.
宁 níng means “calm, peaceful” and is the “clan” name, if you will, derived from Master Gu’s Daoist name: Gu Shining. This fourth character was added to the traditional set of three to make sure there wouldn’t be too many people with the same Daoist name. Many Chinese people have the same surname and there is a limited number of Daoist “first” names, which may result in confusion and mistaken identity.
姿 zī is unique to the 16th generation of the Sanfeng Pai. George’s Daoist name is zīxū, where xū means “empty”, another essential concept in Daoism. So zī is a generational marker.
The last character is the one that, connected to zī, identifies me. Within the Pai, I would be introduced as zīhé. 和 hé, consisting of 禾 hé which means “grain still on the stalk” and “rice plant”, and 口 kǒu, which means “mouth” and “entrance”. As an adjective, 和 hé means “gentle, mild, kind” and “harmonious”; as a noun, it means “peace”. As a conjunction, it is used to mean “and”. In short, togetherness, connection, harmony: I like it as a name to live by.
Now then, the video. Up on George’s YouTube channel (118,000 subscribers and counting…) since yesterday evening, it has already attracted more than 4,000 views at the time of writing this. Dear me. George really has done a lovely job, as you’ll see. So much so that I’m happy to have this up on the Youtubes and if you know me, you know that’s saying something. Kudos to my
funk soul Sanfeng brother, check it out now!
And that’s that. Nearly a month has passed. Am I a different man? No different than before. Or: when am I not different? The ceremony, the ritual: they mark a milestone, perhaps, in a longer process of learning and development. A birthday party does not change us; the year that has passed, though, in all likelihood has, as will the year whose commencement it signals. This is how I view the ceremony, the induction into the Sanfeng Pai: as a celebration of my time here and all the knowledge, skills and life experiences that it has brought me. A formalization of my connection to this time, this place, these people.
Otherwise, to wax a bit more prosaci: my bowels are in order again! It was most likely indeed the cooking oil that had been micro-dosing me multiple times a day with its poisonous mixture of peanut and sesame. Hurrah! Physically, then, I am feeling better. Mentally and emotionally, still in aforementioned state of flux, but calm. More energetic, perhaps, in my heart-and-mind. It’s rather like how your washing machine, after that deliciously carefree sloshing from left to right, starts the spin cycle. Slowly at first, then faster and faster. I have been taking up my studies of nonviolent communication again, which continues to speak to me and find happy connections with both Daoism and the Inner Family language. Connection—harmony—really is the key word. So now to rinse, spin, fold and iron and then these metaphorical robes will be ready for me to don when I go and “merge with the dust again”: rejoin everyday life in my Western habitat.
In other respects, too, my thoughts continue to drift more frequently to the West, to the Netherlands, to the people there who are important to me, to the language and to my cats. In all probability, I am currently in a transitional phase, no longer “just” a student or apprentice, a sponge. Increasingly, I think I am getting ready to become what my dear cousin Arienne has told me is called a “journeyman”. Wikipedia: “A journeyman is a worker, skilled in a given building trade or craft, who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification.”
I find I have been thinking more about how exactly I will travel home. Taiwan is opening its borders, which is tempting. But I am also considering a long train journey back through Europe, with a stop in Greece to visit Kalikalos, where my late father had such happy times in the latter years of his life. I am not taking any steps yet, just letting things stew for a while and keeping my ear to the ground, nose in the wind, eyes open and my finger on the pulse. My tongue, er, in the rice porridge. Wú wéi, ruò shuǐ.
Let’s see where the Dao takes me next, and when.
I certainly don’t feel like a tram anymore, weighed down in its tracks.
And it’s pretty scary, sometimes.
But mostly exciting.
Signing off, love to y’all,
Eli, a.k.a. 若水 ruò shuǐ, a.k.a. 姿和 zīhé