And the history of food, agriculture, the neolithic revolution, population growth,
chopsticks, and enlightenment

Anyone who eats three meals a day
should understand why cookbooks
outsell sex books three to one.

--L.M. Boyd

Most people eat to live; gourmets live to eat. Across eons of time and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean I felt an instant empathy with ladies and gen­tlemen of the ancient Chinese court upon reading of the exquisite heights to which they raised the contemplation of food. For some venerable oriental gour­mets the consuming passion filled hours or days of dreaming, planning, anticipation; and principal wak­ing energies sometimes for weeks or even months might be concentrated upon the preparation of a single dish to be set before the terrestrial palate of the Celes­tial Emperor.

In the high civilization of China food could imply a whole way of being, and in its appreciation show the way to being whole. Food became for some the fantasy, focus and fulfillment of life, symbolically revealing the mysterious, ineffable and divine principles of the Tao through aroma, color, texture, savor and taste. It could all be seen, both history and hopes, set out on the micro-stage of a tabletop.

If we also acknowledge our memories of fabulous feasts and pay our dues on the next trip to market, then there must be a way for us too in which the whole of life can be appreciated as but one of the more gen­eral instances of eating. Subatomic nuclei are said to attract and capture or "eat" electrons. The fire eats the wood, and galaxies may eat itinerant spaceships or errant stars. Life may be seen as a part of eating with as much conviction as eating is seen to be a part of life.

In a famous Taoist teaching story, the sage Chuang Tzu dreamed he was a butterfly. Upon awakening, he was not quite sure if he were Chuang Tzu who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or if he were really a butterfly merely dreaming that he was now Chuang Tzu.

The cuisine of Imperial China--it is widely held, without serious debate--was the most comprehensive, complex, delicate, subtle, inventive and consciously perfected tradition of eating the world has ever known. Had he cared to resolve the issue through deliberate action, Chuang Tzu probably could have prepared and eaten the butterfly in any number of delicious ways, just as honey-fried grasshoppers in China today are still considered to be a sweet and crispy treat.

In their charming book The Benevolent Bean, (Noonday 1972), Margaret and Ancel Keys publish the fruits of their search for the earliest written record of the soybean. This, they say, is some five thousand years old, "found in the books of the Emperor Shen Nung, dated 2800 B.C., which described the five principal crops of China: rice, soybean, wheat, barley and millet. Later in that millennium there were writings giving expert advice on growing the soybean." (p. 38) Their early dating of the written record is problematical; for after all, the very earliest writing of any kind—cuneiform tablets from Sumer and Elamitic Susa--date only from 3200 B.C. Here also the basic crops and foodstuffs can be identi­fied among the tax lists and inventories.

In a quest for the historical origins of Chinese cuisine, however, we must forsake the ancient annals to consider evidence older by far than any form of writing--that provided by archaeological investigation of dwelling sites and preserved remains of foodstuffs themselves.

During the second half of the twentieth century in China, along with the profound and vastly extensive transformations in almost every aspect of life has come an intense and systematic program of archaeological research. Rather short-term political views have, lamen­tably, led to the desecration of certain monuments associated with the Imperial past, such as the city walls of Suzhou (Soochow) and most other ancient fortifications. But the materials have been used for new housing, disease and famine appear to be largely under control; poverty and begging gone. We in the West notice the changed conventions for representing the Chinese written character transliterated into the Roman alphabet. Familiar place names and proper nouns may seem strange in the Pinyin system, although this more closely approximates the actual, newly regular Chinese pronunciation. In order to achieve a more unified, national standard of speech, Mandarin is being taught in the schools, superseding the bewildering variety of old vernaculars and dialects.

These and many other changes are noted by recent travelers, such as Henry McNulty (Gourmet, vol. xli, June 1981), who was born in Suzhou.half a century earlier. Everyone, including workers in the fields, has decent clothing to wear, and seems friendly and healthy.

"Among the literally thousands of people we saw...not a single child (or grown-up, for that matter) looked unhappy or unhealthy. All the young seemed to have fantastic complexions--peachy cheeks with the smoothness of velvet--beautiful hands, and graceful movements. The old people, too, appeared busy, healthy, and above all happy." A vast replanting program is transforming the landscape, with trees 'in the cities, in the country, and along the roads and canals."

There is good news about the food, too. For whatever else the Communist revolution of the People's Republic may have done, there still flourishes a pervasive gastronomic enthusiasm--the modern product of an unparalleled historical tradition, one that has spread far beyond the national borders of the mainland.

Chinese food was always one of my father's favor­ites. He held it to be quick and clean and healthy. There was always a variety of items from which to choose; you could order at almost any hour of the day, it was usually reasonably priced (if not downright cheap), and best of all--for dad was a drinking man--it had the reputed capacity to cure hangovers. Since I was born in San Francisco--which itself in some ways qualifies as a Chinese city--my first experiences of Chinese cuisine were with chop suey and egg foo yung. Only much later did I learn that authorities disdained these dishes as not Chinese at all, although from what throne of authority and with what support from fact or real know­ledge was seldom revealed with the damning pronouncement.

San Francisco in 1944 featured plenty of Chop Suey joints.

San Francisco in 1944 featured plenty of Chop Suey joints.

When I did finally first set foot on the Chinese mainland, it was in the 1950s and the Bamboo Curtain was all but impenetrable. It was only China in a strained and technical sense anyway: Kowloon, at the very tip of a peninsula in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. But my interests in food then were quite concrete and functional rather than reflective, abstract and esthetic. Although I ate marvelously, well-guided with good company, the only meal I distinctly remember was in a basement lavishly upholstered with crimson velvet, sparkling with crystal chandeliers, gilt and mirrors, set with snowy linen and heavy silver, and attended by numerous inscrutibles in monkey suits--monkey jackets, that should be-- with black bow ties. The dish was a spectacular tournedos Rossini: delicious, but not what you would think of as Chinese.

I also visited the "other China," having spent some several months on Taiwan. It was in Taipei, the luxuriant capital city and then new home to many political refugees from the north eastern provinces of the mainland. One of the most stunning gustatory surprises of my life changed forever my awareness and appreciation of Chinese cuisine when, led by whom precisely where I now forget, for this first time in my life I indulged in a grand feast that featured Peking duck. So this, too, was Chinese food!

Remember that this was many years before one could find in the cities of America anything like Northern Chinese, Szechwan or Yunnan style restaurants. Outside of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, the only choices were between the Golden Buddha and the Golden Dragon, so to speak. It seemed to me then extraordinary that thin wheaten pancakes should be served. Rice always! Like Chopsticks, tea and fortune cookies. But wheat was a revelation, a memorable lever for prying apart my prejudices and shattering my expectations about what could and could not be counted as Chinese food. I did not even realize that millet could be consumed by human beings, although perhaps I had seen a spray of golden clusters fed to birds.

It was only much later on, after having studied some Oriental art and archaeology in graduate school at Princeton, that I came to recognize the profound historical consequences of grain as one of the basic foodstuffs all over the globe, and how the variety of grain grown in an area could deeply affect the quality of life. Not only does the basic grain imply a set of consequences for the cuisine, but it also conditions the way in which a people lead their daily life--or if, under certain circumstances of climatic change, life is to be endured at all. That these lessons are still applicable in the world today is brought home by Dan Morgan's recent study Merchants of Grain (Viking 1979). For millennia fluctuations in weather have oc­casioned crop failures and consequent famines, the most basic crop being always grain. Thus it is remarkable that the social and economic changes within China in recent decades appear to have stabilized the base line of survival for many millions of people. Now China holds one quarter of the world's population. May the compassion of heaven assure us that the problems of feeding all these people have been truly and functionally resolved. Otherwise, the specter of a famine in China will produce, inevitably cataclysmic, apocalyptic consequences, re­verberations of which will be felt by all who live on this planet.

This global, interdependence is a major feature of the international-multinational grain cor­porations' real power--a power which places their oper­ations largely outside the control of national govern­ments. Yet there are only five countries capable of exporting grain: Argentina, Australia, Canada, the United States and Brazil. Only the last two are major producers of soy beans, king of the seed oil commodities and one of the staple foods of the Orient. Russia, with its huge production of grain, but also with enormous needs, seldom exports, frequently imports. It trades on the global market as a more-or-less equal competitor with the five privately held companies (not identified on-to-one with the five nations) that constitute the most secure and impenetrable oligarchy of all or any time. Just China, to some extent, retains a relative independence.

During the 1960s, Chinese farming recovered miraculously from the initial chaos of communi­zation and the Great Leap Forward. Grain produc­tion increased at a rate of 4 per cent a year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world. By 1970, China had become the world's largest food-grain producer, with an annual output of 240 million tons of rice and wheat. The govern­ment mobilized hundreds of millions of peasants to build tube wells for irrigation, reclaim land, expand multiple cropping, and dig drainage ditches. Following Mao's maxim, the Chinese "stored grain everywhere." Chinese plant researchers developed their own varieties of "miracle" rice, and thou­sands of rural workshops began turning out farm implements, tools, and small, lightweight tractors that reduced some of the field work and freed rural people for other tasks. (Dan Morgan, Merchants of Grain. Penguin edition, 1980, p. 190)

However long this self-sufficiency will successfully obviate the need for China's leaders to deal with the Merchants of Grain of the oligarchical market is a matter of speculation. But the message should not be lost that this represents a substantially different state of affairs than has obtained in China in pre­vious times.

Left: Mao Tse Tung (1893-1976)  Right: Eleanor Rossevelt (1884-1962) and Madame Chiang Kai Shek (1898-2003)

Left: Mao Tse Tung (1893-1976)  Right: Eleanor Rossevelt (1884-1962) and Madame Chiang Kai Shek (1898-2003)

America's late former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt had her idealism shocked when Madame Chiang Kai Shek, then wife of China's leader, archly commented that one of the disastrous floods that swept the mainland river valleys was "our method of birth control." The same, rather callous conclusion had been reached about famine since the neolithic dependence upon grain and cereal crops began, if only because the scope and scale of the problem seemed to defy an approach based on such a massive program as that initiated by Mao Tse Tung.

Dependency upon the successful farming of grain has been the crucial determinant for about ten thousand years. Ever since the first primitive varieties of wheat began to be grown in the area of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia, or modern Iraq) around 7000 B.C., the yearly harvest has had a directly proportionate relationship to population, true in principle the world over. By 5000 B.C. the growing of wheat had already spread as far east as China. But it is clear that from the very earliest of times when neolithic culture emerges, in the north millet was harvested, and in the south rice.

Our understanding of those distant events, based upon partial and scattered evidence, is at best tenuous. We may conjecture that with the discovery of the principles of seed agriculture (seasonal cycles, fertility, lunar cycles, irrigation, techniques of cultivation and harvest and so forth) together with those of animal husbandry, it became possible to sus­tain an increasing number of people in permanent settlements. Or we may see it another way, as Jane Jacobs argues in The Economy of Cities (Abrams, 1969) that intense agriculture was the result rather than the cause of cities--that all those people had to be fed. Whatever the coincidence of cause and effect, the dramatic correlation between world population and the new culture base of the neolithic is clear. In 10,000 B.C. the total population of humanity of earth is rather accurately estimated to have been about three million beings. That is three million people subsisting on the resources of the entire globe!

Then practices of planting, cultivation, regular harvesting spread. In some places the slow shift from hunting and gathering subsistence took place over a period of thousands of years. Recently, evidence was discovered of barley, apparently planted and cultivated as an agricultural crop, at a site in upper Egypt dating from around 17,000 B.C. So it may be that the idea of agriculture is very much older than we have heretofore imagined. But the consequences of the practice employed on an increasingly large scale, and inte­grated with stock breeding, from 10,000 B.C. onward generated a food-producing revolution, as Dora Janen Hamblin emphasizes, intimately related both to increases in population and to the foundation of the city state. (The First Cities, Time/Life Books, 1973, p. 11). The following summary is instructive.

By 8500 B.C. the sheep is domesticated in the Middle East. Climatic change associated with the end of the last ice age leads to the gradual dessication of North Africa, which had been green and fertile, with a population of lions and elephants, and vast lakes now alkaline remnants of oases. Wild grasses and seed grains abound in the Fertile Crescent as the fringe of forest and woodland recedes to the north. Soon the domesticated sheep and goats of nomadic pastor­alists overgraze the land, beginning a transformation into desert. By around 6500 B.C. cattle are domesti­cated, probably in Anatolia and the upper reaches of the Euphrates River. Soon agriculture begins to replace hunting and gathering as the basic pattern of life. Already there are full-scale cities, such as Jericho for example, with walls and towers, multi-storied dwellings neatly whitewashed, an elegant tradition of portrait sculpture--all presupposing a sophisti­cated degree of social organization.

By 4500 B.C. corn is domesticated in the New World, and with it quite probably cotton and the crafts of weaving. Within another thousand years the potato appears. In China a neolithic Yangshao culture site was unearthed between 1954 and 1957 at Panpo Village, Sian, Shensi Province, that is dated about 4000 B.C. It has yielded elegant tools of stone and bone, and superb pottery specimens, a tradition carried on in painted pottery ex‑ amples of the Kansu Yangshao culture a millennium later.

By 3000 B.C. the neolithic revolution has clearly established its global character. Although its influences and effects may not be felt in some backwaters and hinterlands for ages, a process has begun which, in its main thrust, has not been reversed in our time. The population of the world in 3000 B.C. had grown to over one hundred million.

The next great phase in revolutionary agricultural developments took place in the eighteenth century as a consequence of the introduction of new food crops from the Americas. In Europe, techniques of mechanization were applied to farming before the inventions of the Industrial Revolution--indeed, it is argued that without the former, including the selective breeding of cattle and the new practices of crop rotation, the vast migra­tion to cities which provided the work force for emergent industries could not have been sustained.

An increase in population as a result of new foods rather than of industrialization and medical advances also took place in China. The sweet potato, long grown by South American Indians, was early imported as a crop into China and was estab­lished by 1594, when it provided sustenance while the native grains were succumbing to drought. An eighteenth-century agricultural commentary extolled it as a versatile crop that could be boiled, ground, or fermented, could be fed to animals as well as to humans, and could grow in sandy, mountainous, and salty soils where grains did not survive. By that century, other New World crops were being widely grown: maize was allowing people from the crowded Yangtze region to migrate inland and farm drier lands; the white potato made it possible to bring into production lands that were too impoverished even for growing maize; and peanuts could be grown in the previously useless soils along rivers and streams. The new crops allowed a Chinese population that had reached the limits of its pre­vious resources to begin a new spurt in growth. The numbers expanded from about 150 million people in the early 1700s to about 450 million people only a century and a half later. A worldwide growth in population over the past several centuries has been similar to what occurred in China, and can be assumed to have occurred for similar reasons. (Peter Farb and George Armelagos, Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating, Houghton Mifflin, 1980, p. 65).

There was a fairly steady rise in global population from 3000 B.C. until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Then with the advent of the modern world we see a remarkable increase in the rate at which the population has changed.

In 1750 the total population of the world was probably about 750 million; by 1830 it had increased to a billion; by 1930 it was two billion; by 1960 three billion, and by 1975 four billion. In other words, the human species needed millions of years to reach a population of a billion; but thereafter the second billion was added, it only took a hundred years; the third in thirty years, and the fourth in a mere fifteen years. (Ibid., p. 63)


Even wishfully assuming that the derivative function leveled off, that the rate of population increase did not itself continue to increase, we will have five billion people by the end of this decade, around six by the end of the century. These conclusions are not mad or fanciful, but only the most optimistically conservative. Can we escape asking the questions, what will all these people eat? Can we face the sterner question, which of these people will eat, and which among them-that is to say, among us--will not eat at all?

Useful nutrition education in the final decades of the 20th century may need to include information regarding not only how food grows and where, but how it is processed and why, with the effect on its price and nutritional quality, with what cost in energy and other resources.

Nutrition education may have to concern itself not only with what people eat, how they eat it, and how what they eat affects them, but, indeed, with whether they have anything to eat at all--and if not, why not. (Joan Dye Gussow, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Education, editor "Nutrition Education," Spe­cial edition on nutrition of the Teachers CollegeRecord, Columbia University, New York, 1980. Quoted in a United Press article, San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 1980).

Future time is in the imaginary domain. Although we may conjecture, dream, project or speculate, no one can see into the future. One of the baseline lessons of Project Delphi--an attempt to predict changes in information processing applying expert/consensus theories--is that we cannot see around corners. It may be that developments within China point the way for the rest of the troubled, diseased and hungry world. But even if what impressed travelers report is widely true, can the same results be achieved in destitute, eroded, impoverished India, also with an enormous, crush­ing problem of population? Is there any way to expect such successes in Africa or South America?

We would all like to imagine that the world's grain supply in unlimited, or at least that, unlike OPEC's oil, it is an essentially renewable resource. This is not the case. The current production of food of all kinds is dependent upon fossil fuels to run farm equipment--mechanization without which China's agricultural transformation since the 1960s, for example, would have been impossible. Farm acreage is lost each year to the expansion of cities, highways, airports, transportation, and communication rights of way.

...the United States loses 35,000 acres of its agricultural land base each week. An estimated 3,000,000 acres of agricultural land are lost due to soil erosion each year. Some gloomy scenarios envision American food exports ending by the year 2000 as a result of environmental, energy, and economic constraints. This is about the time when Middle East oil supplies will be running low. (Morgan, 1980, p. 474)

In addition, there are manifold, perhaps intrinsic problems of land water and fertility of irrigated soils. The underground water table in the Midwest is dropping. Ever since the introduction of irrigation in Mesopotamia, short-term benefits have been followed by long­-term catastrophes of leeched soil nutrients, increased salinity, and eventual desertification.

Shortly after his retirement as long-time anchorman for CBS-TV, Walter Cronkite, said to be the most believed and trusted man in America, submitted to a radio inter­view of reminiscences. Then, in conclusion, he was asked if he were optimistic or pessimistic about the future. Walter said that in the short-run he was inclined to optimism, but that the further into the future he tried to see, the darker and cloudier it became. Pressed to specify what he took to be the leading problems con­fronting the world at large, he indicated the following: overpopulation, pollution, the proliferation of nu­clear arms with its ongoing threats of radiation, and the abuse or mismanagement of global resources.

Oscar Ichazo, the Bolivian teacher and mystic who founded the Arica Institute in 1971, has indicated the "Four Killers"--modern manifestations of the Four Horse­men of the Apocalypse. These are: overpopulation, pollu­tion, mismanagement of the earth's resources, and the change in climate.

Overpopulation is clearly the first issue to be confronted. One can easily see how, if at any time before the present global population were stabilized, then problems of pollution would be somehow more manage­able, but that without coming to grips with the former issue, the latter appears hopeless; lots of people, lots of waste. And with finite terrestrial resources but an incrementally rising population, there are inescapable pressures placed on the extant arable land, fresh water, fossil fuel reserves, food of any kind, and living space. If the increased availability of food in China is not coupled with an effective program of population control, but results in a corresponding surge--as it did during the advent of the neolithic and again during the pre‑and early Industrial Revolution--then the problem of producing yet more food is compounded, and very, very large numbers of desperate people may starve and die.

These are realities we should bear in mind when considering the niceties of Chinese recipes, the subtle use of ingredients and traditional techniques. Without doubt there is a great natural lesson also to be learned from Chinese cuisine. Namely, that with the appropriate level of consciousness, you can eat just about anything that doesn't eat you first.

In past times of famine the resourcefulness of the Chinese people was certainly connected with the practical, survival aspects of including an immense variety of items in the diet, so that marginal but edible items providing some nutritive value could take the place of depleted, conventional food stocks. The adaptive benefits of a cuisine that incorporates such cultural wisdom are easy to appreciate when we realize that in China there has been a famine almost every year for the last two millennia. That is why the subject belongs in any non-trivial discussion of Chinese cuisine--not because it is par­ticularly nice to talk about. A survey of the many volumes devoted tothe subject on the shelves of a local bookstore or library, however, reveals that most authors--of real or pretended gentility--omit, avoid, or simply don't know about this bottom line. As a result, they are at a total loss to explain how it is that Chinese food is possessed of the most amazing variety, is prepared with such consummate ingenuity, is graced with such triumphantly tasty renown.

People will not pass on traditions about some­thing as essential as food for thousands of years unless they work. And almost all of the essential practices of modern Chinese food preparation were already well-known by the time of the Chou Dynasty, some 2500 years ago. That is to say, virtually all of the specific techniques of cooking, the typical utensils, the principal variations of basic foodstuffs, the characteristic mincing and pre-seasoning, and the mode of service in a hand-held bowl from a communal platter, together with the use of chopsticks were all established practices by the time of Confucius (Kung Fu-Tse, 551-479 B.C.). Many of these ways can be traced back a further two millennia, to the almost mythical founders of the Shang/Yin Dynasties, when, with the perception of the Unity a whole and total vision of Chinese culture appears all at once.

Cultures appear violently. They are not slowly emerging phenomena as all theories propose in one way or another. With the discovery of the Unity in (China) the Chinese) culture emerges. It has been said that the achievement of the (Chinese) culture was the expression of its agricultural economy that was reflected in agri­cultural beliefs which interpreted its surround­ing reality. This idea is too simplistic. This does not demonstrate the formation of a culture. A culture begins when we start understanding ourselves. (Oscar Ichazo, The Human Process for Enlightenment and Freedom, Arica Institute, New York, 1975, p. 13f.)

Left: The Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti (2700 B.C.)   Right: Confucius, Kung Fu-Tse (551 -479 B.C.)

Left: The Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti (2700 B.C.)   Right: Confucius, Kung Fu-Tse (551 -479 B.C.)

A fundamental part of this self-understanding is the discovery that we project domains of consciousness, both into our psyches and into the surrounding world. Within each of these domains we further discover dichotomies, and the principle of action-attraction by which a pro­found circulation of energy may come to be understood.

The principle of action-attraction must not be seen as contradictory but as complementary. The reference for this principle is Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor ca. 2700 B.C.), the greatest and most imposing of all the Chinese figures. He devised the symbol of the Tai Chi, the Supreme Ultimate, as a movement associated with the love of the complement rather than repulsion of the opponent. The notion of opposites such as day/night, hate/love, hot/cold, dry/wet is dialectical thought--a Western interpretation.

This principle of action-attraction can be better understood with the following example: when we become hungry, the attractive is manifested, and gives us the impulse to intake food which becomes the active point that fulfills hunger. The hungry body takes the active of the food and becomes transformed in time to active by the satisfaction. The satisfied body that now is active is going to feel the need of outside work that now is attrac­tive for him and will proceed in this way until he gets tired and the cycle is repeated again. There is no contradiction between appetite and food.
(Ichazo, Op. cit., p. 82)

The extensive and integrated nature of Huang Ti's vision of Unity is exemplified by the sense of harmonic interrelatedness in Chinese music. In classical annals such as the Tung-tien we read that the music of Huang Ti was called hsien-chih, or the "all-pervading influence," as it is rendered, although the real mean­ing of the term is mystical. Before the founding em­perors, Fu-Hsi and Shen Nung together with Huang Ti, music was not regulated by laws, every people and time followed their own conventions. But beginning with Huang Ti, Chinese music assumed its characteristic form, the pentatonic system with the notes named and the intervals determined, analogous to the system of the Five Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Wood and Water).

Huang Ti draws comparisons between the musical notes and the celestial bodies; therefore music becomes a necessity for life on earth in order to maintain a harmonious relationship between man and nature and as a key to good government. As the Son of Heaven, Huang Ti hears the music internally, and in following his human instincts, he establishes music throughout the empire in accordance with the celestial model; he practices it, to be in accordance with the rites of propriety, and causes it to becomes manifest for the wellbeing and happiness of all the people. The succeeding Emperors followed the system of Huang Ti, and all the philosophers praise ancient music for its eminent sweetness and harmony, which is said to have produced inexpressible sensations of pleasure in all who heard it. (I am grateful to Nhan Doan Nguyen for bringing to my attention the work by Aalst Van, Chinese Music, Paragon, 1966).

In the time of the Yellow Emperor, the entire Chinese culture emerges complete. With it appears acupuncture, a complex and delicate knowledge that could not have been developed experientially or experimentally. The Chinese discovered the Unity. With that Unity comes the understanding. The Chinese classics all emerge with the Yellow Emperor: the Classic of Documents, the Shu Ching; the Classic of Odes (or Songs), the Shi Ching; and the Classic of Change, the I Ching.

The classics make a different man. It was important for the Chinese to read and memorize the classics. To memorize them was not to learn data, but to exercise all the quality of mix and the mind. When all this data was memorized totally, the quality of the mind changed. Memorizing the classics was an exercise that filled the mind completely in the sense of establishing total control over it. In the moment that the mind has achieved the in­ternal comprehension of all the memorized data, it has achieved maturity and knowledge. The man who had this knowledge could be trusted, and went to the service of others. (Ichazo, Op. Cit., p. 14 f.)

The internal process, the dynamic, functional, living embodiment and realization is the key to avoiding or transcending the limitations of abstract, dualistic logic. This can be very well seen in stories about Huang Ti's imperial predecessor, Shen Nung, to whom credit is given for founding Chinese medicine with the publication of an herbal, known as the Pen Ts'ao Ching allegedly compiled in the year 2737 B.C. Shen Nung is given the title "Divine Cultivator" (and systematically explored the properties of all plants in order to determine their food value or pharmacological efficacy. For example, it is in his pharmacopoeia that we find one of the oldest traditional recorded uses of Cannabis sativa:

"During his experimentations with different plants he is said to have taken as many as twelve "poisons" a day. He must have tried exudate of Cannabis and given his approval, for he recommended it for "fe­male weakness, gout, rheumatism, malaria, beriberi, constipation, and absent-mindedness."(William A. Emboden, Jr., "Ritual Use of Cannabis SativaL.: A Historical-Ethnographic Survey," Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens, ed. Peter T. Furst, Praeger, New York, 1972, p. 216f.)

This respectful and mature approach to the plant kingdom calls to mind that of the Mayan herbals, in which all plants are said to have been grouped according to their potential for use as food, medicine, or poison for hunting.