The chinese Chu silk manuscript

John Bjarne Grover

The article proposes a method of comparison which could make of the chinese Chu silk manuscript from approximately 300 BC a Rosetta stone for chinese script - a method of verification of early script and its meaning.

The story is from 2014: I was writing 'Der Dornenstrauch', a book of 440 poems in the german language. I had already completed part 1 with its 294 poems in 2013 - and I had completed part 2 with its 66 poems (one Vorrede, 64 poems and one Nachrede) when the magic graphics occurred: I stood looking down into the white bathtub enamel when I suddenly observed 4 black spots take shape apparently 'ex nihilo' there. One of them ran up the bathtub wall inside a drop of water (it was probably a spider), and another I tried to rub off with a finger but it was all too well attached - so I went for a painter's spatula and used that for getting the spot off the enamel - the muddy stuff that was left on the spatula blade I smeared out over a microscope glass and went to look at it under the microscope. It showed a series of strangely magic forms - see this file under '6. The graphics'. It is one of these that I discuss in the following.

The completion of the 64 poems of part 3 in the late summer or autumn that same year led to the formation of a white philosopher's stone, a lapis philosophorum, and the poetry itself also led me to the discovery of a double cycle in the total work of Caravaggio - see the end of this file. When the 16 poems of the fourth and last part was completed, Mount Everest trembled by a 7.8 earthquake in Nepal and shook avalanches of snow from its shoulders.

Part 1 contains relative and absolute enumeration of the poems: The relative runs to 187 and follows the new 188 chinese radical system quite well, while the 428 first poems of parts 1-4 run in absolute enumeration up to 214 and down again in a mirror half - this follows the older 214 radical system perhaps even better. I have conjectured that the 294+66 = 360 poems of parts 1-2 could follow the much older 360 radical system but this is guesswork only - I do not have access to that system. It would, anyhow, be at the end of the completion of the first 360 poems that the 'magic graphics' occurred.

The magic graphics are really remarkable - I have earlier studied the one of Joyce reading 'Ulysses', apparently not being aware that he was under surveillance ('ablysses'?) - this muddy graphics later dried up and crystallized and eroded and when I took it up one year later it had turned into a 'Finnegans Wake. This can also be turned in 90, 180 and 270 degrees.

It is a certain correlation of one of these images with the world's oldest known chinese document that I discuss here. The chinese document - the artifact itself - is from about 300 BC and it thereby tells something very important about the chinese script. What one has of later handwritten copies of more recent centuries - delivered in copies in the form of more modern script forms - is of course not so interesting as this authentic old document called the Chu silk manuscript. There are a good number of chinese script signs on it and several illustrations - it was found allegedly in a grave.

The illustrations on the Chu manuscript show some puzzling similarities with one of my ex nihilo graphics from 2014 - the one I had planned to use as a cover illustration to my german poetry book 'SNEEFT COEIL' (the synchronic counterpoint to the diachronic 'Dornenstrauch' which has another graphics as it cover (without the annotations of red lines and circle, though) - here the SNEEFT COEIL graphics is turned 90 degrees and compared with a fragment of the Chu manuscript:

My graphics shows what can be seen as an upright 'piano' having a 'sexual intercourse' (so to speak) with the young pianist girl, and the winding screw handle in its back is clearly visible on the ancient chinese manuscript. The black and white segments under and to the left of the handle could be about where the legs intertwine in the chinese picture. The girl under the piano on my image is the upper body part more to the right in the chinese manuscript - with several 'ideas' arising from the imagination of her head. The interesting observation is, if this makes sense, that the 'fantasies', or sexual 'imaginations' of the piano and the young pianist girl, are seen in the air above the couple in the form of what looks like a sexual intercourse between two lions, a male standing up behind a female.

In the chinese manuscript there is no immediately graphic correlate - but there is a counterpart in the form of two parallel script lines - for which reason one could guess that these lines mean a male and a female 'lion' somehow.

Chinese for 'lion' is 'shi-zi' =
Chinese for 'lioness' = 'mu-shi' =
Chinese for 'the lion's share (of sth)' = 'zuida bufen' =

These are from Oxford's Pocket Chinese Dictionary:

There are traces of these in the two series of signs: The 'mu' of the lioness has a counterpart in the righthand column and the 'zi' of the male lion one in the lefthand column, here annotated with red circles:

The shared 'shi' can be spotted as a combination or conjunction of the four lowermost signs - two in each column - here normal and thresholded and the latter upside down:

Or maybe it looks more similar with the Chu signs upside down.

The normal scene for the lovers is, though, 90 degrees from this:

That is when she is playing on the upright piano - one sees her in her white dress down to the left (her right foot extends below to the bottom of the image), half of her face is seen, half of it is hidden behind the piano side - the piano turns around and friendly helps her turn the sheet. There could be russian greyhounds and other animals listening to the right - could be even a teddy behind her shoulder to the left - and one spots the important element of the face of the dreaming indian (facing rightwards - at the tail of the greyhounds) with the white feathers on his head (the front of the greyhounds) - he is heading up rightwards - going for the stars - and he seems to be riding a toy horse. This indian with toy horse will then be the same as the matrimonial conjunction of the two fantasy lions - and one can then compare the graphic image with the signs turned 90 degrees:

One notices the details: The undulating feather-hair of the indian seen in the undulating sign, the winding handle on the piano (being the gender of the male lion), in the lower row the girl, the edge of the piano, could be with the diagonal arm of the piano, the cup or 'pokal' she has won for her excellent piano playing (it looks a little like a human skull on a pedestal) - onto the sign of the trident which the indian is riding - the horse is a unicorn, tells the rightmost sign.

The three signs between the cup and the trident in the lower row should mean 'economy', according to my interpretation. That is an interpretation based on the title illustration to the second poem in the third part of 'SNEEFT COEIL' - the part called 'Schwarze Blätter' - it shows the outlines of a house gable and roof outline behind it resembling the 'dream lines' of the two lovers - rising up to the lions above (cp. also the signs rising up from the female's head position in the Chu manuscript drawing):

Across the gable of this 'economy house' there are two words in big lettering: STR and BLACK.

For the sign corresponding to STR there are many possible readings, but I notice the following appealing interpretation from the TRIDENT - that the word STRIDENT suggests a STRIDE (quote from Oxford's dictionary) which emerges by the DA sign when the sign (of the Chu manuscript) is turned upside down:

Notice also the 'house gable' shape of the chinese sign - with the crossing line.

I emphasize that I had no knowledge of the chinese document when I wrote the poetry book - there are exclusively poetic considerations behind the annotation of the second poem with this STR BLACK and the outlines of a house.

The BLACK in modern chinese is 'HEI' (or 'hei-de') and looks as follows - even here compared with the upside-down version - plus a 20 degrees tilt:

It is observed how this original sign to the right also resembles the faces drawn elsewhere on the CHU silk manuscript - here the single face and the triple faces:

The 'wrench' forms under and on both sides of the single face resembles the 'wrench' in the behind of the wolf or dog in the cover illustration to 'Der Dornenstrauch' - a magic graphic which occurred in the same formation as the piano girl on another part of the microscope glass:

The front page form can be seen to be three heads or faces: 1) The 'Caruso' singer, 2) a horsehead that has just run into a lightbeam in the otherwise black night, and 3) the wolf with the head up left.

It is a guess that the lefthand chinese column discussed here (over the lovers) tells SNEEFT and the righthand COEIL.

Conclusion: There are reasons to see a correlation between my 'ex nihilo' graphics of 2014 and the symbolism on the socalled CHU silk manuscript from about 300 BC - the oldest known artifactual manuscript of chinese language. This correlation could help solve the riddles of this old document.

The article continues here.


Source for the picture of the Chu silk manuscript is from the internet - I found it on this location.
Das neue chinesisch-deutsche Wörterbuch. Beijing 2004
Pocket chinese dictionary - english/chinese chinese/english. Oxford University Press 1999 etc

© John Bjarne Grover
On the web 17 october 2019