Corona and Tao

A Chinese poem in connection with Coronavirus

Corona and Tao

When the human heart is relieved, it finds peace of mind

When the human heart breaks down fences and checkpoints

When the pupil opens his heart and turns the book over

He looks into the distance and turns towards the southern mountain



This poem is currently circulating through social media in China. It was written in response to the great turmoil caused by the coronavirus. The name of the writer is unknown. The content may not be immediately understandable to us, because it refers to specific Chinese terms. However, this does not mean that it would have nothing to say to us. The poem has a strong Taoist base, which is not bound by time and culture. We will discuss it line by line. It starts with:

When the human heart is relieved, it finds peace of mind

The author is aware of the unrest that this virus causes in people’s hearts. Especially now that it has spread worldwide, this also affects us in the west. It brings with it great care and deep fear, this brings us out of balance. However, the author clearly believes that there is a possibility that a person may regain his peace of mind.

When the human heart breaks down fences and checkpoints

It is a very natural reaction to shield ourselves from the outside world in the event of great danger and uncertainty. A man does this by placing fences and barriers around his heart and house. He tries in many ways to gain control over the situation. But with that, he is, in effect, imprisoning himself in the oppression of his own fear. This poem aims to draw the reader’s attention to the possibility of a completely different attitude: breaking down fences, barriers and checkpoints in themselves.

However, this is by no means easy, for they have emerged from the most basic force within ourselves: the unconscious urge for self-preservation. This urge is currently being activated worldwide and could easily overwhelm us.

In the following lines of this poem, reference is made to a completely different attitude to threat and fear, to a way of life that has nothing to do with the urge for self-preservation.

When the pupil opens his heart and turns the book over

A man who is learning to free his heart is a pupil of universal wisdom. He turns his focus around from being focused on the temporary self, to being focused on the always present Tao. As a result, he learns to see his life, the world, and his fellow human beings from a completely different perspective.

We can see our life as a book written on a long strip of paper. On the top, our life is described as it takes place in the world of the ‘somethings’, the ‘ten thousand things’. This includes everything we do and what we are aware of, as well as our many actions that arise from our unconscious. The top of our life book describes everything that belongs to the temporary world.

He looks into the distance and turns towards the southern mountain

A person who turns his focus gets an eye for what is “written” at the bottom of his life book. There, the symbolic language reveals the power and effect of the timeless, essential nature: the nature of Tao, which is not bound to time and space. This nature is not separate from us, because Tao is omnipresent. This “nature” lies in our hearts like a spark of a great and immortal fire and radiates our entire being.

In Taoism this is called: to focus on the southern mountain. “Southern mountain” means one of the five sacred mountains of China. This mountain, the Heng-shan, is located in the south of China, in Hunan province.

The south is considered an important direction because the emperors in ancient China always faced south toward the sun. They were seen as emissaries from “heaven,” in fact from Tao. In earlier times, Taoist monks went to the southern mountain to become an immortal through deep silence.

Yet, the ‘southern mountain’ is not a symbol of the immortality of our person, for it is and remains bound to time, so mortal. The southern mountain is a metaphor for the immortal nature within us, which is based on peace and quiet, because in Tao there is no duality, only unchanging unity.

Anyone who focuses solely on his temporary nature “only” reads what is written at the top of his book of life. However, for those who slowly become aware of the Tao nature in themselves, the ‘paper’ becomes, as it were, transparent. Timeless nature shines straight through the temporary nature. That is a strength and we breathe it in.

Of course, this does not mean that “Tao nature” dispels our fears and worries like snow in the sun. But the silent effect that it emits makes us, step by step, less focused on our self-preservation.

A Taoist scripture from the 2nd century BCE, succinctly states the radical process in which we are included:

By reacting to the changes with what does not change,

ten thousand transformations are possible,

without even the beginning of the end of it coming into view.



Blog by Elly Nooyen

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Date: April 17, 2020
Author: Elly Nooyen (Netherlands)
Photo: Elly Nooyen

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