3 Hanyao Zhang

3 Zhang Hanyao

Last Wednesday night, I made a snowman in the Quad with my friends.


Different you



Mujō is a sorrowful word to me. “… The color of the sāla flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind.” (“The Tale of Heike” 1)  Good chocolate chip. The flowers are withering while they bloom. The snowflakes are melting while they fall. People are dying while they live. So I wonder, if the flowers wither, why do they bloom? If the proud “are dust in the wind,” why does a person like Taira Kiyomori sacrifice his life to chase it? Why do people live while knowing they will die? I think if Taira Kiyomori answers this question, his answer might be “Don’t leave any regret, do what you want to do.” As in his last words, “I have received rewards beyond my deserts; I have become an Emperor’s grandfather and a Chancellor; I have seen my prosperity extend to my offspring. There is nothing left for me to desire in this life…” (211) I feel that he is satisfied by his accomplishments.  Although he still requires something more, he can peacefully face death. Taira Kiyomori makes me feel that he lives to prepare for death; and I like this idea to some degree. People do things for the future, and usually those results are contrary to what they are doing in the present.  They work in order not to work. They make money in order not to need money. (They study in order not to study…) So I live now for one day and I am gone like flowers blooming in order to wither. This is the sorrowful beauty of impermanence.

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5 Responses to 3 Hanyao Zhang

  1. Hello Hanyao, nice to meet you.

    As Professor Inouye explains in his book, “the Japanese have not cornered the market on vulnerability and failure [nor] is ephemerality solely a Buddhist lesson” (Inouye, 45). In other words, such concepts and musings are not unique to Japan or even Eastern cultures/societies. Similarly, the questions you ask — why do anything? — are questions people all over the world ask, I feel. I certainly have been contemplating them since I was still in single digit years.

    However, maybe I’m just being nitpicky with wording, but I don’t think it’s so much that “flowers are withering while they bloom.” Rather, wilting follows blooming just as failure follows success. They’re separate phases but both phases (blooming and success followed by wilting and failure) are just part and parcel of the natural ebb and flow of things.

    You say that you think Taira no Kiyomori “lives to prepare for the death” and that in similar ways, people do things now so that they don’t have to do them later. However, I don’t think Taira no Kiyomori thought so far ahead as to “live a life of no regrets,” which is often a culturally Western ideal. I think it was more that he had desires and ambitions — attachments to this world that he wanted to satisfy — and so did whatever was necessary to fulfill those attachments. He suffered and brought suffering on the world. His closing words are telling; he claims he has no more desire yet still obviously desires the head of his enemy. He dies burning in his desires.

    Chomei, too, suffered for his attachments, however simple they may have been, to this world.

    Thus, I’m going to prompt you to rethink your last few sentences once more. To work/make money/study now so that these things don’t bother you later — to live now so that death does not bother you later — isn’t that still trying to exert some control over this reality? Yes, there is a natural ebb and flow to things so it’s not as if the future is completely unknowable — after great success must follow great failure, after great luck (daikichi) there is only worst luck (daikyo) — yet the question I want to ask you is: Will you flow with this river-like process or will you try to stand your ground and/or even try to move upriver?

    Flowers do not bloom because one day they will wilt. Flowers bloom because that is the way things are; they wilt because that is the way things are. People live and die in the same way.

    Do you remember this passage from Evanescence and Form?
    “We do not live. Rather, we are made to live. . . We live because the world makes us respond continuously, spontaneously, and emotionally to change.” (page 35)

    So I ask once more: Do you see living as letting the river and wind take you where it will? Or do you see living as a battle, potentially a triumph, against the elements?

  2. Sam Miller says:

    This is an incredible drawing.

    I also really like your poem. It is very simple, which contrasts with the detail of your image. It truly captures the subtle evanescent nature of a slowly melting snowman.

  3. Tommy To says:

    Yeah, like Sam pointed out, I was blown away by your drawing. It was skillfully done!

    I like how you brought up the point of how people live for impermanent things in life, despite knowing what awaits them is death, and connected that idea to the concept of impermanence. Such a topic brings to light the irony that life throws at us. We accomplish so much, for really nothing in the grand scheme of things. We take nothing with us when we punch the ticket. I think you made good points there were well-delivered in your essay.

  4. I can imagine the meticulousness of your methods in drawing this, the attention to form and detail is refined and appropriate. You did a fantastic job of capturing the weathered, somewhat emaciated characteristics of the man’s face. The shadowing, too, creates a stirring sense of contrast. Well done.

    I really like your characterization of impermanence. I too am intrigued by this notion of living to prepare for death. There is not much to say for legacy in this regard, as translating present tasks into future results (and using such a translation as an affirmation of accomplishment) vainly opposes an impermanence that we cannot escape. So does accomplishment, then, really matter if it is difficult to separate it from the legacy attached to it? Is/are there some other way(s) to understand “impermanent accomplishment”? That is, one that is realized and appreciated in the present but has no lasting value beyond that moment? And if so, could such a method of understanding help us live to prepare for death instead of living in fear of not leaving our mark in the wake of death?

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