(urth) Peace: China in the cave

Stephen Hoy stephenhoy at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 22 09:07:50 PDT 2009

   Suddenly (it was something I was still unused to) she whistled
piercingly, and Ming-Sno and Sun-Sun cam bounding, panting with pleasure,
their deformed mouth opening almost split by their wide "kylin" mouths.
   "Are you going to take both of them?"
   "Why not? I'll hold Ming-Sno, and Den can hold Sun-Sun. You hold the
basket, Robert."
- Peace, ch 1.

While pursuing the yang/yin of Olivia's Shih-Tsu dogs, I was unsurprised to
discover that Ming signifies shining while Sun signifies diminishing. In
general, would other readers agree that Olivia is the shining light of
Peace, while Den is its encroaching darkness?

Moving further into the Cave incident, recall that Aunt Olivia left there a
porcelain platter covered with a milk-glass hen. There was a human skull in
the cave, but we have few hints to its significance, other than Olivia's
words to Den reminding him that the bottom is china. Searching for an
explanation in Chinese mythology, I found an intriguing chapter in Myths of
the Dog-Man,
an%20Hu&pg=PA140, which I condense, re-combine, and re-tell with an
unmalicious liberality. [Any errors or mis-interpretations are my own--I
refer anyone with an interest to the original sources.]

An old woman noticed a swelling in her ear, and worried at it until she drew
out a large white blob, not too much different from the blob you might find
in egg drop soup. For some reason, she felt compelled to place this
amorphous mass into a gourd [hu] which she covered with a platter [p'an].
The blob grew and grew until the platter separated from the gourd.  Emerging
from the "shell" was a dog with parti-colored hair, each brocade of color
representing one of the five primal forces of Chinese myth. [One variant
goes on to say that the dog, armed with an axe, carved the heavens from the
surface of the platter, and transformed the gourd into the earth.] The dog
became the honored pet of a ruler who was greatly bothered by invading
barbarians. The dog made his way into the enemy camp, bit off the head of
the barbarian leader, and carried it back to the ruler. As bounty, the dog
was given the hand of the ruler's daughter. The ruler wasn't exactly
thrilled to have a dog for a son-in-law, so the couple left the kingdom to
dwell in a shallow cave which no one else could find. The dog sired six sons
and daughters before he died. The children emerged from the cave to live in
the land. In honor of their ancestor, the tribe adopted a style of dress
that includes hair braided like a dog's tail, and gowns with dog-like tails.

This is the Yao variant of a creation story in which the hairy dog P'an Hu
substitutes for the more common mythical creator of the universe, the coiled
dragon Pan Gu.

[Thurlough:] "Have you ever been in a cave, Mr. Weer?"
[Weer:] "Only a very small one when I was a boy."
- Peace, ch 5.

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