The Gold Terrace

Hard is the Way of the World II by Li Bai

The way is broad like the blue sky, 
But no way out before my eye. 
I am ashamed to follow those who have no guts, 
Gambling on fighting cocks and dogs for pears and nuts. 
Feng would go homeward way, having no fish to eat; 
Zhou did not think to bow to noblemen was meet. 
General Han was mocked in the market-place; 
The brilliant scholar Jia was banished in disgrace. 
Have you not heard of King of Yan in days gone by, 
Who venerated talents and built Terrace high 
On which he offered gold to gifted men 
And stooped low and swept the floor to welcome them? 
Grateful, Ju Xin and Yue Yi came then 
And served him heart and soul, both full of stratagem. 
The King’s bones were now buried, 
who would sweep the floor of the Gold Terrace any more? 
Hard is the way. 
Go back without delay!

If you are unfamiliar with classical Chinese poetry, these wonderful verses from Li Bai, written during the Tang dynasty are a real treat. I’m sure that much of the beauty, shape and meaning is lost to an American reading his works in English, but his work is so powerful that its essence shines through both the veil of language and the ignorance of Chinese history.

Were Li Bai to have lived in our era, I fear that he might have had to point to the fact that not only is there no one willing to sweep the floor of the Gold Terrace anymore, but the Terrace itself has fallen into disrepair. Architecture has long given evidence of the central values and finest aspirations of a civilization, and the majestic buildings in the Tang capital of Changan (today’s Xian) were no exception.

What about our era? One international competition points to a shared concern to reach into the heavens, architecturally-speaking. The United Arab Emirates most recently made a name for itself after completing the 2,716.5 foot tall skyscraper named Burj Khalifa, but several other countries are planning or have started buildings with the intention of topping the most recent record.

Whether the current race to the top is motivated by simple, competitive concerns or driven by a deeper subconscious compulsion to reconnect heaven and earth is hard to tell, but in either case it is clear to me that humility and sanctity are no longer core principles of building design. This architectural trend is, I believe, symbolic of a larger shift in human consciousness, one that does not bode well for our future happiness and fulfillment as a species.

The Gold Terrace could just as easily represent a space in consciousness as it does a physical place, a creative field in which and through which the highest and finest essences of living could be cultivated. If we get to the point where the only place that such concerns can be found is in the history books, we must – individually and collectively – “go back without delay!” This does not mean that we try to recreate what was, pouring the proverbial new wine into old bottles; rather, it implies that we reconnect with the spirit of the former times when the relationship between cause and effect, spirit and form, heaven and earth, etc. were arguably better understood.

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” – Saint Augustine

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7 Responses to The Gold Terrace

  1. Kearney says:

    Beautiful, thank you! Love the emphasis on humility.

  2. Teryl Worster says:

    What great words to think on this beautiful day! If there is to ever be “order out of chaos” in my world, then a basic foundation through humility must be rebuilt. What great wisdom can be presented through the words of others who lives so long ago and whose worlds seem so vastly different. Evidence in the world today demands we ” go back without delay”, out personal worlds and the world as a whole depend upon it. Thanks for highlighting historic writings that might otherwise lay dormant in the past!!

  3. Steve Ventola says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful consideration. Just to consider the gold terrace that can be established in our consciousness establishes a way for something of beauty to be expressed through the forms of our living. Your words are very appreciated.

  4. Vincent says:

    Beautifully put. The Golden Terrace must not be allowed to descend into neglect and disrepair. For one who retains vision, there are tasks to be performed daily that keep sacred things sacred, that honor beauty and serenity, and that keep the gateway between heaven and earth intact and functional.

  5. Colin says:

    You mentioned humility and sanctity, and I think those are both the essence of sweeping the Gold Terrace. Humility and sanctity are sadly scarce in the world today, especially in combination. I think that there have been so many instances of false humility and false sanctity that people automatically suspect a trick when they see someone who is humble and cares to be sacred. True humility and sanctity, however, have a power to them that cannot be faked. And false humility and sanctity have a slimy quality to them that cannot be hidden. The only reliable way to tell the difference is for each of us to become in tune with and humble towards our own charges that we hold sacred so that we may become sensitive enough to discern the truth of the matter.

  6. Lady Leo says:

    What a beautiful verse and I love the profound words of Saint Augustine. The foundation is the part of the structure that determines how long it lasts and how much weight it can support. Understanding the laws that govern the building of our lives, learning how to apply them and then having the discipline to stay with it tol maturity is the way to partipate in the rebuilding of the Golden Terrace from the foundation upward. Your blog is part of the blue print I’ve found for helping me to lend my hand,thank you.

  7. Ricardo B. says:

    It is apparent where ruthless competition fuels progress that we have forgotten the noble composure that characterized various days gone by. Why shouldn’t there be a great respect for your peers, who are there at the least to help spur your own excellence? To excel in something and live through the process without destroying yourself and others is a rare feat, let alone actually thriving and helping others do the same. We certainly wouldn’t have to look back as there would be so much to look forward to that would occupy our central concern on life. There’s alot of dread in the air today, forecasts look grim in many areas, and these words are timely and may they serve to help us all remember.

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