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Valley Spirit Arts

January 2019 Newsletter


A Few Words from Stuart Alve Olson
Lao Zi and Zhuang Zhou are considered the leading founders of Taoism, and the early School of Lao-Zhuang, a contemplative and philosophical school, was named for them. From these authors two great works were handed down, Lao Zi’s The Scripture on Tao and Virtue (道德經, Tao De Jing) and the Zhuang Zi, which in full title was The True Man Zhou’s Southern Flower Scripture (南華周眞人經, Nan Hua Zhou Zhen Ren Jing) by Zhuang Zhou, but became more popularly known as just the Zhuang Zi. Lao Zi lived sometime during the sixth century BCE and Zhuang Zi lived form 369 BCE to 286 BCE, so there was approximately 300 years between the two great philosophers.

The Tao De Jing has in many ways formed Chinese cultural beliefs and, likewise, Lao Zi is mentioned as a source in almost every Taoist work since his time. Zhuang Zhou is one of China’s greatest writers and in many ways set the bar for all later scholars and philosophers. A third great Taoist philosopher, Lie Yukou (列圄寇) is credited with writing the Lie Zi (列子). However, scholars have long suspected that Lie Zi was a creation of Zhuang Zi as the writing style is too similar to be two different people. Lionel Giles (early 19th century scholar and son of Herbert Giles, a pioneer in Chinese literature translations) called Lie Zi “the philosopher that never was.”

Most readers of Taoism simply lump Lao and Zhuang philosophies into the same basket, namely a kind of generic Taoist philosophy. Yet, there are differences between the two. Lao Zi, for the most part, deals with the non-production reality of things and non-contention. Zhuang Zi focuses on the unconditioned state of reality and non-interference. Now, of course, there is an overlapping of philosophies between them, as both hold the Naturally-Just-So (自然, Zi Ran) as the model for not only the Tao, but for all human actions. Both philosophers accept the reality of immortality, and both view Nature as the source of all things and perfect living. The differences between the two are in the context of the meanings of non-production and the unconditioned. Lao Zi believes that all things come from emptiness, or that from the Illimitable (無極, Wu Ji) the Supreme Ultimate (太極, Tai Ji—Yin and Yang) is created. Now, Zhuang Zi’s focus on the unconditioned is a theory that all things come about purely spontaneously, a kind of an organized chaos, and  that existence and non-existence are actually identical, as seen in his Butterfly Dream, where Zhuang Zhou dreams he was a butterfly dreaming about being Zhuang Zhou, but when he awoke he had no idea if he was a butterfly dreaming or Zhuang Zhou dreaming. 

The main premise between the two men’s words on natural living is found in Lao Zi’s opening words, “Hold onto being, and keep to non-being.” Or, as the Heart Sutra of Buddhism states, “Form is just emptiness and emptiness is just form.” In other words we must embrace the reality of all phenomena while simultaneously embracing the emptiness of it as well, for they are not two, but One. It is for this reason early Taoists found favor and similarity with Chan (Zen) Buddhists because these works actually reflected identical ideas found in the Diamond Sutra and the Shurangama Sutra. The Diamond Sutra relates much that is in the Tao De Jing, and the Shurangama Sutra reflects much in the Zhuang Zi. 

It was these two philosophical approaches and perspectives of the Tao and Tao-living that formed the foundation of the early Lao-Zhuang school of contemplative and philosophical Taoism. The School of Lao-Zhuang declined as the emergence in 142 CE of Zhang Daoling’s (張道陵) school of the Way of the Celestial Masters (天師道, Tian Shi Tao)  took root in Chinese society, wherein a more ritualistic, clerical, and religious view of Taoism began flourishing. Yet, the works of Lao and Zhuang have continued to be the philosophical basis for all Taoist schools, and even in present times the writings of these two men are still viewed as the very foundation of Taoism. 

—Stuart Alve Olson
Sanctuary of Tao


Seated Awakening Seminar

Deeper Meanings on the Practice of Eight Brocades

With Stuart Alve Olson

January 22nd, 2019
6:00 to 8:00 PM

Hosted by Zen Yoga/Zen Wellness
12805 W Beardsley Rd #104
Sun City West, AZ 85375

For ticket prices and directions contact:


The Sanctuary of Tao is a non-profit, tax deductible organization. We do our best to bring you a wide range of Taoist resources, such as this newsletter, and a host of video, audio, and written materials to enhance your knowledge and cultivation of the Tao. Like many non-profits, we depend on your support to maintain the expenses of operating our website and organization. The Sanctuary of Tao is not supported by any academic institution or government grant. We solely depend on our members through membership fees and small infrequent donations, but sadly these barely cover the cost of operating the website. We want to do so much more but simply can’t afford to do so. Bluntly stated, “We need funds,” and we are asking all our readers and members to please help us continue this important work of providing useful information on Taoism to you and the world at large. If you can afford to purchase a Celestial Membership or make any other donation of funds, this will make a big difference in helping us further promote Taoist teachings.

Please consider one or more of the following:
  • Purchase a Celestial Membership (just $60 per year).
  • Donate a specific amount each month, of whatever amount is affordable for you. These monthly donations are very helpful.
We appreciate your having read our plea here, and we hope you will consider giving us a helping hand. If you like what the Sanctuary of Tao provides and want to help us continue this work, please donate.

With gratitude,
Sanctuary of Tao Staff


The Jade Toad Immortal on the Tao De Jing 

These translations of the Scripture on Tao and Virtue by Lao Zi (道 德 經 著 老 子) include the rare commentary by Taoist Immortal Bai Yuchan (白 玉 蟾, 1194–1229), more popularly called the Jade Toad Immortal. Bai Yuchan was the fifth patriarch of the Southern School of Internal Alchemy. Even though he only lived to age thirty-three, he was one of Taoist history’s most prolific writers, and is most well known for his discourses on Thunder Rites (雷 禮, Lei Li). The following text presents Bai’s insightful commentaries inserted within the Tao De Jing text. A chapter of Bai’s work will appear in each monthly newsletter until the entire book is ready for publication. Although there have been many excellent English translations published on the Tao De Jing, Bai’s commentaries give a fresh outlook on the inner meaning of this incredible work by Lao Zi, so it’s worthwhile to begin presenting Bai Yuchan’s interpretations to Taoist English readers.


Scripture on the Way and Virtue, Chapter 12
With Bai Yuchan’s Commentary

Regulating Desire

檢 欲
Jian Yu

The five colors (green, yellow, red, white, and black) blind a person’s eyes (their root-power dwells in the eyes, and the conscious will is directed to them). The five notes (gong, shang, jue, zhi, and yu)1 deafen a person’s ears (covetous of the external, destructive internally). The five tastes (sweet, pungent, salty, sour, and bitter) spoil a person’s palate2 (these cause neglect of the ‘naturally-just-so’). 

Chasing and hunting in the field (the mind is like a monkey, the qi is like a horse) make a person’s heart go mad (with an unsettled mind and body nothing can return or be restful). The rare treasures (what use is gold and jade?) make a person’s conduct bad (the only treasure that can be prized in the mind is Embracing the One). 

Therefore, the Sage provides for the abdomen3 (this is his internal joy), and not for the eyes (the ears follow certain sounds, the eyes are the object of blinding colors), and so rejects the latter and chooses the former (yet, seeing colors can illuminate the mind, and hearing sounds the Tao can be awakened to).

The Meaning
Lao Zi in this chapter is pointing out how superfluous attachments to external things lead us not only to death, suffering, and harms our mental equilibrium. However, ridding ourselves of one superfluous action can remove all the others. For example if we can stop having “a mind like a monkey and heart like a horse” we will no longer have the superfluous behaviors of having greed and actions of stealing gold and jade. Hence the only real treasure to be sought or prized is Embracing the One.

Overall, Lao Zi here is attempting to explain that human beings should find contentment with the simplest of pleasures in life, that overstimulation of the senses causes them to dysfunction. But within this, Lao Zi does not, nor does it state anywhere else in the Tao De Jing, that there should be a withdrawal from sexual pleasures, as this is one of the simplest of pleasures in life. However, Lao Zi is stating that humans should live out their good natural endowments and not allow external stimulants to disrupt the natural good rhythms within us. In other words, the suppression of all sexual pleasures, or the rejection of gold and jade that naturally come to us, is not the naturally-just-so.

Regulating Desire is a warning to those attempting to go beyond the limits of nature, as this will cause ruin and bring madness to the mind, reflecting externally as arrogance and insatiable pursuit of material objects of desire. This is what Lao Zi also calls “a sickness.” Hence, the cure for this sickness is in the providing of the abdomen, and this providing is initiated by beginning to regulate those desires which cause harm to our natural endowments.

1. 宮 gong, 商shang, 角 jue, 徵 zhi, and 羽 yu. The Chinese musical structure is on Five Notes, whereas Western is based on eight notes (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, dou).
2. The Five Colors, the Five Notes, and Five Tastes all can all cause us to neglect the Naturally-Just-So (自 然), which the Tao models itself upon. Basically this verse of the chapter is saying that colors, sounds, and tastes can all cause attachments, obstacles, and harm if not regulated.
3. In this verse, Lao Zi points out that it is the abdomen that needs to be provided for, not the colors, sounds, and tastes. Filling the abdomen with qi is how we abide by the naturally-just-so. From this, colors can be seen illuminating the mind and sounds can awaken us. But this illumination and awakening cannot occur unless the sage provides for the abdomen first.

Bai Yuchan’s Original Chinese Text


Secrets of Taijiquan 

In 1919, Master Xu Yusheng (許 禹 生), an early student of the Yang family, published an incredibly informative and simply titled book, Taijiquan (太 極 拳), one of the earliest literary records on the practice. Master Xu’s work appeared nearly twenty years prior to publications released by Chen Kung and the Yang family.

A portion of Master Xu’s book deals with the actual meanings of the Taijiquan posture names. He did this because the posture names during his time were just handed down verbally, and many pugilists were illiterate. Therefore, depending on the dialect and tones uttered by the teacher, the true meaning of a posture‘s name and use could be misunderstood by students. Master Xu then wrote a record to ensure that the posture names tallied with the actual posture and applications.


Photographs of Yang Chengfu with drawings from Chen Kung’s work.

Cloud Hands

雲 手

Yun Shou

Note: In some early works this posture was called Equally Wheeling Hands because the character yun (勻) was used instead of yun (雲).  These are pronounced the same but have different meanings. With the usage of the character yun 雲 this posture was called Cloud Hands or Waving Hands in Clouds. But as to what was the original character used for this posture, either 勻 or 雲, I can find no definitive answer.

Posture Instructions
From the posture of Single Whip, the left hand in the same position makes a small circle with the palm inward. But in all other gestures within Cloud Hands the left palm must turn out from the front of the right shoulder to make a semicubical parabola to the left side of the head, and the right palm facing inwards makes an under-crescent to the left. When the left palm arrives at the left distant side of the head, the waist turns left a little, and the right palm turns to face upwards and gives out a Push from the side of the left groin. Simultaneously, the right foot draws a half step to the left, and  the center of gravity is shifted into the left leg in order to give strength to the Push. These then are the set of gestures for Cloud Hands, Left Style.

In regards to the set of gestures used for Cloud Hands, Right Style, the stepping remains as before, only the center of gravity is shifted to the right leg, with both hands changing their positions by moving rightward, and all the gestures are done the same and in the above manner.

Both styles, Left and Right, of Cloud Hands maintain the use of the Horse (or Riding) Step, and alternate one with the other until three or five set of actions of Cloud Hands are completed.

Posture Applications
Cloud Hands is a unique posture in Taijiquan concerning its application, of which there are many. However, because different teachers deemed the ending gesture differently, the application would thus be different. When the hands are placed with the upper-arm palm facing out and the lower-arm palm also turned over and facing out, the application is similar to Fair Lady Weaving at Shuttles, but the Push here is directed at the opponent’s lower abdomen or groin. However,  when the posture is ended with both palms facing the body, then in the changing of right style to left style is also seen the use of a Hammer-Like Fist, with the hand pressing down onto the opponent’s seized arm and the other pulling up the opponent’s wrist and arm. The posture of Cloud Hands can also be used as a means of clearing out multipe punches from an opponent. Cloud Hands can also be viewed as hooking a hand underneath and behind an opponent’s knee, while simultaneously the upper hand seizes  the opponent’s upper body and so then toppling the opponent by flipping him over. Cloud Hands can also be used as a method of Elbow-Stroke to the opponent’s chest. These are just some of  the variant applications of Cloud Hands.


Now Available!


Embracing the One: Transformation Through Visualization

By Stuart Alve Olson
List Price: $29.95
5.5" x 8.5" (13.97 x 21.59 cm) 
Black & White on Cream paper
126 pages

In this book, Stuart Alve Olson provides a concise and detailed look at the Taoist visualization meditation method of Embracing the One, clearly explaining the underlying principles of this ancient practice and providing the first English translation of the text, illustration, procedures, and related chants. Even though the methods of Embracing the One are distinctly simple in application the effects of the overall practice are quite profound and deep.

Through the simple act of visualizing the Dragon and Tiger a whole new mind ground can be discovered, naturally bringing forth the “Spirit.” This little work is in many ways a landmark piece on Taoism and will definitely augment one’s knowledge of meditation and Taoist philosophy.

More …


Seminar Announcement!

New dates for the Minnesota seminar (see below). Don’t miss your opportunity to partake in this incredible self-defense training. No matter your style of Taijiquan, Kung-fu, or other martial art, this teaching program on the Four Skills will prove to be invaluable to your self-defense skills—whether you are a beginner or advanced practitioner. These internal art methods don’t require strength and so are extremely effective for males and females.

Taijiquan Four Skills Seminar

The Ultimate Skills of Restraining, Seizing, Grasping, and Closing

Instructed by Stuart Alve Olson

The Four Skills represent the highest teachings and secrets of self-defense in internal martial arts:

  • Restraining is the method for obstructing the blood vessels
    of an opponent.
  • Seizing is the method for obstructing the meridians
    of an opponent.
  • Grasping is the method for injuring the sinews
    of an opponent.
  • Closing is the method of shutting off qi centers of an opponent.

Choose the location/dates most convenient to you:
     Phoenix, AZ: February 23 & 24, Saturday and Sunday
     St. Paul, MN: Saturday and Sunday, sometime in April (new dates not set yet)
     Hours: 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. each day, total of eight hours.

Stuart will be teaching the training exercises for each of the Four Skills along with detailed explanations of the 4 main blood vessels, 5 meridians, 6 sinews, and 7 qi centers used in the training instructions. These internal art methods don’t require strength and so are extremely effective for males and females.

The methods being taught are of a very serious nature and so participation is limited to serious students only. Those attending must also sign a standard release martial art waiver form. Each seminar will be strictly limited to 12 people so Stuart can give the proper attention to each participant’s individual needs.

How to Register
Contact Stuart via email ( for details on payment options (via PayPal, Check, or money order) and for further information on participation requirements. Please indicate your choice of location, Phoenix or St. Paul.

Fees: $800 per person. $400 registration fee deposit, balance due two weeks before seminar date. Discounted to $700 for those paying in full at time of registration.
Full refund if Stuart Alve Olson has to cancel the seminar. No refund on registration fee deposit if the participant cancels, with the exception of some unforeseen emergency preventing the participant from attending, then a full refund will be made.

Hurry and reserve your spot now! Only twelve people will be allowed to attend at each seminar location.


Special Events in January 


January 6—Auspicious Day
Beginning of 12th Moon, New Moon, Ox Moon.

January 13—Laba Festival
The Laba Festival is the last of the Chinese Eight Festival Days. Falling on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month (January 17, 2016), the Laba Festival was originally a day when people prepared sacrifices for their ancestors, and to request of Heaven and Earth good fortune for the family at the end of the year. In the Song dynasty, it became a day for preparing Laba congee, a porridge containing different types of rice, beans, dried nuts, bean curd, and sometimes meat.

The custom first originated in the Song Dynasty (960—1279 CE) and became increasingly popular during the Qing Dynasty (1644—1911). Now it has been over one thousand years that the Chinese people eat Laba Congee on Laba Festival day.

The ingredients of the Laba porridge include diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, and corn), beans (soy beans, mung beans, kidney beans, and cowpeas), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, and peanuts), bean curd, and sometimes meat, as well as melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, and any type of preserved fruits to add more flavors.

After a few hours of boiling, the porridge is offered at the home shrine as a sacrifice to the family’s ancestors and is presented to friends before noon. Family members eat Laba porridge together and leave some to symbolize a good harvest for the coming new year.

Some people choose to hand out the porridge to the poor and in some regions it is believed that pasting porridge on flowers and fruit trees will bring about an abundance of blossoming flowers and increased harvest of fruits.


January 14—The Golden Immortal’s Birthday.
Golden Immortal (金仙, Jin Xian) is one of the ten proper names of the Buddha. Within the Chinese Buddhist and Taoist communities, Golden Immortal was the preferred term.

January 20—Auspicious Day
Full Moon (15th Day of 12th Moon)

January 23—Master T.T. Liang Birthday
Master Liang was actually born on the 23rd day of the first moon in 1900, but after coming to America he decided to assign Jan. 23rd as his birthdate. He was born in Ningpo, China in 1900. In 1962 he moved to the United States serving as an interpreter for his teacher Prof. Cheng Manching at the UN in New York. During his life in America he first lived in New York city (part of this time he lived with Taoist master Da Liu), and then moved to Boston in the late 60’s. In 1981 he moved to St. Cloud, MN, followed by a move in 1988 to Tampa, FL, and in 1989 to Los Angeles. In 1993 he briefly moved back to Minnesota, and then to Summit, NJ where he passed away at the age of 102. He was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Master Liang was definitely considered a “living testament and treasure” of Taijiquan in America. Having taught more than five thousand people during his career, he was one of the most influential Taijiquan masters of this present age.

For more information on Master Liang see Tai Chi Ch’uan for Health and Self-Defense by Master T.T. Liang and Steal My Art: The Life and Times of Tai Chi Ch’uan Master T.T. Liang by Stuart Alve Olson.

January 28—Hearth Spirit (or Kitchen God) Festival
Popularly called the “Kitchen God,” the Hearth Spirit’s full title is “Controller of Destinies and Sovereign of the Hearth.”


Heads Up!
The Chinese New Year is on Feb. 5th this year and so begins the Spring Festival, which ends on February 19th with the Lantern Festival. This two-week period is the most celebrated time of year in China. Whether Taoist, Buddhist, Confucianist, or of any persuasion this time is universal for all to come together and celebrate a new beginning. In Chinese communities this coming year, the Year of Pig is especially auspicious because the Pig represents wealth.

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