Ancient Chinese And South Asian Flights Of Fancy

Ancient Chinese And South Asian Flights Of Fancy

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It may not be surprising that early cultures pondered the wonder of flight: people in most parts of the world could see birds, bats, and insects flying about, and this likely inspired a great sense of curiosity. Many likely imagined rising aloft, and flying about like a bird — or at least, they could imagine their spirits and deities flying around the heavens, from place to place. But what is curious in historical terms is that a wide variety of sources, from folktales to romances, discussed the use of mechanical devices for flight, and at times even included attempts at technical descriptions of a device’s construction and operation. This historical artifact has eluded most modern studies, with a few notable, brief exceptions such as Berthold Laufer's engaging essay, The Prehistory of Aviation .

Flying Celestial Apsara (Feitian 飛天) (Seventh Century) ( Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Chinese Flights of Fancy and Mechanical Flight

Early narratives about flying likely do not reflect historical records of actual mechanized flight, but they do imply an important integration of technological ideas into ideas about the past held by early cultures themselves. Some early cultures had the idea that the cultures that had preceded them were more advanced in terms of the machines that they had created. This can be framed as part of a more general concept of "mechanical mythologies", and it is worth examining how various early texts treated the subject of something as technologically sophisticated as mechanized flight.

The stories recounted here in relation to flight, make a clear distinction between individual entities who flew under their own power — such as the Chinese fei tian (飛天), or " flying beings " — and mechanical devices that flew, marked by a different term in Chinese: fei che (飛車), that is, "flying vehicles". There are two basic story types related to early discussions of flight. The first type involves humans with magical powers, special anthropomorphic entities, or other creatures for example dragons, that were capable of flight on their own. In Chinese culture popular tales often tell of adepts, divine entities, or other beings flying through the air. The xian (仙) were immortals who were capable of flight under their own divine power. They were said to be feathered, and a term that has been used for Daoist priests is yu ke (羽客), meaning "feathered guest."

Southeast Asia Backpacking Route: The CLASSIC Itinerary

If you’re new to travel in Southeast Asia, you’ll be interested in hitting up the highlights of each country, as well as getting off the beaten track here and there and discovering some hidden gems… Am I right?

The most popular Southeast Asia backpacking route is the most popular route for a reason. It takes in the must-see highlights in the most logical way, avoiding back-tracking and overspending on travel costs. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track along the way too. What’s more, the route is so popular that for solo travellers, you can rest assured that you’ll never be lonely! As many backpackers trod the same path, you will meet tons of travel buddies along the way.

In this article, we’ll tell you exactly what the route is, but first, we answer the most burning backpacker question… Where on earth do I begin?

Planning a Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip? Let us help you!

Where is The Best Place to Start Your Backpacking Adventure in Southeast Asia?

Most travellers begin their adventure in Thailand. Why? It’s home to the most well-trodden backpacker trail in Southeast Asia, it’s cheap, safe, the people are friendly, the food is great and most of all, it’s the easiest place to meet travel buddies for your onward adventure!

Most Popular Starting Point: Bangkok

Bangkok is the natural hub for travellers to Southeast Asia. Flights from Europe and the US to Thailand’s capital are fairly cheap and frequent. The city is safe, friendly and one of the easier (we didn’t say easy!) Asian cities to navigate. Plus, there are loads of great sociable hostels where you can meet fellow travellers.

Bangkok has been a backpacker hub for decades. (Pictured: Khao San Road).

Top 3 Hostels in Bangkok to meet people:

Read more about the Best Hostels in Bangkok here.

Second Most Popular Starting Point: Kuala Lumpur

An alternative starting point for your Southeast Asian adventure is Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, the home of budget airline, Air Asia. The city also has cheap flights, very good hostels and amazing street food. One disadvantage is that the city is more expensive than Bangkok (and more importantly for some, the beer is more expensive too!).

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Pictured: Merdeka Square).

Top 3 Hostels in Kuala Lumpur to meet people:

Third Most Popular Starting Point: Bali, Indonesia

Finally, some travellers like to start their backpacking adventure with sun, sea, sand and surf on the tropical island of Bali. Particularly for Australian backpackers, Bali is a logical starting point being so close to many major Australian cities. The island is a fun, relaxed and easy place to begin your travels with many great sociable hostels and the chance to meet lots of fellow travellers. There’s also the beautiful Gili Islands and the island of Lombok which you may as well check out if you’re nearby! (For those starting their trip in Bali, the logical thing to do would be to do the following itinerary backwards.)

Bali, nicknamed ‘Island of the Gods’ is a great place to start any adventure!

Top 3 Hostels in Bali to meet people:

Read more about the Best Hostels in Bali here.

Could Malcolm Gladwell's Theory of Cockpit Culture Apply to Asiana Crash?

Best-selling book Outliers investigated links between Korean pilot behavior and accidents, but does that theory still hold?

On July 6, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while attempting a landing at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Two people were killed in the Boeing 777 accident, and more than 180 of the 307 people on the flight were injured.

The weather was clear. The president and CEO of Asiana, Yoon Young-doo, told media that the plane did not have engine or mechanical problems. This has left officials to focus their attention on whether pilot error is the root cause of the disaster. (See "Q&A With a Pilot: Just How Does Autopilot Work?")

Since the airline involved, Asiana, is based in Korea, some observers have asked if the crash might have a cultural connection, as discussed in a chapter in the 2008 bestseller Outliers by author Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell pointed out the poor safety record of Korean Air—the Asian country's largest carrier—in the 1980s and 1990s, including several fatal crashes.

Gladwell did not return a request for comment, but in summarizing his ideas for Fortune magazine in November 2008, he said Korean Air's problem at the time was not old planes or poor crew training. "What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical," he said.

"You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S." he added. That's dangerous when it comes to modern airplanes, said Gladwell, because such sophisticated machines are designed to be piloted by a crew that works together as a team of equals, remaining unafraid to point out mistakes or disagree with a captain.

To Gladwell, this may have explained why Korean Air Flight 801 crashed into a hill while on approach to an airport in Guam in 1997, killing 223 people. In addition to a series of misfortunes, including bad weather, an offline warning system, and outdated charts, the co-pilot was afraid to question the poor judgment of the pilot, wrote Gladwell—a fatal mistake.

Similarly, Gladwell assigned blame for the 1990 crash of Avianca Flight 52 in Long Island, New York, to human error caused by cultural differences. The plane ran out of fuel while circling JFK, leading to 73 fatalities. The pilots of the Colombian airline did not assert themselves enough with air traffic control when communicating that they were running out of fuel, wrote Gladwell.

Gladwell argued that in Colombia, as in Korea, cultural norms tended to dictate that people avoid directly questioning authority—in this case, the authority of controllers who had asked the Avianca plane to keep holding.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment on whether cultural factors could have been involved in the crash of Asiana Flight 214 on July 6. A spokesperson for Asiana also declined to comment, suggesting reporters speak with the NTSB.

Korea's Improving Safety Record

Writing in Slate, Patrick Smith—a pilot himself—wrote, "Whatever happened on final approach into SFO, I highly doubt that it was anything related to the culture of Korean air safety in 2013."

Smith acknowledged that Korean carriers had safety problems in the past. "But Korean aviation is very different today, following a systemic and very expensive overhaul of the nation's civil aviation system," he wrote.

According to Gladwell, that overhaul process included cultural reorientation inside the cockpit, to encourage crew to speak up about any perceived dangers and to voice concerns in plain language—not overly polite, mitigated speech that could be interpreted as vague. Staff was also tested for English proficiency, as the language has become the international standard in aviation.

Those efforts paid off, according to Smith, who noted that a 2008 industry assessment ranked Korean airlines as among the safest in the world.

"As they should be, Koreans are immensely proud of this turnaround, and Asiana Airlines, the nation's number two carrier, had maintained an impeccable record of both customer satisfaction and safety," wrote Smith.

He added that fatal plane crashes overall are increasingly rare. This month's accident was the first multiple-fatality incident in the U.S. involving a major airline since November 2001, Smith noted.

Flight 214: A Pilot in Training

Terry Williams, a spokesperson for the NTSB, told National Geographic that it is too early in the investigation into the Asiana Flight 214 crash to make any conclusions about the cause.

Still, the NTSB has released preliminary findings from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders to the media that indicate the plane was approaching SFO's runway well below the target landing speed of 137 knots (157 mph). Autopilot had been disengaged at 1,600 feet (488 meters).

According to the NTSB, the pilots tried to gun the engines seven seconds before impact. Four seconds before impact, a stall warning sounded, meaning the airplane wasn't generating enough lift. At 1.5 seconds, the pilots tried to scrap the landing and go around for another attempt, but they didn't make it.

The plane seems to have hit a seawall directly in front of the runway. It then skidded down the tarmac, depositing debris along the way.

Media reports have played up the fact that the pilot said to be at the craft's controls during impact, identified as Lee Gang-guk, was being trained on the Boeing 777, according to Asiana. Gang-guk had reportedly completed only 43 hours behind the stick of that craft, although he had logged more than 10,000 hours of flight time overall.

Anthony Philbin, a spokesperson for the International Civil Aviation Organization, told National Geographic that such a training arrangement is common on commercial flights. "In a line-training scenario it is quite normal for the learning pilot to do half of the landings required," he said.

"This method of training is used by every airline in the world."

Smith also disputed the argument that SFO's narrow, crowded runways were to blame. That's a condition pilots train for, he noted.

Philbin said he couldn't comment on any cultural forces that may have been at work in the Flight 214 cockpit, and he pointed to the pilot's long safety record overall. South Korean officials told the Associated Press that another pilot on the flight, Lee Jeong-min, had 12,390 hours of flight experience and 3,220 hours on a 777.

According to the NTSB, investigation into the crash and aftermath will continue. It's unclear whether the agency will consider possible cultural questions.

Gladwell has written that planes actually tend to be safer when a less experienced pilot is flying while supervised by a more experienced one. When the reverse is true, he writes, a junior officer is less likely to speak up about potential mistakes or problems.

The archaeological context of the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum)

Views of Rome have long fired human imagination, eliciting reactions that lead to contemplation and argue for conservation.

Apollodorus of Damascus, Basilica Ulpia, dedicated 112 C.E., Rome

Views of Rome

The Roman emperor Constantius II (the second son of Constantine the Great) visited Rome for the only time in his life in the year 357 C.E. His visit to the city included a tour of the usual monuments and sites, but the majesty of the Basilica Ulpia still standing in the forum built by the emperor Trajan arrested his attention, causing him to declare that the monument was so grand that it would be impossible to imitate it (Ammianus Marcellinus Rerum Gestarum 16.15). From a certain point of view, any visitor to Rome can share the experience and reaction of Constantius II.

Reconstruction of the Basilica Ulpia, Julien Guadet, “Memoire de la restauration du Forum de. Trajan,” manuscript No. 207 dated 1867, Ecole des Beaux-Arts,. Paris 21-23

The city’s monuments (and their ruins) are cues for memory, discourse, and discovery. Their rediscovery and subsequent interpretation in modern times play a key role in our understanding of the past and influence the role that the past plays in the present. For these reasons, among others, it is crucial that we think critically about fragmented past landscapes and that any reading of fragments is contextualized, nuanced, and transparent in its motives. The physical presence of fragments raises the question of whether or not the past is knowable. Tangible ruins and artifacts suggest that it is, but whose story are we telling when we analyze and interpret these remains? If we consider a quintessentially famous and evocative archaeological landscape like the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum) in Rome we have an opportunity to examine a fragmented past landscape and also to explore the question of what role archaeology plays in understanding and interpreting the past.

Detail, Giovanni Paolo Panini, The Archaeologist, 1749, oil on canvas, 123 x 91 cm (National Academy of San Luca, Rome)

From heart of empire to pasturage for cows

The story of the Forum as an important node of cultural significance was central to ancient Roman ideation about their city and even themselves. Romans could define themselves in relation to the places where they believed key past events had occurred. The fact that this tradition provided the backdrop for the Forum’s activities works to heighten the efficacy and the value of constructing collective identity and memory. In ways both practical and symbolic the cramped space sandwiched between the Capitoline and Palatine hills was the heart of the Roman populace.

View of the Roman Forum, with the Arch of Septimius Severus, left, and the Column of Phocas at center (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The Forum witnessed many of the city’s key events. It began as a central point of convergence in the landscape for sacred and civic business and, over time, became a sort of monumentalized and petrified museum of the offices of state and the promotion of state ideology. With the decline of the western Roman empire in the 3rd and 4th centuries C.E., the relevance and importance of the forum square receded. Its structures fell into disuse, were stripped of usable building materials, and repurposed for other uses.

The last purposefully erected monument of the forum is the so-called Column of Phocas, a cannibalized column (it was originally made for another monument). It was erected on August 1st of 608 C.E. in honor of the Eastern Roman Emperor Phocas. Its inscription (CIL VI, 01200) speaks of eternal glory and lasting recognition for the emperor (a statement on monumentality that had long echoed in Latin literature, for instance, Horace Odes 3.30). It is not insignificant that in a much diminished city of Rome it was nonetheless worthwhile to create a new monument (even if using repurposed materials) in the once thriving sacred and civic center of the city.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino, 1839, oil on canvas, 91.8 x 122.6 cm (The J. Paul Getty Museum)

A ninth century guide for Christian pilgrims in Rome (known as the Einsiedeln Itinerary) notes that the forum had decayed from its former glory. It is likely that, as a landscape of disuse and re-use, the forum had by that time morphed into a form that perhaps would be scarcely recognizable today. The central square came to be used as grazing land, earning it the nickname “Campo Vaccino” or “cow field” by the Middle Ages.

This broken landscape of abandoned and discarded structures and monuments evoked the past and provoked the fancy and imaginations of viewers. It appealed particularly to artists who were keen to craft a romantic vision of the broken pieces of the past set amid the contemporary world. This romantic movement produced a genre of art in various media in the eighteenth century that is often referred to as vedute or “views”.

Giovanni Paolo Panini, Modern Rome, 1757, oil on canvas, 172.1 x 233 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Painters the likes of Giovanni Paolo Panini produced vedute of ancient and contemporary Rome alike, often enlivening his canvases with contemporary human figures and their activities. In these “views” one can appreciate the creation of an assemblage, one that juxtaposes ancient elements with contemporary elements and human figures. The work of Panini and his contemporaries creates a romantic view of the past without being concerned overly with objectivity.

In the same century the artist and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi was also active. Piranesi’s approach to the ruins of Rome alters the course of the field, not only in terms of artistic representation but also in terms of how we approach the ruins of past civilizations. One part of his oeuvre focuses on renderings of the ruins of Rome set amidst contemporary activity. The fragments of the past are very much the focus—their massive and monumental scale cannot help but capture the viewer’s attention. Despite the expert draughting of Piranesi, the ruins—being incomplete—remain a topic worthy of inquiry, as something of them is unknown.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Vaccino, from the capitol, with the Arch of Septimus Severus in the foreground left, Temple of Vespasian right, and the Colosseum in the distance (Veduta di Campo Vaccino), c. 1775, etching (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The work of Panini, Piranesi, and others in the eighteenth century shows us that views of Rome are not just flights of fancy or imagination, but rather they are connected to memory. Piranesi was influenced in his early years by mentors interested in the revival of the ancient city as well as by others (namely Giambattista Nolli), who aimed to record the ancient remains in fine-grained detail. Piranesi, then, brings an expertise born from the school of the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio that is combined with an enthusiasm for Rome as the locus classicus of “old meets new.” The curation of views of the ancient remains not only reinforced shared memories of a past time but, also reinforced memory in contemporary terms.

Depicting ruins as fragile yet once powerful monuments might suggest that lessons derived from the past might help one to avoid the collapse and decay that is of course inevitable. These depictions of Rome’s past, encoded with memory, are important to the artistic culture of the eighteenth century and foreshadow what the nineteenth century will bring.

A disciplinary revolution

The nineteenth century witnesses a number of changes that in some cases move the conversation away from subjective romanticism and toward a more methodological approach to science and natural science. The discipline of archaeology emerges from this movement and, as with any new undertaking, the discipline needed to sort itself out in order to embrace a set of practices and norms. Antiquarians abounded but archaeologists were relatively new, even though early pioneers like Flavio Biondo (15th century) likely numbers among the first archaeologists.

The nineteenth century was a momentous time for archaeology at Rome. The archaeologist Carlo Fea began an excavation in the Roman Forum to clear the area around the third century C.E. triumphal arch of the emperor Septimius Severus. Fea’s work ushers in a new era of what would become archaeological practice in the valley of the forum, as well as at other sites of the ancient city. Interest grew in decluttering or isolating the ancient moments. As the methods of archaeology developed, more scientific rigor could be observed.

Detail, Rudolfo Lanciani, Sheet 29: Forma Urbis Romae, 1901 (1990 reprint)

The Roman topographer Rodolfo Lanciani was a disciplined and active excavator at Rome. His magnum opus was the Forma Urbis Romae (1893–1901), a map at a scale of 1:1000 of the city of Rome, noting both ancient and modern features. It evoked earlier maps of Rome (for example the 1748 map produced by G. Nolli), but also reached back to the Severan marble plan of the third century C.E. in representing in detail the city and its monuments. One might see Lanciani’s Forma Urbis as a development that grew from the same tradition in which artists like Panini and Piranesi had worked—one could appreciate views of Rome, and, in so doing, gain a command of the sites and the memories linked to them.

Giacomo Boni in the Roman Forum in front of the Arch of Titus, Rome, Italy, from L’Illustrazione Italiana, Year XXXIV, No 7, February 17, 1907

At the turn of the twentieth century the excavations of Giacomo Boni in the Roman Forum were transformational, not only because they represented an enormous methodological advance for the time but also because they set the tone for archaeology in the forum thereafter. Boni’s stratigraphic excavations sampled previously unexplored layers of the city’s past and exposed the Roman Forum not just as a cow pasture with a few random columns protruding from the ground but as a complex cultural and chronological laboratory.

Some of the trends established in Boni’s time continued in the period of Italian Fascism (1922–1943) when archaeology showed a clear bias for the late Roman republican period and the principate of the emperor Augustus (31 B.C.E–14 C.E.). It was hoped that these earlier periods of perceived cultural, legal, and moral greatness would be examples that a modern Italian state could emulate. For this reason those archaeological strata were privileged, while others that were deemed unworthy were haphazardly destroyed in order to reach the preferred time period. In many ways these disciplinary choices were unfortunate and they do not find a place in twenty-first century archaeological practice. Nonetheless they shaped the landscape of the Forum valley that confronts us still day—one that is incomplete, at times chronologically incongruous, and evocative of an obviously complex past.

Contextual landscapes and fragments

Today the Roman Forum is part of a protected archaeological park that includes the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. It is a site of significant popular interest and is visited by millions of tourists annually (7.6 million in 2018). It is also the site of ongoing archaeological research and conservation. The Forum is a challenging site to understand, both in terms of its chronological breadth and in terms of the processes of its formation (including archaeological excavation) that have shaped it.

The Forum should make us think about the goals of archaeology and the importance of archaeological context. One of the alluring things about the Forum is that it is fragmentary and incomplete. Latin authors were wont to mock the futile vanity of the potentates who sought to achieve immortality through the construction of monuments since those same monuments would inevitably decay. Their critique touches on a point that is central to a consideration of a fragmentary landscape like the Roman Forum, namely that the development of the space over time represents not just multiple time periods and historical actors but also multiple conversations between the space and the viewer.

Model of ancient Rome in 1:250 by Italo Gismondi

The discipline of archaeology, in some respects, seeks to reassemble the past and it can only do this via contextual information. This means that the archaeological record needs to be preserved to the extent possible and then be interpreted in a rigorous and objective fashion. The impetus to reassemble what is broken informs our practice in many ways. It certainly influenced Lanciani’s plan of the city of Rome and Italo Gismondi’s model of the same. Scholars in the later twentieth and twenty-first centuries have similar motives, whether architect’s reconstruction drawings (see Gorski and Packer 2015), or a new archaeological atlas of the city inspired by Lanciani (see Carandini et al. 2012) or even 3D virtual renderings as in the case of the “Rome Reborn” project.

Our conversation with the Forum Romanum continues. In early 2020 there was a great deal of excitement about a re-discovery in the area of Giacomo Boni’s early twentieth century excavations. The site, perhaps connected with the cult of Rome’s traditional founder Romulus, provided an opportunity for a conversation that was both new and old at the same time.

Our views of the fragmented landscapes of the past are vital to our understanding not only of the humans who went before us but also, importantly, ourselves.

Additional Resources

ANSA news agency. “Hypogeum with sarcophagus found in Forum. Near Curia, dates back to sixth century BC.” February 19, 2020.

Ferdinando Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ’700 (Rome, 1986).

J. A. Becker, “Giacomo Boni,” in Springer Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, edited by Claire Smith (Berlin, Springer, 2014). DOI:

Mario Bevilacqua, Heather Hyde Minor, and Fabio Barry (eds.), The serpent and the stylus: essays on G.B. Piranesi, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome,
Supplementary volume 4, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Published for the American Academy in Rome by the University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Mario Bevilacqua, “The Young Piranesi: the Itineraries of his Formation,” in Mario Bevilacqua, Heather Hyde Minor, and Fabio Barry (eds.), The serpent and the stylus: essays on G.B. Piranesi, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Supplementary volume 4, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Published for the American Academy in Rome by the University of Michigan Press, 2007) pp. 13-53.

R. J. B. Bosworth, Whispering City: Rome and Its Histories (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011).

Alessandra Capodiferro and Patrizia Fortini (eds.), Gli scavi di Giacomo Boni al foro Romano, Documenti dall’Archivio Disegni della Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma I.1 (Planimetrie del Foro Romano, Gallerie Cesaree, Comizio, Niger Lapis, Pozzi repubblicani e medievali). (Documenti dall’archivio disegni della Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma 1). (Rome: Fondazione G. Boni-Flora Palatina, 2003).

Andrea Carandini et al. Atlante di Roma Antica 2 v. (Milan: Electa, 2012).

Filippo Coarelli, Il foro romano 3 v. (Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 1983-2020).

Catherine Edwards and Greg Woolf (eds.) Rome the Cosmopolis (Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Don Fowler, “The ruin of time: monuments and survival at Rome,” in Roman constructions: readings in postmodern Latin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) pp. 193-217.

Gilbert J. Gorski and James Packer, The Roman Forum: a Reconstruction and Architectural Guide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Rodolfo Lanciani, Forma Urbis Rome reprint ed. (Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 1990).

Samuel Ball Platner and Thomas Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929). Preface

Ronald T. Ridley, The Pope’s Archaeologist: the Life and Times of Carlo Fea (Rome: Quasar, 2000).

Luke Roman, “Martial and the City of Rome,” Journal of Roman Studies 100 (2010), pp. 88-117.

Chinese airlines turn to Asia as long-haul losses pile up

BENGALURU/BEIJING - Chinese airlines are adding seats on short- and mid-range Asian flights in a strategic shift away from prestigious but loss-making North American routes to a market that promises better returns and growth.

Over the past decade, the number of seats on U.S. routes operated by China's top three state-owned carriers rose fourfold, but such breakneck expansion came at a price. The nation's international aviation industry has been in the red for at least three years, with losses reaching 21.9 billion yuan ($3.13 billion) in 2018, according to recent China Air Transport Association data.

In response, Chinese airlines are increasingly seeking growth closer to home. Out of 105 international routes that Chinese carriers plan to add to over 800 existing ones for the new winter-spring season, most focus on East Asia and Southeast Asia with some European routes also thrown into the mix. (Graphic:

"Chinese carriers are now taking a more commercial approach to international services," said John Grant, senior analyst at aviation data firm OAG. "If you could fly an aircraft for four hours and stay profitable compared to a 12-hour sector and not make any money, then you could do that thrice on a daily basis, thus making a better business sense."

For example, China Eastern has recently received approvals to open new routes from tier-two cities of Qingdao and Chengdu to South Korea's Cheongju-si and to Osaka in Japan. It will also fly Shanghai to Aomori Prefecture in Japan and from Xining to Japan's Nagoya.

Loong Air too received approval last month to open a new route linking Chengdu with Jakarta. Air China has been operating a Beijing-Phnom Penh route since the start of this year and China Southern has been flying from Guangzhou to Cebu in the Philippines since January.

The airlines have not responded to requests for comment.

And as demand on North American routes weakens, four Chinese airlines have dropped six U.S.-bound flights so far this year, according to aviation data provider Variflight. For example, Air China suspended Beijing-Hawaii flights in August while Xiamen Airlines suspended its Xiamen-Shenzhen-Seattle route.

After a decade of double-digit growth, Chinese visitor numbers to the United States have fallen last year and the U.S. National Travel and Tourism office forecasts another 5% decline this year as a combination of a stronger dollar, China's cooling economy and trade tensions between Beijing and Washington take their toll. (Graphic:

U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow told Reuters the U.S. share of the global long-haul market has shrunk to 11.7% last year from 13.7% in 2015.

In all, while the number of seats on flights to North America operated by China's top three airlines, rose 2.9% in the past three years, the capacity on Southeast Asian and European routes jumped 30.6% and 34.6% respectively. (Graphic:

"The demand on North American routes is not as strong as before, so airlines are shifting their capacity on these routes to places like Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, to protect their fares," Luya You, transportation analyst at BOCOM International said.

She added Air China and China Southern management expected Japan and Korea to contribute most capacity growth next year with slower growth in North America.

Long-haul flights tend to be more lucrative for airlines because there is less competition from low-cost carriers than on short routes, which means higher fares can more than make up for higher cost of fuel, bigger planes and bigger crews.

However, as Chinese airlines, backed by state and local government subsidies, chased market share they have driven their long-haul rates so low that they stand to make more money on international routes closer to home, experts say.

OAG's Grant says they can do that without much additional investment because latest generation wide-body aircraft can also work well on shorter routes.

At the end of 2018, China's top three carriers had orders for 60 long-haul planes, mostly Boeing 787s and 777s and Airbus A350s, all of which can be easily reassigned.

"Undoubtedly, Southeast Asia is where they are going to reallocate their order over the next couple of years," Grant said.

(Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru and Stella Qiu in Beijing Additional reporting by Sanjana Shivdas Editing by Tomasz Janowski)


The name 'Colombo', first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhala name කොලොන් තොට Kolon thota, meaning "port on the river Kelani". [11]

Another belief is that the name is derived from the Sinhala name කොල-අඹ-තොට Kola-amba-thota which means 'Harbour with leafy/green mango trees'. [10] This coincides with Robert Knox's history of the island while he was a prisoner in Kandy. He writes that "On the West, the City of Columbo, so-called from a Tree the Natives call Ambo, (which bears the Mango-fruit) growing in that place but this never bare fruit, but only leaves, which in their Language is Cola and thence they called the Tree Colambo: which the Christians in honour of Columbus turned to Columbo."

The author of the oldest Sinhala grammar, Sidatsangarava, written in the 13th century wrote about a category of words that exclusively belonged to early Sinhala. It lists naramba (to see) and kolamba (ford or harbour) as deriving from the indigenous Vedda language. Kolamba may also be the source of the name of the commercial capital Colombo. [12] [13]

As Colombo possesses a natural harbour, it was known to Indian, Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab and Chinese traders over 2,000 years ago. [ citation needed ] Traveller Ibn Battuta who visited the island in the 14th century, referred to it as Kalanpu. [14] Arabs, whose prime interests were trade, began to settle in Colombo around the 8th century AD mostly because the port helped their business by the way of controlling much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. Their descendants now comprise the local Sri Lankan Moor community. [9] [15]

Portuguese era Edit

Portuguese explorers led by Dom Lourenço de Almeida first arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505. During their initial visit they made a treaty with the King of Kotte, Parakramabahu VIII (1484–1518), which enabled them to trade in the island's crop of cinnamon, which lay along with the coastal areas of the island, including in Colombo. [16] As part of the treaty, the Portuguese were given full authority over the coastline in exchange for the promise of guarding the coast against invaders. They were allowed to establish a trading post in Colombo. [16] Within a short time, however, they expelled the Muslim inhabitants of Colombo and began to build a fort in 1517.

The Portuguese soon realised that control of Sri Lanka was necessary for the protection of their coastal establishments in India and they began to manipulate the rulers of the Kotte kingdom to gain control of the area. After skilfully exploiting rivalries within the royal family, they took control of a large area of the kingdom and the Sinhalese King Mayadunne established a new kingdom at Sitawaka, a domain in the Kotte kingdom. [16] Before long he annexed much of the Kotte kingdom and forced the Portuguese to retreat to Colombo, which was repeatedly besieged by Mayadunne and the later kings of Sitawaka, forcing them to seek reinforcement from their major base in Goa, India. Following the fall of the kingdom in 1593, the Portuguese were able to establish complete control over the coastal area, with Colombo as their capital. [16] [17] This part of Colombo is still known as Fort and houses the presidential palace and the majority of Colombo's five star hotels. The area immediately outside Fort is known as Pettah (Sinhala: පිට කොටුව piṭa koṭuva, "outer fort") and is a commercial hub.

Dutch era Edit

In 1638 the Dutch signed a treaty with King Rajasinha II of Kandy which assured the king assistance in his war against the Portuguese in exchange for a monopoly of the island's major trade goods. The Portuguese resisted the Dutch and the Kandyans but were gradually defeated in their strongholds beginning in 1639. [18] The Dutch captured Colombo in 1656 after an epic siege, at the end of which a mere 93 Portuguese survivors were given safe conduct out of the fort. Although the Dutch (e.g., Rijcklof van Goens) initially restored the captured area back to the Sinhalese kings, they later refused to turn them over and gained control over the island's richest cinnamon lands including Colombo which then served as the capital of the Dutch maritime provinces under the control of the Dutch East India Company until 1796. [18] [19]

British era Edit

Although the British captured Colombo in 1796, it remained a British military outpost until the Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to them in 1815 and they made Colombo the capital of their newly created crown colony of British Ceylon. Unlike the Portuguese and Dutch before them, whose primary use of Colombo was as a military fort, the British began constructing houses and other civilian structures around the fort, giving rise to the current City of Colombo. [9]

Initially, they placed the administration of the city under a "Collector", and John Macdowell of the Madras Service was the first to hold the office. Then, in 1833, the Government Agent of the Western Province was charged with the administration of the city. Centuries of colonial rule had meant a decline of indigenous administration of Colombo and in 1865 the British conceived a Municipal Council as a means of training the local population in self-governance. The Legislative Council of Ceylon constituted the Colombo Municipal Council in 1865 and the Council met for the first time on 16 January 1866. At the time, the population of the region was around 80,000. [9]

During the time they were in control of the Colombo, the British were responsible for much of the planning of the present city. In some parts of the city tram car tracks and granite flooring laid during the era are still visible today. [19] [20]

After independence Edit

This era of colonialism ended peacefully in 1948 when Ceylon gained independence from Britain. [21] Due to the tremendous impact this caused on the city's inhabitants and on the country as a whole, the changes that resulted at the end of the colonial period were drastic. An entire new culture took root. Changes in laws and customs, clothing styles, religions and proper names were a significant result of the colonial era. [21] These cultural changes were followed by the strengthening of the island's economy. Even today, the influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British is clearly visible in Colombo's architecture, names, clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three eras stand as reminders of the turbulent past of Colombo. The city and its people show an interesting mix of European clothing and lifestyles together with local customs. [21]

Historically, Colombo referred to the area around the Fort and Pettah Market which is known for the variety of products available as well as the Khan Clock Tower, a local landmark. At present, it refers to the city limits of the Colombo Municipal Council. [22] More often, the name is used for the Conurbation known as Greater Colombo, which encompasses several Municipal councils including Kotte, Dehiwela and Colombo.

Although Colombo lost its status as the capital of Sri Lanka in the 1980s to Sri Jayawardanapura, it continues to be the island's commercial centre. Despite the official capital of Sri Lanka moving to the adjacent Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, most countries still maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo. [23]

Colombo's geography is a mix of land and water. The city has many canals and, in the heart of the city, the 65-hectare (160-acre) Beira Lake. [24] The lake is one of the most distinctive landmarks of Colombo and was used for centuries by colonists to defend the city. [24] It remains a tourist attraction, hosting regattas, [25] and theatrical events on its shores. The Northern and North-Eastern border of the city of Colombo is formed by the Kelani River, which meets the sea in a part of the city known as the Modera (mōdara in Sinhala) which means river delta.

Climate Edit

Colombo features a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification, falling just short of a tropical rainforest climate. Colombo's climate is hot throughout the year. From March to April the average high temperature is around 31 °C (87.8 °F). [26] The only major change in the Colombo weather occurs during the monsoon seasons from April to June and September to November, when heavy rains occur. Colombo sees little relative diurnal range of temperature, although this is more marked in the drier winter months, where minimum temperatures average 22 °C (71.6 °F). Rainfall in the city averages around 2,500 millimetres (98 in) a year. [27]

Climate data for Colombo, Sri Lanka (1961–1990, extremes 1961–2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35.2
Average high °C (°F) 31.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.6
Average low °C (°F) 22.3
Record low °C (°F) 16.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 58.2
Average precipitation days 5 5 9 14 16 16 12 11 15 17 15 10 145
Average relative humidity (%) (at Daytime) 69 69 71 75 78 79 78 77 78 78 76 73 75
Mean monthly sunshine hours 248.0 246.4 275.9 234.0 201.5 195.0 201.5 201.5 189.0 201.5 210.0 217.0 2,621.3
Source 1: NOAA [28] World Meteorological Organization (precipitation only) [27]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (extremes) [29]

Galle Face Green is located in the heart of the city along the Indian Ocean coast and is a destination for tourists and residents alike. The Galle Face Hotel is a historic landmark on the southern edge of this promenade.

Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo. The temple's architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture. [30]

The Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park) is an urban park located next to the National Museum of Colombo and the Town Hall. It is the oldest and largest park in Colombo and features a large Buddha statue.

As part of the Urban Regeneration Program of the Government of Sri Lanka, many old sites and buildings were revamped to modern public recreational spaces and shopping precincts. These include Independence Memorial Hall Square, Pettah Floating Market and Old Dutch Hospital among others.

Colombo is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city. The population of Colombo is a mix of numerous ethnic groups, mainly Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Moor. There are also small communities of people with Chinese, Portuguese Burgher, Dutch Burgher, Malay and Indian origins living in the city, as well as numerous European expatriates. Colombo is the most populous city in Sri Lanka, with 642,163 people living within the city limits. [31] In 1866 the city had a population of around 80,000. [32]

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According to June McDaniel and other scholars, divine madness is found in the history and practices of many cultures and may reflect religious ecstasy or expression of divine love. [3] Plato in his Phaedrus and his ideas on theia mania, the Hasidic Jews, Eastern Orthodoxy, Western Christianity, Sufism along with Indian religions all bear witness to the phenomenon of divine madness. [4] It is not the ordinary form of madness, but a behavior that is consistent with the premises of a spiritual path or a form of complete absorption in God. [3] [5]

DiValerio notes that comparable "mad saint" traditions exist in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian cultures, but warns against "flights of fancy" that too easily draw comparisons between these various phenomena. [6]

Georg Feuerstein lists Zen poet Hanshan (fl. 9th century) as having divine madness, explaining that when people would ask him about Zen, he would only laugh hysterically. The Zen master Ikkyu (15th century) used to run around his town with a human skeleton spreading the message of the impermanence of life and the grim certainty of death. [7] According to Feuerstein, similar forms of abnormal social behavior and holy madness is found in the history of the Christian saint Isadora and the Sufi Islam storyteller Mulla Nasruddin. [7] Divine madness has parallels in other religions, such as Judaism and Hinduism. [8] [9]

Theia mania (Ancient Greek: θεία μανία ) is a term used by Plato and his teacher Socrates to describe a condition of divine madness (unusual behavior attributed to the intervention of a God) in the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus. [10] In this work, dating from around 370 BC, the Socrates character describes this state of divine inspiration as follows:

In such families that accumulated vast wealth were found dire plagues and afflictions of the soul, for which mania devised a remedy, inasmuch as the same was a gift from the gods, if only to be rightly frenzied and possessed, using proper atonement rituals." [11]

Plato further described divine madness as a gift of the gods, with Socrates stating in Phaedrus, "in fact the best things we have comes from madness", [12] and expounds upon the concept in Plato's Ion. [note 1] In eastern cultures, it has been deployed as a catalyst and means for the deeper understanding of spiritual concepts. [13]

The poet Virgil, in Book VI of his Aeneid, describes the Cumaean Sybil as prophesying in a frenzied state:

. from her face its color flew,
Her twisted locks flowed free, the heaving breast
Swelled with her heart's wild blood her stature seemed
Vaster, her accent more than mortal man,
As all th' oncoming god around her breathed. [14]

In the classical world, the phenomenon of "love at first sight" was understood within the context of a more general conception of passionate love, a kind of madness or, as the Greeks put it, theia mania ("madness from the gods"). [15]

Most importantly in regards to divine madness in ancient Greek culture were the Maenads and Bacchae. These woman experienced a violent form of madness associated with the god Dionysus. [ citation needed ]

Christianity Edit

The 6th-century Saint Simeon, states Feuerstein, simulated insanity with skill. Simeon found a dead dog, tied a cord to the corpse's leg and dragged it through the town, outraging the people. To Simeon the dead dog represented a form of baggage people carry in their spiritual life. He would enter the local church and throw nuts at the congregation during the liturgy, which he later explained to his friend that he was denouncing the hypocrisy in worldly acts and prayers. [7]

Michael Andrew Screech states that the interpretation of madness in Christianity is adopted from the Platonic belief that madness comes in two forms: bad and good, depending on the assumptions about "the normal" by the majority. [16] Early Christians cherished madness, and being called "mad" by non-Christians. [17] To them it was glossolalia or the "tongue of angels". [17] Christ's behavior and teachings were blasphemous madness in his times, and according to Simon Podmore, "Christ's madness served to sanctify blasphemous madness". [18]

Religious ecstasy-type madness was interpreted as good by early Christians, in the Platonic sense. Yet, as Greek philosophy went out of favor in Christian theology, so did these ideas. In the age of Renaissance, charismatic madness regained interest and popular imagination, as did the Socratic proposal of four types of "good madness": [16]

  1. Prophesy, the manic art called Ecstasy, according to Socrates it is caused by the God Apollo
  2. mystical revelations and initiations called Telestika, caused by Dionysos
  3. poetic arts called Enthusiasm, attributed to the Muses
  4. madness of lovers called Delirium, caused by Aphrodite and Eros

The theory of the gods causing madness were of course removed by Christianity due to it being a pagan philosophy. In a Christian theological context, these were interpreted in part as divine rapture, an escape from the restraint of society, a frenzy for freedom of the soul. [16]

In the 20th-century, Pentecostalism – the charismatic movements within Protestant Christianity particularly in the United States, Latin America and Africa – has encouraged the practice of divine madness among its followers. [19] [20] The wisdom and healing power in the possessed, in these movements, is believed to be from the Holy Spirit, a phenomenon called charism ("spiritual gifts"). According to Tanya Luhrmann, the associated "hearing of spiritual voices" may seem to be "mental illness" to many people, but to the followers who shout and dance together as a crowd it isn't. [21] The followers believe that there is a long tradition in Christian spirituality, where saints such as Augustine are stated to have had similar experiences of deliberate hallucinations and madness. [22]

Islam: Sufism Edit

Other adepts that have attained "mad" mental states, according to Feuerstein, include the masts and the intoxicated Sufis associated with shath. [23] In parts of Gilgit (Pakistan), the behavior of eccentric faqirs dedicated to mystical devotionalism is considered as "crazy holiness". [24] In Somalia, according to Sheik Abdi, Moḥammed ʻAbdulle Hassan eccentric behavior and methods led some colonial era writers to call him "mad mullah", "crazy priest of Allah" and others. [25] [26]

According to Sadeq Rahimi, the Sufi description of divine madness in mystical union mirrors those associated with mental illness. [27] He writes,

The similarities between the Sufi formulation of divine madness and the folk experience of psychosis are too clear and too frequent among the Turkish patients to be treated as coincidences. [27]

In West African version of Sufism, according to Lynda chouiten, examples of insane saints are a part of Maraboutisme where the mad and idiotic behavior of a marabout was compared to a mental illness and considered a form of divine folly, of holiness. However, adds Chouiten, Sufism has been accommodating of such divine madness behavior unlike orthodox Islam. [28]

Hinduism Edit

The theme of divine madness appears in all major traditions of Hinduism (Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism), both in its mythologies as well as its saints, accomplished mendicants and teachers. [9] They are portrayed as if they are acting mad or crazy, challenging social assumptions and norms as a part of their spiritual pursuits or resulting thereof. [9]

Avadhuta Edit

According to Feuerstein, the designation avadhūta (Sanskrit: अवधूत) came to be associated with the mad or eccentric holiness or "crazy wisdom" of some paramahamsa, liberated religious teachers, who reverted the social norms, as symbolized by their being "skyclad" or "naked" (Sanskrit: digambara). [29] [note 2] Avadhuta are described in the Sannyasa Upanishads of Hinduism, early mediaeval Sanskrit texts that discuss the monastic (sannyasa, literally "house-leaver") life of Hindu sadhus (monks) and sadhvis (nuns). The Avadhuta is one category of mendicants, and is described as antinomian. The term means "shaken off, one who has removed worldly feeling/attachments, someone who has cast off all mortal concerns". He is described as someone who is actually wise and normal, but appears to others who don't understand him as "mad, crazy". His behavior may include being strangely dressed (or naked), sleeping in cremation grounds, acting like an animal, a "lunatic" storing his food in a skull, among others. [30] [31] [9] According to Feuerstein, "the avadhuta is one who, in his [or her] God-intoxication, has "cast off" all concerns and conventional standards." [29] Feuerstein further states that in traditional Tibet and India, "the "holy fool" or "saintly madman" [and madwoman] has long been recognized as a legitimate figure in the compass of spiritual aspiration and realization." [29]

Bhakti Edit

The bhakti tradition emerged in Hinduism in the medieval era. It is related to religious ecstasy, and its accompanying states of trance and intense emotions. [32] According to McDaniel, devotional ecstasy is "a radical alteration of perception, emotion or personality which brings the person closer to what he regards as sacred." [33] It may be compared to drsti, direct perception or spontaneous thought, as opposed to learned ideas. [33] The bhakta establishes a reciprocal relationship with the divine. [34] Though the participation in the divine is generally favoured in Vaishnava bhakti discourse throughout the sampradayas rather than imitation of the divine 'play' (Sanskrit: lila), there is the important anomaly of the Vaishnava-Sahajiya sect. [35]

McDaniel notes that the actual behavior and experiences of ecstatics may violate the expected behavior as based on texts. While texts describe "stages of religious development and gradual growth of insight and emotion," real-life experiences may be "a chaos of states that must be forced into a religious mold," in which they often don't fit. [36] This discrepancy may lead to a mistaken identification of those experiences as "mad" or "possessed," and the application of exorcism and Ayurvedic treatments to fit those ecstatics into the mold. [36]

McDaniel refers to William James, who made a distinction between gradual and abrupt change, [36] while Karl Potter makes a distinction between progress and leap philosophies. [37] Progress philosophy is jativada, gradual development leap philosophy is ajativada, "sudden knowledge or intuition." [37] Both approaches can also be found in Bengal bhakti. In ritual ecstasy, yogic and tantric practices have been incorporated, together with the idea of a gradual development through spiritual practices. For spontaneous ecstatics, the reverse is true: union with the divine leads to bodily control and detachment. [37] The same distinction is central in the classical Zen-rhetorics on sudden insight, which developed in 7th-century China. [38] [note 3]

The path of gradual progression is called sastriya dharma, "the path of scriptural injunctions." [39] It is associated with order and control, and "loyalty to lineage and tradition, acceptance of hierarchy and authority, and ritual worship and practice." [39] In contrast, the path of sudden breakthrough is asastriya, "not according to the scriptures." [39] It is associated with "chaos and passion, and the divine is reached by unpredictable visions and revelations." [39] The divine can be found in such impure surroundings and items as burning grounds, blood and sexuality. [39] Divine experience is not determined by loyalty to lineage and gurus, and various gurus may be followed. [39] According to McDaniel, divine madness is a major aspect of this breakthrough approach. [39]

Tibetan Buddhism: nyönpa, drubnyon, and "Crazy Wisdom" Edit

Holy Madmen Edit

In Tibetan Buddhism, nyönpa (Wylie: smyon pa), tantric "crazy yogis," are part of the Nyingma-tradition [40] [41] [42] and the Kagyu-tradition. [43] Their behavior may seem to be scandalous, according to conventional standards, [42] but the archetypal siddha is a defining characteristic of the nyingma-tradition, which differs significantly from the more scholarly orientated Gelugpa-tradition. [42] Its founder, Padmasambhava (India, 8th century), is an archetypal siddha, who is still commemorated by yearly dances. [42] Milarepa (c.1052–c.1135 CE), the founder of the Kagyu-school, is also closely connected to the notion of divine madness in Tibetan Buddhism. [43] His biography was composed by Tsangnyön Heruka (1452-1507), "the Madman of Tsang," a famous nyönpa. [44] Other famous madmen are Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529) and the Madman of Ü. Together they are also known as "the Three Madmen" (smyon pa gsum). [45] Indian siddhas, and their Tibetan counterparts, also played an essential role in the Tibetan Renaissance (c.950-1250 CE), when Buddhism was re-established in Tibet. [46]

According to DiValerio, the Tibetan term nyönpa refers to siddhas, yogins and lamas whose "mad" behavior is "symptomatic of high achievement in religious practice." [47] This behavior is most widely understood in Tibet as "a symptom of the individuals being enlightened and having transcended ordinary worldly delusions." [48] Their unconventional behavior is seen by Tibetans as a sign of their transcendence of namtok (Sanskrit: vipalka), "conceptual formations or false ideations." [48] While their behavior may be seen as repulsive from a dualistic point of view, the enlightened view transcends the dualistic view of repulsive and nonrepulsive. [48]

It is regarded as manifesting naturally, not intentionally, though it is sometimes also interpreted as intentional behavior "to help unenlightened beings realize the emptiness of phenomena, or as part of the yogin's own training toward that realization." [48] It may also be seen as a way of training, to transcend the boundaries of convention and thereby the boundaries of one's ordinary self-perception, giving way to "a more immediate way of experiencing the world - a way that is based on the truth of emptiness, rather than our imperfect habits of mind." [49] While the well-known nyönpa are considered to be fully enlightened, the status of lesser-known yogins remains unknown, and the nature of their unconventional behavior may not be exactly determinable, also not by lamas. [50]

According to DiValerio, the term drupton nyönpa is regarded by Tibetans as an oxymoron, a "contradictio in terminis":

An insane person cannot be a siddha, and a siddha, by definition, cannot be insane - at least, not in the medical understanding of madness. [45]

Yet, DiValerio also argues that their unconventional behavior is "strategic, purposeful activity, rather than being the byproduct of a state of enlightenment," [1] and concludes that "the "holy madman" tradition is constituted by highly self-aware individuals making strategic use of the theme of madness in the construction of their public personas," [2] arguing that

. the distinctive eccentric behavior of the Madmen of Ü and Tsang is best understood as a form of "tantric fundamentalism" in that it was based on following a literal reading of the Highest Yoga tantras, enacted as a strategic response to changes taking place in late 15th-century Tibetan religious culture. The "madness" of Drukpa Künlé resulted from his taking a critical stance towards Tibetan religious culture in general. [51]

Crazy Wisdom Edit

In some Buddhist literature, the phrase "crazy wisdom" is associated with the teaching methods of Chögyam Trungpa, [52] himself a Nyingma and Kagyu master, who popularized the notion with his adepts Keith Dowman and Georg Feuerstein. [53] [note 4] The term "crazy wisdom" translates the Tibetan term drubnyon, a philosophy which "traditionally combines exceptional insight and impressive magical power with a flamboyant disregard for conventional behavior." [54] In his book Crazy Wisdom, which consists of transcripts of seminars on the eight aspects of Padmasambhava given in 1972, [55] the Tibetan tülku Chögyam Trungpa describes the phenomenon as a process of enquiry and letting go of any hope for an answer:

We go on deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, until we reach the point where there is no answer. [. ] At that point we tend to give up hope of an answer, or of anything whatsoever, for that matter. [. ] This hopelessness is the essence of crazy wisdom. It is hopeless, utterly hopeless. [13] [note 5]

Since Chögyam Trungpa described crazy wisdom in various ways, DiValerio has suggested that Trungpa did not have a fixed idea of crazy wisdom. [56]

According to DiValerio, Keith Dowman's The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley is "the single most influential document in shaping how Euro-Americans have come to think about Tibetan holy madman phenomenon." [57] Dowman's understanding of the holymadmen is akin to the Tibetan interpretations, seeing the Tibetan holy madmen as "crazy" by conventional standards, yet noting that compared to the Buddhist spiritual ideal "it is the vast majority of us who are insane." [58] Dowman also suggests other explanations for Drukpa Künlé’s unconventional behavior, including criticising institutionalized religion, and acting as a catalysator for direct insight. [59] According to DiValerio, Dowman's view of Künlé as criticising Tibetan religious institutions is not shared by contemporary Tibetan religious specialist, but part of Dowman's own criticism of religious institutions. [60] DiValerio further notes that "Dowman’s presentation of Drukpa Künlé as roundly anti-institutional [had] great influence [. ] in shaping (and distorting) the Euro-American world’s thinking on the subject." [61] [note 6]

According to Feuerstein, who was influenced by Chogyam Trungpa, [53] divine madness is unconventional, outrageous, unexpected, or unpredictable behavior that is considered to be a manifestation of spiritual accomplishment. [62] This includes archetypes like the holy fool and the trickster. [62] [note 4]

Immediatism Edit

Arthur Versluis notes that several or most of the teachers who are treated by Feuerstein as exemplary for divine madness, or crazy wisdom, are exemplary for immediatism. [63] These include Adi Da, the teacher of Feuerstein, and Rajneesh. [63] "Immediatism" refers to "a religious assertion of spontaneous, direct, unmediated spiritual insight into reality (typically with little or no prior training), which some term "enlightenment"." [64] According to Versluis, immediatism is typical for Americans, who want "the fruit of religion, but not its obligations." [65] Although immediatism has its roots in European culture and history [64] as far back as Platonism, [66] and also includes Perennialism, [67] Versluis points to Ralph Waldo Emerson as its key ancestor, [64] who "emphasized the possibility of immediate, direct spiritual knowledge and power." [66]

Versluis notes that traditional Tibetan Buddhism is not immediatist, since Mahamudra and Dzogchen "are part of a fairly stricted controlled ritual and meditative practice and tradition." [68] yet, he also refers to R.C. Zaehner, "who came to regard Asian-religion-derived nondualism as more or less inexorably to antinomianism, immorality, and social dissolution." [69] Versluis further notes that in traditional Mahamudra and Dzogchen, access to teachings is restricted and needs preparation. [70] Versluis further notes that immediatist teachers may be attractive due to their sense of certainty, which contrasts with the post-modernist questioning of truth-claims. [71] He further notes the lack of compassion which is often noted in regard to those immediatist teachers. [72]

According to Mircea Eliade, divine madness is a part of Shamanism, a state that a pathologist or psychologist is likely to diagnose as a mental disease or aberrant psychological condition. However, state Eliade and Harry Eiss, this would be a misdiagnosis because the Shaman is "in control of the mystic state, rather than the psychotic state being in control of him". [73] A Shaman predictably enters into the trance state, with rituals such as music and dance, then comes out of it when he wants to. A mental illness lacks these characteristics. Further, at least to the participants, the Shaman's actions and trance has meaning and power, either as a healer or in another spiritual sense. [73] [74]

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