Leaping Over the Dragon's Gate

The Realms of the Dragons


 

Research by 
Michael P. Garofalo

© Valley Spirit Qigong, Green Way Research, Red Bluff, California, 2010-2015
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S., All Rights Reserved.

 

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Leaping Over the Dragon's Gate

 

            

There is a Chinese proverb that goes "The carp has leaped through the dragon's gate."  ( Liyu Tiao Long Men, 鲤鱼跳龙门 )

 

 

"According to Chinese mythology, the Dragonís Gate is located at the top of a waterfall cascading from a legendary mountain.   Many carp swim upstream against the riverís strong current, but few are capable or brave enough for the final leap over the waterfall.  If a carp successfully makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon.  A Chinese dragonís large, conspicuous scales indicate its origin from a carp.  The Chinese dragon has long been an auspicious symbol of great and benevolent, magical power.  The image of a carp jumping over Dragonís Gate is an old and enduring Chinese cultural symbol for courage, perseverance, and accomplishment.  Historically, the dragon was the exclusive symbol of the emperor of China and the five-character expression, Liyu Tiao Long Men, was originally used as a metaphor for a personís success in passing very difficult imperial examinations, required for entry into imperial administrative service.   To this day, when a student from a remote country village passes the rigorous national university examination in China, friends and family proudly refer to the ďLiyu Tiao Long Men.Ē  More generally, the expression is used to communicate that if a person works hard and diligently, success will one day be achieved."
Carp Leaping Over the Dragon's Gate 

 

 

"On the Yellow River at Hunan is a waterfall called the Dragon Gate. It is said that if certain carp called Yulong can climb the cataract they will transform into dragons. Every year in the third month of spring they swim up from the sea and gather in vast numbers in the pool at the foot of the falls. It used to be said that only seventy one could make the climb in any year. When the first succeeded, then the rains would begin to fall. This Dragon Gate was said to have been created after the Flood by the god-emperor Yu who split a mountain blocking the path of the Yellow River. It was so famous that throughout China there was a common saying that: 'a student facing his examinations is like a carp attempting to leap the Dragon Gate.'  Hunan is not the only place where this happens. Many other waterfalls in China also have the name Dragon Gate and much the same is said about them. Other famous Dragon Gates are on the Wei River where it passes through the Lung Sheu Mountains and at Tsin in Shanxi Province."
-   Leaping the Dragon Gate

 

 

"In a later period, the fish and dragon were again associated, this time through wooden batons shaped like a fish that hung in the dining rooms of Chan (Zen) temples. These batons were used to strike a large bell, an action said to represent the transformation of a fish into a dragon. This image of transformation, which symbolizes the transcendence of worldly concerns and the attainment of sainthood, is based on the legend "the carp leaps through the dragon gate," a depiction of intense struggle that ends in victory." 
Dragon Lore from Taiwan

 

 

"Legend has it that each Chinese carp would swim up the Yellow River upstream to spawn, and those who can leap the waterfall at the dragonís gate were transformed into dragons.  What does it mean?  Simply, if a person works hard at whatever he does, he could one day become successful.  This proverb is used to encourage a person to persist in oneís endeavor.  In the past, a carp leaping over the dragonís gate was used as a metaphor for success in passing the imperial exams.  These exams have their beginnings about 2,000 years ago to select the brightest persons for top government positions.  These exams were open to the public and whoever passed the exams could become a government official, thus ensuring wealth and prestige for the family."
Leaping Carp 

 

 

The Threshold of the Dragon's Gate

"Beneath the serene quiet of the water lilies
a young carp senses a calling . . . swelling up in her heart
like the swirling waters at the base of a great waterfall,
Somehow summoned to go beyond the barrier
of crashing water and veiled mist
The churning waters of the waterfallís bottom
matches that of the young carpís desires

Finally with a burst of enthusiasm the carp has launched herself
up the wall of rushing water
cresting the first falls with a surge of effort
only to be met with relentless rushing water.
Persevering from one cataract to the next
the carp makes it to the summitís last falls.
Regrouping her energies in a pocket of scouring effervescence
every essence of strength, courage, and spirit is consumed
in the launching over the fallís summit.

And the dragonís gate accepts her efforts a transforming gate of fire
Revealing the birth of a new Dragon
born of the seed of desire planted in the heart of a small carp
that once hid in the shallows."
-  Howard Schroeder, Threshold of the Dragon's Gate
   (Be sure to look at Mr. Schroeder's excellent Dragon's Gate scroll artwork.)  

 

 

 

 

 

"Redfin Carp pledged a solemn vow.  "I shall swim beyond the Dragon Gates.  I shall brave the perilous bolts of fire and lightening.  I shall transcend the estate of ordinary fish and achieve a place among the order of sacred dragons.  I shall rid myself forever of the terrible suffering to which my race is heir, expunge every trace of our shame and humiliation."    

Waiting until the third day of the third month, when the peach blossoms are in flower and the river is full, he made his way to the entrance of the YŁ Barrier.  Then, with a flick of his tail, Redfin Carp swam forth.

You men have never laid eyes on the awesome torrent of water that rolls through the Dragon Gates.  It falls all the way from the summits of the far-off Kunlun Range with tremendous force.  There are wild, thousand foot waves that rush down through gorges towering to dizzying heights on either side, carrying away whole hillsides as they go.  Angry bolts of thunder beat down with a deafening roar.  Moaning whirlwinds whip up poisonous mists and funnels of noisome vapor spitting flashing forks of lightening.  The mountain spirits are stunned into senselessness; the river spirits turn limp with fright.  Just a drop of this water will shatter the carapace of the giant tortoise, it will break the bones of the giant whale.

It was into this maelstrom that Redfin Cary, his splendid golden-red scales girded to the full, his steely teeth thrumming like drums, mad a direct all-out assault.  Ah!  Golden Carp!  Golden Carp!  You might have led an ordinary life out in the boundless ocean.  It teems with lesser fish.  You would not have gone hungry.  Then why?  What made you embark on this wild and bitter struggle:  What was waiting for you up beyond the Barrier?

Suddenly, after being seared by cliff-shattering bolts of lightning, after being battered by heaven scorching blast of thunder-fire, his scaly armor burnt from from head to tail, his fins singed through, Redfin Carp perished into the Great Death and rose again as a divine dragon─ a supreme lord of the waters.  Now, with the thunder god at his head and a fire god at his rear, flanked right and left with the gods of rain and wind, he moves abroad with the clouds in one hand and mists in the other, bringing new life to the tender young shoots withering in the long parched desert lands, keepin the true Dharma safe amid the defilements of the degenerate world.

Had he been content to pass his life like a lame turtle or blind tortoise, feeding on winkles and tiny shrimps, not even all the effort Vasuki, Manasvi, and the other Dragon Kings might muster on his behalf could have done him any good.  He could never have achieved the great success that he did."
-   Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), Japanese Zen Master and artist, "The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin," translated by Norman Waddell, 1994, p. 64

 

 

 

 

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© Valley Spirit Qigong, Green Way Research, Red Bluff, California, 2010-2015
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S., All Rights Reserved.
 

This webpage was first posted on the Internet on May 1. 2010 at:   http://www.egreenway.com/dragonsrealms/DT3.htm

This webpage was last modified or updated on January 9, 2015. 

 

 

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The Carp Leaps Through the Dragon's Gate 
The Carp Jumps Over the Dragon's Gate 
Carp Leaps Through the Dragon's Gate and Becomes a Dragon 
Dragon's Gate Portal 
Becoming a Dragon, Stepping Through the Dragon's Gate