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 )
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
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
Return to the Realms of the Dragons
P. Garofalo's E-Mail
© 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.
Return to the Realms of the Dragons
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