The Genius of China

The Genius of China3,000 Years of Science, Discovery & Invention, by Robert Temple, Introduction by Dr. Joseph Needham, London: André Deutsch, 2013

About the Authors

Robert Temple is a Visiting Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing—China’s leading university. He was previously Visiting (Adjunct) Professor of Humanities, History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Louisville, has affiliations with the University of the Aegean in Greece and the Archeological Sciences Institute of the Aegean at Alexandria, Egypt. He is the author of a series of classic investigations into archeological mysteries, notably The Sirius Mystery and Netherworld.

The late Joseph Needham was Director of the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, and author of the definitive work Science and Civlisation in China. The world’s most famous Sinologist, he is probably the British historian best known on a world scale, and has been called ‘the Erasmus of the twentieth century.’

About this Book

  • Revised, colour-illustrated edition of this multi-award winning, international bestseller which has been translated into over 40 languages and approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
  • Written by world-renowned scholar Dr. Robert Temple, and based on the vast definite work of the world’s most famous Sinologist Dr. Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China.
  • Reveals China’s contributions in the fields of agriculture, astronomy, engineering, mathematics, medicine, music, the physical sciences, transport technology and warfare that helped inspire the European agricultural and industrial revolutions.
  • Endlessly informative and fascinating, it bring the excitement of centuries of ingenuity and growth to life.

The West’s Debt to China

by R.K.G. Temple

One of the greatest untold secrets of history is that the ‘modern world’ in which we live is a unique synthesis of Chinese and Western ingredients. Possibly more than half of the basic inventions and discoveries upon which the ‘modern world’ rests come from China. And yet few people know this. Why?

The Chinese themselves are as ignorant of this fact as Westerners. From the seventeenth century, the Chinese became increasingly dazzled by European technological expertise, having experienced a period of amnesia regarding their own achievements. When the Chinese were shown a mechanical clock by Jesuit missionaries, they were awestruck, forgetting that it was they who had invented mechanical clocks in the first place!

It is just as much a surprise for the Chinese as for Westerners to realize that modern agriculture, modern shipping, the modern oil industry, modern astronomical observatories, modern music, decimal mathematics, paper money, umbrellas, fishing reels, wheelbarrows, multi-stage rockets, guns, underwater mines, poison gas, parachutes, hot-air balloons, manned flight, brandy, whisky, the game of chess, printing, and even the essential design of the steam engine, all came from China.

Without the importation from China of nautical and navigational improvements such as ships’ rudders, the compass and multiple masts, the great European Voyages of Discovery could never have been undertaken. Columbus would not have sailed to America, and Europeans would never have established colonial empires.

Without the importation from China of the stirrup, to enable them to stay on horseback, knights of old would never have ridden in their shining armour to aid damsels in distress; there would have been no Age of Chivalry. And without the importation from China of guns and gunpowder, the knights would not have been knocked from their horses by bullets which pierced the armour, bringing the Age of Chivalry to an end.

Without the importation from China of paper and printing, Europe would have continued for much longer to copy books by hand. Literacy would not have become so widespread. Johannes Gutenberg did not invent movable type. It was invented in China. William Harvey did not discover the circulation of the blood in the body. It was discovered—or rather, always assumed—in China. Isaac Newton was not the first to discover his First Law of Motion. It was discovered in China.

These myths and many others are shattered by our discovery of the true Chinese origins of many of the things, all around us, which we take for granted. Some of our greatest achievements turn out to have been not achievements at all, but simple borrowings. Yet there is no reason for us to feel inferior or downcast at the realization that much of the genius of mankind’s advance was Chinese rather than European. For it is exciting to realize that the East and the West are not as far apart in spirit or in fact as most of us have been led, by appearances, to believe, and that the East and the West are already combined in a synthesis so powerful and so profound that it is all-pervading. Within this synthesis we live our daily lives, and from it there is no escape. The modern world is a combination of Eastern and Western ingredients which are inextricably fused. The fact that we are largely unaware of it is perhaps one of the greatest cases of historical blindness in the existence of the human race.

Why are we ignorant of this gigantic, obvious truth? The main reason is surely that the Chinese themselves lost sight of it. If the very originators of the inventions and discoveries no longer claim them, and their memory of them has faded, why should their inheritors trouble to resurrect their lost claims? Until our own time, it is questionable whether many Westerners even wanted to know the truth. It is always more satisfying to the ego to think that we have reached our present position alone and unaided, that we are the masters of all abilities and crafts.

The discovery of the truth is a result of incidents in the life of the distinguished scholar Dr. Joseph Needham, author of the great work Science and Civilisation in China. In 1937, aged 37, Needham was one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society and a biochemist of considerable distinction at Cambridge. He had already published many books, including the definite history of embryology. One day he met and befriended some Chinese students, including a young lady from Nanking named Lu Gwei-Djen, whose father had passed on to her his unusually profound knowledge of the history of Chinese science. Needham began to hear tales of how the Chinese had been the true discoverers of this and that important thing, and at first he could not believe it. But as he looked further into it, evidence began to come to light from Chinese texts, hastily translated by his new friends.

Needham became obsessed with the subject. Not knowing a word of Chinese, he set about learning the language. In 1942 he was sent to China as Scientific Counsellor to the British Embassy in Chungking. He was able to travel all over China, learn the language thoroughly, meet men of science, and accumulate vast quantities of priceless ancient Chinese science books. These were flown back to Britain by the Royal Air Force and today form the basis of the finest library, outside China, on the history of Chinese science, technology and medicine, at the Needham Research Institute in Cambridge. After the war, Needham was among those who ‘put the ‘s’ into Unesco,’ having persuaded that organization to concern itself with science as well as education and culture. He became Unesco’s first Assistant Director General for the natural sciences.

In July 1946 Needham stated in a lecture to the China Society in London that: ‘What is really very badly needed is a proper book on the history of science and technology in China, especially with reference to the social and economic background of Chinese life. Such a book would be by no means academic, but would have a wide bearing on the general history of thought and ideas.’

When he returned to Cambridge, where he eventually became Master of Caius College for many years, Joseph went ahead and wrote the work which he had envisaged, except that it was very academic and impenetrable to the ordinary educated reader. The result, Science and Civilisation in China, became a huge multi-volume project, envisaged eventually in 36 volumes (at least 24 are now available). Since Joseph’s death, further volumes in the series have been issued by a number of specialist contributors. This was a progress which had begun even while Joseph was alive, with the appearance of the excellent volume on agriculture, written by a then young, intrepid sinologist, Francesca Bray, under Joseph’s occasional supervision.

Gwei-Djen died tragically before Joseph, leaving him emotionally bereft, but he continued working right up to his death. One day when Gwei-Djen was still alive, I pointed to an ornate sealed gate at Caius and said to Joseph: ‘What is that, and why is it so tightly shut?’ He said: ‘That gate is only opened at the inauguration of a new Master, or when one dies, for his funeral. One day they’ll carry me out through there.’ When, years later, I passed through the gate behind his coffin, I sadly recalled his comment.

Joseph never lost his early vision of a work which was ‘by no means academic,’ as he had originally promised. He had always wanted to make his work accessible in every possible way. Therefore, when I approached him in 1984 with the suggestion that I write a popular book for the general reader based upon his half-century’s labors, he agreed more readily than at that time I could understand. He and Gwei-Djen told me that they strongly approved of some things I had published about the Shang Dynasty, the I Ching and such matters, and liked the way I wrote about such abstruse subjects for the ordinary reader without sacrificing scholarly accuracy.

Although Joseph did not personally like Professor Derk Bodde, under whom I had studied Chinese philosophy, my academic background was considered acceptable because Joseph knew of Bodde’s high standards. As far as Joseph and Gwei-Djen were concerned, those writings of mine proved to them that I was qualified for the task, and the only thing that remained was for Joseph to make the hard decision to relinquish the task himself, which was first announced in 1946.

I have taken certain minor liberties which must be pointed out to those readers who may consult Needham’s own volumes. I have used the convention, which he avoids, of BC and AD for dates, substituting them in my quotations for his plus and minus signs. I have ironed out various passages, particularly translations from the Chinese, by eliminating Chinese words, occasional parentheses, and specialized matter which does not concern the general reader. I have also, at Dr. Needham’s own suggestion, eliminated the extra letter ‘h’ in Chinese words which he had introduced as a substitution for the aspirate apostrophe. Hence, his chhien becomes ch’ien, etc. The system of transliteration used in this book is thus the pure Wade-Giles system. The Pinyin system which has been adopted by the Chinese government and newspapers around the world in recent years is not suitable, for it would have made reference to Needham’s own volumes impossible to the non-specialist.

This book has purposely been prepared without footnotes or other scholarly accessories. Many volumes have continued to appear in the Science and Civilisation in China series, and the list of those in print should always be consulted by anyone wishing to go more deeply into certain specific subjects. The main aim of this book has been to make Needham’s work accessible to the general non-specialist reader, whilst providing an overview for specialists . In preparing the book I used many typescripts of unpublished material, discussions with Joseph and Gwei-Djen, proofs and oral and written accounts of material that had not yet been published. My account of porcelain was done entirely without the assistance of any material by Joseph, as he never wrote about that subject at all. Those collaborators, such as H.T. Huang, who were generous in helping me in my efforts have been specially acknowledged for it (…).


[Agriculture, The Iron Plough, Sixth Century BC]

—Of all the advantages which China had for centuries over the rest of the world, the greatest was perhaps the superiority of its ploughs. Nothing underlines the backwardness of the West more than the fact that for thousands of years, millions of human being ploughed the earth in a manner which was so inefficient, so wasteful of effort, and so utterly exhausting, that this deficiency of sensible ploughing may rank as mankind’s single greatest waste of time and energy. /16

—Since the agricultural revolution of Europe is generally thought to have led to the Industrial Revolution, and to the West’s superior power over the rest of the world, it is ironic that the basis of it all came from China, and was not by any means indigenous to Europe. /16-17

—The curved mouldboard, adopted from the outset in China, did not appear in Europe until the eighteenth century, and the lack of it probably caused more hardship to farmers than any other single factor. /19

—Chinese ploughs, with mouldboards, were brought to Holland in the seventeenth century by Dutch sailors. And because the Dutch were hired by teh English to drain the East Anglian fens and Somerset moors at that time, they brought with them their Chinese ploughs, which came to be called ‘Rotherham ploughs.’ Thus, the Dutch and the English were the first to enjoy efficient ploughs in Europe. Another name for the Chinese design was the ‘bastard Dutch plough.’ It was extremely successful on wet, boggy land, and it was soon realized that it would be just as successful on ordinary land. /20

—There was no single more important element in the European agricultural revolution. When we reflect that only two hundred years have elapsed since Europe suddenly began to catch up with and then surpassed Chinese agriculture, we can see what a thin temporal veneer overlies our assumed Western superiority in the production of food. /20

—From earliest times until the eighth century AD in the West (and, as we shall see, much earlier in China), the only means of harnessing horses was by the ‘throat-and-girth harness.’ It was an absurd method since the strap across the throat meant that the horse was choked as soon as he exerted himself. Yet for thousands of years, nobody could think of anything better. As long as man was restricted to the use of this pathetic harness, horsepower was all but useless for transport by cart. (…) If ever the feebleness of human ingenuity has been displayed, it is by the fact that mankind was prepared to put up with the throat-and-girth harness for millennia. /20

—The earliest evidence for the collar harness in China may be seen in a rubbing from an ancient brick, showing the collar harness on three horses pulling a chariot. It dates from some time between the fourth and first centuries BC. Therefore, we must consider the collar harness as having been invented in China by the first century BC at the latest. This is a full thousand years before its appearance in Europe a century after the trace harness. /23

[The Rotary Winnowing Fan, Second Century BC]

—The Chinese were about two thousand years ahead of the West in their approach towards the winnowing of grain, the means used to separate out husks and stalks from the grain after harvest and threshing. (…) But the Chinese were not satisfied with waiting for a strong wind for the tossing method, or with the slow and laborious basket and sieve methods .By the second century BC they had made a brilliant invention: the rotary winnowing fan. Models of them have been found in ancient tombs, made of pottery nd with miniature working parts. /24

[The Multi-Tube (‘Modern’) Seed Drill, Second Century BC]

—It may come as a surprise to those who are unfamiliar with the history of Western agriculture to learn that the West had no seed drills until the sixteenth century AD. Until the seed drill was adopted, broadcasting of seed by hand was practiced. /25

—Although it never made its way to Europe, the Sumerians of the Middle East had a primitive single-tube seed drill 3500 years ago. But it was the multi-tube seed drill invented by the Chinese in the second century BC (and adopted also in India) which made possible the efficient sowing of crop seed for the first time in history. The drill is pulled along behind the horse, ox, or mule and dribbles teh seed at a controlled rate into straight rows. /26

[Astronomy and Cartography. Recognition of Sunspots as Solar Phenomena, Fourth Century BC]

—In the West, the heavens were supposed to be so perfect that no such thing as a sunspot could be thought possible. Most of the sunspots seen in the West before the seventeenth century were explained away as transits of the Sun by the planets Mercury and Venus. The theory of ‘perfection of the Heavens’ forbade the admission of any imperfections on the surface of the Sun. Consequently, it was assumed that these ‘blemishes’ were planets or small invisible satellites. /28

—The Chinese suffered from no such preconceived insistence on ‘perfection.’ Since sunspots are sometimes large enough to be seen by the naked eye, the Chinese naturally saw them. The earliest surviving record we have of their observations would seem to be some remarks by one of the three known early astronomgers in China. He was Kan Te, whoch lived in the fourth century BC. He and two contemporaries, Shih Shen and Wu Hsien, drew up the first great star catalogues. Their work was fully comparable to that of the Greek Happarchos, though two centuries earlier. /28

—Most people today believe that sunpsots were first observed in the West by Galileo, who is also supposed to have been the first person to ‘invent’ or at least use the telescope. Neither belief is true. Galileo most certainly did not invent the telescope, though he gave it prominence, and courageously advocated its use to study the heavens. As for the observation of sunspots, the earliest clear reference to them so far found in Western literature is in Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, of about 807 AD, or eight centuries before Galileo’s first observation of sunspots in 1610. /28-29

—Galileo’s priority in the seventeenth century was disputed by the Jesuit Christopher Schooner in Holland, by Fabricius in Germany, and by Thomas Hariot in England, all of whom seem to have seen the sunspots before Galileo did. /29

[Quantitative Cartography, Second Century AD]

—The science of map-making took a great step forward when Chang Heng invented quantitative cartography in the second century AD. Chang was the inventor of the first seismograph … and one of China’s leading scientific figures. /29

[Discovery of the Solar Wind, Sixth Century AD]

—Comet tails always point away from the Sun, blown that way by the ‘solar wind.’ The Chinese were history’s most noted observers of comets. The computation of approximate orbits for about forty comets appearing before 1500 have been based almost entirely upon Chinese records of their sightings. Comet movements were described with such precision by the Chinese that many precise trajectories across the sky can be drawn on a star map, simply from reading an ancient Chinese text. /34

[Engineering, Cast Iron, Fourth Century BC]

—Blast furnaces for cast iron are now known to have existed in Scandinavia by the late eighth century AD, but many readers will be amazed to learn that cast iron was not widely available in Europe before 1380. The Chinese, however, practiced the technique from at least the fourth century BC. What were the reasons for the Chinese superiority? There were a number of factors. China had good refractory clays for the construction of the walls of the blast furnaces. The Chinese also knew how to reduce the temperature at which the iron would melt. They threw in something which they called ‘black earth,’ which contained much iron phosphate. If up to 6 per cent of phosphorus is added in this way to an iron mixture, it reduces the melting point from the normal 1130ºC to 950ºC. This technique was used in the early centuries, ceasing before the sixth century AD, when proper blast furnaces came into use which needed no such assistance. /44-45

[The Crank Handle, Second Century BC]

—If you want to turn a wheel which is mounted in place for some mechanical purpose, then it is silly just to push the wheel round. The obvious thing to do is to stick a rod into the side of the wheel, use that as a handle, and turn it. This is known as the crank handle. But no one ever thought of it until the Chinese adopted the idea in the second century BC. The Chinese invention of the crank handle was for use on their rotary winnowing machine …, which was crucial to agriculture. It was only then that sticking a rod at right angels into the side of a wheel was seen to be useful as a handle to turn the wheel. Not for eleven hundred years would the same idea occur to Westerners. /49

[Manufacture of Steel from Cast Iron, Second Century BC]

—Since the Chinese were the first to produce cast iron, they were also the first to make steel from cast iron. This was fully under way by the second century BC at the latest, and eventually led to the invention of the Bessemer steel process in the West in 1856. (…) Iron, when melted and reformed into ingots, has carbon content. This determines the nature of the metal as cast iron or steel, whichever the case may be. Cast iron is brittle because it contains a considerable quantity of carbon, perhaps as much as 4.5 per cent. ‘Decarbonization’ is the removal of some or all of this carbon. Remove much of the carbon and you have steel; remove nearly all of the carbon and you have wrought iron. The Chinese used wrought iron a great deal, most notably perhaps in building large bridges and aqueducts. /53

[Deep Drilling for Natural Gas, First Century BC]

—The Chinese originated deep drilling by the first century BC and, with their traditional methods, were able to drill boreholes up to 4800 feet deep. The deep drilling for today’s supplies of oil and natural gas is a development from these Chinese techniques. /56

Hara, the Vital Center of Man

Hara, the Vital Center of ManRochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2004. Originally published in 1956. Translated from German by Sylvia-Monica von Kospoth in collaboration with Estelle R. Healey.

Hara is essential reading for all who inquire into the spiritual principles and practices that are fundamental to all wisdom traditions and natural healing professions.

—Don Stapleton, Self-Awakening Yoga

About the Author

Karlfried Graf Dürkheim (1896-1988) spent eight years in Japan before World War II and was a professor at the University of Kiel until Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. In Japan he discovered Zen Buddhism in its various expressions and subsequently became a Western authority on the subject.
—From: Backcover

About this Book

When we speak of an individual’s state, we are actually referring to something that transcends the duality of body and soul, something that reflects the entirety of a person’s being. Because each of us is a unity of body and soul, there is no psychic structure or inner tension that is not reflected outwardly in the form and order of the body. When we find the physical center of the body we also find the psychological center of the soul. According to Zen masters, by correcting posture and breathing to balance this center, one can cultivate inner tranquillity and balance: the state called Hara.

Karlfried Graf Dürckheim
Karlfried Graf Dürckheim

Karlfried Graf Dürkheim shows the Western world how to overcome the physical and spiritual decay of modern life by adopting the age-old techniques of Japanese Zen masters. By leaving behind the ‘chest-out-belly-in’ posture and attitude of the West and adopting the belly-centered posture and attitude of Hara, individuals can live a calm, grounded, and more balanced life. Included in this classic text are vital life force practices and translations of the wisdom teaching of three Japanese Zen masters. This book also explores how the practice of Hara emphasizes empirical learning and the cultivation of self-knowledge through the perfection of arts such as painting and archery.
—From: Backcover


In this mind-boggling book, Karlfried Graf Dürckheim provides a brilliant analysis of the concept of Hara, known from Japanese culture and wisdom, but not limited to Japan. In fact, the author writes that if the concept was only of value for the Japanese, he would not have written the book. As the lecture after about half the book shows, the author has in fact trained in Hara in Japan, during the eight years of his stay, prior to WW2, and thus the book is also a practical manual how to ‘Sit with Hara’ and ‘How to Breath with Hara’ and even how to walk with Hara. In fact, no area of life, including sexuality, is excluded from the effort of the Hara practitioner to bring the conscious and unconscious forces in man into harmony and collaboration.

As a psychotherapist, the author also has the authority to assess where people with a dominance of the ego end up in life: he describes at length their struggles with an ego-based worldview and how such an attitude negatively affects the human body, leading to a suffocation of the vital instincts, a ridification of the muscles, breathing problems later in life, arteriosclerosis, loss of memory, and premature aging.

In this sense, then, without the author claiming it, Hara meditation is also a rejuvenating and tonifying practice that, as shown exemplarily in the author’s long life and radiant health even in later years, has a life-sustaining value.

There is no other study than Dürckheim’s about Hara in Japanese philosophy. It is really very different from Indian philosophy for Japanese philosophy is totally life-affirming while Indian philosophy is more or less life-denying.

I have myself practiced Zen meditation for more than ten years which simply consists of concentrating your energy on the hara point. It’s all but that. When your consciousness descents from the ‘upper parts’ of the body (brain and heart) to the belly, a whole new dimension opens which has these effects long-term:
1) Integration of emotions and sexual desire into one streaming energy flow and absence of any highly bothering ‘urges’ and their fantasies;
2) A totally different way to sit, stand and walk, as the axis point of the body is shifted from the middle of the spine (very weak) to the lower spine (very strong). It is told as a tale in Japan that Western people standing at a party could easily be toppled by just prodding a finger into their spine, for they have no Hara stand. A Japanese can even be pushed with both hands and he will not fall, for he’s grounded in the Hara point, the lower belly, and this is even so for ordinary men and women
3) Hara consciousness is different from Ego consciousness in that it is integrated into a greater ‘group’ or ‘cosmic’ consciousness which is why the Japanese are so excellent on the social level and Western people generally so poor.



—Western ways of life have come to an end of their fruitfulness, rationalism has made its final contribution and modern man will succumb increasingly to physical and spiritual decay unless he finds some new way of coming back to his essential self and the true sense of life. /1

—Religion today can withstand neither rationalism nor can it satisfy man’s longings for inner safety. The predominance of the ego with its self-centered structure of consciousness, as well as all its claims, which obstruct and distort man’s connection with the ground of Being, is also the cause of his incapacity for any real faith. /1

—By Hara—and we hold to this name—the Japanese understand an all-inclusive general attitude which enables a man to open himself to the power and wholeness of the original life-force and to testify to it by the fulfillment, the meaningfulness, and the mastery displayed in his own life. Knowledge of Hara is valid not only for the Japanese. It has universal human validity. /2

—Immaturity, unripeness, is the cancer of our time, the incapacity to ripen the specific mark of our time. The neurosis which drives the spiritually sick to the therapist is simply the clearest expression of the universal suffering, the suffering due to man’s estrangement from Being! /3

[Hara in the Life of the Japanese]

—Where the center of gravity shifts upward to the chest and the middle of the body is gainsaid and constricted; the natural alternation of tension and relaxation is replaced by a wrong one which forces a man to swing between hypertension and slackness. /6

—Man, as a living being, is not rooted in himself. Rather is he nourished, sustained and held in order by Nature whose laws operate without his knowledge and assistance. Man sets himself in opposition to the order of life which fundamentally sustains him if, by an unnatural shifting of his center of gravity, he denies that vital center in his bearing which testifies to this order. /7

—Intellect, will and emotion, the powers of head, chest and heart with which man as a conscious being has been endowed will prove his undoing if, caught in the net of his concepts, in the brilliance of his achievements and in the web of his entanglements he forgets his anchorage in the weaving and working of the Greater Life. Just as the growth and unfolding of the crown of a tree depends directly on its root-system, so also the vital development of man’s spirit depends on his being true to his roots, that is, to an uninterrupted contact with the primal unity of Life, from which human life also springs. If, forgetting this, man diminishes the realm of his primal life by artificially pulling himself upwards physically he disturbs the balance of his natural forces, and the inflated I then bars access to that higher development which real function is to humbly prepare, protect, and serve. /7

—The integration of these two poles—the unconscious, and the conscious life of the mind, as well as between life in space time reality and the Reality beyond space time—constitutes the way to human maturity. Maturity is that condition in which man reaps the fruit of the union he has regained. /9

[Hara in the Everyday Life of Japan]

—I remember a large reception, the guests European and Japanese, stood around after dinner drinking coffee and smoking. A Japanese friend of mine who knew of my interest in the ways of his country joined me and said, ‘Do you see that the Europeans standing here could be easily toppled over if one were suddenly to give them a little push from behind? But none of the Japanese would lose their balance even if they were given a much harder push.’ /13

—Upright, firm and collected—these are the three marks of that posture which is typical of the Japanese who knows how to stand, and taken altogether, show the presence of Hara. /13

—A Buddha is not a transcendental god, but a human being into whom the Great Being has penetrated bringing transformation and liberation into the bright light of consciousness. /17

[Hara in the Japanese Language]

—The man with center has calm, unprejudiced judgment. He knows what is important, what unimportant. He meets reality serenely and with detachment keeping his sense of proportion. (…) The mark of it is an inner elasticity which enables him to conduct himself with the utmost matter-of-factness and composure in any situation. /38

—Hara is only in slight measure innate. It is above all the result of persistent self-training and discipline, in fact the fruit of responsible, individual development. That is what the Japanese means when he speaks of the Hara no dekita hito, the man who has accomplished or finished his belly, that is, himself: for he is mature. If this development does not take place we have the Hara no dekita inai hito, someone who has not developed, who has remained immature, who is too young in the psychological sense. /39

—The Japanese are not fond of making moral judgments, except in rare instances. But their characteristic attitude is to affirm life as it is, to accept it and give it its due in its uniqueness, instead of trying to compose it into rational and ethical systems. Such at least is the popular ideal, in the face of which pointless grumbling is considered weak, and narrow-minded judgment despicable. /40

—Thus ‘Hara’ is something which puts the whole man in a specific condition (state), indeed one could say, that he is a ‘whole man’ only because of Hara. Where, however, Hara is lacking, man is not yet ‘whole.’ This idea is also very obvious in other popular sayings. If one says of an action that it is done ‘with the belly’ one means that it is not done by any separate function, not by any specialized organ but by the ‘whole’ of the person, even though he may make use of his or that particular organ. /40-41

—Hara in the true sense has nothing to do with being corpulent, that is, with having a big physical belly. Thus people with no outward belly may have belly in the psycho-spiritual sense and vice versa. /41

—So it can be seen that, through the increase of Hara and its culmination in haragei, an all-round transformation of all man’s faculties takes place. He perceives reality more sensitively, is able to take in perceptions in a different way, assimilates them and therefore reacts differently, and through a different power. The three fundamental reactions to life and the world—perception, assimilation and response—change in the direction of expansion, deepening and intensifying of the whole personality. It becomes altogether wider, deeper and more powerful. /44

[Hara in its General Human Significance]

—In all that has been said until now Hara has appeared as a phenomenon of Japanese life only. But if Hara were nothing but an aspect of Eastern life it would be of merely ethnological interest and the purpose of studying it would be only to obtain a deeper understanding of Eastern people and their way of life. But the longer one studies Hara as understood by the Japanese the more obvious it becomes that the term expresses not just a specifically Japanese phenomenon but one that is universal and valid for all mankind. It is a prime factor of all human life, the realization and practice of which is of equal concern to ourselves. /52

—In every case where a Western man reached the highest development it was possible only because he had first traversed the ‘deep dark.’ The descent into the center of the earth must always precede the ultimate ascent of the spirit. /54

—Despite individual differences, Western man today is generally afraid of being too stout; he seeks a harmony which has its center of gravity in the upper part of the body, and he clearly prefers the confined to the too expansive. All this manifests itself in a universal rejection of the belly. Nothing is more opposed to the modern Western ideal of beauty than the big belly. /54

—The unpopularity of the belly is due to two converging factors. One is simply the unthinking acceptance of fashion, while the other is rooted in an intellectual notion. A big belly, or even a tendency to one, is regarded as a sort of mental fatty degeneration, a coarsening tantamount to a decline of all the mind’s faculties. Secondly, it is equated with a loss of elasticity, particularly of mental energy; in fact, with increased materiality and cumbersomeness—things which modern man dislikes beause he is always aiming at agility, at speed and the upward thrust. High heeled shoes and padded shoulders stress these up-going tendencies. The urge to transcend gravity is quite natural to man as a spiritual being, but the desire to break loose from the vitalizing bond with the solid earth is in conflict with the law of this terrestrial existence. /55

—The present day rejection of the belly is unnatural and betokens a misguided way of thinking. It shows that the natural instinct for the true bodily center of gravity has been lost. /56

—This sustaining, ordering and healing strength rooted in the fundamental unity of life is veiled, however, as soon as a man, relying on his rational powers, falls into the delusion that he can do everything by and through himself. Therefore we usually find natural Hara where rational life-consciousness is not yet formed, as for instance in the healthy-minded child whose uninhibited self and life-consciousness do not rest upon his ability or his knowledge but are simply ‘given.’ /58

—The right weight shows rather in a firm fullness, an inner solidity, and mature breadth. The ‘man of good standing’ and the ‘sedate person’ have their center of gravity in the lower body. The supporting width of the trunk from the waist downward is what often gives to old gentlemen and to matrons their essential dignity of bearing, the marks of the tranquil mind and of inner maturity. /60

—In the Romanesque and Gothic sculpture the belly is clearly stated and expresses strength, achieved self-renunciation and calm acceptance of the bond with earth. It shows the humility in which man, from the weakness of his I and from his bondage to the earth, opens himself to the Eternal. The Gothic belly seems to say: ‘You cannot win heaven if you betray Earth.’ /60


[Man with Hara]

—Man’s right relationship to himself is lost where in the interplay of inner life and outer form a disparity appears, either as an excess of the driving force of life or as an exaggerated reserve and self-protection. /69

[Hara has Secular Power]

—Hara reestablishes man’s unity with himself. In regard to his body thi means that he is not in constant opposition to his elementary impulses which require freedom and action, nor is he obliged to be constantly deciding whether to affirm or to deny them. It is as if Hara opened within us a completely new region where our tangled energies can swing easily without necessarily discharging themselves in action. Many life-impulses which for one reason or another have to be suppressed, can, with Hara, be dismissed into a secret inner region whence they return as increasaed overall strength. When this is understood Hara gives man a legitimate power over his sexuality. When the I with its imagination takes possession of a man and demands particular forms of fulfillment his sexuality creates an unbearable tension which has to be either repressed or lived out—alternatives often equally damaging. With Hara an inner door seems to open. Going through this door he lets fall his ego-based imagination-ridden idea of fulfillment, destructive tensions are resolved, and the dammed-up forces acquire positive creative significance. To summarize: anchorage in the vital center which is Hara guarantees man enjoyment of a power which enables him to master life in a new and different way. It is a mysteriously sustaining, ever renewing, ordering, and forming power, as well as a liberating and integrating one. /86-87

[The Strength, Breadth, and Closeness Engendered by Hara]

—The Self he now knows is clearly no longer the old I but a wider, more comprehensive one. He becomes conscious of a new inner breadth, he feels an increase of inner volume as if he had burst the bonds confining him in his physical body. A strange feeling of boundlessness arises, a lierating breadth. He does not lose himself in it, on the contrary, truly finds himself. A new breathing space, scope, and sphere of action opens up and he realizes only then how confined he had been before, how imprisoned and isolated. The man without Hara has only a very small space within, and around him. /96

—The man who gains Hara enters into a new relation with the world which makes him both independent of it and yet connected with it because he has found within himself a broader base of action. He can embrace the world and let himself be embraced by it because in his being he feels at one with it, and yet he can detach himself from it because his new Self, as distinct from his old I, is no longer bound down by it. The man without Hara is dependent on the world precisely because he lacks real connection with it; the man with Hara is constantly connected with it because he is independent of it. /96

[The Order of Life in the Symbolism of the Body]

—For the I-centered mind, with its moral values, the blind natural drives constitute a repellent and unworthy contradiction. The resulting conflict erects barriers against the natural life striving upward from the unconscious and obstructs the way to an all-round human development, more particularly the unfolding of that mind which transcends the overlordship of the purely rational. Instead of a hierarchic order based on the Way leading to the full unfolded Self, a conflict arises in which the mainly rational man excludes and represses that part of his nature which he feels to be irrational, less valuable or even value-destructive. ‘Above’ and ‘below’ are then evaluated as high and low, noble and base, spiritual and material, light and dark. /100