I looked at Brother Gan Shan. He looked back at me and stuck his tongue out, which seemed to mean: Why don’t you go in? I’ve already led you to the right path.
“How can I go in if even you can’t get in?” I asked him.
But Brother Gan Shan still looked eager to try it. I thought for a moment and suddenly wondered if there were any bones inside and he just wanted to eat them.
According to Brother Gan Shan’s education, however, wanting to eat and leading people in the right direction were two very separate things, so it would be impossible to confuse them.
I found myself really thinking about whether there was a way I could enter this face door, but after trying a few moves, I realized I just looked like an idiot.
I stood up and started circling the ivory pagoda, wondering if there were any other openings.
Brother Gan Shan followed me, clearly confused as to why I wasn’t entering that person’s face.
Although I didn’t find anything, I did notice that this thing made of ivory was obviously something from the Bon religion, but inside of it was the mummified corpse of an alchemist.
I always had a theory that all the spells in all the religions in the world—except for those tricks used to deceive people—must have come from the primitive Bon religion. In other words, they came from the primitive religion before Bonism, which was formed by people’s experiences. Why did I think this? Because there were many different types of sorcery, but at their core, they all had a strange unity no matter which civilization they belonged to.
If we called the core of a certain type of sorcery the original technique, then the various mythical ceremonies and rituals attached to it were the packaging created by different cultures to more easily understand it.
After these alchemists arrived here, they should have seen many of these ivory pagodas, realized that this was an ancient spell, and then started researching and studying it. This situation that I was seeing should be evidence that Taoism was related to Bonism.
I went back to the face door on the corpse and saw that Brother Gan Shan was getting impatient. He went directly up to the pagoda and started messing with it, which caused some of the ivory to fall off and completely expose the corpse.
Seeing that face door sitting open in front of me rather than in a picture was a strange sight.
Then, Brother Gan Shan moved closer to the pagoda and really started trying to climb into the face door. Of course, he couldn’t get in, but he ended up falling into the pagoda and was locked up with the corpse inside.
Worried that such a cultural treasure might be damaged, I immediately started scolding him.
But Brother Gan Shan was very determined and kept barking at me, as if he was the one in the right, not me.
When I saw how he was acting, I actually became convinced and thought to myself, even a dog is more confident than me. It seems like he really wants me to enter this pagoda.
I squeezed in and saw that the thorn-like things on the corpse’s back were a kind of fungi that looked similar to hands, much like caterpillar fungus.(1) I carefully avoided them and then huddled close to Brother Gan Shan and the corpse.
“What the hell are you trying to do?” I asked the dumb dog. “Your father is more expressive than you.”
Brother Gan Shan began pulling on the mummy’s clothes, as if he wanted me to take them off. He was moving so much that the mummy almost fell apart, so I quickly grabbed him and then took the clothes off myself.
After taking them off, I found that this thing looked even more like a huge caterpillar fungus, especially because the protruding thorns were all bent and twisted like tree roots. I also saw that a lot of patterns had been painted on the mummy’s body, and they were all meridians.
This wasn’t the current meridian diagram, but the earliest version, which was very different.
The words written on these patterns were all done in large seal script,(2) but many of the words had also been written on those fungi.
There was a strange point here that attracted my attention—there were many smaller branches on those fungi that also seemed to have branches, making each thorn look very similar to a thousand-year-old ginseng.(3)
These branches kept branching off, and on the smallest branch, I could see some annotations in large seal script.
They had been carved using some kind of small animal’s tooth dipped in ink.
I suddenly realized that this thing was a map. The alchemists back then seemed to think that the growth and direction of these fungi were some kind of guide. They were using the growth of these fungi for divination and studied them carefully to find a way to keep progressing.
Some people must have been cultivating here when they suddenly noticed these things starting to grow on their bodies. Or maybe some of them died while cultivating and these things started growing on their bodies. As a result, those who came later thought that it was a symbol of becoming an immortal. Did they think these corpses were pioneers who were showing them the path to Jade Lake, so they started studying them?
I didn’t know, but Xiao Hua must have studied this place for a long time so it became filled with his scent. I touched Brother Gan Shan. But why didn’t Xiao Hua tell me about it in the video? Instead, he told me to leave here right away.
As I was pondering over it, I suddenly heard what sounded like something moving in the corpse in front of me. I immediately pointed my flashlight at it. As the light pierced the corpse, shadows of pavilions and kiosks appeared, and in those shadows, I saw a figure, which seemed to be moving. There also appeared to be a group of animals behind this figure. It seemed this person was a herdsman.
(1) Mentioned a few times throughout the series. Caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis), is a fungus that grows on insects. It’s mainly found in the Tibetan Plateau. It parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body that’s valued as an herbal remedy and is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
(2) Large seal script (or great seal script) is a traditional reference to Chinese writing from before the Qin dynasty (i.e., before 221 BCE), and is now popularly understood to refer narrowly to the writing of the Western and early Eastern Zhou dynasties (i.e., 1046–403 BCE), and more broadly to also include the oracle bone script (c.1250–1000 BCE).
(3) Image on the left provided by Seph (original link here) of what a very ancient one might look like. I found the one on the right by googling (I thought its sub-branches were a tad easier to make out in the pic):