Phăng Xi Păng  
Phang Xi Pang
This image was taken from the road between Lai Châu and Sa Pa in north western Vietnam. The highest summit in the picture is Phăng Xi Păng which stands at 3,148 metres, and is the highest peak on mainland South-East Asia (It lies at 103º 45' East and 22º 20' North)

"Sky with its mists and cloud seethes down and vanishes among mountains, while mountains in turn vanish into that mist and cloud, only to reappear churning up into the sky" So writes David Hinton who starts his beautiful little book "Hunger Mountain" with the concept of 'sincerity'. He explores the Chinese character for the concept; how it depicts words connected to actions: we are sincere when our words and actions are as one. From this concrete expression we move to the generality that the concepts in our minds are at one with the objects of our worlds, here too in general there is a unity: what from one point of view is so separate, from another intermingles - as the clouds and mountains blend. The "...fundamental sense of sincerity as an identification of outside and inside," of what is within being shown without, what is without becoming inner, a reciprocity in which the distinction evaporates. This mingling of inside and outside is fundamental to Chinese cosmology.

And so in classical times mountains were central to this cosmology for they are where the sky (yang) and the earth (yin), male and female, positive and negative, light and dark, met and blended together - they were the epitome of sincerity. Seeing our worlds as constructed from these two great principles comes to us from Daoist writings. What is important here is to be taken beyond our belief in the separation of inner and outer - of mind and matter. We are so imbued with a conventional world view, one which is based on constant distinctions, that a great effort is required to free ourselves, and to begin to understand the way that in fact our minds are the creators of our world, and accordingly how they are both of, and not of, the world that they create.

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  • Hinton, D (2012) 'Hunger Mountain' Sincerity - inside/outside. (pp 3-6)

18th September 2013 ~ 22nd July 2015