churki / China & India

David R. Israel davidi at wizard.net
Sat Mar 29 12:58:46 EST 1997


> From:          Swami Vishvarupananda writes --

> I know a pandit whose churki was tied (by a rope) to a hook by his
> grandfather while teaching him, so that he had to sit straight and
> stay put! That happened many years ago, of course.

You know, something comparable is found in old Chinese tradition.  
The que [?] worn by Mandarins -- it was, I believe, originally 
introduced & enforced by the domineering Mongols, and marked the 
Chinese bureaucrats under their charge as a a sort of subsurvient 
class, if I'm not mistaken; but anyway, as such things do, it caught 
on . . . [I don't really know the history, what I'm here for is to 
share the comparative anecdote that follows] -- the que was certainly 
associated, it seems, with the whole scholarly gestalt; and there are 
some classic tales very much like the above --

but the typical instance is found in a sort of morality anecdote, 
involving a highly dedicated student studying for the inevitable 
national examination (the entryway to all official positions) -- who, 
in late-night (or all-night) sessions of study, will tie his que by 
rope to (say) the ceiling -- SO THAT, if he should doze off, he'll be 
awakened by the tug on the ponytail [imprecise, this] and wake up & 
get back to the business of studiousness.  That became a well-known & 
prevalent image, and prob. appears all over the place in literary 
allusions.  So, a cultural-comparative note, that.  I don't know if 
there's any sort of historical relationship between the Brahmanical & 
the Mandarin verssions of this -- or even if they're physically very 
closely comparable.  But it's interesting that in both cases, there's 
a cultural association with study & scholarship.
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