Going back to the source: the manuscripts of Richard Wilhelm (4) – The End

2016-09-10-19-26-59The prospect of spending more than three hours on a train & bus was not very tempting but the journey that I was about to make had been on my wish list for many years and so it became a matter of  ‘its-now-or-never’. I took an early train to Ulm, changed trains to  Göppingen and took the bus to Bad Boll. It is the place where Richard Wilhelm worked and lived. And it is the place where he is buried.

The journey was long but pleasant. A trip from Munich to Bad Boll gives you the chance to see the countryside of Germany: its large forests, the hills and the charming small villages that have at least one church towering above the community. The landscape looked as if it hadn’t changed in a hundred years. The bus from Göppingen to Bad Boll was old and lacked the electronic modernities of later models. Bus stops were not announced and I had to find out by myself where I had to get off. Fortunately my mobile showed me where we were driving and when the map showed the bus was in Bad Boll I pushed the button and got off at the next stop. When I looked around I realised I wasn’t in the center of Bad Boll but somewhere at the outskirts of the village. I walked along the road, noticing that Bad Boll must have changed a lot since Wilhelm died. New roads and houses were being build, and the scenery was marked by several roundabouts that had the same devestating effect as crop circles: you wonder ‘why?’ but their higher purpose remains unclear.

A sign near the road told me I was not far from the spa, the sanatorium that Bad Boll was famous for. In front of it was another roundabout. Surely it wasn’t there when Wilhelm walked here. I am sure he must have visited the place a lot: it has a beautiful garden and the buildings have great architectural features. When I walked into the garden I recognized one of the buildings that I had seen on the postcard that Wilhelm’s son Manfred sent to his father. I’m sure such a building has a peculiar name that reminds of its purpose but I can’t think of one.

I walked through the passage of the building, trying to picture how Wilhelm must have walked here too.

From there I walked through the park to the main building of the spa. It was being renovated and the scaffolding took away a lot of its grandeur.


20160909_134447I walked back to the road and turned left. I knew it would take me straight to the Blumhardt cemetery, only a few minutes walk away. The cemetery was on the other side of a highway that I had to cross. Fortunately there was no roundabout. A sign showed me there was no mistake in where I was heading. The cemetery was to the right of the small road that branched out of the highroad. I saw a small iron gate that led to a section of the cemetery and looked through its bars. There it was: Wilhelm’s grave.

I had seen pictures of Wilhelm’s grave but for many years I had the longing to see the place for myself. And since a few weeks there was another reason to visit the grave. I showed Johannes Bloemsma from Nourishing Destiny some pictures of the grave that I found on internet and he noticed something odd. Let’s call it a ‘grave mistake’ (pun intended). I wanted to see if the mistake was still there. But I also realized that this whole journey turned out to be a pilgrimage. I opened the gate.


There was no mistake which grave it was. Its shape is out of the ordinary, its stone bathing in the warm light of the sun. This was not the grave of an ordinary person.

I took a few minutes to realize the experience. Here I was, looking at the final resting place of a man who I admired very much, who’s work had been guiding me through many moments in my life. Would someone have accompanied me I would not have known what to say. I was alone. The silence and serenity of the place completed the overwhelming sensation. I had to sit down.

I took a seat on the bench that was close to the grave, but it was too hot in the direct sunlight so I thought what the heck and sat down on the grass in front of the grave. I looked at the sphere.

View from the grass.

View from the grass.

I don’t know how long I sat there. I can’t remember what my thoughts were or if I had any thoughts at all. But I do remember that at one point I noticed that the sphere was slightly tilted. Then I remembered the other reason for my visit. I stood up and looked at the trigrams that surrounded the circle.


1-houtianI had seen old pictures of the grave and knew the layout of the trigrams: it was the layout of the houtian bagua 后天八卦. But I also had seen a later picture, dated 2013, that told the disturbing message that Johannes had spotted. I walked around the sphere, observing each trigram, starting with Thunder in the East. Then followed Wind, Fire, Earth, Lake, and… not Heaven. The next trigram was supposed to be Heaven. Instead it was Mountain. I continued to the next trigram. Water, okay. And then, the last trigram: not Mountain. It should have been Mountain. Instead it was the trigram Heaven. Johannes was right: the trigrams Heaven and Mountain were swapped.

It had not always been like this. Maybe the grave was cleaned or restored for some reason and the separate segments were not put back in the right order. Someone should be notified of this, I thought. I decided to make a video of the trigrams with added audio tour. When I’m back home I will take steps to have the trigram circle restored to its original sequence.

I came to Munich mainly for one reason: to research the switch of shaoyin and shaoyang in Wilhelms’ Yijing. And here I was, standing at his grave, contemplating another switch of line symbols. It struck me as a message from the grave, literally and figuratively: switch it!, it seemed to say. When you are working with the Yi for so many years as I have coincidences are hardly coincidences anymore. The link could not be missed.

I stepped back from the grave and realized that my visit to Wilhelm’s resting place, as well as my journey to Germany, was coming to a closure. I decided to have one last walk around the cemetery.

I have always liked cemeteries, especially old ones. The section where Wilhelm is buried is one of the old parts of the cemetery. It is adjacent to the segment where his tutor and father-in-law Christoph Blumhardt is buried.

Grave of Christoph Blumhardt

Grave of Christoph Blumhardt

Between the two parts was a path that led to a newer section of the cemetery. I discovered the grave of one of Wilhelm’s sons, Siegfried. He designed the grave of his father.

There was also the grave of someone named Marion Wilhelm. She died about ten years ago. I wonder in what way she was related to Wilhelm. [edit 11-09-2016: I just found out that Marion was a daughter of Siegfried.]

20160909_144101Another grave caught my attention:


Who was Ding Tschun-Hiang? Why was he buried in Bad Boll? And why did he only live to be 18 years old? Did Wilhelm know him? All these questions ran through my head.

The small path that let me to this section continued towards the main gate. I looked over the gate, gazing in the distance, looking at the hills that were part of the landscape of Wilhelms’ village. I turned around and looked towards the end of the main path, which ended in a small pavilion. I walked back to the section where Wilhelm was buried. It was getting late and I needed to get back on the bus.

When I entered the part of the cemetery with Wilhelm’s grave I took a few last pictures. It was time to put my journey to an end. I found it hard to leave the place. A person like Wilhelm can easily become an obsession. My visit to Munich and to the cemetery gave me more questions than answers. But I had to leave it all behind me. Instead of carrying Wilhelm in my head I chose to cherish his work in my heart.

I passed Wilhelm’s grave, opened the gate and closed it behind me.  For one last time I looked at Wilhelm’s final resting place. I turned around and walked back to the sanatorium.

20160909_145232At the bus stop at the sanatorium an old man approached me, asking for directions but I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. I asked ‘wo gehen sie hin?’ (‘where are you going?’) and he said he needed to go to the apothecary in the center of Bad Boll. I pointed to the time schedule that was fixed to the bus stop and said, ‘entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut’ (‘I’m sorry, my German is not so good.’) The old man replied with a reassuring voice that made me wish he was my grandfather: ‘sie sprechen es ganz normal’ (‘you speak it perfectly normal’). The confidence in my language skills went through the roof. The bus arrived. After more then 4 hours of sitting on bus & trains (delays, delays and oh, did I mention delays?) I was back at my apartment.

I spend my last day, Saturday, finishing my blog and walking through the English Park in Munich. Tomorrow I would have an early flight back to Amsterdam. This was my last chance to see Munich.

A young lady was walking in front of me. She had a Chinese tattoo on her back: 實現你的夢.

2016-09-10-23-33-32I thought: shall I tell her that the character ni 你 is missing a dot? Nah. I was glad I followed her advice and decided I would keep doing that:

‘Realize your dreams.’

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13 Responses to Going back to the source: the manuscripts of Richard Wilhelm (4) – The End

  1. Tear in my eye and a sniff. Ahhh. Beautiful.

  2. Frank says:

    Mooie verhalen, Harmen. Dank voor het delen :-D.

  3. Pingback: Richard Wilhelm’s Manuscripts, Notes and Letters | London Yijing 易經 (I Ching) Society

  4. Rodrigo Olvera says:

    Oh, I’d love to think the old man was R himself asking/thanking you to put his readers in the right direction about the Four Symbols!!!!

  5. Shidifen Hamengde says:

    A great journey! I really enjoy reading Cary Baynes’ translation of Richard Wilhelm. Here is some info on Ding Tschun-Hiang

    Frau Salome Wilhelm mußte 1911 für ca. 9 Monate (21.2. bis 9.11.) zur Kur nach Deutschland reisen und nahm das 13jährige chines. Mädchen namens Ding Tschun-hiang mit (genannt Allmuth). Als Salome nach Tsingtau zurückfuhr, blieb das Mädchen in Bad Boll, es nahm sich im 1.Weltkrieg aus Heimweh das Leben, nur 18 Jahre alt. Es liegt ebenfalls auf dem Bad Boller Friedhof begraben.


    Google Translate –

    In 1911, Salome Wilhelm had to travel to Germany for about 9 months (January 21 to November 9) and took the thirteen-year- Girl named Ding Chun-hiang with (called Allmuth). When Salome returned to Tsingtau, the girl stayed in Bad Boll. It took her life in the first World War, only 18 years old. It is also buried at Bad Boll’s cemetery.

    Einladung an alle: Die Jugend aus Göppingen und Kirchheim besucht zur Vorbereitung auf den Gottesdienst zum Gedenken an Entschlafene den historischen Blumhardt-Friedhof und den Gottesacker der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde in Bad Boll.

    Wir werden ein paar Lieder singen. Evtl. begleitet uns ein Bischof der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde. Und wir reden über Ding Tschun-Hiang. Wir lassen den Abend danach in unserer Kirche in Bad Boll ausklingen. Nähere Details folgen.

    => Wegbeschreibung: Von der Autobahn kommend liegt der Friedhof direkt am Ortsanfang auf der linken Seite (rechts ist ein Pferdehof). Es ist mehr oder weniger ein Feldweg, der direkt an den beiden Friedhöfen entlangführt. Dort kann auch geparkt werden. An der Einfahrt weist ein kleines Schild auf die Friedhöfe hin.


    Google Translate –

    Invitation to all: The young people from Göppingen and Kirchheim visit the historic Blumhardt cemetery and the god of the Herrnhuter brothers’ community in Bad Boll to prepare for the service in memory of the dormant.

    We will sing a few songs. Possibly. Accompanied by a bishop of the Moravian community. And we’re talking about Ding Chun-Hiang. We will end the evening in our church in Bad Boll. More details follow.

    => How to get there: Coming from the motorway, the cemetery is directly at the beginning of the village on the left (on the right is a horse farm). It is more or less a dirt road leading directly to the two cemeteries. There can also be parked. At the entrance is a small sign pointing to the cemeteries.

  6. Shidifen Hamengde says:

    Another snippet about Ding –

    1902 verkaufte Christoph Blumhardt das Haus an die vier Schwestern Härlin, die bis 1930 ihr Pensionat “für höhere Töchter” in Eckwälden führten. Im “Döchterlesstift”, wie die Privatschule bei den Einheimischen hieß, lernten sie nicht nur gutes Benehmen und Handarbeiten, sie wurden unter anderem auch in Englisch und Buchhaltung unterrichtet, was für die damalige Zeit sehr fortschrittlich war. Von einer jungen Chinesin wird eine tragische Geschichte erzählt: Ding Tschun Hiang wollte in der von Richard Wilhelm gegründeten Schule in Qingdao als Lehrerin arbeiten. Der Berliner Missionsverein verlangte von ihr ein deutsches Examen und so reiste die Chinesin nach Deutschland und ließ sich im Härlinschen Institut unterrichten. Die intelligente Exotin litt sehr unter Heimweh. Mit Beginn des Ersten Weltkriegs verlor Deutschland seine Kolonie in China und damit war dem Mädchen die Rückkehr in ihre Heimat verwehrt. Sie verfiel der Schwermut, nahm sich mit 18 Jahren das Leben und wurde am äußersten Mauerrand des Herrnhuter Friedhofs 1916 begraben.


    Google Translate –

    In 1902, Christoph Blumhardt sold the house to the four sisters Härlin, who until 1930 led their retirement “for daughters” in Eckwälden. In the “Döchterlesstift”, as the private school among the locals, they learned not only good manners and handwork, they were also taught in English and accounting, which was very advanced for the time. A young Chinese woman tells a tragic story: Ding Tschun Hiang wanted to work as a teacher in Qingdao’s school, founded by Richard Wilhelm. The Berlin Missionsverein demanded her a German examination and so the Chinese traveled to Germany and had her teach at the Härlin Institute. The intelligent exotin was very homesick. With the beginning of the First World War, Germany lost its colony in China and thus the girl was denied the return to her home. She decayed, took her life at the age of eighteen and was buried in the outermost wall of the Herrnhuter cemetery in 1916.

  7. Shidifen Hamengde says:

    G’day again Harmen. I was just reading through some old notes I had made while reading through Legge’s translation. He gave different names to the same pair of symbols as Wilhelm did.

    You’ll find his discussions on the ‘four hsiang’ on page 58 where he calls a yin line over a yang line Young Yang but reverses it on page 423, calling the same symbol Young Yin. The yang over yin symbol is also given two different names.

    Again, that was a great series of articles!

  8. Shidifen Hamengde says:

    It must be a Western thing, LOL! Wallace Sherrill (Heritage of Change) also has the Lesser and Greater Yin and Yang the wrong way around. See page 69 of his “Heritage of Change”. What’s interesting about his mistake is that on page 70 he mentions the Principle of Universal Development and shows that the symbols change by moving up and out.

    • Yes, it does seem to be a Western thingy. Although I found one manuscript which also contains this ‘error’: the Qian Yi 籤易 by Lu Han 盧翰 from the Ming dynasty. You can download it here. See p. 39 & 40 of the pdf as well as 76 & 77.

  9. Martijn de Grunt says:

    making secretly pictures of young ladies back heh Harmen,,,;-)…just kidding. Very nice to share these stories. You are a fun storyteller. Did they change the grave in the end?

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