Scholar’s Mountain

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

Some time ago I submitted a post about a large piece of carved Chinese jade in my possession that my maternal great grandfather hauled from Hamburg, Germany to New York to Minnesota in 1914. I thought it was an incense burner, and couldn’t figure out why it was so important that the family brought it with them when they immigrated to the United States.

My son did a little research this fall and discovered that it isn’t exclusively an incense burner. It is called a Scholar’s Mountain, Scholar’s Rock, or Spirit Stone (Gongshi), and it was used to encourage wisdom and deep thoughts as it was gazed upon. The holes, some natural and some that were carved in it, are for calligraphy or paint brush handles, and the round basin is either for incense or for water for rinsing the brushes. Who’d have thought?

Most were naturally occurring rocks carved and perforated by water, sometimes embellished with carvings, sometimes placed in gardens as points for contemplation or else brought inside. They were chosen on how well they emulated the natural world of landscape, especally mountains and elevations.  Ours is 10 inches by 7 inches. It is carved with a stag, a bat, a bear, two ravens, and a honey comb or coral shape. Now that I know this, the shape and design and purpose make sense. I wonder what scholars or deep thinkers might have used this for inspiration.

I used to worry what would happen to this after I am no longer here, and now that son has taken an interest and we know what it is, I think it will continue on its journey with him.  He is a scholar and a deep thinker, after all.

Describe a sight or an object that encourages you to think deep thoughts.



43 thoughts on “Scholar’s Mountain”

  1. “As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red
    again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a
    bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it seemed that way”

    Liked by 9 people

  2. I can’t think of anything I have that causes me to think deep thoughts. There are some things in my procession that I treasure. One of these is a kilim which a rug made by hand on a loom. The one I have came from a small town in the foot hills of the mountains in Bulgaria. I visited that town. A woman from the town showed me how they are made on a loom in her home. I don’t have any deep thoughts that come to me from viewing that rug. However, it does carry memories of my visit to Bulgaria.


  3. Rise and Think Baboons!

    Well, Stuart Smalley, of course! And for some reason every time I see Senator Franken on the news, I think Deep Thoughts. :).

    Nice object, Renee.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Watching the ocean from a deserted beach or shoreline.
    Sitting at a campsite in the Boundary Waters on a calm night listening to loons.
    Standing on some sort of mountain peak, vista, or overlook gazing out at the vastness of the landscape before me.

    All those make me feel quite insignificant in the grand scheme of nature, which gets me to thinking about things like the purpose of life, spirituality, what happens after death, etc.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “If you ever reach total enlightenment while you’re drinking a beer,
    I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose.”
    Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy


  6. It interests me that eastern religions put such high value on meditation, tranquility and reflection. I often think I should spend time doing that, but then I never muster the discipline needed to do it. Oddly enough, of all the school reform projects I’ve seen, the most effective one might be the school system that introduced enforced meditation as a core activity. A school infamous for rowdy, violent students suddenly began turning out happy, thoughtful kids.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. It’d have to be my enchanted cottage on the bay. I’ve long since anthropomorphized it. The Strib reporter who’s publishing the cottage story just emailed me, asking if there’s anything “sensitive” I want not mentioned in it. I’d already told her, “Please don’t open the article to public comments”.

    Many years ago, I naively wrote a letter to the editor, complaining about my $1000/month property tax. My brother read it, then informed me that there was a “comment” section following the article. Reading most of the comments about my letter blew me away. I had no idea how mean and petty people could be when they’re anonymous.

    “You live on a lake – you have nothing to complain about” “Anyone rich enough to live there has no right to gripe about taxes” “Trust fund babies don’t know what an honest day’s work is” I couldn’t find a single comment which wasn’t negative.

    This began a journey I’m still on of posting my own comments on all things political on the opinion boards. To this day, one particularly hateful poster repeatedly attempts to discredit my comments by writing, “Anyone with a million-dollar mansion on the lake has no right to comment!” My 1700-square foot, 150-year old cottage isn’t a mansion, so this infuriates me each time he posts this.

    This article presented me with the option of public comment – and I am very curious how others respond – but, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not worth it to risk more attacks.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, one partial sentence was all I could do in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, I took a nap because they wore me out.


  8. PSA For those who may be interested, the Danish American Fellowship is hosting its famous æbleskiver breakfast on Sunday, Valentine’s Day:

    Join us Sunday, February 14th, 9:30am-12:30pm. Come have our fantastic æbleskive breakfast along with and egg dish, Danish pumpernickel (rugbrød), fruit, juice and coffee.

    Make sure to bring your sweetie! $11.00 per adult and $5.00 for children under 12.

    The Danish American Center is located on West River Road, right by the Lake Street Bridge. It’s open to anyone, and they don’t take reservations.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I am reading for inspiration here, but have come to the conclusion I just don’t have deep thoughts no matter where I am or what I’m looking at. At oceans and mountains I am overwhelmed by the energy or the magnificence….but no thoughts other than awe. At home, I might have thoughts early in the morning before I get out of bed, but I wouldn’t consider them “deep” by any means. Books might trigger some interesting observations, but not necessarily deep ones. Even reading poetry I focus on the images, the words and miss the hidden or deeper meanings. Hmmmm….now to figure out why may lead to some. perhaps.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My sentiments exactly.

        Deep thoughts to me, at the moment, center around bewilderment and wonder. My Wednesdays with Ken, my friend with FTD, are constant reminders not to take anything for granted. When looking into his eyes during lunch I wonder, what’s going on in his head, how much does he comprehend but simply lacks the words to express? He’s such a kind, and sweet person, and it’s heart wrenching to see his decline.

        His 66th birthday was last week, he doesn’t remember it, and doesn’t know how old he is. However, I don’t know how much of that is attributable to the fact that he no longer knows what the word “birthday” means. Seems to me that his loss of words is such a devastating loss, but perhaps that’s because I love words so much? He was a graphic artist, perhaps he views the world differently? I hope so.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m like you in that regard, Cynthia.

      In fact, the weird thing about focusing on photography (pun intended) these past few months was I started thinking more in pictures than in words. This was a problem when I would take a quiz and I could see the answer in my mind, but I couldn’t put it into words.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. There are a few books, of course, that have made me think deeply, or expanded me in some way. There is also a magazine I get called The Sun (I know some other Baboons have mentioned it too) – contains no ads, so it’s kind of dense, in fact I’m a few months behind at the moment. Every issue has something in that stops me in my tracks, makes me wonder about the mysteries of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Last fall my sister spent some time out here at the farm pulling barn boards off the old granary that had fallen down.
    Just last week she showed me the ‘thoughts’ she had recorded on her phone while she was removing the boards.
    Things like ‘The view from the top of the ladder is worth the climb’.
    or ‘Don’t put the crowbar down where, if it falls, you won’t be able to reach it’.
    And ‘putting a rock under the ladder leg is not the first step in safety’. Actually I think I told her that but she wrote it down anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sometimes the answer to life’s persistent questions aren’t all that complicated, but we’ve been duped to think they are by people who have something to sell us.

      Liked by 1 person

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