The Ultima Thule The Ultima Thule

Tian'Ya'Hai'Jiao or Ultima Thule is situated at the southern tip of Hainan Island, now Hainan Province, about 20 km west of the City of Sanya. Originally known as Xia'Ma'Ling or Off-Your-Horse Peak, it is a section of the seacoast on the South China Sea. On the beach at this spot are strewn enormous rocks with towering scarped cliffs overlookin gthem. Placed in the midst of the huge rocks, people will see a billowy sea surging up and seemingly engulfing the sky and a sky hanging low trying deliberately to provoke the sea. Hard as you look, you can see nothing but a boundless haze before you ad this makes you feel that you have come to the end of the earth or Ultima Thule.
In the Qing Dynasty(1616-1911), Hainan Island was known as Ya'Zhou or Land of Perpendicular Cliffs. In 1733, the local prefect, Cheng Zhe by name, had the tow characters of Tian'Ya or Sky Limit carved on a towering rock on the beach here. On another enormous low-lying rock he carved the tow characters of Hai'Jiao or End of the sea. From then on the hitherto boundless sky and sea seem to have been delimited at this spot.
Lazing in the sun under Off-Your-Horse Peak and listening meanwhile to the myths and legendary tales about such interesting places as the Five-Fingered Mountain, the One Column in the Southern Sky, Vast Sea and Empty Sky or Deer Turning Its Head, one will find the land under his feet tinged with a luring mysticism and himself filled with a profound respect for the brave and hardy li minority that inhabits the region.

As described in the ancient Chinese allegorical novel journey to the west by Wu Chen'en of the Ming Dynasty, the fabulous Monkey Wu Kong creates a great disturbance in the Heavenly Palace when he tries to unthrone the Jade Emperor. Not only are the celestial officers and soldiers unable to put him down but the Jade Emperor himself is also unable to do anything. As a last resort, the latter asks Buddha in the Paradise of the Western Heaven for help. Buddha hurries to the scene and says to the Monkey, "What temerity for an idiot of a monkey to try to seize the throne from the Jade Emperor!" "Why," replies Monkey Wu Kong gloatingly, "Me no idiot at all, I can change into a myriad of different forms. I have the magic power of never getting old or dying. Can turn somersaults to get on a flying cloud which will then carry me to thousands of miles away as I wish. Why shouldn't I be allowed to sit on the throne in the Heavenly Palace?" Buddha then says, "All right, if you are that good, I'll lay you a bet. If you can turn a somersault and get out my palm, I will invite the Jade Emperor to the Western Heaven as my guest and let you take his place here. But if you are unable to get off my palm, then you had better make yourself scarce and go cultivate new capabilities somewhere before you come again and make a fool of yourself here."

                          
This makes Monkey Wu Kong laugh up his sleeves and he thinks to himself, " I can turn a somersault and go thousands of miles. The Buddha's palm is no more than a foot square. How then can he keep me in his palm?" so he hops onto Buddha's palm without delay and, turning a somersault for a flying cloud, says, "Look, here I go." Whizzing through space, he believes he is flying in the great void way out of the sight of Buddha. As he flies on, he suddenly finds the way blocked by five towering flesh-coloured columns that are capped by a swirl of blue clouds. Congratulating himself that he has now got ot the end of heave and thinking it is time to get back and let Buddha knows, it occurs to him that the latter might not believe him without good evidence. So he plucks out a hair and breaths on it to turn it into a paintbrush. With this, he writes on the column in the center the following words: Note the Great Heavenly Monkey has been here!" After this, he pisses on the first column as further evidence. Then turning another somersault, he arrives back on Buddha's palm and says to the latter, " Here I am. I've already been to the end of heaven. Let the Jade Emperor vacate the palace for me."But he draws only a reproof from Buddha who says to him, " You stinking pissing monkey! Don't you see you have never left my palm?" in disbelief, Wu Kong contests, " Who dare say I have not been to the end of heaven. Come with me and see what I have left there." At this, Buddha chuckles, " No need to do that. Look down there and you will see." Monkey looks down and sees on the middle finger of Buddha the words he wrote on the flesh-colored column in the center while from between the thumb and the index finger a strong reeking smell assails his nostrils. Nonplussed, Monkey makes an attempt to turn another somersault to go and see what has really happened at the end of heaven. But with a single whack, Buddha has him smitten down on dusty earth again and pinned down with his big hand which then turns into a high mountain to imprison the monkey underneath. It is said that it is not until 500 years later when Monk Xuan Zang, on his way to the Western Paradise for Buddhist sutras, finds and rescues him that the fabulous Monkey Wu Kong becomes free again. He then escorts Xuan Zang on his journey to the west and after surving one terrible disaster after another (81 times in total) becomes in the end Bodhisttva of Victory and is fully rehabilitated.
Tradition has it that the Five -Fingered Mountain on Hainan Island is where Buddha once stops the monkey with his five fingers, making the latter think that he has reached the limits of heaven. If this could be true, then the beach under Off-Your-Horse Peak would naturally be Tian'Ya'Hai'Jiao or Ultima Thule. After Cheng Zhe of Qing happened on the spot and had the phrases Sky Limit, End of the Sea, The One Column in the Southern Sky and Vast Sea and Empty Sky engraved on the nearby rocks, what is known as Tian'Ya'Hai'Jiao or Ultima Thule gradually became widely known.
The names Sky Limit and End of the Sea will also remind visitors of a popular song sung by a well-known Chinese songstress, the late Zhou Xuan. The lyrics begins like this:
On the limits of the sky. Oh the end of the sea,
You try to find a good friend but where is he or she?
The young maiden sings and the young man plays his ukulele,
How we love each other and in each other a true lover see!
But at Sky Limit and End of the Sea there really is a place where you meet true and good friends. Not far from these rocks is a small cape jutting out into the South China Sea. In the depths of the coconut grove here is a stockaded village inhabited by the Li's. about 200 Li households live in the village and they like to relate to outsiders the mythical tale of a deer turning its head to face its pursurer. The story is like this:
Once upon a time the land now occupied by the village was an unnamed weed-grown cape. One day a brave young hunter from the Five-Fingered Mountain was chasing a beautiful spotted deer. After scaling several high peaks and crossing many streams, the deer and he came to the end of the cape. As the deer was unable to go on with the vast sea before it, it stopped in its tracks and turned to face the young hunter, awaiting its death. Young man had meanwhile had his bow and arrow drawn but at the sight of the deer looking so beseechingly at him he was filled with great pity for his prey and the bow and arrow slipped from his hands. Just then he saw in the place of the spotted deer a beautiful young maiden. They fell in love with each other and got married. After this they built a thatched hut on this hitherto uninhabited cape and working together, turned it into fertile farmland, beginning their free and happy life together. They had many descendants and after many generations the latter built a village. This is how a stockaded village of the Li's is found here today.
The hill where the spotted deer was forced to turn around was then given the name Lu'Hui'Tou or Deer Turning its Head.
The Li minority has a long history. They have lived and propagated on Hainan Island since ancient times. Side by side with the local Han's they worked hard to turn the wasteland into fertile soil. In remote times they had begun to grow cotton crops and do spinning and weaving. In the late thirteenth century, Huang Daopo or Taoist Lady Huang, a woman from the Shanghai region, landed on Hainan Island when she was still a young woman. A homeless wanderer, she was taken in by the hospitable Li people who gave her every kind of help and taught her the craft of spinning and weaving they had developed. When she was getting old, Huang Daopo returned to her birthplace, bringing back to the people fo her native place the more advanced skills of spinning and weaving of the Li's. Working hard to improve the tools of spinning and weaving she became an expert in the craft. Her efforts at popularizing the craft of spinning and weaving gave a tremendous impetus to the development of the textile trade in the Songjiang Prefecture whose cotton goods were famous all over China, bringing the region the reputation of "providing every place under heaven with clothing."
Rich in natural resources and noted for its glorious scenery, Hainan Island is also the most important supplier of tropical cash crops in China. With new advances being made from day to day in economic development in the island province of Hainan, Tian'Ya'Hai'Jiao or Ultima Thule will certainly attract to itself an increasing number of pleasure-seekers.


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