White Dragon Horse in Journey to The West by Wu Cheng’en

The White Dragon is transformed into the White Horse (15:30 – 20: 45)


Journey to the West is one of the four primary classical novels in the Chinese Literature. In this story with 100 chapters, the monk, Xuanzang goes to the west to obtain and bring Buddhist Scriptures to China with his three disciples, Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie, and Shā Wùjìng. Because the monk is the only human in the group and the teacher to the others, he gets to ride a white horse.

While their journey lasts more than a decade, the white horse does not last very long.

In chapter 15, the company arrives at a big stream and a white dragon appears out of the water to swallow the monk’s horse whole. Ironically, the white dragon, who is a son of the West Sea King and has been placed there as a punishment for destroying his father’s treasures, is supposed to help Xuanzang. Because he is hungry and bored after a long wait, the Dragon Prince has harmed the company, showing his violent temper.

For this mistake, a deity transforms the Prince into a white horse to replace the lost one. He accompanies the others for the journey and back to China. As a reward, he regains his original status and body at the end. Interestingly, he transforms back  temporarily to fight a demon lord who imprisons his rider/master in chapter 30.

Because of the novel’s importance in China’s popular culture, the Dragon Horse has  become a well-known stereotype. He is an indispensable aid to the heroes, strong, loyal, and able to outrun most monsters.



Wu, C. E. (16th century). Journey to the West. (A. C. Yu, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago. (Translated into English & published as two volumes in 1952).


The Prophet Cassandra Arrives Late to the Dinner Table

This shows why Cassandra is such a popular name for females!

coffee and a blank page


She slouches in, ever the surly adolescent;
slides like a grouch into her chair.
Her father, Priam, last king of the impregnable city
(Lo how the mighty walls of Troy forever fall)
is griping again his common complaints of shifty royal advisers
and tax collectors delinquent for the season.
Queen Hecuba purses her lips and frowns; passes down green beans
instead of the mashed potatoes her daughter asks for.
Heaving a weighty sigh, Cassandra tries to catch the glance
of a close-seated sibling, second eldest among her 50 brothers.
Fails, as expected. (Paris’s eyes already so full of Helen
whose beauty he has yet to see. Hands already so full
with the taste of her, he snatches in practice at scullery maids,
at the cook’s assistant; bears them off unwilling
into closets and dark corners—previews
of the world-ending snatch-and-run yet to come.)

The prophet sees in the distance her own snatching,

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Famed White Steeds

Cao Cao’s (Yellow-Hoofed) Flying Lightning


Cao Cao Riding Flying Lightning

(Chapter 20 of Romance of Three Kingdoms: Published in the Ming Dynasty)

This steed was one of the four great horses of the Three Kingdoms era. Warlord Cao Cao rode the horse for celebratory events and hunting trips because it was tall and majestic. The White horse had yellow hoofs, but, in some translations, this detail is omitted and the name is abbreviated to “Flying Lightning” (ThreeKingdoms Wiki).

There is no historical record of this horse’s participation in a major battle.

Furthermore, it is likely that the story of Cao Cao and this creature is fictional. It is only mentioned in one chapter of Romance of Three Kingdoms, and this novel is a dramatized version of history. Cao, being a powerful military leader, owned many steeds suitable for hunting and a white one among them probably inspired the story of Flying Lightning. Whether true or not, the mount enhanced the  image of the Warlord, who founded the nation of Wei and became an Emperor posthumously for ages to come.


Napoleon’s Marengo

The Most Famous Image of Napoleon & Marengo by Jacques-Louis David (0:50)

This Steed was imported from Egypt and named after the Battle of Marengo. Small, but sturdy, he was wounded eight times during many battles, but survived. After Napoleon’s defeat, Marengo was sent to Britain for breeding (Crank, 2014).


While the painting of the pair is very famous, it is misleading since both of them, despite their prowess, were relatively small (Crank, 2014). The painter blatantly exaggerated their sizes to glorify the Emperor. The Emperor’s beloved mount was also one of his tools for propaganda. This becomes glaringly obvious when you consider that the battle of Marengo was one of the most important ones in his career.

The cunning Emperors knew the value of putting on spectacular shows with their best horses.



Gongjin’s Campaign Memorials – a Three Kingdoms Wiki. Flying- Lightning.
Retrieved from http://threekingdoms.wikia.com/wiki/Flying-Lightning

Crank, C. (2014, September 22). Marengo: Napoleon’s Favourite Horse, Retrieved from  https://www.horse-canada.com/horses-and-history/marengo-napoleons-favourite-horse/

Not With a Bang But a Whisper

coffee and a blank page


When my brain finished integrating last fall—last stage in healing the mental fractures that nearly killed me, after 25 years of misdiagnosed and untreated PTSD—I came back to myself less than two weeks after an illegitimate election placed an unstable and corrupt would-be dictator in line to be the next US president. In other words, I finally knew myself in the world just as the world I knew tilted on its axis and began slipping away.

The core challenge that posed has taunted me ever since: how do I normalize this overwhelming new sense of self I am experiencing, while at the same not normalizing this overwhelming new world, filled with political chaos targeting every social principle I believe in?

As a human being, feeling at home within my mind and body is everything. Is life itself.

As a citizen, feeling at home within this burgeoning autocracy would mean death.

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when a body loves a body

coffee and a blank page

There were protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood clinic again this week. And, also again, a group of women in bright pink escort vests arrayed quietly along the front of the building, a buffer to the hate and madness.

These protests have ebbed and waned over the 15-some years I have lived in Philly, but they are clearly on the rise again. When I first moved here from Texas, I remember being shocked to see Planned Parenthood locations advertising on local TV, out in the open and unafraid. It expanded my vision of what became possible when we who believe in equal bodily rights and the full social participation of women were not forced to accept shaming and violence as “normal” responses to our stance. As mere “business as usual.”

On Wednesday​, as I do every time, I crossed the street to thank the escorts for being there. We shook…

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