Many of you may be familiar with the classic Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are”, some may be listening to it now, and yes, some may be tired of hearing it.
Let’s re-examine a mystery that has never been fully addressed or adequately answered: Who are these three wise men, and where did they come from?
Many people assume the wise men traveled from Persia (Iran), Jordan, Arabia, or some other location not too far from Bethlehem, but just far enough to be considered a distant travel. This of course, has more to do with the ethnocentric views of most of the religious beliefs in the Judeo/Christian ethos. Anything of importance, came from a particular region and only that region. Therefore, the three wise men must have been from the greater “holy land” region or at least within the “Middle East”.
There are a few sources of information that show us, in all likelihood, where the men came from , and who they were. We will use the following sources to delve into the matter: Lyrics to the Christmas carol “We three kings of Orient are”, King James bible, and knowledge of Taoism and ancient Chinese history.
The first verse of the song states: “We three kings of Orient are, Bearing gifts we traverse afar, Field and fountain, moor and mountain, Following yonder star.” It is interesting to note that the Orient always referred to the Middle East and China, in particular China. When one thinks of the terms Orient and Oriental, the images that come to mind are distinctly “Asian” and most likely Chinese. This verse also mentions traveling a great distance; past mountains, fields, fountains and moors. Literally, traveling through different climates and vast terrains. This could also be a description of the “Silk Road”, which went from China to Palestine and on to Europe, and other routes, both sea and land.
The second verse “O star of wonder, star of night…”, shows that these wise men had expert celestial and astronomical knowledge. Yes, Persia did contain great scientists, however, to this day, no-one has matched the detail and precision of the ancient Chinese/Taoist star charts. Even our modern day GPS and star maps are based on the ancient Chinese charts and the Taoist system. “Star with royal beauty bright”, the Taoists observed that every time a “great person” was born, there would be a corresponding unusual celestial activity, usually a very bright star would appear, over the location of the birth. The ancient Chinese records, are filled with these recordings, not only of Imperial concerns, but also of births of other “great people”. According to Dr. Stephen Chang in “The Great Tao”:
“During the Han Dynasty …Astronomers were assigned to watch the skies twenty four hours a day. The star that appeared upon Jesus’ birth would have been looked upon as a birth of a great man.” He goes on to recount a story “…recorded by the Han Dynasty historians…of the indisputable accuracy of the observations made by those astronomers. One night, an astronomer sat watching the stars of the Emperor Kuang Wu and his visiting friend Yan Tse-Ling, who was sleeping with the Emperor that night. The astronomer was shocked to find that the brightness of Yan Tse-Ling’s star covered that of the Emperor’s. Suspecting that Yan Tse-Ling was an assassin, the astronomer ran through the halls of the palace in a panic to report that the Emperor was in danger. Just then another astronomer who had taken over the vigil of the heavens observed that the stars had separated and the brightness of Yan’s star had diminished, and he reported this. When the Emperor arose from sleep…the incidence of the stars was relayed to him. The Emperor laughed and said that Yan Tse-Ling, while asleep, had accidentally placed his leg over him.”
“Westward leading, still proceeding…”, clearly shows the wise men came from the East and traveled West, through a well defined course or road.
The song also features the gifts of the wise men: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Many cultures used these three items for different purposes, however, only one used all three, and (according to Dr. Stephen Chang’s research) only one used all three for healing purposes! China and the Taoists. The verse regarding Myrrh, “…breathes of life of gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying…” is a very poetic way of listing the healing qualities of this herb. It can be used to restore life, reverse bleeding, heal wounds, take away sorrow, sighing etc… as well as many other uses. There is also an ancient Taoist formula called Royal Jade Cream which contains these healing herbs, one such use is after child birth to help the mother heal, among many more.
Let’s jump forward to the verse “…Earth and Heaven replies”, throughout China’s history they have always been regarded as the “Middle Kingdom”, and both the Chinese Emperors and the Taoists saw it as their duty to maintain the balance between the three dimensions of Heaven, Earth and Humanity. Thus a well trained Taoist could elicit a response from both Heaven and Earth, or help restore balance between the realms.
There a few other important facts we will examine in this article, we only have room for a few as a detailed investigation would easily fill an entire volume.
Given their role as the maintainers of balance in the Middle Kingdom, the Chinese Emperors would frequently send emissaries and ambassadors throughout the lands (and seas), to announce new policies, procedures and more often to announce a new Emperor. It was important for other countries to know this, as it would be very disrespectful, to send your tribute in the name of the wrong Emperor, and most of the world at one time or another always paid tribute to China.
If we use the modern dating system to attempt to locate the actual year of Jesus’ birth, we arrive at a very interesting crossroad. His birth occurs around the exact time China was transitioning from one Emperor to another. Emperor Ai (Han Dynasty) ruled from approx. 7 BCE-1 BCE, and Emperor Ping (Han Dynasty) reigned from 1 BCE – 5 CE. Emperor Ai died childless and passed the throne over to his cousin. The fact that one Emperor died and a new Emperor was enthroned, would have caused China to send delegations far and wide to announce this “news of most importance”. The Silk Road would have been one of many routes chosen.
Let’s examine what the Bible says regarding the three wise men. First, in all actuality, there were more than three people, this number is given as an estimate since the story mentions three gifts, therefore, three men must have given them.
An interesting fact arises, when we examine the Bible verses, it becomes apparent that it was impossible for the “wise men” to arrive at or shortly after his birth, but definitely not in the “manger scene”. Luke 2: 22-39, shows that Jesus was brought to Jerusalem to be dedicated at the temple and at this time he was glorified by several people, including Simeon and Anna, this occurs after the traditional manger story. Matthew 2: 11: “And when they [wise men] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother…” Clearly they found Jesus in his home, not in a manger or stable, and he was a child not a baby. Matthew 2: 16: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” Herod ordered the murder of every child under the age of two, because the wise men estimated his age to between 1-2 years old. Thus the wise men traveled for approximately 2 years before arriving in Judea. Surely King Herod would have been informed of the new Emperor of the Middle Kingdom as well as the “great birth” in his own land.
This is most interesting, as the journey from China to Palestine (in ancient times), was approximately two years! Therefore it is most plausible that the wise men/Taoists departed China shortly after Jesus’ birth and arrived when he was approximately two years old. Also, consider the fact that another name for the wise men, were Magi, and another name for the Taoists with regards to western observers, were Magi.
Given this information let’s review why the three wise men were most likely Taoists from China:
- Only the Taoists used (and still use), Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh in a combination for healing purposes.
- Taoists had the awareness and scientific discoveries to understand the correlation between celestial/astronomical occurrences coinciding with the birth or death of “great people”.
- Taoists had the celestial and terrestrial maps required for determining the exact location of the star over its earthly location.
- Taoists and China had an established trade route and had expertise traveling great distances farther than any other civilization.
- Jesus’ birth coincides with the death of a Chinese Emperor and the delegations sent to announce the new Emperor.
- The three wise men met first with King Herod, whom he learned of Jesus’ birth from, this initial meeting with the King is consistent with an official Imperial visit from China.
- Palestine, Judea, Rome, Arabia, Egypt etc… had well established trade with China.
- As mentioned in a previous article, Jesus’ teachings were more similar to Taoist understanding and principles than they were to teachings from his native born area.
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