Wu Jian'an: How Was Death Invented?


Wu Jian’an: Hello, everyone! Today I’m very happy to come to Insights into Art and chat with you. When it comes to death, everyone may be familiar with it. I mean, the word “death” sounds quite familiar to us, as it  easily arouses a negative mood. However, when we go deeper and seriously into what “death” is, it seems fuzzy and difficult for us to figure out what death is. Today I’d like to tell you a story: humans invented the story and concept of death, gradually substantiated the concept into an object that seemed to be communicable, then driven and oppressed by the fear of it which then shaped our civilization and made our future dependent on the concept.

I want to mention one of the most crucial concepts. Actually, I can’t remember when I raised the doubt: what on earth is death? Is there such a thing as “death”? Is there a status which could be called as “death”? Or is it actually invented by humans in certain situations? Since the concept was created, human civilizations, no matter in Oceania, North America, Asia, Europe and Africa, have been developing it in their own way. I’ll show you many pictures and their stories behind them to display these ways.


This is the cover of the issue of Nature published on April 19th 2019, which has caused a great disturbance in the whole world. What’s it about? It’s about a team in the United States that carried out nutrient re-inputs on the pig brain that been dead for 4 hours. As a result, some of the cells in the pig brain that had died for 4 hours regained vitality, that is, some cells seemed to be reborn. The core story on the cover is called “time-reversal”. This shakes people’s solid judgement on a cognitive basis. Don’t underestimate such a thing on a 4-hour pig’s brain where only part of the cells appeared to be reborn. Although the pig brain hadn’t recovered consciousness and its main part of the brain hadn’t restored activity by the end of their experiment, it brought to people so much to ponder on and so much fear.

The main reason is that we’ve defined “death”, which was a very important proposition from the medical field in the 20th century, that is to say, what kind of physical states could be considered as death in the clinic. Well, we’ve known various criteria of judging death in the past. Most of us know that a stopped heartbeat means death. In the 20th century, such hypothesis was overthrown—the heart may stopped, but still has the opportunity to be activated again if the brain is still alive, then the person may come to life again; but if there’s a chance of resurrection after the brain is dead, then the standard and definition of death will be redefined. This, for us ordinary people, may be quite fictitious, magical, and mind-blowing. We may wonder: if someone dead can come to life again, then is the experiment of resurrection also under its way?

But what if it isn’t the brain of an ordinary man? For example, if it is a king, who has a huge amount of legacy to pass onto his descendants, then his death becomes very critical. So, for human beings, death has  always been something that we want to overcome and avoid. Conventionally, in human civilizations over thousands of years, the most important technical means of restraining death is reproduction. One may have his descendant with something inherited from him, which is usually the concern in DNA paternity identification. In fact, it’s unworthy of argument and actually insignificant. We are all humans anyway. But why do some people care about such a thing? It seems that an inherited gene may be part of one’s body, which has been reborn. If the king’s brain dies, but no one can prove that he has died, then the inheritance of the throne and the royal power will become a great challenge.


We may develop another story from this one. The criteria of death will lead to a lot of further discussions about death. This is an adornment in special European churches in many parts of Rome and the Czech Republic. We commonly call them Bone Churches, all of which are Christian churches. Corpses of faithful Christians, after their death, will be dedicated to the church as decorations on the walls or lamps and lanterns. As time goes by, some churches have accumulated an enormous number of bones, such as the one in this picture. This is a sacrificial altar, on which there are probably bones of hundreds and thousands of people.


There are even some mummies not entirely skeletal, and in some may have human skin left. Sometimes these churches may be in a sinister and horrible environment. Here I want to talk about the basis of the concept of death, or how people begin to have a thought that is conceptualized, defined and abstracted into a term called “death”. I think the concept or the thought has close ties to bones and corpses. People first saw bones by their side, animals or humans, or their close friends and relatives. At a n undefined time, they will become still, stop talking with you, then slowly become varied, slowly decayed, deteriorated, and finally become a pile of white stuff that wouldn’t deteriorate any further. This might be the original stimulation for the idea of “death” which might come from a state without any communication, movement, or vitality. The state was accumulated on something, that is, the corpse.


Let’s look at the picture. This is the famous Princess Xiaohe unearthed in Xinjiang Province. The air in this area is quite dry, so after the corpse was placed in the grave, she became a mummy which still seems  natural to some extent. Not really lifelike, she still retains an outline like when she was alive.


Let’s take a look at another very famous mummy, which has shocked all of archaeology and inspired many people’s imagination as well as enthusiasm. It’s Iceman Ötzi found in the Alps. He had a lot of prehistoric tools, even the seeds of some plants, showing that he might have begun to eat cereals during that time. When the corpse was discovered, it was thought to be the body of a mountaineering team member that had not died a long time ago. When later dug out from the hole, people were shocked, because it was actually a corpse of such an ancient human. Behind our thought about mummies is something amazing, which may stimulate special feelings when we see them. I think it may be something ancestral and special buried in our memory, recollection or profound emotions about a corpse. The emotion must be related to overcoming death or the fear of death.

I have an assumption. In face of the still corpses, human beings might come up with a very primitive invention, which can be called “doll” today, including puppet dolls, earthen dolls, stone dolls, etc. In short, in face of a dead and still body, when people’s desire to revitalize then the fear is overcome they invented “dolls”. So the most primitive doll was likely to be a corpse, probably the mummy of a human, which was manipulated by people to move and do something as if it were alive. Maybe this is also the origin of the most primitive drama, a kind of negotiation between man and death.


This is the very famous Disney cartoon named The Adventures of Pinocchio. There’s a very lovely, pretty and gorgeous buddy in this story, who is actually like a dead child, a child who has passed away. Because of the firm desire of the old man without children, he made Pinocchio with wood and gave him facial features, arms, legs, and all kinds of things like a real child. This puppet finally came to life one day. This story may be very impressive in our deep memory, which awakens the most primitive memories of the dolls.


This is the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where large animal specimens in North America are collected and made. The collected specimens were actually made in the 19th or 20th century with advanced techniques. But in the long human history before these specimens, human beings have been doing such things and in many places, they even did so with human bodies.

For example, in Peru in South America, people had a very special headhunting custom. They’d cut off the head of a man who was thought to be very good-looking and powerful. It was not due to hatred or complaint, but just because he was excellent and others wanted some of his energy and capability. They cut his head and then they’d protect it from decay by shrinking it with a special potion. A finished head from a real man, after its skin was peeled from the bones, was as small as an orange, which they’d wear. Such a tradition lasted until about the 1960s. This was a very important export-oriented commodity in Peru at that time, because there were many people in Europe willing to spend a lot of money collecting something of this kind. Later, it was thought to go too far to earn foreign exchange through exports in this way, which was much more reprehensible than the trade in ivory. In order to make some money, they carried it too far as they should kill an unacquainted but good-looking man and cut his head. However, behind these problems we can find traces of the primitive interest in making the specimens. Behind this hides our very profound fear.

Of course, we could look at specimen making from another perspective, that is the desire of perfection when humans face the fear and pressure of death, which can be seen in the clues of the specimens. That is to say, it is very likely that humans believe that they’re created by God, by great Nuwa, or by others. People, when thinking about this issue, will transfer their fear with a kind of God’s logic or thinking. In other words, if God can create us, can we also create something? And when we have the opportunity to make it, will we also receive the immortality of God to prove in turn that we ourselves have the same ability as God to live forever? This kind of thinking becomes artificial intelligence (AI) today.

That is to say, since ancestors of human beings invented or created a way to overcome the fear of death, that is, the practice of the specimen making, the future generations of descendants are destined to create something like AI, which is actually another expression of the same issue at a different level in the course of history.


Next, let’s look at the art of the great Tutankhamun tomb. As we can see, this is his golden sarcophagus with three or four layers, with the mummy wrapped inside. The surfaces of each layer were created to represent his real facial features. These are the pictures of his face on different layers, a kind of realistic art. This is the small-size layer of the sarcophagus closest to the mummy or the corpse. On the right side is a picture of his appearance restored based on the mummy. Here, we can see some special representative resistance to death or the embracement of death in the evolution of human civilization.

Everyone knows that Egyptian art is mainly formulaic, that is, all kinds of images can be drawn in a formulaic way: all men can be drawn in a similar way. And if he’s a king, a crown will be added; if he’s a soldier, a weapon will be added. It’s very simple. But their faces and torsos are almost the same. The king may be drawn bigger. It’s typical in the formulaic modelling. But in the ancient art of death in Egypt on the sarcophagi, faces are drawn in realist ways, such as the sculptures with realistic faces on Tutankhamun’s gold sarcophagus. In many large museums, the faces of ordinary people are carved on their coffins by using colored wax on the face which produce very realistic portraits 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, just like our photos today. Here comes an interesting question: why did they apply realistic techniques in the art of death, or that are closely related to death, while instead drawing formulaic images in temples and palaces which have nothing to do with death? This is a very interesting question.



Next, let’s take a look at very representative types of funerary objects in the ancient Chinese tomb art, the famous Tang tri-color glazed ceramics in the Tang Dynasty, of which the tomb-guardian beasts are made. When the beasts appear, a question seems to arise: why were tomb-guardian beasts needed? The reason must be that in the other world, there was something that made the tomb owner feel uneasy and dangerous and so needed to be protected. Look at this picture. These are the terra-cotta warriors and horses in the No.1 Pit of the Mausoleum of First Emperor of Qin, much grander than the tomb-guardian beasts; but they play the same role, suggesting that the tomb owners needn’t return to this world, the real world, and they could continue their ruling and fight against the enemies in the netherworld, where he could linger and play his role.

Therefore, when alive, the tomb owners must prepare all the things necessary in the netherworld in advance, including clothing, food, accommodation, transportation, war-horses, war-chariots, and troops. This is a very special idea that the tomb owners will live in the netherworld and never come back when they live a fine life there.

Here’s a very common description of the post-mortem world in China. Generally, those who have been dead for seven days will go to a place named Wangxiangtai, an imaginary platform for the dead to look back to see their hometown. We in this real world can’t see it, while those who have passed away can. They’ll climb on the high platform, look back to their hometown where they have lived, and see if there are many people crying. There are other places behind Wangxiangtai, such as Fengdu City, a main part of the netherworld and hell. We can see the leather-silhouette: there are black and white impermanence ghosts, who will take away one’s soul to the netherworld if he comes to the end of life. We have some traditional stories originating from Fengdu City, the most representative being the Peony Pavilion.

Peony Pavilion is actually a typical story where someone comes out of Fengdu City and then comes back to life, which stirs our imagination: can we open the gate of Fengdu City and break the barriers between the two worlds? Quantum physics may respond to such imagination.


People will stand trial by Hades of Ten Temples, who will give corresponding punishments in the netherworld according to the good and bad deeds they’ve done during their lifetime. For example, this is the mountain of swords to which people who have done many evil deeds will be thrown. This is the hell of steelyard hooks, which is a very interesting punishment for profiteers in ancient society: if one gave short measures on something like vegetables or did something dishonest, then he would be thrown into the hell of steelyard hooks when he died. After being fed up with the criminal law and paying for the evil deeds done during the lifetime, the dead people would be reincarnated. This would also be done in Fengdu City and Hades would decide what they would become when reborn. Let’s look at this picture. The judge is guarding the door. Below are the dead reincarnated as humans, who look back at the netherworld, while above are the reincarnated into animals. The wheel turns and they’ll all fly away.

The descriptions of the netherworld in the Chinese culture implies that in the post-mortem world, the so-called netherworld is in order, managed by someone with a clear power structure, where everyone has their own responsibility and fairness can be achieved. It’s an interesting design, like an extremely efficient government. However, descriptions about post-mortem world and netherworld are not always the case. In many descriptions, the post-mortem world is managed by nobody. For example, let’s take a look at this. This is the famous Day of the Dead in Mexico. Two years ago, there was a famous film called Coco you may have seen it. It’s about the post-mortem world, which is happy and harmonious. Only the customs between the post-mortem world and the human world is managed, while other places in the post-mortem world is totally anarchic without police, army or government. Justice can only be achieved by people themselves. It is a very interesting design that is greatly different from the hell with the clear management levels in our culture.


Everyone can see that the post-mortem world demonstrated via the Day of the Dead in Mexico is always full of laughter. With ecstasy, the dead people walk into the netherworld. Can you feel it? It’s a very special state of mind. When we visited Miao Territory, we also heard some similar stories. In the traditional Miao culture, the post-mortem world seems not to be a well-managed place with animals that have been bullied or slaughtered by people, which are waiting for them on the road with swords in their mouths. This is why the dead people need a wizard, a sorcerer or a flamen to take them through the restless intermediate paths and roads. We can say that they’ll take you to the other world, which is more often heard. How can one take you there by reciting sutras and performing religious rites? The road to get through is a world of horrible revenge without any management, so fairness and justice come from a spontaneous civil behavior, and then some dead people feel panic.

Let’s move on to the next topic, which has a very profound impact on us. It is the most important part of modern civilization and modern urban life, medicine, which includes people’s knowledge and understanding about their own body and the unique power against death and the coming uneasy world. We seem to be able to resist the arrival of death with our understanding of the body. It still suggests the fusion of spirit and flesh as the basis of judgment. But a body seems to be perishable, while the soul or consciousness immortal. To combine the two together, people have to get the immortal part preserved, preventing it from expiration. This is the basic thinking.


This is the famous anatomist named Andreas Vesalius of the Renaissance, who drew the illustrations of the book De Humani Corporis Fabrica, which may be a relatively exaggerated, open and public scene of anatomy. He showed everyone what the body was.


This is an Italian family famous for making anatomical images in the 18th century, called the Aguti family. They printed very beautiful human anatomy pictures with lithographs, among which this one is very famous, called Skinned Angel. Let’s think about this question: an angel could also be skinned and there was no difference in the structure of the angel. It seemed that people weren’t satisfied with being human beings any longer; instead, they wanted to gain a unique power to challenge God: we could not only understand what people are, but also understand the structure of the angels that God has created. Behind it was a strong belief. Of course, it also indicated people’s optimism in the face of death.


Let’s take a look at a very interesting set of copperplate prints of anatomy of the human motor system by Albinus in the 18th century. As we can see, this is a skeleton, and  a little angel behind it, who then uncovers a piece of cloth and shows us the environment behind as magic as the Garden of Eden. Look at this. It seems to be a mysterious garden, with not only exotic flowers and grasses, but also exotic animals, such as the rhinoceros. It isn’t a European breed, but an Asian one. We all know that Dürer made a very famous copperplate print of the Asian rhinoceros. This rhinoceros represents an exotic civilization as well as people’s imagination of a strange world, so when Albinus painted some part of the musculoskeletal as a rhinoceros, we know that he wasn’t painting the mortal world, but Eden, a paradise where man grows up. Muscles grow layer by layer, as if humans were coming into being. The process is also like the creature of humans by the “God”. After all, the Bible actually tells us nothing about how the “God” created humans.

For example, Nuwa, in Chinese mythology, made humans out of mud; but how were humans were created in the Bible? Out of air, or something else? In this regard, Albinus seemed to give a very special note by saying that “God” created man layer by layer, just like an anatomist. He created bones first, then the muscle closest to the bones, and then other layers of muscles. He created humans like this. When he imagined the way “God” created humans, he said that anatomists could reverse the creation of humans by “God”. That is to say, some people, such as anatomists or medical scientists, have already understood humans like “God”, which is very amazing and bold. We can see that behind the human body with a lot of muscles is a scene of war. In the human civilization where humans were gradually created, they brought disasters, left Eden and became increasingly complete. When people grow up, there may be only monuments and ruins left for them. In the process of creation, peoples’ destiny has already been shaped: the way muscles grew from bones with the skin appearing is the way all human destiny is shaped.

Our medical experience or medical tradition today is inherited from such a thinking, or from such a practice of civilization. We see the advanced modern technology of physical examination, especially the technology of Western medical diagnosis, which is actually one of the most basic criteria for obtaining a sense of survival security today. Why do people want to live in a big city? Because there are better medical conditions. If you go to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, you’ll always see the queues. In fact, the fear of death lies at the root of it. That is, in order to get some relief or comfort against this fear, people went to hospital. But what was it before a hospital appeared? It was a temple or a church. If people couldn’t solve a problem, they’d go there to pray, which is similar to our going to hospital. They’re basically the same. With continuous negotiation and bargaining between man and death, our human civilization became what it is today.

This is a medical ship in the United States. Where will this ship take us? Where will it head? When medical technology is further upgraded, and when people’s many cognitive limitations on the body are truly broken through, where will we go? This is the Heavenly Palace in the famous art film The Monkey King. I guess all of us would like to go there. Why? Because there are a few things in this place. First, peento. This is the Peento Feast in the Journey to the West, to which only those notable immortals of high status can be invited to eat the fruit. Why do they eat the peento? Because it can prolong life for another 500 years. The more you eat, the longer you can live. So it’s a very scarce medical resource.

There’s another thing in the Heavenly Palace that is more marvelous than the peento— the the golden elixir. This is the alchemy furnace. The golden elixir is in this gourd. Monkey King who took the elixir caused ultimate chaos in the Heavenly Palace. It’s a very special resource that only top-level dignitaries are eligible to enjoy and cannot be shared with others.


The story of Journey to the West is very interesting, in which there seem to be a lot of riddles. The story seems to unfold around the issue: longevity. The whole story is about a Tang Monk as movable medical equipment. It is said that those who eat his meat can be immortal, but no one has ever eaten it. The meat has walked from the East to the West, and there are countless people who can’t afford a peento or an elixir who want to eat it as cheap medicine.

The stories about the golden elixir as well as the peento, and the fairy tales associated with the world of the immortals have been kept in our mind for quite a long time. It’s time for this to come true via the technological breakthrough, which makes the dreams possible. We are then facing a science-fiction world, which, of course, is nearer and nearer. Now you can see a film called Bicentennial Man starring the famous actor Robin Williams, in which a robot or AI man somehow wakes up one day and can think like a real man with self-consciousness. The robot is like a superman, smarter than humans, and it invents a lot that can make people live longer, such as the artificial heart, kidney, liver, skin and so on.


The robot is also dressing itself more and more like a real human in this process, but it has a very special desire, or a very special need. What is it? It wants humans to accept it as a member of the human race, not as a robot any longer. To realize his purpose, he invokes the legal process, hoping the court will grant it a human identity. But the court doesn’t meet his demands and rejects his request again and again for different reasons. At the last rejection, he’s told that man is mortal, while it as a robot, will never die, so it’s unreasonable to become a human. Hearing this, the robot remoulds himself into an ageing and debilitating mortal. However, at the last session of the court, where he’ll be voted on whether he’ll be granted human identity, he doesn’t wait for the final sentence. He dies. He has died before he’s told whether he wins or loses the case.

It’s a very touching and moving story, which reminds me of something special—that is, the relationship between a machine’s immortality and man’s death. Is the human consciousness really based on a logic or assumption that people someday die? From the philosophical perspective, we can say without hesitation that’s for sure. For us, we are humans, because we have our views of the world and values, as well as all kinds of behavior, all of which are based on the assumption that humans will someday die. If we were immortal, the things like love, careers, effort and values will be meaningless. Therefore, we who will die are called “humans”; if not, we may be nothing.


This is Transcendence, a film about a scientist with an incurable disease. Before he died, the scientist uploaded all of his data and mental thinking to a computer. Even after his flesh decayed, he became immortal in the digital world, where he controlled all the machines, or all electronic devices connected to the network all over the world, and became a real “God”. He created numerous nanobots which can manufacture weapons and buildings, and  do everything. He ends up rebuilding his body with the nanobots. This is very similar to a myth.


Let’s turn to another interesting story. This is Alita: Battle Angel, a popular film of this year, and it is based on a mange named Gunnm: Rusty Angel made by a Japanese named KISHIRO YUKITO in the 1990s, which is the prototype of the hot film. In the manga, the world is divided into two poles, into two layers: one for life on the garbage-like ground; while the other for life in the space city that resembles “God’s community”. But people in the two communities have different body structures: in the one below in order to survive, people need to keep changing their body parts, because their whole body is made of machines. Some of them are made of plastic; some are made of good machines; while others are made of inferior machines. So the whole community abides by the law of the jungle. If one can get a strong body, he/she can go and rob other people of their parts. Any parts broken can be replaced. All the surgeries are like repairing a car.

But in this garbage-like world, in the dark jungle, man’s brain is physical, while their body is completely mechanical. In the other world like heaven, man’s body is physical, while their brain is a chip. The two worlds are opposite. They have their own dilemmas and challenges in facing death. So this story talks about immortality, or a very strange state where man can live forever.

This is Ghost in the Shell, a very famous Japanese animation from science fiction in 1995. It also talks about how people achieve immortality, but then become confused and terrified. In this world, the human bodies have completely become cyberized someday in the future. In fact, today, many of us already  have partly cyberized bodies. For example, many people have pacemakers put inside their hearts, and some new metal joints installed in their limbs and bones. The trend of cyberization in the human body will gradually become more common, because when we regard the various components in the body as machines, we will definitely repair or even replace them like machines. In the future, any broken part can be replaced directly! You can change the skin or the heart you don’t like.

Of course, this may also lead to huge changes in the figures. For example, we’ll be no longer satisfied with the form of quadrupeds or bipeds. We can change the upper part to a human body while the lower part to a horse. It’s an opportunity that cyborg technology will definitely provide for us. But let’s think about it: if a horse-man appears, doesn’t it mean that the myth reappears? If a bird-man appears, which means that when we want to fly in the sky, we could change the body into that of a machine bird, then a bird-man possible in the myth will appear in our real world.

Back to the story of Ghost in the Shell. It tells a story that a soul escapes to look for a new body, and finds a friend. There’s a criminal, maybe a soul of a man, or just a virus. One day he has human consciousness, so he goes here and there like the soul of a body. At this time, there’s a special policewoman with a completely cyberized body. The two show sympathy to each other and in the end, to save the virus from going everywhere, this special policewoman combines the criminal’s thinking with his own body into something new. This may be a very interesting or special situation which people may encounter on their way to longevity. That is to say, it is possible that in the future we’ll find that there are many souls while less physical bodies which are, of course, immortal and ideal due to the mature cyborg technology. Several of us may have to share one body, just like an ant tribe today where several new graduates with little money have to share a house.

At that time, we’ll encounter a problem where your consciousness or soul will share the same body with others, because you can’t afford to rent an individual one. You have to share with others. This is the case. But who knows if our body today is already like this, the so-called dual personality. Sometimes we suddenly hear some voices telling us what to do and not to do in our mind. Do they come from ourselves, or are there several different souls living in our body?


This is a very famous film AI (Artificial Intelligence) written by Stanley Kubrick and directed by Steven Allan Spielberg. This is a story about a boy, a robot boy as a substitute for a dead child. The child’s family can’t stand the pain of losing their beloved son, so they look for a robot production company that, like making a puppet, creates a little robot having the same appearance of their son. Then the robot awakens like a real boy. He’s a very special little robot.

What he wants is very special: he wants to be a real child, very similar to The Adventures of Pinocchio, right? He wants to be a real child. Why? Because his origin  was a real child, and the motivation for him to become a real child comes from his mother, who spends money getting him produced but can never give him all the love because she says that he is not her son but only a robot. This confused little AI robot can get answers from no one. In the end, he turns to a Blue Fairy. It’s very strange, isn’t it? Because she is the one who finally turns Pinocchio into a real child in The Adventures of Pinocchio, but she’s just a fictitious character, who should be the final one who can answer the question of the little robot and calm him down.

Let’s look at the last film called Blade Runner. It tells a story in which humans, in order to explore the universe and exploit mines, need a labor force, especially efficient, strong, and not afraid of dangers. Humans can hardly take on the job, so a company on earth has developed a group of AI men who are stronger, smarter and more beautiful than humans. They become the super workers thrown into space mines. But some of them unexpectedly awaken and suddenly begin to ask a question, “We’re stronger, smarter and more beautiful than humans. Why can we live only for 3 years?” For us humans, we may think the same way. Why can we live only for 80 or 90 years? Such a question isn’t actually asked by people to people, but to the Creator.

So when the AI men ask people this question, they’re actually asking questions on behalf of humans to “God”. Then the AI men want to figure it out when they return to earth. They find only the marketing director of the company, who gives them an unsatisfying answer that if they are made to live for more than three years, say, forever, to be very good products without expiration, then nobody will buy more mechanical labor forces from the company. In that case, the company will shut down. That’s a religious and theological question, while the answer is commerce-related. The creator is killed, but these AI men haven’t got the answer yet. They still hope to find it, something that humans may be looking for but haven’t found.

For example, we really want to live forever, to be immortal, to overcome death once and for all, but this may be too difficult to realize. This is the ultimate dream of human beings that we’ll keep on pursuing. Perhaps one day in the future, our world will become a very special kind of social hierarchy, where the most powerful with the most resources will still have flesh, which is immortal, beautiful, glamorous, fragile, but immortal.

People on the second-level, who have mechanized or cyberized bodies, are also immortal, but they can’t experience the fragility of the inner body or those sensitive parts exclusive to human beings.

Those on the third-level, who don’t have such bodies, may only live in the data world, where countless souls are dreaming, like the data world in  The Matrix. That is to say, the people can only indulge themselves in such an illusive world, while the people on the higher levels will have the bodies as a carrier to experience or continue the dream of human longevity.


Let’s round off and have a look at Michelangelo’s mural in the Sistine Chapel. This set of works of art may best illustrate the relationship between man and death, or the ultimate attitude of humanity towards death. Here’s the structure of the Sistine Chapel: as we can see, on its roof is Genesis, that is, overhead are all kinds of stories related to God, looking at it horizontally, on the west wall is the Last Judgment. Such a relationship, or such a spatial layout, seems to tell the truth that only great artists such as Michelangelo could explain what man is in this way. As a special animal, looking up, man sees God, while looking horizontally, we see death and our own last day. Not all mammals can both look up and horizontally like human beings, who may be a unique species in the world that distinguishes the spiritual world by looking up and horizontally.

We humans may really be masters of creating concepts. Perhaps creating and using concepts is one of the most primitive and basic endowments of us as a species. What is a concept? Maybe we can hardly figure it out, but we always use it as a tool or an important way to know and understand the world. Maybe we can’t understand at all what is a car, what is love, or what is gravity, because they are all concepts. But we believe in the meaning of these concepts and the existence of the entities they symbolize. This is the story of death that I want to share with you today. Death is something that doesn’t exist at all or we can’t understand at all, but we firmly believe in its power. Under its horrible pressure, we develop all human civilization from the past, at present and in the future. In the future, as long as the concept of death is still being spread, we human beings, at least some of us,  will inevitably move towards longevity, and this will be the ultimate curse on the mankind.

But when people no longer believe in death, no longer believe that death really exists, we have the opportunity to face a future world full of expectation and unpredictability. That’s all! Thank you!