The Wu-Tang Manual is the first book out of three from The RZA

Jeremy Porter

This manual has a full chapter on chess!

Credit: Jeremy Porter

The Wu-Tang Clan has come a long way from its days of making $20 a member per show.

The Wu-Tang Manual is an introduction to the saga and philosophy of the nine incredible MCs. It is 243 pages long, contains four books divided into nine chambers. The book explains the reason for these chambers on page 49.

“You have the 36 chambers,” writes The RZA, “and there’s nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Each member of Wu-Tang has four chambers of the heart. And what’s nine times four? Thirty-six. There are 36 fatal points on the body, and that times 10 degrees of separation between each point equals 360 degrees. Therefore the Wu-Tang Clan is a perfect circle.”

Some of the other topics The RZA, who was born Robert Diggs, encodes in the manual are religion, supreme mathematics, chess, lyrics and slang.

Book One has an artist profile of each of the nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan. It compiles nicknames, birth names, birth dates, provinces, styles and profiles, albums and a short story on each member.

The first chamber of Book Two is called “The Way of the Wu: The Grand Spiritual Megamix.” This first chamber gives the lessons learned from religions along with The Nine Basic Tenets of the Nation of Gods and Earths, The Supreme Numbers and The Supreme Alphabet.

The RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan studied the Bible, Greco-Roman mythology and the lessons from The Nation of Gods and Earths. The RZA also looked into religions of the East, such as Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, which opened his mind.

The RZA doesn’t describe himself as, “… a soldier of any one religious sect. I realized you can never put a circle around the truth and say that it belongs to one sect. I’m a student.”

The fifth chamber in Book Two is about chess. The RZA describes the importance of chess, the mathematics of it and a special suicide technique he uses to win matches against inexperienced players.

The RZA sees chess as a “metaphysical way.” He said the eight columns on the board relate to eight points of the sun. The 64 squares are similar to the I Ching — one of the Five Classics on Confucianism — which has 64 hexagrams and is used to calculate the universe.

Book 3 contains nine songs whose lyrics are explained. From the song “Triumph,” Masta Killa says, “Givin’ sight to the blind/ The dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum.” He’s saying that the ignorant are more attracted to the beat than the wisdom Wu-Tang gives in its lyrics.

Book Four’s fifth chamber is about the deadly art of rhyme. When the Wu-Tang battles lyrically, they try to do it in as few bars as possible. An example from The RZA said, “I’ll defeat your rhyme in just four lines/ yes, I’ll wax you and tax you and plus save time.” The whole idea of this rhyme style is like slicing a person’s head off quickly in samurai fashion. Rhyming with many long lines is not saying as much as shortening the rhyme, which opens up more creativity and surprise.

The Wu-Tang Manual explains the Wu-Tang Clan’s philosophy and saga. This is the first book in a series that introduces the theories of the group’s concepts and beliefs along with information on live shows, slang, resources and much more. About half of this book deals with Wu-Tang’s projects outside its music, such as the Wu Wear clothing line, comic books and RZA’s scores for Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino.

Because The Wu-Tang Manual is an introduction book, it doesn’t give the reader full explanation to the group’s teachings. Perhaps that’s what the other books will do. Still, this book is very enlightening, and I suggest it to anyone who is interested in a better understanding of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jeremy Porter at [email protected].