Tuesday, December 28, 2010

再循环


很多次,我那个年代的歌手上《百万大歌星》时,才发现那个时候真的出了很多很多歌手,不是明星的歌手,更不是只是明星的明星。再看她/他们随意地唱着其他歌手的歌时,就听出耳油,不禁然对她/他们肃然起敬,即使年轻的时候不觉得她/他们怎样。又由她/他们带出了那个时代的歌曲。

两个十年,就出了这么多好曲好词。才惊觉自己当时走了那么多宝。

好几回,《百》勾起了某些歌手、某些歌曲的回忆。节目过后就上网搜索,从某些歌又联系到另一些歌、从某位歌手又联系到另一些歌手。两个十年的歌、的人,怎么听得完?

这样的再发现是因为自己的年龄/心境么?

无论如何,虽然当年错过了,现在能再度拥有,也是幸福的。

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Space


One pleasing scenery travelling long distance across Anhui province is the presence of green. Whether in the form of natural foliage or human agriculture.

Where villages are, usually a concentration of simple white cement houses, whether tucked away at a valley or spreaded out on a plain, are usually surrounded by neat plots of vegetables or crops. Every inch of land around a house is definitely devoted to the growing of some edible plants.

Anhui's climate is suitable for tea growth. And it does have its own species of tea. Keemun (qimen) red (black tea is regarded as red tea) tea is one of those.

Passed by lots of tea bushes along the journey, however, they are not planted in large scale. Mainly in the form of small, squeezed in between vegetables and crops or grown simply to fill up the space of arable lands. Therefore, some of these tea bushes are grown in the weirdest places, like the slopes of a steep gradient, in a corner of a forest, on a ridge and many are actually far off from villages. They look more like the results of re-aforestation, rather than planted for use.

The Transience


A long-awaited sighting of the beauty of the sea of clouds at Yellow Mountain. In a matter of minutes, the mountains are completed wrapped in the folds of the clouds, leaving no trails of existence of the mountains.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hong Village

It was with immense relief to find out that residents are still living in Hong Village (Hongcun), a village dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties, after it has been named UNESCO World Heritage Site. Especially since it has been branded by UNESCO, the relevant authorities would, as usual, take special care to ensure this golden egg laying "goose" will generate more monetary returns. Their usual approach towards villages with historical and cultural value is building an official entrance for the purpose of charging each visitor, follow by the removal of the residents of the village, so as to re-design, re-build the buildings for businesses/rental. I have visited a once-beautiful village that is emptied of its soul to eateries and souvenir shops. It was a painful sight.

Hong village resides in the region of the Yellow Mountain and was the location for the movie "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon".
Hong village is famed for its Hui architecture, that is, the white-washed wall (now coloured by age), the grey tiled-roofs and pointed gables. I would add another element to the charm of this village--water. Without the reflection from the waters, Hong village will be far less interesting without the symmetrical effect. Not to mention the perfect reflection of the bridge, the houses and the surrounding hills during calm days, giving a sense of tranquility.

Visitors are greeted by the lake immediately after passing through the gate. And a narrow footpath spans across the lake with an arch stone bridge in the middle of it. And this footpath leads to the village. It was said that the layout of the village was constructed according to the shape of a buffalo, with the lake as its stomach.

In the centre of the village, there is a pond in the shape of a crescent, surrounded by stone houses that stood next to one another. The idea of the crescent was symbolic (nothing in the Chinese architecture can seem to pass without symbolism) and it represented imperfection, relative to a full moon. Therefore, with a crescent, there leaves space for good things to come to fill up the crescent (to a full moon). The pond which lies in the centre of the village is actually the spring of life, providing water source to all the households.
Villagers still live in a very basic manner. Or eco-friendly. I wonder if tap water, save for the hotels that are there, is accessible to the villagers living here. Some are seen washing vegetables and their utensils by the pond, which in the past was their portable water source and I wonder if it still does.

In stark contrast to the prudent feel of the white and grey theme of the village, there were wealthy merchants who lived in the village in their magnificent houses--exquisite carvings on the wooden columns and beams, colourful wooden ceilings..... the wood used as columns are insects-repellant which are especially useful in the summer. Also, the skills of carvings that show vivid facial expressions and mannerisms of people are very impressive! Looking at such craftsmanship reminds me of those days when real skills were much appreciated and valued, unlike these days, the skill of generating money is much appreciated than any other real skills. Therefore, a banker is paid more than a doctor; a fund raising officer of private schools are paid more than the school teachers......

Enjoy walking through the winding alleys of the village, soaking in the feel and the smell of the village itself and seeing "authentic" villagers out and about running their chores, save for a handful of businesses targeting mainly at the tourists. The claws of tourism are still bearable. And it was easy to avoid the winter crowds as they mainly gather at one or two scenic spots before they move swifly to the next destination--another historical village near-by. Hong village is actually an open-concept village with no village walls. Apart from the main entrance, there are other ways into the village. If I have not struck a deal with the taxi driver to include the entrance fee into the fare, I would have walked round the village to find a way in (like I always do).

Considering the living cost of the locals, entrance fees to places of interest in China is very expensive. A village like Hongcun demands £8 per entry. And I certainly do not see how that money benefited the villagers living there.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chasing Yellow Mountain

Thanks to the fog, it's a blessing in disguise, I think, that the beauty of Yellow Mountain is thus brought to sight. And the results are exactly the way the Chinese landscape paintings should look. In fact, it should be the other way round, which Chinese landscape paintings found inspirations from.


Without the fog, the mountains would be fully in sight, and that would be relatively boring to the beholder than when they are partly hidden. It's all about the art of "looming", being able to see part of the whole picture visually, leaving the rest of the picture to the minds of the beholders to construct, bringing about infinite possibilities. And that itself is exciting!


Yellow Mountain refers to a range of granite peaks in Anhui province, a poor agricultural province 7 hours bus ride from Shanghai. The granite formation of the peaks created peaculiar-looking contour lines and precipitous cliffs. You get lots of jutted peaks and cliffs that are stacked on one boulder on top of the other like lego. Although not of high altitude--the peaks are only about 1600m-1800m high, the precariously-looking cliffs, pavements and pavillions sticking out of the granite edge, are definitely not for the faint-hearted.


Yellow Mountain has been a magnet of attraction throughout the history of China, in art and literature, and is still the most popular mountain to the Chinese as a tourist attraction. In the year 2007 alone, 15 million tourists, mainly Chinese, visited the area, and the crowds in summer, the peak season, are disastrous to the serenity and tranquility of the mountain range. Unless, of course, if you are able to rise above the nuisance of the crowds.





Names of the peaks and rocks formation
It is all visual and imagination. Names like "Lotus Peak", "Turtle Peak", "Lion Peak", "Bookcase Peak", "Pillow Peak" are simply representation of the shape of the peaks. "Mobile Rock" is a boulder in the shape of a mobile phone with an antenna, "A monkey gazing at the sea" is nothing but a gigantic boulder, shaped like the back of a monkey, resting on the peak.


It is a test on imagination and you can actually see more things if you go beyond the "officials ones." I like "Scholar drying shoes" especially, where a peculiar-shaped boulder, resembling an upside-down ancient Chinese shoes. And I still remember a spot where Guanyin, a goddess, is playing chess. Didn't see that this time round though.


Photo: A pine tree, adorned with icicles, growing from the granite, just like that.


Playing with Time

For three consecutive days, the mountain range have been shrouded completely in fog/mist/clouds. Luckily, there was time to bid for luck--that is, to wait at a scenic spot for the fog to clear or clouds to move away. It might be a futile attempt but when the luck shines, it is worth all the time waiting.


Chanced upon an area called "Collective Peaks Point", a side-track from the main route, thus void of any Chinese crowds. Only a white screen was presented at this "point". Loitered around. Staring ahead of a white screen of fog, when all existence is shielded from one's eyes, is quite philosophical. When the fog moved away, the peaks started to peer through the screen of fog, revealing peaks one by one, and that was when you realize there was so much to offer behind that blank screen!


There was indeed a WHOLE collection of peaks, as suggested by the name. Given the speed of the passing clouds, peaks unfolded promptly and faded into blankness swiftly, and thus, every second is a changing scenery. When the peaks surfaced above the clouds, which is termed "the sea of clouds" in Chinese, there was really a surreal look, as the altitude of the peaks are accentuated by the sinking clouds. The show of the peaks lasted for less than five minutes but it left such a beautiful impression.


And because of such a brief period of opening, whenever the clouds clear, I will scamper into action with camera, filters and chasing after the clouds before they swallow the peaks. Sometimes, you have to run after it literally; sometimes you are caught in a delimma of which part of the scenery to take in. On the second night, temperature dropped below zero, yet not enough to bring about snow. Instead, the day woke with a blanket of frost. The wind in the night left its trail on the pine needles in the form of icicles and from far, the pines looked like they have been decorated with a layer of icing.


Pine trees
Yellow Mountain cannot do without pine trees. And these trees is an embodiment of strength in the Chinese culture. Because they thrive in places which are impossible for growth, such as crevices of rocks and they survive the harshness of winters.


Pine trees add the scale of perspective to the peaks and soften the harsh lines of the granite. Some even took to the liking of growing diagonally from the cliffs.


LuckStill, snow did not dawn as desired. Instead, lots of rain. Each day, after the walk, all shoes, clothings and bags have to lay infront of the heater to dry. On top of that, most of the peaks were closed off in winter and a lot of the sights were missed due to the fog. Given that Yellow Mountain is hidden in fog/mist/clouds for a third of the year, and given that little amount seen during the few openings of the clouds this time, this is by far the best of Yellow Mountain that I have ever seen. Tonnes better than the last time I visited during summer when sky was clear.

So less is indeed more.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The porters who built the Yellow Mountains



While most mountains in China are highly modernised in terms of infrastructure, with a large presence of cable cars spanning across the mountains at different altitudes, neat cement pavements, dustbins and pavillions painstakingly installed along all routes in the mountain range, there is one thing of the Chinese mountains that remains disturbingly backward (not taking account into the level of hygience and mannerism), that is the transport of goods up and down the mountains.

It seems to me, that every mountain in China I could name, is equipped with a cable car service. Yet, in the popular Yellow Mountain range, with a hefty entrance fee of £23 (high season), three cable car stations ( £8 per trip), 3-4 stars hotels littered across the mountains, is still relying solely on manual labour for the transport of all and sundry. Every single brick used in the mountains is transported manually--over the shoulders of a porter on a bamboo pole, all the way up to the final destination in the mountains. Cable car stations are built in this manner too. And we are looking at an average altitude of 1500m where most hotels are concentrated. Even walking up the steps to such height with a light pack proves to be a feat on the calves and thighs.

Face it. Every leaf of vegetable that I eat and every chair that I sit on in the mountains are hand carried by these porters. Laundry is carried down daily from the hotels to the foot of the mountains to be done before being carried back the same way it came down.

Wages are paid according to the amount of weight that they carry. I was told, on the average, the porters could carry about 75kg per trip, which is more than the body weight of the porters themselves. Some could even stretch up to 100kg.

I bear witness to a small-frame porter coping with 1 gas cylinder each on either end of his bamboo pole, negotiating his steps with that amount of weight cutting into his shoulders. It took me 4 hours just to descend from an altitude of 1800m, and with a walking stick.

While cable cars are used extensively to transport tourists who could not afford to walk up the mountains, they prove too expensive to transport daily supplies and construction equipments.

So when I sat cosily at the hotel lounge, looking at the computers, bar counters, large calligraphy frames, fridges, chandeliers, french window etc. around me, I couldn't but feel surreal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

男人的投影

本地某位政治家的妻子过世时,某些媒体直接以其丈夫的全名称呼她,仅以“夫人”二字辨别她的性别。


顿时让古代的封建社会重现脑海。当时的已婚妇女没有自己的姓,更没有自己的名字。过世后仅在墓碑上落得“王氏”、“张氏”的称呼。已婚妇女只是男方家庭的产物,不能自己。因为那是一个绝对父权的年代。


这种落后与迂腐的价值观与21世纪今天的现代化、先进的社会,特别是处于东西方枢纽的狮城岛国未免有点格格不入。


另一边厢,一些媒体在报道她时则引用她自己的姓名。不同的称呼折射出或小或大的思想视角。


她过世后,有关她的言论相继见报,歌颂她对社会所做出的贡献,有的甚至视她为现代女性的代表。这个“贡献”与“代表”值得玩味。


一个受过高等教育、婚后选择以家庭为重、在背后默默支持丈夫事业的妇女,获得社会某些人士的赞赏。


她的“贡献”在于持家之际也同时凭自己的智慧辅助自己的男人;她的“代表性”在于她恪守“女性”的岗位。即使是妇女本身,也可能认为这就是女性的殊荣。只不过,这些赞语都是从男性的角度出发的。看似是表扬,实际上是把21世纪受过高深教育的狮城女性定位在男性附属位置上的观念。女性的价值,依然必须以男性为轴心。


原来,我们优良的东方传统美德的第二张皇牌便是妇德,一套不明文规定的女性行为手册。男性依旧豁免。

女人,由始至终,在这个小红点里,只有以男人的轮廓示人时最美。

孝道的皇牌


美丽的狮城岛国常以优良的东方传统美德为口号,让“美德”作为整个社会的行为准绳。可笑的是,我们自己也未必清楚这个优良的特质。


我们的东方传统美德亮出的第一张皇牌便是孝道,更以此作为褒东贬西的指标。西方人确实没有孝道的观念,也就顺理成章地被判定为“不孝”,因为他们的子女是独立的个体,而非父母的附属品。


某些思想特点确实专属东方传统,某些情感却也是全球共通的。滴水之恩,泉涌相报。发自于内心的感恩之情,不见得只有东方人才有。只不过,这样的行为,在东方社会里,被规范于“孝道”的范畴里。西方社会没有“孝道”的规范。可是,没有孝道的行为圭臬,不代表没有孝心。


孝道的便利是显而易见的,让父母的权力“天经地义”化,也省却了奉养老人的社会问题。


可是,这世上所有的价值观都是主观想法,所以是可变的,也就没有所谓的天经地义。更何况这“美德”早在20世纪初已遭中国社会质疑和否定了,而事事求新、求变的岛国却汲汲于推广,令人纳闷。我们把孝道精简为奉养父母,以便让立法奉养父母作为维护东方传统的旗帜。


因为我们需要的是孝道,而非孝心。孝道拥有可计算的实质经济价值。子女奉养父母,就能减轻社会负担。有没有孝心则无关痛痒。抱歉,在没有社会福利下,这笔照顾老人的帐只能算在子女头上。


狮城岛国计算传统的方法果然非常优良。

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Plastic Shanghai


Something caught my attention for no apparent reason. I noticed people carrying their own shopping bags round the city, instead of the usual plastic bags. Being a skeptic, I did not think that the environment awareness had suddenly landed from Mars on this city and her residents in a span of 5 months, nor the Expo 2010 had in anyway contributed positively towards the a greener environment. It was all, unshamedly, down to the effect of charging for the use of plastic bags. And its effect is phenomenal. Money speaks louder than words.

Monday, November 29, 2010

被逼的闲情


重返狮城怀抱,饮食的问题终于能如释重负了。

绝对是那种为了活而吃的人。离开那些让好多狮城儿女魂萦梦牵的南洋风味,投奔饮食文化贫乏的英国,可以毫不留恋,不觉有失。在狮城的这些年来,练就的拿手佳肴是:用滚水泡快熟面。像我这样的懒人,要我用厨具来准备快熟面都是一种麻烦。

在英国的日子,没有廉价物美的咖啡店或食阁,凭我煮快书面的厨艺,在英国也相安无事地度过了首两个年头。旅居法国的Y为了吃而活,可以不惜劳苦地从原材烹调出海南鸡饭。我是宁可在味觉上做出让步,也不肯为吃而大费周章的。

在英国的第三、第四年下来,有一天,突发奇想,想自己动手制作馒头。从面粉开始搓起,一个步骤一个步骤循着制作过程,没有避重就轻,只期能享受完美的成品。也可以不厌其烦地制作步骤繁琐的寿司。到了后来,自制的薄煎饼(pancakes)配上nutella、饼干、茶叶蛋、比萨馅饼、松露巧克力等开始相继上场。每天晚上,也风雨不改地调味出自己喜欢的沙拉酱。

并非本性改变了,而是身体已经到了无法忍受味觉上被亏待的地步,食物的欲望终究战胜自己的惰性,才派生出一番的“闲情雅致”,让自己不辞劳苦地准备食物。

可是,重返狮城怀抱,重返狮城饮食业的繁华与便利,这般闲情也戛然而止了,惰性也原形毕露。别说下厨,甚至是泡快熟面,也甚少动手了。如今回想起来,只觉得自己:死性不改。

Friday, November 19, 2010

微笑


梦境里,我身边相识的人都撒手人间了。令人惶恐。

这不是梦,而是每个活着的人都会面对的一个局面:自己是被留下来的人。
我一直都很害怕这样的一个情景。
害怕的是眼泪会出卖自己。
因为生离死别的眼泪最现实。因为舍不得,曾经的快乐、曾经的一切。会哭,是因为害怕。害怕的是接下来的自己要怎么走下去。会哭,原来不单纯是因你的离去而起,而是因为我更爱我自己。会哭,是因为懦弱。

会不会穷我这一生,都无法学会,微笑着送你离去?
会微笑,是因为爱你更甚于我自己。
这样的人生,才算幸福。

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Longest Distance

Had to meet B for breakfast one particular Sunday in our neighbourhood--3km away from my flat. Decided that walking would be faster than taking the bus, which involves changing from one feeder bus to another.

I plastered myself with sunscreen before I embarked on the walk under the morning sun. The walk, intially meant to be a mode of transport from Point A to Point B, turned out to be a destination itself. It was an excursion for me to this older part of the neighbourhood to which I was born in before I relocated to somewhere else.
(An elavated respite area amidst the growth--photo on the left)



It was a joy to walk pass the old flats with ground units, those with a short staircase leading to the front door as well as the back door, which is very unusal for public flats. Each family has their own way of utilitzing the area in front of their units. Some would plant a "jungle" of potted plants, some would start an "outdoor cafe" with chairs and tables, some would open a bird park with caged birds....I chanced upon a small fenced area of garden with vegetables and plants which was the fruit of a gardening club of the residents in the area. And the wet market which I was to meet B, was bustling with people and life. Stark contrast to the sterilized shopping malls. Hygiene level too, I must say.
(Not the flower but the ripened fruit of a yam plant--photo 2)



This is just at the backyard of where I live and yet, has been undiscovered by me. And it has been so near, yet so far.


After our breakfast, we went for a nature "trail". Unknown to me, there is a mangrove swamp right in the middle of our neighbourhood. Away from the concrete jungle, we stepped into thick growth which was presented in a very Singapore way--planned and organized. The "nature" was relocated, sieved and remodelled to fit around the paths and carparks for humans. Nature, lacking of "humanity" will not be fit for us I am afraid.


(treading on the bridge to take in the mangrove swamp--photo 3)



Arriving at the end of the "nature" area is the coast where one could catch a glimpse of Malaysia. The skyline of Malaysia, or the Johor state to be exact, has been growing vertically and steadily for the last ten years. Could still remember those days when we enjoy to make day trips across the causeway to Johor to eat till our fill, taking full advantage of the weak currency and the price of living in Johor. The most classic of all was me crossing the straits to spend my afternoon at a starbucks.








There used to be a jetty here. Now, this coastal part has been given a facelift and has been recently converted into a recreational area--after 30 years.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

乱想

回来一年了。


多亏还有庆生这回事,大家还能聚一聚。年龄的增长,要忙的事越来越多,相对的,时间过得越来越快,也相对的,时间越来越珍贵。所以,想见的人也越来越少。还有,谁能赏脸出现聚会,也必须感激涕零了。


是谁说过的,年纪越大,越理智,因为已经害怕受害了。也已经不能受伤了。才发现,过了一半的人生,才终于学会了掌控距离这回事。


远距离地靠近。

Friday, September 10, 2010

蠢蠢欲动


又是那蠢蠢欲动的感觉。

不知不觉,回来已经一年多了。时间过得很快,可是感觉自己原封不动很久很久。又开始觉得不安了。安定可能让我觉得有一点不安。

Thursday, September 02, 2010

时间捎来的

从一堆旧信件中无意间发现了负笈英国那一年的时空。短短的一年,却是漫长的365个日子,8千7百60个小时。


这一年的时空里,有YR从法国隔岸投递过来的信、明信片、有GQ从亚热带发过来的贺年片和LL的信,还有PX时不时寄来的包裹,连隔了24个小时时差的A也没有把我给忘记。每回收到信件,总会羡煞隔壁房的室友H。她人缘极佳,交友满天下,却从未试过在那一年里有朋友邮寄任何信件给她。经她这么一说,我一时无言以对。


朋友一直都不多。不管是当时还是现在,望着那些远渡重洋的信件、文字,我自然知道自己是幸福的。隔着地域上的距离,彼此居然可以如此靠近。如今重返狮城的阳光,地域上的靠近反而无形地扩大了。更觉得这是生命里最美好不过的礼物了。


所以那个时候,自己竟也寄了一张卡给 隔壁房的H,让她也同样能感受到友情和时间的这份幸福。

Monday, August 02, 2010

Painting a Chinese Poem

River Snow, a classical Chinese poem, is a 4x5, ie. 4 lines of 5 Chinese characters each. Written by Liu Zong Yuan (773-819)of Tang dynasty. Classical poems, relative to ancient poems, are a modern form of poems.


Characterized by their specific "templates" ( 4x5, 8x5; 4x8, 8x8 ) and the specific rhyme requirements,whereby poets had to create a new world within the restrictions.


"River Snow" is one of my favourite, an essence of the fine boundary between Chinese poems and Chinese paintings, where the two can be one, existing in different forms.


Decided to ignore the grammatical rules of the English language, so as to keep as close to as possible, the original flavour of the Chinese poem/Chinese language, especially the visual, objective montage effect.





 
蓑笠翁
寒江雪



A thousand of mountains/birds' flight/none
Tens of thousands of paths/human traces/extinguished
Lone boat/straw-caped/old man/
Fishing alone/cold/river snow


The Chinese language, void of the burden of grammar, could therefore produce a montage effect and neat parallelism (depicted by the colours as shown) in poems.





A thousand of mountains(wide angle)/ flight of birds(zoom in)/none(movement)
Tens of thousands of paths(wide angle)/footprints of human(zoom in)/extinguished(movement)
Lone boat(zoom in)/straw-caped(movement)/old man(movement)/
Fishing alone(zoom in)/cold(touch)/river snow(wide angle)


Poet Liu painted a painting of snow-covered river in a poem, using many layers of visual contrast....



A thousand of mountains(vastness)/ flight of birds(minute)/none(stillness)
Tens of thousands of paths(vastness)/footprints of human(minute)/extinguished(stillness)
Lone boat(minute)/straw-caped(movement, snowing thus the cape)/old man(minute)
Fishing alone(movement)/cold(feel)/river snow(vastness)




A thousand of mountains(white)flight of birds(white sky)/none
Tens of thousands of paths(white)/footprints of human(white)/extinguished
Lone boat(a dab of colour)/straw-caped(a dab of colour)old man(a dab of colour)
Fishing alone/cold(white)/river snow(white)


......to evoke a tenacious sense of solitude.



A thousand of mountains(stillness/silence)/ flight of birds(stillness/silence)/none(stillness/silence)
Tens of thousands of paths(stillness/silence)/footprints of human(stillness/silence)/extinguished(stillness/silence)
Lone boat(stillness/silence/solitude)/straw-caped(movement)old man(stillness/silence/solitude)
Fishing alone(movement and stillness/silence/solitude)/cold(solitude)/river snow(stillness/silence)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Inception

My first proper movie for 2010-2008, watched in a cinema.

Protagonists mentioned in the movie that it would be extremely difficult to alter one's mindset or to inject a new thought/idea into one's mind. This had to be done in the realm of dream. That was what the title of the movie "Inception" comes about.

Not sure about that. Seems pretty easy in reality though. Through media's selective/purposeful reports of the truth, the chants of advertisements.....and the artificial seeds of pre-mediated thoughts start to take roots in our minds unknowingly, growing to be the real thing in our own minds.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Su Xiao Xiao



Found her tomb next to the West Lake in Hangzhou. Couldn't help but to question why this woman, (479-502), a famous courtesan of her time and a poet too (though I wouldn't say that her poetry would be in the same calibre of those masters in Chinese poetry), could leave her name behind for more than a millenium years and to have her tomb rebuilt in the 21st century after it was destroyed during Cultural Revolution (btw, nothing could be left intact after the sweep of the infamous revolution).

Her new rest place, next to Xilin Bridge in the West Lake, with 6 pillars inscribed with poetry written in reminiscence of her. For someone of her gender, her background in that era, who became a source of inspiration to many great poets, even a few hundred years after her death, is bizzare to me. Died at the age of 19, as an orphan and unmarried and therefore, had her beauty and youth being immortalized and romantized. Though a courtesan by circumstances and became an object of men's play, she became the player instead and bent neither to wealth nor power.

And maybe little did she expect herself to become the subject in the poems of many literati after her time. I am more curious about the literati who drew their inspiration from her than Su Xiao Xiao herself. Wonder what was in their minds and hearts?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surprises from China.

These recycling bins have been following me around from Shanghai into Hangzhou and Shaoxing everywhere I go. The infrastructure for eco-friendly gestures is apparent in cities and the intentions are good. But a look into the contents of the recycling and non-recycling bins will tell you more about the actual effectiveness of its recycling intention. At least, it's a start.




Eco-friendly way
of travelling in the city of Hangzhou. It's not a business venture, therefore rental charges are very affordable, meant more for the locals (I think) to ease the traffic pressure on the roads. Bike booths are located in a lot of places in the city, not just the touristed areas. Any time of the day, you can get a bike (as long as they are available) with a top-up card. No deposit seems to be needed.



Found these tiny solar panels and solar stands along some roads to power the street lights. Brought a touch of green amidst the exhaust fume from the vehicles that run amuck on the road.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Green Tea Mania










Bought a packet of Japanese green tea biscuits--bamboo shoots-like biscuits coated with a layer of green tea cream. Something that I was addicted to while in the UK.


Glad to find it in stock over here. But little did I know that I would open to a paper box full of horror.


Inside the box, there are no more than 10 pieces of biscuits. But EACH biscuit was further packed painstakingly in little plastic bags. Classic example of excessive Japanese packaging where appearance and exquisiteness surpass environment concerns. And from a country that produces no resources on its own.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dragon Well Village

When was the last time, I asked myself, as a city dweller, bought a product that is produced at its source? I realize I have never done so. Everything that I have bought has been imported into urban centres where a high proportion of the price that I paid for those goods went into the pockets of businessmen whilst peanuts were passed onto the hands of those who actually produced them.

Businessmen, in ancient China, used to rank below farmers, craftsmen and scholars in terms of social status. They were frowned upon because, unlike farmers and craftsmen who produce goods, businessmen contribute nothing substantial but make a living out of the labour of others and generated money from money itself. In those days, knowledge and skills were appreciated. But, of course, not anymore now. Money alone measures the amount of respect one gets.

All the more made those tins of Dragon Well Tea that I bought from Dragon Well Village significant .

Dragon Well Tea (Long Jing Cha) is one of the many green teas produced in China. It got its name from the village that grows the tea bushes. Dragon Well Village sits on a hill near West Lake in Hangzhou and the name happened to catch my attention in google map while surveying the vicinities of West Lake. So, this is the source of the well-known tea.

It turned out to be a modern village, revamped a few years ago with new cables, drainage system and buildings, not the traditional wooden houses that I have imagined. But it was certainly a nice area with creeks and woods. It was misty that day and some of the plantations were shrouded in mist. Air was fresh, creeks were crystal clear and surroundings were serene--that I almost forgot I was in China.

Met a few villagers on the bus to the village, one of them Mr. Zhang who is the third generation of tea planters in his family. Own plots of land and apparently, the harvest time (usually during Spring, right after winter)for the tea was over (May) for the year. Harvest period for this tea is brief and therefore, the tea is well-sought after. Tea leaves are plucked early in the morning, around 5. Invited to his house for tea (well, of course, it was not without a purpose) and sampled his tea harvested from his own plantation. It was delicious! (I must use this adjective for the tea) I even started chewing the dried tea leaves from the pile and they were tasty! It certainly tastes different from the tin that I bought from supermarket. Even C who has a disdain for green tea warmed up to the flavour and we ended up buying a few tins of Dragon Well Tea from the planter. I knew I was being ripped off for the price that they quoted me but something in me held me back from bargaining down. I guess I'd prefer to be ripped off by these people who are in the frontline of production rather than the far end of it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

女人—你的一半还是男人


在媒体上看到一些新潮的用语,如“剩女”、“败犬”。搞了半天,原来是换个方式来嘲笑单身女郎(注意,在此特用“单身”而非“嫁不出去”,“单身”一词说明的是现况,不含判断成分,它可以是一种选择的结果;“嫁不出去”是为现况作解释,是因为嫁不出,所以单身,含有主观判断,说明的是想嫁又无法如愿的情况)。

过了约定俗成的婚嫁年龄却仍单身的女人就注定是被男人挑剩的女人“剩女”。


“剩女”一词的概念赋予男性“挑选”的权利,女人处于被动。与此同时,也把没被挑中的女人的问题归咎于她们自身她们不够好,所以没被挑中。“剩女”意味着选择婚姻对象的选择权在男人那边。于是,她没有选择权,更不能是因为挑不到合意的所以才单身。仍单身的男性是基于挑不到好的货色,所以高居为“钻石王老五”,而非“剩男”。是他看不上,所以问题还是出在女人那边。


竟是新潮的词语,封建的思想。我猛力地摇醒自己。这是21世纪。

即使加上了“五星”或“女王”的修饰,“剩女”或“败犬”的观念始终是把女人定位在婚姻里。没有婚姻,她一败涂地。即使在21世纪的今天,她拥有了自己的经济能力,女人始终不能像男人一样理所当然地把事业作为自己的归宿。亚洲社会至今仍不许。有时候,不是旁人,连她自己也这么设定自己的。她必须依附于男人的,才能完整。


一个巴掌拍不响。婚姻需要两个人的结盟。可是在这段关系里,亚洲社会决定了女人比男人更需要婚姻来判定自己的价值。

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When Lu you Meets Tang Wan











Poem By Lu You










Poem By Tang Wan




Visited the scene of my Chinese literature again.

Amazed. While stones are worn out by the hands of Time, words, as fluid as they are, withstood the testament, to be remembered many centuries after. Such as the works of the ancient philosophers, the lines of literati.......

Emotions are universal and timeless.

Chanced upon Shen's Garden in Shaoxing, just like how Lu You (1125–1210) chanced upon Tang Wan, his former wife in the same Shen's Garden (well, may not be the exact spot. The garden may have shifted locations after all this time) that I visited.
A well-camouflaged speaker, in the form of a "rock", that plays Chinese music in the garden.

Lu You, under the pressure from his mother, divorced his first wife, Tang Wan, whom he grew up together with. He met her again after some years in Shen Garden when she was already wife of someone else, and he himself had remarried. Emotions were thick when Tang Wan brought him a toast. After the brief encounter, he wrote a poem (to be exact, lyrics) on the walls of the garden. Tang Wan wrote a poem in response to his. She passed away a year later. Today, visitors could see the encravings of their works on the walls, reminiscing in the pain of these ill-fated lovers.

Pheonix Hairpin

红酥手,黄縢酒, With your rosy, soft hands, a toast of good wine was brought to me.
满城春色宫墙柳。 The town was adorned with Spring and willows swayed by the walls
东风恶,欢情薄, The East wind bit mercilessly on our thin happiness,
一怀愁绪,几年离索,A heart full of sorrow for these years of living asunder.

错,错,错。 All but a mistake! A mistake! A mistake!

春如旧,人空瘦, While spring seemed untouched by time; lovesickness caused one to grow empty and thin.
泪痕红浥鲛绡透。 Traces of tears drenched the handkerchief.
桃花落,闲池阁, Withering peach blossoms left the garden in solitude.,
山盟虽在,锦书难托,The oath of yesterday remains but no longer can we converse through letters.

莫,莫,莫。 Forget it! Forget it! Forget it!

Poetry was a common tool of expression in ancient China, thus the tradition of writing poems. Emotions, thoughts, ideals are captured within the scope of a poem. The Book of poems was compiled as early as 1046BC - 771BC. It is not without regret that none of these ancient Chinese poets could hold a candle to the international fame that Shakespeare enjoys.

Monday, May 17, 2010

半杯水的视角


有一件事,一直觉得极为丢脸。


去英国之前,原是中文教师。离职后誓言不再执鞭,却峰回路转,在英国重操旧业。学校首次开办中文课,并把中文列为三个年级的必修科。


这是一所私立学校。学生群基本上都是土生英国人。


对学生来说,中文是来自外太空的科目,又加上是必修课,也像新加坡学生一样质疑学中文的动机和实用性,还责怪中文太难。第一年遇到学生刁难也不为过,毕竟,她们不是华人。


消极的人在半杯水中只看到缺水的部分,积极的人则看到水。同个年级四个班,却呈现迥异的学习成果。这跟杯子无关,而是看的人有问题。


两年下来,有的学生始终不认得半个汉字;在半杯水中看到水的部分的学生则把“很难”的汉字当成最有趣的部分,有的把汉字的部件编成故事,然后组装成一个汉字;有的干脆把汉字当图来记;有的甚至发现中文没有时态,语法结构竟比欧语更容易。因为有趣,所以不难;因为觉得不难,也愿意学。有学生直言自己学不好中文,可是喜欢上中文课。


把中文当外文来教让我执鞭以来,首次体会到教中文的意义和乐趣。是因为这批学生,因为她们是非汉族学生。


三年后,首批会考班应战英国GCSE汉语考试,应付听、阅读和写的测试。写的部分包括30个字的便条和100个字的文章,没有任何词语和字典辅助。在单语环境里、每周课时仅两小时、她们竟都及格了。我以她们为荣。


也因此觉得某些新加坡华人很丢脸。



今年四月,新加坡教育部长建议降低母语在小六会考中的比重,认为母语剥夺了一些学生的升学选择。有人的视角出了问题,却还坚持有问题的是他人。