Saturday, 4 November 2017

Shadows of Cave Mountain

D o n g ~ ~ ~  The temple bell strikes at four-thirty as usual. Deep resonance impregnates predawn quietness, giving it life rather than shattering it. From my room, I can’t hear the duty-monk chanting. But I had learnt the words from an evening attendance at the bell tower: With the first strike of the resonant bell, I chant the precious koan, shaking heaven above, piercing hell below….. Let all wars cease, armoured horses retire. May all souls expired in battles reborn in Pureland… As the mesmerising chant ends, the drum responds with the reverberating Wind-Rain-Thunder-Lightning routine, reversing the nighttime sequence.

First morning meditation starts at 4:50 while yogis warm up with sun salutations in the studio, long before the sun rises. I roll off my tatami to cancel the phone alarm before it goes off. Unlike the bell, it startles and shatters at this early hour even with volume set to just above mute. 

I’ll be going home this afternoon. Sixteen days have glided past like a bird’s flitting shadow. I let the melancholy of departure settle before getting up to dress, leaving it behind to meld with fragments of delusive dreams, turning into hazy memories.

I've uploaded a video of the Drum and Bell routine to YouTube:


~~~ 沈肅的禪鐘聲與本來的寂靜互相引接,引起了一靜一動的共鳴。和諧的交替,並未驚破黎明。從房間里,我聽不到敲鐘僧人的唱誦,但我幾晚前曾經上鐘樓聽唱,抄下了偈詞:「洪鐘初扣 寶偈高吟 上徹天堂 下通地府 。。。。。干戈永息 甲馬休征 陣敗傷亡 俱生淨土。。。」 寒山僧鐘唱誦畢,鼓樓會以震撼的「風雨雷電」鼓聲回應。



我把鐘鼓齊鳴的視頻上載了 YouTube:

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Don't Learn From History

Don’t learn from history — it’s full of lies. Some say that’s to be expected, as history is written by the victors. But why must victors lie? Do they not realise that falsifying history will certainly backfire?

Chinese obsession with history stems not only from academic interests or a peculiar fascination with dead people, but a firm belief in the benefits of experience. The post of Official Historian,  already established in the Xia Dynasty nearly four thousand years ago, continued in various forms until the end of Qing Dynasty in the beginning of the 20th century. Official Historians were officially extremely independent, therefore a high risk job. They followed the Emperors around, making notes which the Sons of Heaven were not allowed to read by ancestral decree and tradition (that changed after Tang Dynasty). A Historian’s record could impact the Emperor’s Posthumous Titles — marking His Majesty as a jerk or fool for posterity. Expectedly, some overzealous Historians got their heads removed. These murderous episodes were duly recorded by his successors.

Historians in ancient time were unimaginably stubborn. The renowned Sima Qian of Han Dynasty endured castration to finish The Records of the Grand Historian, an epic achievement still widely studied today, more than two millennia later. To minimise bias and decapitation, official history was usually compiled from archives and records long after a change of dynasty. By then, as China’s struggles were mostly internal, the boundary between victors and losers had been obscured by time. Recent history — itself an oxymoron — is unreliable anywhere, like autobiographies of politicians.


不少近代史其實大話連篇。以史為鑒這句話好像有點過時。西方人解釋說這是由於歷史是 「勝利者」 寫的,難免偏頗。為何勝利已經在握的人,反而作假呢?難道他們不知道假歷史對自己後代的不良影響嗎?


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Graffiti 塗鴉

I don’t know anything about graffiti, but the good ones make me stop to admire, as if in a gallery. Some are amazing not only due to its artistic merits, but the fact that the artists don’t expect reward or recognition for their masterpieces. Even Banksy’s identity remains a mystery. A good piece of graffiti often makes me curious. What does the artist do for a living? Is this person gravity proof? Does he or she plan and practise on the living room wall first, before on-site execution? How many nights does it take to do something this size?

我對塗鴉沒有研究,但一幅好的塗鴉,往往會令我駐足欣賞,如同身在畫廊。好的塗鴉除了藝術價值,還有創作者的心態。哪麼辛苦完成的作品,沒有揚名求利的動機,也算一種清高吧。連舉世知名的 Banksy 的身份,到現在還是個謎。 有水準的塗鴉,會令我好奇。如此藝術高人,冒著地心吸力之險,月黑風高爬外牆噴漆為啥呢?哪麼大的壁畫,他之前有沒有在家裡大廳牆壁預習一次呢?一共要搞幾個晚上才完成呢?

Of course, a lot of street doodling is garbage. Simpleminded atrocities such as gang slogans, misspelled political messages or fatuous declaration of love may seem worthless. But they somehow accentuate the despair and social failure which have given birth to their brand of vandalism.


Saturday, 6 May 2017

Thinking Inside The Box

Calling ourselves Homo Sapiens — literally wise man — has to be either missed irony, or hyperbolic self-flattery. Even dummies know that the average human is far from wise. Quite the contrary, whenever life is good, most of our species take petulant pride in not thinking. Behind dainty expressions of ostentatious innocence and unworldliness is an unmentionable awareness that being really stupid without consequence is a modern privilege, a rich-folk thing, a secretly adored social status. Sure, during our negligibly short existence, the odd thinking specimens might have had delivered us from collective troubles, or led us to more favourable grounds for survival. But mass ignorance has since been reinforced, making such rare fortuitous events ever less likely in the future.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The New Face of Old Guangzhou 廣州的舊城新貌

The Chan tablets behind the kirin are long gone at the Chan Academy 

Like most tourists, I prefer historical sites or “exotic” destinations when travelling, wishing to see something “different”. Since I regarded Guangzhou familiar from frequent visits during the early 1990s, I had not thought of exploring it as a tourist. Thanks to a friend who organised a weekend trip recently, I was surprised by how much the old city has changed. It not only looked different as expected, but also felt very different. Much of the old was thankfully still there, calmly giving way to the new. In such a dramatic and abrupt social transformation, anxiety is expected. But from the places we visited and the people we talked to, I sensed mostly optimism and vibrancy rather than misgivings.

There's a wonderful French restaurant hiding on the 4th floor. No Elevator. 


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

WW3 - A Horrifying New Year Vision

2016 was a black swan year to many. Fortunately, “realism” (interchangeably aka “cynicism” in our brave new world) helped me to anticipate Brexit ( and Trump (, thereby sparing me a couple of unpleasant surprises.

Amidst happy wishes, 2017 begins noisily with more frantic beating of the war drum by — well, who else? Though nothing new, the rhythm has become desperate and erratic. Facing its own “regime change” phantasmagorically claimed to have been orchestrated by Russia, the pitifully vulnerable Empire seems even more irascible and capricious than usual, no longer bothering to dress up its contempt for fairness and rationality.

There are plenty of talks about a military showdown between the US and China, as if it were a much awaited new war-game app. Some analysts sound like desperate salesmen from the military industrial complex (MIC). Others, emboldened by the pivotal positions which they would soon hold, sound outright deranged. Happy New Year!

Nearly all of these propositions envisage a military conflict with China through a predominantly Western lens. This bias is understandable, since most wars in the past century had been choreographed by Western powers, according to their military traditions and objectives. But in a conflict with China, it would be prudent to include a little “common sense” with Chinese characteristics, in order to make the horrifying picture more complete.

First of all, why would there be a war? And what for? 



2016年誕下幾只黑天鵝後,已隨時光溜走。幸而我思想逆行,一早對英國脫歐 (英女皇與共產黨 和特朗普當選 (我也來撐特朗普 的可能性做了心理準備,省卻了一份驚奇。但2017年的開始,並不顯得平靜。美國的戰鼓越擂越響,連聽慣了的人也覺心寒。而帝國的戰爭機器,似乎失了方向,姿態更急躁野蠻。

有關「中美決戰」 的文章和「智庫」報告突然多了起來。有些報告看似軍工業銷售部的建議書。有些狂言瘋語,更來自即將身負要職的帝國重臣。John Pilger 的紀錄片 The Coming War On China 「即將到來的對華戰爭」,是罕有的客觀警世之作(。不過大部分的分析,不論立場,都以西方軍事傳統來看這場潛在的災難性衝突,而忽略了中國人對戰爭的看法。