The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, June 30, 2006

Xu Bing


Xu Bing is a contemporary Chinese artist. His most famous work is "A Book from the Sky" where he handcrafted woodblock characters over a three year period, printed books and scrolls, and put them on display.

His work is very interesting. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to his website. Please pay him a visit.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dao De Jing: chapter 15


In addition to being one of the foundational documents of Daoism, the Dao De Jing is also considered one of the world's classics. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the text.

15. Enlightenment

The enlightened possess understanding
So profound they can not be understood.
Because they cannot be understood
I can only describe their appearance:

Cautious as one crossing thin ice,
Undecided as one surrounded by danger,
Modest as one who is a guest,
Unbounded as melting ice,
Genuine as unshaped wood,
Broad as a valley,
Seamless as muddy water.

Who stills the water that the mud may settle,
Who seeks to stop that he may travel on,
Who desires less than may transpire,
Decays, but will not renew.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Chinese Garden


What follows is an interesting article about a Chinese Garden. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article, which contains more pictures.

Dreamer strives to cultivate ties between nations For quarter-century, he has tried to build S.F. Chinese garden
- Olivia Wu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, June 25, 2006

(06-25) 04:00 PDT Luzhi, China -- Gazing through wistful willows whose branches graze the lake that laps his garden, an American dreams of building the ultimate garden some 6,000 miles away, across the Pacific Ocean.

The dreamer is William Wu, the garden is one he created from the dirt lot of his house outside Shanghai, and his mission is to install a public Chinese garden in his American home city of San Francisco.

"I want to bring out the most beautiful parts of traditional culture and make it meaningful for the future and to other countries," Wu said. "Building a garden is a part of it."

For Wu (no relation to this reporter), the Chinese garden has been a dream long deferred. First proposed as part of a San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee agreement a quarter-century ago, the project drifted for want of a space. But now, committee Chairman James Fang expects a decision to be made within a month that would set aside the space -- possibly in Golden Gate Park -- so that fundraising to build and maintain the garden can begin.

This "gift to the city," as Fang calls it, might not have gotten even to this stage without Wu, whose passion for cultural exchange -- and gardens -- stems in part from a decades-long commitment to building bridges between the two nations.

"He's our prime contact with the Chinese intelligentsia in the arts sense," said Tom Klitgaard, a San Francisco attorney and founding member of the Sister City Committee.

Based in Luzhi, a village about 60 miles outside of Shanghai that is fast becoming a suburb of the uber-metropolis, Wu's house and garden speak of traditional China.

The garden is filled with six varieties of bamboo as well as lace-bark elm, green-trunked parasol trees, fragrant osmanthus and jasmine, rare maples and, of course, waving willows. The foliage is either native to China or described in classical Chinese literature.

"The idea behind a Chinese garden is layering and veiling," he said. It is a prism of experiences.

It instills, by placement of rocks, by the shape of the walls and rooflines, tree plantings and details of the design, a heightened sense of nature and a dynamic of balance.

"I want to be sure that the meaning of the garden comes through,'' Wu said, as a place that honors nature and as a place that inspires humanism and literary creativity. That way when Westerners enter the garden, they understand the complete literary, architectural, artistic and historical context of its composition.

Given such a context, he said, "The Chinese learn something as well. It's a lesson for both sides, if we do it correctly."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happy Anniversary!


One year ago today, I started Cook Ding's Kitchen. Since then, there have been over 5000 hits. I'm astounded. I decided to republish the article on Cook Ding.

Prince Huei's cook was cutting up a bullock. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every clink of the chopper, was in perfect rhythm — like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou.

"Well done!" cried the Prince. "Yours is skill indeed!"

"Sire," replied the cook laying down his chopper, "I have always devoted myself to Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up bullocks, I saw before me whole bullocks. After three years' practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along without the control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide through such great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, still less attempt to cut through large bones."

A good cook changes his chopper once a year — because he cuts. An ordinary cook, one a month — because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.

"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I am all caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Then wiping my chopper, I put it carefully away."

"Bravo!" cried the Prince. "From the words of this cook I have learned how to take care of my life."ZhuangZi (Lin YuTang)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mixed Martial Arts


Although I am mostly interested in what might be termed "traditional" martial arts, there is something fascinating about a martial sport that tries to get as close as possible to "the real thing."

What follows is an excerpt from an article at the New York Times website. If you click on the link you'll be directed to the full article, which has loads of pictures, links, etc.

June 22, 2006
No Holds (or Kicks, or Punches) Barred
By LEE JENKINS

On the morning of June 4, as the graduating class at Chelmsford High School in Massachusetts flocked to a football stadium for commencement, Chris Fox took a Greyhound bus to the Howard Johnson Hotel in Atlantic City.

The other seniors at Chelmsford High were about to receive their diplomas. Fox, 17, was about to get started on the next phase of his education: how to punch, kick and karate chop another man into bloody submission.

"I think I'm the only one missing my high school graduation to be here," Fox said. "But I knew it would be worth it."

He sat cross-legged in a ballroom, alongside about 140 other young men in workout clothes. Some had flown across the country. Others had driven all night. They were there not necessarily because they planned to be professional fighters, but because they wanted to learn under the best fighter in the world.

His name is Fedor Emelianenko, and in the sport of mixed martial arts, he is Mike Tyson, circa 1988. He draws more than 60,000 fans for his fights, makes more than $1 million a bout and rarely needs more than a couple of minutes to complete his work. He enters the ring looking out of shape and half-asleep. Then he begins stomping the head of the next challenger.

But as Emelianenko strode into the Howard Johnson, flanked by a United Nations interpreter and five ring girls clad in red satin, no one at the front desk recognized him. Mixed martial arts is still in the formative stages, a sport chronicled mainly on the Internet and fueled at the grass-roots level. Only when Emelianenko reached the ballroom, where he was to conduct a fighting seminar in his native Russian, did young men whisper and squeal.

"I never thought I could achieve so much this way," Emelianenko said through an interpreter.

"But it was always my dream. It was my golden dream."

The dream, to parlay karate or wrestling or street-fighting skills into fame and riches, has spawned thousands of Americans in training. Teenagers practice mixed martial arts in local karate gyms for the same reason they play baseball for traveling teams. They hope someday to be good enough to make the major leagues.

Mixed martial arts includes two major leagues: the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is famous in the United States for its pay-per-view showdowns, its octagonal ring and its highly rated reality television show; and Pride Fighting Championships, which is most popular in Asia, regularly fills the Tokyo Dome in Japan and has enough money to keep Emelianenko on its roster.

But there are dozens of smaller leagues, like Mixed Fighting Championship, International Fight League, Gladiator Challenge, TKO, K-1, M-1, King of the Cage and Cage Rage, that help less-acclaimed extreme fighters stay in the ring. Some make as little as $500 a bout, pay their own expenses and share hotel rooms with whichever friends have agreed to train and manage them.

"I guess I'm a dreamer," said Joey Brown, a 39-year-old fighter from Lodi, N.J., who goes by the nickname Knockdown. "It takes a dreamer to do what we're doing."

Brown has a full-time job, a 1-5 record and an assistant manager he pays by helping to baby-sit her mentally disabled daughter. He works days for an auto parts company in North Jersey and trains nights at a gym in Manhattan. From the moment Brown saw the first Ultimate Fighting Championship — "Nov. 12, 1993," he recited proudly — he found a sport that spoke to him.

Mixed martial arts is for anyone who has wrestled, boxed or kick-boxed, anyone who has done jujitsu or tae kwon do or muay Thai. The sport was invented to give those fighters a professional outlet and to determine which discipline was best. Would a boxer beat a wrestler? Would a jujitsu master take out a tae kwon do specialist?

The night before Emelianenko's seminar, 22 fighters gathered at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, in part to help answer those eternal questions. They were all on the card for Mixed Fighting Championship 7, with the main event pitting a former high school wrestler from Philadelphia against a former marine from Canton, Ill.

The wrestler, Eddie Alvarez, had passed up a college scholarship to be a mixed martial artist. The marine, Derrick Noble, had a degree in kinesiology, was working on a master's in athletic administration and had interned for the Chicago Bulls. "I don't really think I can do this for a living," said Noble, 27. "But that's still the goal."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

From Daily Zen...


This came from the Daily Zen website. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed there...

Daily Zen Meditation: "For twenty seven years
I’ve always sought the Way.
Well, this morning we passed
Like strangers on the road.
- Kokuin (10th century)"

Hotel decor


I'm travelling for work.

The hotel I stayed in last night had a couple of pictures hanging on the wall. They are supposed to be Asian. Red background, leaves, and some writing.

They're hung upside down.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Daruma Doll


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original Wikipedia article, which contains more pictures of Daruma dolls, and links, etc.

Daruma doll
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Other meaning, Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma.

Daruma (達磨 or だるま) also refers to a hollow and round Japanese wish doll with no arms and legs, modelled after Bodhidharma. Typical colors are red (most common), yellow, green, and white. The doll has a face with a moustache and beard, but its eyes only contain the color white. Some dolls have written characters on the cheeks explaining the kind of wish or desire the owner has in mind, such as protection of loved ones. The surname of the owner may be written on the chin.

Daruma dolls are typically purchased in or near Japanese Buddhist temples and can range in price from 1000 yen for small dolls (~15cm in height) to 10,000 yen or more for the largest dolls (~60cm in height). It is normal to own only a single daruma at a time.]

Making a wish

Using black ink, one fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in. Until then the daruma is displayed in a high location in one's home, typically close to other significant belongings such as a Butsudan (a Buddhist praying box).

If the daruma doll was purchased within a temple, the owner can return it for burning. Dolls purchased at a temple are often marked; most temples will refuse to burn dolls not exhibiting the temple's mark. Burning usually occurs at the year's end. This is done as a purification ritual to let kami know that the wisher did not give up on the wish, but is another path to make it come true.

The daruma doll will maintain balance and will remain centred. Even when it is tilted either side it will regain the balance. Implicaton of this is spiritual. It is symbolic. One may go to past or future thoughts, but one has to live in Present. Here and Now.]

Controversial aspects

In the late 1990s, several groups of human rights activists claimed that the practice of making Daruma without eyes (and the practices associated with them) is discriminatory against the blind. Although whether anyone actually found this custom offensive is debatable, media organizations and politicians eager to show support of political correctness stopped showing eyeless daruma altogether. It used to be a signifying moment in an election to have the winner draw an eye, but this is no longer shown. Such scenes are now deleted from recaps of previous elections as well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Haiku



Natsu no yuu.
Ashita no gozen wa
Wakarimasen.

Summer evening.
As for tomorrow morning,
I don’t know.
- Pinetree

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Trust


The following is an excerpt from an interesting article. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the entire text.

Zen training turns off the T.V. set, opens the windows to let in some fresh air, and rips up our comfortable newspaper clippings that we have been saving. It sits us down in an empty room with nothing to hold onto. Here we begin to learn how to trust what is fundamental and elemental. Like a great red wood tree in an old growth forest, we become unshakable. Our attention does not wander or stray. We remain. We stay. We breathe. This is how we learn to trust our experience as it is.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dao De Jing: chapter 14


The Dao De Jing, the Way and it's Power, is not only one of the world's classics, it's one of the foundations of philosophical Daoism. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of this book. Below is chapter 14. Enjoy.

Chapter Fourteen
Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable;
Therefore they are joined in one.

From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
An unbroken thread beyond description.

It returns to nothingness.
The form of the formless,
The image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.

Stand before it and there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the ancient Tao,
Move with the present.

Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Dragon Boat Festival


The Dragon Boat Festival was celebrated by Chinese around the world recently. Below is an excerpt from an article on the origins of the festival. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

The other main legend concerns the poignant saga of a famous Chinese patriot poet named Qu Yuan a.k.a. Ch'u Yuen. It is said that he lived in the pre-imperial Warring States period (475-221 BC). During this time the area today known as central China was divided into seven main states or kingdoms battling among themselves for supremacy with unprecedented heights of military intrigue. This was at the conclusion of the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty period, which is regarded as China's classical age during which Kongzi (Confucius) lived. Also, the author Sunzi (Sun Tzu) is said to have written his famous classic on military strategy The Art of War during this era.

Qu Yuan is popularly regarded as a minister in one of the Warring State governments, the southern state of Chu (present day Hunan and Hubei provinces), a champion of political loyalty and integrity, and eager to maintain the Chu state's autonomy and hegenomy. The Chu king, however, fell under the influence of other corrupt, jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan as 'a sting in flesh'. So the fooled king banished QU, his most loyal counselor.

In Qu's exile, so goes the legend, he supposedly produced some of the greatest early poetry in Chinese literature expressing his fervent love for his state and his deepest concern for its future.

The collection of odes are known as the Chuci or "Songs of the South (Chu)". His most well known verses are the rhapsodic Li Sao or "Lament" and the fantastic Tien Wen or "Heavenly Questions".

In the year 278 B.C., upon learning of the upcoming devastation of his state from invasion by a neighbouring Warring State (Qin in particular), Qu is said to have waded into the Miluo river in today's Hunan Province holding a great rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era. The Qin or Chin kingdom eventually conquered all of the other states and unified them into the first Chinese empire. The word China derives from Chin.

The common people, upon learning of his suicide, rushed out on the water in their fishing boats to the middle of the river and tried desperatedly to save Qu Yuan. They beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles in order to keep the fish and evil spirits from his body. Later on, they scattered rice into the water to prevent him from suffering hunger. Another belief is that the people scattered rice to feed the fish, in order to prevent the fishes from devouring the poet's body.

However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that the rice meant for him was being intercepted by a huge river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. This has been a traditional food ever since known as zongzi or sticky rice wrapped in leaves, although they are wrapped in leaves instead of silk. In commemoration of Qu Yuan it is said, people hold dragon boat races annually on the day of his death.

Today, dragon boat festivals continue to be celebrated around the world with dragon boat racing, although such events are still culturally associated with the traditional Chinese Tuen Ng Festival in Hong Kong (Cantonese Chinese dialect) or Duan Wu festival in south central mainland China (Mandarin Chinese dialect).