Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

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 ~

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Japanese Language Study

I've just completed #60 of 64 lessons in the Japanese language course I'm taking. Over all I think my retention of new material is between 70 and 80%. Material I've reviewed could be over 80 or 90%. I'm not really trying to memorize vocabulary, as much as recognize sentence patterns and grammar. I can look up what I don't remember, and if I look something up enough times, I'll remember it. I'll let word frequency drive my vocabulary.

In theory, I should be pretty conversational. In practice, it's tough to think fast enough when speaking, but I do better with writing, which is as expected. For speaking, I am better than survival level, but not quite conversational. As with most things, it's a matter of practice.

As far as writing goes, I know the meanings of over 200 kanji, even if I can always remember how they sound. I know I have a long way to go before I even reach high school level, but I'm making progress. I'm grinding right through them.

In emailing an engineering manager in Japan, I manage to make small talk with him in Japanese, using kanji as well.

The end of the course is in sight. I'll be doing a major review when I'm done. Then I'll begin working on other material. Among them is the bilingual magazine I've found and a number of independant books on the Japanese language, or aspects or it.

The self paced, on line course I'm using is:
There is a free downloadable Japanese-English-Chinese dictionary, with LOTS of features at:
The bilingual magazine I alluded to is Hiragana Times, and is located at:

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dao De Jing: chapter 17

The Dao De Jing is one of the world's classics. It is also the foundational text of philosophical Daoism. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of this timeless work.

17. Rulers

The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Where does the Yin Yang symbol come from?

Below is an article written by Allen Tsai on the origin of the Yin Yang symbol. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article, that has illustrations, etc.

"By observing the sky, recording the Dipper's positions and watching the shadow of the Sun from an 8-foot (Chinese measurement) pole, ancient Chinese determined the four directions. The direction of sunrise is the East; the direction of sunset is the West; the direction of the shortest shadow is the South and the direction of the longest shadow is the North. At night, the direction of the Polaris star is the North.

They noticed the seasonal changes. When the Dipper points to the East, it's spring; when the Dipper points to the South, it's summer; when the Dipper points to the West, it's fall; when the Dipper points to the North, it's winter.

When observing the cycle of the Sun, ancient Chinese simply used a pole about 8 feet long, posted at right angles to the ground and recorded positions of the shadow. Then they found the length of a year is around 365.25 days. They even divided the year's cycle into 24 Segments, including the Vernal Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, using the sunrise and Dipper positions.

They used six concentric circles, marked the 24-Segment points, divided the circles into 24 sectors and recorded the length of shadow every day. The shortest shadow is found on the day of Summer Solstice. The longest shadow is found on the day of Winter Solstice. After connecting each lines and dimming Yin Part from Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice, the Sun chart looks like below. The ecliptic angle 23 26' 19'' of the Earth can be seen in this chart.

By rotating the Sun chart and positioning the Winter Solstice at the bottom, it will look like this .

Illustration at orginal site

The light color area which indicates more sunlight is called Yang (Sun). The dark color area has less sunlight (more moonlight) and is called Yin (Moon). Yang is like man. Yin is like woman. Yang wouldn't grow without Yin. Yin couldn't give birth without Yang. Yin is born (begins) at Summer Solstice and Yang is born (begins) at Winter Solstice. Therefore one little circle Yin is marked on the Summer Solstice position. Another little circle Yang is marked on the Winter Solstice position. These two little circles look like two fish eyes.

In general, the Yin Yang symbol is a Chinese representation of the entire celestial phenomenon. It contains the cycle of Sun, four seasons, 24-Segment Chi, the foundation of the I-Ching and the Chinese calendar."

by Allen Tsai

Friday, August 25, 2006

15,000,000 Left Homeless In China

This is an AP story...

Aug 25, 8:04 AM EDT

Chinese Storms Leave 15 Million Homeless

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- Communities in southeastern China are straining to resettle more than 15 million people left homeless by four devastating typhoons in recent months, the official
Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

The storms caused $3.6 billion in direct damage, Xinhua said, citing provincial officials in Fujian, the province worst hit by the disasters. The most costly damage was to businesses, farms, communications networks and water conservation projects.

It said the central government had allocated only $7.5 million in relief funds for Fujian and neighboring Zhejiang province.

The most recent storm, Saomai, hit Fujian in mid-August, killing 441 people. It was the worst storm since record-keeping began in 1949, according to the government.

Each summer brings catastrophic weather to China, usually in the form of torrential rains and tropical storms. But this year, while coastal regions are rebuilding from floods and typhoons, many inland areas are enduring their worst drought in decades.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chen Taiji Master Chen Xiao Wang seminar in Michigan

Chen Xiao Wang, one of the great living masters of Chen style TaijiQuan, will be doing a seminar in Michigan from September 28th through October 1st. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a page that gives the contact information regarding this seminar. Also on that page is a link to Master Chen's own homepage, which lists all of the seminars he'll be doing in the US this year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

China Books

China Books, one of the largest sellers of materials related to China, has just sent out it's Summer 2006 catalog. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to their website.

Pages and pages of books, CDs, VCDs, DVDs, and more. If you wanted to learn to read Chinese, read Chinese literature, watch Chinese movies or tv shows (some with English subtitles), learn about art, culture, history, music, tea, or calligraphy, it's all there.

Pay them a visit and browse around. I think you find it enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Phoenix

The Phoenix is an important beast in Chinese/Japanese mythology. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the page built by, regarding the Chinese Phoenix, or Feng Huang. There, you'll find more links, etc.

The links on the original page makes reference to the Byodo-in, a temple in Japan famous for it's "Phoenix Hall." I posted an article about the Byodo-in, in July 2006. It'll still be in the archives.


Fenghuang (Chinese: 鳳凰; pinyin: fènghuáng; Japanese: 鳳凰 houou; Korean: 봉황 bonghwang; Vietnamese: Phượng Hoàng) are a species of mythological Asian birds that reign over all other birds. The males are called feng and the females huang. In modern times, however, such a distinction of gender is often no longer made and the feng and huang are blurred into a single feminine entity so that the bird can be paired with the Chinese dragon, which has male connotations. The fenghuang is also called the August Rooster (鶤雞 hùnjī). In the West, it is commonly referred to as the Chinese phoenix.


A common depiction was of it attacking snakes with its talons and its wings spread. The fenghuang is said to be made up of the beak of a cock, the face of a swallow, the forehead of a fowl, the neck of a snake, the breast of a goose, the back of a tortoise, the hindquarters of a stag and the tail of a fish. Its body symbolizes the six celestial bodies. The head is the sky, the eyes are the sun, the back is the moon, the wings are the wind, the feet are the earth, and the tail is the planets. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow.

Fenghuang, the Asian phoenix, has no connection with the phoenix of the western world. The images of the phoenix have appeared in China for over 7,000 years, often in jade and originally on good-luck totems. It is a totem of eastern tribes in ancient China. Current theories suggest that it may be a representation of a large pre-historic bird, similar to an ostrich, which were common in pre-historic China.

During the Han period (2,200 years ago) the phoenix was used as a symbol depicting the direction south, shown as a male (feng, 鳳) and female (凰) phoenix facing each other. It was also used to symbolize the Empress in a pairing with a dragon where the dragon represents the Emperor. It might come from the merging of eastern and western tribes of ancient China. The phoenix represented power sent from the heavens to the Empress. If a phoenix was used to decorate a house it symbolized that loyalty and honesty was in the people that lived there. Or alternatively, phoenix only stays when the ruling is without dark and corruption (政治清明).


The fenghuang has very positive connotations. It is a symbol of high virtue and grace. The fenghuang also symbolizes the union of yin and yang. It appears in peaceful and prosperous times but hides when trouble is near.

In ancient China, they can often be found in the decorations for weddings or royalty, along with dragons. This is because the Chinese considered the dragon and phoenix symbolic of blissful relations between husband and wife, another common yin and yang metaphor.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting ...

While I am interested in more traditional ways, a friend sent me this intriguing article about street fighting. The first page is posted here. If you'd like to read the whole article, you can either click on the title of this post, for follow the link below.

August 20, 2006
Chicken Soup for the Street Fighter

LAST November, William Graham was minding his own business on karaoke night at a sports bar near his home in Miami when things took a nasty turn. On the other side of the bar, he recalled, a drunk couple was arguing. The woman gave Mr. Graham a look, which her boyfriend apparently didn't appreciate. He approached Mr. Graham, 44, flicked a cigarette at him and challenged him to a fight.

Unfortunately for the aggressor, Mr. Graham is a passionate student of the art — scratch that — the act of street fighting. He owns approximately 20 DVD's and books on street fighting, many of them by the brawling guru Paul Vunak. One is perfectly suited for karaoke nights that get out of hand: "Anatomy of a Street Fight."

Mr. Graham recalled his training, and what happened next at the bar was not pretty. He first went in with his thumbs for an eye gouge before letting loose with a "straight blast," a flurry of driving blows to the midsection ("Bruce Lee's favorite," Mr. Graham said). The aggressor fell to the floor, at which point Mr. Graham applied a choke hold until security separated and dismissed the two — through separate doors. The whole episode lasted less than 20 seconds, Mr. Graham said. In the end, the aggressor was vanquished and Mr. Graham's manhood was intact, just as his videos had promised.

His opponent was in a state of disbelief after the fight, Mr. Graham said. "He thought we were going to do the whole boxing match thing. He wasn't ready for a poke in the eye and a 50-yard dash down the centerline."

If Mr. Graham decides to hone his technique by purchasing more instructional street fight videos, he won't lack for options. Once the purview of a few paranoiacs and survivalists, street fighting tutorials have proliferated through online retailers, driven largely, they say, by the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the Pride Fighting Championships, two televised no-holds-barred, mixed martial arts fighting leagues.

Don Wasser, the president of PFS Video, a company in Pennsylvania that has produced street fighting videos since 1991 — including Mr. Vunak's classic "Barbaric Biting: How to Instantly Get Out from Under a 250 lb. Man" — said sales of his company's street fighting videos had increased 50 percent in the last four years. He attributed that growth to fans of ultimate fighting, which has drawn a large audience through pay-per-view broadcasts, and more recently through the Spike TV series, "The Ultimate Fighters," which follows contestants as they train and compete.

"It was slow at the start," Mr. Wasser said of sales. "But in the last five or six years it has just exploded."

Mr. Wasser said most of his customers were not interested in spending a lot of time learning traditional martial arts in a dojo, or fighting academy. Instead, he said, they liked the idea of sitting on a sofa and picking up a couple of nasty out-of-the-box maneuvers, just in case they encountered some bullies in the real world.

Mr. Wasser said he thought of himself as being in the business of building confidence, and through customer surveys, he said he'd come to know his clients' psychology well.

"The guys who are playing football aren't looking for confidence — they've got it," he said. "It's the guys in the chess club who are looking for confidence."

Experts in personal security generally agree that getting into a fight is an extraordinarily bad idea. Lose and you may end up in the hospital; win and you may end up in jail or in court facing lawsuits. The prevalence of weapons these days adds to the danger, they said.

"You never want to engage somebody physically because you never know what you're up against," said Donald R. Henne, a former New York City police lieutenant and now a director at the security firm Kroll. He said he found the idea of street fight videos laughable.

"Those individuals who fight in ultimate fighting are highly trained athletes who work out constantly," he said. "It's like watching a video of how to fly an aircraft and taking a seat in a jumbo jet and saying, 'Yeah, I could fly this thing.' "

But Bruce Corrigan, a former marine who teaches fighting classes and stars in a video series for Mr. Wasser, said that customers for his videos followed a different creed: "Better tried by 12 than carried by 6," he said.

For more ...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New Karate BLog

I found a new blog which is focussed on old Okinawan Karate. You can either click on the title of this post or follow the links section over at the right to get there.

The author seems particularly interested in the history and personalities of his style of Okinawan Karate. He's a good writer, and his blog is well worth visiting.

Please pay him a visit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Scholar's Garden

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a website called "Chinapage." Click on the link for "Gardens" and you'll be directed to a page that explains briefly, the design of Chinese Gardens. By way of example, it has many links that discuss elements of a garden that was built on Staten Island, NY; the Scholar's Garden. There are links discussing the theory of the design, the elements involved, the interpretation, and so on.

If you have any interest at all in the way a proper garden is designed and constructed, this would be a very worthwhile link to follow.

Below is the text from the main page. Enjoy.

Traditional Chinese gardens go back almost 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty though most Scholar's Gardens date back to the more recent Ming and Qing dynasties.

A Scholar's Garden would have been built by a scholar or an administrator retiring from the emperor's court. It would have been an enclosed private garden always associated with a house which, in turn without its garden, would not have been considered whole.

This garden, designed and built by LAC, is enclosed by walls, a series of pavilions (eight in all), and covered walkways. These are all organized in an irregular manner to create in addition to the two major courtyards a series of six others of varying sizes.

The art of the Chinese garden is closely related to Chinese landscape painting - it is not a literal imitation of a natural landscape, but the capturing of its essence and spirit.

The parallel could be drawn to a Chinese hand scroll painting which as it unrolls, reveals a journey full of surprises and meditative pauses.

The enjoyment of the garden is both contemplative and sensual. It comes from making the most out of the experiences of everyday life, as such, architectural elements are always a part of a Scholar's Garden.

The painter's eye must be used to lay out the main architectural elements - the wall becomes the paper the rockery and plant are painted on. The structures playfully rise and fall, twist and turn and even "leave" the garden to take advantage of and even create a great variety of beautiful scenes.

To paraphrase the 15th century garden designer Ji Ching:

"The garden is created by the human hand, but should appear as if created by heaven."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nine Dragon Wall

A very popular tourist site in Beijing is this Nine-Dragon Wall in BaiHai Park. After hundreds of years, the colors of the ceramic tiles are just as brilliant.

The wall was built in 1756. It is 21m long, about 15m high and 1.2m thick. It is faced with 424 7-color ceramic tiles. At the center of the wall, there is a giant dragon, flanged by four dragons on each side. In addition to these nine large dragons, the wall is covered from edge to edge with many smaller dragons. In all, there are 635 dragons.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hurricane Katrina: No good deed goes unpunished.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article about how crime in Houston is going through the roof, and much of it is being attributed to New Orleans evacuees.

What follows are some comments by a guy who lives near Houston, then then Yahoo article he refers to:


Not only did the crime rate go up in Houston, TX (Harris County), but in areas close to us as well. On several instances schools in Beaumont had mass riots break out when Katrina "Evacuee" kids and Beaumont kids enaged in large scale fights. Don't get me wrong, the Beaumont kids doing the fighting were thugs too.

The other night on the news there was a story on a large apartment complex in Houston that the owners are having to sell because they can't afford to fix everything that the people (that they opened their doors to) broke or stole while living there. The conditions that some of these people, (term used loosley) left their apartments in was deplorable. Food, thrown around and mashed into the carpets, cigarette burns, missing sinks and appliances that were provided to help the "evacuees" adjust back to normal living was just the beginning of it.

Not to mention the robbery and assault rates that skyrocketed after our guests appeared. I really hated that the area I live in had to go through Hurricane Rita. It is never good to go through such devastation. It did provide one service to our community though, we got rid of about 85% of our Katrina evacuees. Hopefully the criminal justice system will do what it needs to with our most popular still remaining evacuees; their murder trials should be coming up soon.
Katrina victims blamed for Houston crime
By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 23 minutes ago

A letter to inmate No. 1352951 and a cell phone bill for $76.63, both found in a soggy New Orleans duplex ruined by Hurricane Katrina, led Louisiana bounty hunter James Martin to Texas.


It marked the seventh time since Katrina that Martin, whose pursuit of bail jumpers often begins with clues salvaged from abandoned New Orleans homes, has followed a trail to Texas.
"I don't think Texas really knows what they got," Martin said.

Katrina sent a lot of bad guys to Texas, as Houston is finding out.

Houston took in 150,000 evacuees — the most of any U.S. city — after Katrina struck on Aug. 29. Houston police believe the evacuees are partly responsible for a nearly 17.5 percent increase in homicides so far this year over the same period in 2005.

About 21 percent of Houston's 232 homicides through July 25 involved an evacuee as either a suspect or a victim, according to police, who attribute much of the bloodshed to fighting among rival New Orleans gang members.

"New Orleans allowed a lot of these guys to stay on the street for whatever reason or be picked up and released after 60 days," said Capt. Dale Brown, who oversees Houston's homicide division.

"Texas law, I don't want to say it's tougher, but we take these offenses very seriously."

Judge Robert Eckels, chief executive of Harris County, which includes Houston, said Katrina evacuees arrested in the Houston have cost the county's criminal justice system more than $18 million. In June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent $19.5 million to Houston to help pay for additional officers and overtime to police the city after Katrina.

The police and the Harris County sheriff's department said they have no figures on how many Katrina evacuees have been arrested. Houston police said misdemeanor and felony arrests overall actually dropped last fall from the same period a year earlier. But the sheriff's department reported a 41 percent increase in felony arrests in November from the year before.

"I think some saw (Katrina) as an opportunity," Martin's bounty-hunting partner, Michael Wright, said of evacuees who fled New Orleans with criminal records. "No one knows who they are over here."

Katrina evacuees received fair warning when they arrived in Houston. Days after the storm, Mayor Bill White went on television, flanked by Houston police, and welcomed Katrina's bedraggled survivors with a stern warning that a jail cell was waiting for anyone who crossed the line.

Evacuee Vincent Wilson, a leader of the Katrina Survivors Association, was impressed. He said that in New Orleans before Katrina, "everyone knows that if the jail's crowded you get a slap on the hand and get released."

Eckels predicted the county's worst guests will go home once their federal assistance dries up. And if many choose to stick around, the county will be ready: "We don't put up with it here. If you break the law, you're going to be prosecuted."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Aikido training tool

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to This site sells a unique training tool for aikido. Even if you're not an aikido practitioner, you have to see the demo. It's a very creative application of technology.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The 36 Strategies: #17 Toss out a glazed tile to draw a jade

Next to the Art of War by Sun Zi, the 36 Strategies is the most widely known work on strategy in Asia. Where the Art of War plainly lays out the major topics to be considered in discussing strategy, the 36 Strategies attempts to teach by induction, by giving 36 examples, in groups of six. Here is #17.

17. Toss out a glazed tile to draw a jade

You present something of superficial or apparent worth to induce another party to produce something of real worth.

The classic bait and switch comes to mind as an example of #17. This strategy is the basis of countless cons. It is almost human nature to try and get something for nothing (or very little).

How many times have you encountered something too good to be true, and you were right? That's a case of recognising #17.

I thought I'd take the opportunity now to provide some links to books which discuss the 36 Strategies. This is by no means comprehensive, but should provide a good place to start, when looking for more information on The 36 Strategies.

The Art of the Advantage by Kaihan Krippendorf

The 36 Strategies by Stefan Verstappen

More Than 36 Stratagems: A Systematic Classification Based On Basic Behaviours
by Douglas Tung

36 Strategies of the Chinese by Wee Chow Hou


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who Needs Fiction: Western Values Causing Mental Illness in Asia

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article.

Western values 'are causing mental illness'
From Leo Lewis in Tokyo

THE rapid spread of Western business practices in Japan has caused widespread mental illness and is responsible for a deepening demographic crisis, government officials say.
Statistics indicate that 60 per cent of workers suffer from “high anxiety” and that 65 per cent of companies report soaring levels of mental illness.

Meanwhile, the size of the Japanese population is shrinking, and for the first time the Government has acknowledged that the falling birth rate is linked to job-related factors.

Directors of the Japanese Mental Health Institute blame the same factors for rising levels of depression among workers and the country’s suicide rate, which remains the highest among rich nations.

Merit-based pay and promotion are of particular concern because they are at odds with the traditional system, built on seniority, that has reigned supreme in corporate Japan. In the harsh new atmosphere of cut-throat rivalry between workers, the Institute for Population and Social Security argues, young people do not feel financially stable enough to start families.

The trend is put down to Japanese companies’ attempts to globalise by adopting working practices more closely in line with US and British models. Larger numbers of temporary staff, a greater willingness to sack people and greater pay disparities are the downside.

A spokesman for the Mental Health Institute said that the emphasis on individual performance was driving Japanese workers — particularly those in their thirties — to mental turmoil. “People tend to be individualised under the new working patterns,” he said. “When people worked in teams they were happier.”

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Who needs fiction: Maurice Clarett

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the story.

Former OSU star Clarett arrested with guns in SUV after chase
By ANDY RESNIK, Associated Press WriterAugust 9, 2006
AP - Aug 9, 7:17 am EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Maurice Clarett was arrested early Wednesday after a highway chase that ended with police using Mace on the former Ohio State running back and finding four loaded guns in his sport utility vehicle.

Officers used Mace to subdue Clarett after a stun gun was ineffective because the former Fiesta Bowl star was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, Sgt. Michael Woods said.

"It took several officers to get him handcuffed," Woods said. "Even after he was placed in the paddy wagon, he was still kicking at the doors and being a problem for the officers."

Police planned to charge him with carrying concealed weapons and other counts, Woods said. He was taken to police headquarters to be interviewed, then was moved to the Franklin County Jail.
Wearing tan jail-issue clothes, he talked on the telephone in the booking area, separated from reporters by a window. He was to be held at the jail at least until an arraignment Thursday morning, unless his attorneys work out an agreement for his release, police said.

Clarett made an illegal U-turn on the city's east side and failed to stop when officers, in a cruiser with lights flashing, tried to pull him over, Woods said.

Police pursued Clarett onto eastbound Interstate 70 when he darted across the median and began heading west. Clarett drove over a spike strip that was placed on the highway, flattening the driver's side tires of the SUV.

Clarett exited the highway and pulled into a restaurant parking lot, where officers removed him from the SUV after he failed to obey numerous orders to exit the vehicle, Woods said.
After Clarett was placed in a police van, officers discovered a loaded rifle and three loaded handguns in the front of his vehicle.

Woods said he did not know where Clarett got the guns or why he had them, and that federal authorities plan to trace their ownership.

The 22-year-old Clarett is currently awaiting trial on two counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of robbery and one count of carrying a concealed weapon in a separate case. Authorities said he was identified by witnesses as the person who flashed a gun and robbed two people of a cell phone in an alley behind the Opium Lounge in Columbus in the early hours of Jan. 1.

Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday morning for Clarett's attorneys in that case, Nick Mango and Michael Hoague.

Clarett scored the winning touchdown in the second overtime of the Fiesta Bowl against Miami to lead Ohio State to the 2002 national championship, the school's first since 1968. But that was the last game the freshman played for Ohio State.

He sat out the 2003 season after being charged with misdemeanor falsification on a police report, then dropped out of school. He sued to be included in the 2004 NFL draft and lost in court.

A surprise third-round pick in the 2005 draft, he was cut by the Denver Broncos during the preseason.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Good fortune / bad fortune

An old daoist tale ...

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"We'll see," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"We'll see," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"We'll see," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"We'll see" said the farmer.

Finally, a cool evening

A cool evening. A full moon. A campfire.

Around, doing
Nothing, on the patio
Under a full moon, at nearly

Monday, August 07, 2006

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #18 ON CLIMBING ORCHID MOUNTAIN

The Tang Dynasty was a Golden Age of culture in ancient China. Poetry was especially esteemed. No occasion, no homecoming or leavetaking, no celebration, was considered beneath having a poem composed for it. A famous anthology of Tang poems can be accessed by clicking on the title of this post. In the meantime, here is number 18.

Meng Haoran


On a northern peak among white clouds
You have found your hermitage of peace;
And now, as I climb this mountain to see you,
High with the wildgeese flies my heart.
The quiet dusk might seem a little sad
If this autumn weather were not so brisk and clear;
I look down at the river bank, with homeward-bound villagers
Resting on the sand till the ferry returns;
There are trees at the horizon like a row of grasses
And against the river's rim an island like the moon
I hope that you will come and meet me, bringing a basket of wine --
And we'll celebrate together the Mountain Holiday.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Tiger of Kai


These characters adorned the war banners of Takeda Shingen, the Tiger of Kai, in 16th century Japan. The four characters represent his motto:

Swift as the Wind
Silent as the Forest
Fierce as Fire
Immovable as a Mountain

Below is the Wikipedia article on Shingen. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to that page, where you'll find more links, etc.

Takeda Shingen (武田信玄, Takeda Shingen?)(December 1, 1521May 13, 1573) of Shinano and Kai Provinces, was a preeminent daimyo who fought for control of Japan during that country's Sengoku or "warring states" period.]

Note on the name

Takeda Shingen was born under the name of "Takeda Katsuchiyo". He took the name of "Takeda Harunobu" at his coming of age ceremony, and in the year of 1551 changed his name once again, this time to the well-known "Takeda Shingen". This article will note such name changes, but will primarily be using the name of "Takeda Shingen" to help avoid any confusion on the issue.

Shingen is sometimes referred to as "The Tiger of Kai" (Kai being the Takeda home province) due to his fearsome martial art skills on the battlefield. His rival, Uesugi Kenshin, was often called "The Dragon of Echigo". Shingen and Kenshin had always been interested in Chinese culture, especially the works of Sun Tzu; in Chinese mythology, the Dragon and Tiger have always been bitter rivals who try to defeat one another, but they always fight to a draw.


Born Takeda Katsuchiyo, he was the eldest son of Takeda Nobutora, an impressive warlord. He helped his father in many of the older Takeda's undertakings, and became quite valuable in the clan at a fairly young age. However, at some point in his life following his "coming of age" ceremony (where he changed his name to Takeda Harunobu) the young man rebelled against his father and took control of the Takeda clan. The events surrounding this change of leadership are not entirely clear, but it is speculated for the most part that his father had planned to name the second son, Takeda Nobushige, as his heir instead of Shingen. However, regardless of the reasons, the end result was the father being forcibly retired from his position (though it is not believed he was killed or forced to commit seppuku, as this event has been cited as a "bloodless coup") and Shingen taking control of the Takeda. Imagawa Yoshimoto helped him in this rebellion and an alliance was formed between the Imagawa and Takeda families.]

Initial Expansion

Shingen's first act was to gain a hold of the area around him. His goal was to conquer Shinano Province. A number of the major daimyos in the Shinano region marched on the border of Kai, hoping to neutralize the still-young Shingen's power before he had a chance to expand into their lands. However, planning to beat him down at Fuchu (where word had it Shingen was gathering his forces for a stand), they were unprepared when Takeda forces suddenly came down upon them at Sezawa. Taking advantage of their confusion, Shingen was able to score a quick victory, which set the stage for his drive into Shinano lands that same year. The young warlord made considerable advances into the region, conquering the Suwa headquarters of Kuwabara before moving into central Shinano with the defeat of both Tozawa Yorichika and Takato Yoritsugu. However, the warlord was checked at Uehara by Murakami Yoshikiyo, losing two of his generals in a heated battle in which Murakami came out on top. Shingen managed to avenge this loss and the Murakami clan was eventually defeated. Murakami fled the region, eventually coming to plead help from the Uesugi clan.

After he had conquered Shinano, Shingen (who had changed his name to this in 1551) faced another rival - Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo. The feud between these two became almost legendary, and they faced each other on the battlefield a total of five times at Kawanakajima (years: 1554, 1555, 1557, 1561, 1564). These "battles" were generally confined to controlled skirmishes, neither daimyo willing to devote themselves entirely to a single all-out attempt. The one conflict between the two that had the fiercest fighting, and might have decided victory or defeat for one side or the other, was the fourth such battle. It was in this fourth contest that the famous tale was formed of Uesugi Kenshin's forces clearing a path through the Takeda troops and Kenshin engaging Shingen in single combat. The tale has Kenshin attacking Shingen with his sword while Shingen defends with his iron war fan or gunpai. Both lords lost a considerable number of men in this fight, and Shingen in particular was deprived of two of his main generals, Yamamoto Kansuke and his younger brother Takeda Nobushige.]

Pause in Growth

Around this time period, the Takeda clan suffered two setbacks within the group itself. Shingen uncovered two plots on his life, the first from his cousin Katanuma Nobumoto (whom he ordered to commit seppuku), and the second, a few years later, from his own son Takeda Yoshinobu. His son was confined to the Tokoji, where he died two years later. It is uncertain as to whether his death was natural or ordered by his father. This left Takeda Shingen, for the moment, without an heir. However, he later had more sons, and it was actually his fourth who would take control of the Takeda clan after his death.

By 1564, after he had completely defeated the Shinano region and taken a number of castles from his rival the Uesugi clan, Shingen kept his realm fairly contained, contenting himself to a number of small raids and mostly internal affairs. During this time he ordered the damming project of the Fuji River, which was one of the major domestic activities of the time.]

Renewed Expansion

After Imagawa Yoshimoto (a former ally of the Takeda) was killed by Oda Nobunaga, Shingen made a move against the weak Imagawa under the incompetent leadership of Yoshimoto's son, Imagawa Ujizane. A pact is believed to have been formed between Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu for control of the remaining Imagawa lands, and they both fought against Yoshimoto's heir. However, the agreement between the Takeda and Tokugawa forces quickly fell through, and after the Imagawa were no longer an issue, Shingen made a move against Ieyasu.]

Final Conflict

The future of all of Japan was now in the balance, as Takeda Shingen, at 49 years of age, was the one daimyo with the power, position, and skill necessary to stop Oda Nobunaga's headlong rush to ruling the land of Japan. He engaged Tokugawa forces in 1572 and captured Futamata, and then stepped forward once again in January at Mikata-ga-hara. At Mikata-ga-hara, Takeda Shingen easily defeated the combined armies of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu; but he could not defeat old age. After defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shingen actually checked his forward momentum for a small time due to outside influences, and Ieyasu was given a brief reprieve. Surprisingly, as he started pressing forward once again in 1573, Takeda Shingen died (scholars are divided as to whether this was due to illness or a festering wound from a sniper).]

After Death

Takeda Katsuyori took control of the Takeda. Katsuyori was ambitious and desired to continue the legacy of his father. He moved on to take Tokugawa forts. However an allied force of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga dealt a crushing blow to the Takeda in the Battle of Nagashino. Here Oda Nobunaga's gunmen destroyed the Takeda cavalry. Ieyasu seized the opportunity and defeated the weak Takeda led by Takeda Katsuyori in the battle of Tenmokuzan. Katsuyori committed suicide after the battle, and the Takeda clan would never recover.

Upon Shingen's death, Kenshin reportedly cried at the loss of one of his strongest and most deeply respected rivals. Perhaps one of the most lasting tributes to Shingen's prowess, however, was Tokugawa Ieyasu himself, who is known to have later borrowed heavily from the old Takeda leader's governmental and military innovations after he had taken leadership of Kai during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's rise to power. Many of these designs were put to use in the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The Takeda were for the most part utterly destroyed by the loss of Shingen's heir, Katsuyori. However Shingen had had a profound effect on the period in Japan. He influenced many lords with his law system, tax system and administration system. He was probably not as cruel as other warlords, but he was aggressive toward military enemies. There were many tales about Takeda Shingen including the one mentioned above. His war banner contained the famous phrase Fuu-Rin-Ka-Zan(風林火山), taken from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War.' This phrase refers to the idea of Swift as the Wind, Silent as a Forest, Fierce as Fire and Immovable as a Mountain.

The phrase demonstrates both Shingen's policies and warfare strategy.]


During Edo period, 24 retainers who served under Shingen were chosen as a popular topic for Ukiyo-e and Bunraku. The names vary from work to work and the following list is the widely agreed version of retainers. They had not worked together as some had died before others served but they were noted for their exceptional contributions to Shingen and the Takeda family.

Of his retainers, Kōsaka Masanobu stands out as being one of Shingen's better known beloveds, in the style of the Japanese shudo tradition. The two entered into the relationship when Shingen was twenty two and Masanobu sixteen. The love pact signed by the two, in Tokyo University's Historical Archive, documents Shingen's pledge that he was not, nor had any intentions of entering into, a sexual relationship with a certain other retainer, and asserts that "since I want to be intimate with you" he will in no way harm the boy, and calls upon the gods to be his guarantors. (Leupp, pp.53-54)

Takeda Nobushige
Takeda Nobukado
Ichijo Nobutatsu
Itagaki Nobukata
Amari Torayasu
Yokota Takatoshi
Obu Toramasa
Hara Toratane
Obata Toramori
Obata Masamori
Yamamoto Haruyuki
Tada Mitsuyori
Yamagata Masakage
Baba Nobuharu
Naito Masatoyo
Kōsaka Masanobu
Sanada Yukitaka
Sanada Nobutsuna
Anayama Nobukimi
Oyamada Nobushige
Akiyama Nobutomo
Hara Masatane
Saegusa Moritomo
Tsuchiya Masatsugu
Sanada Yukimura

Takeda Shingen in fiction and drama

The 1988 NHK Taiga drama television series Takeda Shingen was a fictionalized account of his life with Nakai Kiichi in the title role. Akira Kurosawa's 1980 movie Kagemusha was also inspired by his life; it brought the musket-wound theory to public attention outside Japan.
Takeda Shingen appears in Toshiro Mifune's historical movie Samurai Banners (風林火山 Furin Kazan). The film is a depiction of the life of Shingen advisor Yamamoto Kansuke from 1545-1562. In this movie it is suggested that it was Kansuke's idea for Shingen to marry Lady Biwa.
Takeda Shingen appears in the epic film Heaven and Earth (not to be confused with Oliver Stone's Vietnam war drama), seen from Uesugi Kenshin's point of view. The movie is mainly about the fourth battle of Kawanakajima.

In the Japanese science-fiction movie Sengoku Jieitai, in English also known as Time Slip and G.I. Samurai (1979), a group of Japanese Defese Force soldiers, who are stranded in the 16th century by a freak timeshift, take on his forces. Takeda Shingen is subsequently killed in a duel with the soldiers' leader, Lieutenant Iba (performed by Sonny Chiba).

Takeda Shingen is the main character in the NES game Shingen the Ruler, and his conquests are also portrayed in the PC game, Takeda.

Shingen also appears as a character in the Samurai Warriors game series for the PlayStation 2. It is notable that in this game, Shingen's weapon is a large war fan, probably taken from accounts of the fourth battle of Kawanakajima.

Takeda Shingen also appears, although briefly, in Kessen 3. His depiction is as somewhat overconfident, but as a great warrior and strategist, well respected by his officers and foes alike. He is one of the few enemies one faces in the game who is not shown as a tyrant or a fool. His son, however, is shown as a stubborn and hotheaded warrior who tramples over his father's dying advice, and pays dearly for it.

Takeda Shingen appears many times as a playable Daimyo in Nobunaga's Ambition (信長の野望 Nobunaga no Yabo) video game series. The game is a strategy simulation in which Shingen character attribute "Intelligence" and "Politic" skills are quite high, while Kenshin "War" skill is slightly higher than Shingen.

The Takeda Clan also appears as one of the many warring clans in the game Shogun: Total War, the first of the four games in the Total War series. Players may choose to take command of this clan (or any other clan) and fight against other clans for the title of Shogun and the right to rule all of Japan.

Takeda Shingen is a playable character in Sengoku Basara. His depiction is a somewhat huge warrior wielding a huge, flaming axe resembling his war fan. In Devil Kings he is renamed as Red Minotaur.

In the Street Fighter series, Ansatsuken fighters Ryu and Ken Masters have the Japanese Kanji Fuurinkazan on their belts. In Ryu's stage on Street Fighter II, there were breakable signs with the aforementioned slogan on them on both ends of the stage.]

External links

Samurai Archives- Takeda Shingen The website of Samurai Author and Historian Anthony J. Bryant
The website of Takeda family martial arts

The festival in Japan

The Takeda Shingen festival takes place in Kofu across the first weekend every April. Usually a famous Japanese TV actor is hired to play the part of Takeda Shingen himself. There are several parades going to and from the Takeda Shrine and Kofu Castle. These parades are very theatrical involving serious re-enactors who practice over the course of the rest of the year for this one weekend in April. The parades reflect the different comings and goings of Takeda Shingen during his life.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another Chinese Garden

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article, which contains more pictures.

Chinese Garden Preview
Aug. 5, 2006 to Feb. 2007

Beginning Aug. 5, the public will have the opportunity to visit the Chinese Garden, when the site is opened for a six-month preview period while still a “work in progress.” Visitors will be able to stroll around the 1.5-acre lake bordered by craggy Tai Hu rocks and enjoy a landscape that includes five hand-carved stone bridges, a stream, and a canyon waterfall, set against a backdrop of mature oaks, camellias, and pines. In the months ahead, many plants native to China will be added as the landscape is developed.

Viewing the garden in this initial state will give visitors a sense of what’s to come. Foundations are already in place for the structures that will be built around the lake: pavilions, covered walkways, a tea shop, teahouse, and “poetic views” in the tradition of Suzhou-style scholar gardens.

The lake area will close again after the Lunar New Year in February 2007 so that construction can begin on the pavilions. Once complete, the lake and pavilions will comprise the “Summer Garden,” the first five acres of a planned 12-acresite. The Summer Garden is expected to open in fall 2008.

The preview coincides with the exhibition “Chrysanthemums on the Eastern Hedge:Gardens and Plants in Chinese Art,” opening Aug. 5 and continuing through Jan. 7, 2007. Organized by Chinese art historian June Li, curator of the Chinese Garden, the show will provide an overview of the decorative use and stylized motifs of botanical specimens in Chinese art. Painted scrolls, woodblock prints, porcelain and other objects from the 10th to the 18th centuries will be on view. The show, sponsored in part by Cathay Bank, is the first example of how the Chinese Garden will integrate with other institutional endeavors. The Chinese Garden will fundamentally serve as a cultural center and platform for education and research, a place for people throughout Southern California and the world to understand the cultural richness of Chinese gardens.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Taiji versus Sumo

What I have below is a post from a taiji mailing list that I'm on. It describes an exhibition that recently took place in China, were a 95 kg taiji player took part in a pushing contest with a 223 kg Sumo wrestler.

Yes, it was an exhibition and not a real fight. You might look at the pictures and decide that the taiji player wasn't using perfect form. You might say that the taiji player had the advantage of technique. But Sumo isn't all hard; it's hard and soft, with plenty of soft and timing techniques. Sumo is after all essentially about pushing your opponent out of the ring. However you want to pick nits, at the end of the day, the taiji player gave up 128 kg, which is over 250 lbs. I think this is a remarkable feat.

If you click on the title of this post, or follow the link below, you'll be directed to the original article in Chinese. I'll have to rely on one of my Chinese literate friends to translate, but at that website, there are more pictures of this exhibition.

The sumo wrestler was the first foreign grand champion in Japan (his name is "Akebono" and his rank was "yokozuna") although he's retired from sumo right now he has fought in K-1 and Dynamite tournaments in Japan. He's not some pug. He was at one time, at the top of the Sumo world.

There is a video at:

Have a look.

Until now I have never thought it is possible that a Tai chi practitioner pushes with a Sumo wrestler. But it did happen on 10 June this year. A top Sumo wrestler visited China and did “push-hands” with Wang Zhan-jun, a Taiji push-hands champion.

The competition was for four rounds. The rule was that the participants stands and pushes each other. Whoever moves his feet loses.

The wrestler was 2.03m tall and weight 223kg. and Wangwas 1.8m tall and weighed 95 kg.

The competition was filmed on He-Nan TV and Fuji TV.

The competitors tried each other out before the formal competition began.When the competition started, the Sumo wrestler grabbed Wang’s arms and pushed at Wang’s chest. Wang neutralized, discharged power and sent his opponent off balance. This was the first round.

In the following 3 round, the wrestler could not any advantage and conceded that Wang was better at pushing.Photos of the competition can be seen on this site:

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Cats' Martial Arts Assemby

The Cat's Martial Arts Assembly
Taisen Deshimaru
From "The Zen Way to the Martial Arts", Penguin/Arkanai.

Two hundred years ago in Japan, before the Meiji storation, there was a kendo master named Shoken, whose home was infested by a huge rat. This is a different cat-and-rat story, and it is called "The cats' martial arts assembly."

Every night this big rat came to Shoken's house and kept him awake. He had to do his sleeping by day. He consulted a friend of his who kept cats, a sort of cat trainer. Shoken said, "Lend me your best cat."

The cat trainer lent him an alley cat, extremely quick and adept at rat-catching, with stout claws and farspringing muscles. But when he came face to face with the rat in the room, the rat stood his ground and the cat had to turn tail and run. There was decidedly something very special about that rat.

Shoken then borrowed a second cat, a ginger one, with a terrific ki and an aggressive personality. This second cat stood his ground, so it and the rat fought; but the rat got the best of it and the cat beat a hasty retreat.

A third cat was procured and pitted against the rat-- this one was black and white--but it could no more overcome the rat than the other two.

Shoken then borrowed yet another cat, the fourth; it was black, and old, and not stupid, but not so strong as the alley cat or the ginger cat. It walked into the room. The rat stared at it awhile, then moved forward. The black cat sat down, very collected, and remained utterly motionless. A tiny doubt flitted through the rat. He edged a little closer and a little closer; he was just a little bit afraid. Suddenly the cat caught him by the neck and killed him and dragged him away.

Then Shoken went to see his cat-training friend and said to him, "How many times have I chased that rat with my wooden sword, but instead of my hitting him he would scratch me; why was your black cat able to get the best of him?"

The friend said, "What we should do is call a meeting and ask the cats themselves. You're a kendo master, so you ask the questions; I'm pretty certain they understand all about martial arts."

So there was an assembly of cats, presided over by the black cat which was the oldest of them all. The alley cat took the floor and said, "I am very strong."

The black cat asked, "Then why didn't you win?"

The alley cat answered, "Really, I am very strong; I know hundreds of different techniques for catching rats. My claws are stout and my muscles far-springing. But that rat was no ordinary rat."

The black cat said, "So your strength and your techniques aren't equal to those of the rat. Maybe you do have a lot of muscles and a lot of wasa, but skill alone was not enough. No way!"

Then the ginger cat spoke: "I am enormously strong, I am constantly exercising my ki and my breathing through zazen. I live on vegetables and rice soup and that's why I have so much energy. But I too was unable to overcome that rat. Why?"

The old black cat answered, "Your activity and energy are great indeed, but that rat was beyond your energy; you are weaker than that big rat. If you are attached to your ki, proud of it, it becomes like so much flab. Your ki is just a sudden surge, it cannot last, and all that is left is a furious cat. Your ki could be compared to water pouring from a faucet; but that of the rat is like a great geyser. That's why the rat is stronger than you. Even if you have a strong ki, in reality it is weak because you have too much confidence in yourself."

Next came the turn of the black-and-white cat, which had also been defeated. He was not so very strong, but he was intelligent. He had satori, he had finished with wasa and spent all his time practicing zazen. But he was not mushotoku (that is, without any goal or desire for profit), and so he too had to run for his life.

The black cat told him, "You're extremely intelligent, and strong, too. But you couldn't beat the rat because you had an object, so the rat's intuition was more effective than yours. The instant you walked into the room it understood your attitude and state of mind, and that's why you could not overcome it. You were unable to harmonize your strength, your technique, and your active consciousness; they remained separate instead of blending into one.

"Whereas I, in a single moment, used all three faculties unconsciously, naturally and automatically, and that is how I was able to kill the rat.

"But I know a cat, in a village not far from here, that is even stronger than I am. He is very, very old and his whiskers are all gray. I met him once, and there's certainly nothing strong-looking about him! He sleeps all day. He never eats meat or even fish, nothing but rice soup, although sometimes he does take a drop of sake. And he has never caught a single rat because they're all scared to death of him and scatter like leaves in the wind. They keep so far away that he has never had a chance to catch even one. One day he went into a house that was positively overrun with rats; well, every rat decamped on the instant and went to live in some other house. He could chase them away in his sleep. This old graybeard cat really is mysterious and impressive.

You must become like him: beyond posture, beyond breathing, beyond consciousness."

For Shoken, the kendo master, this was a great lesson.

In zazen, you are already beyond posture, beyond breathing, beyond consciousness.