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 ~

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

300 Tang dynasty Poems: #22 After Missing the Recluse On The Western Mountain

The Tang Dynasy was a golden age of culture in China. Poetry was especially esteemed. Some of the very best from that era was gathered into a famous anthology, The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title ofthis post, you'll be directed to an online version. Below is #22. Enjoy.

Qiu Wei

To your hermitage here on the top of the mountain
I have climbed, without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door, and no one answered;
I have peeped into your room, at your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out riding in your canopied chair,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.

Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation --
The beauty of your grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside your window the music of your pines.
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not reasoned a visit complete?
...After enough, I have gone down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

Monday, March 19, 2007


Below is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times about how indigenous ethnic languages in China are falling out of use, and in some cases, becoming extinct.

What I thought was especially poignant about this particular story is that the language in focus is Manchu. The Manchus once ruled China as the Qing Dynasty. You can learn more about the Qing Dynasty here:

I am reminded of a couple of quotes. Thoreau said "you don't gain something, but you lose something."

The opening sentence in the Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms:

"Under Heaven, kingdoms cleave together and fall asunder. It has been this way since antiquity."

So it is. Who conquers whom? Only time tells.

Chinese Village Struggles to Save Dying Language

Seated cross-legged in her farmhouse on the kang, a brick sleeping platform warmed by a fire below, Meng Shujing lifted her chin and sang a lullaby in Manchu, softly but clearly.
After several verses, Ms. Meng, a 82-year-old widow, stopped, her eyes shining.
“Baby, please fall asleep quickly,” she said, translating a few lines of the song into Chinese. “Once you fall asleep, Mama can go to work. I need to set the fire, cook and feed the pigs.”
“If you sing like this, a baby gets sleepy right away,” she said.
She also knows that most experts believe the day is approaching when no child will doze off to the sound of the song’s comforting words.
Ms. Meng is one of 18 residents of this isolated village in northeastern China, all over 80 years old, who, according to Chinese linguists and historians, are the last native speakers of Manchu.
Descendants of seminomadic tribesmen who conquered China in the 17th century, they are the last living link to a language that for more than two and a half centuries was the official voice of the Qing dynasty, the final imperial house to rule from Beijing and one of the richest and most powerful empires the world has known.
With the passing of these villagers, Manchu will also die, experts say. All that will be left will be millions of documents and files — about 60 tons of Manchu-language documents are in the provincial archive in Harbin alone — along with inscriptions on monuments and important buildings in China, unintelligible to all but a handful of specialists.
“I think it is inevitable,” said Zhao Jinchun, an ethnic Manchu born in Sanjiazi who taught at the village primary school for more than two decades before becoming a government official in Qiqihar, a city about 30 miles to the south. “It is just a matter of time. The Manchu language will face the same fate as some other ethnic minority languages in China and be overwhelmed by the Chinese language and culture.”

Friday, March 16, 2007


Below is an excerpt from a book review in The New Yorker. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full review.

The book reviewed, The Last Duel: A True Story of Death and Honour, by James Landale, is at Amazon right here -

Other books you might find of interest are The Secret History of the Sword, by J. Christoph Amberger - and

By the Sword, by Richard Cohen -

En Garde!
The history of duelling.
by Arthur Krystal March 12, 2007

Duelling codes, though intended to curb violence, may only have ritualized it.

On the night of June 10, 1804, Alexander Hamilton seated himself at his desk in his home in upper Manhattan to finish a letter explaining why the following morning would find him in Weehawken, New Jersey, pointing a flintlock pistol at Vice-President Aaron Burr. He began by listing five moral, religious, and practical objections to duelling, but ruefully concluded, seven paragraphs later, that “what men of the world denominate honor” made it impossible for him to “decline the call.” Burr had placed him in an untenable position. If Hamilton ignored the challenge, Burr would “post” him—that is, publish his refusal in the newspapers—and his political career would effectively be ruined. The next morning, Hamilton had himself rowed across the Hudson.
“If we were truly brave, we should not accept a challenge; but we are all cowards,” a friend of Hamilton’s said after his death. He was thinking not only of Hamilton but of all men in public life whose reputations were at the mercy of political rivals and incendiary journalism. As Joanne B. Freeman makes plain in “Affairs of Honor” (2001), Hamilton and Burr belonged to a class for whom no public offense could go unchallenged even if one felt no personal outrage. Hamilton, too, had issued challenges and seconded other men—one way or another, he had been involved in more than ten “affairs of honor”—while Burr had been party to three duels, including one where he actually took the field. Neither of them was an exception among the Founding Fathers.
Button Gwinnet, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, died of wounds received in a duel; and James Monroe refrained from challenging John Adams only because Adams was President at the time. Some years later, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay took part in duels, and even the young Abraham Lincoln came very close to a sword fight with James Shields, a fellow-Illinoisan who eventually became a Union general.
Duelling is an anachronism, of course. This is true because it may still crop up. In 1954, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to a duel in Cuba, but declined. In 1967, two French politicians literally crossed swords in Neuilly. And four years ago a Peruvian legislator challenged his nation’s Vice-President to meet him on a beach near Lima. No one anticipates such shenanigans at Buckingham Palace, but the Queen, as it happens, still retains an official champion who stands ready to challenge anyone who disputes her sovereignty.
This rather daunting fact turns up in James Landale’s “The Last Duel: A True Story of Death and Honor” (Canongate; $24). Landale, a correspondent for the BBC, is descended from one of the two men who fought the last recorded fatal duel on Scottish soil. Relying on a trial transcript, newspaper accounts, bank documents, and the correspondence of the duellists, Landale elegantly reconstructs the circumstances that forced his ancestor David Landale, at the mature age of thirty-nine, to challenge his former banker, George Morgan. David Landale, a linen merchant from the coastal town of Kirkcaldy, just north of Edinburgh, was, if anything, more reluctant than Hamilton to pick up a pistol; he didn’t even own one. But the code of honor extended to wherever men conducted business, and honor dictated that Landale challenge Morgan. The two met in a field on the morning of August 23, 1826; only one left the spot alive.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I found the following at a blog entitled My Zen Life. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed there.

the day is now ended.
our lives are shorter.
now we look carefully.
what have we done?

noble sangha,
with all of our heart,
let us be diligent,
engaging in the practice.
let us live deeply,
free from our afflictions,
aware of impermanence
so that life does not
drift away without meaning.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What do you do?

I heard from a friend today, who is having a lot going on. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of useful things to say. When I got home, I thought of this Zen parable. It somehow seemed appropriate.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a page loaded with Zen koans and stories.

Buddha told a parable in sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

Monday, March 05, 2007


What follows is an excerpt from an article in the LA Times about the Santa Ana Museum. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article.s

Bowers' new space conquest
Chinese art from several millenniums and photographs by Ansel Adams inaugurate a wing at the Santa Ana museum.

By Scarlet Cheng

Special to The Times

February 16, 2007

Seven years ago, Anne Shih was visiting the Shanghai Museum, a stronghold of Chinese art and antiquities, when she tossed out a suggestion to Director Chen Xiejun: What about an exhibition loan to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, where Shih is a board member? All right, she remembers Chen saying, if you can build a new space to house the show, we'll arrange it.

Today, not only is that new space built — 30,000 square feet at a cost of $15 million — but "Treasures From Shanghai: 5000 Years of Chinese Art and Culture" highlights its opening Sunday, the first day of the Chinese new year. A photography exhibition, "Ansel Adams: Classic Images," inaugurates a second gallery in the new wing.

On Main Street in Santa Ana, the Dorothy and Donald Kennedy wing spans half a block in glass, metal accents and a cladding of troweled plaster painted to match the existing architecture. The city opened the original Spanish-style museum in 1936 to feature Orange County history. In 1992, the Bowers reopened after an extensive remodeling that greatly expanded the facility, and it broadened its mission to showing a wide variety of art and artifacts. Bowers President Peter C. Keller pushed for the latest expansion, both to gain more exhibition space and to improve existing facilities. To pay for it, the museum obtained $4 million in state funding, with most of the remainder coming from private sources, including $2 million from benefactors Dorothy and Donald Kennedy. The latter is First American Corp. chairman emeritus and chairman of the Bowers' board of governors.

As of Sunday, museum admission, except for students, seniors and children younger than 5, will become uniformly $17 on weekdays and $19 on weekends — eliminating a general admission fee of $5. The latter was only for viewing a few permanent collections anyway, says Keller. "We're trying to simplify matters," he adds.

The new wing was designed by Robert R. Coffee Architect + Associates of Newport Beach. "We wanted to use materials that were compatible and more or less carried forward what was done in the past," Coffee said during a walk-through of the space last week as workers were still adding display cases and other finishing touches. "There was an effort to give an updated image, that we're moving into a new century and the museum is making a great transition."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lion Dancing

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a slide show about Lion Dancing. Be sure to have the volume on. Below are some excerpts from the page on "Lion Dance" :
Lion dance (Traditional Chinese: 舞獅; pinyin: wǔshī) is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture, in which performers mimic the lion's movements in a lion costume.

The lion costume may be operated by a single dancer, but rarely is, or by a pair of dancers. The single dancer springs about while energetically moving and shaking the head and operating the jaws and eyes. The pair of dancers, forming the back and fore legs of the beast is seen perfected in the exhibitions of Chinese acrobats, with the two dancers forming as a team the motions of a single animal as they move between platforms of varying elevations. The dance is traditionally accompanied by gongs, drums and firecrackers, representing the descent of good luck.
The lion is traditionally regarded as a guardian creature in many Asian cultures. It is featured in Buddhist lore, being the mount of Manjusri. The lion dance is performed in many Asian cultures including mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam amongst others, with each country possessing their own distinct styles and purposes.
The lion dance is especially popular with the Chinese cultures, having a history of close to a thousand years. There are a number of Chinese lion dance styles but the two most popular Chinese lion dance styles are the northern and southern lion dance. Northern dance has origins stemming from the northern parts of China where it was used as entertainment for the imperial court. The northern lion is usually red, orange, and yellow in colour (sometimes with green fur for the female lion), is shaggy in appearance, with a golden head. The northern dance is very acrobatic and is mainly performed as entertainment.

The southern lion dance is more symbolic in nature. It is usually performed as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The southern lion exhibits a wide variety of colour and has a distinctive head with large eyes, a mirror on the forehead, and a single horn at center of the head.
The Lion Dance is often confused with the Chinese Dragon Dance, which features a team of around ten or more dancers. The Lion Dance, however, consists of two people at one time. Though, the "Head" and "Tail" of the Lion may be substituted by additional dancers during the performance.