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, July 31, 2007

Whither the Dragon?

Below is an excerpt from a newspaper article on the legacy of Bruce Lee. You can read the complete article by clicking on the title of this post.

Whither the dragon?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The death of Bruce Lee 34 years ago left a gaping hole in the Asian pop culture continuum -- one that no star has been able to successfully fill since. Jeff Yang talks to filmmaker Justin Lin and the stars of his new film "Finishing the Game" to discuss the Dragon's deep impact and lasting legacy

Death causes some people to vanish from sight; others, it makes immortal. Bruce Lee, the man they called the Dragon, unquestionably belongs to the latter category. Lee passed out of the living world into legend 34 years ago this month; the cause of his death on July 20, 1973 was labeled "misadventure" by medical examiners, "assassination" by conspiracy theorists, and "mystical curse" by even wilder conspiracy theorists. Strangest still are those who maintain, as with Lee's childhood idol Elvis Presley, that the Dragon faked his demise and still walks the Earth today, watching the carnival surrounding his legacy with a combination of pride, amusement, and consternation.

In recent years, that carnival has attained a Cirque du Soleil level of surreality. Until the project was finally staked through the heart this January, Rob Cohen (director of the Bruce Lee biopic "Dragon") was intent on resurrecting Lee in a film called "Rage and Fury," featuring a fully CGI "digital actor." Meanwhile, Lee's ancestral village, the town of Shunde in China's Guangdong Province, is constructing a "Home of the Dragon" amusement park, featuring an on-site martial arts academy, a roller coaster with Lee's scream as soundtrack, and dozens of roaming audioanimatronic "Brucebots" patrolling the grounds. And David Bowie and David Henry Hwang are reportedly collaborating on a Bruce Lee musical, bound for Broadway in 2008.

Of course, for Asian Americans, the funhouse aspect of living in the P.B.L. (Post-Bruce Lee) era has always been apparent. We revere the man for his unique stature as one of the small pantheon of folk heroes to our name; the San Francisco-born, Seattle-buried Lee is undoubtedly the best known and best-loved Asian American in history. Yet there's also a level of angst and resentment at how his mythic status has defined how the world sees us, especially those of us who are males.

That ambivalence is a powerful theme of Justin Lin's "Finishing the Game," a darkly comic mockumentary purporting to tell what happened when Hollywood decided to try to complete Lee's final, unfinished work, "Game of Death," using a double to replace its deceased superstar. The film, due out in October from IFC films, is an homage, and a loving one. But it's also a critique -- not so much of Lee the man, but of the Rube Goldberg apparatus that his life and death set in motion, as Lin and his cast said in a conversation I had with them on the day after the 34th anniversary of Lee's transfiguration.

"Like a lot of Asian American guys, I had a love-hate relationship with Bruce," says Sung Kang, whose character in the film, Cole Kim, is a self-styled "country boy" hoping to break into Hollywood as Bruce's stand-in. "I admired what he could do physically, but I grew up in the South, and the only experience every kid in my school had with Asians was kung fu cinema. The first question they'd ask me was always, 'Do you know kung fu?' And if I said no, they'd pound me. That's when I started becoming an actor. I realized, 'Hey, if I pretend I know this stuff, maybe they won't pound on me every day.'"

Anyone familiar with the real-life "Game of Death" knows that in one of its most mind-boggling scenes, Bruce Lee's stand-in looks at his reflection in the mirror, and -- in a low-tech attempt at preserving the illusion that he's Lee -- the filmmakers cut to a cardboard cut-out of his face pasted onto the mirror's surface. From a metaphorical standpoint, every time any Asian American guy looks into a mirror, we see that cardboard cut-out of Bruce Lee's face, staring back out at us.

The Game of Life

"It's easy to put on a show and be cocky, to feel pretty cool. I could make all kinds of phony things, I could show you really fancy movements. But to express myself honestly, to not lie to myself ... that, my friend, is very hard to do. You have to train, you have to keep your reflexes, so that when you want them they're there. When you want to move, when you're determined to move [you have to be ready] to take not one inch less."

-- Bruce Lee, the "lost interview," "The Pierre Berten Show," 1973

So, let's play a game. Imagine, if you will, that Lee's life hadn't been cut tragically short. Imagine he'd never taken the fatal pill that apparently triggered an allergic reaction, swelling his brain until it burst against its sheath of bone.

If he'd lived, he'd be 66 years old right now -- over twice the age he was when he died, and a year into his senior citizenhood. He might be one of the grand old men of Hollywood, palling around with Jack Nicholson at Lakers games, sitting on special juries at Sundance and Tribeca, holding fundraisers for Barack Obama. Or he might be a "Where are they now?" quiz-show answer, a bitter straight-to-video shadow of his younger days, a campy reality-TV self-parody.

The problem with heroes cut down in their prime is that we make the same mistake we make with stock market investments -- we assume that the hockey-stick of Google's earnings will continue forever and ever, based on historical trends, into infinity. Bruce Lee's stock was soaring when he was, er, delisted -- so our projections for where he'd be today are based on the notion that his stardom would have continued. And that's not necessarily the case, as Roger Fan -- who plays Dragon-clone "Breeze Loo" in "FTG" -- points out.

"When we were starting out with the film, I was doing research for the role," he says. "And I came across that "'lost' Bruce Lee interview-the one where he talks about what it's like being an Asian American male in Hollywood. And it was really interesting ... here he was on the cusp of global superstardom, and you could still hear the anger in his voice -- there's definitely a bitterness there, about being an Asian man in a white man's industry."

Lin agrees. "Having been in Hollywood for a few years now, it's very obvious from that interview how pissed off he was. And I think that that was what drove him. It was that combination of getting screwed again and again, and fighting it. Coming back again, bigger and angrier. You wonder what would have happened if he'd lived, to that balance of tension -- what direction he might have gone."

What might have happened? Lee might have broken away -- fled a system that wouldn't let him grow, wouldn't let him be anything more than an icon of action, rage, fury; transformed his martial-arts teaching into a life-coaching/self-help empire ("How to Kick Ass and Influence People"). He might have broken down -- given into studio demands, diluted his canon with slews of sequels and half-baked remakes -- "2 Fists 2 Furious," "The Chinese Connection: Reconnected," "Mentor the Dragon."

Or he might have broken through. Kicked down the Tinseltown gates. Remade the establishment in his own image, through sheer box-office firepower. Because that, in a nutshell, is what didn't happen, and still hasn't happened. No Asian American Hollywood player has ever commanded the power to literally be able to call the shots -- mandate casting, green-light projects singlehandedly, direct production agendas away from the industry's creatively retarded, risk-averse norm. No one has ever been closer than Lee, whose pure profitabililty and international draw might have eventually given him the blank check that comes with unbounded commercial success.

During his all-too-brief career, with a handful of TV appearances and four completed movies to his credit, he drew unparalleled crowds; every one of his films proved to be an international blockbuster, and "Enter the Dragon," his magnum opus, is counted as one of the 20 most profitable films of all time -- having grossed nearly half a billion dollars since its original release against a production budget of just $500,000. Beyond simply breaking records, the success of Lee's movies sparked the global embrace of martial arts cinema, ultimately paving the way for the opening of Asia's film industries to the world. The whole world: As a testament to his cross-cultural appeal, one movie theater, in Iran, of all places, played "Enter the Dragon" every day for six years, consistently drawing in rapt audiences from the film's premiere in 1973, until 1979, when the Islamic Revolution forced it to shutter its doors.

And "Game of Death" was poised to be bigger still. If Lee had lived, he'd have finished the movie himself, preventing its reckless whirl into the hellstorm of exploitation and misguided homage in which it was ultimately consumed, and delivering what promised to be the most ambitious and complex work of his career to date. It featured Lee as a reluctant hero blackmailed into a one-man siege against a mysterious pagoda filled with deadly martial artists and human monsters; but Lee hoped it would be perceived of as a window into his philosophy -- as the story of a man's progress not to victory, but to enlightenment.

So it's wonderful to think that Lee might have ridden a "Game of Death" global juggernaut into a deal that would have let him do more than just make his own films without studio interference -- that Lee, by instinct and training someone who'd always reached down to bring people up, might have become the idol who made Hollywood safe for his people.

"We've been going across the country talking to people, especially young people," says Fan. "And we've realized that this next generation, who've grown up in a multicultural world -- they're ready to see different faces, different stories. But there's a disconnect out there, because the media is controlled by a very small group of people, who see the world in a certain way. They're only comfortable serving up a 1940s Americana point of view. And we don't have someone at that table who can counter that, the 50-, 60-, 70-year-old guys who run things and can push people out of that comfort zone. We don't have studio heads. We don't have marquee stars."

And maybe things could have been different. "Bruce could have been that guy," says Kang. "Who knows?"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tang Dynasty Poems, #24: AT WANG CHANGLIN' S RETREAT

The Tang Dynasty was considered a high point in Chinese culture. The best poetry of that age was compiled into an anthology entitled, the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the anthology. Below is #24. Enjoy.

Chang Jian

Here, beside a clear deep lake,
You live accompanied by clouds;
Or soft through the pine the moon arrives
To be your own pure-hearted friend.
You rest under thatch in the shadow of your flowers,
Your dewy herbs flourish in their bed of moss.
Let me leave the world. Let me alight, like you,
On your western mountain with phoenixes and cranes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who needs fiction: A Note on Relationships in Japan

An old article...

No sex please ― we're Japanese
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY

TOKYO ― Junko Sakai was nervously looking forward to a romantic getaway with the man she'd been seeing. But when they arrived at a seaside hotel last fall, her beau requested separate rooms.

Stunned, Sakai nonetheless anticipated a late-night knock on the door. It never came. "Nothing happened," the Tokyo writer says.

Nothing is happening with depressing regularity between Japanese men and women these days. Marriages, births and hanky-panky are all spiraling downward with troubling implications for the nation's future: A sagging birthrate means that fewer working-age people will be around to support a growing population of elderly; a social crisis looms.

Only in Japan would a popular weekly newsmagazine deem it necessary to exhort the nation's youth to abstain from sexual abstinence: "Young people, don't hate sex," AERA magazine pleaded last month in a report detailing a precarious drop in sales of condoms and in business at Japan's rent-by-the-hour "love hotels."

More and more Japanese men and women are finding relationships too messy, tiring and potentially humiliating to bother with anymore. "They don't want a complicated life," says Sakai, who has written a controversial bestseller, Cry of the Losing Dogs, on the plight of unmarried Japanese thirtysomething women like herself.

And so, to an astonishing degree, men and women go their separate ways ― the women to designer boutiques and chic restaurants with their girlfriends or moms, the men to karaoke clubs with their colleagues from work or the solitude of their computer screens to romance hassle-free virtual women.

"Men don't want to spend time with their girlfriends, especially shopping," says Takayuki Mori, 40, a single man who works for a Tokyo advertising agency. He says he isn't dating.

Better educated, more widely traveled and raised in more affluence than their mothers, young women no longer feel bound by the Japanese tradition that says a woman unmarried after age 25 is like a Christmas cake on Dec. 26 ― stale. Men, meanwhile, seem intimidated and bewildered by assertive young women who are nothing like their moms.

As a result of the disconnect between genders, Japan, just emerging from a long economic slump, is experiencing a social recession in:

-Marriage. Japanese are postponing marriage or avoiding it altogether. Weddings dropped last year for the second straight year. Fifty-four percent of Japanese women in their late 20s are single, up from 30.6% in 1985. About half of single Japanese women ages 35 to 54 have no intention to marry, according to a survey in January by the Japan Institute of Life Insurance.

-Births. Just 1.1 million babies were born in Japan last year, the third straight decline. The average Japanese couple now produces just 1.32 children, well below the minimum 2.08 needed to compensate for deaths. As a result of plummeting birth rates, Japan's population is expected to peak in 2006, and then decline rapidly.

-Sex. In a 2001 survey, condom maker Durex found that Japan ranked dead last among 28 countries in the frequency of sex: The average Japanese had sex just 36 times a year. Hong Kong was next to last with 63. (Americans ranked No. 1 at 124 times a year.)

AERA reports that condom shipments are down 40% since 1993 (probably in part because Japan finally legalized birth-control pills in 1999) and love-hotel check-ins are off at least 20% over the past five years. What's more, an increasing number of those visiting love hotels aren't there for romance, AERA says; they've found that love hotels offer the cheapest access to karaoke machines and video games.

I won't get married!

Over tea in the sunlit lobby of the Akasaka Prince Hotel near the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo, and later over soba noodles and chicken yakatori at a nearby restaurant, Japanese writer and television personality Yoko Haruka describes the shortcomings of love and marriage Japanese-style. The husband works long hours and carouses into the night with his pals from work. The wife is expected to stay home, clean house and take care of kids. If the children behave badly, she's a bad mother. If her husband has an affair, she's a bad wife.

The author of Kekkon Shimasen (I Won't Get Married!), Haruka abandoned her own plans for marriage a decade ago when she realized her fiance wanted her to give up her career and lead the traditional life of a Japanese housewife. She says Japanese men sometimes propose to women with lines like: "I want you to cook miso soup for me the rest of my life." Not surprisingly, Japan's increasingly educated and well-traveled young women are not impressed.

"I'm not expecting men will change," Haruka says.

Her assistant, Miho Higuchi, who has kept silent throughout the conversation, suddenly blurts out: "Never again!" A mother of three, she divorced her husband because he refused to do anything to help her clean house and take care of the kids.

In fact, Japan's divorce rate rose steadily to 2.3 divorces for every 1,000 people in 2002 from 1.3 in 1990; it appears to have dropped a bit last year, partly because fewer people have been getting married. (The divorce rate in the USA was 4 per 1,000 people in 2002. )

As for men, they seem bewildered by the rising assertiveness of Japanese women.

"Men are getting weaker," says Takayuki Tokiwa, 23, a student at a Tokyo vocational college. "Women don't have to rely on men anymore. They can live on their own."

Masahito Wakauchi, 24, would seem to be a good catch. He has fashionably wavy hair and a good job with an advertising agency in Tokyo. Is he dating? Wakauchi shakes his head sadly.

"It's very, very difficult" to meet women these days, he says.

Rather than risk rejection or summon the energy to maintain a modern relationship, many Japanese men simply pay for affection in the country's ubiquitous hostess bars and brothels.

Others prefer virtual women online to the real kind. "They seem to find the relationship cumbersome. ... You have to be attentive to your partner," says Kunio Kitamura, president of the Japan Family Planning Association's Family Planning Clinic. "A quick way to get satisfaction is so-called cybersex."

In fact, as many as a million young men ― mostly teenagers, but increasingly older men as well ― suffer from what is known here as hikikomori. It's a condition in which they seclude themselves in their rooms for weeks at a time (though the causes seem to go well beyond fear of women to traumatic experiences from the past, such as being bullied at school).

But most young Japanese seem to enjoy the single life. In 1973, a Japanese government survey found that the happiest people in the country were those over age 60. A similar survey 24 years later found that the happiest people were in their 20s, and twentysomething women were the happiest of all: 77.7% said they were content with their lives. Maybe Gloria Steinem was right: Women need men like fish need bicycles.

Many young Japanese women live carefree lives, staying at home with their parents, paying little if any rent, letting their mothers cook their meals, clean their rooms and do their laundry. Many work dead-end jobs that don't pay much but don't cause much stress and give them enough spending money to buy designer handbags, shoes, clothes and jewelry and enough time to take overseas holidays with their girlfriends.

Emerging from the Louis Vuitton shop on Namikibashi street in the heart of the Ginza shopping district, Tokyo secretary Yukiko Matsumoto, 38, says she's happily single and living at home with herparents.

"I don't want to change my rhythms," she says. "Men expect women to stay home and take care of them." Not likely: Matsumoto travels abroad twice a year with her best friend and shopping companion, Terumi Yanagibashi, 38. They've already been to Hawaii together three times.

'Parasite singles'

A few years ago, Tokyo Gakugei University sociologist Masahiro Yamada coined the phrase "parasite singles" to describe young people who sponge off their parents and use their rent-free incomes to splurge on designer goodies, expensive dinners and trips abroad. It came from the 1997 Japanese horror movie Parasite Eve and applies to young, live-at-home men and women alike, though Yamada says the most carefree of the parasite singles tend to be women; the men are more serious about establishing careers and moving out on their own one day.

The phrase caught on. Some single women even printed up business cards defiantly describing themselves as "parasite singles."

In the past, it made sense for young people to leave home early. In the 1940s and 1950s, Japanese families were large. Staying at home meant sharing a room with brothers or sisters. But after decades of prosperity and falling birthrates, many young adults are pampered only children. Leaving home to marry means the drudgery of housework (especially for women) and the poverty of having to pay your own bills.

Sociologist Yamada says the single life in Japan isn't as blissful as it seems. For one thing, many young women still want to marry: They keep waiting for the perfect man ― a rich handsome guy who either helps with the housework or can afford to hire help. But Prince Charming never quite arrives. "They hold on to the illusion they will find a man with a high income," Yamada says.

"The good men are all married," writer Junko Sakai says. "Those left behind are all nerds or without jobs or violent or not nice-looking."

And what happens to the parasite singles when their parents become infirm or die? Yamada says their future is grim. He cites one case study that he fears will be a model for the future. A woman lived with her parents until they died, inherited the family home but found that her job didn't pay enough now that her parents weren't around to foot the bill for groceries and other necessities. She ended up bankrupt after borrowing heavily in a futile effort to maintain her lifestyle.

The phenomenon of parasite singles also is creating a demographic nightmare. Japan now has about four working-age people to contribute to pension plans to support one of today's retirees. By the middle of the century, there will be just two workers for each retiree, which will create huge financial problems for the country.

Yamada says young men and women need to get more realistic. Men need to start helping with the housework and supporting their wives' careers. Women need to stop waiting for the flawless man who's never going to show up. "They've got to compromise," he says.

But it's going to take a lot of convincing to get Japanese women to give up their independence. Sakai says Japanese society still thinks there's something wrong with unmarried women over the age of, say, 30. She calls spinsters like herself "losing dogs." But fewer and fewer women care about tradition. "I know I'm a losing dog," Sakai says, "but I'm quite satisfied with my life."

Contributing: Naoko Nishiwaki in Tokyo

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who needs fiction: The Cat of Death

This story appeared on Yahoo. If you click on the title of the post, you'll be directed to the full text. This just confirms my opinion that cats are the handmaidens of Satan!

Oscar the cat predicts patients' deaths

By RAY HENRY, Associated Press WriterWed Jul 25, 7:25 PM ET

Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Monday, July 23, 2007


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the page on "Fudoushin" or immovable mind, which is a martial arts concept.

A bit about the three characters which make up this word. The first character, " ", is like "not" or "un." It indicates that you should take the opposite meaning. UNlucky, for example. The second character, " ", is "movement," and in fact is made of two characters meaning "principal or important" and "power." The final character means "heart/mind."

You might have noticed that I've stuck a "u" between the "do" and "shin." This is how the word would be spelled in romaji, the Japanese version of our western alphabet.


Fudoshin (Japanese: 不動心) is a state of equanimity or imperturbability (literally and metaphorically "immovable heart" or "immovable mind") - a philosophical/mental dimension to a (commonly Japanese) martial art which contributes to the effectiveness of the advanced practitioner.

Fudoshin: A spirit of unshakable calm and determination, courage without recklessness, rooted stability in both mental and physical realms. Like a willow tree, powerful roots deep in the ground and a soft yielding resistance against the winds that blow through it.

Fudo Myo is a Buddhist guardian deity (and patron of martial arts) who is portrayed as carrying a sword in one hand (to cut through delusions and ignorance), and a rope in the other (to bind 'evil forces', and violent or uncontrolled passions and emotions). Despite a fearsome appearance, his aspects of benevolence and servitude to living beings are symbolized by a hairstyle associated with the servant class.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nihongo: Ten Thousand Things

The character shown is pronounced "man" in Japanese. It means "ten thousand."

In their way of counting, the Japanese (and Chinese) have a ten thousand's unit. "man" is never used alone, it's always used with another number to indicate how many groups of ten thousand. So, 10,000 of something is ichi man ( 一万 ), 20,000 of something is ni man ( 二万 ), and 100,000 of something is juu man ( 十万 ). This can sometimes cause some confusion when translating numbers.

In ancient times, "ten thousand things" referred to a bewilderingly large number. Ichi man no koto. 一万の事。

Cook Ding's Kitchen has just recently had it's 10,000th hit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Who Needs Fiction: Steamed Buns

This is an excerpt from an article appearing on Yahoo. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Beijing steamed buns include cardboard

BEIJING - Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.

The report, aired late Wednesday on China Central Television, highlights the country's problems with food safety despite government efforts to improve the situation.

Countless small, often illegally run operations exist across China and make money cutting corners by using inexpensive ingredients or unsavory substitutes. They are almost impossible to regulate.

State TV's undercover investigation features the shirtless, shorts-clad maker of the buns, called baozi, explaining the contents of the product sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district.

Baozi are a common snack in China, with an outer skin made from wheat or rice flour and and a filling of sliced pork. Cooked by steaming in immense bamboo baskets, they are similar to but usually much bigger than the dumplings found on dim sum menus familiar to many Americans.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who Needs Fiction: Working for the Government in China

With the Olympics's on their doorstep, the Chinese don't need any bad publicity right now, but they've had plenty of it. Here in the US, there was the case of the tainted pet food. Then there was the story about the tainted toothpaste. I saw a story the other day about how hundreds of thousands of automobile tires had to be hastily recalled before they were distributed.

China is not taking these quality issues laying down. Below is an excerpt from the LA Times. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the entire article.

Chinese applaud ex-official's execution

The former head of food and drug safety was convicted of taking bribes, which in some cases involved approving lethal products.
By Mark Magnier
Times Staff Writer

July 11, 2007

BEIJING — The heightened anger and fear felt by average Chinese over the safety of food ingredients, medicine and other consumer products were vividly on display here Tuesday after the execution of the former head of China's food and drug safety agency.

Within hours of an announcement that Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, had been put to death for taking bribes from pharmaceutical companies, China's Internet lighted up.

"Good job!" said an anonymous posting on, a major Chinese Web portal.

"He deserves it," said another, writing under the moniker Lgzxm2005.

"We can't even count how many people Zheng has killed," chimed in a third.

In China's one-party state, with its nascent legal system and heightened concern for social stability, justice can be swift, particularly in highly political cases. Zheng, who headed the State Food and Drug Administration from 1998 to 2005, was convicted in late May of taking bribes, granted an appeal in June and executed in early July.

Details on how the sentence was carried out were not immediately available. In recent years, China has made greater use of lethal injection, sometimes undertaken in mobile execution vans, reducing its traditional use of a bullet to the back of the head. Executions are traditionally carried out at 10 a.m. by the People's Armed Police.

"It was decided by the Politburo, so what can I say?" said a law professor who declined to be identified, citing his links with the government. "This case is very sensitive. Nor is it unusual in China to execute a person in short order."

Yet even by Chinese standards, Zheng's punishment was harsh, reflecting a wellspring of anger among Chinese concerning their health and the growing international fallout.

In recent months, a series of safety scandals have tarnished the nation's export juggernaut and threatened to undermine the "Made in China" label abroad.

Zheng was convicted of taking bribes worth about $850,000 and dereliction of duty. During his tenure, the administration reportedly approved six medicines that turned out to be fake, including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths in China.

In North America, authorities this year have blocked or recalled toxic seafood, juice made with unsafe color additives and toys coated with lead paint imported from China.

This followed the death of several dogs and cats last year who ate pet food containing Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine, a fire retardant.

In Panama last year, dozens of people died after ingesting medicine contaminated with highly toxic diethylene glycol, an ingredient in brake fluid, that originated in China and was confused with harmless glycerin.

Counterfeit Colgate toothpaste containing traces of the same liquid was found on store shelves in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. No deaths have been reported from the counterfeit toothpaste.

Though other countries, including the United States, use the death penalty, China has come under growing criticism for its wholesale use, particularly involving economic crimes such as tax evasion and corruption.

Beijing recently narrowed its use of the death penalty. But it still carries out more state-sanctioned executions than all other nations combined.

"Abolishing the death penalty is a goal for China's legal future, but realistically I don't expect it to happen in my lifetime," said Qian Lieyang, a Beijing-based attorney who has represented defendants in several high-profile death penalty cases. "In Zheng's case, it's not just the amount of money involved, it's also the circumstances."

Yet the Chinese Communist Party walks a fine line. Even as it tries to appease millions of angry citizens with Zheng's rapid execution, it faces an uphill battle portraying his brand of corruption as the exception rather than the rule.

"The few corrupt officials of the [State Food and Drug Administration] are the shame of the whole system," said Yan Jiangyang, a spokesman at the agency. "Their scandals have revealed some very serious problems."

China's propaganda ministry has sought to focus public anger at a relatively narrow target — Zheng and a small number of colleagues — but it hasn't taken long for some people to demand similar treatment for other offenders. "Our country will have no peace unless corrupt officials are killed," said an anonymous posting on Sina. "We should kill more!"

"Corrupt officials are like leeks in the field," said another on, by a writer identified as "Common Man." "We cut a bunch, more come out. Even if we killed every second official in China, nobody innocent would die by mistake."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Confucious in Modern China

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared on Yahoo. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

In changing times, many Chinese find wisdom in Confucius

By Peter Ford, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor Tue Jul 10, 4:00 AM ET

Beijing - Come back, Confucius, all is forgiven.For nearly a century the ancient sage was confined to the intellectual doghouse in the land of his birth.

Today he is fast supplanting communism as Chinese rulers, businessmen, and ordinary citizens turn back 2-1/2 millenniums to his teachings to help them cope with the economic and social changes racking their country.

"The economy is developing very fast, but people feel the need for wisdom and morality," says Gu Qing, who publishes books on traditional Chinese culture. "Now we've solved the problem of filling people's stomachs, they are looking for something to fill their minds."

The signs are everywhere. Confucianism is now on the curriculum at the Central Party School for high-flying Communist officials; private schools inculcating the Confucian classics are sprouting around China; and a recent self-help book of Confucian answers to modern questions has sold 4 million copies – outstripping Harry Potter.

For most of the 20th century, Chinese leaders reviled Confucianism as a feudal philosophy whose emphasis on respect for elders, propriety, and the harmony of hierarchy had trapped China in its past. The nadir for the man whose precepts defined society for more than 2,000 years came during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards went on a weeks-long rampage of destruction in his hometown.

The current government sees Confucius in a more positive light: President Hu Jintao's key slogan, "a harmonious society," is a conscious evocation of the Confucian value of harmony and balance.

"For the government, this is a way to provide some sort of legitimacy for what they do" as corruption scandals and a growing gulf between rich and poor feed public skepticism about official policy, says Daniel Bell, who teaches political philosophy at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "Socialist ideals do not do it, and economic growth works only to a certain extent.

"The government needs to think about deeper sources of legitimacy, of resolving conflicts in peaceful ways. Confucius points to a peaceful way," he adds.

Authorities might also hope that officials would be inspired by Confucius's ideal of the "gentleman," a righteous person who puts service to others before his own interests.

At the same time, suggests Zhang Huizhi, vice president of the Chinese Confucian Association, the government has a more political goal in mind. "Another purpose is that through the study of Confucianism people will realize the glory and brilliance of Chinese traditional culture," says Professor Zhang.

"A lot of Western culture is invading China at the moment, so developing Confucianism helps people develop self-confidence in their own culture," he adds.

Beijing "is using two legs to walk on," Zhang says. The government is encouraging academic research into Confucius and the tradition of thought he spawned. It is also "spreading the results of academic study into ordinary peoples' lives."

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wu Style Taiji Quan

As a teenager, Kung Fu, the TV series hit the airwaves in the 70's, and I was hooked. I started training in JiDoKwan TaeKwanDo under Won Chik Park, in Detroit. Then I discovered beer and girls ... Through out my 20's and 30's, on and off I had intense periods of study in Yoshinkai Aikido, under Kushida Sensei, mostly at the old Detroit dojo on Davison. In my mid 20's I also learned the Cheng Man Ching short Yang form of Taiji. I didn't learn push hands though. Then the multiheaded hydra of adult responsibilites entered my life ... In my 40's, I've invested a lot of time and energy in learning the practice of Zhan Zhuang, or "stake standing."

Now that my youngest has her driver's license, another chapter begins. I have some time on my hands. I've been wanting to get back to a regular martial arts class. I'd love to go back to aikido, but at 50, I don't think I'd be able to train the way I remember during my "glory days." I think it might be better to leave my memories intact. I'd be happy to continue to train with CMC Taiji, but convenience is a factor, and no one seems to be practicing it on this side of town.

It turns out that there is a very well established Wu style Taiji in my area. Many Taiji schools teach only fragments of what was once a complete martial art. Often you'll have someone who calls himself a taiji teacher mix in whatever his own interests are, which may have nothing to do with taiji. Wu style is one of the few complete systems of taiji. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an article at on Wu style taijiquan.

The teacher in Ann Arbor has a close connection with the "gatekeeper" of the Wu family.
I had my first class today. I visited Sifu Genie Parker's school in Ann Arbor Michigan.

Some bad weather had blown through town and Sifu Paker couldn't get to class on account of it, but two senior students who were taking care of things attended to me.

They said that they've found that it works well by just launching into the form; introducing the warm ups and supplementary exercises a little at a time.

From several years of zhan zhuang practice, I have a pretty good sense of where my body is. I also have pretty good balance.
The way it runs is that the first hour is the beginner's class, the second hour is intermediate, and the final hour is advanced. At this location, they have training available several days a week, but Thursdays suit me the best, as does once a week.
There were maybe a half dozen other beginners when I was there, and maybe 20 in the intermediate class. The place also seems to be getting top heavy with senior students, which is a good sign - people are sticking around for a long time.
The beginning session ends, and the intermediate session begins with the long form. Beginners drop out when they've gotten as far as they've learned. I stuck around to watch the class do the form. It's certainly different that what I was doing before with the Cheng Man Ching form. Lots of little steps and movements. I am told they are all there for a reason. Also small circle, rather than large movements.
One of the senior students, said that there are enough senior students where the head teacher thinks they are at a point where actually teaching fighting in the advanced class is beginning to make sense. They are purchasing mats for the floor, and this should begin this year. She said that she was looking forward to it; fighting is after all a part of taijiquan. The purpose of the school is to teach the complete art. I liked her attitude.
The building the school is in looks like it was an old garage. The school occupies one of two old service bays (the other belonging to another small business). The bay is about 20' by 40', with an office, maybe 20' x 20' bolted to the front of the bay. One wall is mirrored. Lots of spears. A few really long staffs, maybe 10'. A basket of swords and sabers. Requisite Chinese themed decor, but pretty understated.
My attitude going in is to keep an open mind, and to do it their way.
The people I saw there were really a cross section. A few young men and women looking to be in their early 20's, to a few oldsters I'd put in their 50's and even maybe early 60's. One of the senior students looks about my age, size, and build; so I'll be keeping an eye on him.
There weren't any uniforms, although most people were wearing t shirts with the school's logo. Not a requirement. I'll probably pick one up to show support at some point. When I'm far enough along into the form, I'll pick up the DVD of the head guy. The "Gold Book" too. The reference manual for the style, more or less.

The first class went well. I learned the beginning of the form through the first 'single whip.' I have plenty to work on before going back next week.