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 ~

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four Arts of a Chinese Scholar

A friend sent me a link to an article regarding the four arts in which one should be accomplished to be regarded a scholar. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.

Throughout Chinese history, every scholar learns and strives to excel in four art forms: music, board game, calligraphy and painting. Fine points of these arts are taught as part of one's formal education; and skills in these arts are diligently honed and improved upon all one's life. We often see these arts illustrated and mentioned in paintings and poems.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Find Old Tokyo...

A friend sent me this article. I've excerpted a portion below. Click here to read the full article. There is a slide show.

Near Tokyo, a City Shows Its Age, Proudly

TO learn about Tokyo, you sometimes have to leave it. The capital has been rebuilt so many times that those wanting a glimpse of what it looked like years ago head to places like the Museum Meiji-Mura, more than two hours away.

But the city of Kawagoe, right in Tokyo’s backyard, is a more practical alternative. Less than 45 minutes by train, the center of Kawagoe is filled with a well-preserved collection of century-old kura, or warehouses, that still double as stores, workshops and homes.

Many kura are clustered around an even older wooden clock tower and a jumble of buildings from the Taisho and early Showa eras that create the feel of a small town with a charm missing in many Japanese cities. A former castle town, Kawagoe does such a good job evoking the Tokyo of yore that it is affectionately called Little Edo, a reference to the ancient name for Tokyo.

Its streetscape is so authentic that NHK, the national television broadcaster, is filming one of its serialized morning dramas in Kawagoe, a city of 330,000. That has stirred further interest. One afternoon in June, busloads of Japanese grandmothers and grandfathers ambled up and down the city’s streets admiring the three dozen or so kura, the old-time candy shops and the graceful Kitain Temple.

But as I learned more than two decades ago when I taught in the city, the real crowds arrive during the third weekend of October, when Kawagoe puts on one of the most colorful street festivals in the country, replete with three-ton rolling floats.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tea and Aikido

Two of my favorite subjects are the topic of the article I've copied a portion of below. If you click here, you'll be directed to the full article.

Tea was cultivated and developed in China about 2000 years ago - initially for medicinal purposes. Buddhist priests brought it as a medicine to Japan about 1500 years ago where the Japanese started to cultivate it not only as a medicine but also as a daily drink.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony developed from the 1300s through Zen philosophy. Matcha (pure tea) is used for the Tea Ceremony where as ryokucha (green tea) or bancha (dried tea) is used by Japanese people as a daily beverage. Matcha is rather expensive and so is normally used only for tea ceremony. Ryokucha (green tea) is for daily life but it should be drunk immediately after it is made. Bancha (dried tea) can be drunk several hours after brewing so it is more convenient than ryokucha. It is also cheaper than ryokucha.
I have been drinking matcha for several weeks in the morning and I have found out that it is actually easier to prepare than green tea or coffee. This is because matcha is made in the cup and has nothing to throw away. Green tea or coffee however has to be made in a pot with grounds and leaf residues to throw away afterwards. Also matcha is made in individual cups whereas green tea or coffee can be made for several cups. This means that drinking matcha is easy for one person and green tea or coffee is easier for several people. Matcha is best for health though green tea is also good. It must be said that coffee may not be good for health.

Friday, November 20, 2009

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #33 To My Daughter ...

The Tang Dynasty was considered a cultural golden age in China. The arts were highly developed and poetry was particularly esteemed. No home coming or leave taking was too common, no occasion to small to be commemorated with a poem.

The finest poems of the age were collected into the classic known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click here, you'll be directed to an online version of the text.

Below is #33: To My Daughter On Her Marriage Into The Yang Family

My heart has been heavy all day long
Because you have so far to go.
The marriage of a girl, away from her parents,
Is the launching of a little boat on a great river.
...You were very young when your mother died,
Which made me the more tender of you.
Your elder sister has looked out for you,
And now you are both crying and cannot part.
This makes my grief the harder to bear;
Yet it is right that you should go.
...Having had from childhood no mother to guide you,
How will you honour your mother-in-law?
It's an excellent family; they will be kind to you,
They will forgive you your mistakes --
Although ours has been so pure and poor
That you can take them no great dowry.
Be gentle and respectful, as a woman should be,
Careful of word and look, observant of good example.
...After this morning we separate,
There's no knowing for how long....
I always try to hide my feelings --
They are suddenly too much for me,
When I turn and see my younger daughter
With the tears running down her cheek.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Government in China

A friend sent me this article about some current issues in China. Among them are the perils of big government and a one party system. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here.
July 27, 2009

Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future

WUBU, China — For much of his education, Xue Longlong was silently accompanied from grade to grade, school to school, by a sealed Manila envelope stamped top secret. Stuffed inside were grades, test results, evaluations by fellow students and teachers, his Communist Party application and — most important for his job prospects — proof of his 2006 college degree.
Everyone in China who has been to high school has such a file. The files are irreplaceable histories of achievement and failure, the starting point for potential employers, government officials and others judging an individual’s worth. Often keys to the future, they are locked tight in government, school or workplace cabinets to eliminate any chance they might vanish.
But two years ago, Mr. Xue’s file did vanish. So did the files of at least 10 others, all 2006 college graduates with exemplary records, all from poor families living near this gritty north-central town on the wide banks of the Yellow River.
With the Manila folders went their futures, they say.
Local officials said the files were lost when state workers moved them from the first to the second floor of a government building. But the graduates say they believe officials stole the files and sold them to underachievers seeking new identities and better job prospects — a claim bolstered by a string of similar cases across China.
Today, Mr. Xue, who had hoped to work at a state-owned oil company, sells real estate door to door, a step up from past jobs passing out leaflets and serving drinks at an Internet cafe. Wang Yong, who aspired to be a teacher or a bank officer, works odd jobs. Wang Jindong, who had a shot at a job at a state chemical firm, is a construction day laborer, earning less than $10 a day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Way to Put Power Into Your Movements

Put your back into it!

Over at Weakness with a Twist, Scott Phillips has a very good article about the large and efficient muscles in our backs that our "normal" way of moving doesn't make much use of, but internal martial arts uses to a high degree.

Below is an excerpt. Click here to read the full article.

As someone whose job it is to translate ideas from one culture to another, the pressure to use more familiar language is always floating around in the background.

Many people would like me to describe the fine details of Chinese Internal Martial Arts using vocabulary from sports or physical therapy.  This is always problematic for two reasons.  First, one can only go so far describing kinesthetic experiences before one starts  sacrificing subtlety–language is an imperfect tool. 

Second, by discarding Chinese concepts, one loses the primary organizing metaphors of Chinese culture, and what might be simple suddenly becomes complex.

Still, sometimes we give in to the pressure.  Today is one of those days.

There are three big muscles on our backs which are extremely powerful and efficient. Unfortunately, the problem with humans is; we don’t use these big muscles very well.  Our arms are just too smart. We habitually use our many smaller arm muscles to do complex and repetitive tasks.  This is the cause of a lot of stress and tends to shorten our lives.  For this reason advanced internal martial artists have developed ways to make use of the three big muscles.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who Needs Fiction: The Land That Time Forgot

Explorers entered an extinct volcano that has been cut off from the rest of New Guinea for 200,000 years. Life in that volcano habitat has been evolving on it's own for all that time. Below is an excerpt from an article about the expedition and what they found. If you click here, you find the whole article. Of course there is a slide show featuring some of the newly found creatures.

A lost world populated by fanged frogs, grunting fish and tiny bear-like creatures has been discovered in a remote volcanic crater on the Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Applying the Principles of Daoism to Everyday Life

Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. - Thoreau

Over at The Journey Within, there is a good article about applying a very basic principle to achieve your goals. That is, following the path of least resistance. The author makes a  very good point in that the shortest distance between two points isn't necessarily a straight line, but the path of least resistance.

An excerpt is below. The full article may be read by clicking here.

I like to watch river flows. I like to watch how the water goes around the bend. I like to see how it effortlessly navigates around the rocks, whether they’re big or small. Water always seem to know how to flow. It knows that hitting the rocks head on will do it no good, so it finds the path of least resistance and go around it. Let’s face it. In the real world, the shortest distance between 2 points is not a straight line, it’s the distance of the path of least resistance. It is this path of least resistance that allows water to get from one end to the other end effortlessly.

Looking to do something on a regular basis but never got round doing it? It’s because you haven’t found your path to least resistance yet. Say you want to exercise everyday, but you just can’t seem to do it. There’s always some excuse like no time or too much effort. These all are resistance. You’ll need to find a path round these resistances. I found out that the path of least resistance to practise my Tai Chi is in the morning.

It’s actually relatively easier to find the path of least resistance if I’m the only stakeholder. It gets more difficult as more people are involved. If I add just one more person into the equation, it will become that much more complicated. When I’m doing push hands with another person, when I can’t find this path of least resistance, I will create tension within myself as well, and hence creating my own resistance. If I don’t look for this path of least resistance, I myself become the resistance.

Let go of your own resistance. You might find it a lot easier to navigate the journey within yourself. You’ll also find it easier to then use this new path to create a new way of doing things. Actually, there is nothing new in this. The only thing new here, is you experiencing the power of letting go your own resistance. Stop fighting it. Start moving round the cracks. 

Monday, November 02, 2009

How To Begin Zhan Zhuang

Rick Taracks over at Wujifa has recently published some especially good articles explaining the methods of Wujilianggong. He's recently published an exceptionally good one for those beginning Zhan Zhuang practice. Please pay a visit.