Thursday, May 31, 2007

Deities and Ghosts

Deities and ghosts are simply spirits. Since the subject of spirits is not within the realm of science, it is looked upon as superstition by a lot of people. Some people who claim to be experts in metaphysics also do not like to talk about spirits. We must understand that metaphysics is the rational study of our universe beyond the coverage of physics. Spirits are what science cannot cover. If spirits do not exist, then there is practically nothing left in metaphysics.

The following short paragraph is from Xi Ci Zhuan 繫辭傳 of the Yijing 易經.

易與天地準 故能彌綸天地之道
仰以觀於天文 俯以察於地理 是故知幽明之故
原始反終 故知生死之說
精氣為物 游魂為變 是故知鬼神之情狀

"The Yi is based on the principle of Heaven and Earth. Therefore, it can explain the way of Heaven and Earth. (The sages) look up to examine astronomy, look down to study geography. They therefore understand the reasons for brightness and darkness. They explore the beginning and the ending and therefore understand the theory of life and death. Essence and breath form tangible beings. The wandering of spirits causes the transformation. Therefore, they know the situation of deities and ghosts." - translation by Joseph Yu

The Yijing is the origin of Chinese metaphysics. It clearly points out the structure of living things - formation of the body by assimilation of essence and breath with life and death controlled by the movement of spirit.

The combination of a body and a spirit brings life. The departure of the spirit from the body implies death.

Spirits are therefore quite close to us and are nothing to be afraid of. They are the core of the study of Destiny and Feng Shui. Metaphysics can therefore be defined as the rational analysis of irrational beings to see how they affect the lives of people.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Su Dong Po's misinterpreted saying

Su Dong Po 蘇東坡 (a famous scholar in the Song 宋 Dynasty) came from a scholarly family. His father and his brother were also great scholars. One day, someone asked him the secret to pass examination to have academic achievement (考取功名). He (probably jokingly) said:


The translation is:

(1) Destiny
(2) Cycle
(3) Feng Shui
(4) Accumulation of hidden virtuous deeds
(5) Study books

For those who have knowledge of Zi Ping Ba Zi 子平八字, destiny refers to the four pillars chart, cycle refers to the luck pillar. The four pillars do provide a limit to our achievement. It is just like a bird is born to be able to fly but a human being is not. There is no argument about it. However, it does not limit our ability to create the airplane so that human beings can travel by air. There is no contradiction in saying that our potential has a limit.

Destiny does not say that a person can or cannot be a billionaire. Destiny can only tell us that a certain person is good at doing certain things and that his achievement in this area will be much greater than other undertakings. Money is not the point.

A luck pillar is a length of time during which certain qi is strong while certain other qi is weak. It is the length of time during which a person can do well at something and not so well at others. It is not just good luck or bad luck. You can say that the luck pillar may present obstructions or a river to cross. If the person does not want to cross the river or counter the obstruction, he can choose to go a longer way to reach the destination or the go around the obstruction. It may take longer and more effort to achieve the goal but it is the way to do it.

Studying our destiny and cycles in our life can help us to go on the proper path. The path is predetermined. Without knowing this path we may be going on the wrong path that does not bring us to the destination. Life is not so meaningful and achievement may be below expectation. We cannot say that limit does not exist. We can only say that knowing the limits and limitation will help us live a better life.

Shao Yong, for example, knew his destiny and refused to take up a government post. His highest potential was not in politics. He is the best example of one who knows his destiny and makes the best use of his knowledge of destiny. He knows his limits and he knows in which area are his limits much higher.

Feng Shui actually refers to the way your ancestors were buried. This is because in the Song Dynasty, yin house feng shui was much more focused than yang house feng shui. Today we can also imply the influence of yang house feng shui as it is more in our focus. It is about tapping into the best academic qi in the house to help us do well in studies.

Accumulation of hidden virtuous deeds is to give us the peace of mind by helping others without claiming credits. This helps us develop a character that is not blinded by worldly feeling of success and visible recognition. It is in this way we can do well in presenting our ideas in writing. In the ancient days, it means the ability to write well in examination.

To study books is to read and digest the knowledge given in the books. It is to assimulate the digested knowledge for the production of new ideas and inventions.

All these are not to be measured in terms of percentages. It tells us the importance of Xian Tian and Hou Tian. Destiny and cycles are Xian Tian. These are the things we cannot change. Feng Shui, accumulation of hidden virtuous deeds, and the study of books are all Hou Tian efforts to help us live according to our Xian Tian structure.

The order of the five items mentioned does not indicate the order of importance. It is also not true that each item contributes one-fifth to the success of failure. What comes first is Xian Tian and what comes later is Hou Tian. It takes all to have success just like it takes yin and yang to form the taiji.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Translation (2a)

The next term 月事 = 月信 = 月經
They all refer to menstruation.
If you translate this as monthly affairs, monthly letters/messages or monthly classic/happenings, it will be really funny. However, they may all be suggestive of what the terms refers to.

流浪 simply means wandering, vagabond. The made-up of the term is quite poetic.

The last one 月旦 means criticing well-known people or regularly assessing the behavior of public figures.The term cannot be understood without knowing the historical background.
During the Late Han Dynasty, Xu Shao and his brother Xu Jing published periodicals commenting on political figures on a monthly basis. The periodical was named: 月旦評. Ever since then, to comment on public figures we use the verb 月旦.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Translation (2)

The first two terms 填房, 入贅 appear in Jiang Da Hong's Water Dragon Classic. In "Natural Water Method Song", there is one line that reads:


A Sinologist translated this as:

The screens are rolled up, the daughter will become a concubine and the son will live with the relatives of his wife.

This, of course, is not a word-for-word translation. This Sinologist has acquired help from a Chinese professor in Taiwan. I will explain the two terms and see whether you can do a better job.

填房 is actually a vivid term that describes the situation when a woman is married to a widower. After the death of his wife, the widower's bedroom is "empty" meaning without a woman. He will get someone to marry him to "fill the room". The woman is not considered a concubine. She is a wife but not the first wife. Only a not so well-to-do family will agree to have their daugher to become the "room filler" - marrying with a widower.

入贅 is another situation. Usually when a man gets married, his wife will come to live with him and his family (parents and brothers). If a wealthy family does not have a son but only daughters, then when a daughter (usually the first) gets married, the wealthy family will require the son-in-law to live with the wife's family and the first grandson born will inherit the family name of the wife. This situation is known as 入贅. Usually this man comes from a not so well-to-do family and he has brothers to be responsible to extend the family name.

This example shows the difficulty of translation as there is no equivalence in the western culture.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Translation (1)

Regarding translation from Chinese to English, faithfulness to the original is the first priority. Some people prefer "word for word" translation to translation according to the translator's understanding. In a way, this sounds reasonable. However, if they have a bit more understanding of the Chinese language, they will not have such preference.

Just to show you some example:

Chinese term Word for word translation
填房 filling room
入贅 enter unwanted extra
月事 moon/month matters
流浪 flow wave
月旦 moon/month birth/dawn

Can you guess the real meaning of the terms given the word for word translation?You can guess and put your answers in the "comment" section. I will give you the answers next week.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thinking Aloud

Not everyone can think aloud. There is just too much to hide on the dark side of the mind. It is a blessing to be able to think aloud. This means that you have nothing to hide or there is nothing to be afraid of exposing your mind.

My blog is to make my thoughts visible. What I write is what I think. What I think is what I consider right. It does not matter whether the reader agrees with my ideas. It is not my wish to convince anyone of my ideas. I will be happy if someone reads my mind. I will be happier if someone can make me change my mind.