Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Granddaughter

She's so content!

She's so happy!

Rebecca, Mark and their 1 day old daughter

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fish and Bear's Palm

Watch the two videos:

They both show that the bear has powerful paws to help catching a fish with ease.

If you search for videos "bear catching fish", you will see a salmon swimming upstreams flying into the mouth of a bear waiting there. In comparison, you can see how important it is to do something at the right place and time.

Mecius could have meant that to have the instrument to catch fish is better than to be given the fish.

However, it is important to read the entire chapter before drawing our conclusion. Mencius continued to say, "To survive is what I want. To be righteous is also what I want. If I cannot have them both, I will give up survival and choose righteousness. 生我所欲也 義亦我所欲也 二者不可得兼 捨生而取義者也"

For survival, food is essential. It is to be righteous if food is the result of hardwork. If a bear is to choose between being fed with fish but sacrificing his paws, the bear would rather choose to die of starvation.

Giving up survival for righteousness 捨生取義 is what Mencius wanted to teach.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Fish and Bear's Palm

Mencius said, "Fish is what I want. The bear's palm is also what I want. If I cannot have both, then I will give up the fish and take the bear's palm. 魚我所欲也 熊掌亦我所欲也 二者不可得兼 捨魚而取熊掌者也"

Because of the above writing, people have been thinking that the bear's palm must be very delicious. I remember one year when I was in Hong Kong, a group of very wealthy people bought a pair of bear's palm from China and shared them in a very special banquet. They arranged the banquet in a famous restaurant with the best cook. A lot of reporters were attracted there to interview everyone in this event. When asked about the taste of the bear's palm, here were some of the remarks:

(1) It is good, like beef but a little difficult to bite through.
(2) It is a rare opportunity. The flavour? Well, to tell you the truth, not as good a beef.
(3) Not worth the money.

I tried hard to understand why Mencius said he preferred the bear's palm to fish. One day, I got the answer. I will tell you in the next moment when I think aloud.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Cao Chong Weighing the Elephant

The story about Newton sitting under an apple tree may be just a made-up story. Whether it took Newton 20 years of hard work to make his theory credible or whether the apple cleared what blocks his mind and inspired him to receive the idea of the Law of Gravity leaves much room for imagination.

Another story that is equally inspiring is about Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC). He stepped into a bath tub and noticed that the water level rose as his body submerged into the water. He exclaimed “Eureka!” as this inspired him to discover what is now known as Archimedes' Principle – the weight of water displaced is equal to the weight of object submerged in water.

Now I will tell another story. This one is about Han Prime Minister Cao Cao's young son Cao Chong 漢丞相曹操之子曹沖(196 – 208).

One day Cao Cao received an elephant as a gift. Cao Cao ordered the officers to find a way to weigh the elephant. No one could find a solution until Cao Cao's five year old son Cao Chong said he could find accurately the weight of the elephant.

He told the people to bring the elephant to the river and led it to board a boat. Then he told the people to mark on the boat the water level. The elephant was led back to the shore and stones were placed in the boat until the water reaches the same level as when the elephant was on board. It remains an easy job to weigh the stones separately and add up the total. The weight of the elephant was simply the same as the weight of all the stones placed in the boat.

Could and should Cao Chong quote Archimedes to support his method? Can we accuse the young boy for plagiarism because he could not quote from a reliable source? I would rather say that he has wonderful ability to receive messages floating in the Universe.

Most of the time, the gifted people have to work very hard to polish his invisible antenna to keep it functional. Unfortunately this clever boy died at the age of 12.

The modern format of presenting academic papers makes it easy to trace the line of thought but it also makes writing academic papers mechanical and lack of poetry. If you compare Newton's Principia and some modern research papers, you will know what I mean.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nothing is New Under the Sun

In my Plum Blossom Divination course, I wrote:

Before the Yijing was written, the concept of Yi already existed. It might not exist in the minds of people. It might just be floating in the Universe waiting to be picked up by someone living on earth.

However, when one picks up an idea floating in the Universe and writes it down as his discovery, it is considered his idea. Obviously he cannot quote the source of the idea.

Yes, nothing is new under the sun. But if you are the first one to discover something, how can you quote an "authoritative source"? Note that you do not create anything. You just discover something that already exists but is unknown to people before your discovery.