Monday, 28 September 2009

fish of the day


When Confucius' son was born, the ruler of the State of Lu dispatched someone to deliver the gift of a carp, because of which, Confucius named his son Kong [surname] Li [given name, "Carp"], and the style name Boyu, meaning Fish [sent by] the Nobleman* [of Lu]

*ok, that's a pretty lame translation of 魯伯; any suggestions?

btw, the photo includes my mum because she shares her birthday with Confucius

also, both my mother and sister were born on the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, i.e. Mid-Autumn Festival,

AND, my mother was born in the Dragon Year; how auspicious is that?

China Post editorial:

That people throughout Taiwan got up before dawn, put on purple gowns, lit incense and watched eight rows of eight children in yellow costumes and peacock feathers perform a slow dance was not unusual; these rituals to honor Confucius are held annually on September 28. What was strange was that similar events were also held in China, which spent most of the twentieth century attempting to diminish the influence of Confucius' teachings and to dislodge “The Sage” from his pedestal.

The political changes that led to the overthrow of the imperial system in 1911 and establishment of the Republic of China the following year were quickly followed by the New Culture Movement, which sought the overthrow of a whole range of traditions that its leaders, Lu Xun, Hu Shih and others, held responsible for holding back China's development into a modern nation. Confucian influence over morality, education and public office came especially under attack, as did Confucius himself, as a symbol of the ossification of Chinese culture.

Although somewhat rehabilitated later under Republican rule, Confucius was again vilified by the Chinese Communist Party, which dedicated itself to smashing the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas.

This reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards ran amok in Confucius' hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province. With connivance of the central government, they smashed or destroyed thousands of cultural artifacts relating to the man who, for two millennia, had been revered as the nation's sage and its first teacher.

So it is even more surprising that Communist Party officials were among those honoring this erstwhile villain in Qufu and elsewhere this morning; that Yu Dan's “Confucius from the Heart: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World” stayed on the Chinese bestseller list for more than two years, selling around 10 million copies; that 2,008 performers at the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics sang “Friends have come from afar, how happy we are,” in quotation from the “Confucian Analects;” that a biopic of Confucius' life starring Chow Yun-fat received government sponsorship; that “guoxue” — national learning, the study of traditional Chinese history, culture and literature — is currently undergoing a nationwide resurgence; and that when the PRC decided to set up a system of international institutes along the lines of the British Council or Alliance Francaise to promote Chinese language and culture, it decided to call them the Confucius Institutes.

Some people, most vocally those in South Korea, have suggested that the PRC's reappraisal of its views on Confucius is merely a cynical attempt to cash in on his international “brand recognition,” and have attacked the institutes as tools of Chinese cultural imperialism. But the truth is more complicated.

First, like the words of many philosophers, teachers and religious leaders whose reputations have endured over long periods, Confucius' teachings are ambiguous enough and so open to interpretation that they have been adopted and adapted by a variety of disparate interests, and that what started as a revolutionary perspective was quickly usurped and became a force for conservatism over the following two millennia.

This started with compilation of “The Analects” by the disciples of the disciples that succeeded Confucius himself; through codification of Confucian ideas into the official imperial philosophy and required reading for civil service examinations during the Han dynasty; reinterpretation by Zhu Xi in the Song Dynasty a thousand years later, which established the Neo-Confucianism that held sway until the end of the imperial system a century ago, and most recently has led to Yu Dan's idiosyncratic interpretation that has captured public imagination but has irritated many experts who accuse her of distorting Confucius' teachings.

So should the world be surprised by China's recent reappraisal and adoption of Confucius?
Perhaps not. First, although it is sometimes portrayed in the West as a religion — not surprisingly, perhaps, in light of the Sept. 28 ritual offerings made to The Sage — Confucianism is really a codification of ethics or even a political science.

Second, the Confucian concepts of righteousness, reciprocity and the Golden Rule — of doing unto others what you would have done to oneself — contrast sharply with the West's emphasis on self and self-interest, but accord with Communist ideals of communality.

Third, as the Communist Party has moved away from a true espousal of orthodox ideals, Confucianism might offer a source of legitimacy to party rule by filling the ideological void left by the abandonment of Marxism.

Most importantly, as stated in the government's explanation for choosing the name “Confucius Institute,” it manifests the longevity and profundity of Chinese language and culture. In other words, like at every change of dynasty or regime in China, the CCP started with promises of change but is ending up by appealing to the nation's glorious past and adopting many of the values, traditions and practices of its predecessors.

Although quieter than the changes pursued during the Cultural Revolution, this represents a truly radical change in China at the start of the 21st century.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

fish of the day

bought "100 Poems by 100 Poets" (ed. Harold Pinter et. al.) in Oxfam today
(almost) the first poem i read was "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
[so i shall call the "you're-never-too-late" woman "Elizabeth"]

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes of full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
- the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly -
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
- It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
- if you could call it a lip -
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels - until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

fish of the day


great fish-and-chip-shaped salt and vinegar dispensers

in Oddbar, Manchester

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

fish of the day

Fishtrich by Lesley Magwood Fraser

caught in a Berlin art gallery

dealing in African works of art

(apologies for the self-portrait in reflection)

fish of the day

Monday, 14 SEPTEMBER 2009

despite googling for a German-to-English dictionary so i could discover what "Der Butt" means,
i evidently got English-to-German dictionaries because they kept offering: "der Arsch"
(as well as others such as "der Axtruecken", "der Croupon" and "der Gewehrkollben"--clearly male, whatever translation)
in fact, it is a flounder

Sunday, 13 September 2009

new verse


內頁寫著 「給M,我的未來」


Past Future Perfect

I took down a book
inscribed For M., My Future
which would be funny
if it was funny
and if it wouldn't make you jealous

so should I destroy it
or destroy the first page
or just not tell you
or can you accept that i have a past
but that you are my future?

thanks to the Shad for help with translation

Saturday, 12 September 2009

not my dog (VII)

in fact, my sister's cat

fish of the day

Friday, 11 September 2009

and in full detail:

Thursday, 10 September 2009

fish of the day