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The Beauty of Chinese Art

The one thing I greatly admire in the two great chinese arts – calligraphy and martial arts – is the skill of applying pressure, and yet be relaxed at the same time.

To be forceful and yet relaxed? Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction?

Initially, yes. How can one be relaxed, yet be able to apply some amount of force? Being relaxed suggests that there is zero force/pressure that is intentionally applied.

That’s where the Chinese Arts come in and show that these two concepts are not contradictory but consistent! It is the skill of self-mastery – of knowing how much force to apply, and yet to be relaxed while doing so at the same time.

Not too much, and not too little, and yet enjoying every single moment of serenity that passes by.

Take calligraphy for example. To write well, one must hold the brush with just the right amount of pressure – too much or too little, and the results will be terrible. Yet, for most people who start out at it, it seems impossible to be relaxed while trying so hard to apply just the right amount of force on the brush. But the lack of this relaxation results in bad calligraphy as well. The hand becomes too stiff for fluidity of action in writing. It is only when one’s hand becomes relaxed while still applying just the right amount of pressure on the paper that beautiful calligraphy is produced.

This is something that I really hope to master. To know how much pressure/force to apply in everyday things, and yet be relaxed and calm so that there is fluidity in one’s motion and thinking, rather than stiffness due to tension.

It kind of reminds me of bamboo.

On one hand, it is stiff and hard, yet on the other hand, it is flexible. The bamboo knows very well when it needs to be firm, and when it needs to be flexible.

Perfect Haven

sky

I found the perfect haven that I can go to escape from the hustle and bustle of life.

The view is perfect. It’s high up in the sky, shaded from the sun. As I lay back, resting my head, before me is the full view of the sky and the clouds in the day, and the moon and the stars in the night. There, I can lie back and enjoy the refreshing breeze.

This is definitely one place I can see myself visiting very often when the University semester commences. I can picture myself reading notes, and even planning essays.

Beautiful Sunrise at East Coast Park

sunrise_eastcoast

Had insomnia the entire night. Couldn’t sleep as much as I tried.

So, what do you do when life gives you lemons? You make lemonade out of it!

Called two other friends who were awake at 4am, and we shared a cab down to East Coast Park for a wonderful MacDonald’s breakfast out in the open, enjoying the fresh morning air, as we marvelled at the beautiful rising of the sun.

Wisdom (智)

Another piece of calligraphy written from my little calligraphy pen!

This means wisdom. The full word for it is 智慧 (zhihui). I love wisdom – so much so that I am therefore studying philosophy (love of wisdom).

zhi

The etymology is quite cool too.

智 has evolved from the following words:

  • 知 (to have knowledge), which is made up of:
    • 矢 (arrow)
    • 口 (mouth)
  • 白 (white, clear)
  • 亏 (fortunate)

I can’t seem to find what it means on the internet, but my guess is this:

To have wisdom is to possess knowledge (知), but not just any kind of knowledge – it is knowledge of survival, which in this case is to have the knowledge on how to use the arrow (矢) for food (口).

But it’s not just about knowing, it is also to understand it so clearly (白). And indeed, to possess such knowledge is to be most fortunate (亏) indeed.

Over the centuries, it has evolved to look like two words stacked above each other: 知 (knowledge) and 日 (sun).

In a very poetic way, wisdom is to have the kind of knowledge (知) that surpasses even the sun (日).

So, in short, wisdom (智) is to be fortunately (blessedly) endowed with a clear understanding of the necessary knowledge for survival in the world.

The Challenge

Taxi drivers are, by far, some of the wisest people you can ever meet. Sure, some of them might be obnoxious. But many of them, with their age and experience from meeting a wide variety of people every single day, have lots of really good insights to share. That’s why I really enjoy chatting to them whenever I take a taxi.

A couple of months ago, a taxi driver challenged me to brush up on my Mandarin. Many just tell me how ashamed I should be for not being able to speak Mandarin well.

I told him that it’s too difficult a language to learn. In response, I got rebuked by him.

He said, “No matter how difficult something is, if you really want to learn, you’ll learn it anyway. I never knew English, but I learnt that and Thai just from my many years of driving this taxi. Don’t you dare tell me that it’s difficult to learn.”

Do I want to learn? Oh yes I sure do. And Cantonese too! My love for Chinese culture and the desire to immerse myself in it has been hampered for years because of the obstacle for language.

I don’t think I should procrastinate any further. I’ll be learning Chinese Philosophy soon, and this would really prepare me greatly.

Love (愛)

ai

Just wrote this with my brand new calligraphy marker. It’s like a 毛笔 (maobi, calligraphy brush) but it’s a marker with a brush-tip.

My all-time favourite chinese word is 愛 (ai, love). I don’t like the simplified version. The traditional one is the most meaningful of all.

愛 (love) is made up of three words:

  • 受 (to receive)
  • 心 (the heart)
  • 夊 (to walk slowly)

Therefore, to love (愛), is to receive the heart of one’s beloved and to walk slowly with her. Beautiful!