Old meets new; East meets west

That’s a giant jade… thing… in a glass box on the first floor of Singapore’s famous technology mall, Sim Lim Square. Directly opposite, as you can see in the reflection, is a store called nübox, which is an authorised premium reseller of Apple products. I thought the contrast was interesting.

What was I doing there? Had to buy my 2011 computer a new power supply and CPU.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times…

Two jade animals

In Singapore, there are many jade and other carved stone figurines available, especially of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, because many people practice feng shui.

I seldom see stone elephants, though, certainly not in this form, with the trunk turned to the side.

The other animal is a mythical thingy with a lot of different names. The main Wikipedia entry is at Pixiu. It has wings and one horn, and it goes without saying it’s lucky or whatever.

There’s nothing in the picture for scale, but these things are tiny.

I bought them at Naga Arts and Antiques at Tanglin Shopping Centre.

The Origins of Chinese Characters by Wang Hongyuan

Ever wondered what etymology is like in the Chinese language?

It’s like this.


So, is Chinese ‘pictographic’?

Well, does the ‘zhōng’ in ‘Zhōngguó’ (‘China’) look like part of a sundial? Because that’s what it is.

Drawing of a pole with some decorative streamers. The pole was placed in the center of a circle or dial so that a shadow cast by the sun on a calibrated dial could measure solar time—much like the gnomon or style of a sundial.

So yeah, ‘zhōng’ means ‘middle’ (as in ‘middle kingdom’), but it’s not because the line passes through the middle of the box. Rather, it’s because the whole stick thing (which has lost its notably asymmetrical streamers) is in the middle of a sundial.

I don’t know enough Chinese to benefit much from this book, but here and there I found something interesting, and the whole things reinforces the idea that the Chinese writing system is old, old, old. Examining how the characters evolved is like looking back in time. Reading the book made me feel like an archaeologist holding up a burning torch to peer at mysterious lines scrawled on the walls of a cave. The oldest characters embody the basic concepts of the society in which they were invented: food and shelter, war, birth and life and death…

When and Why I Read It

It was a gift to me from my husband’s parents years ago (sometime between 2003 and 2005). At the time, it was even more over my head than it is now, so it just sat there.

Frankly, I’m shocked that it’s still in print. It’s even got three reviews on Amazon. And since it’s selling at at a moderate price and a 15% discount, it’s not one of those print-on-demand inventory items.

Genre: Non-fiction (language, Chinese)
Date started / date finished:  22-Mar-16 to 11-May-16
Length: 200 pages
ISBN: 7800522431 (paperback)
Originally published in: 1993
Amazon link: The Origins of Chinese Characters

A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen

A Complaint Free World claims it can change readers’ lives and make the world a better place. And maybe to some extent it can and it has. But I’ve heard this kind of claim before. Every other self-help book takes its mission just as seriously. No matter how successful any one book is, or even how much I agree with a book’s message, the claim always sounds overblown.

I guess the thing to keep in mind is that the real value of a self-help book is not just in the core ideas it contains but in the way those ideas are explained and embedded in a compelling story that speaks to you.

Did this book speak to me? In a word, no. It does have a couple of good ideas, but there were a lot of bad ideas in there, too. Read below to find out what parts of the book I saw as valuable and what parts were not suited to my taste.

Continue reading A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen

Kimberly Clark

Okay, so I know that logo is a K and a backwards C. But it looks a bit like a Chinese character. Okay, not exactly like a Chinese character, but enough like one that my brain has to struggle to interpret the shape. It could even be a five-pointed leaf, like a maple leaf, though it would have to be a more leaf-like color. Or it could even be a snowflake, since it’s blue.