February 17, 2010

Of General Guan Yu and Star Wars


I am now reading the great Chinese novel "Romance of The Three Kingdoms" (actually reading it again … I have read it a few times already). I love this novel with its colourful historical characters of ancient generals, heroes and villains such as Liu Bei, Zhang Fei, Zhou Yu, Chao Tzu Lung, Zhuge Liang, Cao Cao and of course Guan Yu (picture-left), a Han general who is the subject of this article. Guan Yu is very much respected until today for his righteousness and loyalty. The Chinese called him “Kuan Kung” or "Kuan Yee Kor" (in Cantonese). He is the fierce looking guy with long beard and armed with a halberd (a type of ancient sword with a long handle) that you see in many Chinese temples. Some people even install the deity of General Guan Yu in their homes. Even though he is not a god, he is very much respected and treated like one.

So what does General Guan Yu have to do with Star Wars?

The story goes like this … once I was visiting a temple and in this temple there was a very nice deity of General Guan Yu. I was just hanging around and was admiring the beautiful statue of General Guan Yu when I noticed that the temple does not use wax candles anymore. The wax candles were replaced by those plastic electric candles … I am sure you must have seen them before … those candle look-a-like with a light bulb that lights up when you switch on the electricity. They will flicker mimicking a burning candle.

At the same time the caretaker of the temple was walking by me and I commented that I don’t see many temples using these electric candles. Honestly, I commented innocently but I don’t know why the caretaker was a bit disturbed by my comment. I could see he was quite agitated and he shot back at me with a tone and manner full of hostility. He said “Eh “how sang chai (young man) … lei tou ng sik yeh, hou lok how (you don’t know anything, very backwards)” … and he went on (in Cantonese) saying that things are very advance now and we must keep in pace with progress and development of new ideas, new things and a full load of related stuffs. Phew! I must have stood there listening to him for quite awhile. Then I thought I better leave, he must have got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.

But as I was leaving he said something which hit me on a wrong spot … he said “Lei kang hai mo tok kor shee ... sai kai how chun po chor. Lei mo tai kor Star Wars meh? Translated, those words mean “You must be uneducated. The world is very advance already. You never watch Star Wars before?"

Now those words heated me up a bit and I shot back with my acerbic tongue (in Cantonese) something to this effect … I said “Hello, if you are talking about advance and progress … then why only change the candles? Why is General Guan Yu still wearing an ancient headgear and holding an ancient sword? He should also progress right? And speaking of Star Wars, then our good General Guan Yu should be wearing a Darth Vader’s mask and holding a bloody light sabre (picture-right) … and when you switch on the electric it should go “zzzrrrrrrmmmmm’ and will light up menacingly … and those words (there were a few Chinese words written on the wall nearby) should change too. They should read “May the force be with you” right?

When I finished, the caretaker jaw dropped and before anything happens I walked out of the temple quite satisfied with myself.

Now don’t get me wrong … I am not against using electric candles. They do serve their purpose in keeping the place clean and reduce pollution. But then again, I think some things should be left as they were originally... I mean both the candles and the good old General Guan Yu.

February 04, 2010

I did not donate ...

I did not donate to the recent Haiti Relief Fund. I also did not donate to the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Fund not too long ago nor did I make any donations to the 2004 Tsunami Disaster Aid.

Why? Because I don’t wait for disasters to happen to make a donation. Someone asked me the other day “Hey Shiek, you want to make a donation for the coming Chinese New Year?” I said “No” because I also don’t have to wait for a special day to do it.

Every other week there is always someone appealing for donation … a child somewhere with leukaemia needed financial assistance or a student with a life threatening disease facing a huge medical bill or a hardcore poor family who lost their sole breadwinner due to an unfortunate accident. Aren’t all these people suffering the same as those disaster victims?

I donate when I see there is a need to. When I read in the newspapers that someone needed financial help for a bone marrow procedure or an infant who needed an operation to fix a diseased heart, I may send a cheque … not a lot, just a small amount that I can afford. Sometimes more, when I have a bit more to spare for that month.

And when I shop at hypermarkets, occasionally I would purchase an extra packet of rice that is on sale or another tin of discounted Milo and some cookies or biscuits that are specially offered through “purchase with purchase” deals. I will gather all these items and when it is time to pay a visit to an orphanage or an old folk’s home, I will bring them along.

During festive periods, I do receive a lot of hampers and other gift packs from friends and business associates. I don’t need so many of these gifts. One is good enough for my family and the rest I will send them to where they are needed most.

Yes, the disaster victims needed donations, funds and aids ... by all means, help them. So do many of the underprivileged orphans, special children, unfortunate old folks and the poverty-stricken families who also are depending on the same donations, funds and aids to help make their lives a little bit better. Help them too!

Donate as and when you see there is a need ... and it doesn’t necessary have to be monetary. There are many other ways of making donations and contributing to the help the unfortunates. Like me, I hope you don’t wait for a disaster to happen or a special day to do it.

You know what? I will also donate when there is no need. Huh? You see, should I leave this world unexpectedly I will have no need for my organs. I will donate them too. Will you?