Thursday, 30 May 2013

Adieu to Legend of Tea @ The Curve

Legend of Tea, 古意斋, at The Curve will cease operation starting from today after being in business for almost 9 years. The management had decided to close down this branch and in its wake will be its new premise in Sunway Pyramid with a new name – Lots 

Tom, Linda and myself.
I started to frequent Legend of Tea since 2005 and it was a place that holds many memories for me and some friends. It also stands as testimonial to the good old days of yesteryears where strong friendship were bonded and knowledge in tea, teapots, feng shui, traditional Chinese medicine, I Ching, insurance, pharmaceutical, gourmet, religion and politics were discussed over cups of teas almost every afternoon.

It is also a place where I bought most of my precious teapots and how arrivals of new teapots were much anticipated. We would gather upon hearing that a new batch of pots are arriving on a particular day and before the pot has a chance to be on the display cabinet, most likely that it would have found an owner. If one is late, one can only bite the fingers that such a nice pot has been taken. Such was the fun of buying teapots in those days.

The three of us with Mee Ling and Hang Hang, the last batch of staffs.

I am saddened by the news that such a place will no longer be available but again, no feasts last forever. What remains are the memories of yesteryears and a few good friends such as Tom and my tea friend turned god sister, Linda. I believe we will find a new place soon as a substitute but the original place will forever remain as the best.

古意斋 - 传古意,寄情谊。

My little experience with planting bonsai

Miniature  juniperus chinensis
Inspired by bonsai filled Chinese gardens in China, especially in the region of Jiangnan (Consists of the province of Jiangsu and Zhejiang which includes Shanghai); I started my little experiment with planting bonsai at home. I call it an experiment because I do not have a so call “land” for my plants but a “corner” that the management office encourages residents to adorn it with plants.

 I started by purchasing The Complete Practical Encyclopedia of Bonsai by Ken Norman and “stole” some plants from daddy’s vast garden. Dad is a natural botanist with deep knowledge of plants and we are blessed with a beautiful garden at home designed by him and adorned with huge varieties of plants. No cost is spared when it comes to beautifying his garden which he loves to say he dedicates it to my mother.
Initially the plants don’t do well because of my lack of knowledge that they need a lot of sunshine. I’ve mistakenly shaded them with my pot of bamboo. Some of them died and I took more from dad’s garden. I also bought some from the nursery. Bonsai costs a bomb! Occasionally when dad visits, he will help me prune my plants and I asked him to teach me how to do so. Then there are some plants that need “rescue” from dying so I will send them back to hometown for dad.

From dad and from Ken Norman’s book, I come to know about the variety of plants, the suitable soil, the right tools and equipment, shapes and styles and finally, the right pots for the right variety. My favorites are ulmus parvifolia (Chinese elm) and juniperus chinensis (Chinese Juniper).  I love the maples but they hardly survive in Malaysia.
Lonicera nitida (Hedging Honeysuckle)

I also made a deal with the cleaner of the condo to water the plants for me when I am away on weeks on end. After trails and errors, I am now proud to say that my little collection of bonsais is growing healthily. I’m now trying to learn how to propagate the bonsai trees which looks easy on print but is not an easy task at all.
 A ulmus parvifolia ( Chinese elm) "stolen" from dad's garden.

P/S: My bonsai propagation is successful now with two little Lonicera nitida and a juniperus chinensis. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

I Ching and I

The only thing that never change is that everything changes – I Ching

Richard Wilhelm, a well-known Sinologist has declared that I Ching is “unquestionably one of the most important books in the world’s literature and it has occupied the attention of the most eminent scholars of ancient China down to the present day. Nearly all that is greatest and most significant in the three thousand years of Chinese cultural history has either taken its inspiration from this book, or has exerted an influence on the interpretation of its text”.

This is a sweeping assertion and yet it is not easy to find any evidence to contradict it. The origin of I Ching dates back into what can only be described as mythical antiquity. Both Confucianism and Taoism, not to mention the works of Laozi and such modern scholars as Lin Yutang and Peter Hessler, have their roots in the I Ching – The Book of Changes.

Some indication of the power and influence of I Ching can be gleaned from the fact that it was the only book which was not condemned to be burnt by the First Emperor, Qin Shihuang. It was honoured and consulted by statesmen and scientists. Chairman Mao himself has turned I Ching to his advantage in the same way that he has turned Marxism and communism into the totally different Maoism. It is said that he used its divination seriously throughout his life and in making major and minor decisions.

It was on a cold rainy winter evening in Auckland at the home of a friend, Dr. Aileen, that I had my first encounter with I Ching. At that time, Dr. Aileen was volunteering for the New Zealand Labour Party’s Chinese Branch doing social work such as translation for the Chinese community. We were then discussing the chance of a Chinese candidate from the Labour Party becoming a Member of Parliament when Dr. Aileen asked if I know I Ching Divination. I told her I know nuts.

However, the curiosity in me made me search for this so called “Heavenly Book” in University of Auckland’s main library and I found the translation of the book by Richard Wilhelm published in 1950. My quest did not end there. Soon, I began to read the book seriously and added a few more books in English and Chinese into my library, including one by James Legge which was published in 1882. Of all places, I found Legge’s book at a second hand bookshop in Melbourne.

As time passed, I Ching became something like a bible to me. I consulted its divination frequently on matters close to heart when it is not convenient to go to the Waterloo Road Kuan Yin Temple in Singapore.

The I Ching is a truly profound book of divination. It is a book that not only tells one who consults it about the present situation and future potential but also gives instruction about what to do and what not to do to obtain fortune and avoid misfortune. All interpretations of I Ching center on the concept of Yin and Yang and the 64 hexagrams, also known as Gua.

A few years back, I attended a course about I Ching conducted by a Master Chew. From him, I learned about the connection of I Ching’s Gua numbers with numbers that we use for our phone, car plate, address and many more. With it comes the knowledge that 8 is not the best number as many perceived while 4 is not deadly. No 6 attracts gossips and number 2 represents the female power.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Feng shui masters told me so….

I was exposed to the study of metaphysics since young; influenced by my family members who are hard core believers in feng shui, fortune telling, date selection and divination, to the extent that the family even has an “in house” feng shui master. As time passed, metaphysics related books started to fill up my library, from unknown masters to my most respected master, Joey Yap. Not satisfied with just learning from the books, I started to attend courses offered. I won’t call myself a pro but at least I knew enough Xuan Kong Flying Star as well as Purple Star Divination and I Ching Divination for self-usage.
My collection of books by Joey Yap.


Some years back, before I acquire the current property where I am now staying, I did not engage any feng shui master to double confirm my study that the property’s feng shui is auspicious. Happy and satisfied with my own assessment based on what I study from Joey Yap, I moved in. Things go on smoothly as usual and luck was overall good.

However, along the way, visiting friends who also knew feng shui would advise on what should be placed where and where but I seldom listen to them except on two occasions. One friend advised that I should place a plant next to a toilet door along the corridor to my study and the guest room. Without asking why, I sourced for a plant that is suitable for indoor and placed it there. So far, no plant ever survived more than a month or so at that location. I dutifully replace one after another without much complain which is quite rare for my nature.

One day, one of YH’s friends, who studied feng shui from a grandmaster in town, paid a visit bringing along his “Luo Pan – feng shui compass”. YH wanted him to audit the feng shui of the house. Then he recommended that I place an aquarium at the entrance of my main door. I protested but he managed to persuade YH to put an aquarium there. My argument was that the place is not suitable for a water feature but YH argued back that the friend know better than me and all his grandmother stories. Tired of argument, I relented. All I knew was there was no end to argument between me and YH after the aquarium was installed. We would argue even over little things.

Before Chinese New Year this year, by chance, I came to know Master Wong, a very down to earth feng shui master at a teashop. Master Wong was a disciple of Master Hong Quan, who was said to be advising the Singapore government over its city planning and government buildings, as well as a few well known Hong Kong masters.

We started talking about Purple Star Divination and clicked instantly. As he is also very much into tea, I invited him over to sample my collections of teas.

He frowned as he enters the house and murmured that the aquarium should not be there. He mentioned a few Cantonese words which I had since forgotten but he asked me to remove the aquarium soonest possible to another corner which I duly did the next day. Next, he asked me to reposition my praying altar because I’d positioned it the other way round. It should be facing the balcony instead of the main door. He then went on to explain how the feng shui of condominiums work a bit different from landed properties. He also asked me to reposition my daybed as it blocked the “wealth sector” of the house. I did what he suggested.

The cursed corner.
Out of curiosity, I also asked him about the plant and enquire about the “special location” which I called “the cursed corner”. Indeed the plant’s purpose is to be there to block the direct “sha qi” between my study and the toilet. I supposed I’ve got the answer.

Did I experience any changes in life after doing all the repositioning? Yes, I realized I became busier than usual, no more petty arguments and some occasion windfall luck. One very obvious feeling that I experience after the change is that the "qi" or energy of the house became very lively.  

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Auckland…. I am returning !!

I know I am still very young to talk about retirement but the recent comment by Malaysia’s newly appointed Home Affairs Minister hasten my thought about where should I retire. This brilliant minister told Malaysians who are not satisfied with the recent election result to migrate. Be it his personal view or his official view, it is still his view; other apologists need not defend him.

What he said was indeed in the mind of many fellow Malaysians. However, not only Pakatan Rakyat supporters thought of migrating, angry BN supporters too. We’ve already have ex Malaysian minister and fall-out cronies suburb in Perth. Perhaps time is right now for a “Pissed off former Malaysians” suburb in other foreign cities. Add on with “Former Malaysian Expatriate” or "Once a Malaysian for few days" villages in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia and more. This will make Malaysia not only truly Asia but truly Global. 
As Steven Covey put it in 7th Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #2 talks about “Begin with the end in mind”. Putting in practice what he wrote, I begin with the end in mind. I should think of where I want to retire, only to plan on where I should migrate to. The older you go, the harder for you to gain a Permanent Resident status in a host country, so one should start young, unless you have plenty of money for investment in exchange for PR.
I’ve gone through a list of possible countries that I would like to migrate to and finally, I settle for New Zealand. To be precise, I would like to retire in Auckland, the city of sails and the place where I spent my formative years. Although I’ve left Auckland for good for almost 10 years, the emotional link and engagement with this city are particularly strong. It is as if I’ve never left Auckland. I would say this land of long white clouds, New Zealand’s other namesake, is paradise on earth created by God the Artist and a place I would like to migrate to and retire.
So now, first things first, I should start looking for a job in Auckland, have my house in Epsom ready for my return and be on lookout for international mover.  Perhaps moving companies can start having group discount for Malaysians like me who want to migrate and advertise their discount packages in the newspaper as well as Facebook.  Oh yes, I should also team up with my friends in Auckland to start a job employment cum migration agency in New Zealand. Finally, thank you Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister for putting so much ideas in my mind. It is good since news has died down post GE 13.

Monday, 13 May 2013

From Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan – My Great Wall journey

Chairman Mao once claimed “Those who have not climbed the Great Wall are not great men.” Abhorring to his call, I’m one of the few lucky ones that have the opportunity to explore the Great Wall of China from one end to the other. To complete such task, it took me a few years with visits to various locations around China to finally complete the whole Great Wall.
Another end of the Great Wall, Jiayuguan on a cold Spring morning.

To start with, the Great Wall of China has no definition which section is the beginning and which is the end. It all depends on where one starts. Another point is that the building of the Great Wall was indeed started by the First Emperor but today, none of the section of the wall that he built is still around. What we see today is mostly built during the Ming and the Qing dynasties except for some in the Gansu province that was built by the emperors of the Han and Tang dynasties.

The whole Great Wall is not linked together as many would have thought so. Only fragments that withstand the judgment of time and tribulations remains and some lucky ones have complete restoration. Those that have gone through complete restoration in return looked unauthentic to me. I still prefer the rustic ones but scaling them does test one’s stamina.
At the fully restored Jinshanling section.
The first section of the Great Wall that I first visited was the Badaling section which was internationally well known as it often play hosts to international dignitaries visiting Beijing. I can still remember my feelings on that cold winter morning when I scaled this monument. I was amazed at its structures, the people that built it.
One rainy afternoon at Shanhaiguan.
Of all sections of the Great Wall that I’ve scaled, the one I loved most was the Jiayuguan section, along the Silk Road in Gansu province with the majestic Qilian Mountains over its backdrops while the most disappointing one despite its name is actually the Shanhaiguan section.
If you are in Beijing and not too sure which one to scale, my personal recommendation will be the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall. This is also the section with the least visitor. On a good day, it will be as if your entire party occupies the whole Great Wall. It is about 120km away from Beijing towards the direction of Chengde. It is quite hard to find the entrance to this section of the Great Wall, so you will need to ask for directions and a very experienced driver. Forget about taking public transport.  Once you’ve reached one of the towers, you can have a bird eye view of the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall on the opposite end.
Desheng Bao section on top of the cliff.
 Another section of the Great Wall worth mentioning is the Desheng Bao section location near Datong in Shanxi province because it was right on top of the cliff of the famous Yungang Caves, famous for its Buddhism mural paintings and carvings.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Mummy, Happy Mother’s Day

Dearest mummy,

Daddy, mummy and I during our Chinese New Year Open House, 2013.

On this mother’s day, I would like to wish you not only Happy Mother’s Day but would also like to say thank you for everything that you’ve done for the family and for me. Thank you for your care all these years. Indeed a day goes without at least a phone conversation with you. Thank you for your encouragement for it made me a brave and independent girl. Thank you for your support for it made me who I am today. Thank you for your understanding for it made my journey much easier to go through. Thank you for always keeping my best interest at your heart for it made feel so fortune and lucky compared to others. Last but not least, thank you very much for your unlimited love for it is like eternity to me.

Mummy, you are the best on earth. Me, Lip Yann and Lip Yong plus daddy are the luckiest lot in the world for having you with us. I love you mummy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Farewell, Tan Sri P.G. Lim

My deepest condolence to the family of the late Tan Sri P.G. Lim who passed away at the grand old age of 97 in Perth, Australia on the 8th May 2013.

Ut vos requiscant in pace, Tan Sri.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Lessons to learn from Hoong Ling

With Hoong Ling on our campaign car.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been helping Hoong Ling running her campaign and it gave me an opportunity to work closely with her. It is an honour. She is one of the rare breed of candidates that any political parties ever produced.

To start with, Hoong Ling’s generosity and guts knows no boundary. They are embedded in her since her primary school days. Four years ago, she donated 60% of her liver to a stranger. Fast forward four years, today, how many of us can stand up and be counted to have the courage to be a live organ donor?

Next, she is one of the most transparent candidates in town. Her personal plus campaign calendar is open to the public at her website when others treat their where about or whom they meet with utmost secrecy. She is also one of the few candidates that openly publish her contact number and email so that she is always within the reach of the people.

What appalled to me most was the simplicity of her lifestyle. People have the stereotype that all BN candidates live in nice houses or high end condominiums but the truth is her office is her home. I was out of words when I saw her makeshift bed and wardrobe. I used to tell people that my wardrobe is the simplest that you can find in a woman but now, I have to keep my mouth shut after seeing Hoong Ling’s.

During the campaign, she is in all focus on what she needs to do. Kudos to her that she didn’t fire any solve on her opponent which earns my respect. She is also cautious on not to overpromise for she believe it will come back to haunt her. Her ringing words are “judge me by what I’ve done, not by my rhetoric of words and promises”. Rain or shine, she is all out to meet and greet as many people as possible. She is full of energy and optimism.

How many candidates that lost in this election actually accept their defeat gracefully and offered “congratulations” to their opponent?  Hoong Ling is the very first to do this. Not long after that, she wrote a short note to the people of Petaling Jaya Utara telling them that despite her losing, her service to them will continue as usual.

All these are the traits and personalities of a leader that we all want. On reflections, I think, it is more of the people’s loss than her personal loss that she is not elected as their MP. She may have lost this war that swipe off Chinese candidates representing Barisan Nasional but I believe she will win the battle in the long run.