Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mirrors of myself from 2008-2015

Strangers and those who do not know my age will usually come to conclusion that I am either still in university or a fresh graduate despite me having graduate some 10 years ago. 9 years ago, 6 years ago, 4 years ago and even recently, they kept saying the same thing that I look so young. Another irony is people kept thinking I am still a chambering pupil! I am so used to that now but I will keep asking myself: Do I really look that young? No. I do think the youthful look is no longer there.

Since 2008, I have been visiting Beijing every year due to work as well as my long standing fondness for this City and here, I discovered the gem that was to steal my heart and lure me back with its old world charm and architecture, so magical and alluring. It is also in this city that craftsmen, artists, rulers, warriors, current and long gone, bestowed the world with one of the greatest treasure known to man.

For some strange reasons, Tiananmen Square holds a special place in my heart and made it a point to have a photo taken at about the same spot near Tiananmen Gate to see the change of my outlook and the place. Alas, the gate didn't change much but vicissitudes of life are evidently shown when I compare then and now.

P/s: For many reasons, I think I am starting to have "China Lethargy" and it will probably be many more years before my next visit to Beijing if it isn't for work purpose. 

Circa 2015

Circa 2014

Circa 2013

Circa 2012

Circa 2011

Circa 2010

Circa 2009
Circa 2008

Friday, 9 October 2015

The modern day Marcus Licinius Crassus of Malaysia

I was reading The Rich: From Slaves to Super Yatchs, A 2000 Year History by John Kampfner when I came across these two paragraphs:

He may have been the richest of them all. Marcus Licinius Crassus was the ultimate oligarch who used the nexus of wealth and politics to become one of the most powerful figures in the Roman Republic.  He was the man of his times, when corruption was an art form, when violence, politics and profit were rolled into one. This was an era of rapid economic growth, with wealth flowing in from newly conquered lands.  Friendships and enmities, loyalties and betrayals, could be bought and sold. The elite were at it all, but some were more successful than others. His skills have proven transferable through the ages. He would have felt right at home in ……………in which ruthlessness and greed were regarded as inevitable parts of public life.


Crassus used his cash to make himself indispensable. He would house senators and fund armies. In doing so, he managed his reputation to the top. Through cunning and endeavor, rather than any particular skill, he came to dominate Rome, alongside his longtime rival, Pompey, and the precocious Julius Ceasar. These three would later be known as the First Triumvirate.  

Much have been written about Crassus over the millennia but reading Kampfner describing him in these lines made me think of his modern day reincarnation in Malaysia. The Romans, according to the great moral philosopher Plutarch, say that the many virtues of Crassus were obscured by his sole vice of avarice. I think fellow Malaysians would agree with the Romans regarding this particular leader in Malaysia that his many virtues are now being obscured by his insatiable greed.

Who is he? Who is the first person that came across your mind ? I'll offer a treat to those who get it right. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The idler’s way (闲人道)

闲人道The Idler’s Way

数 几
件 个
可 有
流 见
传 识
趣 高
事 人
消 论
磨 说
岁 古
月 今

Knowing of my interest in Chinese calligraphy, a China based client of mine gave me this couplet (对联) recently to add to my collection. This couplet’s beautiful calligraphy is by Chen Rishen, one of the many distinguish members of China National Calligrapher Association based in Beijing. I name this couplet “The Idler’s Way”; for its casual yet meaningful exhortation of what we can/should do during our idle time.

The first 12 words in it exhorts its reader to do meaningful things during one’s lifetime that can be passed on for generations to come while the next is about the setting up meetings of minds to have discourse on current and historical issues when one have some idle time to spare. Thank you very much to Mr. Zong for this precious gift as well as the many life plus business wisdoms that you generously share with me.

This couplet is now prominently on display in my room, flanking a painting of an abstract dragon. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Cao Dai Temple – a strange mecca in Vietnam

The main temple of Cao Daism, also known as the Holy See
Out of curiosity, while in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) last week, my friend and I decided that we should pay a visit the heart of a very strange sect that flourishes in Communist Vietnam, with 2-3 million followers worldwide. This thought provoking sect is none other than Cao Daism – a syncretic institution that embraces a mixture of Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and native Vietnamese spiritualism.

A beautiful or eyesore blend of East and West, depending on one's view.
Pronounced as “cow thy” in English, the mecca for this sect is situation in Tay Ninh town which is at the border with Cambodia. After a dreadful three and half hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City, we arrived at the temple complex which houses the sect’s gigantic temple, administrative center, residence for officials and adepts as well as a hospital of traditional Vietnamese healing. Only the main temple is open for public. The best time for the public to visit the temple is at 12 noon when the prayer is in session. Prayers are conducted 4 times daily at the main temple with hundreds of adherents in white and led by three leaders dressed separately in red, yellow and blue.

Sun, Hugo and Nyugen - the 3 Saints
Read with caveat.
The founder of this sect is the mystic Ngo Minh Chieu whom in 1919 began receiving revelations in which the tenets of Cao Daism were set forth. In 1926, the gigantic Cao Dai Temple began its construction with a blend of whimsical east and classical west architectural flavors. At the entrance of the temple, a strange mural greets the visitors. It depicts the three signatories of the “Third Alliance between God and Man with Chinese Nationalist leader Dr Sun Yet Sen holds an ink stone, while author Victor Hugo and Vietnamese poet Nguyen Binh Khiem write “God and Humanity” and “Love and Justice”. Nguyen writes with a brush and Hugo uses a quill pen.

Prayer session.
After spending about 30 minutes in the temple complex with most of the time spent snapping pictures, my friend and I decided to leave. Cao Daism is just a very strange notion for both of us. However, it is worth the long drive from Saigon to widen one’s knowledge about the complexity of religion and what can go wrong or right with it.