Sunday, March 22, 2009


Nowadays, we malays facing difficulties especially doing a business that already manipulated, discriminated and being controlled by polluted chinese communities in our own 'TANAHMELAYU', so called TANAH TUMPAH DARAHKU. Who has to be blame, since chinese communities already controlled and conquered and keep expanding their wealth and strength and now chinese people already shows their interest in politic. So we malays, have to initiate strategic move and we have to start learning their cultures, what's behind their success stories...

Japan is a nation which basically has an "imitation" seal stamped into it, for those who know how it deliberately borrowed culture from China during the Yamato period. While in reality, Japan did not simply copy, but appropriated Chinese culture into their own, is copying something it shouldn't have done in the first place?

I'd like to believe that all successful empires from times past up to the present flourished not because they stayed closed and kept outside influence out, but because at some point they allowed foreign material and interact with their own and subsequently, enriching it. This diffusion of ideas was especially evident back then when patents weren't in anyone's mind yet, and was important in the progress and improvement of civilizations. Of course, during those times, this copying was disguised as "cultural exchange."

For instance, the Chinese invented a lot of basic tools we use nowadays, like the wheelbarrow, the compass, the decimal system etc. These were later on used by other people to build more sophisticated stuff. Going the other way around, what is a fighter jet made of? These would include steel, paint, glass, machinery, things the designer of the jet did not necessarily invent himself. People copy because they see the good in something, and eventually, they'll be able to do something better with it.

Knowledge, is after all, an accumulation of discoveries that were made since time way back. It is a continuing process of inquiry into the things around us. There wouldn't be advancement if everyone had to "invent" everything themselves.

Nowadays however, that topic is not so simple given the ubiquity of intellectual property rights. Everyone wants to protect their ideas, seeking exclusivity to the work they made. But really, the concept was made because of economic reasons.

I do not mean to demean this construct, nor do I discredit the advantages of this system. I do recognize the chaos that would ensue if everyone had their way in these times. However, it might be nice to think, once in a while, that in the grander scheme of things, pure development can only be achieved by building on what our ancestors have provided us, and that copying is not so unnatural after all.

There is a quote that goes like this, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." The Japanese recognized the value of culture and saw China as a good model. Maybe China should feel flattered after all because of the circumstances? haha. All in all though, I do wonder sometimes what Japan would be right now if it took a different course of action during those times. This will ultimately be left to our own imaginations.

Taoism was developed during the Period of Warring States, along with the great philosophies of China. It emerged as a response to the growing ills of the society at the time. If one were to go by this, a more laid-back attitude must be formed. Let nature take its course, and everything will come to place. While it may not have become the all-cure panacea for that time, its survival to this day comes as testament that there is much to be learned from this school of thought.

For one, as was mentioned in class, Taoism offers a way to relieve people from unnecessary stress. It is undeniable that there are simply problems that no matter how hard one tries to solve, will not magically go away. These may come in the form of broken relationships, flunked exams, death of loved ones, etc. In these instances, it definitely is better to stop thinking too much and instead start moving on forward to other matters which can be solved.

There is however another way to appreciate Taoism, from what I read. It stems from what I surmise as its more fundamental foundations - the nature as a balance of Yin and Yang, the one.

We live in a highly modern world these days, and even though we may not notice it, a big chunk of our mentality actually comes from highly Westernized lenses. I'm talking about the way science and technology has permeated every part of our lifestyles. More specifically, I refer to the imprints the tenets of Cartesian science has made on our minds.

Consider this, one of the basic premises for modern science to work at all is the assumption that the world is indeed knowable by the human mind. It also assumes that humans be independent as an observer, implying that the humans can be separated from the world, in a sense. The philosophy of science also dictates that the world, like a machine, can be dismantled and reduced into constituent parts. Reality refers to that which could be substantiated materially.

Taoism, on the other hand, has a holistic view of the world, compared to the Western atomistic view. It implies that humans and nature are inseparable. What affects nature affects humans, and what affects humans affects nature too. Closed within the mindset that nature is readily available to be exploited, humans have severely diminished the world's resources throughout the course of history. Only recently is it emphasized that an Earth set towards the path destruction translates to the same fate for humans as well. The Taoists have known this since a long time ago.

The contrast is manifested in the field of medicine. In the western schema, body is reduced to individual parts, from organs to tissues, tissues to cells, cells to molecules. The doctor is then like a mechanic who tinkers with it in order to discern the nature, proportion, and function of each part. A diseased entity is perceived a faulty component and is isolated from the system. In this paradigm, there is health when there are no faulty components.

On the other hand, in the eastern worldview, the human is considered a microcosm of the Nature. As a miniature version of the cosmos, humans are propelled by the same forces that drive nature. Each body is like a garden, a dynamic self-regulating ecosystem living within an ecosystem as well, and the doctor is like a gardener. Here, health is defined as the ability to respond to things that challenges its equilibrium.

There are many more dramatic albeit interesting differences in diagnosis and treatment which will be left out of this entry; suffice to say the two have a lot to learn from each other and already cross fertilization is occurring.

Our perception molds our mind, and our mind shapes our consciousness. Sometimes though, when our dearly-held conceptions are so deeply ingrained, we barely notice their presence at all. This holds true in ways more than the dispute of religions.

It is during these times that Taoism serves another purpose. It may be beneficial for us to look into other forms of worldview, not necessarily to embrace it, but to appreciate that the lenses we use to see the world are not the only one there is. At the same time, we are able to point out the flaws of our schemas and be able to enrich them through other ways of perceiving.

Societies and the interactions that occur within it have been the subject of a lot of studies for a long time now. In fact, it also takes part in the study of history by defining how the first communities and civilizations were able to be flourish, and how their decline eventually took place. But does it also define how certain figures emerge in societies? Like, given any society for instance, will there definitely arise a certain kind of person?

The reason why I ask this is because of the inter-community counterparts that I know of, namely - Sun Yat Sen to Jose Rizal and Sima Qian to Herodotus. Let me elaborate of the similarities.

During the "slicing of the Chinese melon" (as my History teacher puts it), Sun Yat Sen was the
one who took responsibility in saving China from its poor state, which was then under the foreign Qing rule. Western-educated as a doctor, he established a secret society whose goal was to revive China. He gathered funds, supporting Chinese revolutionaries, and paved the rise of Chinese nationalism through his actions.

Jose Rizal, on the other hand, also Western-educated as a doctor, also saw the need to awaken the feelings of nationalism that were sleeping dormant in the Filipinos. He mainly did this through his writings, but the most of prominent of which were the two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

"Nationalism” as generally used in describing two phenomena: the attitude that the members of a nation possess about their nation’s identity and the actions that the members of a nation take to achieve and attain self-determination. In the case of Philippines and China, both were prompted to take collective action against their foreign dominators. Though opposite in ways, Sun Yat Sen and Jose Rizal were two such people who lead their fellowmen in ushering in a new era.

Moving on, the second analogy is mainly about the Sima Qian and Herodotus. The first is Chinese, and second is Greek, but the two were considered great historianis alike.

The Chinese knew the value of chronicles since a long time ago, but when the Qin dynasty came in, the emperor ordered the destruction of records deemed threatening to help achieve unity. The action basically was a disaster to historical scholarship. But Sima Qian undertook a project of writing the Chinese history from earliest times to his own day. He would travel around the empire to collect testimony, visit sites, and evaluate the credibility of ancient legends. Eventually he would produce a manuscript called the Shi ji (Records of the Grand Historian), which would later be used as a format for dynastic histories.

Similarly, Herodotus traveled across Greece and Persia, through the Middle East and into North Africa in his quest for writing history. He was also concerned with collecting his materials systematically, testing their accuracy to a certain extent and arranging them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative. This will earn him the title "Father of history" in Western culture.

As Barton Watson, translator of Sima Qian's works, puts it, "his emphasis upon the life and importance of the individual, his skepticism and relative lack of interest in the supernatural" corresponds largely to the way Greek historians did it.

Now, going back to my original argument, perhaps this is mere human nature. There may be that inner revolutionary or historian inside all of us. It's just that not everyone is inclined to release this inner urging because of societal constraints (e.g. the task being unconventional for an average human during the time).

Another theory is that maybe, in every society, there will eventually rise these certain kinds of people - the leader, the inventor, the revolutionist etc. It just takes some form of stimulus along history, but definitely, once the need arises, it will come. Going along this thinking, one would believe that there are certain laws governing large-scale human interaction, extending so far as to the production of certain special-function individuals.

Whatever the case may be, China, with all its vastness, houses an enormous population within it, and with big numbers of people come greater degrees of variety. Add its long history to the mix, we get a lot of these individuals who have foreign counterparts (well, only two in this entry).

In the end, it really is just simply interesting to see such striking similarities. Is this mere coincidence? What's important is that the existence of these counterparts also suggests that there are more to know.


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