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An intriguing book

The book “Classic of Mountains and Seas” (山海经 in Chinese) was written before 300 B.C. by unknown author(s) and is a compilation of mythic geography and myth. One is often disconcerted by the contents in it, which not only describe hundreds of mountains and water channels within four seas but also the incredible strange animals.

According to some scholars, the book recorded the ancient geography, even before the formation of the Himalaya Mt. which was thought still under the sea at the time. It was during the drastic geographical change of the earth, combined with natural disasters that one of the very ancient animals Dinosaur became extinct. The book had been called a geography encyclopedia by many scholars and historians in ancient times.

It was said when Qin emperor united the whole China about 2200 years ago, he once burnt all the books he could have managed to find but singled out this particular book only, which proved how invaluable this book had been. The world has been evolving and actually will always be going so naturally. However, Thousands of years later, until now, this intriguing book still remains a mystery to people who set foot in it.

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Image courtesy: amazon.com 

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Anticipation on English opera

According to Wikipedia, “Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting.”

So opera can simply be referred to as singing plus drama. By the definition of this dual art form it seems more appealing than just one. I love opera, I must admit, although I only trained as a scientist later on. Since my childhood I had been watching/listening to popular Chinese contemporary operas and could still remember some of the operatic stories/songs. After living in England for many years, I have opted for western operas and undoubtedly been influenced by the music and sagas in them. However, I found that most famous operas were sung in either Italian or French, which regretfully I couldn’t understand a tiny bit, despite the wonderful music in them, and therefore had to give up on watching/listening them in the long run.

The West End show in London is ever so reputable and popular that even the tourists would rush to the theatre to experience once, especially the famous musicals such as Cats, the Phantom of the Opera etc., have touched some many souls since their premiere decades back. But it seems the operas in English are quite behind the English musicals in terms of their popularity and influence, and therefore the space within this art form to explore is enormous.

Art is the reflection of life. Imaging the lives and events in your familiar surroundings are sung in the contemporary operas, and the thrill can be attainable. I wish to anticipate more English operas coming to show and passing on to generations.

Harvest time!

This year we had a really good harvest of sweet plums in our garden. When the fruits are in their fullest form, the “wow” effect is obvious.

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In my friend’s garden, she has an apple tree and a pear tree, two mature and gorgeous fruity trees I would say, and the harvest this year was also fantastic.

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I’d think If you have a reasonable sized back garden, it would be a good idea to grow one or two fruity trees. That will always make you smile and expect something happening in the autumn, because, as an old saying goes like, “when you plant marrow seeds you’ll get marrows, and when you plant bean seeds you’ll have beans back.”

The below photo was taken at a small village near Pisa in Italy, when I visited there with a friend a couple of years ago. It was a public street scene, rows of orange trees for harvesting. But it seemed nobody bothered to pick the fruits, maybe it’s too much of this around the area and becoming cheapish. When goods are abundant everyone can have it within reach.

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However, it’s impossible that everything is free. We did pay for our tea/coffee and snacks at a local shop when we took a break. The town was quiet and people were friendly.

 

Acquiring knowledge on holiday

One of the rewards about travelling is that one can acquire some knowledge during the period.

My friend and I went to Portugal a while ago, and we visited the Jeronimos Monastery at Belem in Lisbon, which is listed as a World Heritage Site.

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While we followed the tour guide, she told us some interesting historic stories which we couldn’t learn by just going there alone. We have learnt that hundreds of years ago when Portuguese explorers went to South America and later colonised Brazil, they found that the local folks ate corns as main daily food. When they built the monastery at their own homeland in Belem, this cultural fact about Brazil was reflected and en-carved on the church walls and pillars, as seen from above picture (a corn in a hand).

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The Capital city Lisbon has its own character and cultural heritages. It had also experienced some major earthquakes, one of which occurred in 1755, as recorded being devastating to the city. Portugal is a beautiful country with a long coastal line facing the Atlantic Ocean. Many explorers and migrants once embarked on ships to sail towards America, especially during the WW II, Lisbon was one of the few neutral, open Atlantic ports, providing a gateway for many refugees fleeing from the war to America.

Apart from touring Lisbon, we had visited some other towns by the coast on a day trip. With the help of our tour guides, we had a really good time and learnt a lot during this trip.

Why is art important to us?

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Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” The world  is far from perfect and faces many challenges from time to time. Life can be hard sometimes, but it must go on whatever the circumstances. Life can be rather boring without art. A piece of good music can touch people’s souls and even bring you into tears. Great art can uplift your spirit, lead you to seek light in the darkness.

This is not to say everyone can be an artist or make a living as an artist. While science is more on logic and reasoning side, art is more focused on sense and feelings.

In a world where the population is growing fast, what are people going to do with their lives? Without understanding the beauty of art, people will probably just spend time on basic instincts. The education in music and art makes people care about environment, and hence less destructive.

In general, people enjoying art enjoy life more. That’s why art is so important to us.

Some lessons in history

The society has progressed, and we are living in a better material world than ever before. However, when it comes to certain customs and traditions, it seems that what you wear reflects on what you’d like to present yourself to others, and how you’d intend to integrate with the rest of the world.

Recently I’ve researched some old Chinese customs about their costumes and appearance that men and women had to abide by at certain historical period, which seems rather peculiar now. For example, in Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), men were forced to wear their hair in queues, which means the hair on top of the scalp is grown long and is often braided while the front portion of the head is shaved. This was a symbolism of the conquest of Manchus in China. It was thought that this kind of hairstyle caused a lot of bullying on early Chinese immigrants in overseas countries, because they looked so different in a common territory. For women, through several dynasties in Chinese history, until early twentieth century, women had to bind their feet to the extent that they could not walk properly and suffered from severe disabilities, not to mention that the binding belt was so filthy to wear daily that it led to other health hazards. Later on, those harmful customs and the ideology behind them were abolished in early twentieth century, when a revolution took place that overthrew the ruling of the Qing dynasty.

History is a mirror, it’s often heartening but teaches us good lessons. While we feel fortunate to live in a more civilised society today, we should not forget those who had fought for a better life for their next generations.

The things we should treasure

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Have you ever noticed that the most precious things in life are actually free?

The fresh air to breath is free, the sunlight that makes us healthy and happy is free. And we are free to walk on earth by foot to go anywhere we’d like. Besides all this, the family link is free by nature since we were born. The friendship we’ve forged over years is also free. Think positively about how blessed we are when we possess these wonderful offerings, and when we live in a relatively free world.

Needless to say, we all need some money to spend in our lives, but we might as well just treasure all these things that are free!