Saturday, November 28, 2009

Potala Palace

China and Her Ethnic groups
China is a beautiful country with 56 official ethnic groups. When the Europeans first step foot into China they first thought that they had arrived in the kingdom of the Heaven as the scenery in China was simply like a paradise. It was too beautiful to them.

Among the 56 ethnic groups are the Tibetans who lived in Tibet. Tibet is located southwest of China, bordering with India and Nepal. It is sometimes referred to as the Roof of the World. The capital of Tibet is Lhasa and located in Lhasa is a very famous palace known as the Potala Palace.

History of Potala Palace
Potala Palace's history began in the 7th century when the founder of the Tubo dynasty, King Songtsan Gambo, ordered the construction of a 999 room palace for the sake of marrying the Tang dynasty princess, Princess Wencheng.
The Potala Palace is located on the Red Hill of Lhasa. However, there was some destruction caused by lightning and war. It was rebuilt by the Fifth Dalai Lama in 1645. During the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese in 1959, the palace was slightly damaged when Chinese shells were launched into it's window. However there were still some 100,000 volumes of scriptures, historical documents and other works of arts were either removed, damaged or destroyed since. Between 1989 to 1994, RMB55million (US$6.875million) was spent on restoration works.

Architecture and Design
This palace was built at an altitude of 3,700 m (12,100 ft), on the side of Marpo Ri ('Red Mountain') in the center of Lhasa Valley, widely recognized as Tibet's pinnacle architecture and the epicenter of the entire Lhasa's valley. The palace has vast inward-sloping walls broken in the upper parts by straight rows of windows and flat roofs at various levels. It is not unlike a fortress in appearance. It's interior is renowned as intricate murals line the corridors leading through mazes of treasured materials highly focused on Tibetan's history, religion, culture and arts.

The Palace consists of 2 sub palaces which are namely the Red Palace and the White Palace which can be distinguished by the colors of the walls. The Red is mainly for religious purposes, comprising of the Hall of the Buddha, the Memorial hall, libraries and the Scripture Hall. It contains imposing chapels and numerous jeweled tombs of the earlier Dalai Lamas. The Main Central Hall of the red palace consists of the Great West Hall, the Saint's Chapel, North Chapel, South Chapel, East Chapel and the West Chapel. There are also 3 main galleries which are namely the the First, Second Gallery and Third Gallery, which are located around the chapel area. The White Palace is more utilitarian, consisting of offices, a printing house, a seminary, courtyards, shrines and tombs of the eight Dalai Lamas. It also serves as living quarters for the Dalai Lamas.

The Dalai Lama
Before this palace was opened to the public, it was once the home of the King and the Dalai Lamas. Since the first Dalai Lama till now, the current one is the 14th generation. Tombs of the previous Dalai Lamas can be found in the palace. This palace was renovated by the Dalai Lama of the 13th generation. The 14th Dalai Lama was send into exile and had formed the exile Tibet government in India.

This Palace is said to be absolutely earthquake proof and has been included as one of the new wonders of the world in 2006. Buddhism was brought into China and Tibet from India. However it was the Chinese who had spread and flourished Buddhism into different parts of the world. The Tibetan ethnic group is a Buddhist ethnic group. Tibetans are devoted believers and practitioners of Buddhism. For people who would like to understand deeper about Buddhism, Lhasa and the Potala Palace is the ideal place as it is somewhat the heartland of Buddhism in China.

Visiting Potala Palace
Tour only clockwise according to their local customs. Do not Step on door sill, don't smoke in the halls and most of all do not take photos/videos without permission! It will be difficult for visitors to climb to the top of the building due to its height. Hence it will be better to slow down and as the halls are always chilly wear a coat when visiting the palace. Only less than 2300 tourists and pilgrims are allowed to admit into the palace daily.


Legend of Mid Autumn Festival

On the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese calendar every year, Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie) or what some called as Moon cake Festival or Lantern festival is being celebrated. On this very day, it will always be of a full moon without fail! The Moon on this very night will be always very big, bright and round. If you were looking at the moon, you will see some images. What most people would see would be either a Maiden or a Rabbit! Very few people will see a toad! You should not see any other images than these 3 images. There is an explanation in fact to why it can only be one of those 3 images. There are however several versions of this story and henceforth many arguments as a result. It has been said that each provinces of China has their own individual versions. The story that I know when I was a kid is as follows:

10 Sun(s)
It was said that there was once 10 suns. Everyday, each sun will take its turn to appear during the day. However one day, all of them decided to appear together at the same time. This in turn was very bad for mother earth. The lands became dry, waters were dry up too, and much living things died of dehydration.

A Hero
The people called out for a hero and their call was answered. This hero was by the name of Hou Yi! He was an extraordinary archer with exceptional archery skills. At the mountains of Kunlun, with his arrows, he shot down the suns one at a time but spared the last one.

Hero to King
For saving the world and the human race, the locals made Hou Yi their King. Initially he rejected them but the people were too persistent and sincere into pushing him as their king and they were successful eventually in doing so. As time went by, power and authority as the king had Hou Yi gradually turned into an absolute tyrant! He people suffered a lot under his rule. This king had a wife who was none other than Chang E. She was a lady with a very kind, warm, loving and pure heart. They people loved her very much.

Hou Yi gradually had fears and worries of death as he is after all still a human. He soon began his quest in the search of gaining immortality. In the process of it, he transformed from a loving husband into a wife abuser and beater as well as becoming even more tyranny as a king. Eventually a servant of his told him that up in the mountains lived the queen mother of west and that she had the pill of elixir that could give him immortality. Hou Yi rode off to the mountains to seek for this pill of elixir. The Queen mother of the west eventually agreed to give him this pill of elixir. Hou Yi feared that the Elixir would be stolen away from him during his journey back home; hence he transferred the elixir into another bottle resembling poison. Chang E was having a tour of Hou Yi’s kingdom during Hou Yi’s absence, this gave the people their chance which they have been waiting to address their sufferings to their beloved queen, Chang E. Seeing how much the people had suffered with her own eyes under the tyrannical rule of Hou Yi, and she was very upset and disappointed. When Hou Yi came home and places his belongings onto the table of their room. Chang E decided to persuade him to repent and end his tyrannical doings. This resulted in a heated argument and she was badly beaten by Hou Yi. Chang E saw the poison on the table and she felt sad, knowing that she could neither changed him or to do anything for the citizens that she loved, did she decide to take the poison to end her life. At once, all of her injuries recovered! She found herself lighter than air itself. Unknowingly next, she found herself floating.

Fly Me to the Moon
Hou Yi wanted to stop her and tried everything that he could such as grabbing hold of his wife but he attempts were to no avail. As he saw her drifting into the air towards the moon, he wanted to shoot her down with his arrows but found himself not able to bring himself to shoot her down as he still loves her very much. At this point of time, he finally knelt down before his wife and cried out loud asking for her to come back to him and don't leave him alone behind. In deep remorse, he vowed to her promising that he will mean his ways and repent. Though it was a little too late however, Hou Yi did keep to his words indeed repented.

The Death of Hou Yi
One day during a hunting trip, his best disciple Feng Meng challenge him in archery and lost to his master. Feng Meng was a person who with a narrow heart and had also been jealous of Hou Yi all along. He finally had Hou Yi murdered in cold blood when his back was facing him. Feng Meng had his master, Hou Yi back stabbed to death.

The Moon and the Festival
There were some witnesses who witness this event and saw Chang E floating into the moon. That very night it was 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar and it was a bright full moon. There were some occupants in the moon. There was Wu Gang the woodcutter who was being punished by his teacher to chop a particular tree in the moon. There was also Yue Lao, the match maker god. Chang E became a moon goddess and lived in the Moon Palace with 2 Jade Rabbits accompanying her. During every night, Chang E as the moon goddess would bless her people. Her people and devotees would worship her and Yue Lao whenever there is a full moon. Henceforth every year during the 15th day of the 8th month, mid-autumn festival is being celebrated since then. Some of the Cantonese people would pray to her for peace and blessings, perhaps harmony as well during this festival. That would be why you would see either a maiden or a rabbit in the usual case. It is either Chang E that you would see or the Jade Rabbit in the moon.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gods of Prosperity, Authority and Longevity

Author: Silvia Blach

Fuk Luk Sau
The Three Star Gods, Fuk, Luk, and Sau are very famous in Chinese culture. These three represents the gods of longevity, happiness, and rank. Although they are being referred to as god, they are not literally worshipped in the traditional way a religion will worship a God. The Three Star Gods, although they are not worshipped in a conventional sense, are highly regarded and are very much considered auspicious by the Chinese all over the globe. All Feng Shui stores selling Feng Shui products will have the Three Star Gods.

In the popular Chinese trinity of deities, Fuk represents prosperity, and is known as the wealth and happiness god. Luk represents authority and is known as the God of affluence and rank. On the other hand, Sau is the god of longevity and health. Feng Shui shops often represent the three together. The Three Star Gods are available as Feng Shui items and Feng Shui enhancers to attract prosperity, health, and wealth.

Being the Chinese deity of prosperity, happiness and wealth, Fuk is represented wearing a red robe and is a little taller than the other two Chinese deities. Fuk is placed on the right of Luk. Feng Shui remedies have it that ever twentieth day during the seventh lunar month, favors can be asked from Fuk and they will be soon granted. Fuk is known as one of the Feng Shui enhancers that will attract prosperity, happiness and wealth to come in the house or space where Fuk is placed.

On the other hand, Sau can be recognized by the bottle of nectar he is holding in his arms. Feng Shui stores say that he is carrying peach. But whatever item it is he is holding, that item symbolizes immortality. Being the Chinese deity of longevity and good health, Sau attracts good health. According to Feng Shui remedies, Sau prevents accidents and misfortune to those who reside in the space where Sau is placed.

Luk can be easily identified of the Chinese trinity of deities. He is at the center. If you go to Feng Shui shops, they will tell you that Luk is a symbol of a person’s ability to reap and achieve high rewards and man’s ability to improve oneself. Feng Shui remedies and Feng Shui enhancers suggest placing the three all together. Fuk, Luk and Sau when placed together at home, at your office cubicle, or place of business, the Three Star Gods can be very powerful in attracting prosperity, good health, and wealth.

To achieve the maximum attracting powers of the Three Star Gods, Feng Shui stores suggest that the Feng Shui items be placed in the living room or at the dining area. As Feng Shui enhancers, the three should also always be placed on a high table.

If you are a person who wants to have good health or who wishes to improve your health condition, acquire more wealth and be prosperous, or be happier, then Fuk Luk Sau will be excellent Feng Shui items for you.
 is an online Feng Shui Shop with over 2000 Feng Shui cure. We carry a wide variety of Feng Shui Fuk Luk Sau products.


Chinese Cupid God

Yue Lao
The Chinese version of the cupid would be Yue Lao. Cupid to the western is a young chap who is some sort of angel that shoots love arrows. All he needs to do is to shoot his first arrow at one person followed by the second arrow at another person. The person whom had been shot by his arrow would be connected together and fall in love with each other. Yue Lao on the other hand is an old man living in the moon. He is a matchmaker as well as the god of marriages. All humans have a piece of red string. All he needs to do is to tie a knot with the red threads as one piece. Whosoever whose strings is being tied together would fall in love and come together eventually.

Yue Lao’s working platforms
Something similar to our modern day computer software whatsoever, there is some form of platform for him that allows him to have the data and information of all humans right at his finger tips, hence he has full access to everything. Just like software like windows and many others, to execute a certain action, there are many ways for doing it. There is more than just 1 way to execute that particular same action. Right up in the heavens inside the moon where he stays in, the red threads of every one of us is located there. Once he ties the threads together into as one, people will start to encounter each other, fall in love and eventually married as one.However, at times when he is not in the heavens, he would appear among us as a mortal, he could pull out the red thread in our body and tie the threads them together as one. The match making done in earth will be reflected in his database on heaven. Though he has the ability to match make anybody, he still have to follow criterions on choosing the right candidates for you.

Praying to Yue Lao
There are many names for him such as Man in the Moon (Yue Xia Lao Ren) and Yue Lao Xing Jun. He has two assistant, Hong Luan Xing Jun (紅鸞星君) and Tian Xi Xing Jun (天喜星君). The best time to offer prayers to him is on his birthday, which is on Mid Autumn festival (15th day of the 8th month on Chinese calendar). However, if praying to Yue Lao on his birthday is not possible for you, you can still pray to him whenever they are a full moon. Below is a Chinese mantra for praying to Yue Lau.


Well, this is my english translation;
Report to Match making God of Marriages
From the heart sincerely, gathering under the moon,
thinking deep under the tree
Marriages are fixed!
For whom that is in charge of marriages of everyone
Connecting destiny of everyone regardless of distant
With benevolence
For those who love each other will be together
Connected as one by the thread
No escape from 3 re carnations of destiny and fate
We stick together
Journeying through all obstacles
May we ripped till old age and forever
Beyond love and hate
Oh great supreme and benevolent, oh great compassionate and forgiving one
Among all realms under the universe
The dearest matching making god of marriages.
Will bring us together by marriage! For us together,
let us show him our respects!

Red Threads
The red threads are also known as the ‘red thread of destiny’ or the ‘red thread of fate’. There are similar versions pertaining to this ‘red thread’ by the Japanese, which originated from China.

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but it will never break."

People who are connected by the threads are fated to be lovers, regardless of time, place, and circumstances. This invisible magical thread may stretch or tangle but will never ever break. The concept of this myth is very similar to the western's version of soul mates or twin flames.

Remembering Yue Lao
Yue Lao is a very popular god that many people in the past would offer their prayers. It is especially popular among the parents and grandparents to pray for their children’s marriage. Many people would also pray to him on every mid-autumn festival especially lovers and ladies of the ancient days. However, in the present day, many forget him. We have perhaps forgotten to thank him for his kind and well wishes.

Andy Lau in fact has ever sung a song about Yue Lao. It is a very nice and touching song to hear.


The Chinese God of Community

Gods living with us
There are many people that are fascinated by the myth and legends surrounding famous gods like Monkey King, Guan Yin or Guan Yu. There are also the so calls, not so famous gods living with us, they are the community gods. Among them are the Town or City Gods (城隍 Cheng Huang) as well as the Earth God.(土地公 Tu Di Gong)

In the usual case, the Earth God would report to the City God. Earth itself refers to a specific place or a location. A particular building, room or territories and terrains within a certain compound are some examples of a place or location.

City God's Job
The City God on the other hand is like a guardian that protects, blesses and watch over that certain particular City which in inclusive of the welfare of the residents living inside the city. Communal requests such as need for rain and personal requests from the people and officials living in the city are also the job scope of the City god.

The City God will be approached by the residents in many scenarios such as when there natural disasters struck and the residents are in need of help, residents who would want to recover from the illness/sickness that they are struck with, and even cases when the residents who have been wrongly accused for crimes and who wants to have their innocence proven.

There are times in which the local official or magistrate of the city would pray to the City God for help, guardian or advice in the governing of the city especially during the ancient times. There are a lot of City Gods in China and some of them are known by different names. Much of these City Gods are deceased spirits of important people in the city such as officials, previously.

These spiritual deities held onto important divine bureaucracy positions and some would debate that they held more power than the local human officials. Others would view that relations between the local official and the City God is invertible. The two could just work hand in hand to govern the City together.

A famous Shanghai Temple dedicated to the City Gods
One of the most famous City God Temples of China would be the Cheng Huang Miao (城隍庙) of Shanghai and it is one of the must see tourist attractions if you were to visit Shanghai.

This City God Temple is in dedications to 3 main Gods who are:
Huo Guang (? - 68 BC) a Han dynasty Chancellor
Qin Yubo (1295–1373) a Chief Imperial Examiner of the Ming dynasty
Chen Huacheng (1776–1842) a Qing Dynasty General that defended Shanghai


Legendary Origins of Maneki Neko

Part 2 - Legendary Origins

There are many legends explaining origins of Maneki Neko. The following would be some of them. The Temple Cat, Tama: Once, during a heavy thunderstorm, a wealthy feudal lord (some claim he is a merchant and others a Samurai) seek shelter under the tree near Gotoku-ji temple (Western Tokyo) and saw the temple priest's cat, Tama beckoning to him. He went to the direction of the cat and moments later the tree was struck by lightning. This incident resulted in him and priest becoming good friends. As a matter of time, the temple became very prosperous. After the cat died, the first Maneki Neko was made in its honor.

Gotokugi - Grave of the Cat

A Courtesan: Usugumo was a courtesan living in Yoshiwara of Eastern Tokyo who had a cat that was she loved very much. One night, this cat tugged at her kimono persistently. Seeing this, the owner of the brothel, believed the cat was bewitched and cut its head off. The head of the cat however flew to the ceiling killing a snake at instant, which was already at any ready moment to strike Usugumo. This devastated Usugumo and to cheer her up, one of a customer made a cat out of wood that resembled her pet as a gift. Eventually this became the popular Maneki Neko.


An Old Woman: In Imado (Eastern Tokyo) there was once an old woman forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. However, the cat appeared into her dreams and told her to make its image in clay. She did as per instructed and sold the statue. Soon she made more and it became very sell-able that she soon became prosperous and wealthy. This in turn led to the legendary origins of Maneki Neko.



Historical Origins of Maneki Neko

Part 1 - Historical Origins

The meaning of Maneki Neko in Japanese is Beckoning Cat. Sources and information on the origins of Maneki Neko are rare. The exact origins are unknown. Maneki Neko the fortune cat most likely originated somewhere around the Edo period (1603-1867) of ancient Japan. However, it was only during the early 1900s that Maneki Neko started to popularize. An earlier documentary of it was produced during the 1870s in Japan's Meji's Era and there was a mention of it in the newspaper in 1876. Once, Maneki Neko was widely distributed in the shrine of Osaka too!

Cats are considered to be as wise and lucky spirits. A cat once waved to Japanese Emperor Oda Nobunaga and Samurai Li Naotaka. They paused when the cat waved and took it as a sign. That prevented them from entering a trap. Several Shrines and homes have figurines of cat that are similar to Maneki Neko in which the figurine looks like it is waving. That could just be one of its possible origins.

Some may associate Maneki Neko's gesture as a cat washing its face. Japanese believe that when a cat washes its face, a visitor will arrive shortly. This belief is somewhat related to an old Chinese proverb stating that if a cat washes it's face, there will be rain. This could hence explain the belief of this figuring cat washing its face to bring in customers. As to how it became popular in America, it is unknown. Likely, it could be due to Patricia Dale-Green who wrote about them in 1963 known as the Cult of the Cat. Another possibility could be introduction by Japanese immigrants to the US.

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine


Mythical Chinese Dragons

Author: Henry Fong
Chinese dragons are thought to come from an ancient crocodile that could predict rain. As Chinese dragons control moving water, including rain, this link is highly possible. In many cultures dragons are evil beings but to the Chinese the dragon is very powerful and for the most part is desired. The Chinese dragon is present in many aspects of Chinese life including folklore and art. The male or yang, is Chinese is depicted by the dragon.

Historically emperors were the only ones allowed to use the symbol of the dragon. Though as the world has progressed and governments changed the dragon as dropped out of sight. Dragons are frequently with war and aggression and China has been changed to using a Panda as a more peaceful symbol to present to the world.

Dragons control all moving water, including waterfalls, rivers and the four seas surrounding China. Some of the most horrific floods, remember all of the floods of the Yellow river, that occurred in china are believed to be caused because someone angered a dragon. The dragon is also worshiped for its ability to bring rain, as China is largely and agricultural country.

The Chinese dragon is part of the Chinese zodiac and dragon years are the most popular to have babies as dragons are linked with certain personality traits. A dragon is one of the four celestial guardians. Dragon boat racing and dancing with dragon puppets are popular celebration of the Chinese New Year.

In present day believing in dragons is not as prominent but the Dragon is still worshiped for its control of the weather and rain. Much of the dragon is still present in Chinese traditions. Chinese is a largely agricultural country so the importance of water is great and the dragons control all the water including the North, South, East and West Seas.

Besides controlling water dragons also have many other powers such as changing its size or being able to be invisible or glow. Dragons can manipulate water so it turns into fire. Dragons most likely were derived from a type of ancient crocodile that was able to predict rain. It is thought that the legend of dragons emerged from this crocodile.

Henry Fong
Feng Shui Consultant
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About the Author: Feng Shui Consultant provides services for residential and commercial properties.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oriental Beauty - Part 1

Found some awesome pictures in Google, decided to upload them. Check out the pencil work editions by me. Well, they are not goddess. They just drop by the wrong blog!

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