Sunday, September 02, 2012

Apparition at the office

Have you ever heard of stories of hauntings at your workplace or in any office?
It seems like there are a lot of stories or sightings in the office; and it is just a little weird that the usual buzzing workplace during the day could turn into a frightening place after work hours.

This is not a huge cover story or anything like that, as it was just a brief mention of such happenings in the office and he refused to elaborate more; so as not to scare us lady colleagues, as he says.

It seems that there are colleagues; yes, more than one who have seen an apparition of a woman after working hours roaming around the office when they were working late to rush for a project deadline.
In fact, so many of them have seen it that they were getting used to her appearance whenever they were required to stay back after the usual hours.
It did spook some of the new colleagues and also those visitors from other offices when they are in the headquarters, although they were assured that it is all normal during the working hours due to the population of working people around the office, or as my male colleague termed it as a situation filled with strong 'yang' energy.

Well, the other day we worked late, but the whole office was filled with people as everyone was just staying back as well for a birthday celebration and I don't think the 'resident' would make an appearance in such an environment, nor do I hope she would make her appearance, thank God!

An explanation for such sightings in places like offices, schools, hotels is due to the typical scenario of these places being a temporary abode for people who are just there for half of the day and then it is all vacant during the night which provides a perfect residence for the roaming spirits.
It is not the first time I have heard of this story, and may I say, almost every office has their own share of stories, don't they?

Do you have your own story to tell of your workplace? A personal encounter perhaps?

7th Lunar Month: Hungry Ghost Festival

It is that time of the year again; the 7th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar when the Hungry Ghost festival is widely celebrated among the Chinese communities.
Do take note that most of the mass celebrations is more common in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan with regards to the large scale of the widespread celebration through altars, offerings, and even street performances to honor and pay respects to the spirits out there.
(It is believed that the gates of hell/underworld is opened on the first day of this 7th lunar month and the spirits are released; sort of on a vacation for a whole month where they are allowed to roam the earth among the living).

There are many do's and don'ts to be observed during this whole month; which has been passed down by word of mouth for generations; from our ancestors and the young are constantly reminded to abide by these rules to avoid 'unsightly' troubles. Refer to my previous post here on the do's and don'ts.

During this month, you can spot many stages set up on the streets at many different intervals of time; and these are usually meant as offerings by the different districts/areas to appease the spirits dwelling around the area, or also the form of respects by the people residing in the particular area to the spirits so that they would not be disturbed during the month.
There are large paper effigies of the patron deities for the underworld spirits to guard over them during their stay on earth for the month and also to offer protection and blessings to the living.
Long tables are set up for the people to offer food and paper money and it is said that no other objects should be placed on the table if it is not meant as an offering as the spirits would consume whatever that is placed on the table.

Performances such as opera, puppet shows and even stage singing (getai) are common during this month.
Mass burning of paper money, paper dolls, houses, cars are also observed during the celebration of the Hungry Ghost month and you would notice that there are even burning outside residential houses and shops; in the forms of paper money, candles, joss sticks and placing of food.
(It is said that these food will lose its taste after being placed as an offering; a sign that it has been consumed by the spirits).

The celebration of the Hungry Ghost festival in Malaysia is by far one of the largest; along with Singapore and Taiwan as the local Chinese communities in these countries observed an almost month long of prayers and offerings to the roaming spirits.

It is interesting to note the culture and way of celebration practised by the local communities in observing the festival; and it is also important for traveling visitors from other countries to learn and abide by the rules to avoid any unwanted or 'other worldly' troubles, as believed by the locals. While some may brush it off as mere superstitions, it is still wise and respectful to heed the advice and the tips passed on by the locals.
It is better to be safe than sorry.

A few tips to observe if you are in the abovementioned countries during this month; if you are unsure of the Lunar calendar, you will be know when you are greeted by stage singing on the streets and there are paper burning by the roadside:
1. Do not stay out too late at night
2. Do not step on the burning by the roadside (food, paper, candles, joss sticks)
3. Do not whistle or sing at night
4. Do not turn when you heard your name being called; especially at night and you are not sure who it was
5. Do not spit or make any comment on the performances/offerings/prayers (be polite at all times)

A rule of thumb, if you are not sure, just do not say anything as the locals are sensitive towards any disrespect to the spirits during this month.
Also, you may not know 'who else' you may be offending, so just be vigilant and observe what the locals do, but with an open mind and respect.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Qing Ming: Things to know

Qing Ming, is an annual festival observed by the Chinese community to honor and remember their dead ancestors as they visit the graves together as a family. Like most Chinese festivals, Qing Ming is also about family gatherings as it is a requirement that all of the family members make it to pay respects to their dead ancestors at their tombs.
I believe that most religions and cultures do have a day where they dedicate to remember their deceased family members, and All Souls' Day was the Christian version of this Qing Ming.

I have written about this festival last year (read it here) and talked about the origins of the festival in ancient China with the story of Duke Wen.

In this article, I would like to share more on the origins of the festival as it was originally also celebrated with joy and anticipation due to the end of the cold weather which ends with the Winter Solstice and the beginning of the Spring Equinox. Qing Ming falls a fortnight; or approximately 15 days after the Spring Equinox and the people then were delighted with the coming of clear skies and weather after months enduring the cold and gloomy weather of winter. The arrival of spring makes way for the sun and the bright skies; thus allowing people to be able to go out without worrying about chills and enjoying activities outdoors.
Therefore, the name Qing Ming was given; which literally means Clear and Bright in Chinese, to describe the skies in conjunction with the arrival of the Spring Equinox.

Qing Ming was a joyous occasion and people celebrate the nice weather with outdoor activities such as taking a stroll in the park and along the lake and flying kites in the open fields. It is a common sight to see families gathering for picnics in parks, and lovers enjoying strolls in the park or gardens while children fly kites with their parents. It is definitely a pretty picture indeed; and one of much happiness and warmth, synonymous with the name of the festival.

Due to the good weather as well and ability to go outdoors, which also slowly paved way for the people to tend to their ancestors' graves and thus, Qing Ming also became the festival to clean the tombs of deceased ancestors.

There are many things to note about the traditions and rituals practised by the devoted people who observed this festival, as I have learnt this year while joining my in-laws on their annual trip to their, or rather, our ancestors' graves.

1. Early Trips to the Tombs
For instance, one of the practices is to go early in the morning, and for some, also earlier at the start of the festival. Qing Ming lasts for a period of about 3 weeks; where there is a grace period of 10 days before and after the actual date of Qing Ming.
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Before Qing Ming starts
The reason to go as early as possible before the actual date is actually, as some believe to be an act of filial piety to their ancestors as their ancestors would be able to receive their offerings of food and gifts earlier from the netherworld. The dead is believed to be able to roam the area of their graveyard at this time, and thus they look forward to the festival where they will be treated with food and paper money and gifts for their use in the other world.
Should the descendants be there early at the start of the festival, this means that the ancestors will be able to enjoy their treats earlier and need not wait in vain (or in envy) as their 'neighbors' (neighboring graves) enjoy the offerings presented by their own descendants.
Another belief is that the descendants who go early will also be more likely to be blessed with luck and prosperity and logically, it probably associates with the earlier belief, for if the ancestors are happy, they are more likely to shower more blessings; as a way to thank their descendants for their kindness and thoughtfulness to be there earlier.

Visiting the tomb in the morning
It is encouraged to visit the tombs early in the morning; or rather, schedule and complete the visits to the tomb before noon breaks in.
One of the logical reasons is definitely to avoid traffic as crowds throng the roads leading to the cemeteries, lack of parking space, and also the drive through the narrow roads within the cemetery compound can be really challenging and a harrowing experience to some too.
Furthermore, when the sun starts to shine, it gets really hot and thus everyone could very well grow agitated and is no longer patient with the rest of the ceremony performed at the tomb which is not good for the ancestors as it displays a lack of sincerity.
The main reason for visiting tombs in the morning, is also the same as the earlier reason, to feed and treat the ancestors before others (it is like a race) but ultimately, it is all to do with the strong Yang energy of the sunlight. The dead are often associated with the Yin element in the Chinese beliefs, and the Yin is often perceived as the weaker element. Therefore, the Yin pales in comparison with its Yang counterpart, which clearly succeeds that of the Yin. The sun is a strong resemblance of the Yang element, and rationally, the dead fears the strong Yang from the sun. Therefore, the logical explanation is that the ancestors are free to roam before the sun comes out and could enjoy the offerings whereas if one were to visit the tombs in the afternoon or late afternoon, the ancestors may not be able to fully enjoy the things offered by their descendants.
That explains why the crowds are usually large in the morning, and most people will tell you that they are going to the tombs in the morning. It is rather rare, though not totally non-existent, to see or hear of people visiting the tombs after noon.

2. Honoring the Earth God before the ancestors
I noticed that there is a small shrine at each tomb in the Chinese cemetery; dedicated to the Earth God (also known as Tou Tei Kung in Cantonese). The Earth God is responsible for a specific area he is assigned to, and each tomb is governed by its own Earth God to ensure their well-being.
Therefore, before respects is paid to the ancestors, it is common practice to first pay respects to the Earth God by placing joss sticks and food offerings to the God.
The reason for this is to invite the Earth God to enjoy the offerings and also to thank him for his help in 'taking care' of the ancestors and bringing them from the netherworld during this festival upon seeing the arrival of the descendants. The Earth God will then summon and guide the ancestors to the Earth to see their living descendants cleaning up and paying homage to them. After enjoying the offerings, the Earth God will then guide the ancestors back to the netherworld where they dwell and thus, food and gifts are also offered to the Earth God in gratitude for his hard work.

3. Forms of Offering
Needless to say, there is always food to be prepared or cooked, or some, bought to honor the ancestors.
Most of the food served must be food preferred by the ancestors, of course, so that they can enjoy and also, according to the Chinese beliefs, must also bear auspicious meaning to bring blessings of luck and wealth to the descendants. Usually there would be kueh; such as Huat Kueh, a steamed rice cake with rising powder so that it flourishes; signifying the growth of prosperity among the descendants.
Besides food, there will also be paper money, and things of necessity/luxury in paper forms; such as paper car, house, cell phone, clothes, shoes, etc to be burnt for the ancestors. It is to honor and to ensure that they have a good afterlife.

4. Communicating with the ancestors
Nothing spiritual or scary, but something that is commonly practised during the offerings is to toss two coins to ask whether the ancestors are done or happy with the food offered.
Usually the coins are tossed to communicate in a simple way to check whether the ancestor has fully consumed/received the offerings and the way to tell is the way the coins turn up.
If both coins show the same sides, it means that they are not done with the offerings.
However, if both coins are of different sides, it means that they are done with the offerings.
There is also an extended version that if the sides shown are both heads, it means that the ancestors are very happy while if both sides are tails, then it means that they are satisfied or sometimes, worrying about something among the living (although the latter explanation is not really valid).
The communication is a simple and one-way; with only a Yes/No answer and most of the other explanations are slowly deciphered in the descendants' perspectives.
However, I dare not doubt the truth of this practice as I have seen with my own eyes that most of the time the coins would show same sides and only once, the coins would show opposite sides; and that is after considerable amount of time for one to finish a meal. Bizarre, but true, and coming from a background of science, there is definitely no way to explain that probability of getting the same side/opposite side for the different number of times and accurately across different families.

5. Placing of offerings on the tomb
There are usually joss sticks and paper money placed on top of the graves of the ancestors; which are the most fundamental offerings when one tends to the graves.
Other things of norm are the placing of the huat kueh (or Prosperity cake) on top of the tomb. The name of Huat Kueh in Chinese, sounds like prosperity when pronounced and thus taking the phonetic sound of the cake's name, the practice to place this cake on top of the tomb is to ensure prosperity among the descendants and for many generations to come.
It is a practice that the Chinese were taught to believe and had been passed down for generations.
Another common food to be placed on the tomb; is the pineapple, which is more commonly practised among the Hokkien and Teochew community. Again, the phonetic sound of the pineapple (Ong Lai) translates to the Coming of Luck in Chinese and thus placing the pineapple at the tomb means that the descendants will be blessed with an abundance of luck.
Typically the pineapple is cut in slices and scattered around the tomb; and the top of the pineapple is maintained and stuck near the head of the tomb.

6. Food first, offering after
The food is usually offered to the ancestors first and after checking with the ancestors on whether they are full after the meal, the descendants will then burn the paper offerings by the side of the grave for their ancestors.

7. Lighting of firecrackers
One of the recent practice is to light firecrackers at the tomb of the ancestors; and is more common among the Cantonese community. The firecrackers are lit when all the family members are present at the graveyard; and it symbolized that they are informing the ancestors of their arrival and that the ancestors should awaken from their long slumber.
At the same time, another belief is for the purpose of celebration, for it is like a happy festival for the ancestors and something similar to that of a New Year or something joyous as they are treated with new stuffs and food to enjoy. What is there not to be happy about, when the ancestors can see their growth of their families and descendants; with new additions in the family through marriages and birth.
It is something which the Chinese often hope for; expansion in the family number.

8. Mandatory presence of ALL family members
It is a requirement for all family members/descendants to make this annual trip; and it is nothing to do with any superstition or anything like that but rather, that of an act of filial piety and in remembering those before us. However, in this busy and ever evolving world, this is a dying practice as some could not make it due to work or long distance, or other engagements. In the past, it is obligatory for everyone to make it to the tombs to show respect for their ancestors and thus the grace period of 10 days before and after the actual date of Qing Ming so that their descendants could make way in their schedule to pay homage to their ancestors.

Another thing to remember is that the actual date of Qing Ming is to be observed for the newly departed.
For instance, if the deceased has just passed on a year before, the family members should or are only allowed to tend/visit the graves of the deceased on the date of Qing Ming itself, and not in the 10 days before/after the date. The reason is that the recently departed are more strictly governed in the netherworld and are only allowed a day to visit the living and thus, the descendants should keep this in mind when observing the Qing Ming festival.

There are many more practices which are out there but the above shared are the common ones and that I have personally observed or learnt from families who have been doing it.
It is pretty much standard across the Chinese community, although some may do it slightly differently, based on what has been passed down from the earlier generations.

I find it important to understand the traditions and rituals practised by the elders in all the festivals, as it is vital to know the real reason to observe these practices rather than being a blind follower.

When we understand, we appreciate and observe the importance more than ever.

Without our ancestors, who will we be today?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Night I had Chills

This is the most recent experience I had; in fact, it was just last night when I got home after my busy day.
I was feeling a little cold in the room, and it was probably the A/C being turned on like usual and I even associated it with the slightly colder weather out there as the strong winds shook the leaves on the trees and the skies just turned dark so suddenly; indicating a drop in the temperature and a possibility of a heavy downpour or even a storm soon.

I kept feeling the chills even when the windows were closed and curtains drawn to cover the glare from the streetlights outside the house, and I even had the A/C turned off to save myself from the extreme chill I was already sensing. The chilly air seemed to come from the direction of the windows, although I was told that it was probably the fan circulating the air in the room from the ceiling where it was hanging.
I snuggled into my woolen blanket which felt warm and comfortable for my body and my toes; and I bet, even for my fingers where the nails are starting to turn into dark colors (and that only happens when I am very very cold, like in the office or in the frozen section of the supermarket).

It was then that I remembered those stories; the stories which I read earlier in the afternoon. I was reading stories about haunted houses, hostels, and places and there was this story about the haunted hut of a chalet narrated by the traveler who experienced it firsthand while on a stress-free vacation with her family at the foot of a renowned mountain in Malaysia. All of a sudden, her experience sprung to mind; from the trees shaking outside, and the strong wind and the balcony outside the room. It was then that I kept telling myself to dismiss the story; although unsuccessfully as I was feeling very uneasy and the cold just kept creeping in that I was almost feeling stone cold.

Well, I didn't experience anything weird as my eyes were just shutting themselves down though it was a great thing given the chilly situation but I did remember having this extremely weird dream (I will talk about it in a separate post) and woke up this morning feeling so puzzled.
It did not bother me, and I was still fine until later in the morning as I met up with my friend and she told me something so bizarre that I was still trying to come to terms with until now.
All the things seem to make sense now; yes, including the chilly experience last night; they are all explained now.

Curious about what she said?
A short sentence, but it is a strong suspicion which I slowly confirmed and now I can probably verify it...
The words, just seemed so distant that I even find it weird when I first heard it, but now they do, make total sense.

"You're having a fever"

Yes, that's it, I am definitely under the weather now..and I guess I will need a doctor, I can't decide which is better news though the latter and the evident truth since I am feeling extremely tired at the moment definitely beats anything scary, don't you think?

I had you there, didn't you? Admit it!

(The real and no-fuss article here; no pulling legs this time, really:)

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Flying Coffin?

I am not sure how many have heard of this, but this was probably one of the unexplained mysteries which took place in the year 2002, in Malaysia!

Yes, a decade ago, but I could still remember the news buzz back then although I was busy with my books studying for my tests or doing my assignments.

It came back to surprise me when I was just reading some articles on the Internet and came across the title of the mystery of the flying coffin caught on the surveillance camera in the local Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Sabah.
The image was captured on the surveillance camera which was mounted on top of the airport; and resembled that of a 'coffin'. The coffin seemed like it was flying across the sky; thus earning its nickname 'The Flying Coffin'.

Although not widely reported by the daily news or the media, a few of the local airport officials bore witnesses to the sighting of the flying coffin; and the image captured on the surveillance camera screen. The officials monitoring the screen were surprised by the sudden appearance of the shape resembling a coffin on the screen; and even a security guard on duty in the area also mentioned that he saw the same thing.

The weird thing is that the object was not detected by the radar; except a MAS Fokker Aircraft which took off three minutes earlier. If it was truly a UFO or something like that, then it would have been picked up by the sensitive rays of the radar but surprisingly this was not.

There were many sources found in the discussions with some deducing the possibility of a mistaken image of something else; or probably a mind game, or illusion.
Then there is also an unrelated article about a bloodstained coffin found downstream in a village in Sabah, scaring the local Ibans (That was explained in the related articles link below).

However, I don't think the two sources are really connected because as explained in the story of the bloodstained coffin found downstream, it was really a case of irresponsibility by the undertaker in charge of the funeral for the deceased.
Furthermore, if the coffin found downstream was connected to the earlier flying coffin, then that means there must be a flying coffin in the first place.

However, since the first case remains unexplained, it was partially dismissed as a mistake or an illusion despite the impression of the image found on the surveillance camera.

I don't know how to make of this, but I have no explanation either. It could be a mistake, but to have so many officials from a respectable airport management board and also security personnel on duty bearing witnesses, I am not sure what to think.

Any thought?

UFO Sighting in Sabah?
Daily Express News
Unexplained Mysteries Forum
UFO images in Malaysia

Other related sources to coffin in Sabah:
The Flying Coffin
The Star

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Supernatural Reality Shows a Trend?

I have noticed that quite a number of reality shows related to the search/hunt for the supernatural has surfaced lately; or over the past few years. The popularity of these genres had obviously paved the path for these shows to be born; given the curious nature of viewers and people in general.

I have seen a few of them; and I have to say, some were really disturbing (the types that can send that chill down your spine and make you avoid going to the bathroom).
At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder, what is the message that we are sending to the future generation?
Are we debunking the myth that there are paranormal activities going out there; attributing them to the laws of science? Or are we showing the future youths that there are lots of spiritual beings wandering around there, in case you didn't know and just thought that you should be scared?

While some take on a more a serious nature of investigating the mystery surrounding a certain place reputed for being haunted and sharing on the stories on why it could be haunted, there are some that I was surprised (and a little annoyed) that they were challenging the spirits to appear and confront them. I don't see why they need to resort to such low tactics; although it was claimed that it was for the investigation purposes.

I beg to differ in my opinion here; as I find some of the behaviors rather annoying, if not downright rude and it was as if these investigators were of more superior being that they can command the spirits to appear right before them. I don't know where did that idea come from, but as far as I know, I was told never to provoke the spirits under any circumstance.
Sure, the idea is to find out the truth and to prove whether the hauntings do truly exist in that particular place with a reputation, but there is no need to go to that extent of showing your own greatness. The air of arrogance I have witnessed in some of these reality show hosts just makes me wonder the spirits do not just appear and scare the hell out of them.
(These hosts would be delighted with the appearances anyhow, and can't wait to capture the images on their camera though; and perhaps, that is the reason that the spirit did not want to appear, so as not to give them that pleasure of seeing them in their form).

I guess some of these so-called paranormal experts have yet to meet with a real exorcism or tasted the wrath of a malevolent spirit which could drag them to the netherworld just there and then. Maybe it was for the sense of entertainment that they are behaving so stupidly, or was it that they were just too full of themselves in their heads?
Either way, I hope they pray that they are protected by God at all times or someday, they are just going to get a taste of their arrogance and that ain't going to be sweet.

Pushing and belittling the existence of spirits to provide that cheap thrill or excitement is hardly what I would even associate with entertainment.
Perhaps some may be able to catch my point of reference here; whereby the team claimed to be aspiring ghostbusters or investigators equipped with technology and advanced machines to help them with their expedition and then analyzing themselves. Sometimes sounds captured make them jump up in joy and then they start to share their experiences and even what they think they heard or saw. Deciphering whatever they heard is purely based on their own assumptions; and I doubt that can account for much credibility, no offense meant here.
Furthermore the backgrounds and experiences of these investigators do cast a net of doubt over their knowledge on the incidents encountered and explained; and again, not much credibility.

It is no wonder then that there are so many ghostbusters or investigators wannabes sprouting out of a sudden and then having all these equipments just automatically qualifies them to become paranormal researchers/investigators and then if they are fortunate enough, they will get their own tv show. Is that it, anyone who claims to enjoy and curious about the paranormal and does research can be an investigator?

I don't know anymore, but sometimes, I find it a little too far-fetched and honestly, maybe they may have lots of courage, money, researches, viewers and high-tech equipment but they definitely lack in one thing; respect.

That being said, I do enjoy some of the rather great documentaries (although spooky) which shared about the paranormal and even constantly reminds viewers never to dabble in the world of magic and the following are the ones that I feel are quite up to their standards:
(I am NOT promoting any form of supernatural stories/tv shows!)
Singapore's IT (Incredible Tales hosted by VJ Utt)
Hong Kong's Guai Tan (hosted by HK actor/TV personality Leung Si Ho)
Malaysia's Misteri Nusantara (TV3)

US: Sightings (only until year 1997)

The few that kept to the nature of the shows; which is to feature and share stories as told by the residents who have experienced strange happenings around the place.
I don't find the notion of having volunteers or people sitting in specific spots in the haunted place remotely fascinating or interesting, as I don't think anyone should be at risk at all; especially when you are dealing with the unknown.

Anyway, in short, I do echo some of the calls by religious groups to study the nature of some tv shows focused on the supernatural as it did not serve its purpose in the nature of the show, rather showing us a series of risky and deemed courageous acts on screen.
It is time to ponder on what are the real objectives of these shows, and are they sending the right messages to the youngsters out there, or do we want young people daring each other to spend a night in a haunted place to see if they can get away with it to share their glory on video posted on the web later?

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Legend of Mankind

We have heard of the version of how human beings were created, from the Bible; where man and woman were created in the image of God.
Have we ever wondered about other beliefs about how mankind were created?
I mean, not that I'm doubting my own beliefs but it is interesting to hear and read about the other perceptions people in other cultures have of how we, humans were first created.

I have previously posted on the creation of the Universe; by the legendary hero, Pan Gu. You can read that story here

Now, the story of the creation of mankind continues after that story; yes, it is like the sequel to the earlier story.

In this story, after Pan Gu created the universe in the earlier story, the Goddess Nuwa (or Nuwo) was passing by and admired the marvellous creation by the hero.
(Goddess Nuwa is believed to be the original ancestor of human being and also the one who separated Heaven from Earth).

Anyway, as Goddess Nuwa was passing by and enjoyed the works and also the living trees, water, birds and animals dwelling on land, water and in the skies, she was suddenly overcome by a feeling of emptiness. She wondered what it was that caused that emotion and while pondering on the matter, was nearing a pond nearby.

She looked into the pond and staring back at her was her own reflection; to which she looked and it was then that she realized that the universe lacked the presence of beings like herself; who could boost the population and add livelihood to the land where all the livings dwell.
As Nuwa thought of the matter, she tried to figure out how she could come up with these 'new' beings.

Turning to the clay on the ground, she then made them into mounds of shapes which formed the mouth, eyes, nose, ears and limbs. Man and woman was then made in her own image; to look like her physically.

What started as only two human beings soon developed into a crowd as Nuwa worked hard to create more and more beings to fill up the land. However, Nuwa too realized that despite her hard work, she had only two hands to work at creating these beings and she would need to think of new ways to create these beings in a more natural and faster manner. Thus, Nuwa used the rattan found in the nearby woods whereby she stirred the mud and then each patch of mud which lands, turns to become a human being.

One day, Nuwa spotted a few human beings lying at the foot of a hill and they had gray hair on their head and looked weak. They were lifeless and lay still; indicating that they were already dead. Nuwa was in despair, to see her works of creation diminishing through the aging process and also death.
Nuwa then worries whether she will be able to sustain the population of human beings she had created, with the beings dying once ripe of age which is part of the natural living process.
She knew then that she needs to find a way to ensure that there will be a natural continuity of life, and at the same time, the number of population increases and sustains while balancing that of the deaths.

Nuwa turned to observe the other living beings and how the birds and animals multiply in their numbers and decided to apply the same concept to man and woman. However, to ensure that there will not be any abnormality to the reproduction process, Nuwa also set the rules for mating; whereby only man and woman can mate and human beings are not to mate with animals or other beings. It was a rule drawn by Nuwa to maintain the normality of the continuation of mankind without crossing the boundaries.

This sets the edge of the human reproduction cycle and also that of the other living, which continues until this very day.

That is the version found in the Chinese mythology of how mankind was created; and thus the Goddess Nuwa is also known as the creator of human beings and also listed as the first ancestor of mankind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Story of the Chinese Zodiacs

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There are 12 zodiacs in the Chinese astrological cycle; which is also similar to the Western horoscopes.
Many may have heard of the origins of the 12 zodiacs, which was quite interesting.
The 12 zodiacs are based on 12 different types of animals, and the questions that are often asked include:
1. Why are there only 12 zodiacs?
2. Out of so many types of animals, why only these 12 made it to the calendar? Based on what criteria are they selected?
3. How do we determine which sign we are?

There are just so many questions, and though I may not be the expert to tell you every little thing about the above but I can share on my findings and stories I have heard since I was a child.

The Origin
The 12 zodiac's story of origin is one that interests many and is quite fascinating, in my opinion.
The following is a version I have heard/read/watched:

It was said that the Jade Emperor issued a decree to select 12 animals for the calendar, and that the first 12 animals to arrive at the selected meeting place would be included in the calendar. The animals would be named according to the order they arrive at the meeting place.
Most of the animals, upon hearing this, were excited and looked forward to have a calendar year named after them and made plans to arrive early at the meeting place.

The animals would have to cross a river in order to get to the meeting place.
The cat and the rat were reputed to be of the weakest in swimming among all the animals, but that did not stop them from making their way to the meeting place as well. They befriended the ox, a rather naive, kind and patient animal and the ox agreed to bring them over the river on its back.

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As they were one of the earlier ones, and the rat, being an ambitious one, schemed to be the first to reach the meeting place but he also knew that it may not be possible given he was with cat and the ox.

Therefore, during their journey, the rat inadvertently pushed the not knowing cat into the river. As the Ox approached the river bank, the rat immediately leapt off the ox's back onto the shore and ran towards the meeting point, making its way as the first animal to arrive, followed by the ox.

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In a short while, the tiger was spotted running all the way and panting towards the meeting point. The tiger explained that it was extremely difficult to cross the river due to the heavy water currents but the strengths and determination of the tiger placed him in the third place in arrival.

The rabbit soon arrived shortly after, and the mild natured creature also explained how difficult it was to cross the river but it was nimble enough to hop from one rock to another and caught onto a log to finally make it to the shore, and the rabbit became the fourth animal in the zodiac cycle.
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The rabbit was succeeded by the dragon, who flew over and landed.
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However, the Jade Emperor was perplexed as to how a mighty and flying creature such as the dragon did not make it as the first animal to arrive. The dragon explained that it was held back by responsibilities to arrange for rain to help some of the people who were suffering in the dry season, and then as it was arriving, it spotted a poor rabbit caught on a log and decided to give a puff to blow the log towards the bank.

The Jade Emperor was extremely pleased with the excellent qualities possessed by the good-natured dragon and made it the 5th animal in the zodiac cycle.

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In an instant, the galloping sounds of the horse hooves were heard and the horse appeared, running towards the meeting point. However, the horse was suddenly startled by the appearance of a snake behind its hooves and the snake, jumping at opportunity of overtaking the horse, slithered ahead of the horse to be the 6th animal while the horse was the 7th.
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Three animals which were apparently good friends arrived together in a short while; which were the goat, rooster and the monkey.
The trio helped each other across the river; with the quick-witted rooster spotting a raft and helping the goat and the monkey onto it, while the goat and monkey helped to clean and prepare the raft for their journey.

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The Jade Emperor was proud to see such teamwork and cooperation displayed, and named the Goat the 8th, Monkey 9th and the Rooster the 10th animal respectively.
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The dog came panting after that; and landed the 11th place despite being the best swimmer among all the animals.
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However, the dog was a little playful and was playing in the river thus causing its delay. Just as it was about to end, there was a little oink and a pig appeared. The pig was distracted by food on its way to the meeting point and thus landed the 12th and final place in the zodiac cycle.

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This was how all the 12 animals made it to the Chinese astrological calendar, and how they were placed in order. There were probably a few other versions, but this is definitely one of the most popular and most told by far.

It is said that people who are born in the year of the named zodiac would tend to possess some, if not all, of the characteristics of the particular animal.
That being said, it does not mean that one born in the year of the monkey would be jumping from one branch to another on a tree!

In general, it just means that some of the deterministic or obvious characteristics could be seen in one's personality.

The following are the description of each of the zodiac sign; it's more of an association with the animal's behavior really.

The characteristics
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From the story above, it is obvious and logical to say that the rat is an extremely intelligent animal. Also, the rat is also shrewd, well-liked, sociable, straightforward, meticulous yet at the same time charming and sensitive.
The rat can also be calculative and manipulative as well.

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The ox is patient, kind, trusting, and reliable. At the same time, the ox is also hardworking, ambitious and is a born leader.
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This does not mean that the ox is all good, as it can also be extremely hard-headed, demanding and short-tempered.

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Fierce and fearsome by appearance, the tiger also possess an impulsive, powerful, aggressive, reckless, impatient and obstinate nature. Easily provoked, the tiger can also be quick to flare in temper, but yet at the same time passionate and rebellious.

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Tame and mild in nature, the rabbit is one of the amicable animal of all as it is gentle, soft-spoken, kind, patient, gracious, shy and reserved. However, the rabbit is also extremely cautious, artistic, and opportunistic.

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Being one of the strongest yet mythical animal among the 12, the dragon is definitely proud, strong, confident, passionate and decisive. It is definitely not wrong to say that the dragon is fiery as well due to its nature. The good qualities of the dragon is intellectual, artistic, generous and loyal.

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Sly and shrewd are the second names of this creature, as it can be cold, possessive, and distrustful. However, the snake can also be extremely cautious, wise, responsible and creative.

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This is definitely a quick-witted, brash, agile and free-willed animal. The horse can be cheerful, talkative, and open minded yet at the same time also, stubborn, anxious, childish and rude too.

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This is a gentle and mild-mannered animal, and is motherly in nature. Caring, sensitive, sincere and peaceful are some of the goat's stronger characteristics. The goat also tends to be a worry-wart, indecisive, weak-willed and also pessimistic.


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Vibrant and cheeky, the monkey can be really intelligent, quick-witted, inquisitive, creative and good in solving problems. On the downside, the monkey tends to be arrogant, selfish, reckless, self-centered, cunning and easily suspicious.

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Cocky is part of its nature, but the rooster can also be a conservative, perfectionist, critical, responsible, acute, practical and organized. The rooster can be over critical sometimes, and over confident/arrogant as well.

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The term Man's best friend did not come from nothing as the dog is known for its loyalty, righteousness, reliability, honesty and being trustworthy, intelligent and attractive at the same time. Due to the exceptional qualities of the dog, it is very popular and thus is sociable and well-liked as it is also attractive, affectionate and easy to get along with.
The dog, however, can also be stubborn, judgmental, and worrisome too.

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Laid back and easy going, the pig is often chided for being lazy, overly dependent, self-indulgent and materialistic. The pig's qualities which are often shadowed include honesty, patience, peace-loving, loyalty, and understanding.

Which zodiac do you belong to?
Do you feel you have some of the characteristics shared above?

Happy Chinese New Water Dragon Year 2012~

Phew, a long title for the post, but sums up the Lunar New Year of the year 2012.
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To those of you who are celebrating the Chinese New Year, I am sure you are already well aware that this year is the year of the Dragon; in the Chinese cycle of the 12 zodiac animals, in fact, it is a Water Dragon year, to be precise.

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The dragon is highly regarded as an auspicious symbol in the Chinese culture for centuries, as it is viewed as one with power, authority and prosperity. The dragon is often depicted with such might and strength that there is no wonder it is also often associated with the Heaven above.
Known as a mythical figure with a long body, scale-like skin surface, sharply clawed feet, and a huge and majestic head which looked ferocious and fearsome from the outside.
The dragon is said to have the ability to brew and spur smoke, and spurt fire from its mouth when angered/provoked.
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The dragon is believed to be a mystical (and mythical) animal sent from Heaven and carries the symbolism of heavenly authority to fight against evil.
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The mystical powers of dragon are as such that in ancient China, the Emperor is believed to be a dragon sent from Heaven to carry out the mandate and duties from the deities above.
The dragon is idolized and worshipped in the Chinese community and it is no wonder that most of the auspicious symbols are inspired by the dragon motifs.
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It is believed that the dragon, due to its mythical and heavenly powers protects against evil.

However, do take note that this is the belief in the East as the dragon does not enjoy such adoration in the West as it is viewed as a creature of evil.
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It is funny, yet ironic how the same animal could be given the highest honor in one culture yet receive the lowest level of condemnation in another.
The dragon is depicted to be of much evil that it was considered victorious to have it killed; as portrayed in the famous story of how St George killed the dragon.
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Back to the East, it was frowned upon to bad mouth the name of the dragon, let alone Kill it!
The dragon takes on so many forms in the Chinese culture, but mainly in godly or heavenly forms.
The dragons were also depicted as being in control of the weather and climate; with dragons positioned in all the directions to control the rain water and wind.

With such popularity, it is no wonder that the dragon will make its way into the 12-zodiac of the Chinese astrology; being the only mythical animal compared to the other 11 which are all real and existing animals.

The year 2012 brings forth the arrival of the Dragon; and a year regarded with much favor and anticipation by the Chinese community due to its symbolism.
Most are hoping that there will be a change in their luck and wealth in the year of this mythical yet powerful animal.

Fret not, as according to the astrological elements, the Dragon this year is of the Water element (most of the Chinese characters/symbols are associated to five worldly elements surrounding us such as: Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, Earth).
As we very well know, Water is constantly changing its form and as such, the Water element associated with the Dragon this year is believed to be a year of change, as predicted by most Chinese astrologers and Feng Shui experts.

The Year of the Dragon is believed to be one full of good things but also due to the ferocious nature of the dragon, it could also bring challenges.
Due to the favoritism for the mythical creature, the elders often would urge the married ones in the family to have a baby born in the dragon year as it symbolizes the good and success. Most people would also love to tie the knot in the dragon year due to its auspicious nature.
It is a tough decision to make too; as some would prefer to marry in the year of the mild Rabbit so that they could have a Dragon baby, and yet there are those who wants to marry in the year of the Dragon so that their marriage would be blessed with good things.
Whichever it is, it is easy to say that the Chinese community truly does prioritize the dragon.

I have heard from my mother and grandmother about the dragon. It seems that although babies born in the year of the dragon are often favoured, they are also at the same regarded with caution.
It is all to do with the nature and characteristics of the animal itself.
As mentioned, the dragon possess a fearsome outlook and possess extremely strong and ferocious characteristics. The dragon can be fearless, bold, out-spoken and strives on success yet at the same time also proud and confident. It can be perceived both ways, whether these are good or bad characteristics.

I was once told that the day, date, time, month and year of birth of a Dragon baby also determines the success path of the child. At the same time, the upbringing and education of the child do greatly influence the future of the child, which is a commonly known fact.
It is said that if a dragon is properly nurtured, he/she could truly be enjoying flying success and popularity everywhere they go, just like a dragon but on the contrary, they could also be at their lowest point if they were not brought up properly.
(Well, I think this is also applicable to every child!:)

This year is believed to be an exceptionally auspicious year to tie the knot, as there is two springs within the same year.
How did this happen?
Well, we celebrated the first day of the Lunar New Year on the 23rd of January, but the first day of spring is actually on the 4th of February!
The Lunar New Year in 2013 will be in the middle of February, after the 4th of February; the first day of spring and therefore, from the 4th of February 2012 to 2013, there is actually 2 springs in the Water Dragon year!
How auspicious is it, I am definitely no expert to tell you, but the Chinese are definitely often raving about the symbolism of spring which is also considered good in their beliefs.

Therefore for those who are planning to tie the knot, it may not be a bad idea to consider getting hitched this year *winks*, although, I must warn that plans are to be made immediately to avoid disappointment, as this is a very popular year for weddings.
In fact, I've already have more than five weddings lined up for this year!:p

For those who are already married, is a Dragon baby on your roadmap? *winks*
One question though, since the year of the Dragon is highly popular, won't it be a problem for children to get into school in the future? The answer is Yes, as I learnt that every time it comes for the Dragon babies, they have to compete fiercely to obtain a place in a good school!

Whatever the Year of the Water Dragon holds or whatever readings you have heard from Feng Shui experts or astrologers, it is still up to us to make this a great year, which I am sure will be for everyone!
I am sure everyone is still enjoying the festive mood and the goodies shared, and let's look forward to welcome the Year of the Dragon with happiness and enthusiasm!

Have a FANTASTIC year filled with wonderful returns, blessings and joy!
I wish you and your family a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year 2012!~
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