Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is it that makes it so hard to talk to each other? How to break down the emotional war?

*The questions above will be answered based on the film directed by Wayne Wang and the short story written by Yiyun Li, both entitled " A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (ATYGP)".

Chinese customs have since long been influenced by the effervescence of Buddhism in which many pious Buddhists notion that every human being has but a very ancient soul resided within, reincarnated countless times as driven by all the deeds he/she did in the previous lives. In the story of ATYGP, Mr Shi prized his relationship with her daughter so much so that he claimed in the text:

"...It takes three thousand years of prayers to place your head side by side with your loved one's on the pillow. For father and daughter? A thousand years, maybe. People don't end up randomly as father and daughter..." (pg 192)

The extract above truly sums up the whole idea of the film and the story alike. In Chinese superstition, father and daughter are even deemed as a couple in their previous life, who happen to be reborn into the present as a continuation of their relationship and intimacy. In fact, Chinese cultures, despite deeply influenced by Buddhisms, have also nurtured philosophies like Taoism, Confucianism, which further incorporated their respective teachings into one another and laid the foundation for the mentality and perceptions of Chinese society towards issues surrounding them. One crucial subject is relationship, which happens to be prioritized by many Chinese in the family institutions: Respect and modesty before the elders, compromises between siblings etc. Thus, this is closely conjugated to one of the themes addressed by the movie or the short story: the breakdown of relationship between a Chinese father and his daughter. To begin with, the parent was having difficulty communicating with his daughter, with whom he was so eager to meet that he hightailed from China to United States merely to express his concerns over her post-divorce life there. So, one question arises here: Why the utter silence between the father and his child, providing that in the context of Chinese customs and Buddhism beliefs their relationship actually takes "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers' to come across? Is there any solution to it?

The story takes a meticulous and observational account into the daily life of Mr Shi while living with his daughter, Yilan in Spokane, Washington. However, the crisis of Mr Shi's relationship with Yilan was quite evident even from the beginning of the film in which Yilan greeted his father in the Spokane Airport without so much a hug or even a warm greeting. As the plot developed Yilan hardly spoke a word to his father during, for instance, dinner - besides, no compliment for the hard work Mr. Shi put into preparing the meals that which he tried to reconcile the hostility of their relationship. Nevertheless, another character came into the picture, who was probably intended as a juxtaposition to Yilan's indifference - Madam, an old Iranian woman who fled to United States after the revolution in her origin country. Neither Mr Shi or Madam speaks fluent English, yet the language barrier only add to their daily routine of rendezvous in the park. Their conversations mainly comprised of gesturing and talking in different tongue, but a short-lived friendship was henceforth developed.

Notably, there were many scenes in the film encompassed by non-verbal interaction between the two main characters which, in my opinion, provided a platform on which the cultural conflicts and emotional dilemmas are conspicuously displayed before the audiences. One example was during the dinner and the successive meals (as the plot developed), the dining table was full of luscious dishes yet Yilan showed little interests. Even though Mr.Shi tried several times to start a conversation but to no avail. This could be construed as the emotional clashes that were SILENTLY manifested between the father and the daughter - with one side being compromising and another hardly budged up. But, nearing the end of the story(in text), Yilan finally shed her defense and so too did Mr Shi, where both of them came to realize the true reasons behind the issue.

" Baba, if you grew up in a language that you never used to express your feelings, it would be easier to take up another language and talk more in the new language. It makes you a new person." (pg. 199)

"I was not a rocket scientist because of a woman. The only thing we did was talk. Nothing wrong with talking ... but no, talking between a married man and an unmarried girl was not accepted. That's how sad our time was back then." (pg 201)

Apparently, Mr Shi was stripped off of his pride as a rocket scientist when he refused to admit his "love affair" and gave a self-criticism - an affair that which he was mistaken for merely talking to a girl at his workplace. Notably, as stated beforehand, China society, whose mindset was already molded by various philosophies from the past, was in the wake of cultural transition at that times as western influences were assimilating into this two-thousand year old nation. Mr Shi was then trained to be reticent, for he regarded his profession as confidential. Yet, when he was demoted to a clerk, this added on more to his humilliation despite the gossips about his love affair with the girl. How could he have admitted everything to his wife and daughter, seeing that he was raised in a stoic culture that was heavily imposed by male chauvinism and social punctilio at that times?

Yilan wise, she perfectly mirrored the life of an immigrant in a foreign country from which she seemed to rebuild her new identity as a Chinese American. Furthermore, she signified an emancipation from her origin culture under which she was raised to an adult, but this story gave a twist upon the arrival of her father to her house - which she might see as an intrusion to her new-built identity in America. For example in the film, his father heartily hung a Chinese ornaments at her front door (which was supposedly reserved for mistletoe during Christmas, I guess!) but she resented when she saw it; during the dining time, she looked awkward in the presence of her father, but as the phone rang she gave a pivotal change in her personality: She abruptly became open and cheerful when speaking to her Russian lover, which her father regarded as "immodesty".

Cultural transition they both underwent, but different one: this reasons for the wide gap distanced between the father and the daughter. The conflicts of emotions, opinions, beliefs and thinkings actually brought them to this detriment of relationship. Lacking of communications was another factor why Yilan was so reluctant to talk to her father, for she was since long accustomed to such "quiet" life in China. Between her father and the Russian lover, she assumed two personalities that was so contrasting. Notably, she was born in a post-colonialism era and western culture may seem more interesting than her own, and forgoing her origin indentity was very much alike of how she despised her father. However, the revelation in the end, in my opinion, brought no more closure between them than easing the tension of their relationship. Though they spoke of the truths it was just a matter of transparency: a sudden acknowledgment developed over a generation and cultural gap - and the gap was still there!

In fact, it is a reality that Mr Shi and Yilan each embodies a very different set of cultural values that has been practiced by them for a long time. To change it may require a compensation of equal amount of time or more, despite the fact that both of them are not living under the same roof in the story. Emotional war can be very short-lived, but cultural conflicts last. The movieand the text put me into a very deep thought of how Chinese families nowadays are facing the very same situation in their lives - younger generations being westernized while the elders are having difficulties communicating with them, which witness a sharp regression in the Chinese cultural values in modern times.

Yilan and Mr Shi in the movie.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Finding Heaven

feels so real
in my weathered hands
like dust, like fire, like rain
a crushing gravity of fulfillment
I am cherished!
I am cherished!
For I've inched
brink of damned
and I was once






and crushed onto the
cold marred ground
paralleled with horizon
driven by day and night
sculptured by art of time
yet at times I still went on
for the roads split into many
and many lead to one only
in this direction.

Friday, April 24, 2009

~Untitled ~


Sometimes I need to cut myself some slack but as the guilty feeling keeps coming back to me it certainly scares the hell out of me - to think of myself sitting for the test papers, scratching my head and halted at every question, then marked a pathetic circle and proceeded to next one only to mark another on it. Spasmodically throwing a quick glance at the digital time on my cell phone made things worse so much so that I felt the clock to doomsday was ticking its way down into my test paper - Subtracting the heaven part I was definitely in hellfire waiting to be scorched down by inferno into a golden roasted pig that's served to the Satan and devoured into a pile of pathetic coal-black bones that continued to be burnt by the flames into dusts. Then the dusts would decompose into smaller and smaller particles then eventually into a BLACK HOLE that SUCKS!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poem of Sienzness

I have this friend in KBU
He seems so cool and blue
In DOTA world he always rules
and in his study, too!

While realizing there's more to life
he devotes to a girl
who shines all her way down from
the old heart of Malacca.

I doubt if the Elephant Glue
is applied to they two
There's no way you can pull
them apart, for in love they rule!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Flashing back to few days ago, I saw myself lying on the bed, scribbling anime figures and right beside me, was a scatter of crumpled papers. My hand became more and more frantic as every drawing narrowly missed its completion and was reduced into paper balls that laid quietly beside a new slab of paper. All of which then became witness to my perfectionism, the stifling perfectionism as the pencil began to waltz on the white dance floor again.

*One hour later, I was on my bed, fast asleep - and a notable pile of snowballs in the dustbin.*

'Practice makes perfect' - Did i go too far into scribbling a perfection out of myself? Wouldn't that be too ideal as we all know perfection doesn't exist in this world? Aren't we born with limitations that imperfections are inherent in us (for example, we can't fly)? Why would I bother to draw something so flawless that I already knew it's impossible to do so?

As I looked back at the words, I had a thought: I shuffled the words and swapped the positions between first and third, and came up with this: Perfect makes practice. It somehow shed light on my scribbling business: I became slaved to perfection. It became tantalizing whenever I was in a hassle of redrawing the same figure and scrutinizing every little flaw my eyes could detect: I yearned for the perfect picture that I have forethought in my mind and it drove me into this rigmarole of redrawing and ended up with nothing else but fragments of false hopes. Hopes that I would eventually sketch a Shangri-La tomorrow, or the day after, or the week after...

So, the trinity must have had great stronghold in them to become a much-known adage to everyone. But little did I realize that something is very delicate behind what that's long since interpreted by me: I don't have to practice JUST TO reach perfections - Well, I don't have to chase the sun for its light, do I? I would just have to walk out into the porch and see how tall my plants have grown, how many flowers have they blossomed - it's all about the PROGRESS! it all comes down to IMPROVEMENTS! These little changes, these trivial transformations - and we are now breathing in the womb of Earth with all the richness around. However, is it perfect , this blue planet? With all the volcanoes and hurricanes and tsunamis? Yet, it nurtures the growth of every single breath it can possibly contain - something we should be more appreciative than the sheer Utopia. Something that are tangible rather than castle built on sand.

So, are we wrong to dream for perfection? Well, when the reality sinks in, dreams compensate nothing but mere dreams.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Silence is a language. It is a universal language.

It shows the duality of the nature. It is so powerful that it tears down all the established languages in the world. None of which can ever depict silence perfectly as a word. Words alone can never express it in its truest form. However, it counterparts languages. It completes sounds. Silence in its very nature demands the latter to exist autonomously.

In response to one of Sarah's posts in her studylog, we sometimes find feelings indescribable. We cannot find the exact word to define them. This is when we are reduced to silence. Sooner or later, our feelings overflow. Some of us might laugh indiscriminately, some of us may cry hysterically, some talk to counsellors... We begin to feel the need to voice up, the urge to kill the silence.

So, silence counterparts sounds, doesn't it? It may goes in the other way round, but after all, we assume a very mutual relationship by living with quietness. Some may however choose to talk, some may opt for being hushed: After all, when in silence, languages simply become redundant.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What More Can I Say?

Today EALD class was usual one, but Mr Derrick said something so remarkable that it urged me into writing this post right after reaching home: "You all overdramatize small little things in your blog... the generation of emo... "

Yes. I totally agree. In this stage of life, it's the daily dose of emo-ness that I thrive on to last my days. Notably, I prescribe two doses a day, one right after I wake up from sleep and another before I go to the bed. You can say that it's already an addiction, that I am so heavily accustomed to it's existence. Just like taking Ecstasy with its effects reversed. and I would throw a bet that upon reading here you would have started to question my sanity and even doubt that I'm on drug. But believe me, I wont go so low on things like that, and I'm still wise enough to keep my head.

But why emo-ness? why? I have tried to reason for the angst and anxiety in me everyday and in fact I find all sorts of explanations I came up with were ridiculous: Was it because I had depression two years ago and now is the aftermath? Or worse, the relapse of the illness? Then why do I always write deep posts in the blog now? Futile posts ranting all sorts of philosophies or slices of life which only feed on my mere imaginations, and once the supply has run out all of them would just go into dustbin! The vain pretense of know-it-all that would just be stampeded like an underdog in reality!

Everyday I professed happiness, I feigned smiles, I pretended as if I were open to criticisms and judgements - and now I am wiriting this emo post. The discrepancy of my outer self and inner self - my assessment of people - I feel so tired and frustrated everyday I reached my room in Student House. In fact, I really want to tell here that I have little or no capacity to keep my feelings, though I have spared some for the unspeakable ones. This blog may not be a personal blog, but I just want to relate to what Mr Derrick said, with half hoping everyone would share my thoughts in this post: In fact, I have seen people smiled at me and the next moment they didn't even acknowledge my existense, or sometimes eyed me coldly without a word; I tried to join people but eventually I was left alone walking out of classroom; I gave myself false hope and tried to be immuned to the fact that I was marginalised, but it was proved to be an epic fail because I am writing this post at this moment; I yielded and yielded and yielded and now shrank into a dark corner. So what the hell are all these? Huh? Should I say people who write these pessimistic shits actually try to beg for mercy or attention, that they are so pathetic to resort to advertising their misfortunes on a study log? the "overdramatize of little things"?

Daniel had once claimed, which I remember clearly, that if i don't change my mindset of this emo-ness, my life will be tough. I heed to it and for a period of time I strove to change, be optimistic, expecting to get a good friend around here. Just one that wouldn't judge me for how many marks I get, how clever I am, how ugly and fat I look. Just one in whom I can have faith. But that's proved to be useless now. Maybe the first six months of being engrossed in my world of emo-ness simply put me in the current karma.

I am surrounded by people of ingenuity, but can I be a genuine friend to them? I have an answer, and yet I don't.