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One of the most vivid and beautiful parts of the Chinese language is its proverbs. In no other language do proverbs flourish more abundantly than in the Chinese language. It has been said that "an ordinary Chinese may be said to speak largely through proverbs." Proverbs reflect the identity and character of the language and country in which it is used. If we find them crude, it is because the people who produced them were crude. If we find them wise and suitable, it is then the other way around.
Proverbs are often called "the fruit of the longest experiences in the fewest words." Indeed, proverbs are coined after bitter lessons by people who have really tasted life after innumerable mistakes over the years. Proverbs are principles of life laid down by generations of the past for the generations to come. Proverbs are efforts by your father's father's father .... to tell his son's son's son ...... not to commit the same mistakes that he had.
The Arabs say that "proverbs are to speech what salt is to food." The Chinese refer to proverbs as "tears of humanity" because they are born of bitter sufferings of the sons of men at the hands of their fellowmen. Proverbs are not only condensed philosophy, they are condensed history as well, as in the aphorism ascribed to Napoleon - "Catch a Russian and you find a Tartar."
Below is a list of ten Chinese proverbs out of a possible total of thousands. Just imagine these proverbs as the bony trembling finger of your ancestor pointing at you and saying "Take it, for this is a microstory of my life."
ii) The pretty woman in the house is the enemy of all the ugly ones.
iii) To get up early for three mornings is equal to one day of time.
iv) A lost inch of gold may he found; a lost inch of time, never.
v) If you flatter everyone, who will be your enemy?
vi) If a man speaks of my virtues he steals from me; if he speaks of my wrongs then he is my teacher.
vii) On the day your horse dies and your gold vanishes, your relatives are like strangers on a road.
viii) When you have a toothache, you can understand how another's toothache feels.
ix) Always treat your friends as when you first met them.
x) "I heard" is not as good as "I saw".
FIRST MONDAY MOOD
Hearts a-throbbing, legs a-weakling,
Feet a-shuffling, eyes a-goggling,
Never beginning never ending.
Periods upon periods.
A funny joke, a sudden laughter,
Sets the nerves a-laxing.
Excitement rising, morale heightening,
But crushed by sudden caution,
Sets the mind to a blinky-blinky stop.
Dull and monotonous,
Struggling, struggling towards nothing.
Problems upon problems,
Irritations upon irritations,
Pen without ink,
Scoldings without justification,
Breaking nerves and collapsing body,
On and on with no seeming end.
But finally and thankfully
Ends with a ring-rinng-riinng.
Weary minds and blinking eyes,
Never beginning, never ending.
He burned with the fierce fury
With all the burning colours
Nature has bestowed.
He sang his high chirped note;
and carried the highest pride.
Yet he saw
with sad never-wearying eyes
The soaring swarm of common birds
Hauling swiftly into the heavens
He saw his fellow-kind hopping in search of food.
Yet he was fed and groomed
Why then the strong desire ?
Chat Chay Tan, as most Chinese call it, falls on the seventh day of the seventh moon. The Westerns call it the feast of the Seven Fairies, "sisters" and "fairies" being interchangable in this context. There is a charming legend connected with this feast. Although several versions are in circulation, the following legend has proved to be the most apt and outstanding one.
The Sun God had seven daughters, all of them dazzling in their beauty. The most beautiful of all was the seventh, the embodiment of all feminine virtues. She kept herself busy all day by weaving and sewing. According to long established Chinese customs, she was arranged to be married to a cowherd who tended the royal herd of cattle.
After their marriage, they become so engrossed in each other that they neglected their work. When the Sun God saw this state of affairs, he was terribly annoyed and forbade them ever to see each other again by banishing them to separate star places in the sky, divided by the Silver River of Heaven (the Milky Way). They became star deities. The girl became known as the weaving Maiden, occupying the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra while her husband became known as the Cowherd, occupying a star in the constellation of Aquila.
Implored by his wife, the Sun God softened the punishment by allowing them to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh moon. On this night, all the magpies in the world come together and form a bridge with their wings across "The Silver River of Heaven", so that the Weaving Maiden can cross to join her husband.
Every year, on this night, young Chinese women pray for fine weather. As the Silver River of Heaven is always full to the brim, even one extra drop of water can cause it to overflow and sweep away the fragile bridge. Most women on this night also pray for the happiness of the Weaving Maiden and, no doubt, for their own.
Many Chinese women have noticed that it invariably seems to rain heavily at night at this time of the year. In order not to spoil the romantic legend, they say that the lovers have already met and the rain is due to the tears shed by them when it is time for them to part. If excessive rain falls, they explain that "even the heavens are weeping."
The legend above has been dramatised and even presented in Chinese theatres in Malaya over the period of the festival. In addition there is been a celebrated poem, "Autumn Night", taken from the well-known Chinese Anthology of Tang Dynasty Poems:
The Autumn moon gleams coldly silver on the lacquered screen
The festival is celebrated at special Chinese Women's Clubs and Associations in Malaya, known in Chinese as Choi Chieh Hui (Seven Sisters Society). These are Benevolent Associations set up for the purpose of commemorating this festival. A monthly subscription is charged by these clubs, ranging from $1 to $2 per member. The festival normally lasts two nights and, at these gatherings, it is the custom to display two roast pigs in front of the altar.
Many girls pray to the star of the Weaving Maiden for enhanced skills in needlework, and most women show their respect by displaying, on the festival night, examples of their proficiency at needlework and other household arts. Dressed in their best clothes, they display on a table laden with vegetarian food, cosmetics, hair ribbons and implements used in needlework, fashioned out of coloured paper and split bamboo. After the feast there will be dancing, songs and other entertainment, all for the purpose of honouring the Weaving Maiden and her beloved.
Some of you Chinese, I presume, have no idea what a Broom Ghost - known in Chinese as Soe Pa Ching - is. The Broom Ghost is the spirit which haunts and inhabits any new broom. Yes, even the new broom in your home is inhabited by the Broom Ghost. This Ghost can be brought out of hiding and if any of you wishes to see it in action, just read the following:
Get a new broom with black bristles. Call together a few brave chaps and proceed to an open area where the full moon can be seen. Rest the broom on a tree trunk, preferably an aged one. Have three joss-sticks ready in hand. These joss-sticks are to be lighted and inserted into the ground at the base of the tree trunk. The next step is the most important and painstaking step. A person is required to urinate on the joss-sticks and at the same time utter a babble of holy words (the purpose of this is to irritate the Ghost.) Then watch out! Fantastic as it may seem, the broom will start chasing you and your colleagues in a haphazard manner. To stop the onslaught of the Broom Ghost, just shine a torch light on it, that is, if you happen to have one! The broom will abruptly come to a stop and drop to the ground. Those who get hit by the broom will have the shuddering thought of enduring seven years bad luck.
The story of the Broom Ghost corresponds to an old Chinese legend. About 10,000 years ago, there was a couple in China. The husband was a nonchalant, indifferent and good-for-nothing nincompoop who did nothing but sweep the floor while his wife did all the necessary chores and was, in fact, the breadwinner. They had no children for the wife was sterile. The husband longed for children, lots and lots of them. Realising his wife's inability to produce children, he decided to get rid of his wife. To accomplish his task, he used his broomstick to beat his wife to death and shaved off his wife's long hair. His wife was left to die, clutching the broomstick, and was not even given a decent burial. The husband then migrated to another province to start life anew.
One moonlit night, exactly ten days after his wife's death, his wife's ghost came back to haunt him. She was in the form of a broom, her hair had become the bristles and her body the broomstick. She sought revenge but her husband somehow managed to escape, using a string of candles. Unto this day, her spirit is said to be still in the form of a broom, never resting, never contented and always seeking revenge, to destroy the one who caused her death..... Little does she know that the one she is seeking is already in Hell.....
Face it and Redeem
Khong Teck Keong, Upper Six B3
I am no Ralph Nader, no chauvinist, absolutely "no nothing". I am only a pupil of the Victoria Institution. But the story does not stop here, and what follows is far from being beguiling fiction. It is the bare blinding truth of what goes on around us. Although I have permitted myself to write on the following issue with some reluctance, I have written it without concealment of any aspect. However, none of the views mentioned here are exclusively my own. I have written what others feel and I have gathered the information from both pupils and teachers, past and present. Writing an article of this nature is, indeed, a very chancy business. For one thing is clear; we are in a transition, and the course of this transition has not been determined and its direction is ill-defined, though not unpredictable.
For many years now, the Victoria Institution has been called the premier school of the country. On the field and in their studies, the students of our Alma Mater have established exemplary standards unequalled by any other school in the country. We are now in the seventies, a magical decade. With the rapid pace of scientific progress and human development, we are now in the dawn of a strange new world. Many things will change. Education today has had such a powerful impact on young minds that we find the students of today rising from the depths of inactivity to the heights of retrospection, introspection and exploration. And they seek to make this new and strange world an accustomed one, their very own world.
Man, in spite of his many years of civilisation is still a very, very primitive being. We find many a philosopher saying that this world is not perfect. This is a human and humane characteristic of our race, Homo Sapien Imperfecti. It is not directly restraining our progress, but it is an attribute of many issues that do so. One of the most potent of these forces has been providing the driving power for our civilization group dynamics.
All too often, we are carried off with the notion that group dynamics is essentially a quality belonging to and exacted from a healthy polity, business organisation or other forms of group enterprise. Still more often, we have felt that the sense of group dynamics is exclusive to the adults, and should be desired from the adults. Is it not a facile realism to say that the youths of today are the leaders of tomorrow?
Well, we must not stand on our ground and agree or disagree. We must do more than merely inculcate the sense of group dynamics into all our youths and all our children. We must drive them forcefully, though not forcibly, to accept the code of conduct, duties and responsibilities of a worthy member of the human society.
Past students of this school have remarked at the general decline of the Victorian spirit over the past few years. Many loyal students today lament at the deterioration in the number of dynamic personalities among the population of the school. They have witnessed it before; how all the students rose to demanding occasions, be he a leader or a bookworm. In fact, every pupil became a leader in his own right. Every day was won with a glorious note. Immense co-operation, overwhelming support and impeccable maturity were the qualities that marked the golden era.
They always speak with pride of their brilliant achievements, of how zealously they have guarded the Victorian tradition and how it has given them the unsurpassed inspiration that has helped them engender success. And they have always spoken of the manner in which the pupils have endeavoured to excel in the achievements they have set in the previous years. Many Old Boys have remarked with gratefulness the role this training plays in their later lives. They surmount barriers with utter ease because at school they have have been trained with adversities which stare right at them.
No, we must not say that this Victorian spirit is not with us today. Instead, we must all work to bring back the accustomed splendour to us. Our Alma Mater is always the premier school. Two years of what I am has turned my hair whiter than grey. I only pray for the best. So let us all work for the best and hope for the best. One day, perhaps, our race would become the Homo Sapien Perfecti.
HOW AND WHY I AM INTERESTED
Lee Nyen Chong, U6A1
It is generally agreed that the initial stages of any pursuit are fraught with problems and obstacles. This is also the case in the study of Bahasa Malaysia. But all these rather distressing and disheartening problems can be alleviated if we are inculcated with genuine interest in the language.
Genuine and unstinted interest in the study of Bahasa Malaysia will never emerge unless efforts are taken to stimulate it. To achieve this end the role played by the teachers cannot be overlooked. In actuality it is the teachers who are capable of instilling and nurturing this interest. In this context I would like to portray how and why this interest in Bahasa Malaysia has blossomed for me.
It happened seven years ago when I was in Standard Six in a primary school. That was a crucial year because I had to sit for the Secondary School Entrance Examination which stipulated that a pass in the National Language was compulsory. This condition frightened me. For the past five years, from Standard One to Five, I had failed miserably in the National Language paper. So how could I get through the Standard Six Examination? The chances were indeed remote.
But fortunately at this crucial period a good Samaritan came to my rescue. One of my relatives, Mr. Wong, who had passed Bahasa Melayu at L.C.E. level offered to help instruct me. Mr. Wong was intensely interested in Bahasa Malaysia. In fact at that time he was preparing for his Malay Paper at Form 5 level and it was he who stimulated my interest in Bahasa Malaysia. He encouraged me to study the language seriously. He never hesitated to tell me how some of his non-Malay friends had mastered the language within a short period. This indirectly spurred me to action and I aspired to emulate his non-Malay friends.
I shudder at the thought of what would have happened if no one had come to my rescue seven years ago. Perhaps I would not be here in the Victoria Institution.
Since then, once I had an interest in Bahasa Malaysia, the study of it is no longer a drudgery. In fact, with the passage of time, I have found pleasure in studying Bahasa Malaysia and Malay Literature. With the rapid implementation of the National Educational Policy, I hope more and more students will be interested and proficient in Bahasa Malaysia.
Last update on 5 October 2000.