June 30, 2014

"Dam Street" - A Chinese Version Of Oedipus Legend

Cover of "Dam Street"
Cover of Dam Street
Yesterday my friend Marty (aka "nothingprofound") recommend me a Chinese movie Dam Street (红颜,literally translation: Rouge Face). He claimed that it was very different from other Chinese movies he had watched. I could not wait, found a streaming video online and watched it right away. After watching it I asked Marty what's the difference. He said that this movie "seemed to be more personal and universal at the same time". I feel exactly the same way.

As a Chinese American who lived in China for the first 30 years of my life, I feel the same way as my American friend who never lived in China, interesting, isn't it? I cannot speak for other Chinese people, but for me, this is the only Chinese movie I have ever seen that I would describe as "honest". From the beginning to the end, there's nothing pretentious, nothing were hidden or added for any different purposes from the needs of story line.

The story takes place in my hometown Sichuan province, the main character of this movie is about the same age as me, almost the same name as well (except Yun is not my legal name), so both geographic and cultural background are all familiar to me personally. Further more, the movie was shot in Sichuan dialect (or Sichuanese), which made it sounds more genuine to me than those made in Mandarins (maybe this is personal judgment, that I always feel the mandarin has "phoniest" accent among all Chinese dialects). The geographic environment is in some small town in Sichuan province, shabby and dirty. To my "horror", first time I saw "traditional" Chinese public restroom on screen (even just one shot, the "horror" cannot be missed). The brutal scene of killing of eels for meal brought me back to those days of my early life. The genuine touch on sexual life is refreshing, especially the boy's sexual fantasy, which was, and still is a "taboo" in Chinese culture.

Of course, all these details are not as important as the story itself. It is about a teenager girl who gets pregnant when she is 16, and since then her fate is somehow "defined", not by herself, but by unseen fate. The story reminds me classic legend of Oedipus, the one from ancient Greece. How interesting it is, that we humans with such different cultures always embark the same voyage in this giant ocean of human life, from time to time, places to places.

This movie premiere was in Venice, won several awards which were not so recognizable. Not sure it's ever screened in China (I talked to my nephew in China and he said he never heard of it). Of course, this is not a surprising treat for a movie without famous actors and actresses, or famous director. However, I am profoundly moved by this movie, and I hope it continues striving for recognition. I also hope the director Li Yu will continue making movies like this, provide the world more truthful images of "modern" China.

June 20, 2014

Strength vs. Challenge - My Relative View On "Attitude"

Spartacus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We often get idea about how strong or how weak a person is by looking at how much he/she can do, or cannot do. Is it really that simple? Is it true that a person who can lift 200 pounds stone is stronger than the one who has trouble even to hold a cup of water? Maybe, or maybe not.

I love watching tennis tournaments, because it provides me opportunities to study personalities. I found, that no matter how good a player is, when he/she faces a better opponent, he/she would not appear as good as he/she usually does. A top ranked player usually have the toughest personality and most diversified techniques. They hit balls hard, move fast, and mostly, they always take control of games. Watching them playing, you would feel they are absolutely invincible. However, when they faced some opponents who were better than them, the whole scenario would be changed: they would  appear to be sluggish, tame, even tactless. Did we misjudge them before? Maybe. But my answer is, the challenge changed, so our' impression changed along.

We humans like to believe that we are strong, especially when we refer to our mental strength. Nowadays, "positive attitude" is in everybody's daily dictionaries, being stretched to an extent that anything as long as we believe, we can do it. Based on this "positive" view, logically, those who "failed" to do things were considered as "negative", because they must have not tried their best. Of course, things may not be as extreme as I think, but more or less, this is a "fashion" I noticed. Personally, I found it's just a new type of "wishful thinking".

Relative perspective is what I prefer to use whenever I try to get right idea about reality. I believe life success (whatever your definition is) is not based on a single condition, but a combination of our born strength and our real life challenges. i.e., the reasons that some of us succeed could be due to the fact that they were born strong, or, their life challenges weren't as great, or both; and the reasons some others did not succeed could be due to the fact they were born with less advantages, or their life challenges were too great for them to overcome.

My own life experience can be an example of this "hypothesis". Before I entered middle age, most people I knew viewed me as an extremely positive person (that's how I view myself as well), achieved some "missions impossible" (such as my first several years experience in the "New World"), but since I got into health trouble, I found I was viewed quite differently, mostly because I spoke more "no I can't" than "yes I can". Have I really changed? I would say no, but my challenge changed, so just like tennis games, accordingly, my "appearance" and my "audiences" impressions changed.

I also noticed the difference between people's reactions to me during my "bad times" and "good times". During my bad time, people's reaction told me that I gave them a “negative” impression, during my good time a "positive" one. Since I knew inside me I was a same person, I realized that how our impressions can give us wrong ideas.

Our living conditions vary significantly, some favor our life and some don't, some elevated us, some would destroy us. So the challenges we meet can be very different. Because of this reason, people with approximately same abilities would hardly end up to the same place. I also don't believe that we all are born with equal ability in regard to cope with living situations. And because of this reason, when facing same challenge, different persons could end up with different outcomes - some would fail, some would win.

I doubt that "yes we can" can be as simple as a choice, I rather think it's an outcome of confidence. Further more, I also doubt that confidence can be a choice, rather, I like to believe it's a result of long term progressive experience. If a person failed and failed again, it is unlikely he/she would say "yes I can" soundly. I tend to believe, that how much we can do, how confident we can be, even who we really are, all depend on not just our desire, but also many other factors, among which our born nature and life challenges are the most crucial.

I understand that being confident and positive can be extremely helpful when we facing challenges, but I also believe, there's a fundamental difference between "positive attitude" and "self delusion". Sometime, being realistic can help us to have a better understanding about situation, thus we could have a more effective strategy to cope with problems.

There are all kinds of challenge in life, hard to say which is harder, and all depend on persons. However I have reason to believe, for most (probably all) people, those challenges that directly threaten to our life existence can be the most challenging. This why I consider my past several years health problem the biggest challenge in my life. I also realized, that the reason that most chronic illness patients endure a stigma of being "negative", is simply because that most people measure "strength" (or "toughness") by what they can see, not by "challenges" that we cannot see. For this reason, I have the most profound admiration to those who suffer unknown chronic illnesses for years, some of them for decades. Even though many of them would have tremendous difficulty to lift their arms, they are true heroes by all measures.

By conclusion, I think we can judge people's achievement by how much they actually achieved, but we cannot judge their inner strength by the same measure. Some people may appear to be weak, but that appearance doesn't necessarily speak for truth. Challenges are always out there, some we can see, some we cannot, and some we can never imagine, because each of our experience is highly limited. There is no one single absolute measure for our body and soul. The true value of our life, lies in our complicated interaction with this multidimensional world.

June 18, 2014

Honest Mind

Close up of The Thinker
Close up of The Thinker (Photo credit: Brian ⚓ Hillegas)
An honest mind would never let belief distort its observation, no matter how ugly the truth is.

Institutional Child Abuse In China

I always think, that child abuse is the number 1 problem in China. But, no matter how serious I think it is, the facts never failed to stun me. Based on recently news, there are some new type of "schools" in China, which I never heard of before, called "correctional schools" or "correctional camps", where kids are sent there for the purpose of correcting their bad behaviors, such as obsession with online, etc. Not sure if the concept was actually adopted from elsewhere. During training period, parents were usually forbidden to contact with schools (more ridiculously, many parents granted this rules). The consequence is, children were serious abused (mental and physical) and some of them died.

One girl in this news died by corporal punishment, with was common in this "school" (Zhengzou New Concept Combating school, 郑州新观念搏强学校), called "back crashing" (后倒): several "teachers" held kids' limbs who were face up, and hit ground repeatedly. Sorry, I don't feel like continuing for the details. I guess you all get idea what's the consequence.


Yet, still majority of Chinese people do not think this is a problem. Something seriously wrong with that nation. Call me paranoid!

June 17, 2014


Holding, pushing
Holding, pushing (Photo credit: madamepsychosis)
Maybe, isolation really is one of the worst culprits for human mental illness - an isolated person would likely have an unhealthy personality, and an isolated society would likely develop a sick cultural tradition.

June 14, 2014

To Be Yourself

English: Three quarter length portrait of Osca...
English: Three quarter length portrait of Oscar Wilde (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What does it mean "to be yourself"? Coming from a collectivist culture (Chinese), I found in many cases it meant to break connections with others, if you happened to be different from majority. Even here in US I still can see that there is a strong tendency of conformity, which makes many people fear to be themselves.

I am a person who is very different in many aspects from majority of population, not necessarily "by choice". I knew this since I was very young. I have feared, also tried very hard to blend in, until I felt there was no room left for myself. Frankly speaking, I am quite tired of trying to be "one of many", so I decided it's time for me to relax, just to be myself.

Why it is so hard to break up with the "others"? The answer can be very complicated but, to simple put, I think it is because by nature we are still social animals, so without spiritual and material support from others, the loneliness is just unbearable to most of us. So based on this understanding, there is an exception, that is, if you are strong enough to be alone, to live alone, not to be afraid of rejection from the others, there will be no reasons not to be yourself.

So it's matter of how strong you are, in terms of how independent you can be. Those who sacrificed their lives just because of their being different, such as Oscar Wilde, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and so many many more, were truly strong souls. Today, we are on the threshold of humanism, of individualism, being different is not at all a crime, so there are less and less reasons for us not to be ourselves. However, for those who do not have enough courage to break the connection with other, there is nothing to be ashamed of to admit their weakness, as we all humans, and we all have our own weakness; for those who are naturally "one of many", I think it's time for them to understand that those who are different are still just as normal as they are; for those who feel "superior" just because of they are "one of many", i think they better not to consider themselves "superior", nor "normal", but vulgar.

June 13, 2014


Happiness (Photo credit: -Reji)
Happiness derived from ignoring others' suffering is false happiness, because it is based on personal luck so it can be transcient; happiness derived from passion or compassion is true happiness because it embraces all life brought to us, joy or sorrow, so it lasts as long as we live.

Reading vs. Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)
When reading, we communicate with others' minds, when writing, we communicate with our own.

"Absolute Causality Between Body And Mind"

Chronic Illness
Chronic Illness (Photo credit: eyejammy)
Believing a theory that states AS LONG AS you are mentally happy, you will be physically healthy, by my opinion, is a modern superstition very likely caused by the overwhelmingly futile treatment of modern medicine. Let me temporarily call this theory as "absolute causality between body and mind". When modern medicine cannot find anything wrong with patients, they usually "suggest" psychological reasons. And this "suggestion" gradually became "belief" because of people's blind trust to science, such as modern medicine and modern psychology, which both are young and far away from complete understanding our body and mind.
FACT is, so many people who got cancers or other fatal diseases were/are not at all unhappy people, and many mentally ill people can also be physically healthy.

The harm this seemingly unharmful belief does to our societies is, that many people who suffer from serious physical unknown illnesses would get wrong treatments, and further more, they are easily discriminated by others, who think they deserve what they suffer.  

June 12, 2014


Listen, Understand, Act
Listen, Understand, Act (Photo credit: highersights)
Understanding, is not that you have to "logically" understand people's choice, why they did this or that, normal or "abnormal", but, despite that you don't literally "understand" them, you still believe that they made the best choice to themselves, so you simply show your support by agreeing their choice, not your judgment by giving "advice" which is solely based on your own limited experience.

June 11, 2014

How Powerful Is Belief

Faith (comics)
Faith (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I cannot count how many people unintentionally judged me when they actually just tried to help me. I appreciate their kind motive, but the judgment is something very hard for me to sustain.

I realized, one of reasons that they kindly "suggested", implied or even believed that my physical chronic illness was caused by my "mental depression", is simply because they did not believe, that being single could be a healthy lifestyle. Because of this "belief", despite there were no evidences showing that I was depressed, despite of my polite and clear explanation, they still SAW my "depression" as a plain fact. This really show me how powerful belief is - as soon as you believe in something, you simply ignore facts that go against it. It can really turn black into white!

June 9, 2014

"Even Chinese Children Won't Get Up That Early!"

Child on New Year's Day
Child on New Year's Day (Photo credit: ROSS HONG KONG)
When Michelle Obama gave speech in Qinhua university during her visiting China just a while ago, she mentioned that she had to work very hard in college, sometime got up at 5 o'clock in the morning. This remark surprised lots of Chinese young students, and one of them posted a Weibo (similar to twitter) message like this: "Even Chinese children don't get up that early."

What does this message mean? It means that in China, children's working hard, enduring stress is something most Chinese people take it for granted!

I have written enough articles about this subject (in Chinese) so I don't feel like to repeat. And I think the above message already speaks for itself, showing what children's life in China is like.

P.S. The image happened to be a little funny. I meant to find a serious one, but this one was too cute to ignore. And I trust her not to take her parents' and future teachers' cr*p!

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Creativity vs. Curiosity

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...
English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I think we humans overall have two different types of mental pursuit: creativity and curiosity. The former produce artists, the later produce scientists, or philosophers.

For very long time I've been pondering why art could not be enough for me, the answer became quite clear recently: even though I have some art talent, profoundly speaking, I am more a person with curious nature, which cannot be satisfied by art. This makes working as a professional artist a profound contradiction to my nature. No wonder I struggled!
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When Were Pyramids Built And What Do They Mean To Us?

Pyramids (Photo credit: Mathew Knott)
Just finished watching this epic documentary Pyramid Code in netflix. Very much enjoyed! It again opened my eyes to the early history of humans.

The documentary would "force" us to ask questions about what we were told by history textbooks, even to question evolution. Think about it, if the time of pyramids were built can be dated several thousands years earlier, or even tens of thousands earlier (than what we currently believe), and during which mankind (or were they really mankind?) already possessed high technique, history must be rewritten, and we might even have to rethink about this all evolution theory, which constructed by genius Darwin, and "proven" by all the archaeological evidence and biological study. Wow!

And don't forget, there was always Atlantis!

Another video:
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No, I Am Not Grateful To My Parents

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain o...
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. (Photo credit: Aristocrats-hat)
Every once in awhile there were always people telling me, or implying to me, that I should be grateful to my profession, naturally, grateful to my parents, for at least I could make living by doing portraits or teaching art. But NO, I am NOT grateful to my profession, nor to my parents, because 1, if I were, I grant what my parents did to me, and  that's something I would never ever do, simply because child abuse is wrong; 2, making living never was a problem to me, and if it appeared to be once or twice, art was precisely the cause, not the solution.

My fighting to get away with art profession was not because of my resentment to my parents (if it was, it's only during the moments when I was extremely weak, which I openly admit, because I am human), but my clear "knowledge" of myself. Since very young age, I knew what kind of intelligence I had and what kind of person I wanted to be. My current "negotiate" with art profession is just a temporary refugee, due to my middle age health "disaster", which lasts more than a decade. This "negotiation" doesn't mean I have given up my "dream", neither it means I would feel miserable if I cannot reach my "dream". I found peace with myself and my fate, include the fighting part - which means I would still fight whenever I can.

Talking about gratitude, there are lots of things in my life I feel grateful for, but mostly, I feel extremely grateful and lucky for my positive nature, which was the reason I survived from a extremely "sick" and poisonous family, and still be able to love life. I am also grateful for being able to living in this country, where I could live freely, think and talk freely. And there are lots more, which are not necessary to be mentioned in this short post.

Another day we had discussion in BC about what's the mantra for life, here is mine: know what you want, try your best to get it, and if you fail, find peace with it, but never give up without a try (fight).

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June 8, 2014

Profession And Passion

Andre Agassi Tennis
Andre Agassi Tennis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I once talked to an acquaintance of mine about Agassi's tennis carrier, how painful he felt about it because it was chosen by his authoritative father, this acquaintance said: "But he could not make such money if he chose any other careers than tennis."
I cannot count how many this type of people I've met in my life, so I had this "conclusion" this morning:

Those whose choices of profession were solely based on money have no slightest idea what passion is.
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June 4, 2014

Did Neandertals have language?

A Fascinating article about our origin: Did Neandertals have language?

June 3, 2014


tolerance (Photo credit: glsims99)
Tolerance is an attitude that embraces differences, not injustice.
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June 2, 2014

Speakers vs. Listeners - A little thought From Angelou's Quote

Maya  Angelou
Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Burns Library, Boston College)
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ” - Maya Angelou

This is so very true. Maya Angelou was truly a remarkable poet. However I think we better not take this quote in an absolute sense, because if we were all concerned too much about how others react to what we said, we would hardly get chance to speak what we truly feel or think. So, speakers need to be considerate, listeners also need not to take everything personal. Everything takes efforts from both sides.
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