Literary “Analysis” 2: Blind Man and the Sun |T.O.A.

A/N: Final share! I really find this piece heart-warming and mind provoking. The analysis is very rough, I admit. But I hope the message still comes through! 🙂 Peace!

BLIND MAN AND THE SUN

Short Story, by Su Shi (Su Dong Po) of the Song Dynasty

 

Once upon a time, there was a blind man who did not know what the Sun is. So he asks other people to explain.

One man said, “The Sun is shaped like a copper plate.” So the blind man banged on a copper plate, and listened to its clanging sound. Later when he heard the sound of a temple bell, he thought that must be the Sun.

Another man said, “The Sun gives out light just like a candle.” So the blind man picked up a candle to feel its shape. Later when he picked up a flute, he thought this must be the Sun.

And yet we know that the Sun is vastly different from a bell or a flute; but the blind man does not understand the differences, because he has never seen the Sun and only heard it described.

Analysis:

From the first intake, it would seem most fitting to approach this piece of literature using the Imitative Theory primarily, and the Affective theory secondarily.

Su’s use of the two characters can be immediately construed to mean more than their literal sense. What the Blind Man and the Sun represent exactly, however, would entail proper study of the exact timeframe when it was written and the state wherein the author was when he wrote it.

Taking from the personal background that is noted of the author, one can deduce that this short story is another expression of the values of that he stood for being raised and educated through his highly-educated mother and his town’s Taoist priest. Whatever are the values aimed to be addressed in the piece are surely addressed through the story of the blind man trying to grasp something that he had never seen.

A probable answer to the true identity of the Blind Man could be Wang Anshi, a political figure who, along with this faction, was the common subject of criticism by Su. Or could the Blind Man be an imitative depiction of himself, written during his time of exile and poverty in Huizhou/Huangzhou? Was this short story a depiction of an inner realization? It was in Huangzhou that Su had reached his literary zenith.

With all the questions, one lesson drives the whole story. Perhaps the ambiguity of the true identity of the Blind Man and the Sun was the intention Su had when he penned this story. Perhaps the author left the answer relatively limitless so that the lesson he tried to communicate would make a more effective impact to the heart of the reader. For the lesson answers the questions, “How do we expect to find something we cannot grasp? With our limitations, how must we approach the understanding of things?”

Advertisements

Literary Analysis 1: The Hundred Word Eulogy by Hongwu Emperor|T.O.A

A/N: Aye! Pretty busy, but World Literature gives me time to write! Our take-home exam was to make (beginner’s level, people) a critical analysis on 3 chinese literature of our choice. ‘Twas, alas, my first time to do an “analysis” based on literary theories that we were taught 😀 Enjoy (hopefully)!

THE HUNDRED-WORD EULOGY

By The Hongwu Emperor 

or Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋)

 

Chinese

至聖百字讃

乾坤初始

天籍注名

傳教大聖

降生西域

授受天經

三十部册

普化衆生

億兆君師

萬聖領袖

協助天運

保庇國民

五時祈祐

默祝太平

存心真主

加志窮民

拯救患難

洞徶幽冥

超拔靈魂

脱離罪業

仁覆天下

道冠古今

降邪歸一

教名清真

穆罕默德

至聖貴人

穆罕默德

清真北寺

English

Since the creation of the universe
God had already appointed his great faith-preaching man,
From the West he was born,
And received the holy scripture
And book made of 30 parts
To guide all creations,
Master of all rulers,
Leader of the holy ones,
With support from the Heavens,
To protect his nation,
With five daily prayers,
Silently hoping for peace,
His heart directed towards God,
Giving power to the poor,
Saving them from calamity,
Seeing through the Unseen,
Pulling the souls and the spirits away from all wrongdoings,
Mercy to the world,
Transversing to the ancient,
Majestic path vanquished away all evil,
His religion Pure and True,
Muhammad,
The Noble High One.

Analysis:

The most fitting approach to the analysis of this largely unknown yet relatively controversial literary is to examine it from the historical background wherein the author writes and from there, aim to deduce what he meant to express through the eulogy.

From Arabia to China, the fact that the Emperor (and said founder) of the Ming Dynasty would ever write about an Arab man, is astonishing at the outset. And even more striking would be the type of literature written- a eulogy, one of high praise, – which was dedicated to a man whose “culture” would be prejudged as the stark opposite of the author’s!

But after close inspection of what is again, largely unknown facts, the existence of such piece of literature isn’t all that surprising. Before the advent of the Hongwu Emperor’s reign, his life-story would explain the certain affinity communicated in between the lines of the eulogy. Zhu had been a member of a local rebel army that sought (and succeeded) to overthrow the preceding Yuan dynasty. Time and history can tell that years in struggle with “brothers in arms” forms unique bonds between men and transforms the beliefs and ideals of those involved. The Red Turbans, the rebel army to whom Zhu held position, was fusion of people holding different beliefs (from Confucianism down to Zoroastrianism, and most probably, Islam).

Surprising, indeed! Thinking of Chinese culture, one would be prejudiced that the only spiritual influence running through its people would be that of Buddha, Confucius or Lao Tzu. But the complete venture into the country’s history reveals a culture that was steadily enriched through years of influx of different beliefs and ideologies, inxcluding that of Judaism and Catholicism. The surprise is lessened if we remember a much more familiar historical fact, – the Silk Road, – that connected the East and West.

Combining these data together with the literature in focus what then, can we deduce? The complete answer might require a lengthier presentation than this.

From a superficial analysis, The Hundred Word Eulogy may attest to a more open and multicultural-embracing China, which could be evident during the Hongwu Emperor’s reign.

The eulogy could also be interpreted via the historical accounts of the Hongwu Emperor’s earlier life up until his experience with the Red Turban army. Perhaps there lies the beginning of the connection that the Zhu found with the “Arab desert man”*. And basing on what is quoted through history, it was a strong affinity that is most evidently and popularly expressed in the eulogy.

What is certain is that the outlook that the Hongwu Emperor held towards a historical figure is an absolute contradiction to what is commonly branded upon Muhammad nowadays-a barbarian, paedophile and tyrant. It makes one wonder: are we, of the current era, reading our history right? Or are we missing a huge piece of a puzzle?

Us…Strangers|T.O.A. |World Lit. Reflect. “Mulan” (FIN)

(A/N: First part here)

The story of Mulan begins with Imperial China being at a state of emergency following the Huns’ breach of the Great Wall.  Despite being faced with an enemy whose reputation of ruthlessness and brutality preceded them, it was a time when the Chinese so strongly believed that to cower in fear of the enemy or to decline the Emperor’s summon would equate to having no sense of honour. Defending China meant defending their villages, their livelihood, and most of all their homes.

But what could Mulan do? Her ailing father, determined to honor and protect his family, had strongly forbidden her protests and commanded her “to finally know her place”. It was these final words of reprimand that only aggravated Mulan’s already broken heart. Earlier that same day, their people’s matchmaker had publicly declared her to be nothing but a harbinger of shame to her family- a word that was almost as absolute as a Prophet’s speech.

But despite her sorrow from the “verdict” on her fate, Mulan’s determination to protect her family in whatever way she could was unwavering. Her “shame” only drove her to work with whatever she had. And work she did, with all her best.

Yet at the same time, Mulan could not make it alone. And this is where the beloved character of Mushu, the once-guardian-dragon came in! (Plus a very “lucky” cricket, if you may!)

Mushu was himself an outcast, a familiar made stranger due to the one mistake he made that lead to the untimely demise of one of Mulan’s ancestors. From guardian to virtually the spirits’ alarm clock, Mushu in the beginning seemed to be sealed to his fate. However, in ingenious ways, Mushu came and indeed acted as a true guardian, but one whose character fit very well to the overly eager Fa Mulan.

Mushu gave Mulan the redirection when she needed it and the “invisible” hand that worked behind some very pivotal scenes that if they had happened otherwise, the story may have worked out very, very differently. Perhaps through his mistakes, his concern for Mulan’s safety slowly and evidently came before any self-interest he had in bringing Mulan back in ribbons and medals. The storyline welds these similar, yet at the same time starkly different characters in a very interesting way. And as it closed, the outcome was, for sure, the opposite of what was “written” as their fate.

Perhaps, it was their situation of being individuals whose minds ran differently than those around them that pushed them to work not to assimilate themselves completely, but to stand firm on their own and all the while being in harmony with the society they call home. Others would probably resign to their fate, but here we have two people struggling against the flow whenever they see it going on the wrong direction. Indeed people like Mulan, are people that you won’t just meet in every dynasty!

Perhaps, we can then surmise that our fate isn’t completely absolute in being unchangeable. Perhaps we could start to see “fate”, through the story of Mulan, in associative manner? The type of fate that awaits as a consequence of the direction of life that we chose, and the actions and choices that we take within the limits we’ve been given. Perhaps by first utilizing what we are given, we could find the purpose we should be fulfilling.

Perhaps amidst the hardships, we should start seeing these dark events that unfold in our lives as something that redirects us or shifts our footing in case we had taken the wrong steps? Or maybe these adversities are meant to unravel or strengthen traits we have, but may not have given value?  Perhaps these are the imbued lessons when the Emperor told Captain Shang, “The flower that blooms in adversity, is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Perhaps these thoughts are what the writers, who adapted the legend of Fa (Hua) Mulan, intended to stir into their viewers- that it were “strangers” that strove for principle and selfless dreams that have always moved the mountains throughout history, despite the “norms” set about by the times and places they lived in.

Us…Strangers | T.O.A| World Lit Reflection: “Mulan”

A/N: YES..! I’m back 🙂 Pretty busy. But found my assignment in my  “World Literature” class as a reason for me to get into writing again! I really didn’t know that one of my childhood favorites was actually based off a Chinese literary classic , “The Ballad of Mulan”…! Literature is really exciting, if you take it from a much more different and deeper perspective! So here’s the first part. Working on the rest ^_^

“…So blessed are the strangers.”


It’s been years since I first saw the animated film, “Mulan.” And ever since then, I was always captivated and inspired by her story. However, I just realized how I’ve never given much thought as to why…

What is it about Mulan that has many people enamoured to her account up until today? What of its essence has enriched me?

Is it her almost reckless courage and passion that drove her to the measures she took in order to protect her family? Is it the image of a woman, so different from her time and that broke the societal boundaries set upon her?

Many stories like Mulan’s have been written, but they speak about different times and places. However, they also tell of the same type of person- a “stranger” within his/her own people, well ahead of his/her time and doing the “unthinkable.” But each story is still arguably unique, just as how the Brenda Chapman’s story of Princess Merida of Dunbroch* is different from Walt Disney’s adaptation of China’s  “Mulan”.

Looking in retrospect, stories that have been endearing to us aren’t really because of their face-value facts that we can often pick-up in the first go. Usually, these “special things” come after returning to them for the umpteenth time. Some stories even take years in pages just for the main gist to be unravelled! The same thing  goes for “Mulan”- I believe that its “gem” (at least for me) lies beyond the just your popular “tale of the empowered female” storyline.

I believe Mulan’s gem, lies in the themes of “purpose” and “destiny”.


A/N: How about you? Share below 🙂

 *Brave, 2012