Friday, November 30, 2012

Allegory — The Butcher

The Butcher
The Butcher | Oil on canvas | 48 by 36 inches

"The daughter of the cruel king.

There was once a princess by the name of Miao Shan. She was the daughter of a cruel king who had wanted her to marry a wealthy, but uncaring man. The daughter told her father that she would obey his command, so long as the marriage could ease three misfortunes.

When asked what they should be, the princess explained that the first misfortune the marriage should ease was the suffering that people endure as they age. The second being the suffering endured when people fall sick. And the third was the suffering caused by death. If the marriage could not ease any of the above, then she would rather retire to a life of religious piety.

When the king asked who could ease all the above, Miao Shan pointed out that a doctor was able to do all of these. Her father grew angry as he wanted her to marry a person of power and wealth, not a healer. Miao Shan was forced into hard labor, and given little food and water, but this did not cause her to yield. She in turn begged to be a nun instead of marrying.

Her father eventually allowed her to work in the temple, but made sure the monks gave her only the toughest chores to discourage her. Miao Shan worked all day and night, but she had such a kind heart that the animals living around the temple began to help her with her chores. The king seeing this, became so frustrated that he attempted to burn down the temple. Miao Shan put out the fire with her bare hands, but suffered no burns. This struck fear in her father, who later ordered her to be put to death.

The executioner who tried to kill the princess would be led to a chain of unsuccessful attempts. His axe shattered, while the arrows targeted towards Miao Shan would mysteriously veer away. Fearing the king might harm him for his incompetence, Miao Shan would eventually let herself die at the hands of her executioner.

It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell. She witnessed sufferings and horrors that the souls had to endure, and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, Miao Shan released the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth. In the process, the realms of Hell became a paradise. It is said that the king of hell sent her back to Earth to prevent the utter destruction of his realm, and that upon her return she appeared on Fragrant Mountain.

The Legend of Miao Shan ends with her father falling ill. No physician was able to cure him. Then a monk appeared saying that the illness could be cured by making a medicine out of the arm and eye of a person without anger. The monk further suggested that such a person could be found on Fragrant Mountain.
When asked, Miao Shan willingly offered up her eyes and arms. The king was cured of his illness and went to the Fragrant Mountain to express gratitude to his benefactor. When he discovered it was his daughter who had made the sacrifice, he knelt and begged for forgiveness.

The story concludes with Miaoshan being transformed into the Thousand Armed Goddess, and her family later building a temple on the mountain to honor her."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Allegory — The Perfect Face

A Perfect Face
The Perfect Face | Oil on canvas | 24 by 30 inches

"That maiden's face.

At T'ai-yuan there lived a man named Wang. One morning he was out walking when he met a young lady carrying a bundle and hurrying along by herself. She was of such exquisite beauty that he became much smitten.

He inquired where she was hurrying to at such early hours, and was surprised to learn the girl was attempting to escape enslavement. She had been sold as a concubine by her greedy parents. The new family was wealthy, but the lady of the household was so jealous of the girl's beauty, that the young thing was often subjected to cruel abuse. After hearing her story, a sympathetic Wang offers refuge.

The girl agrees but made Wang promise to not tell anyone she was hiding out at his library. Wang promised to not divulge her secret, but later told his wife. Fearing that the girl might belong to some influential family, his wife advised him to send her away, to which he would not consent to.

One day while in town, Wang met a Taoist priest who warned him that he had been bewitched by a demon. Startled but bewildered, Wang insisted he had not encountered anything peculiar and decided the priest was probably trying to swindle him. When he returned home, he found the library door tightly shut. Curious, Wang decided to climb over the wall. His little snooping led him to discover a hideous demon that had a green face and jagged teeth.

Spread upon the bed was a human skin which the demon was painting on. Later, it picked up the skin, and placed it over its shoulder, transforming itself into the young beautiful girl.

Terrified, Wang hurried away in search of the priest. The priest gave Wang a brush, and told him to hang it at the door of his bedroom. Wang did as he was told, but the amulet was weak against the formidable demon. Angered, the demon ripped open Wang's chest and tore his heart out.

Later, when he learned of Wang's demise, the priest returned. He struck the demon and chopped off its head, causing the painted human skin to come sliding off its shoulders. Wang's wife pleaded for the priest to save her husband, and was advised to seek help from a mad man that roamed the town streets.

When she did find the town's destitute, she was given a thrashing instead and ridiculed into swallowing a loathsome pill. Overcome with rage and shame, the grieving wife returned home to mourn for Wang. She was setting out to close up the frightful wound on her husband chest, when she felt a rising lump in her throat. The strange glob subsequently got expelled and fell straight into Wang's gaping chest. At closer inspection, the wife realized it was a throbbing human heart and immediately worked on getting the wound stitched up.

By morning, Wang woke and was alive again."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Allegory — A Moonlit Meadow

A Moonlit Meadow
A Moonlit Meadow | Oil on canvas | 40 by 30 inches

"An elixir, a lady on the moon, a jade rabbit, and an archer.

Perhaps not known to many, Chang’E and Houyi were a pair of of lovers who served the Heavens. She was an attendant to the Queen Mother of the West, while he served the Jade Emperor. Because Houyi had aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, they occasionally slandered him before the Jade Emperor. This eventually led to the downfall of the pair who were subsequently exiled and banished to Earth. On Earth, Houyi hunted to survive, and overtime, became a skillful archer.

It was during this time that ten three-legged bird like creatures had gathered and came to circle Earth. Legend has it that they resided in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea, and were actually suns that took the form of the queer creatures. Each day by practice, one of the sun birds would travel around the world on a carriage that was driven by its mother. With this routine altered, the coming together of the ten suns created such intense heat that caused the Earth to burn.

The emperor of China had seek for the reputable archer and commanded Houyi to use his skill to shoot down all but one of the suns. When Houyi successful completed the task, the emperor rewarded him with a pill that granted eternal life. He was advised to prepare himself by praying and fasting for a year before taking it. The archer took the pill home and hid it under a rafter.

During Houyi's absence, his wife noticed a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters and discovered the hidden pill. She swallowed it instantaneously and found herself levitating off the grounds. Houyi returned home and found his wife flying out of the window and up into the sky.

Houyi pursued Chang'E halfway across the heavens but was forced to return to Earth because the winds were too overpowering. Chang'E eventually reached the moon, where she coughed up part of the pill. She pleaded with the jade rabbit that resided on the moon, to make another elixir which could enable her to return to Earth.

It is said that the jade rabbit is still pounding herbs, trying to make the elixir.

The distraught husband later on built himself a palace in the sun, and once every year, on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Houyi visits his wife. This is the reason why the moon is very exceptionally full and beautiful on this night."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Allegory — Daphne's Toys

Daphne's Toys
Daphne's Toys | Oil on canvas | 40 by 30 inches

"The becoming of lust.

Pan Jin Lian was born into a well-to-do family, but was sent to a wealthy landlord to become a housemaid when her family went bankrupt. The landlord coveted Pan's beauty and tried to violate her. When Pan told his wife about his misconduct, the landlord retaliated and gave Pan away to a dwarfish looking man as a punishment for her rejection of his sexual advances. Wu Dalang's luck was Pan's nightmare.

The neighbors would jeer Pan as a flower planted in cow's dung. She was beautiful and young, while her husband was an unsightly dwarf, who made a living by peddling bread. Pan later discovered to her delight that her husband had a younger brother named Wu Song, who was tall and handsome.

Wu Song had returned to the town as a hero for single handedly killing the tiger that had terrorized the country for a long time, and was made lieutenant by the magistrate. Pan who loathed her husband's shortcomings, began to let her flirtation explicitly known to Wu Song in her husband's absence. Her insidious move caught Wu Song by surprise, and made him mad. Not only did he reject her indecent proposal, but gave her a dressing down. When Wu Dalang returned home, and inquired about the tense atmosphere, Pan accused Wu Song of harassing her. Confounded and anguished, Wu Song left without explaining himself.

One day, as Pan was trying to shut the windows on the second floor with the help of a bamboo rod, it accidentally slipped from her hand and fell into the street, hitting a pedestrian on his head. He was the drugstore owner named Ximen Qing. Qing was a man of influence and also of debauchery. Seeing that the culprit was a pretty woman, his anger immediately turned into lust. His dandy gracious pardoning of her imprudence left an indelible impression on Pan.
Losing no time, Qing went into the tea house owned by Old Woman Wang, who lived next door to Pan. Pleased with his bribe, the old woman agreed to arrange a meet up between Qing and Pan. 

Brief and awkward greetings soon gave way to intimacy. But, the adulterous couple was soon caught red handed by Wu Dalang when the neighbors who had discovered the affair, went and told him about it. Qing while trying to escape, hit Wu on his chest, and the nearly fatal injury confined Wu to bed. Instead of taking care of her husband, Pan went to meet Qing, and continued with the affair.

When Wu threatened to disclose their doings to Wu Song, the couple murdered him. Wu Song eventually returned to avenge his brother. He killed Pan and Qing and then later surrendered himself to the authorities. He was pardoned because Pan was deemed a scarlet woman."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Allegory — The Concoction

The Concoction
The Concoction | Oil on canvas | 30 by 24 inches

"The figure that stands below the bridge.

This was a character of rare beauty during the ancient times of China. She was formed from one of the leftover fragments which was used by Nu Wa, the creator of earth when she was repairing the skies. The fragment became a grass stalk that attaches itself and grew under the bridge in hell. It eventually became a spirit that assumed human form.

The beautiful grass spirit later fell deeply in love with and married a young and aspiring scholar who went on to take the imperial exams. She made him promised that he would not be unfaithful during his departure, but afraid that he would fall for another woman, the spirit cast a spell on her husband. Should he break his promise to be faithful, he will lose his life. Unfortunately her worst fears came true. Her husband passed the exams, married a new wife, and never came back. The spell worked, and all breath was taken away from him.

Realizing what she had done, the spirit knelt before the King of Hades, and pleaded for a chance to see her husband once more. Seeing how broken she was, the king allowed her to serve soup to her husband. Not wanting to let her husband remember her evil doings, the spirit pulled a strand of hair from her head and cast a spell into the soup. Upon drinking the soup that tasted sweet, sour, acrid, bitter and salty all at once, her husband soon loses all his memories and passes on to the bridge that led towards reincarnation.
The King of Hades was furious at what she had done, but also realized that it was a good thing for re incarnating souls to forget everything to start anew. As a punishment, the spirit was made to stand under the bridge to serve soup to every soul that will be passing the bridge for reincarnation. 

This Chinese folklore gave rise to the character Meng Po who is also widely known to many as Granny Meng today."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Allegory — Dear Diary

Dear Diary
Dear Diary | Oil on canvas | 40 by 30 inches

"Her deadly secret.

There was once a scholar named Guo who was on his was to Beijing to take an exam. During his travels, he met a lady who sold fans for a living. They fell in love with each other, but fearing hesitation from the lady, the scholar kept the secret of his illness. One night during their heat of passion, the scholar took his last breathe and died.

Terrified of people finding out about their affair, she buried the scholar's body under the bed. To grieve and comfort her lover's soul, she placed fresh flowers, food and wine by the bed. However, to her dismay, she became pregnant and gave birth to a boy. When questioned by the suspicious people in town, she replied that the baby was God sent because of her routine practice of the offerings she laid by her bedside. The people were amazed and those who wanted children began to follow suit.

This belief gradually spread and became the story we know today as the Lady of the Bedchamber or Chuang Mu, the goddess of love and sex. She is a goddess that resides over multiple aspects of what goes on in the bedroom, specifically presiding over sex, sensuality, and lust. She rules all activities of the bedroom, including sleep, dreams, and recovery from illness. Chuang Mu teaches the protocol of true love making, and develops trust between partners. This Goddess is traditionally dressed in red and honored with gifts of rice, tea, and fresh flowers during the annual Lantern Festival in China."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Allegory — Honey Roasted

Honey Roasted
Honey Roasted | Oil on canvas | 30 by 24 inches

"The man with one leg.

There was a man named Zhang Lang, who had married a virtuous woman, but ended up falling in love with a younger woman. When he left his wife to be with his new young lover, the heavens afflicted him with ill-fortune as a punishment for his adulterous act. Zhang became blind, and his young lover soon abandoned him, and left him to resort to begging to support himself.

One day, while begging for alms, he happened across the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize her. Despite his shoddy treatment of her, she took pity on him, and invited him in. She cooked him a fabulous meal and tended to him lovingly; he then related his story to her. As he shared his story, Zhang became overwhelmed with self-pity, and the pain of his wrongdoings.

Upon hearing him weep and apologize, Zhang's former wife told him to open his eyes, and miraculously, his vision was restored. Recognizing that it was his wife whom he he had abandoned, Zhang felt so much shame that he threw himself into the kitchen hearth, not realizing that it was lit. His wife attempted to save him, but all she managed to salvage was one of his legs. The devoted wife then created a shrine above the fireplace to honor her former husband. The heavens take pity on Zhang's tragic story, and made him the god of the Kitchen. Zhang was later reunited with his wife.

This much celebrated Kitchen God is also known as Zao Jun. His association is with the stoves in Chinese homes. To this day, a fire poker is sometimes referred to as "Zhang Lang's Leg".

It is believed that on the twenty third day of the twelfth lunar month, just before Chinese New Year, Zao Jun returns to Heaven. His duty is to report the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor, who in return, either rewards or punishes a family based on the report.

On this day, the lips of Zao Jun's paper effigy are often smeared with honey to either sweeten his words to the Jade Emperor, or to keep his lips stuck together."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Allegory — Dance of the magpies

Dance of the magpies
Dance of the magpies | oil on canvas | 30 by 24 inches
New painting I've created that is based on popular Chinese folklore — Niulang & Zhinu (Cowherd & Weaver Girl). Here's the original tale.

"This is a love story between a weaver and a cowherd.

The young cowherd had came across a beautiful weaver girl, who was the seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven. The weaver had escaped from the heavens in search of earthly delights and had fallen in love with the cowherd. They later got married and bore two children.

But the Goddess of Heaven upon discovering that her daughter had married a mortal, became furious and ordered for her to return to heaven. The weaver was thus forced to abandon her mortal family and resumed her former duty of weaving colorful clouds in heaven.

Back on earth, the heartbroken cowherd poured his woes to an ox and to his astonishment, the animal replied telling him that its hide has magical powers and could enable the cowherd to go to the Heavens.

The cowherd killed the ox, put on its hide and carried his two beloved children to Heaven in search of his wife. His appearance in the heavens angered the Goddess. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever. This was later known was the Milky Way between Altair and Vega.
The weaver must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while her husband watches her from afar while taking care of their two children.

Touched by the couple's love for each other, it was said that the Goddess of Heaven decided to let them unite once on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

It is also during this day that all the magpies in the world would take pity on the couple and fly up into the heavens to form a bridge, so as to enable the lovers to unite. This is the reason why many magpies are seen bald the next day, because the weaver and cowherd walked and stood too long on the heads of their loyal feathered friends. There is another belief that sometime during this night, the two stars Altair and Vega will actually unite on the same side of the Milky Way."