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2013 Volume 4 Issue 1

A WORD FROM THE PRESIDENT We are a young and energetic team of designers, editors, and writers. With innovation and determination, we have continued the Rice tradition and brought you a taste of Asia in the form of written words. We hope you enjoy Rice’s articles and designs.

Jim Li Co-President

Rice Magazine Email: Web: Presidents Jim Li & Kaiwen Zhong Editors in Chiefs Celena Huo & Sally Gao Vice President of External Affairs Lucy He Treasurer Bill Synder Head of Design Nora Gurung Kevin Ma



More than Just the Drama and Politics




The History and the Future of Hong Kong


The Dutch Duck in Beijing


To See or Be Seen

Inhumane practices in North Korea Patricia Gonzalez The 29th Independent State of India Jim Li What would happen in 2047? Bill Synder

and its Chinese Copycats Ruge “Sally” Gao The Practicality and Fashion of “Glassless” spectacles Lucy He


Akutagawa Rynosuke


The Prayers of Bali


The Power in Softness

Life and Work of a Japanese Writer Yuezhou “Celena” Huo

Kaiwen Zhong

Julia Lui


More than Just the Drama and Politics Inhumane Practices in North Korea


By Patricia Gonzalez

n August, the Internet was flooded with news headlining the death of Hyon Song-Wol, a famous North Korean singer. She, along with eleven other entertainers, were accused of violating the nation’s anti-pornography laws and sentenced to death. The killing shocked the world, as thirty-year old Hyon Song-Wol was not only a member of the wellknown Moranbong Band and had enjoyed stardom as one of North Korea’s favorite entertainers, but also Kim Jung-Un’s ex- lover.


According to the Time, the late Kim JongIl put Hyong Song-wol and Kim Jung-Un’s relationship to an end about a decade ago and they were later on married to different people. Another article by the Korea JoongAng Daily further elaborates that the couple continued to see each other after Kim JungUn’s father passed away. The media continue to emphasize their astonishment over the fact that a woman with such a connection to the nation’s leader was sentenced to death. Other media outlets suspect foul play and highlight rumors that Ri Sol-Ju, the North Korean leader’s current wife, might have had a hand in Hyon Song-Wol’s death. Although this tragic sort of love-triangle sounds like something straight out of a soap opera, the story itself is horrible and indicative of the disturbing events that occur every day in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and should definitely not be romanticized. Whenever media discusses North Korea, it always include the politics and scandals, but they never seem to go deeper than that. The outpour of media coverage and articles related to Hyon Song-Wol’s death brought back memories from two summers ago

“I wanted to know about the daily life of citizens of the DPRK” when I attended a summer program at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. During that summer, I was able to take a class titled “North Korean Politics and Society” with Professor Kim Kook Shin, a leading scholar and the director of the Division of Northeast Asian Studies at the Korean Institute for National Unification (KINU). Because of Kim Jong Il’s death and his son’s rise to power that year, I was curious about how this class would be structured and what I would be able to learn that wasn’t covered in the newspaper and news headlines. I wasn’t very interested in learning about the country’s leaders; I wanted to know about the daily life of citizens of the DPRK. I did, of course, learn about the basic political structure of the country. North Korea has a single mass party, the Korean Worker’s Party, led by a dictator of the Kim regime, who can solely manipulate the outcome of any affair in the mass media, the education system, the police and the military. The DPRK also constantly makes use of the Internet (they have their own YouTube chan-


nel and official website) to promote water parks, ski resorts, national treasures, and other “riches” and “improvements” in the country. What these advertisements fail to mention is that the amusement parks and resorts are not available to average citizens, but only to the elite. Also, in order to centralize the control over the economic system, the government has abolished private property and established the “Gulag System”. Through the use of secret police and prison camps, the “Gulag System” functions to systematically control the people through physical and psychological distress. Thinking of these elements, I would like to turn back to Hyon Song-Wol’s murder and attempt to rip the fantastical elements out from the “love-triangle” drama that many articles made it seem like. Not only were the entertainers lined up like animals waiting to be slaughtered, but the Canada’s National Post also writes that immediate family members were forced


to watch as the firing squad executed their loved ones. To further add to the brutality of this act, in accordance with the country’s long-standing habit of punishing the immediate families of “traitors” to the regime, the entertainers’ families are believed to have all been sent to prison camps. For a long time, it was very difficult to find out what exactly has been occurring in North Korean political camps. Shin Dong-Hyuk, North Korea’s most wellknown defector and survivor of Camp 14, spoke at a U.N. Commission of Inquiry in August and revealed startling information on these camps. Shin described the prisoners’ daily-life as constantly being subjected to harsh labor, starvation, harsh beatings, and torture. “We were expendables they were keeping as beasts of labor, to get the most out of us before we die,” Shin stated. Shin Dong-Hyuk also shocked the Commission when he told them that pub-

lic executions were a common, if not a daily, occurrence in the political camp he lived in. In fact, the defector was forced to witness his mother and brother’s execution. Unfortunately, aside from these few testimonies, not much else is known about the history and occurrences within these political camps. According to the New York Times, reports estimate that around 150,000-200,000 people live in political camps and that these numbers may have changed to 80,000-120,000 in five of the six known political prison camps in North Korea. Executions and political prison camps are only a small fraction of all the human rights violations occurring in North Korea. So what can we do about it? Well, you can start right on campus. Cornell’s NK Focus is a student organization that, instead of focusing on the political aspects of North Korea, focuses on facilitating discussion and awareness on issues such as malnutrition and human trafficking of North Korean refugees in China. In addition, this student organization annually hosts a video screening and talk by Liberty in North Korea (LINK), a well-known grassroots organization in the United States that similarly revolves around North Korean human rights. LINK’s mission is to deliver aid to North Korean refugees in China, rescue refugees, change public perception about the North Korean people and their politics, and to develop people-focused strategies to promote change inside North Korea itself. There are many opportunities available to help with this organization’s mission. LINK’s online shop sells an assortment of merchandise and clothes, including amazing designs by Sun Mu, a refugee artist who used to work as a propaganda artist

The walk to survive: Group of Northkoreans going to work early in the morning.

for the North Korean government. If interested in being further involved, LINK offers internship and work opportunities to those who wish to learn more about North Korean human rights issues. Such opportunities include becoming a “nomad” – a person who travels around the U.S. to give LINK screenings- or even organizing your own screenings in your community. Please visit http://libertyinnorthkorea. org/ for more information on this organization’s projects and to read inspiring stories of some of the refugees Liberty in North Korea have been able to rescue.



TELANGANA The 29th Independent State of India



In 1953, the States Reorganization

Commission was created to advise on the reorganization of state boundaries when the issue of the unification of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh was raised. Regarding this proposal, the people of Telangana had three major concerns: Revenue base (which basically decides how the revenue sources of the area) [YH1] diversion due to the discrepancy in developments between Andhra and Telangana. Disproportionate benefits in planned irrigation projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers Unfair opportunities in seeking government and educational jobs due to unequal education



Despite the fact that a majority of Telangana people was against this merger, leaders of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh still agreed to go through with it. Telangana and Andhra were both promised security safeguards in Telangana’s interests, which promised that the “Assembly would further like to assure the people in Telangana that the development of that area would be deemed to be special charge, and that certain priorities and special protection will be given for the improvement of that area, such as reservation in services and educational institutions on the basis of population and irrigational development”. The settlement of the merger however, did not conclude this story. 12 years after the Andhra’s formation, due to Telangana people’s dissatisfaction of the proper implementation of Telangana security safeguards, they started several movements pushing for the creation of a new state of Telangana independent from Andhra Pradesh. It is because of these separate Telangana movements and complaints from proponents of Telangana independence that

pushed the Congress Working Committee into unanimously passing a resolution of recommendation for the forming of a state of Telangana, independent from Andhra Pradesh. In October 2013, the Union Cabinet approved the creation of a new state of Telangana by dividing it from the existing state of Andhra Pradesh. In addition, the Cabinet has also approved the establishment of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to explore issues that concern both states. Public opinion remains mixed regarding the independence of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. Some citizens of Telangana are satisfied with this resolution because the separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh increased the citizens of Telangana’s sense of statehood. Not all has gone smoothly for the two states, however, as the resolution states that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana still have to share the city of Hyderabad as their capital city for another ten years. Numerous protests have been staged regarding the creation of the independent state of Telangana, as Telangana’s independence resulted in the sharing of Hyder-

abad (a city home to many major IT and pharmaceutical companies), a sharing that involved the division of profit: something Andhra Pradesh did not have to deal with before Telangana’s independence. More importantly, since the final decision to create the 29th state of Telangana has not been reached, the state assembly faces many other obstacles associated with the bifurcation of the two states before such a decision

could be passed completely. For example, the act of the Group of Ministers (GoM) seemed superficial since officials have been asked to send only superficial data on the number of irrigation projects, water availability and power generated by APGenco in Telangana and Seemandhra regions.

Will there be a new state in India? We don’t know. But stay tuned. By Jim Li


The History and the Future of Hong Kong What would happen in 2047?



H ong Kong has been a critical region for both China and other countries.

Throughout Chinese history, various provinces have maintained a level of autonomy that has allowed diverse cultures to grow and prosper. Controlled by Britain for over a century, Hong Kong has furthered its autonomy by developing unique cultural practices as well as institutionalized government policies distinct from those of mainland China. After Hong Kong’s return to China, the city’s maintenance of its unique cultural developments and Western traditions appears in sharp contrast with the practices of its Communist parent. The tension between China and Hong Kong has resulted in the Chinese government’s “special” treatment of the Southern metropolis. In this article, I will discuss the long history of Hong Kong and explain how this history has shaped the city’s practices. Furthermore, I will provide a detailed analysis regarding the process of re-integrating Hong Kong back into full control of Communist China. The city of Hong Kong originated from various fishing settlements dispersed on an island off the coast of southern China. As these settlements grew and coalesced, Hong Kong became a major trading post and was eventually integrated into China during the Qin Dynasty. As a thriving seaport, the city of Hong Kong emerged as a prominent Chinese city and obtained a position of financial importance within the Chinese economy. Hong Kong’s importance became more apparent when it begun its involvement in trading with the West. When the British first engaged with


“Hong Kong has furthered its autonomy by developing unique cultural practices. . .”

China as a nation, their goal was to expand their trade to the Far East. However, the Chinese imperial court was highly offended by this action and considered Britain’s trade venture as an insult to the country, since China considered itself as the “Chosen Kingdom” of the universe and as superior to Western nations. This level of national self-interest blinded China and strained its relationships with Western nations - nations that originally considered China to be a potentially valuable and lucrative trading partner. The Chinese government resisted Western engagements to such an extreme that at one point it refused to import a substantial amount of British goods because the government considered Western technology to be inherently inferior to China’s own developments. To prevent “inappropriate” Western ideas from contaminating Chinese society, the Chinese government completely closed off its contact with the West through restrictions in trade and with foreigners’ visitation rights. Consequently, Westerners in China were confined to the Canton region, near the Hong Kong port. As Western nations persuaded (and later on coerced) the Chinese to abolish its trade restrictions, Hong Kong became a central player within this EastWest foreign relations battle due to its continuing engagements with Western trade.



While China was firmly against the importing Western products, it had been exporting large quantities of silver and tea to foreign countries. To resolve this imbalance in trade, the British slyly began exchanging opium for silver and tea with its Chinese partners. Though opium was considered legal in Britain, the Chinese government considered opium to be a destructive drug that could (and eventually did) poison citizens of Chinese society. Thus, the Chinese confiscated British opium from Chinese consumers and refused to continue trading with the West. However, this act of disassociation did not sit well

with the British. Britain attacked China soon after China’s severance of trade relations, citing China’s confiscation of British opium as an obvious provocation. With its vastly superior military technology, Britain was able to force China into surrender within a year’s time, resulting in the Treaty of Nanjing (1842), which included China’s surrender of Hong Kong to Britain. Hong Kong thereafter became a colonial city of the British Empire in 1842. However, the British wanted to secure their newly acquired territory and continued to seek out ways to gain more Chinese land. In 1860, at the end of the Second Opium War, Britain

acquired a perpetual lease over the Kowloon Peninsula, a Chinese region positioned directly across the strait from the island city of Hong Kong. Later in 1898, British and Chinese governments signed the Second Convention of Peking, which included a 99-year lease agreement for the islands surrounding Hong Kong, islands henceforth renamed as “the New Territories.” These leases would become a critical component in the negotiations between England and China that would eventually result in the returning of Hong Kong, 99 years later. As a part of the British Empire, Hong Kong began adopting Western practices such as

democratic rule and free enterprise. In 1843, Hong Kong created legislative and executive councils, which both functioned as a democratic system of governance in Hong Kong. In addition, with the advent of British rule, Hong Kong modernized much more rapidly than its mainland parent. In the late 1800s, Hong Kong had developed banks and hospitals that were then nonexistent in the mainland society. In half a century’s time however, as China became a communist nation closed off from Western influences, China’s desire to unify the entire country became stronger. China also desired to take back Hong Kong due


“If China were to regain control over regions of Hong Kong, then the city would be split from within: much like the division between East and West Germany during the Cold War.”


to its status as a rapidly growing city of tremendous financial potential: Hong Kong’s act of reunification with mainland China would not only be a symbol of integrity within China, but also would endow developing China with a very prosperous city. In order re-integrate Hong Kong into its national landscape, the Communist Chinese government made full use of the lease agreements - signed in 1860 and 1898 - to their best advantage. Although Hong Kong was already a prosperous city, these lease agreements were essential for Hong Kong’s continued growth and prosperity because much of the city had expanded into the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. If China were to regain control over regions of Hong Kong, then the city would be split from within: much like the division between East and West Germany during the Cold War. Furthermore, without the Kowloon Peninsula, the British would have a difficult time defending the rest of the city from attack, since the peninsula was a strategic landmass for naval defense. Even so, the British would likely be forced to give Hong Kong back to China at the end of these leases. In 1984, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang met to resolve the issue. From the British perspective, Hong Kong had developed institutions radically different from Communist China, such as practices in democracy and

capitalism. These institutions ran counter to the highly authoritarian and regulatory regimes of the Chinese government, hence radical systematic changes of social institutions would be in order if China were to reintegrate Hong Kong back into its society. China, on the other hand, was determined to reclaim Hong Kong. To resolve this problem, the two governments created the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984), in which Britain agreed to return not only the New Territories but also Kowloon and Hong Kong itself when the lease term expired. Also included in this agreement was China’s promise to implement a “One Country, Two Systems” strategy, under which Hong Kong citizens could continue to practice capitalism and political freedoms forbidden in mainland China for half a century. As a result, Hong Kong became a semi-autonomous region, acting independently in regards to most domestic policy but followed China’s foreign directives. However, according to the

agreement, Hong Kong is supposed to fully return to China’s control and be forced to accept the communist rule in 2047. But what will happen in 2047 is unclear. While China will have the absolute authority to impose communist rule over Hong Kong citizens, many believe this will not happen, especially since China continued to decentralize over the subject of economic policies. Hong Kong is one of the China’s and the world's most prosperous cities, largely because of the financial and social institutions it developed under the British rule. As such, to tamper with these policies drastically would be to threaten the prosperity of a major international city. Additionally, the communist government has openly claimed that a policy of economic growth would be the most successful measure to maintain peace in China. The Hong Kong “special” administrative region may become a permanent system of governance to maintain peace and prosperity within China. Such tailored Chinese policies are

not exactly unheard of: Tibetans for instance, are exempted from many of China’s authoritative religious and social policies, making Tibet a semi-autonomous region. Besides, the Chinese communist government may not operate in 2047 in the same regime that it does today. Over the past decade, the Chinese government has reduced its iron grip in central government planning as well as in its control over the Chinese economy, making China a quasi-capitalist nation almost unrecognizable from its previous Maoist regime. It is a possibility, however small, that China may not even be a communist nation in the next 39 years. Under these circumstances, the task of determining how China would re-integrate Hong Kong into the bigger Chinese landscape is no easy feat. Only as 2047 approaches will we truly know the full answer to this question.

By Bill Synder 21


Dutch Duck in Beijing and its Chinese Copycats By Sally Ruge Gao 22

“Tell me Harry: what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?”

Follow the pandas to understand China’s diplomatic moves with the West, watch the duck to understand Chinese attitudes towards Western symbols. After Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s famous yellow rubber duck created significant amounts of social buzz by appearing in the Thames, China, interestingly enough, invited the duck to have a swim in its waters. The duck has made its way through Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing throughout the year of 2013. The 18-meter tall bright yellow spectacle has since garnered national attention and inspired many copycats, who hope for either commercial or publicity gain. The image of a giant Dutch rubber duck floating in the traditional waters of Beijing is striking. The famous fowl appeared in Beijing’s Summer Palace as well as Beijing’s International Expo Park for one month starting September


26th, 2013. Before its arrival, social media sites such as Weibo (equivalent to Chinese Twitter) and Renren (equivalent to Chinese Facebook) have widely circulated jokes about the Duck’s move to Beijing, many concerning its similarity with the capital city’s signature dish, the Peking Duck. The Duck attracted a staggering two million visitors to the Summer Palace, a number magnified owing to the fact that China’s National October First holiday fell between the period of the Duck’s stay. Many onlookers of this social phenomenon commented on the Duck’s positive influence on the Chinese public, admiring its creative design as well as its ability in briefly alleviating stress levels in modern Chinese society by providing a laugh for the millions of busy city-dwellers in Beijing and beyond. The commercial phenomenon generated in China by the Rubber Duck’s appearance was not as well received as the Duck itself, mainly due to the plethora of cheap and “ugly” copycat replicas that have sprung up throughout China. Cities that have hosted the popular Duck have indeed gained significantly from the benefits of tourism. Besides tourism increases, however, the Duck has inspired an explosion of Rubber Duck related replicas in Chinese markets since the Duck’s appearance in Chinese waters, replicas sold through official outlets and via street vendors who have pirated the design


of the Duck for smaller bath-size rubber ducks. Copycats who aim for publicity gain – or just attention - went the extra mile and created replicated giant rubber ducks in cities such as Hangzhou, Chongqing, Wuhan, Shenyang and Wuxi. The aesthetics of the replica giant rubber ducks have generally been met with ridicule and criticism. According to Xinhuanet, “… it’s estimated that the organizing committee yielded about 7 million Yuan (US$1.13 million) in selling the duck’s peripheral products.” Even though China has long since been known for its rampant piracy and of its nickname as “the World’s Factory”, Chinese commenters have lamented at the fact that China was specializing more in efficiently replicating and manufacturing Western products instead of creating its own icons. The state of China’s innovation industry could be succinctly summed up in one quote from Fan Hesheng, Vice Director of School of Sociology and Political Science of Anhui University: “What we need is ‘made by China’ rather than ‘made in China’.” Looking at the issue more positively, Fan Hesheng also commented that the enormous popularity and incredible commercial success experienced by the Duck in China hints at China’s possible reaction towards genuine innovation and the gigantic markets available for those who dare to introduce creativity into Chinese waters. []

TO SEE OR BE SEEN The Practicality and Fashion of “Glassless” Spectacles

By Lucy He While most people wear glasses to see better, some of the youth in Hong Kong wear glasses to be seen. A visitor walking through Hong Kong today can observe countless individuals wearing frames of glasses. These plastic frames, made in black, tortoiseshell or bright colors, do not hold any lens: they are simply empty. They are not meant for vision correction, but serve as a fashion accessory amongst young students and office workers in the region. One such fanatic of empty frames is the 32-year old morning radio host Chu Fen. She wears contact lenses for her nearsightedness, but on top of them she also wears lensless glass frames. She bought her favorite ones, black with purple stems, in Japan for $13. In addition, she also has a pink pair, bright red pair, and black cartoonish pair of glasses. Not everyone is supportive of this trend, especially optical industry executives who see no practicality in wearing empty frames for the sole purpose of fashion. These lensless frames originated in Japan

in the 1990s and then died down. Recently they resurfaced among East Asian cities in China, South Korea, and Taiwan. Michael Perry, an American public-relations expert who moved to Hong Kong, says: “I’m deeply confused by those empty glasses. You want to reach out and touch to see if the lens are there… Fortunately I can restrain myself.” He views these glass frames as a burden because they can slip down the nose very easily. Why would anyone wear glasses when they actually have no need for the glasses’ original corrective purpose? Actually, research shows that people in Hong Kong badly need glasses with real lens, not lensless glasses. The Myopia Research Center, part of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Optometry, reveals that nearly 85% of people in their 20s in Hong Kong suffer from myopia. This level of shortsightedness is rising throughout the mainland and elsewhere in East Asia with incredible speed. No one knows what has caused this rise in myopia, though there


have been speculations on genetics and on the prevalence of close work that would strain the eyes. Most of the youth don’t exactly agree with researchers on the loss of practicality of glasses without lens. For example, these frames could match outfits, hair, and even substitute cosmetics. By wearing hollow frames, Chu Fen can avoid putting on makeup in the early morning before facing her coworkers: “Those black eye circles are so seriously bad, I try to find some way to cover it, and hollow frames are convenient


that way.” Furthermore, the frames don’t fog up and blind the wearers when they walk out of the buildings that are blasted by frigid air conditioning in the summer time. Lastly, fake eyelashes that might stick to glass lens won’t stick to empty frames. It turns out that many students and workers view these glasses as the new trend in the field of fashion accessories. While Kee Chea-su, a safety-conscious assistant professor at Myopia Center warns students against wearing frames that block peripheral vision in certain occupations, a young

Why would anyone wear glasses when they actually have no need for the glasses’ original corrective purpose?

Hong Kong nurse named Raymond Chan cares little for this advice. He has perfect vision, but still wears empty dark frames to follow celebrities’ styles in television programs like “Men’s Club”. Presently hollow frames sales continue to grow globally. Another wearer of these frames is Michelle Wong, 29, an art gallery manager from Beijing who owns three pairs of hollow frames and wears contact lenses to fix her nearsightedness. She, like many young East Asians, does not find it strange to wear them. Yet, this trend in empty frames is not helping the optical establishment, especially since cheap frames are sold abundantly on the street. But it’s unclear if the trend will last. According to Andy Yeung, a trader in Jardine’s Bazaar who sells hollow frames, “for every trend, one day it just stops.” []



Akutagawa Ryunosuke Life and Work of a Japanese Writer By Yuezhou “Celena” Huo

This is a story Patient No. 23 of a lunatic asylum tells everyone about. Three years ago, as No.23 was on his mountain trip, he fell into a hole and lost consciousness. When he woke up, he was surrounded by a group of kappas (“river-children”), a kind of river monster in Japanese folklore. The kappa’s distinguishing features are its beak and a wet sara (“plate”) on its head. It turned out that No.23 fell into the country of kappas. "The civilization of kappas does not much differ from that of mankind - at least from that of the Japanese," No.23 later describes. "Moreover, kappas know much more about us than we know about them." Many kappas even poke fun at common human practices. For example, when No.23 asked the fisher-kappa Bag why kappas did not bother to wear loin-cloths, Bag burst out laughing: "I would like to know why you cover yourself with cloth." On the other hand, some Kappa practices may appear odd or even disturbing to humans. When a kappa is not yet born, its parents would ask the baby if it actually wants to be born into the world. Bag's fetus answered the following: "I don't wish to be born. First of all, I don't want to inherit the insanity in my father's blood. I also believe in the wickedness of living a kappa's life." Hearing this, a nurse injected some liquids in Bag's wife’s body and her belly quickly shriveled up. Such is the beginning of Japanese author Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short novel Kappa. Ranked among the greatest and most-translated writers of Japan, Akutagawa writes in genres spanning across child literature, tales of psychosis, haiku poetry and literary criticism. Kappa is Akutagawa's caricature portrait of himself. He completed the novel Kappa in 1927, the same year he committed suicide at the age of 35. Unlike Mishima Yukio, a Japanese writer of the same period who committed seppuku (a ritual suicide) af-

ter a failed coup d'état, Akutagawa's motivation behind his suicide was only vaguely hinted at by his late-works. One can thus read Kappa as an expression of the author's view on life in his late years and as a mockery of early Showa Japan (19261989), or even as quasi-autobiography. Less than a year after Akutagawa’s birth in Tokyo 1892, his mother lost her sanity. His merchant father, Niihara Toshizo, sent the child to be brought up by Akutagawa Dosho, Akutagawa’s uncle, from whom the child took his surname. Un-



fortunately, Akutagawa received little affection from his foster parents and his father. Occasional visits of his insane mother cast deeper a shadow of tragedy upon Akutagawa’s childhood, an awful time of his life he could only escape from temporarily through reading books. His fondness of classic Chinese literature, macabre Edo fiction and ghost stories were yet to set the tone for Akutagawa’s later works. In 1913, Akutagawa started studying at Imperial University in Tokyo. There, he published his famous early works such as Rashomon (1915) and Hana (“The Nose”, 1916). Both stories are adaptations of tales in Konjaku monogatari (Tales of Times Now Past, 1979). Rashomon, combined with Akutagawa’s other work Yabu no naka (In a Grove, 1922), was later made into a movie of world renown by film director Kurosawa Akira in 1950. The plot features different witnesses’ contradictory narratives and interpretations of the same event, thereby questioning the technique and process of uncovering truth. Hana tells a story of a Buddhist priest who is obsessed with his long, dangling nose. The priest has

tried every method to make his nose look normal. To seek consolation, he has even searched through religious texts in hope of finding a famous priest with a similar nose. When the priest finally succeeds in making his nose smaller - by immersing his nose in boiling water and having his friend stamp on it - he finds that people were laughing at him even more openly and harshly than they were before. The story not only criticizes the priest’s vanity but also unmasks the cruelty of men when they witness the ascension of someone they deem inferior to themselves. July 1916, Akutagawa graduated from Tokyo University. His works won high acclaim from Natsume Soseki, who was in 1916 a well-established Japanese writer. Encouraged by Soseki, Akutagawa continued with his writing career. His short stories started to feature discussions of early Japanese Christianity. In Tabako to akuma (“Tobacco and the devil”, 1916), Akutagawa speculates that tobacco was first introduced to Japan by the Devil, who was brought to the land by a Jesuit priest named St. Francis Xavier. He wrote: “After all, is it not only natural that with the god of

the West, the devil of the West should have come too? And that with the good things of the West, must also come the bad things?” Near the end of 1916, he began to teach English at the Naval Engineering School in Yokosuka. The next year, Akutagawa’s famous work Gesaku zanmai (“Absorbed in the Letters”, 1917) was published. Although the story was supposed to portray the Edo period gesaku (frivolous writing) author Takizawa Bakin, it was interpreted more as a concealed self-description of Akutagawa himself. In the story, Bakin overhears someone accusing him of his novel Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (“The Chronicles of the Eight Dog Heroes of the Satomi Clan of Nanso”, 1842) of plagiarizing the Chinese classical Shui Hu Zhuan (“The Water Margin”). This may be a hint at Akutagawa’s anxiety of the accusations that many of his works being mere copycats of other stories. The Bakin in the story suffered from unsettling doubts about his own art. In the end, however, he was finally able to start writing again, without bitterness and full of bliss and devotion to his lonely art. In 1918, Akutagawa married Tsukamoto Fumiko. He resigned from his teaching position in 1919 and moved with his family to his foster parents’ house in the quiet suburbs of Tabata. Already a popular writer, Akutagawa started to engage with people in various interviews, roundtable discussions and travels. In 1921, he went on a four-month trip to China as a special correspondent for the Osaka Mainichi (“Osaka Daily”) to observe the traditional culture and new practices of China. Judging from his later publication Travel in China, Akutagawa’s feeling towards the country was very mixed. He described an unsanitary, poor, and decaying country, but also expressed a certain homesickness and sympathy towards Chi-

na. In addition, as a Japanese writer, he envies the greater publishing freedom that Chinese writers enjoyed, which he mentioned during a conversation with Hu Shih. The theme of censorship likewise appeared in Kappa. When No. 23 was attending a musical performance, kappa police broke in and banned the performance. “Musical performances are often banned,” a kappa explained, “for however injurious they may be to public morals, they are not appreciated by those kappas who have no ears.” When asked if the police officer have the ear for music, the kappa answered: “Well, it’s doubtful. Maybe that melody reminded him of the beating of the heart he feels when in bed with his wife.” Akutagawa’s health, however, never recovered after his trip to China. He was further weighed down by his responsibilities as a father, a husband, and as the eldest son of a demanding and extended family. In Kappa, the kappa-poet Tock commented: “The family system is absurd beyond all absurdities. Parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, all derived their sole pleasure from tormenting each other.” But when he passed by a window, through which he saw a family of kappa were eating dinner together, Tock confessed: “I can’t see such a scene of family life as that without a touch of envy.” In April 1926, Akutagawa moved with his family to Kugenuma, Fumiko’s native village. His physical and mental condition continued to deteriorate, worsened by his increasing fear of having inherited his mother’s insanity. In the summer of that year, he decided to commit suicide. After making that decision, Akutagawa started sending messages to his friends, readers, and family members. The year 1927 marked his most productive writing period. His works in that


year included Genkaku Sanbo, Shinkiro (“Mirage”), Kappa, Bungeiteke na, amari ni bungeteki na (“Literary, all too literary”), Aru Aho no Issho (“The Life of a Stupid Man”), Hanguruma (“Spinning Gears”). It seemed to Akutagawa that his life was either going to end in madness or suicide. In Hanguruma, he depicted various frightening images as well as the appearance of his dead mother. In a night scene where he was walking alone, Akutagawa felt he was being followed. His vision then began to be blocked by numerous translucent gears, which spun ever faster, until he was seeing everything as if through finely cut glass. “I felt my heartbeat rising and kept trying to make myself stand still [...], but someone seemed to be pushing me from behind,” he wrote. In July 1927, Akutagawa committed suicide through carefully planned overdose of Barbital. The poet kappa Tock, who claimed himself to be a superman (or super-kappa), similarly suffered from increasing insomnia and delusions, which finally led to his suicide. After Tock’s death, No. 23 visited the Great Temple of kappas. It turned out that kappas have similar cultures as human, but their most important religion is Modernism, also called Life-worship. “Eat, sleep together, and live a vigorous life,” so says the God of Life-worship. Later, Tock’s spirit appeared at a séance (“divination”). The interviewers asked him if a spirit’s span of life is eternal. Tock mocked the contradictory theories built around this question, but reminded his interviewers that “you should not forget, of course, that in our midst there are all manner of faiths--Christianity, Buddhism, Muslimism, Parseeism and so on.” He claimed, however, that he himself is a skeptic as always, and that he finds it hard to hold the same strong conviction about the existence of the spirit like the rest of the kappas.


Kappa is a story that begins and ends with madness. In the last scene, No.23 is sitting in the mental asylum, still delusioning about his kappa friends. No.23’s madness could be a mask under which the author distances himself with his work and hides his most private thoughts; it could also be read as a meta-metaphor of the author’s own life struggle with his mother’s and his own impending insanity. It is natural to wonder what Akutagawa would answer if he were asked the fetus’ question in the kappa society. Either way, it is indisputable that Akutagawa’s short and tragic life left us invaluable works that reveal the deep and timeless insights into individual psychology. His stories are still widely read today in Japan. The Akutagawa Prize, established in 1935, is considered one of the most prestigious literary awards to this present day. *If you are interested in reading Akutagawa’s works, you can find many related books online or through Cornell Library. You are welcome to contact Yuezhou Huo ( for further information of finding English translations of Akutagawa’s works.

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November 8th, 2013

BEFORE we visited Bali as tourists, my family and I paid most of our attention to researching the beautiful oceans, diverse hotels, and ethnic food of the island. We looked forward to the visit, and anticipated a relaxing beach vacation. Little did we know, Bali would offer us much more than we had expected. Late at 10pm, we arrived at Danpassar international airport, the major airport of Bali. The our hotel was in the countryside area of Bali. As we made our way to the hotel, the streets were quiet. Few shops were open after ten in areas that were not so touristy, but this did not not mean that there was no one outside. The people who were still walking on the streets all seem to have something either on top of their heads or held in their


hands. The objects they had, large or small, seemed delicate to the eye. Most of those people were walking at a leisurely pace and were alone, well dressed and in traditional clothing. “They are doing ‘bai bai’,” our guide tried to explain it to us in Chinese, hearing our comments of the men and women walking outside our car windows. “Bai bai”, which directly translates into “pray pray”, is what people here do every single day and at any given time, due to their Hindu beliefs. Bali, home to most of

The smallest province of Indonesia, Bali, is located at the tip of the island. Indonesia’s Hindu minority population, has a different culture from the rest of Indonesia. So how are the Balinese different? The Balinese say that the island of Bali has not changed much for quite a long time -people have dressed themselves in the same fashion, ate food with similar recipes, and have had the same pace of life for ages. The native Balinese believe that if they are dedicated enough in preserving their culture, they will be blessed by the god of ocean to never endure disasters that could swallow up the tiny island of Bali. In the event of the 2004 tsunami that hit parts of Indonesia, Bali remained almost completely unaffected, confirming to the native Balinese that their theories held truth. The people of Bali also believe that their gods protected them from wars and severe conflicts. “It is because we have been faithful,” our driver proudly told us. The customs upheld by Balinese and the role of religion in daily life are passed on throughout generations. Both shape the history of the small island in the Indian ocean as well as the ongoing growth of the

community when it is inevitably integrated into the global village. religon In Bali, almost 95% of the population believe in the Hindu religion or Hindu Dharm[1]. The purpose of teaching this religion is to help the believers reach harmony in life. The teaching blends together Hinduism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship, a type of worshipping that has flourished throughout the centuries. The Balinese believe in one Supreme God called Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa. The Supreme God has three manifestations(Trisakti): Brahma the Creator, Wisnu the Preserver, and Shiwa the Transformer[2]. Walking by the streets of Bali, you can see stone statues of different shapes placed by the doors of little shops, gates of households rich and poor, and by the entrances of temples. temples In Bali, temples are called Pura[3], which can mean “walled city”, “temple city”, or “palace”, all of which carry Sanskrit origins. The Puras are simple, walled yards,


and they provide people with a place to communicate directly with their ancestors and gods. Most of the temples in Bali have gates, but not doors. Those gates are called Candi Bentar, which translates into English as “split gate”[4]. People do not have to have locked doors to guard the temples; the statues of temple guardians are believed to be capable of safeguarding the good and preventing the bad from entering the sacred temples. As a tourist, there are many must-see temples in Bali, including the Pura Gunang Kawi, “Valley of the Kings”, which honors the kings and queens from the 11th century[5]. Another translation of the temple is “Sacred Spring Temple”, because the Balinese believe the water in Pura Gunang Kawi could cleanse the temple and whoever showers in it. Although it is now a touristy place, local Balinese people still go to the temple often, sometimes with families and other times alone. They either immerse themselves in the openings of sacred springs, or take showers in the ponds that are relatively hidden from the crowds. Another must-see temple in Bali is the Pura Besakih, meaning “Mother Temple”. Dating back to the 10th century, the temple’s main axis aligns with the peak of Gunung Agung, the tallest mountain and holiest site in all of Bali[6]. It is the house of the ghosts and of the ancestors as well as the place where a person returns to when he or she dies[7]. In 1963, Pura Besakih narrowly escaped destruction, as a lava flow from Gunung Agung’s killer volcanic eruption narrowly missed the temple by mere yards. Today, Balinese old and young still are reminiscent of the time of eruption and feel blessed by their gods, and are in turn motivated to maintain their rituals and beliefs in their


Most Puras are found on Bali, however many exist in other parts of Indonesia with high numbers of Balinese people.

deities and ancestors. rituals Even as tourists, my family and I could feel the presence of Hinduism every single day through the Balinese rituals. On the second day of our trip, our tour guide picked us up at our hotel with some rice, sesame seeds, and ink paintings on his forehead. “I fell down the stairs because I was tripped by a rat last night,” he explained, “I ‘bai bai’-ed

afterwards, and I put these on my forehead after, so that the god would keep me from more bad luck.” Sometimes Balinese pray by themselves, and sometimes they pray with a group of people that mostly consists of family members and neighbors. Even though these rituals happen every single day and could happen any time during the day, they have priority over everything else. We would often run into traffic jams on the road be-


cause of large groups of praying people. Dressed in colorful clothes, the prayers were walking, dancing, occasionally playing music, with tributes in their hands and their carts. Police officers would be standing by the streets, guarding the prayers and preventing cars from accidently running into the moving groups. We had to make our travel schedules in a very relaxed fashion to allow flexibility for the occasional praying groups that could easily delay our trip for hours. Although the frequent traffic jams could be annoying to some people, my parents and I were always excited when we saw groups of prayers. After all, what could be more Balinese than this laid-back attitude towards other things besides their beliefs, their gods, and their devotion? going beyond Of course, there is much more to Bali and Balinese Hinduism than what I saw and illustrated in this article. Interestingly enough, I became more intrigued with this Indonesian island after the trip-- the people, the food, the cultural customs, the special crafts such as Balinese batik, the people’s relationship to the ocean, and the praying Balinese. I have become ever more curious of this culture of spectacular richness in their beliefs and daily lives. Luckily, as Cornell students, we are not short of resources that could give us more information about Bali. In Johnson Museum of Arts, there are Balinese batiks from the mid-20th century on exhibition that picture the story behind Balinese beliefs and cultures[8]. In Kroch Library inside Olin Library, the John M. Echols collection is one of the largest collections on Southeast Asia in the United States, holding copies of hundreds of copies of books, music recordings, maps, visual materials, and se-


rials on Bali[9]. In the music department, Professor Martin Hatch lead beginners and advanced students to play a traditional musical ensemble originated in the islands of Java and Bali. This particular ensemble set was made in the 1950s[10]. There is still much more to be explored in the island of Bali, and my trip to Bali is only where my exploration begins. [] [1] “Religion and Custom,” Tunjung Petak Tours & Travel, 2001, [2] Ibid. [3] Temples. (n.d.). Bali Directory, Information about Resources in Bali. Retrieved from http://www. [4] Bali & Indonesia on the Net. (n.d.). Retrieved from html [5] Aquino, M. (n.d.). Top Ten Must-See Temples in Bali. Retrieved from http://goseasia. [6] Ibid. [7] “Religion and Custom,” 1 [8] Items Tagged with Bali. (2007). Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Retrieved from [9] The John M. Echols Collection on Southeast Asia. (2010). The Asia Collections, Cornell University. Retrieved from index [10] Gamelan. (2008). Cornell University Department of Music. Retrieved from about-us/facilities-and-instruments/cornell-gamelan/


The Power in Softness By Julia Lui


Calligraphy is vulnerable to stain. One slip of the hand, and a perfect work is ruined, all my efforts in vain. Situations like this were common when I practiced calligraphy years ago, and every time I had to start over to complete a good piece of work. Eventually, I came to understand why this happened. Everything about Chinese calligraphy is soft - from the rice paper to the fine hairs of the bamboo brush. Whenever I bumped the tip of the writing brush - as lightly as I could - against the paper, the tip would instantly fold and bend inward. The fold of

the tip gave me the illusion that I possessed a certain deftness in my stroke, and I would relax my wrist and drop my brush on the paper, creating a blot of ink stain. I told my calligraphy teacher, a stout man with thin, hoary hair, about my blunders once. He asked me - to my surprise to touch his hand while he wrote with the brush. When I placed my hand on his, I was shocked by the controlled power he exerted on his brush. He was holding the brush so tight that it seemed as if he was exerting his full weight on that brush. “Calligraphy is not only a practice on the fingers,” he explained, “It exercises the whole body.” His words reminded me of the time when I first started learning calligraphy. I was told that the key challenge was to take control of every stroke. However, it did not occur to me until then that the control needed for a seemingly delicate stroke required a tremendous exertion of strength. Some calligraphy teachers even pace around the classroom and surprise their students by yanking the brushes out of their students’ hands. If a student succeeds in holding onto her brush, he/she has mastered the first step of the art of Chinese calligraphy. However, the power does not only come from the hands. My calligraphy teacher also told me: “... The power is first generated from all over the body, and then transferred and concentrated within the arm and hand.” More than that, calligraphy is also an exercise on the mind. According to Fuyuzhen Peng, the co-founder of Cornell Confucianism and Calligraphy Club: “Each character has a personality, which is given by the calligrapher through the exertion of different kinds of power. The power is controlled by the mind.” Therefore, different mindsets may generate radically different styles of characters. Furthermore, although


the transition between characters looks soft, the transitions actually serve as firm bridges through which power is transferred from one character onto the next. I usually hold my breath when doing the transition, focusing all my attention on the tip of the brush, until all power is safely carried to the beginning of next character. As a result, all the characters would look connected to each other instead of separate and independent within a single piece of work. Memories of calligraphy bring me to the experiences I had at the International Coubertin Youth Forum, which invited young athletes from more than ten countries, all of whom came to my high school to learn and compete in sports. During the event, Chinese students were encouraged to teach participants from other countries a type of sport unique to China. The one we chose to teach was Taichi, a Chinese martial art. Later, when I finished performing Chinese calligraphy during the opening ceremony, a German student asked me if I had felt the same soft emotions when I performed calligraphy and Taichi. I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to link the two arts together but also wanted to tell him of his misunderstanding of the two “soft” arts. Just like Chinese calligraphy, Taichi also contains a great amount of energy bubbling under its “soft” surface. Taichi has usually been mistakenly referred as “soft boxing” because the exterior actions seem so gentle and smooth that people cannot help but relax their bodies. However, their legs, arms, hands and fingers are actually holding incredible amounts of invisible power. One of the Taichi practitioners in Cornell Wushu (Chinese Martial Art) Club, Ethan Yen, said that “[Taichi] derives its power from dantian, the feet, one’s body configuration,


and even from opponents’ bodies.” Dantian (lower abdomen and the core of Taichi) is where one’s breathing is stored. Breath is closely related to the exertion of power in that inhale is usually accompanied by a gesture of accumulating power while exhale releasing power. When practicing, the feet are planted solidly onto the ground, from which they acquire the balance needed to contain the power present in the body. Body configuration is another essential factor to keep the power. The body should be in an upright and stable position so that the power would have ten times the effect on the opponent and the body itself would not be easily knocked down due to imbalance.

Last but not least, it is equally critical to master how to take advantage of the power from the opponent. When Taichi practitioners are pushed back by their opponents, their bodies are extracting power from the push. By adding their own power into the original one, they exert greater power back on the opponents. But Taichi is not all about soft gestures. I realized that while watching Alice Wei and Ethan Yen’s Taichi performance during one of the Wushu Club’s performances. Among the carefully-crafted soft gestures, there were several really hard gestures bursting out now and then in the form of punches. Those powerful gestures seemed so unfamiliar to me that I doubted if they were

even doing Taichi or some other form of martial arts. Ethan Yen later told me that the style they performed was a contemporary one, a combination of two traditional styles of both powerful and soft-looking gestures. It turned out that the one I used to know was Yang style, which is all about soft-looking gestures and is more common in mainland China. Yang style or otherwise, the soft gestures of Taichi all contain great power. Calligraphy and Taichi have taught me that things are not always what they seem to be. Sometimes the most powerful people might appear gentle on the outside, but can carry tremendous power within. []


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