Aging Asia: Population Decline and Gender Equality in a Changing World The enactment of China’s OneChild Policy aimed to curb its population growth by limiting the country’s fertility rate to 1.00 per woman. China’s nearby Asian neighbors such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, however, are struggling to accomplish the exact opposite: boost their fertility rates. According to a government report, Taiwan faced a fertility rate of 0.9 children per woman in 2010, one of the lowest fertility rates in Asia. What does the number actually mean? In the long run, Taiwanese population will be more than halved since an average couple gives birth to less than one child. There’s no surprise that the afflicted countries are scratching their heads
in frustration while attempting to reverse the plummeting fertility rate. Cornell University’s Cornell Population Center (CPC) recognized the rapidity and the significance of population changes worldwide and subsequently called together a team of ninety faculty affiliates to coordinate and promote researches in the area. One such affiliate, Bongoh Kye, specializes in fertility decline in South Korea. Dr. Kye has submitted three research papers this year alone on the topic and shares his expert opinions on the topic of Aging Asia for Rice Magazine.
A common misconception toward the countries’ sense of crisis is that the countries are currently undergoing a population decline. While that certainly remains a future possibility, Dr. Kye explains, the most important issue on the table is actually population aging, not population decline. In addition to fertility decline, developments in fields such as food production and medicine significantly lengthened the average life span in Asian countries. Although this is undoubtedly a positive development, it also means that the ratio of older population is rising year by year as the number of newborns fall.
But why is the fertility rate falling? Dr. Kye points to the changing socioeconomic status of women in Asia to understand the most commonly
accepted theory. In 1940s, just before the so-called “modernization” of postWorld War II Asia, seventy percent of women received little or no education. Compare that to the following statistics: by 1980s, eighty percent of women in Asia attended college. In a matter of mere forty years, most women had joined the ranks of the educated: yet this remarkable development strongly correlated to a steep drop in fertility rates during the same timeframe. But why should the level of education be inversely correlated to fertility rate? Typically, Asian societies expect three roles from women: those of wife, mother, and worker. If a married woman desires to work, she generally is still expected to fulfill all three of her roles, the failure of which
bears with it significant social stigma. Unsurprisingly, the three roles impose heavy burden on women— those who accomplish all three are sometimes called “superwomen”— who must consequently prioritize the roles expected of them.
as traditional social norms state that while husbands can be (and most often are) older than their wives, wives cannot be older than their husbands. Another lesser known norm similarly rules that women cannot marry lesser educated men, which limits prospects for more educated women. And even if women marry, data show that they typically give birth to only one child due to the difficulty of balancing motherhood and professional life. Thus, while many Asian women are indeed inestimably better off socioeconomically, they are still chained by restrictive social norms, one consequence of which is the low fertility rate in Asia today.
In recent years, increasing numbers of women have chosen to enter the workforce and avoid marriage altogether, thereby freeing themselves from the roles of wife and mother. This has lead to the alteration of existing gender roles: by the age of thirty, most women who entered the workforce stop looking for marriage partner due to their age and level of education. Most men that these women may be interested in have What then are the consequences already married before the age of of this phenomenon? According to thirty, which poses a grave problem commonly accepted views, the ratio
of healthcare. “[Current predictions] are biased by the current statistics of conditions,” says Dr. Kye. His ongoing research hopes to demonstrate that current pessimism toward population aging may be invalidated as educational level rises.
of producers to consumers depreciates as the population ages in regions where citizens between the age of 15 and 65 are considered the workforce (i.e. producers) and the rest consumers. This shift means that, in the future, a smaller number of young people with less money and resources at their disposal will have to support the ever-growing number of elderly citizens dependent on them. To exacerbate the problem, as older people are statistically less healthy than the younger generation, a jump in the number of elderly will directly translate into an explosion in the cost of healthcare, exerting further financial pressure in difficult economic times. In other words, the inflicted countries’ standards of living will plummet as their economies and markets suffer from the reduced producer to consumer ratio. Dr. Kye, however, rejects this pessimistic vision of the future, and his current and future research attempt to
Human Ecology. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.human.cornell. edu/bio.cfm?netid=bk353>.
2. Jennings, Ralph. “Taiwan Birth Rate Falls to World’ Lowest.” Voice of America. N.p., 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www.voanews.com/ Whether the future of population aging english/news/asia/Taiwan-Birth-Rateis pessimistic or not, the phenomenon Falls-to-Worlds-Lowest-Challengingposes tangible threats to social stability Productivity-127933153.html>. as well as providing insights into genshow the opposite is in fact the case. der issues in Asia. Today, governments 3 . Ko n d o h , At s u ko, a n d C h i k a Certainly, some populations are aging throughout Asia struggle against the Maruyama. For Pre-Advanced and in Asia. However, according to Dr. Kye, specter of population aging with meth- Advanced Learners of Japanese: “Population aging is not happening in ods such as monetary subsidies and Images of Japan. Tokyo: University of a vacuum: other things happen as gender equality, the latter of which is Tokyo Press, 2001. Print. well.” For one, educational attainment proving to be the most effective. The is on the rise. Research by Dr. Kye professional qualifications of women in 4. Kye, Bongoh. Personal interview. 26 and his colleagues suggests that the society can now be said to equal those Oct. 2011. rapid spread of education and techno- of men, with the same level of educalogical advancements will enable the tion, skills, and stakes at work. Dr. Kye, 5. McDonald, Peter. “Sustaining Fertility younger generation to support more therefore, believes there is hope to through Public Policy: The Range of people than is currently possible. affectively address population decline. Options.” Population 57.3 (2002): 417The world has already experienced “It is about time that norms change. It 446. Print. this facet of improved education: for is about time that women are given the example, the creation of seeds that respect and place that they deserve double or triple production yields has in Asian societies. That is the root of boosted population growth in numer- population aging. Reversing that is the ous developing countries. Taking solution.” All things constant, perhaps, this positive externality of increas- just as Dr. Kye predicts this crisis of ing education level into account, Dr. population aging and fertility decline Kye believes the projected negative may prove to be the beginning of geneffects of population aging will be der equality in Asia. negated by technology. In addition, data also shows that most educated Works Cited people enjoy healthier lifestyles than their predecessors, thus counterbal- 1. “Human Ecology Bio Page: Bongoh ancing teh concern of increased cost Kye.” Cornell University College of
Buddhism and Chinese Modern lifestyle The faint smell of burning incense wafts through the air. Monks nod lightly as they pass. Sacred music with Sanskrit chanting permeates the scene, creating a serene aura. Occasional and regular tapping of wooden fish gives everything around a heavenly rhythm. This is the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve. More and more people start to come in—the temple becomes a little crowded but the whole scene does not become too noisy. People choose this place, a remote temple in the countryside, to spend their last hours of the old year and embrace the new.
at least a moment,” Chiang said.
Ever since Buddhism was first introduced into China by missionaries and traders along the Silk Road in late Han Dynasty, Buddhism has exercised an enduring and critical influence on Chinese culture. In early Tang Dynasty, the Monk Xuanzang journeyed to India for 17 years to visit thousands of temples and record his findings. He collected valuable data about the origin of Buddhism, and was greatly admired by ordinary Chinese people as well as Tang Taizong, the emperor at that time. After the severe repression of Chiang and his wife, who call them- Buddhism in 845 BC, in the Song selves “lay disciples,” live a common Dynasty, Buddhist ideology merged and earthly lifestyle. Atlthough with Confucianism and Taoism, and they are not ordained members of some of its values were integrated the Buddhist clergy, they still invite into the belief system of Neoa monk in this temple to be their Confucianism. Later during the Yuan master and they practice Buddhism Dynasty, the Mongol emperors made rituals at home or at the temple on Buddhism their official religion. a daily basis. “Being a disciple and having a lifestyle like this calms me The long and enduring history of down and allows me to detach myself Buddhism in China makes it the one from the turbulent outside world for of the most important and influential
has been gradually regaining its popularity. Although statistics reported by different organizations vary, recent surveys by Chinese government statistics show that the estimated number of Buddhists in China is about one hundred million. Increasing numbers of middle-class Chinese go to temple, including lay disciples like Chiang, and others who are not followers of Buddhism.
It is not hard to find the influence Buddhism has on the lives of ordinary Chinese, even those of non-followers. Chinese homes usually contain several Buddha statues of different sizes as well as Buddhist symbology. In restaurants and stores, customers can always find the statue of “Spreading Wealth Boy,” or Shancai Tongzi, and “Mammon,” the god of
wealth, surrounded by fruits, food, easier to surmount with spiritual supand sticks of incense. People often port and guidance. say “Bodhisattva will help and protect you” when others come across trou- Yet not all of Buddhism’s growing popbles, like many in Western countries ularity can be attributed to an increase say “God bless you.” Buddhist music the number of in lifelong devotees. In has also enjoyed growing popularity— fact, many people turn to Buddhism many motorists play it in cars in the only in order to achieve specific goals, hope of avoiding car accidents and leading to the development of the in order to give them patience when “wish-granting” system. In this system, traffic jams occur; and those who love a person must follow a series of promeditation often use Buddhist music scribed practices to have his prayers as an aid for calm and concentration. and wishes answered. For instance, to pray for giving birth to a boy, a According to monks, followers, and person should first find and pray to sociologists, this phenomenon is Guanyin Pusa, the bodhisattva assodriven by a spiritual vacuum present ciated with compassion. This process in modern society. Most people, espe- is called xuyuan in Chinese, which cially middle-class Chinese, are caught means “making a wish”. If the wish is in a system of increasingly ruthless granted, one must go back to the temand relentless competition. To many, ple to huanyuan, or pay back the wish. the challenges of life are easier to Folk belief dictates that misfortune follows those who fail to properly follow through with this last, crucial step.
Typical methods of huanyuan include freeing captive animals and contributing money to the temple.
The appeal of the “wish-granting” system extends to even the most powerful in Chinese society. Increasingly, government officials form a large percent of donors to temples, hoping their contributions will lead to future promotion. Many businessmen embrace Buddhism as well. From their point of view, Buddha is a supernatural being who can bless them and give them things they desire.
As China experiences social change and economic development, the Chinese people have been searching for ways to help them cope with the fast growing society. Buddhism, with its prolonged history and profound influence in China, is clearly a popular option.
Horror Horror as a genre has been popular since filmmaking began. One of the first films ever created was the 1896 French horror short called “The House of the Devil.”3 In the silent era Nosferatu, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Lost World, and The Phantom of the Opera were horror films that are still well known today. Later during the 30’s and 40’s the now classics Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolf Man, and The Body Snatcher were released7. At least in the Western cultural sphere, horror films have played a massive role in the development of popular cinema, and even today horror films are staples in the movie theatre. But how do we define the genre “horror?” Most simply we can say it is a film dealing with the dark or macabre. Moreover, it is meant to elicit feelings of fear or unease in the viewer. Despite the fact that horror is rarely categorized as high art (for instance, excluding thrillers like Silence of the Lambs, no horror film has won a major prize
at the Oscars1) horror remains a profitable and culturally influential genre. What is more, many scholars propose that horror films act as a reflection of socio-economic or socio-political anxieties. Thus, by examining what a culture finds frightening, we can create insightful commentary about said culture. For example, During the 1950s, most horror films in the west and even Asia dealt with mutant creatures or people (The Wasp Woman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla etc.) and this was a reflection of anxiety over nuclear fall out and the Cold War2, 4. So what does this have to do with Asia? Actually, quite a bit. Asian horror, especially Japanese, Chinese, and recently Korean films, have become influential throughout Asia, and even in the West. The Ring and The Grudge were both J-Horror films before being adapted in America. The Eye was a joint Hong Kong Thailand production remade in the US in 2008. A Tale of Two Sisters
being remade as The Uninvited in time of her arrival happens to coincide the US in 20095. with the seventh month in the Chinese calendar, which means the Gates of Hell These however, are just the films have opened and spirits are allowed to that you have probably heard of. walk to earth. Rosa innocently believes There are dozens of horror films the family she works for cares deeply made in each Asian country each for her and their mentally handicapped year, especially in Southeast Asia. adult son Ah Soon, but soon things start Thailand is quite well known for to seem amiss when she begins seeits horror films, but other coun- ing malicious spirits and she finds out tries also regularly release horror the family’s previous maid, Esther, also movies. Why are horror films so from the Philippines was murdered. By popular in these countries and what do they suggest about about the countries?
in their house. Finally Rosa escapes the Paterson went on to say that family and returns to the Philippines. “Thailand exports stories based in the Theravada Buddhist tradition The Maid exemplifies regional fears to Cambodia and Laos. These over imported labor, especially female countries often don’t make their own horror films because Thailand exports culturally relevant stories to them.” According to Professor Paterson, this exportation of cul ture also happens in Vietnam, but Vietnam usually imports Chinese rather than Thai horror films because of similar cultural anxiet ies. The unique aesthetics of each region means that culturally similar countries will want films that reflect their own culture. Thus, what might be unsetting to a Theravada Buddhist is going to be different from what is unsettling to Daoist and it is important to keep these distinctions in mind when watching horror films in order to fully appre ciate their complexity. labor. Ah Soon become so smitten with Esther that he rapes her. The family then An interesting example of this is hires Rosa two years later for the express the highly successful Thai horror purpose of marrying her off to Ah Soon. film Nang Nak. Like many other Female migrant workers in Singapore are Southeast Asian horror films it seen as being “excessively sexual,” which is a ghost story, but it is proba may have questionable veracity, but is nev- bly the most famous ghost story ertheless a pervasive stereotype. Films in Thailand, and the retellings of like The Maid, despite being a “mindless” the legend are pervasive in Thai horror film reflect this fear that imported culture even today. One of the labor is somehow tainting society’s morals most famous versions, however, is with excessive forms of sexuality6. the 1999 Nonzee Nimibutr rendi
According to Lorraine Paterson, a professor of Southeast Asian Literature, “Southeast Asian horror films generally come out of local general superstitious beliefs. There are a lot more films about ghosts than in the West and these ghosts are often doing something domestic. The juxtaposition of a ghost in what should be the safe everyday world is what is scary.” This contrasts with many western films, where ghosts are often relegated to children’s movies, and many horror films meant for adults the end of the film, the audience finds out are slashers or thrillers. that the family’s son is actually a ghost and that his parents wanted him to marry The Maid, for example, is a 2005 Rosa. Ah Soon’s spirit had remained on ghost story out of Singapore. A Earth because he had fallen in love with Filipino maid, Rosa, travels to Esther, but he raped her, and rather than Singapore to work for a Chinese have Esther sue the family, Ah Soon’s tion, which was highly successful Moreover, religion and tradition play a family. She gets more than she parents killed her and her spirit remained in Thailand and overseas. In Nang huge role in what is exported and where. bargained for however, since the Nak, a young couple in pre-modern
Thailand is separated when the husband, Mak, is called off to war. Nak, his wife, is pregnant with his child at the time and when Mak returns he is delighted to meet his son and be reunited with Nak. But things are not as they seem. The other villagers know that Nak actually died in child birth and her baby died with her, but through her devotion to her husband, Nak remained on earth waiting for Mak. Mak is blissfully unaware of this, and Nak actually kills any villagers who try to tell Mak otherwise. In one key scene, Mak drops his hatchet the slats in their raised home. Going down to fetch it, he bends over, and remembers that a Buddhist priest had told once him to look at things from a different angle if he wants to see the truth. Mak continues to bend over and looks at the house from between his legs. In that moment, he realizes his home is actually filthy and falling apart. He also sees Nak drop a fruit from above and reach 10 feet down to pick it up with an eerily extended arm. He flees to the nearest Buddhist Temple where Nak’s ghost follows him, and despite the monks best efforts, Nak infiltrates the temple and torments Mak and the monks from the ceiling. The film concludes with a Buddhist high priest putting Nak’s spirit to rest and releasing Mak from her claim on him.
Realizing your wife is a ghost might not be so bad But since this version of Nang Nak is entrenched with references to Theravada Buddhism, the horror aspect of this film is in the subversion of what is normal.
and sacred in Theravada Buddhism. Notice, how Mak had to flip his line of sight in order to see clearly what was wrong with his home. Living with a ghost is not natural, and thus the home was even rebelling and falling apart and filled with insects. He however, could not see this until he also subverted his line of sight. Moreover, the scene involving Nak on the ceilNow, some of the scenes in this ing in the temple would probably be film may not seem so terrifying to a especially unsettling in Thailand. Nak is a women, however, she is placing Western audience.
herself above the sacred men in the tem- Asian Film Series run by Professor ple. She is also upside down with her Paterson this spring to watch feet on the ceiling and above her own Southeast Asian films of all genres. head and therefore subverting order and further demonstrating her status as 1. ‘Has a Horror Movie Ever Won an Oscar in unnatural. These are all aspects of the Any Category?’ <http://www.funtrivia.com/ film that are perhaps difficult to pick up askft/Question45110.html> [accessed 30 on if one is not at least familiar with the October 2011]. culture surrounding the film and perhaps would make the film much less effective 2. ‘Horror Film History — Horror Films in the 1950s’ to Western audiences.
Obviously, horror films are a little more <http://www.horrorfilmhistory.com/index meaningful than they first appear. A lot php?pageID=1950sa> [accessed 30 October 2011].
3. ‘Horror Films’ <http://www.filmsite.org/
horrorfilms.html> [accessed 30 October 2011]. 4. ‘List of Horror Films of the 1950s
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia’ <http://
of_the_1950s> [accessed 30 October 2011]
5. ‘Tartan “Asia Extreme” Films, Text Version
< h t t p : / / w w w. e j u m p c u t . o r g / a r c h i v e /
jc50.2008/TartanDist/text.html> [accessed 30 October 2011].
6. Angelia Poon, ‘MAID VISIBLE: Foreign
Domestic Workers and the Dilemma of
can be extracted from horror films when Development in Singapore’, Crossroads: An examined under a broad scope, and I Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian hope you were able to take away some- Studies, 17 (2003), 1-28. thing new from this article. Be sure to look at the recommended films following 7. Noel Carroll, ‘Nightmare and the Horror the article and if you’d like to check the Film: The Symbolic Biology of Fantastic films discussed above, visit the Southeast Beings’, Film Quarterly, 34 (1981), 16-25.
HOW DO INDIANS THINK? “Then was neither what is nor what is not, there was neither the sky nor the heaven that is beyond. What was there? Where was it, and in whose shelter? There was no death, hence no immortality. There was no distinction between night and day. Was there unfathomable darkness, without beginning or end? The gods came after the creation, who then knows from whence it first came into being? He, from whom this creation began, whether he formed it or not, verily knows or does he know not?” The Rig Veda, x.129 More than three millennia ago, Indian philosophy began with an intense skepticism about the nature and purpose of human existence. Even today, every school of Indian thought is moved to speculation by a spiritual unrest at the sight of suffering and an anxiety to discover the means to alleviate the trials and tribulations of life. The aim of philosophical wisdom is not merely the satisfaction of intellectual curiosity but the arousal of the hope that a better and more enlightened life can be attained ‘here and now’. “The magic of oration, shower of words, skill in expounding the diction of the scriptures, and scholarly erudition are meant for the amusement of the learned: they are no good for liberation” (Vivekachudamani, I. 58). The pursuit of the fourfold human goal (puruṣārtha) of virtue (dharma), material welfare (artha), pleasure (kama) and liberation (moksha) prevails as the motive behind all philosophical inquiry.
of philosophy as darśana comes closest to Plato’s understanding of the term as the “vision of truth” (Republic, V). The direct realization of truth is considered to be the summum bonum of life and ‘liberation in itself’ (Manusmriti, 6.74). This spirit of unflinching devotion to the search for truth led to the formation of a standard method of philosophical discussion. A philosopher had to first state the views of his opponents, refute them and then state his own views along with a valid proof and conclusion. In times of such intellectual strife, the outlook, which consoled the Indian mind amidst discordant conjectures and conflicting moralities and prevented it from ending in despair, was the unwavering faith in an eternal and inviolable moral order called dharma. Therefore, according to the Mahabharata (VIII. 69.59), it is the ethical principle of dharma that upholds the society and strikes a balance between individual freedom and social cohesion. If the ignorance of reality is the primary cause of our bondage, then liberation from the cycle of rebirth is not possible without the knowledge of reality. Moreover, knowledge, according to Indian thinkers, is self-evident and does not rest on any other assumption for its validity. Indian philosophy generally admits three indispensable sources of knowledge: perception or the cognition of objects by our senses, inference or deductive reasoning, and testimony or the authority of
scriptures. The philosopher’s challenge lies in employing imagination and logic to discover truths consistent with our experience. Freedom from the fallacies of self-reference, contradiction, infinite regress, and the uncritical acceptance of dogma is the basic test of philosophical reasoning.
of waking, dreaming and dreamless everlasting, this ancient one can sleep. Each of these is relative to each never be destroyed with the destrucother and it is absolutely unfair on our tion of the body. If the slayer thinks part to regard one of them as true and that he can slay, or if the slain thinks the others as not. All three states of con- he is slain, they both are ignorant sciousness are unreal because they are because the self neither slays nor not permanent and the facts observed is slain” (Katha Up. II.18-19). The in one are not consistent with those per- study of metaphysics persuades ceived in the other. The subject alone the mind to renounce its longing Any attempt to determine the nature remains the unaffected spectator of the for fleeting objects of the world and of reality can either start with the changing objects of perception. No the- search for what is absolute and eterthinking subject or the objects of oretical proofs can be offered for the nal. “That which is not can never be and that which is can never cease to be” (Gita, II.16) is the trial of reality. While the individual’s “mortal frame” is limited by space, time and causality, his spirit is immortal and infinite. When Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) led the movement for cultural awakening among Indians, he enthused an ignorant and colonized nation with tremendous conviction and motivated it towards reform by his thundering words that referred back to the timelessness of the soul, “Come up O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep, you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; you thought. In India, the primary inter- of the self precisely because it forms the are not matter, you are not bodies; est of philosophy is in the self of essential substratum of even the skeptic matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter.”1 the individual. The ancient Greek who denies it. aphorism “Know Thyself” is echoed in the Upanishad that declares, “It Moreover, the self is theoretically immor- If the ‘self’ alone is to be considered is the self that should be heard of, tal because there was never a time when real, how are we to account for the reflected and meditated upon as it was not (Gita, II. 12) as the very con- apparent reality of the world? How the self being known, everything is ception of time presumes a conceiver should we explain this sphere of known” (Bṛhadāraṇyaka, IV.5.6). The who remains unconditioned by it. “The empirical flux, full of misery, decay consciousness of the individual is self never dies, is never born: unborn, and death? “Not in the sky nor in
produce their proper consequences on the agent in this life or hereafter. So while a man’s present conditions are determined by his past actions, he possess free-will in the sense that he is the master of his own destiny. The goal of human life, thus, lies in either using the law of karma to one’s advantage or transcending it altogether. The universe is meant to aid and not prejudice the individual’s endeavor towards fulfillment.
in the depths of the ocean, nor in the caverns of mountains, nay such a place is not to be found in the world where a man might dwell without being overpowered by death,” declares the Buddha (Dhammapada XI. 146). Buddhism affirms that the world is transient. If only the permanent deserves to be called as the self, then the world is soulless (anattā) and life is nothing but “series of manifestations of becomings and extinctions”2. Indian philosophers had a cyclical concept of time wherein the cosmic events of creation and destruction fo r m a b e g i n n i n g - l e s s s e r i e s . Prosperity and adversity, civilization and barbarity, rise and fall are relative ideas that alternate as the wheel of time turns and moves on. Within this ephemeral world, sorrow
is intrinsic to human existence. From his spiritual experience, the Buddha became convinced of four noble truths of life, that there is suffering in the world, that desire is its cause, that it is possible to cease suffering by ending its cause and that by following the middle path between severe penance and self indulgence, one can attain nirvana, the extinguishing of ego and desire. The Buddha emphasized the agency of the individual in traversing the path to liberation and encouraged his disciples to “be lamps unto yourself.” The law of karma or individual action is, therefore, central to Indian thought and the ideas of most schools can be explained almost entirely by this law, without any reference to an external creator or God. It states that all actions, good or bad,
ignorance unless supported by ardent effort on the part of the individual. “Yoga is nothing but the perfection of individual efforts” (Gita, II.50). To free oneself from the bondage of action, one must renounce the fruits of action so that he is not swayed by the outcomes of success and failure. Throughout his long-drawn struggle against the overwhelming might of the British Empire and amidst crippling disappointments and tragedies, Mahatma Gandhi found comfort in The philosophical truths momentar- this gospel of Karma-Yoga or selfless ily established and understood are action. Thus beholding the dualities not enough to dispel our inherent of joy and elation with ease and
equanimity, dwelling in the tranquility born of intense contemplation of truth and working for the good of world without any sense of attachment or self-interest, the liberated one rises above the law of karma and abides in the state of samādhi or perfect consciousness. As Keats remarks in Hyperion: “To bear all naked truths
Despite numerous variations among schools, it is this atmosphere of tolerance, acceptance and reconciliation of contrary opinions that has sustained the inclusive spirit of dialogue, without compromising with the reverence for tradition in India. References
1. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Wo rk s o f Swa mi V ive k a na nd a . And to envisage circumstance, all Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama (1970-73) calm: 2. Radhakrishnan, S. Indian That is the top of sovereignty.” Philosophy. New York: MacMillan (1958) The ideal of the perfected being is not a mere flight of the intellect but a living reality and Plato’s scheme that philosophers should be the rulers of the society was evidently practiced in ancient India. In times of intellectual strife, religious fundamentalism and political corrosion, the belief in the ultimate purpose of life provides confidence to the Indian mind and keeps it moving. From the beginning, Indians have held that truth is many sided and that different views contain different aspects of truth which no one could fully express. We get a glimpse of lively discussions and debates from the Buddhist and Jaina texts that mention as many as 64 schools of thought. In conclusion, the Veda confidently asserts, “The real is one, but the learned call it by various names “(Rig Veda, I.164.46).
An introduction to The Tale of Genji My mountain door of pine has opened briefly To see a radiant flower not seen before -The chapter of Lavender Written by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu during eleventh century, The Tale of Genji is regarded as the worldâ€™s first novel, acclaimed both for its historical significance and aesthetic value. The story is generally divided into three stages: the first deals with the life of Hikaru Genji, charting his prosperous early life and his later decline, followed by a transitional second part. The final portion of the book narrates the rivalry between Niou and Kaoru, descendant relatives of Genji.
It is important to note that unlike many other ancient literary works, The Tale of Genji is written by a female author rather than a man, a fact that reflects the unique state of Japanese society during Heian period. At that time, while educated men pursued the study of Chinaâ€™s language and Confucian culture, women were excluded from both fields of study and were left to express themselves in their native Japanese language. As writing was also regarded a highly private, feminine exercise at this time, the Heian period witnessed a remarkable flowering of female literary culture in Japan that produced such great classics as The Gossamar Years, The Sarashina Diary, and The Tale of Genji.
According to The Tale of Genji, the Heian condoned polygamy, a practice which placed men in a position of power at the center of society. Women, on the other hand, are mostly portrayed as passive figures pining away for love, as domineering husbands choose which of their wives and consorts they wish to visit and spend time with. It is not unusual to see Genji’s lovers silhouetted against the desolate moonlight, longing for him pay her any attention. As society judged the value of a woman by her lineages, many parents used their daughters as political tools with no concern for the future brides’ feelings on the matter. Accordingly, women were expected to keep mute and suppress their grievances, pretending not to be jealous when their husbands left them to visit other women late in the night.
Yet Murasaki, perhaps out of compas- Heian court available to modern readsion, endows the women in her story ers, and they are unmistakably written with a powerful weapon—the power from a feminine perspective. Heian to possess the minds of others. In men may have enjoyed the privileges one episode, Lady Rokujo, one of of a patriarchal system, but their Genji’s lovers, becomes so jealous of transient self-indulgence would be his other consorts that she dreams of dwarfed by the lasting legacy of the their deaths. In doing so, she actually Heian women’s written words. kills two of her rivals in an unwitting exercise of demonic power. Although Indeed, Genji’s own life can be read Rokujo fails to win back Genji and as the tale of the archetypical Heian ultimately incurs his resentment, her man, a life marked by fleeting glory action nevertheless throws Genji in and lasting sorrow. In his early life, deep sorrow and goads him to con- Genji, like his name Hikaru implies, is template the consequences of his “the shining prince” of his clan, one of philandering. such beauty and talent that he hardly seems meant for this world. Everyone Murasaki’s writing serves the same admires him; even his enemy Kokiden function as the spirit possession in finds it hard to deny his charisma. her book in that it serves as a form Genji’s great personal charm and of revenge against male domination. prestigious lineage make him influenThe Tale of Genji and other works tial in the court, which in turn lends like it provide the most vivid glimpses him the freedom to indulge himself of life in the Heian court available in physical desire. During Genji’s old
age, however, he is betrayed when his wife becomes pregnant with another man’s child, a fact that reminds him of his own treachery in seducing one of his father’s wives. After his loved ones leaves the world one by one Genji realizes the shortness of life and the transient nature of all things. After realizing the emptiness of his life, Genji dies in a chapter entitled “Vanishing into The Clouds.” Murasaki chooses to leave the entirety of this chapter blank: after all, what words can fully express the contrast between Genji’s glorious youth and miserable demise? The blank page leaves the reader in a state of heart-rending melancholy and wordlessly acknowledges both human mortality and the ephemeral nature of the world.
Experiencing this sense of loss and sadness is in fact an essential step towards understanding an important
concept in the novel: the Japanese person cannot escape an endless writers in Japan, among them famed it, “every step and every day lead concept of mono no aware. Literally cycle of rebirth and suffering unless author Yasunari Kawabata, who started you back again to the mother”. It meaning “the sensitivity of things”, one is cut from the root of desire reading the book in an early age lauded is a quest for one’s origin, a seekmono no aware is defined by Miner as a through rigorous self-discipline. The it as “the highest pinnacle of Japanese ing for the ultimate purpose of life. term suggesting “an anguish that takes contrast between the two religions is literature” upon receiving the Nobel We read to understand the shared on beauty or a sensitivity to the fin- plain to see: while Shinto celebrates Prize for Literature in 1968. emotion in all human beings; we read to grow our empathy and est—the saddest—beauties.” In order the everlasting beauty of the universe to comprehend the meaning of this and encourages people to enjoy life, The merit of The Tale of Genji lies not make sense of the world and ourterm, we must first examine at the two Buddhism urges its followers to real- only in its aesthetic and historical value selves alike. Appreciating The Tale prevailing religious beliefs in The Tale ize the illusory nature of physical – it also has value for individuals in the of Genji, therefore, is a valuable modern world. One cannot but feel way for modern readers to heighten of Genji. The first is the belief system pleasure. empathy for Genji as he struggles with the understanding of Japanese culof Shinto, which deifies every beautiful manifestation of nature. Shinto holds The concept of mono no aware might two forces in his mind: the desire to ture and enhance personal growth that nature and life are to be exalted, well have emerged as a resolution of continue lavishing himself with physical through an immortal text that has whereas illness and death must be exor- these two competing claims. Mono no pleasure, and the hunger for spiritual endured as a classic for nearly a cised. The divinity and eternity of life aware blurs the boundary between enlightenment and a meaningful life. thousand years. and nature are its primary focus. The the transient and the eternal by sym- How to balance the craving of material second religious system represented in pathizing with the fleeting nature of rewards and the spiritual desire of our Quote from Professor William John The Tale of Genji, however, presents a beauty. Indeed, mono no aware is a souls is a constant debate in human Kennedy in Comparative Literature very different vision of the world. This very important idea underlying The history. Genji’s pursuit of his moth- Department: religion is Zen Buddhism, which shares Tale of Genji, as exemplified by the er’s shadow, a recurring theme in the the common Buddhist premise that all chapter “Vanishing Into the Clouds.” novel, is also a common psychological “For ordinary people in Heian Japan, life is wrought with suffering. This suf- Consequently this concept has also impulse shared by people across the learning about the life in court fering is the product of human desire, influenced many later artists and width of culture and the length of time: through The Tale of Genji might serve as a wish-fulfillment. On the love of pleasure, and attachment to the other hand, they will also become world. According to Zen Buddhism, a aware that this kind of glory is only fleeting and ephemeral, and that excessive demand for pleasure leads to one’s ruin.” 1. On January 15th, 2008, Japan celebrated the 1000-year birthday of The Tale of Genji, 2. A new drama about The Tale of Genji debuted on December 10th, 2011
Remembering the Forgotten War
When compared to various wars in modern history, the Korean War is arguably one of the most obscure and unfamiliar to the American public. The Korean War (June 25, 1950- July 27, 1953) lasted for only three years. However, the legacies of the Korean War have persisted for over half a century and have impacted the global arena on both local and international levels. On an international level, the Korean War was of clashing ideologies, imperialism, and ascending superpowers. On a local level, the Korean War both literally and figuratively tore a nation in half. It left visible scars on the peninsula’s terrain, and more importantly, invisible scars on multiple generations of Koreans who continue to struggle with the painful memories and present realities of the war.
to learn about to understand the lasting global legacies. The Korean War allowed the United States to establish itself as a military superpower and extend its military reach into the Pacific. Also, the rapid growth of the South Korean economy and fear of North Korea’s political system can only be understood in the context of the Korean War. The Korean War is believed to be a war between North and South Korea with influence from the United States and China. In reality, many more actors played a role in the war.
Interest is an essential incentive to learn about the Korean War. A current event that can be placed in context with the Korean War is Kim Jong-un’s rise to power in North Korea. The passing of Kim Jong-Il and the declaration of his son, Kim The Korean War is important for us Jong-un, as the supreme leader
of North Korea have generated a substantial amount of media coverage and international attention. The international community is currently on high alert and is vigilantly monitoring North Korea to see what changes will result from this power exchange. Although the rise of a new North Korean leader has prompted a significant amount of international interest and concern, it is important to understand the Korean War’s role in the development and current North Korean state. The complexity and significance of the Korean War warrants more than just this article, which just barely grazes the surface of the Korean War and its lasting implications. I hope you will take the time to learn about the intricacies and nuances of the Korean War. The medium in which you obtain information is another important factor to consider. The national perspective of the country in which they
are published often influences history textbooks. History textbooks are used to educate us on past events and it is sometimes assumed that they give accurate and unbiased information. However, this is often not the case in North Korean and South Korean history textbooks. Therefore, it is important to realize what the nature of the source where information is obtained from and understand what biases may exist. One day I hope the Korean War will no longer be “forgotten” and “unknown” among our generation and future generations. The Korean War should be remembered as one of the most significant wars of the last century.
Published on Nov 10, 2012
Published on Nov 10, 2012
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