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7. The song of throwing clogs November 26, 2007

Posted by kentneo in Art.


In ancient China, a lot of stories are from “Shi Jing” [Book of Songs also known as the Book of Odes, an anthology of songs, poems and hymns, dating from the Zhou dynasty (1027-771 BCE) to the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE)], they are from voices sang from the hearts of the common people of the past.


There are 3 types of “shi jing”, the first is “feng”, second is “ya” and third is “song”. “Feng” come from “Guo fong” (Lessons from the States) or poems and folk songs from ordinary people. “Ya” were mainly composed by the scholarly classes and can be further separated into “xiao ya” (Minor Odes of the Kingdom, poems or songs concerning life of the nobility) and “da ya” (Greater Odes of the Kingdom, poems and songs of praise of the rulers and their life). “Song” (Odes of the Temple and the Altar) are hymns written for religious ceremonies of the court.


There are some ancient songs (recorded in the ancient book of songs), such as the “Ji Ran Ge”, where the words are simple and the message it carries, are both lively and happy. Some time ago I did a few paintings to depict this song.


The original song goes something like this:


When the sun rises, we do our work,

When the sun sets, we rest,

We dig wells for thirst,

We have fields for food,

The power of the emperor has nothing to do with me…


The meaning of the last sentence, “the power of the emperor has nothing to do with me…”, reflects the self-sufficiency of the people of that time. They lived rather freely and did not have an oppressive emperor (nor were their lives governed by politics). This ancient song has been passed from Shi Huang Di (the first emperor) to Di Yao, more than four thousand years ago, when sung it is very refreshing and not at all old fashion.


According to “Shi Ji”, the book that records the history of emperors, “in the time of Di Yao, there was peace and prosperity, people lived to 80 or 90 years old and there was the “Ji Ran Ge””. The meaning of “Ji” is to hit or to knock and what is “Ran”? (the actual word means mud). Ji Ran is actually an ancient game, “Ran” is actually made of wood, the front part is largish and the back part is sharp, it does somewhat resemble a Chinese shoe (or clog?). First you place one “rang” on the floor, then you step away about 3 or 4 steps throw the other “rang” to try and hit the first “rang” on the floor. The person that hits the “rang” is the winner and this game is actually recorded in “San Chai Tu Zhuan”. Human nature originally does not distinguish old or young or where one is from, only the distinction of the have and the have nots, which have caused so much trouble. Ancient man were more like children and liked these sorts of simple activities. “Ji Ran” was the then in-game. When a “ran” was hit, everyone would be so pleased that they would start to sing. That is the origin of the “Ji Ran Ge”.


Around the time of the emperor, Di Yao, it was still around the Neolithic period (10,000 – 2,100 BCE), where lifestyles were still primitive and simpler, the population was definitely much less than it is today and so lifestyles are less hectic and competitive.


In the earliest of times, people dug wells if they were thirsty and grew their own staples if they needed food, they were quite self sufficient, not like in today’s dog eat dog world, where people want control and to oppress, where governments are like “fierce and hungry tigers”. Revolution from the oppressed are bound to happen and thus causing continuous warfare; peace is just hard to come by. Because of the inequality, there will be destruction, it is a matter of physics (cause and effect) and not “nature”. How will mankind achieve a longer lasting peace unless man can give up their selfish greed and desires? But if they do not, then all the wisdom we have will be useless as we will destroy ourselves. The people that lived in the times of “Ji Ran Ge”, definitely did not live in today’s complicated and over populated world of constant competition. Mass equality is the only way.


The philosophers of the east and west also recognize that if one is conscious that one is satisfied and contented, that is happiness. The origin of pain and suffering is from greed, the Buddhists are constantly trying to rid themselves of greed, temper and attachments, but it is human nature to cling on to these attributes. So if one is not careful, it is easy to fall into this deep valley of misery where unscientifically based superstitions creep into ones lives, making slaves of people that fall to superstitious beliefs. People in general remain ignorant throughout their lives, which is a form of suicide.


When I first arrived in Malaysia in 1956, my friends brought me to Negri Sembilan where they still practice the matrilineal society and customs, I also found a type of black pottery in Pili Sayang and also knew that the Jia Gu Wen on the back of two large turtles in China could have only come from this Malay peninsula. These old artifacts, customs and interrelations are fascinating, unfortunately, no one seems to be researching them at this point in time. After my illness a few years ago, I am too tired and unable to do this sort of work, hopefully some young person will take this up as the trade and exchange of goods from the pacific ocean to the Indian ocean which had to go through this peninsula has treasures we have yet to find.



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