Archives for the month of: March, 2014

roof lion roof lionL230xW80xH230mm, China

This little monster is the son of the dragon, his name is Suan Ni.  He loves smokes and incense and normally found on the incense burner, as he also loves sitting around Suan Ni is one of the monsters that resides on the roof.  Unlike his brother Chi Wen who loves looking a far and occupies the two ends of the main ridge, Suan Ni sits with the other 4 monsters on the hip of the roof.

The Phoenix Riding Saint – the brother in law of Jiang Zi Ya, who is always nagging Jiang for a promotion in his sainthood.  Jiang, in charge of the appointment of saints put him at the end of the ridge, meaning that anything higher will cause him to fall off the roof.

Followed by the 5 roof hip monsters;

Pheonix – a mythical creature, the queen of all birds.
Suan Ni – the on of dragon who sit around and loves smokes and incense.
Xia Yu – a sea monster, together with Suan Ni, they can control the weather and protect the building.
Xie Zhi – part eagle part leopard, eating all the bad guys, a symbol of justice.
Dou Niu – a type of dragon, able to control the rain.



Archery has been an important weapon in Korea, known as the Gak Gung, the bow is made with a composite of buffalo horns, bamboo and other material.

東夷 Dong Yi is the name Korean are referred to by the Chinese, the word 夷 is a combination of the word 大 (big) and the word 弓 (bow); it does seem that the Chinese has been wary of this powerful weapon.  In the Korean legends, the first Korean king Go Jumong could hit 5 flies in one arrow, King Park Hyeokgeose  can shoot the bow as far as China (the ancient day missile)!

One can see in this video that the construction of the Gak Gung is very established and specific.

Image (36)W220xL300mm, China

There is a believe that there are gods living in the mountain, the woods and the streams; to ensure a safe journey, one would worship these gods before entering the mountain or travelling by boat.

In this wood block print, on the right is the mountain god, on the left his wife, around them their guards and maids.

pearl boxD160xL280xH80mm, China

A box for the precious objects, decorated with mother of pearl inlay describing a scene of plum blossom and playful birds.  The theme of plum blossom and birds often appears in jewelry, paintings and pottery, symbolizing the beginning of a new year (click to see our other items of the same theme).

pearl box

plateDIAxHmm, China

This plate depicted a scene from the river, boats scattered around in the water with the landscape at the background.

Rivers are the veins of China, they provide water for irrigation, food source and transport.  River scenes are the homeland for us and dreamland for others.  In the Li River in Gui Lin, cormorant fishing is practiced, these birds are trained to capture the fish that had been attracted to the light from the boat and to bring them back to the fisherman, a bit like the hunting dogs.


Some point in every boy’s childhood came the grand project of making a toy boat.

This keel is part of my father’s.
Carved out from a single piece of wood, its almost sculpture like.
The smoothness of the surface, the textured interior reminded me of the coco de mer.

Boys today are more sensitive in digital nature, perceiving the world through the screen and the input device.

jar jar jarDIA350xH550mm, Hong Kong

Jars were used to contain sauces, paste and oil for sale in the grocery stores.  In the old days, it was these jars would be reused and everyone would bring their own bottles and containers to buy the stuff which are either wrapped in newspaper or tied together by a string of plant fiber (Cyperus Tegetiformis).  There was no concept of being environmentally friendly but the general atmosphere of not being wasteful, objects would take on different function as they fit again and again until it disintegrates.

Sadly, the jars and the recycled bottles have been replaced by plastic ones, local grocery stores by supermarkets and our countryside replaced by landfills.


Fiber weaving is a craft that has been practiced by the Aboriginal tribes in Australia.

Daily objects such as baskets, nets, etc. are made with plant fiber collected from the area, typically pale rush (Juncus Pallidus), white flag iris (Diplarreana Moraea) and forest flax lily (Dianella Tasmanica) according to the different seasons.  The grass will be dried over a slow fire and stripped before they are use for weaving.

wood block printW220xL300mm, China

A Taoist wood block print entitled “Heaven Earth Dragon Carriage”.

On the left of the print is Yuan Shi Tian Zun, the supreme Taoist deity, together with Tai Shang Lao Jun and Ling Boa Tian Zun formed the 3 Pure Ones.  On the right of the print is the Jade Emperor, the God who creates the system of nature and the universe.  Jade Emperor sits inside his dragon carriage and around them the 4 guards; Wang Ling Tian Jun, Pu Hua Tian Jun, General Li, Marshal Zhao.  This new year print is used to bless of journey in vehicles, it is also used on the wedding day after the bride was picked up by the groom’s car, the couple would need to thank the gods for providing a safe journey.


The Chinese chess is a popular game since the Warring State period 1600BC and today major tournaments are held across China and it is a major past time for many.

The character of the chess resembles different roles in the military and have their own rule in movement.  Unlike western chess, the pieces are placed on the nodes rather than the square itself

  • General – 將 / 帥 (restricted in the middle “palace” 9 nodes except when executing the flying attack at the other general)
  • Advisors –  仕 on either side of the general (restricted in the palace and can only move in a diagonal fashion)
  • Elephants – 相 / 象, protectors of the general (restricted on their own side of the board which is separated by the river in the middle, moves in a 2 nodes diagonal (田 field) but the first diagonal point has to be cleared)
  • Horses – 馬 (moves in an elongated diagonal (日 sun))
  • Chariots – 車, a powerful piece (move in a vertical or horizontal straight line and more restricted to one node at a time.
  • Cannons – 砲 (move as the same way as the Chariots, it require another piece as a spring board for taking down opponent’s pieces)
  • Soldiers – 卒 / 兵 (can only advance and no retreat, once on the enemy’s side it can move side ways)

From these rules, and the popularity of the game, there are some idioms basing on the game of chess.

  • 過河卒 – “the soldier that crossed the river” – point of no return
  • 卒子過河當車使 – “soliders across the river can be used as chariots” – even minute, it can be very effective
  • 事急馬行田 – “urgent! the horse will need to across the field” – normally, the horse moves in a 日 sun fashion and the elephant in a 田 field, but being so desperate the horse will need to forfeit its usual move and do the field.
  • 放馬後炮 –  “putting the cannon behind the horse” – a powerful move, the horse enters the opponent’s palace and restricting the general from moving to either side, then the cannon come in and checkmate.  the idiom refers to those comments after checkmate.
  • 飛象過河 – “elephant fly across the river” – as the elephant is forbidden to cross the river, it refers to those who dont follow the rules.
  • 棄車保帥 – “forfeit the chariot to save the general” – making sacrifices to avoid a total loss
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