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Translation from Chinese

For some time now, my friend Florence and my little aunt have been e-mailing me interesting stories written in (traditional) Chinese (characters), something my laptop cannot display properly. Until now, I've had to ignore them, not caring what I missed. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

When I discovered that I can see Chinese characters on a Mac recently, I was overjoyed. Suddenly I realised what I was missing. The way the Chinese mind works and perceives reality is very different from the way the English language can express it. Much of the Chinese literature I've read is bittersweet, like the heartbreaking songs sung in karaoke bars.

Here is a story Florence sent to my father who then forwarded to me and my cousins. I had to detach the forwarded attachment and open it as a web page on a Mac computer. However, I seem to have problems opening it again from the link on the right!

Like other stories written in Chinese, it is not certain whether "Live life earnestly and instantly" was originally written in Chinese or translated from a story in English. I hope I haven't lost anything in my own translation though I have deliberately embellished it for more interesting reading.

Live life earnestly and instantly

The man guarding the church door was both bored and sympathetic to the long queue of people who came daily to pray to the crucifix. He finally walked up to the statue of Jesus and asked if they could switch places. Jesus said that it's fine as long as he promised not to say a word, whatever he heard.

Nailed to the cross, the guard listened to a rich merchant's stories. As he was in a hurry, he forgot his money bag. The guard wanted to call out but stopped himself.

Next a group of poverty-stricken beggars came to the altar. After moaning about their desperate condition, they stumbled upon the rich merchant's bag of money. They were overjoyed that their prayers were answered so quickly. The guard wanted so much to cry out the mistake but remembered his promise.

A young seafaring man came to pray. He prayed for a safe journey, one which his entire life depended upon. As he got up to leave, the rich merchant came marching in. He was furious that someone had stolen his money bag. He pulled the young man by his collar and demanded that he return the money. Scared and confused, the young man tried to explain that he was innocent and also in a hurry.

By now, the guard could not remain silent any longer. He had seen enough. Too many mistakes. Too many misunderstandings. He opened his mouth and spoke. Shocked at the mute statue, the rich merchant let go of the young man, who fled quickly to catch a boat.

Jesus walked towards the altar, quieted the guard and told him this.

"You broke your promise, and now we have to exchange places again."

"But, but, Sir, I had to. How could you remain silent when there are so many misunderstandings? If you tell them the truth, then things will be better."

"No, you don't understand. That bag of money is a drop in the ocean for the rich merchant. He wasn't angry at the young man at all but merely irritated that he forgot his money bag. Meanwhile, the money in that bag can feed an entire community. So it was good that the poor folks found it. As for the young man, if you hadn't intervened, the rich merchant would have prevented the young man from catching the wrong boat. Unfortunately, the young man is now trying to get on that ill-fated boat. You'd have to run to save his life."

Subtitles for the story might be:

All that glitters is not gold

Don't try to interfere or control everything

Don't try to play God

Just let it be

The last part is a bit more difficult to translate. I don't think I did a good job of it. So I'll need a little help here.

"If you change your heart, you can change your attitude. If your attitude is changed, you can change your habit. If your habits are changed, you can change your character. If your character is changed, you can change your life."

21 May 2004 Friday

Related entries:
Teresa Teng
Chinese medley
Chinese websites
The importance of being earnestly Chinese
Live life earnestly and instantly
(traditional Chinese)
How can I make this visible on a MAC again? I was able to view it - as an html page detached from my yahoo email on a MAC. Once I saved it and put it here, it doesn't seem to work anymore. Help!
Reaction from my dad:
I am glad that Anne can read the Chinese original well enough to translate it into English.
The few mistakes in her English translation of that inspiring joke-like story (but it contains parable, allegory or moral) carried in Bon Journal 21 May include: three hungry poor souls; not a group of poverty-stricken beggars.
The wrong boat; to be clear here it means the boat was doomed to sink, and actually while the two were talking, the boat was sinking.
The last part of this story is the gist of it. My English is far from the standard of a native speaker, but I'll try.

In our everyday real life, we often think our own ideas about all matters are right. However, we sometimes feel disappointed or frustrated. Actually no matters in our life are perfect in every way or leave nothing be desired.

We should earnestly live instantly....When you change your mind, your attitude will change accordingly; then your habits will change; and so will your nature, or character, or disposition or temperament.

In the end, your life wil change, too. You'll be grateful when you are in prosperity. And you'll be still free from unhappiness when you are in adversity.

Anne, the subtitles you suggested may not be quite appropriate or relevant.
According to some historians and psychologists, latest evaluation or assessments of historical figures including notorious ones such as Hitler, Stalin, Tojo and some controversial ones pointed out that in the final analysis, a person's nature or character is one of the most important factors that determine his or her destiny. Unfortunately, a villain's destiny could badly affect the destiny of all the people in the country when the villain happens to be the president or the prime minister or premier.
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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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