Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lessons from reading Monkey King comic series

After finishing the 3 kingdoms comics, I proceeded to devour the Monkey King comic series which is published earlier by the same comic publishing company.

I'm not too familiar with Journey to the West. Like the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms novel which I have not read, I didn't read Journey to the West as well. My understanding is from the 1st drama series many years ago (ok forgotten enough) & a movie last year starring Donnie Yen as the Monkey King wrecking havoc in heaven & Chow Yun Fat as the jade Emperor.

It is harder to borrow this Monkey King comic series from libraries as people find it easier to understand due to fewer characters (5 travelers) & unique demons compared to the hundreds in 3 kingdoms which people tend to avoid.

Again I like the themes at the end of each volume which try to extract the lesson..

The Meaning of the Journey – Volume 20
The Mahayana sutras have been referred to throughout the story as the textual key to mankind's salvation. The sutras of law, discourse & scripture are powerful texts & they will provide humanity with the tools necessary to escape the suffering of the world. But Buddha expresses reservations about the sutras power to change the world right at the moment when one expects the journey's end to be greeted triumphantly. The supreme being believes that humanity has descended so far into a living hell that it will be unable to understand the message of the sutras. Simply providing the answers doesn't mean that people will be able to comprehend them.

Reminds me of Warren Buffett's advice:.

"Rule No.1: Never lose money.
Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1."

As simplistic as it is, I didn't understand the concept until recently. A tortoise making slow & steady gains would trounced the many rabbits of the world striving to get rich quick which in the process end up poorer.

Losing $$$ is one thing, losing time which the $$$ is earned is another which is irrecoverable. Nevertheless I still have no regrets as earlier setbacks sought to make the learning of Buffett's free advice sink into me.

This is why it was essential for Sanzang & his disciples to go through what they did. Over the course of the journey, Sanzang, Sun Wukong, Zhu Bajie & Sha Wujing & Yu Long have each confronted situations that tested their courage, wisdom, empathy & will to succeed. Each of them has had to reconsider everything he thought he knew about himself & the world around him. Each of them has to confront what it means to live in a world meaning meaning or purpose, a world bereft of morality or a sense of justice. As a result of this, the 4 travelers who arrive at the gate of West Heaven are not the same 4 travelers who came together a decade earlier; they are each wiser & better able to understand a scripture that speaks to the need of every individual to be selfless, courageous, patient & intelligent about how to navigate the path to enlightenment. Of course, not every single person in the world could make the journey to the West; but when these 4 friends finish their mission, their experience will help them convey the true meaning of the sutras to those who would have no way of knowing what it took to bring them back to China.

This is what I consider the most glaring flaw of the hybrid regime's concocted Group Representation Constituency(GRC) scheme which allows newcomers to be 'parachuted' into parliament by hiding behind a minister.

Without going through groundwork with the peasants, we now end up with a bunch of ministers & MPs who have little idea of what the peasants are going through.

No baptism of fire:
  • Wiser? Definitely not.
  • Better able to understand? Another no.

A thing that puzzled me since young when i watched the drama is how come the travelers must travel laboriously across vast stretches of dangerous terrain when each of the disciples can simply & quickly arrive at the West by 'riding clouds'? The answer in bold:

The journey to the West began with a clearly stated objective: to recover the Mahayana Sutras from India & return them to China so that mankind could be saved from madness & suffering. But what is clear by the end of Journey to the West is that recovering the sutras is only part of the journey's larger purpose; in order for the wisdom of the sutras to be understood, 5 unlikely companions had to journey both to the farthest reaches of the world & to the very edge of existence. Their success or failure would determine whether the sutras would ultimately save the world, because understanding the path of enlightenment requires making a remarkable journey.

GRCs need to be dismantled – Workers Parrty manifesto & S'pore Democratic Party manifesto

Parachute into parliament through GRC. No journey needed & thus no enlightenment:
  • $1000 can buy a flat.
  • A couple both working to pay 30 years housing loan is affordable.
  • Overcrowding not an issue with 7M population target

US$9.99 per volume
US$199.80 for 20 book series.
Save $$$ & shelf space by borrowing from library.

Ha ha ha. The answer to what puzzled me. How come the Monkey King needed help to defeat certain monsters when he was practically invincible against the heavenly beings, their weapons & magics.

Where Monsters Come From ---Volume 19
All of the monsters encountered by Sanzang & his disciples fit 1 of 2 groups. The 1st group consists of the monsters who originate from the natural world, who evil deeds stem from an animal urge to rule the land & hunt prey. These are the monsters that Sun Wukong can identify when others can't possibly because as the product of the collision between the earth & the heavens, he can sense a natural-born monster, even in disguise. These monsters tend to be weaker. Sometimes Wukong can kill the monster with a single swing of his staff(the White Bone Goblin). Other times, the monsters are destroyed through a battle of wits (Tiger, Sheep & Elk Oracles). In either case, Wukong & his companions are able to defeat the monsters on their own. And since the 'evil' impulses of these monsters have been with them since birth, once the monsters are defeated, the natural forces of evil die with them.

The other & far more dangerous group of monsters usually go undetected by Wukong. Once detected by Wukong. they are almost impossible for him to defeat without help. These monsters began their lives in the heavens, usually as servants to one of the major Buddhist deities, & their evil deeds stem from a misplaced sense of ambition; most of these monsters became envious of their masters & decided to escape their servitude & come to earth, where they exercise dominion over people using magic & the threat of violence.

The heavenly origins of these monsters make them difficult to fight, since they tend to have weapons infused with heavenly energy- for instance, the Rhino Kings armor makes them impervious to attack from anyone other than the heavenly guardians who are their sworn enemies. Also when these monsters are defeated, they often are not killed; they are subdued by the heavenly beings whom they once served & returned to the heavenly kingdom to atone for their crimes. For these monsters, killing innocent people is not a crime punishable by death. This complicated sense of justice in turn complicates the standard understanding of evil. 

When it comes to the monsters of heavenly origin, their evil is not innate; it's an acquired condition. In other words, it is possible for virtuous beings to do evil things. Understanding this is important for Sanzang & his disciples, because to save the world from evil, the 4 chosen travelers will have to know the nature of the evil they are fighting. In the case of the heavenly monsters, evil cannot be met merely with death; it must be met with a knowledge of its origins, which lie outside the life of the monster & will continue to exist even if the monster is destroyed. In these cases, the monster's life can be, & often is spared.

Sanzang & his disciples have encountered a wide variety of monsters on their journey to the West, but the nature of the evil they have confronted tends to fall into one of two categories: innate evil & acquired evil. Successful completion will require understanding how a virtuous being doing evil can create an even more dangerous monster.

Pros & Cons of this Monkey King comic series:

  • More colorfully illustrated than 3 kingdoms
  • 5 travelers & a bunch of unique monsters compared to 3 kingdoms
  • Brief intro of characters at start of each volume.
  • Covers practically everything from the drama (I suppose novel as well)
  • Dose of humor (taunting by Monkey King & monsters):

- Oh, don't wet yourselves.
- You moron.
- You filthy slug.
- If this mountain is sacred, then a cockroach is a butterfly!
- You were the cretin wiping horses' rears before being buried under a mountain! Ha ha ha!
- You rabid oaf!
- You must be the buffoon.
- Hey! Slum dog! Rise & shine!
- If that's a human being, then i'm the Goddess of Mercy! She's a monster!
- Where is that miserable fleabag?
- That stupid baboon.


  • Book binding kinda poor.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Even 3 Kingdoms Comic Themes Spell End of PAP

It's been a lull in blogging for me. Part of it is i've become a comics maniac binging on comics since last month. I've never read so many comic books in my life & 3 kingdoms is just the start.

Stumbled upon the comic series from the library's online catalogue. There's a company in China publishing the classics in color. However the names of the characters are all inverted during the translation which sucks. eg. Yu Zhou(wrong) instead of Zhou Yu(correct).

In order to read them in sequence, i've to go to 3 libraries to get them. This is my 3rd comic series reading on the 3 kingdoms. I borrowed the bulk of it at Queenstown library - isolated library helps a lot.

I have never read the 3 kingdoms novel. I just find the voluminous text too overwhelming. All I did was reading 2 different comic series, watching 2 drama series, its cartoon & playing the games. With these one can grasp around 90% of it.

The Romance of the 3 Kingdoms offer many lessons although it happened close to 2 thousand years ago. I've used several of its cutscenes from the drama to make my point in blogposts when necessary.

I find the themes in the last 2 volumes interesting as i related it to the founding prime minister(dead) of SG's hybrid regime.

The Solitude of Zhuge Liang - Volume 19
It is common & accepted wisdom that Liu Bei would not have achieved what he did were it not for the unshakeable trust he had in Zhuge Liang. This trust was established because Zhuge Liang filled a very specific gap in Liu Bei's abilities as a leader: Where Liu Bei was a man of passion, committed to a dream, Zhuge Liang was a man of logic & shrewdness, committed to victory. Once they had formed a partnership, Liu Bei's fortunes in the ongoing war for the throne of China took a dramatic turn for the better. As was apparent to anyone who witness this startling turn of fortune, passion alone was not enough to achieve Liu Bei's dreams.

But now that Liu Bei is gone, a very unexpected truth reveals itself, that as much as Liu Bei's passionate dream depended on Zhuge Liang's shrewd tactics, those tactics alone cannot achieve the dream unless paired with a similar passion. Only after it's too late does Zhuge Liang realize that he needed Liu Bei as much as Liu Bei needed him.

A individual cannot achieve much without help from others. There's way overdose of credit splashed out regarding the old man who passed away 2 months ago. He hasn't reach the highest 5th level of leadership as i've blogged about in 5 Levels of Leadership. Where Does Lee Kuan Yew Stand?

The problems are apparent soon after Liu Bei dies. Where once he could call upon advisors & generals who shared Liu Bei's dream, Zhuge Liang now finds himself surrounded by a new generation of men, most of whom have no memory of the Han Dynasty that Liu Bei fought so hard to restore. These men are far less likely to put a selfless cause before their own interests, particularly when they have no appreciation of the cause. This makes it very difficult for them to comprehend some of Zhuge Liang's strategies which have always been carried out by men for whom the goal of restoring the Han Dynasty was worth being confounded by Zhuge's plans.

The issue with the passing of the old guards. Connecting the dots back to SG, we can similarly relate to the decline when the old guard ministers are gone or 'retired early' by the old man in order to consolidate his family power and/or hoard the glory.

With independence from Malaysia, the cause among the old guards was to create better lives for the populace......

Wei Yan & Ma Su are examples of this. Both men are eager to wage war on behalf of Shu Kingdom, but neither acts with the focus or clarity or purpose that Liu Bei & his brothers did. They may have sworn an oath to figth for Shu, but their greatest fidelity is to themselves. This is why Wei Yan cannot understand Zhuge Liang's hesitation to launch an attack that would cost innnocent lives. This is also what seals Ma Su's doom. Zhuge Liang's execution order seems quite severe - he pardoned Guan Yu when he spared Cao Cao's life but the truth is that Zhuge Liang had no choice. When he pardoned Guan Yu, he knew that the legendary soldier would never betray Liu Bei's cause again. There are no such assurances with Ma Su.

with the old guards gone & replaced, we are seeing a bunch of people whose greatest fidelity is to themselves -self serving greedy ministers.

When Zhao Yun tells Zhuge Liang of his mortal wound, the latter weeps for several reasons. For one thing, he's losing the last connection he has to Liu Bei's generation, the last person who can recall what it was they fought so hard to preserve. But he also weeps because he understands that once Zhao Yun is gone, he will be well & truly alone. Zhuge Liang was never vain enough to believe he could carry on Liu Bei's dream by himself. However, once the last of the 5 Tiger Generals has passed away, he realizes that he relied on others for more than most will ever know.

US$9.99 per volume.
Saved US$199.80 through library.
Not to mention shelf space at home.

A Matter of Time – Volume 20
During the century-long contest for supremacy that was the era of the 3 kingdoms, an epic array of characters have come & gone, a tyrannical despot, two devious kings, 3 sworn brothers, several puppet emperors, dozens of noble bloodlines, hundreds of battle-tested generals & scheming advisors, thousands of soldiers & countless innocent civilians. All have endured a seemingly endless conflict marked by the constant rearrangement of battle lines & alliances, most have fallen at precisely the moment when they believed they had transcended the conflict & became invincible. Ultimately, only 2 opponents are left to determine how history will remember Liu Bei's efforts to restore the Han Dynasty.

But they are not Zhuge Liang & Sima Yi.

Zhuge Liang is one of the adversaries, certainly, but his true opponent at the end of the story is not Sima Yi. It's time itself. From the moment Liu Bei died, Zhuge Liang was struggling to impress upon a new generation of citizens & warriors why it is important to continue the selfless work of restoring the Han Dynasty. This task is hard enough when there are still people in the world who can remember the Han Dynasty. But as time drags on, fewer & fewer people are left who can remember the ideal Liu Bei strove to restore. Thus the final conflict is Zhuge Liang versus time. The longer the battle drags on, the less likely he is to honor his pledge to carry out Liu Bei's dream. Zhuge Liang's sense of urgency increases with each failed campaign to conquer the northern territories, but not because he fears that Sima Yi will become stronger than him: he knows that Sima Yi will never deafeat him. But that doesn't matter, because Sima Yi needs only to outlast him to emerge victorious. Thus Sima Yi is but an accomplice, the beneficiary of decades of stalemate, a few sudden moments of tremendous fortune, & time's unceasing ability to replace the old with the new.

As time drags on, fewer & fewer of the pioneer generation are alive. The hybrid regime recognizes this crucial vote bank which is why this week we have the announcement of free entry to zoo, night safari, bird park, gardens by the bay for 2-3 months this year, $50 transport vouchers.

Thus the final conflict is PAP vs time. The new citizens while enamored during their early years would turn against the regime at the polls after suffering the same policies inflicted on the natives. I supposed the dead old man saw this point too as he said the coming election is the last time his party would win.

There is much to learn from this, As time marches on, many struggles to maintain lifestyles & ideas that have fallen by the wayside because of progress. For those children who have ever sat on a grandparent's lap & heard them speak about their childhood, the events & places & people they describe can seem as strange & distant as ancient myths. Ultimately, this was Zhuge Liang's greatest challenge: ensuring the restoration of something long past while the true opponent, time, moved relentlessly forward, evermore obscuring the necessity of what he was fighting for, & clearing a path for an altogether different order to be built.

Ultimately, it was only a matter of time.

As the pioneer generation are dwindling, tales of struggle during the country's formative years are disappearing as well. Children & grandchldren are concerned with crushing levels of housing debt, stagnating real income levels, overcrowding & job insecurity.

Ultimately, it was only a matter of time(for PAP).

Pros & Cons of this Comic Series:
  • In color.
  • Offers theme thoughts at end of each volume (which I used in this blogpost)
  • Brief summary of characters at start of each volume as introduction for 1st timers.

  • Book binding is kinda poor.
  • Inverted names in translation.
  • Many parts of novel left out in order to condense to 20 volumes