Asian Literature

There is a wide array of ideals to emulate in Asian literature, from India’s passive resistance and nonviolent protest, China’s Yin and Yang, to Japan’s concept of ephemeral beauty.  Asian literature holds some of the finest and notable works of literature – Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Tale of Genji – these works carried the country’s own distinct ideals and customs.  From these three major countries, I learned a lot how their religion and their ways of lives affect the modern countries that they are today.

India, one of the oldest countries of the world, the cradle of the ancient Indus civilization, is rich and diverse in terms of culture and religion.  It is known for its devotion to the discipline of the senses, the eradication of worldly pleasures for spiritual purification, and core idea and passionate commitment to fight against moral violence.  The Bhagavad Gita, known as the Upanishad of all Upanishads, holds many of India’s philosophy that is widely known in the world – the creed of nonviolence, heartfelt devotion to public service and the moral battle to righteousness.  I am particularly impressed with the greatest Indian leader and reformer Mahatma Gandhi who once practiced the philosophy of it.  And also he inspired and influenced some of the greatest political thinkers and reformists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela later on.  In our country, the idea of nonviolence can be seen in the 1986 EDSA Revolution, where a bloodless revolution eradicated Marcos’ aristocratic leadership, granting the country its freedom from dictatorship.

Bhagavad Gita is my personal favorite Indian work; it encapsulates all Indian philosophy in a nutshell, an all-in-one credo to attain enlightenment.  It is universal and complete, literature and philosophy combined.  Some of the Indian works of literature are hard to read and analyze like the ancient epic Mahabharata but most of them concerns with the idea of the attainment of supreme enlightenment, a typical Hinduism thought that influence China and Japan’s

Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita

Buddhism.

Literature and religion in China is heavily influenced by Indian philosophy.  Along with Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, the Buddhist religion first originated in India but deeply stemmed out and flourished in the neighboring China, and eventually to Japan.  Chinese literature is known for its simple and profound verses about nature, the silences and the wisdom of the images used in the ancient songs, verses and hymns, and the rough and fresh ideas and images in the works of Tu Fu, Li Po Wang Wei and Po Chui, inspired by Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen in nature.  The founding principles of Chinese philosophy can be seen in the works of The Analects by Confucius and Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.  Both works and considered pillars of thought in Confucianism and Taoism – two of the greatest philosophical schools of thought in China.  I also like the Chinese symmetrical relationship of the Yin and Yang: that one cannot exist without the other.  For me it deeply emphasizes the harmony between two different things in the physical universe as well as the harmony of the mind and the body.

The Chinese poems are simple yet powerful short verses; they are concentrated with vivid images that evoke emotions of solitude, joy and wishful thinking.  I love the poems of Chu-i Po: the sadness and the melancholy in his poems are melodies of profound human experiences: losing a loved one, missing one’s own brothers and sisters, and the experience of being lonesome.

nature in Japanese poetry

nature in Japanese poetry

Japanese poetry has a lot in common with Chinese poetry, since the latter influenced the former.  And so, Japanese poetry are also imagistic, full of pathos, and their poetry uses the images in nature to express the emotions.  Although Japanese and Chinese poetry are fond of using nature as a metaphor (akin to TS Eliot’s objective-correlative concept) I think that Japanese poetry is much more intimate and personal.  There is also more restraint in the expression of emotion.  Japanese poems, usually short ones, are also easy to understand, sentimental, and reads almost like a diary entry.  The concept of the impermanence of life, the interplay of permanence and transience, and finding beauty in ephemeral things are just few of the themes one may find in Japanese poetry.  Usually, poems like these use the images of the cherry blossoms, the passing seasons, or even the moon.  Generally I like all Japanese poems discussed in class because they contain in them tantalizing and brief images of seasons and their associative emotions.  Like the passing of seasons, there is a certain kind of brief flashes of experiences that reverberates in the minds of the readers.  Japanese literature is more sensitive to the moods: they can clearly hear the sounds of insects and birds and they always emphasize the ever-changing nature.  Perhaps what I like about their literature is the recurrent concern of identity, self-awareness of beauty and the affecting isolation in the moments of pathos.  These themes are major constitutes to the Japanese aesthetics, powerful and rich, and different to the Western’s ideas.

Japanese literature is as rich as Chinese literature, from which they are intensely influenced – from the royal dynasties, art of writing, and religious philosophy.  Japanese culture really interests me a lot:  from the early novels like The Tale of Genji, the concept of Japanese theater, to the beautiful and exotic geishas. Every work of literature depicts clearly the Japanese life; the Tale of Genji for instance, vividly portrays the aristocratic Heian court of life.  The samurai is also a famous Japanese cultural feature:  loyalty and honor to their overlord are strictly practiced; there is supremacy of political over personal considerations.

Equally interesting are also the Japanese concept of theater, which includes the famous ones like Noh, Kabuki and even the Puppet Theater.  These three kinds of theater project that kind of sophistication based on the art of movement through disciplined speech, gesture, dance and body of the actors.  I also learned that geishas are not courtesans, that their ways are governed by the art of entertainment and pleasure.

I have been exposed to Western ideas, culture and literature – the hegemonic concepts in general – and it is truly satisfying to find a different approach in aesthetics and philosophy in Asian literature.  If the Western culture believes in the eternal beauty of art and the things in general, I find the Asian culture (particularly Chinese and Japanese culture) concepts different because they find that the ephemeral quality in things more beautiful, therefore, they must be cherished and appreciated more.  Some of the famous concepts in the Western world are already present in the works of Asian literature, even much before, just like the concept of TS Eliot’s objective-correlative in the works of early Japanese poetry, post-modernist style in the Indian play Shakuntala and the all-knowing and shifting narrator and the free indirect style of narrative in some of the Tang stories discussed in class.  It means that Asian literature is never far behind the Western culture.  They should be appreciated more because Asian culture and literature is much closer to our own understanding, and it is ours.

That Anime Fever

I couldn’t appreciate anime more in any day than during this summer. Since I’m staying home this break I didn’t do anything “cerebral” or some sort. Well, you must understand, I’m trying to take back those sleepless nights last semester, where most of them were spent from pouring myself over stacks of books that rubbed my brain raw. Well anyway, students like us deserved a good, nice vacation after such traumatic experience, and now I found out that watching TV, reading books of my own choice (I think that should be emphasized) and sleeping in between those times really help me during the break. Watching anime is also a great leisure activity. *laughs.

Speaking of anime, out of my boredom, I ranked my favorite ones to ten.

At the tenth spot is my all-time favorite Cardcaptor Sakura. What’s good about it is that it has a very excellent original story, and very nice vivid animation. My favorite character is Shaoran, although he’s an archetype, so to speak, but his character has a high degree of verisimilitude.

At ninth spot is Bokura ga Ita, or We Were There if I’m not mistaken in my English translation. I really like it because even though it’s the same pattern all over again, falling in love, breaking up, unrequited love – there is something in it that is expressed in a very subtle way. And the insert songs are so amazing. Even I, as a viewer, did have my own emotional struggle because of the conflict in Yano-Nana affair. And Yano is probably what some girls really like – after all two-thirds of the class is in love with him. The manga series is also cool, by Yuuki Obata.

At the eight spot is La Corda d’Oro Primo Passo which is currently shown in Animax. With its vivid animation and musical background plus fascinating guys, I couldn’t stand the fact of missing any single episodes. Hino is so captivating, I really like her a lot.

Next, at the seventh rank is Fruits Basket. It’s funny in a cute way, and even though Honda-san may appear so innocent and so naïve, she is really lovable. And see? There is always the usual love triangle affair among Tohru, Yuki and Kyo. The manga series is written by Takaya Natsuki.

At the sixth spot is Midori no Hibi (Midori Days). Midori is so cute. The anime is so funny, and worth my time, but later on when you encounter the drama part, you get carried away (maybe this is because you get used to think that this is a funny one, but when you get to the emotional part you ended up being touched by something you are not used to). Seiji Sawamura’s character as a highschool delinquent is a fascinating one, and the very cute Midori is really something to look forward to every episode.

How would you feel if you possessed a certain mystical stone that would increase your abilities a thousand fold? And if you’re an alchemist, you would have extraordinary power to heal all injuries and to have everlasting life. This is the story of Fullmetal Alchemist, at my fifth spot, a quest to find the ultimate Philosopher’s Stone. Edward Elric as the youngest state alchemist is utterly stunning. As you go on watching this anime you would find that there is an underlying message about the science-religion (or morality, for that matter) in it. After all, the power to possess the stone does not only bring good things, but it has the power to annihilate and destroy every single living life there is. I also like Winry Rockbell’s character, her addiction to rebuilding mechanical devices exemplifies her strong personality.

At the fourth spot is Honey and Clover! It’s a very heartwarming story of college students living their college lives amidst encountering emotional struggles and life’s difficulties until they learn more about themselves. My personal favorite character is Ayumi Yamada, the Iron Girl with her excellence in making pottery, and good looks (not to mention long legs). Her unrequited love for Takumi Mayama is one of the dramatic scenes of the anime.

At the third spot is Inuyasha, with its witty, amazing plot – a girl named Kagome traveling to the feudal environment using the old well and meeting the half-demon Inuyasha. The real story begins as they find the broken pieces of the Shikon no Tama, but along the way, there seems to be a lot of touching romantic episodes between Kagome and Inuyasha, and the conflict is escalated with the presence of another character, Kikyou, Inuyasha’s beloved. This is really a must-seen anime for me. My personal favorite character, aside from the main characters, is Sesshoumaru. Maybe because of his strong atmosphere that exudes in his personality.

At the second spot is Blood+ – an anime produced by Production IG and Aniplex, is a story of Saya Otonashii, as she fights Chiropterans and gets rid of them and finds her own self-identity along the way. This anime is a mixture of horror, action, drama, mystery, supernatural, and romance genres all in one, which makes up the anime’s complex and concentrated plot. Saya embarks on the journey to fight the Chiropteran (vampiric creatures) with her faithful servant Haji, some members of the Red Shield, brothers Kai and Riku and other faithful friends. The plot is so amazing that once you get started watching it, you wouldn’t like missing episodes in the future. Some scenes may contain strong violence and language, which is why it’s hard to let other people see it halfway because they might not understand. This anime is so good, that I love watching it all over again.

But my favorite most of all is Samurai X. The whole story is definitely amazing enough for anyone to like. The fight scenes, the language and the animation are perfectly incorporated. Kenshin Himura’s character as a wanderer and as a bloodthirsty swordsman is unforgettable. Some scenes are funny, terrifying and touching. My favorite character, other than Kenshin himself is Saito. He’s kinda disturbing but his personality is so strong for me. It’s a story of fighting for the better good, living a new life out of a dreadful past, learning to love even through circumstances when the haunting memories from the past seemed to still hang around within and being strong in one’s convictions. I love it.