Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Thousand Pieces of Gold

As a young girl my father often told me, "never forget your roots, or you'll be a worthless person." In that he meant someone who doesn't know where he came from, what he's made of and what he's capable of becoming. How wise my father's advice was! And many years later, I remember his words fresh as if it was spoken to me yesterday, especially so upon my reading of A Thousand Pieces of Gold by Adeline Mah.

Walt Whitman once said, "Into the English language are woven the sorrows, joys, loves, needs and heartbreaks of the common people." The same can be said regarding Chinese proverbs and metaphors.

Renowned British poet, Philip Larkin once described Chinese proverbs as "white dwarfs" of literature because each was so densely compacted with thoughts and ideas. White dwarfs are tiny stars whose atoms are packed so closely together that their weight is huge in relation to their size. The enormous heat radiated from these small stars is equivalent to the vast knowledge and profound wisdom contained in certain sayings gleaned from China.

In this book, Adeline May provides a fascinating window into the history as the cultural soul of China. Combining personal reflections, rich historical insights, and proverbs handed down by her grandfather, she shares the wealth of Chinese civilisation with Western readers. Exploring the history behind the proverbs, she delves into the lives of the first and second emperors and the two rebel warriors who changed the course of Chinese life, adding stories from her own life to beautifully illustrate their relevance and influence today.

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