Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Four Most Precious Guan Yin: the Third (updated and full)

There was a famous Chinese artist call Zhang Da Qian 张大千. The peculiar technique he used is called the "splashing ink landscape painting" (泼墨山水).

The technique begins by splashing water and ink onto the rice paper. The water mixes unevenly with the ink. Part of the mixture is absorbed by the rice paper, part of the mixture flows freely and naturally on it. The artist will look at the natural impression formed on the paper, searching for inspiration in his mind from memories of all the different landscape and angles of landscape he has seen in his life. As the mixture of ink and water is drying up, he uses his brush to superimpose, to outline, and to detail the landscape in his mind onto the impression on the paper.

The finishing result is interesting. It is impossible to make another identical copy, even by the artist himself. It requires not only the skill of a craftsman, it requires also the repertoire of the landscape of a traveler. It rules out the possibility of simple memorizing and regurgitation work of a copycat craftsman. It requires the eyes of appreciation and possibilities. It needs the courage of an inspired man to go with the flow. In short, it transforms works from meticulous craftsmanship into a piece of art.

No wonder Zhang Da Qian's paintings are worth millions of dollars.

Zhang Da Qian's "splashing ink landscape painting."
This is also how the Guan Yin is carved out of a natural crystal. Except this time, the splasher of ink and water in a natural crystal is not the artist himself. It is Heaven and Earth.

The carver needs to look at a piece of natural crystal with layers of transparency and richness of opacity formed by the resources of Earth and the time provided by Heaven.

The carver needs to "see" a Guan Yin or a Buddha "formed" inside the piece of natural crystal. Many pieces of crystals will be given up when the volume and depth of transparency allows no Guan Yin to be carved out of it. Even when a Guan Yin form is possible, there will be a question of the kind of Guan Yin posture that is possible. Is she seated or standing, with a straight looking forward posture or a relax sideways one? And what could she hold in her hand? Can there be any other auspicious animals or plants around her?

Carving Guan Yin out of natural minerals is not only for the purpose of providing real, authentic, and powerful Qi for feng shui purposes. Personally, it is a manifestation of aesthetic beauty and artistic pursue.

A good machine and a hardworking craftsman can repeat their work on synthetic crystal, man-made glass and plastic. But not natural crystal.

It is like "splashing ink landscape painting." No, it is more difficult. You have to work with Heaven and Earth. You have to work with your luck. You have to exercise every bit of potential talent given by God. 

Do you see any form of Guan Yin or the Buddha in this raw crystal?
This is raw citrine. It is placed in the out-of-bounds areas of Lotus on Water galleries. We did not carve this because citrine is too rare, let alone one that is premium in it's natural hue and generous in size.
With all conditions meeting at one point, with the inspired eyes and skillful hands of an artistic carver, this crystal Guan Yin of Nine Lotuses has descended into this world.

Nine. It is a powerful number. It is the highest and biggest "yang" number. It signifies the number of the ruler, the emperor. Nine is also the number of the celestial stars that govern the feng shui of the earth.

Already such a big natural crystal with a clear form of Guan Yin seated within is no less than a miracle. The most surprising part is that she has nine small whirlpools of clarity surrounding her. We could carve that nine whirlpools of clarity into nine lotuses.

It is the highest form of Guan Yin --- Guan Yin with nine lotuses. Already when she was born I was reluctant to sell her away. I felt that she was a gift from Heaven.

But being a director of our company, it's insensible of me to keep everything I am fond of. Especially a collection with a very high value. So, dutifully, I instructed a price tag of one over million dollars to be fixed on her.

Little did I know she came with a purpose of delivering a message to me. And shockingly she delivered the message by plucking one of her lotuses to me...


Of course, long before a crystal lotus is plucked, Guan Yin did send her message in other ways.

That year, the dangerous star of Five Yellow fell right in front of our galleries and my house. I gave specific instruction not to create any movement in those areas or great calamity will fall.

One early morning, a great storm came. The very tall frangipani tree that was in front of my house was uprooted and fell onto the ground. On the same day, something happened. The pendent I always wear cracked with 2 lines that form a Chinese character "人 ren"(means human).


I knew it was an omen from Heaven. The direction is southwest, which represents elderly women. It means elderly women is creating problems for us. But which elderly women? I dislike suspecting people with no concrete evidence.

Affections always blind a clear vision, especially affections for the close kin and family members. 

That afternoon, my aunt from Malaysia came to Singapore to visit me for 2 weeks.

Little did I suspect that she was the one Heaven has sent a sign to warn me.
The crystal Guan Yin of Nine Lotuses.
My aunt had a pathetic life. She was very pretty when she was young and was well-loved by my grandparents.

She was married to a rich man who owns a very big bungalow. But on the wedding day, my grandfather whispered to my grandmother: "Let us celebrate in joy today. Although, it is a pity that the marriage cannot last. It has got to do with that celestial star in her life."

I know what that star is. It is a strong and ruthless star that makes one strong and competitive. However the same star will destroy a marriage when the one who possess this star is a woman.

And it turned out to be true. My aunt's husband bankrupted. He left for another woman. My aunt was also bankrupted as she was the factory's co-owner and guarantor.

I was only in primary school when this happened. And I saw how she climbed up from the pitch. She was blessed since young, not needed for any housework. When she was divorced and bankrupted, she had to rent a small house, do all the housework, raise her two daughters. 

Slowly, she raised enough money to start a small florist shop in a hotel. I went there to help her sometimes. I saw how she worked and I had a special sympathy for her. 

My aunt has a perpetual sweet smile. But her voice is even sweeter. She always speak with a ringing melody. You never see her raising her voice to anyone. Even when she narrates an angry incident, the hanging smile on her lips never disappears. The smile is almost like tattooed on.

I could never imagine that it is possible to have anybody to dislike her or get angry with her.

After clearing her name from the first bankruptcy, my grandparents came out with money again to help her and my uncle (her brother) to set up a clothing manufacturing factory.

Things went well for many years and my grandfather passed away. However, after some years, the factory of my aunt and uncle closed down as well. Luckily with 20 years of experience in sales, she managed to get a sales job somewhere. 

By this time, I have made quite a name for myself in Singapore and fame has travelled to my hometown. My aunt then requested to come and look at my business. She volunteered to come and helped me. 

My grandfather had five children and ten grandchildren. None of them, my aunt included, wanted to learn feng shui and bazi reading from my grandfather. Partly they felt it is an industry too ancient and they see no financial benefit from it.  I saw no financial benefit as well when I was learning from my grandfather and helping him. It was purely a fond love for things cultural and traditional and belonging to our family heritage. And also I did it for the love for grandfather. 

But the Lotus on Water I started, with my keenness to refine and improve on traditions and conventions, has become more profitable than any of my family members could imagine.

Since I was the only one who inherited the skill and knowledge from my grandfather, I felt obliged to give my aunt a chance to benefit the way I did as well. 

Master Yun is the only one who learned from his grandfather, the 5th generation fengshui master, from his young age.
My aunt quickly became well acquainted with all staff and with many of my very good clients. She also warms up very well with our media friends who supported us at those time.  After sometime, she came and asked me: "Why don't you open up a store in Kuala Lumpur and let me run it?" I was hesitant but I told her I shall think about it.

The main reason for my hesitance was that she loves gambling. She frequents the casino and enjoys mahjong, a bit too much. 

Yes we have many clients who love to gamble. Some of them win quite a bit of money right after wearing our jade. She herself has won jackpot from the casino twice after she wore our Heaven and Earth jadeite ring.But the standard required on a client and on those who serve clients representing Lotus on Water are different.

When a person receives money in gambling, he does not contribute any value to those who pay him. Most of the time, the luck of a winner in gambling is due to the lack of luck on his counterpart. When a person wins money in mahjong, it is because those who play with him are losing money.

But as I have always emphasized to my staff, when Lotus on Water sells a piece of something, the value we provide to the one who pays us must always exceed the amount of money we receive from them.

The psychology and philosophy of gambling and Lotus on Water are totally different. We just won't match.


But after my refusal towards my aunt, things started to get a bit strange.

With her sweet personality, my aunt is well acquainted with many rich friends. And she brought some to our gallery.
The Heaven and Earth jadeite ring. The proud creation of Lotus on Water, prospering clients since 2006. "She herself has won jackpot from the casino twice after she wore our Heaven and Earth jadeite ring."
During one incident as such, she came to me and told me: Why don't you tell them that they need "tiger-stripped agarwood"? I was shocked. It was the first time in years of bazi reading that someone dares to come tell me what to instruct my clients to do. But quickly I resumed my composure, I said calmly: No, aunt. It does not work this way here. I only tell my clients what to wear when the remedy suits him.

Next few days, my staff came over to tell me that this was what she asked them to do as well. In my anger, I kept away all my "tiger-stripped agarwood" until the clients she brought over left.

My aunt stayed in my house when she was in Singapore. She goes back to Kuala Lumpur on her own accord whenever she feels like the stay is long enough. One day, I had an impulse to bid her farewell so I went home when she was leaving my house. I saw her carrying a paperbag full of my books as she was stepping out of my house. I exclaimed: "Hei, what books are you taking away?" She said:" Oh! No! No! It's just some books that you are no longer interested to read anymore." I was thinking: how do you know those are books that I am no longer interested to read?"

One day, I had a relative giving me a call. She told me she would like to come and visit me. When she arrived, she told me that my aunt in Kuala Lumpur has been trying to gang up with other relatives to steal the secret of my business. She told them that it is truly unfair that my grandfather has passed his inheritance of knowledge to me alone. I have been making all the money and enjoy the fame while the rest do not get to share. Some of the relatives were very worried for me but none dared to offend her. However, she was urged by her conviction to warn me.

I listened with calmness and I told myself to be patient. Maybe she could change when she realized that the reason our business is so good because of our honesty towards our clients and our pursue of excellence in our quality. Maybe by comparing our business with others in the same industry, she would understand that you harvest what you sow and there is no short cut about it.

Signs after signs came. Evidences after evidences have I ignored, in the hope that a soul would be awaken by the truth that lies in front of her.

Slowly my staff acted rather strangely. Even those who have been with me for a long time and seen how miracles of faith have happened in the lives of my clients. 

Signs and symptoms showed up again and again. Finally, this crystal Guan Yin of Nine Lotuses showed her sign. One of her lotuses dropped. The staff put in charge of her glued the lotus back with clear silicon. In his remorse, this staff left. But he told me about it before he left.

Despite the fallen lotus just right of Guan Yin, the radiance and beauty of this crystal Guan Yin of Nine Lotuses shine.
When I heard the news about the fallen lotus, I was shocked and speechless for a long while. I was thinking what should be done now. My mind was confused yet my heart was calm. I knew that the Guan Yin with Nine Lotuses must have something to show me. But what was it?

At that moment, a senior staff suggested that nobody can tell that the crystal lotus was broken because it was gelled back nicely. And out of respect for Guan Yin, no clients would ever send it to the gemologists for inspection.

Hearing that, I felt anger expanding in my chest and I yelled at the top of my voice: "No! Lotus on Water never sells such kind of Guan Yin." My anger came from the realization that my most senior staff has gone wayward in her value. She has forgotten what standards Lotus on Water represents. We must always be trustworthy even when there isn't anyone we need to prove to.
The founding standards of Lotus on Water. When we started insisting on these principles, the market was laughing initially, then we upset them.
That evening, Mr Kan accompanied me for a quiet dinner. He was a manager and put in charge of the daily operations of the gallery. I was still praying quietly in my heart for Guan Yin to review all the riddles to me.

At that moment, the handphone rang. Not my handphone but Mr Kan's. The sweet ringing voice came from the other side.

"Hi Ying Loong (Mr Kan's name). I sold a crystal mountain and allowed the client to take it away. They gave me a postdated cheque, I pass it to you tomorrow?" 

Mr Kan asked: "What if the cheque bounced?"

"Then we will ask the client to return the crystal to us."
"But our company policy does not allow us to sell a second-hand item to anyone so that we will not have any chance of passing on a bad Qi to clients who have taken them home."

My aunt asked again: "Oh dear! What shall we do?...You must help me. I am Master Yun's aunt."

At the end of their conversation, I realized this was how my aunt has been testing waters with my staff. When she discovered that their principle was not strong and firm enough, she fed them with more ideas and lured them to her side. 

Finally, Guan Yin spoke to Master Yun with the fallen lotus.
A few days later, I brought my grandmother out for dinner. She is the eldest member of our family. When she heard what I said, she was shocked and began to tell me all the tales my aunt has fed her with. In front of her, I called every one of her children. We counter checked all the lies and tales my aunt has been telling and spreading.

At the end, I put down my phone and waited for my grandmother for her instruction. My aunt has caused more then one she lived and worked with to fail --- her husband, her brother. And now she desires the downfall of her nephew.
 
Finally my grandmother said, "I will personally give her instruction not to enter the gallery anymore. It is a sanctuary of our ancestors' glory. She will not be allowed to enter anymore."

Subsequently, I dismissed all the staff who were in cahoots with her, who were not courageous enough to stand up for the standards they were taught when they first entered Lotus on Water.

With most staff dismissed, I anticipated a dip in our revenue. But to our surprise, the revenue grew three times the next month.

I realized what Guan Yin was trying to show with the fallen lotus. The most beautiful thing about the lotus is not the flower, but the seed. No amount of fertilizers can grow a lotus seed if it is corrupted. And yet, no draught can kill a lotus seed as well. A lotus seed dried for decades will germinate when you drop it into water.

The lotus seed is our heart. Some call it free will. No deities can change it, no devil can destroy it. It is destined by our will.

I place the Guan Yin with Nine Lotuses in front of the gallery that keeps all the sculptures of Buddha and Guan Yin. 

It is to remind us to keep our heart well. All the nine lotuses, or ninety nine lotuses, or nine hundred ninety nine lotuses - can grow from one lotus seed.

-- Master Yun Long Zi, 24 May 2014.

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