Ms Lien Siaou-Sze, Vice President, University Advancement, NTU,
Professor Joseph Liow, Dean of College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences,
My most respected professors and esteemed academicians,
My dear friends, my clients, my clients’ children
Three years ago, the world entered into an era of pandemic, and we are still fighting hard against it. It has devastated every single person on this earth medically, socially and financially.
|Master Yun and Dr Liow acknowledging the establishment of the Fund|The pandemic hits not only the health of people, but also the health of businesses. In March 2020 alone, 4008 businesses in Singapore collapsed. The next month, April 2020, another 8600 of businesses in Singapore closed down.
And I suppose many business colleagues would think I am crazy, to sponsor an academic and cultural project at this time, a time when most businesses are still striving and struggling to survive the torment of the pandemic.
|Master Yun and Ms Lien Siaou-Sze|
I am the founder of Lotus on Water, a registered commercial entity selling top quality fengshui related products, art and calligraphies. We have four galleries, side by side each other, along Upper Thomson Road. Three weeks ago, we celebrated our 16th anniversary.
When this country declared a lock down in early 2020, I had never seen such fear and anxiety hitting my people.
Frankly, I had no answer and no solution at that time. We prayed hard, meditated deeply and brainstormed more than five times a week.
Some of the outcomes of our brainstorming, meditation and prayers are as follows:
November 2020, I accepted the invitation of CCTV China to exhibit about 60 pieces of my fengshui paintings and calligraphies at the Great Wall of China. With great honor, I was the first, and so far the only artist who have exhibited art on this 3500 years old greatest seven wonder in the world.
In April 2021, we started the Art Beyond Museums project. We go to different businesses in Singapore. We promoted these businesses while we talked about my art and Laurent-Perrier champagne (who is our sponsor) to Singaporeans and the rest of the world.
The project proved to be a hit, and has brought clients to these businesses.
So we started our Art Beyond Museums overseas. We have broadcasted 13 episodes of Art beyond Museums England edition, we are now broadcasting Penang edition, following up with Bali Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Paris and Australia.
In March 2021 and March 2022, we imported the sakura trees, and served sake and cakes to all gallery visitors for them to have some poetic moments under the sakura trees.
Then, the Tang festival. We invited visitors to put on costumes of Tang Dynasty emperor and empress, and if they can recite a tang poem, we give them a door gift.
During COVID, we acquired 3,000 pieces of antiques from a seventy-year-old Italian gentleman. A few weeks ago, we invited clients to take family photos on one of the antiques, a Louis-Phillipe sofa we are displaying in our galleries. We had professional photographers on the standby and we gave the family photos to them free.
In October this year, we will collaborate with an internationally famous fashion and textile designer Mr Eric Raisina to have our third art exhibition cum défilé de mode in CHIJMES Hall, Singapore.
Monsieur Eric Raisina was born in Madagascar, citizen of France and trained in Paris. He flew in from Paris yesterday to spend a couple of days with me. Today, Monsieur Raisina is here with us because he believes very much in culture and academic as well.
Two months ago, we invited the international top sommelier, Daisuke Kawai san, to give a wine and art pairing workshop for our clients.
Above are just a few artistic and cultural projects we churned out in these two years. Some are Chinese, but many involve artists and culturati from other races and culture. And we do these warm and cozy events in the era of the most fearful pandemic.
We embrace not just a sentiment for Chinese culture, but also a Chinese style sentiment for all people “under heaven”.
|Prof Qu Jingyi welcoming Master Yun|
When you visit Lotus on Water, you see that clients are not there just to perform business transactions, they are there also to discuss art, touching antiques and artifacts, appreciate tea, wine and champagne, discussing high fashion, wearing traditional costumes, taking family photos.
In other words, our business have created a side effect for our clients, you may want to call this side effect, “a sense of bliss.”
What is a sense of bliss? It is a good blend of happiness and purpose. And with this sense of bliss, people desire to live better and longer. And living better and longer is what layman calls prosperity and longevity. Isn’t this something every human being should do to create for themselves and their fellow kind?
On the hindsight, some people say that Lotus on Water is either too willful or plain lucky. These few out of the box cultural and artistic projects have created for us a lot of clients and revenue. Some of them have brought us fame and reputation at a level we have never accomplished before. In fact, for most months, the income during the Pandemic Era has increased more than one hundred percent as compared to pre-pandemic era.
But at the moment when we were making those decisions for all these “money burning projects”, many people would have called us crazy. Crazy to “burn money”, in the time we should be tightening the seat belts.
Most strategies adopted by businesses at this era would be to cut budget, apply for grants or to borrow bridging loans. I refused to do any of these. If I had taken a loan, I may need to seek for permission from the money lenders before I can write a cheque to NTU.
Today, Lotus on Water remains number one in fengshui industry in Singapore and probably the world, in term of client size and revenue.
Ironically, none of my shareholders and employees has a degree in accounting, finance and business. My business partner Mr Kan Ying Loong graduated from Peking University, top in Chinese faculty. My top sales advisor Mr Cola Tay Wei Siong graduated with an education degree from a university in Taiwan China. I graduated in NTU School of Arts majoring in Chinese studies and English literature in 1996, and with a First Class Honors in Chinese in 1997.
No, it is not a prerequisite to graduate with a humanities subject to apply for a job in our company. But somehow people with humanitites discipline tend to stay with us the longest.
Ray Dalio, a famous modern financial guru has published a book “The Changing World Order”. He says that all the great empires went through economic cycles. The cycle went up and came down. Most of the time when the cycle came down, it would never recover. The Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Dutch Empire and the British Empire all shared the same fate. With only one exception, the Chinese Civilization went up, came down and recovered again and again many times over thousands of years.
Henry Kissinger said in his book “On China”, out of twenty centuries, China has been the most prosperous country in the world for eighteen centuries. Only in the last two centuries China has lost in her global competition with the West and now she is coming back again. How can any country enjoy prosperity for such a long period of time?
Strangely, China never had an East India Company; China did not invent the modern banking system, the shareholding companies, a global reserve currency and internationally approved accounting system. And China still does not have a parliament.
China did not even have great economists like Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Frederick Hyak or Milton Friedman. And China had no great scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. But the Chinese civilization has Confucius, Mencius, and the many many poets and the many many more fine calligraphers.
Could modern medicine save the world from illness? Probably so. But the pandemic showed us that the countries with the most advance medicine might not enjoy the lowest mortality rate in the pandemic.
Can the economists bring prosperity to the human world? Maybe. But the current situation shows that the countries that have produced the most outstanding economists are not the countries that have dissolved their own extreme poverty.
Can arts and humanities, especially the Chinese arts and culture, bring a greater value to the human world? I have very good reasons to think so.
In fact, the main subject of the national examination during the Tang Dynasty was poetry composing. And Tang Dynasty China was the most prosperous and powerful country in the world history.
In other words, no one can become a minister or a MP during Tang Dynasty without the ability to compose rhythmic poems and write beautiful calligraphy.
Can you imagine one day, our Singapore ministers start reciting poems and sonnets to each other in the parliament when they are debating over policy-making? We would think that something wrong has gone up in the minds of these ministers.
But that’s what the officials did exactly in the Tang Dynasty Imperial Court. And it is this same court that has brought China to become the most prosperous country in the world in every sense. Military, finance and culture.
And China during Tang Dynasty made friends with the Christians as well as the Muslims at the same time. We had free trade all the way to the Byzantine Roma.
The truth is seldom discovered with naked eyes; the truth is always discovered in our mind. Sometimes, the truth may not be discovered in our mind but in our heart, through our sentiment.
Today we are here to launch a Lotus on Water Chinese Culture Publication Endowment Fund in NTU.
In fact, this is not the first donation we have given to NTU. The last donation was the Lotus on Water Gold Medal Award and Book Prizes, which we started in 2013.
Every year since 2013, we attended the convocation ceremony without fail, except one year during the pandemic.
And last year, when I attended the convocation, Professor Qu Jingyi sat next to me. He talked to me about the academic journal he has just started, the Nanyang Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture (NJCLC) that includes the academic findings from the America’s Harvard University, China’s Peking University and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
I thought, what a meaningful project this is. The gaps between people, that politicians, doctors, scientists and economists fail to bridge could probably be successfully healed by the academicians, the artists and the culturati.
Could Lotus on Water see any financial return by involving in this project? Frankly, I can not yet see in my logical mind.
Frankly, if I have not being an art and humanities student,
If I did not immerse myself in the study of Chinese culture in this university,
If I am not a grandson of my grandfather who was a gentleman that loved composing poetry and writing calligraphy,
If I am not the great grandnephew of my great granduncle who was an imperial scholar from the late Qing Dynasty, sent to Southeast Asia for diplomatic mission, I may not have the sentiment (the heart) to see the profound meaning in a project as such.
I have also brought along some of my clients who have supported me all these years to witness the launch of this endowment trust.
And I would also like to let my clients know that part of the money they have invested in us, I am now reinvesting into something that doesn’t seem so urgent but in actuality very important, which is to help build a better tomorrow for them and their children.主要目的是让我们的客户知道，我将他们投资在我们身上的部分利润，转投资在一件长远又重要的事情。那便是为他们，及他们的子孙建设一个更加美好的明日世界。
We may not be the wealthiest in this country but we are definitely one who is consistently eager to make sure that what we believe, and what we say, and what we do, are in perfect harmony.
I would like to congratulate Professor Qu Jingyi and all the members of Chinese Department NTU School of Humanities. I have high hopes with what you can achieve. I believe it will shine light to a world that needs recovery, peace, harmony and prosperity. And I appreciate you in taking the initiative to do so.
-- Master Yun Long Zi 云龙子大师
6th July 2022