Friday, 19 September 2008

Rachel Weisz reloaded: Hypatia of Alexandria!

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not unfrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.

The passage was taken from Wikipedia, and it was in turn cited from Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History (ca 439 AD). I’ve been in love with Hypatia since I learned about her 1-2 years ago through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series and also Wikipedia. She was this strong woman who died protecting the Library of Alexandria from riot (and the thousands of ancient documents within it) during the 4th AD, and – though she and the documents perished – her name was forever etched and marked by history. 

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Old Peace Treaty between Tibet and China at Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

A regular reader (if any) of this blog would have known by now that I am very pro Tibet. I am an avid fan of Dalai Lama, and – despite His Holiness’s willingness for possible (or impossible?) autonomy with China – I am still pro Free Tibet. Yet, I do not hate China or the Chinese. I have many Chinese friends, and I am an avid watcher of Chinese/Mandarin/Kantonese movies or DVDs. It’s just… Tibet is more than a political issue to me. To me, it is a spiritual issue. Like Indonesia, Tibet is one of the last citadels for glorious ancient civilisations, and thus deserves a respectful treatment of an independent nation, free to shape its own future without anyone’s interference.

Sadly, it is not what is happening nowadays. Nowadays, my dearest Dalai Lama lives in exile, and he has to fight for the Tibetans from outside Tibet. That did not stop him from writing great books, including Freedom in Exile (1990), which is basically his excellently written autobiography. And from this book, I shall quote several paragraphs of an old peace treaty between Tibet and China in 821-822 AD. The original inscription can be found (if not yet destroyed) at the entrance of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet. I quote the translation verbatim from Freedom in Exile (pp 42-43):


The Great King of Tibet, the Miraculous Divine Lord, and the Great King of China, the Chinese Ruler Hwang-ti, being in the relationship of nephew and uncle, have conferred together for the alliance of their kingdoms. They have made and ratified a great agreement. Gods and men all know it and bear witness so that it may never be changed; and an account of the agreement has been engraved on this stone pillar to inform future ages and generations.