|发表于: 2007-04-25 08:26 发表主题: PREFACE FOR TAN SWIE HIAN'S 100 FABLES - by Dr. Ku Cheng Mei
by Dr. Ku Cheng Mei
Swie Hian began fable writing in 1973 and in recent years, the volume of his work has increased. I am always eager to read his latest piece. The fables of Swie Hian have all appeared in the literary pages of the United Daily News in Taiwan, and newspapers and periodicals in Singapore and Malaysia. Some of them have even been transformed into his paintings and sculptures. Swie Hian expresses in some of them his views on language, and in others, his reflections on aspects of the mundane world, but the majority are about his adhering to the Buddhist faith and its practice. As every piece embodies his philosophy of life, we have a concrete picture of both the contents and the form of his thought.
Friends are all aware of Swie Hian’s extraordinary literary and artistic capabilities. In both the literary and artistic works, he has not only mastered the creative forms and methods with adroitness, but also express his thought and faith, concretely and aesthetically. Indeed, his creative capability has reached a highly competent stage without which he could not have been able to freely employ the various forms and methods, let alone to freely move in and out of the literary and artistic space for creation. Nonetheless, he still attached great importance to the expression and function of creative form. His use of the fable as a form in recent years, shows his attention to the consistency and complementarity of the various forms. He has said, “The fable and canvas give different points: the advantageof words, such as the description of a sensation in poetry, is that they can plunge one into his psychological world without visual images intermediating; whereas the colour and lines of painting, such as the depiction of a passing phenomenon, can cast a deep influence on a person through his visual perception.” This is the background to Swie Hian’s Flower and Bird, and also the reason for its transfer to canvas, and finally to sculpture.
The fable as a creative form is very particular. It is to narrate by allegorization what the fabulist has to say, in a small paragraph or a few lines. The use of allegorical form is often found in Mahayana Buddhist scriptures. The Mahayana Buddhist attaches great importance to the composition technique and methods of Buddhist scriptures; The so called Twelve Divisions of the Mahayana Canon refers to the twelve forms and methods for composing the scriptures. It means not only that the Mahayana Canon consists of twelve categories of scriptures, but also that it is defined by them. The allegory (avadana) is one of these twelve. The composition of parables (upama), by its use of allegorical form, can count as a method of composing scriptures in allegory. The parables in the Mahayana Canon are, however, different from simple allegories. Apart from its allegorical form, I parable is oftern “didactic” and “admonitory”. For example, a parable entitled The Head and Tail of a Snake Disputing Who is to Lead, from The Sutra of One Hundred Parables, showing that conflict leads to chaos and disagreement to ruin, is rather “admonitory”: “ The tail of a snake said to the head: I should be in front. The head answered: I am always in front. Why should it be you? The head led and the tail entwined around a tree. The snake could not move forward.”
Quite a few parables from Buddhist scriptures are still popular. For instance, The Blindman Touching the Elephant, which demonstrates the limitation of human knowledge, is one of them. The contemporary Chinese author, Lu Xun, for example, was very fond of Buddhist parables. He himself had finance the printing of the famous collection of Buddhist parables, The Sutra of One Hundred Parables, for wider circulation. Swie Hian fully understands the characteristics and function of the fable. He has said, “The fable is a narrative with a stress on overtones. Despite its small formation, it blends freely with all possible modes of expression and all beings are its subject. It is the best vehicle for conveying the Tao. It is a rational poem. The fable is the choice of many spiritual seekers as a means of communication, such as that of Zhuangzi.
Works in allegorical form were created in ancient China too, with The Zhuangzi being the most celebrated collection. Zhuangzi says in his allegory: “Parables are, nine out of ten, convincing; quotations seven out of ten; and daily casual remarks are naturally harmonious.” It shows that The Zhuangzi was meant for “conveying the Tao” through the allegorical tales. In fact, in the history of Chinese creative writing, works like The Zhuangzi are a rarity. Apart from The Zhuangzi, we have not seen many parbolist who have expressed through the allegorical form, mystical experience gained from their own religious practices. The greates reason is simple that not every author has the ability and experience for this genre of writing, unless he is endowed with extraordinary imagination, creativity, ripened thought and experiences gained from real practice.
Swie Hian has, over the years, created with ripened thought and astonishing creativity, a hundred fables, both in Chinese and English, which convey the Tao. This is a historic phenomenon and definitely merits our attention.
This fables illustrate very well Swie Hian’s creative talent; they illustrate equally well the spirit with which he conducts himself in life. Those who know him are aware that he is a practitioner of Bodhisattva discipline with great compassion. Reading To Treasure All, Encouraging steps, Free Sweet Potatoes and other fables, we feel his devotion and his warmth. Reading A Mule’s Song, The Butterfly Salvationn,Rainbow Dharma, Spring Rhythm, The Sixth Kin and others, we can see even more his spirit of religious dedication. The allegory is “an utterance under the guise of another” and Swie Hian shares with his readers what he has to say by “disguising it” in the fables he has created, a thought-conveying method which in fact, has always been characteristics ofhis creations. Having observed the creative activities of Swie Hian over the years, I am always reminded of a Bodhisattva in ancient time – Asvahosa, who is called “The Eloquent Bhiksu” poet, musician and thinker. If some day Swie Hian begins to compose Rastrapala-like music as well, I would not be surprise at all.