Friday, 22 April 2011

Hua Tuo华陀 legendary traditional healer of Ancient China

                               Qing Dynasty Block Printed Portrait
                                             of Hua Tuo
Chinese medical practitioners world wide have revered Hua Tuo (145AD-208AD) as their founding guru since 200 AD, when the legendary master practiced medicine with wide usage of herbs and acupuncture to treat the sick, heal wounds, and cure diseases. He was always inculcating good healthy measures for longevity. Hua Tuo left an impeccable legacy of traditional medical practice that had far reaching effect on Asian society till this day. His ethics of practice and his refusal to bow to powerful war lords of China at that time won overwhelming respect from all his contemporaries, protégé and followers, and the general mass.

                                  General Guan Yu 關羽(Guan Gong 關公) receiving
                        treatment from Hua Tuo for an arrow inflicted injury

Sanguozhi, 三國志 (A chronicle of three kingdoms.) An analytical book preceding the more well-known historical novel Sanguo Yanyi, documented many exemplary works of healings of Hua Tuo during the early 3rd century. The author Chen Shou 陳壽, (233AD-297 AD.) a diligent scholar, travelled extensively in China to reach out many country folks so as to complete his works. The legend of Hua Tuo was only one part of his many chapters of the book Sanguo Zhi. Here are some interesting anecdotes on accounts of Hua Tuo’s many famed healings:

A scholar himself, Hua Tuo was a traditional medical physician in and around Xhi Zhou. He was keen on herbal remedy, specialized in internal medicine and the intricate study of longevity. He was well travelled so as to harvest and discover new species of natural herbs in his quest to find cure for complicated sicknesses. The fame for his medical touch knew no boundary and everywhere he went, he was warmly welcome and loved by the general mass.

Upon consuming his prescribed medicine, his patients usually recovered fully in two days. He would pick just one single or two vital points of the human body when he applied acupuncture while treating his patients. They eventually recovered fully and would not have to worry about recurrence. He induced unconsciousness by feeding patient with his own concoctions of anesthetic potions, when there was a need for surgery.  After a month of convalescence, his patient would be healthy enough to go on living normally.

                      Ancient portrait showing vital points of human
                         body for acupuncture treatment of illness

Well into the pregnancy of six months, a district officer’s wife was having unbearable pain at her abdomen. Hua Tuo measured her pause and instantly knew that the unborn fetus was dead. He induced the miscarriage by offering the poor woman some potions, and sure enough, no sooner a still-born baby was discharged. Hua Tuo was quite blunt in telling the patients his diagnosis. He found that one local clansman’s limbs were feeble and was bedridden for months. His lips were dry and cracked, and he could not hear nor talk. Besides that the person had difficulty in pissing.  The master healer told the patient’s family to feed him with freshly cooked hot rice. “If he sweats after eating the rice, he will be okay; and if he does not sweat, then he will die a painful death within three days.” The wretched man died while sobbing after three days as his body did not respond positively. Hua Tor told the family that the man’s internal organs had already failed before he sought treatment. 

An officer of the palace complained to Hua Tuo that the royal medical physician had applied acupuncture on his stomach the day before, but he still was not well, unable to sleep and was coughing the whole night through. After careful examination Hua Tuo told the patient that the needle in use had pieced through his liver, not onto his stomach where it hurt badly. He declared that there was no cure, the man would not be eating well and would die very shortly. The palace staff died five days later.


One day Hua Tuo was intercepted by a man seeking treatment for his father’s sickness, while he was out ridding in a horse-pulled carriage. He visited the patient at his bedside and realized that the poor chap was unable to swallow food. Master Hua told the family: ‘There was a shop in town that sold mashed yam and vinegar; go get them!’ They quickly bought and fed their father the liquid mixture. Almost immediately the older man threw out some large worms that had been thriving in his intestines; the worms were also found in abundance in his stool. He was promptly cured. Soon after his recovery the family visited Hua Tuo’s residence with lavish gifts. They were shocked to find the old master healer had jars in display at home that contained preserved parasitic worms of all kinds, soaked in crystal clear rice wine.    

                                     Modern day Acupuncture treatment

Hua Tuo was approached by the son of a powerful and snobbish governor to treat his ailing father. Followed by an extensive examination, he found an unusual formula to end the sufferer’s misery. After whispering to the younger man, he demanded loudly an exorbitant fee for his service, for which he was given readily. He left with his assistants without leaving any prescription, neither any medical potion nor acupuncture work, but a scornful letter of contempt attacking the patient of his lavish life style, as well as insulting him without reservation. The old man flew into a wild rage and sent out instantly his guards to track down Hua Tuo with order to kill him. Of course the order was stopped by his son as the younger man had been told that what his father needed was to become angry. Once he had cooled down after his outburst of fury, he would be cured.

                              Ming Dynasty block printed drawing of Cao Cao
                           The Tyrannical War Lord of Northern Wei Kingdom

The reigning ruler at that time, Cao Cao, (a.k.a. Wei Wu Ti –Emperor of Wei Kuo ‘Kingdom of Wei’, born 155AD, died 220AD.) had long heard about Hua Tuo’s many miraculous healings, so he sent out his guards to seek Hua Tuo’s help to attend to his perpetual migraine.  After his initial diagnosis, Hua Tuo told the suffering emperor that it needed a fairly long period of time of meticulous care, observation and treatment to rid of his nagging pain. He carried out surgery on Cao Cao’s head and removed a small tumor that was the source of the emperor’s headaches. The emperor was at first aghast and doubtful over Hua Tuo’s ability to relief him of his misery. Just looking at the latter’s array of acupuncture needles and small surgery scalpels were enough to simmer him with further stress. After Cao Cao’s seemingly recovery, Hua Tuo was retained in the palace ground and not allowed to leave. The medical master was reluctant just to attend to one person’s need for medical and health care, particularly to that of a powerful war lord. After all he was used to spend his life travelling all over the country in search of rare herbs, finding more remedies and rendering medical treatment to the sick and the poor.

                    Dried herbs and traditional medical ingredients
                                 on sale in modern day China

Hua Tuo told the tyrannical emperor that he had been away from his home for a long time, and he missed his wife who had fallen ill. Cao Cao relented and granted Hua Tuo a short period of leave to attend to his wife; though he suspected the medical master making up a story. After thirty days, the suspicious emperor did not see the return of Hua Tuo to the palace. Obviously he was not pleased with the defiance of this herbalist physician. Cao Cao sent out his palace officers and guards to check what had incurred the non-showing up of Hua Tuo’s return. He gave the order to the fact finding team that if Hua Tuo’s wife were to be genuinely ill, then Hua Tuo would be bestowed with 40 sacks of beans and grains. Otherwise he should be arrested at once and be brought back to the palace. Upon arriving at Hua Tuo’s cottage, the team found that the medical master’s wife was well and very much alive. He was promptly arrested and brought to Cao Cao’s presence.  In his great anger and annoyance, Cao Cao ordered the execution of the master healer despite the many pleads for leniency from some of his palace officers and advisors.

While awaiting execution, Hua Tuo handed over a medical journal which documented his works, and research of his herbal formulae and healings to the prison warden, telling him that the precious book could save lives. Fearing possible retribution, the latter refused to accept. The disheartened master healer had no choice but burnt the records of his toiled labor. He died in his fifties. After the death of Hua Tuo, Cao Cao began to regret his unwise move as his migraine was slowly yet surely coming back; he felt some tingling pain brewing in his head. Still, in the usual manner of his obstinacy and conceit, he exclaimed that there were hundreds, in not thousands of good medical practitioners in the country who would be too willing to treat him. The emperor lamented that all Hua Tuo wanted was to gain fame by treating him, and even if he did not order the killing, Hua Tuo would never had cured him thoroughly. Eventually the remorseful ruler admitted that only Hua Tuo could alleviate his health condition, but then it was already too late. The real excruciating agony for Cao Cao came when his son Zhang Xu fell gravely ill. No other herbalist, traditional medical physician and healer could nurse him back to good health. A distraught Cao Cao yelled and grunted to watch his son dying of a painful, slow and tormenting death. He whimpered and whispered in soliloquy: “I really regret killing Hua Tuo; my callous decision costs me the life of my dear son.” Cao Cao died shortly after his son Zhang Xu’s demise. He was succeeded by his second son Cao Pi who posthumously crowned Cao Cao “Wei Wu Ti” as the founder emperor of the Wei Kuo (Kingdom of Wei).

                          An old Chinese traditional drugstore

Till this day, whenever one visits a Chinese traditional drugstore, it is common to see a hand drawn portrait of Hua Tuo hanging on the wall, even in modern day Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, as well as in other parts of South East Asia with Chinese communities. That is how the master herbalist, healer, traditional medical physician was respected and revered as a legendary character in the Chinese society all over Asia.

Article written and translated by Alan CY Kok with reference to Sanguozhi, 三國志,
an analytical book compiled by Chen Shou 陳壽of the 3rd Century, ancient China.
Portraits were obtained from Wikipedia Chinese.

Alan CY Kok

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A visit to Taman Negara-The National Park, Kuala Tahan, Pahang.

                                                       Sg Tembeling Jetty

                              The long boat that will take you to Taman Negara-
                                            no toilet break for 3 hrs

In May 2005 I joined a group of nature enthusiasts to visit Taman Negara, our National Park in Kuala Tahan, Pahang. After a smooth 3 hrs drive on board a coach we arrived comfortably at the Kuala Tembeling Jetty for a lunch break before proceeding to the National Park by means of a motorized long boat. We rode for 3 hrs along the meandearing river of Sungei Tembeling leisurely. Much to the chagrin of some of our members who ate heartily a sumptuous lunch before boarding, there was no toilet break. We saw colorful flora amidst the green forest at both sides of the river bank. There were sandbars, shallow water ways, smaller distributaries, small Orang Asli (The indigenous people) settlements and some jetties along the way. A herd of buffaloes submerged their whole bodies in the murky river with only their heads exposed above water. Our boatmen knew how to avoid the buffaloes; otherwise we could fall into the river readily soaking wet, with their massive bodies posing threats to boats plying the narrow water ways.

                                              Seri Mutiara Restaurant

The comfortable Chalet that accommodates 4

We arrived at 4 stars Mutiara Resort of Kuala Tahan, by the bank of the river Sungei Tahan and were led to our camp site to rent tents. There were few sizes available with RM14 for 2 campers and RM20 for 4s. However it was most uncomfortable as the tents were rather small and stuffy. It was made worse by frequent visits of carefree wild boars that roamed the parameters of the camp sites, scouting for food. Apart from that the menaces from the crawlies could not be ignored too. Large headed ants, millipedes and other unwelcoming insects were plenty to invade our sleeping tents. I ended up sleeping at the fair priced dormitories at the park resort. There were 108 Malay styled chalets and bungalows amidst the 6 hectare eco-resort available for booking, with prices ranging from RM450 per night per chalet (for 4 persons) and above. 

Wild Ginger flower and plant

150yrs old Bintangor tree

                            Foot long centipede crawling in the night  

We were so glad to be given a complimentary buffet dinner at the Seri Mutiara Restaurant by Tourism Pahang. After the dinner we were ushered to a corner to view a slide show put up by a friendly Encik Yunus of the Wildlife and National Park of Pahang. The state is the largest of Peninsula Malaysia, with its two-third of its 35,960 sq km covered with tropical rain forest. The National Park spreads a whooping 4,343sq km of virgin jungles. Here it is the best place on earth to watch and study the hundreds of species of rare and endangered flora and fauna. For the adventurous, there are hills and caves, streams and rivers, rapids and slow flowing water falls to explore. Taman Negara was founded since 1939 when it was named King George V National Park. Subsequently it was re-named Taman Negara when Malaysia gained its independence.

                                  Monitor lizard waiting for squirrel?

                         Exhausted after reaching the peak of Bukit Teresek

                            The Canopy walk path is rather narrow

Looking at Sg Tahan from atop the Canopy walk

Imagine the leech could reach the foot for blood sucking through the sock and not alerting the victim. What about girls who wear low waist pants?

                                      Dwarfed by giant Yam Plants     
We engaged a local tour guide for a night jungle walk into the forest at the brink of the resort. The one and half hours walk through the totally dark trail was fun-filled. With touch lights in hands, we were shown centipedes, cocoons, spiders, stick insects, and other unusual crawlies along the way. We encountered some huge trees; the Bintagor tree was 150 yrs old. The most rewarding for the night walk was the sighting of a dear family; there were 3 large deer of the rusa Sambar species when we spotted them from the height of a watch tower. They seemed to be unfazed at us shining strong beams at them. They were here at one of the salt lick areas of the park. We were told that the wild animals which frequented the salt lick areas were sun bears, deer, tigers, panthers, wild boars, tapirs, and some smaller civet cat families.

                                    Green chameleon stayed motionless

                                Wild Jungle Chempedak fruits abundant
                                           but what about the taste?

The next morning we engaged the same guide Encik Rahim for an arduous and exhilarating mountain climbing that lasted for 3 hrs. The ascent was tough with many undergrowth shrubs and fallen trees that blocked our way. The 1st view from Bukit Teresek at 275m overlooking the Sungei Tahan with the backdrop of the mountain a distance away was simply breathtaking. Bukit Teresek peaked at 344m above ground level.

                                                   Perhilitan posters

We then descended to another trail that led us to the Canopy Walk. It was one of the longest walkway in the world above the canopy of trees. It began with a 250m long bridge in 1992 with 3 platforms. Now it had been extended to 530m with 10 platforms. Ropes and planks bound tightly and tied to supports on towering giant Tualang trees form the bridge walk 40meters high in mid air. Visitors paid RM5 for a go at the canopy walk, with 5m intervals from each walker.

                       Hungry Mother boar came with baby piglet univited

                        The camping ground where wild boars intruded
                                           even before night fall

The Interpretic Centre of Taman Negara serves as a information centre for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of the country. The centre educates us with slides, pictorials, diagrams and posters, articles and photos the functions and importance of Perhilitan(The Department of Wildlife and national Parks).

                                  Lubok Simpon fresh water playground

A short 600m away from the entrance of the Mutiara Resort, the Lubok Simpon water area provides a natural fresh water escape for the city folks who love to soak themselves in the shallow, nature cooled water surrounding. The sandy banks of the stream are strewn with pebbles, with small fishes swimming in the shallow waters without fear of being caught. This is the popular spot for children and their families.

                               Where is the bloody bus?

When it was time to leave Taman Negara after our 2 nights stay , we crossed the narrow river of Sungei Tahan on board small boats to the other side of the river where the coach stood waiting to bring us back to where we came from. It was another 3 hours ride before we called it a day of exhaustive expedition.

Alan CY Kok

Friday, 15 April 2011

Satirical comic artiste Zhu Der Yon telling us what's life.

 看完後 , 相信你也會有所感觸 .....
Meaningful comics...after you've read,
you'll feel the impact of the content.

with Translation as you scroll further:

 I skydived down 11 floors from here...........



I skydived down 11 floors from here............

at 10th floor, I saw an usually loving couple fighting,

at 9th floor, I saw strong willed Peter sobbing,

at 8th floor, I saw Ah Y Mei caught her fiance on the bed with her 
best friend.

at 7th floor, I saw Dan Dan swollowing anti-depression pills.

at 6th floor, I saw Ah Sin going through 7 sets of newspapers, looking for employment.

at 5th floor, I saw the respectable teacher Wang putting on his wife's lingerie.

at 4th floor, I saw Rose and her man at each other's throats to settle
for a separation.

at 3rd floor, I saw Uncle Y yearning for visitors.

at 2nd floor, I saw Lily starring at her wedding pic when her husband
had gone missing 6 months after her marriage.

Before I jumped, I thought I had the most problems in life and
I was most miserable. Now I had witnessed the problems and
suffering of my neighbours, I felt that I fared ain't that bad
after all.

                                   Re-enactment pic

Now they were looking down from their windows, watching me
lying there on the ground motionlessly. After they witnessed
what had happened to me, they might be thinking that their
plights, problems, suffering and miseries were'nt that bad
after all.


We keep hearing from wise people of the past telling us:

So long one's alive, live a life that's
complacent, contented and be happy.
What say you?

古有明訓 :
活在當下 , 知足常樂 !你說是嗎 ?

Translated by
Alan CY Kok

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The poppy is also a flower

The scenic, perpetual serenity of the Northern Thailand lures tourists of the world to flock here over and over again.

Bobby was on his way to Chiengmai from Bangkok when he chanced upon Junko unexpectedly in an incident that led to a strong bond between two of them. He was way past the ancient city of Ayuthia, riding a 10 year old Honda motorcycle with 250 c.c. power when he heard a faint voice crying for help in English. ‘Help! Help!’ It was getting dark at around 7 pm. He managed to stop the motorcycle on time, turned his head and looked back to see a woman crawling out of the bush from the road side.  


Bobby walked towards this desolate lady with caution, suspecting there could be a nasty trap. He stumbled backwards as the woman stood up; he was shocked to see her condition. She was covered with mud all over her body, there were conspicuous cuts on her face and limbs; looked like she had rolled down the slope by the road side into the river below. Bobby realized that she was a young Asian woman of age about twenty from her almost childish facial movement and hand language. Apart from being dirty and unkempt, she seemed alright with minor injuries, though obviously she had been attacked or even raped, Bobby gathered.

Bobby began to talk to her in all languages he knew but all he got was a blank look from the wretched young woman. He tried Thai, English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, and even Malay to communicate with her but failed to shed some light regarding her encounter. Poor girl, Bobby thought, she knew so little. After sometime Bobby realized that she was Japanese when she pulled out her soiled and soaked passport from her waist. I should have known earlier, Bobby cursed himself. Bobby knew Chinese Mandarin well and with Kanji of Chinese characters, he began to realize what an ordeal the poor lady had gone through. She had been robbed and hit with fists, fortunately not with a stick. Being raped? She did not want to reveal. The pain she endured was obvious on her facial expression. Bobby needed to send her to a clinic nearby.

                                                     Thai hilly country road scene

Earlier in the afternoon she paid with American dollars for her meal in a restaurant in downtown Ayuthia. She inadvertently and carelessly exposed her wallet with her stash of US currency and that invited greedy glances and eventual trouble. She nonchalantly accepted invitation to visit a holy shrine nearby though it was beginning to get dark. Before long she was pushed down the slope with overgrown grass into the river below. Fortunately it was a small and shallow mountain stream. Her paled white cheeks were bruised at few places when she climbed up the slope with her remaining strength to escape from being drown. Soon Bobby got her some medication from the local drugstore as all clinics there were closed for the day.

Outstanding array of rolling hills, grassy valleys, and elegant peaks - as described by photographer NB Ching when he took the stunning pictures.

Ridding pillion, she held Bobby tightly with her tiny body frame and arms; Bobby thought: She really had a bad day. They ended up in a cheap little hotel room further down the road into a village. She had pleaded emotionally with Bobby to share the room with her as she had nothing apart from her passport, after being robbed. After a simple Thai styled dinner of vegetables and fish, and a bath, she slept right away. Bobby was bemused, looking at her curled up sleeping posture in a fetal position. Her short hair partially covered her pale face; Bobby could see her budding breasts beneath her thin satin blouse, she was bra-less  Her thighs and legs were exposed with her wearing a pair of hot pants he had bought her earlier. Bobby did not take advantage of her, as a matter of fact those insidious thought never crossed his mind. He covered her with a blanket and with the cool mountain air around, he too entered dreamland.

                                          Bountiful Harvest at the poppy field
Bobby had earlier begun his journey northwards from Malaysia. His weight was a hefty 80 kg since his hey days as a body builder; but now his sturdy body and muscle were nothing like what he had 10 years ago. After all he was already 48 years old and a stinking middle aged man; that was what he called himself. His marriage of 15 years was on the rock and his estranged wife had agreed to a mutual separation and thence to be followed by a divorce. They had no children after many years of marriage. There seemed to be no end to his scourges as he was involved with a fight during a shouting match at his work place where he was a media account manager. He was promptly suspended from his job as the person he punched was his immediate boss, the general manager. Soon after he buried his beloved pet dog, he got wind of the demise of his former band member. Suresh had been his room-mate before he married, was his best friend and travelling partner, and a faithful companion to whom he could confide in. Bobby was heart broken when he attended his pal’s funeral; there and then he decided to leave the country for a break. He was laughing at himself for riding the rented Honda 250 as he began his journey northwards. It was such a far cry from his Norton 750 he owned 10 years ago. Hopefully he could reach the northern most part of Thailand in 5 days, more than 1,000 km away; deep inside his heart he silently wished.

The next day they began to communicate to understand each other, using sign language and lots of scribbling of Kanji over small note pads. To console and comfort Junko, and to break the ice between them, Bobby began to hum a well-known Japanese song ‘Subaru – Star’, make famous by late songstress Theresa Teng. She sang along and soon after they were behaving like buddies.

Northern Thailand, the hilly dwellings and fine weather make this place a tourism hot spot  particularly to the Westerners.                 
                                               The Poppy Field

‘Why are you going to Chiengmai?’ She asked.
‘To see the poppy plant’ He answered coolly.
‘What’s to see of the plant?’
‘The poppy plant’s flower is very pretty.’
‘The poppy is also a flower?’ She asked naively.
‘Yes, it is. Then the fruit will yield the deadly heroin!’ Bobby was thinking about where he could drop her to bid her farewell.
‘I want to come!’ She demanded.
‘Heck no, better not!’
‘I want to come!’ She insisted like a pampered little girl.

                                Pretty poppy flower                       

Junko reminded Bobby of his first love in his teenage years. She was sweet and rather cute, and without inhibition, touching and hitting Bobby whenever she liked; She was the happy-go-lucky type, naïve and unpretentious, like a wild orchid plant in a tropical rain forest valley. She was in her twenties. He accepted her companionship and they merrily continued their journey with her riding pillion.

                     The poppy plant that yields the deadly heroin

 ‘You want to know about my father? The stars reminded me of my father.’ Junko said, while gazing at the sky filled with twinkling stars. ‘What about your father?’ Bobby responded. With tears rolling down her still pale cheeks she told Bobby that her mother had just died. She was in pain for quite some time as she refused medical treatment for blood cancer. It might be better for her as the old lady had been constantly beaten by her quiet yet ruthless father.  Her parents married in their early thirties and they had only Junko as their child. Though her ‘Oto-San’ father seldom beat her but she hated her father all the same. She loathed him for treating her beloved mother so badly, even at a time when she was dying. In her eyes her father was a quiet and stern man, but turned moron after a few rounds of sake (Japanese rice wine).  He would became violent and unreasonable and spoke some lingo even Junko could not make up if it was Japanese. When the ordeal was over her father came back to his senses, he became withdrawn and would not utter a word, and would never apologize to his wife and child for causing such dreadful misery. 

‘Father was an electrician all his life.’ Junko continued.
‘Oh, your father was so cruel, was he in the war, the Pacific War, 2nd world war?’
‘No, you silly, he was a kid then. But grandfather was fighting in North Eastern China.’
‘Grandmother told me.’ She continued. ‘During the cold winter days, grandfather even ate human flesh.’, ‘what? Murderous beast he was! Such inhuman rogue!’. Bobby stood up and shouted.
‘Your grandfather lived to tell you all these?’ Bobby held his breath and anger and asked.
‘No’ she paused. ‘One day we saw on television, grandfather was interviewed by a foreign news reporter. He confessed about his killing of helpless Chinese farmers, eating their flesh to remain ferocious so to commit more atrocities during the war.’ ‘My mother hugged me and cried together with my grandmother as we listened to the translation.’ Junko kept on talking. “Grand father was such a kind old man to us; it was hard to accept that he was such a heartless killer in the war.’ ‘Are you trying to say that your father inherited the tendency to be cruel and violent from your grandfather?’, ‘Maybe…’ Junko replied softly. ‘During mother’s funeral, father broke down as he threw a handful of soil into the grave.’ She continued ‘I couldn’t believe that it was the same hand that beat mother senseless. I would never forgive my father.’ For the next half a day, they did not speak to each other.

                                    A Japanese soldier in WWII

Bobby enlisted the help of a local tour guide to fulfill their mission. At the Thai tribal village about 800 meters above sea level, they visited the poppy field which was set up for the purpose of tourism. While the poppy flower was red, the fruit was purple and green in color when ripped; a swipe with a blade on it would cause it to bleed a liquid that could be processed into the deadly drug of heroin. Bobby wanted to express the beauty and poison elements of the poppy to Junko but he ran out of note pads. Whilst she lay on the slope of the field in deep thought, watching the sunset. That was a pretty sight; Bobby quietly snapped a picture of her with his SLR camera mounted with long zoom lens.

Half way through a sumptuous dinner, Junko’s pale face became slightly red as she coughed violently. She rushed to the toilet where she vomited few times. When she came back she seemed to be short of breath; Bobby saw some traces of blood at the corner of her mouth. He was unduly worried. Was it the sea food that give her problems, or had she taken too much food since she was very hungry? Did she need to see a doctor? Bobby asked himself in quick succession. Junko wrote on the table cloth that all she wanted was to sleep and rest. Bobby kept her company since she was not well. He was thinking of getting a Thai traditional massage in a Chiengmai spa, perhaps with a mug of beer or two the evening would be perfect before he slept. He sighed, all these ideas would have to be cancelled or postponed until he say goodbye to Junko. In the middle of night he heard the poor lady murmured loudly in incomprehensive Japanese; she was having nightmares. Shortly Bobby felt her body came close to him under the blanket, hugging him, like a little girl looking for sense of security from the father. He could not move much and soon he fell into slumber land too.The next morning she lowered her head when greeting Bobby, like some one who had done something wrong. “Bob-san, Sori, tsumimasen!” Bobby stepped forward and smiled broadly, giving her a gentle hug.

                                                          Sad Parting

At Chiengmai’s international airport, Bobby bought her a one-way ticket with his credit card to Narita Airport, Japan. He emptied a handful of US currency to her small new handbag as she muttered a long stretch of Japanese words to his ears knowing well Bobby would not understand a bit, in between sobs. It was a very touching, lingering and sad parting. They exchanged addresses and kisses before she boarded the plane for her home.

Back home to Malaysia, Bobby was duly informed of his demotion since the investigation for his misbehavior in the company was completed. ‘Ha! Demoted at the age of 48! I might as well resign.’ He grumbled. Soon Bobby found himself a job with a production crew of a television channel as director. He liked the new job, though it was equally hectic and he was paid less than his previous employment. Just about the same time, his lawyer informed him that papers were ready for him to sign for an official divorce. He promptly and gladly did.

There was no news of Junko until two months later. He received the precious mail through the post; the melancholic theme of the content was apparent. A hand drawn poppy flower was scribbled on top left corner of the envelope and one withered poppy flower at the back. Bobby felt something was not right as he hurried to look for a friend for the translation of the letter. Amidst the lines of Japanese alphabets of Hiragana and Katakana, Kanji and even Romanized Japanese words, with the translation right below them, Bobby read the script in English eagerly yet slowly:

Dear Bob,

I wrote this letter from the hospital bedside. I am a terminally ill cancer patient just like my mother was, except I am much younger to suffer the sickness. I banished myself to travel alone to other parts of the world to seek solace and the source of my misery. I have come to terms with my father who had accepted Christ, now he goes to a church at our local prefecture. By believing in Lord Jesus Christ, he had come clear of his conscience and shadow of guilt for ill treating mother; he also sought the pardon for grandfather’s war crimes from the Lord. I have forgiven my father since.

I felt better after I bumped into you. You are such a wonderful man. Thank you for being so nice to me. But at the end I was still weak and could not recover even with your care and concern. By the time you received this letter, I am already far gone with death to another world. You should look after yourself and cherish our good time we had together; and live on to be happy always. I miss you. Sayonara!

Your good friend,
Junko Takeuchi

Holding the letter Bobby could not help but broke down instantly. The translator friend was shocked to see a chunky man like Bobby would sob like a kid. He left Bobby alone for a couple of minutes for his emotional release.

Bobby was sad for the demise of his young friend he met during his travel; a twist of fate that brought them together. He was awed by his own outburst of feeling for this unfortunate Japanese lady. ‘If I had known her condition earlier, I would not have left her go.’ He murmured quietly,’ On the other hand, I could not help her much too.’  He continued with his deep thought ‘Perhaps that was what she wanted, hiding her sickness from me; poor Junko, you had suffered so much.’

                                     Candle burns to mark a passing life


Friends and buddies,

I translated this short story from an outline of an article Ding Yun wrote; the original text was published by Sin Chew Jit Poh press on Sept. 9th 2008. I should thank Mr. Ding (Not his actual name) for bringing us this touching romantic story. I had amended the sequences here and there and added more story content to my whims, particularly at the second half of the story. The general story lines are still intact. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading it. Your comments are always welcome.

As Always,
Yours truly,

Alan CY Kok