Sunday, November 27, 2011

Malaysia's historic pearl; Malacca

Malacca is truly one of the historic gems of Malaysia.   What I found out about Malacca is it has "magnetic history".  I am tempted to go on about the rich history but where do you start and where do you end?  If I only begin touching on the history it weaves back to other Portuguese ports like Goa, Cochin, Java and it will then lead you to their explorations ( colonialism and slave trade) in Brazil.  The history is unknowingly magnetic since the buildings themselves are not in great condition but when you start reading up on it it is amazing because you can understand all of European colonialism but reading up on Malacca's history.

At the famous St. Paul's Church my fingers went into the grooves of the carved coat of arms in stone and I wondered what the artists thought when they finished these?  They must have been both grieved and satisfied at the beauty of these gorgeous headstones.  Imagine how many tears fell on these headstones.


Here is the famous “ A Famosa” fort.  Just to think how many ships docked here and were greeted by this one fort.  I can also imagine the thoughts that went through the Sultan’s mind.  Imagine how they felt having lost this port and then having the Dutch and the English come after.  A very interesting history.  You can also imagine their prayers, hopes wishes and tears. "Ruins" make everyone think back and wonder about the conversations, hopes, prayers on both sides.  Now after all those struggles the city went back to Malaysia, the missionaries accomplished their goal in converting some Malaysians to Christianity but I thought to myself where is all that money from the West African slave trade and these fabulous city ports?  Was it worth it?  What can governments and massive corporations learn from studying "ruins"? 
I included the pictures of the St.Paul's cathedral, Formosa fort, some minor pics from around the city of Malacca, and the very cool guitarist who was singing "Welcome to Hotel California".  It was a little eerie like a premonition since he was singing it in the center of the "ruins".  I included a few bad pics of myself with the tombstones.  One of the tombstones with the Skulls & Bones symbol reminded me of a pirates chest I just found.

Driving from Kuala Lumpur to Melacca

Beautiful City Of Melacca

So many of these bicyclists darted around the city adding so much color!
 Below are some pics of the National mosque of Malaysia.  A true wrok of art.  I can't begin to tell you the peaceefulness gained while walking through the pillars.  A few brief facts are;
The Masjid Negara is the national mosque of Malaysia, located in Kuala Lumpur. It has a capacity of 15,000 people and is situated among 13 acres (53,000 m2) of beautiful gardens.

Its key features are a 73-metre-high minaret and an 16-pointed star concrete main roof. The umbrella, synonymous with the tropics, is featured conspicuously - the main roof is reminiscent of an open umbrella, the minaret's cap a folded one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sacred Path: The 13 Ming Tombs

When anyone visits  Beijing the first thing they rush to see is the The Forbidden City and of course the Great Wall.  But something unusual happened to me which gave me some inspiration to to start with the Sacred Path(Shen Dao); A Mausoleum for the 13 Ming Emperors.  I was in the process of moving and I came across an old National Geographic magazine article which my brother has lying around.  On the cover was an article on "Great Khans".  The spectacular article (not unusual for National Geographic) gave a good introduction into the line of Khans from Genghis, Kublai and Ogedei.  The Mongol empire was never my fascination but when I opened up the article and I saw the lone sentinel "Guardian Tortoise" in their capital of Khara koum,  something rushed over me.  I can't explain what feeling it was and words cannot describe it.  But as I saw the only remnant of that vast Empire;  a stone tortoise,  I was amazed but also a little frightened.  I must admit I have never seen it myself but the stone tortoise reminded me what I saw earlier this year when visiting the Sacred Path; a 7 kilometer long path.  A path that was believed to lead these Emperors souls to heaven. 

To say the Sacred Path is beautiful, tranquil, sublime is an understatement.  A word that comes to mind is  "understanding".  It must not have been easy for those Emperors to plan for their deaths and to plan how things would be designed after their deaths with such meticulous precision and carefulness.  While not as famous as Tianamen Square or the Great Wall, Shen Dao or the Sacred Path has a quiet power beyond the others because it takes true power and self control to plan for one's own death and after it. 


 The guardian animals that lined the pathway were a true wonder.  More than their artistic beauty was the the belief system behind it that leaves one in awe. The belief that these guardians would guide the deceased to the upper levels of heaven, stand guard and even switch places at midnight!

So what does the great tortoise guardian of the Mongol Empire have to do with the Ming Mausoleums of the Sacred path? There is no strong connection except that after walking down the path you are lead to a big Pavillion called  the Shengde Stele Pavilion.  Inside is a 100,000 pound stone tortoise with a mammoth size tablet with text reaching to the heavens. Both tortoises have a slab on them with inscriptions. One is beautifully housed in a stone Pavillion while the other lies naked outside in the outdoors.  Both according to East Asian tradition symbolize eternity.   The reverence for the tortoise as one the celestial divine animals is clearly seen here and elsewhere.  I personally felt the tortoise at Karokorum and how it appeared to me by accident had a little more of an effect for me since it stood there as if Fate allowed it to stand there reminding all that all Empires and dynasties are wiped off the planet no matter how much skill your army has.

Everybody will have a different experience when visiting Shen Dao but like all fabulous mausoleums it reminds us about the shortness of time given to us.  There are numerous sites that explain The Sacred Path or the 13 Ming Tombs in depth.  I just mention the effect they had for me.