Mar 072009

The morning after Chinese New Year, January 26th, Andy and I woke up bright and early to meet Leo and his family for a visit to a nearby community temple – an absolute must during the New Year holiday.

Not surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones in China with such an idea.

It was, um, peaceful? 😆

As we made our rounds and paid respect at each of the various alters, leaving a stick of incense or two at each, Leo and his wife chatted about the one remaining surprise I still had in store: a visit with one of their close personal friends, Zhang Ji Hai (张济海).

Zhang Ji Hai just happens to be one of China’s particularly famous and respected calligraphers. He’s written characters that’ve been engraved on the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and featured in countless mainstream media outlets. They’re sold by the square inch, commanding outrageously impressive prices. He’s also a high-ranking officer in the Chinese Army – a man of great wealth, power, and influence. And a damn nice guy.

“So, what characters would you like Zhang Ji Hai to write for you?”

😯 !!

For an offer this generous, I had to think of something good – but since my knowledge of Chinese sayings is virtually nonexistent, I asked my hosts for some guidance. We brainstormed. And wouldn’t you know it? Leo’s wife just happened to’ve noticed a phrase that perfectly fit my request, written on a temple wall we’d walked past not ten minutes earlier!

The proverb is 海纳百川, which directly translates to “The Sea Accepts a Hundred Rivers” (as best as I can tell from my knowledge of Chinese characters). The meaning, I’m told, uses water as a metaphor for people – leading to something like “There are many different peoples in this world, but in the end, they are all the same.” It’s also been interpreted to mean “Only after you’ve gone out into the world and gained knowledge and insight from hundreds can you truly consider yourself whole.”

It was perfect.

And here it is, the custom-made final product. Value: approximately $10,000.

I’m waiting to frame it until after I finish renovating my bedroom here in LA (another of my many current works-in-progress).

After hanging out in Zhang’s house for a bit, finishing off a few cups of tea and a plate of Mandarin Oranges (and of course several boxes of firecrackers), Andy and I finally returned home for some much needed rest.

Thank you so much again, to everyone who made my first Chinese New Year an event I won’t soon forget.

Note: The photo above can be found on Zhang Ji Hai’s website, here…plus one more here.

  15 Responses to “A Hundred Rivers, One Sea”

  1. That saying was perfect for you!

  2. It really was 🙂

    If I got any of my facts wrong, feel free to correct me!

  3. 海纳百川 means that all rivers run into sea!Yes,it is a metaphor for people.

    It meants that a man is “心胸宽广,肚量无限,是一个人有修养的表现",sorry to write in Chinese because it is really difficult for me to explain it in English!:)

  4. Awesome, thanx! I was actually wondering what you’d have to say about that 🙂

    Andy? Translation?

  5. Wow…..that was some very complicated and very ambiguous Chinese!!! But let’s give it a try. Literally: “large aspirations, tolerance without limit, is how one who is well rounded presents them self” or somethings like that. I have no idea how those characters indicate this meaning….seems a little loose to me….but I am not Chinese, and a lot of these things aren’t exactly intuitive for us westerners

  6. 我不懂 😀

  7. 哈哈。。。你懂个屁。。。。呵呵! (Ask you teacher about that one)

  8. 哈哈哈,看到这个文章非常高兴:)

  9. 呵呵。A Hundred Rivers, One Sea
    all rivers run into sea

  10. see the sea

  11. Snuh? 😛

  12. purple monkey dishwasher

  13. that picture of you and junior is PERFECT! 😀

  14. Actually, you can also say “Sea is vast because it refuses no rivier”, I think it is more close to what that means in Chinese. 海纳百川, 有容乃大.

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