Water in Asian Culture

IMG_20150810_105020_resizedWater surrounds our life.  It occupies 71% of the earth.  On average, it composes 65% of our bodies.  Without water, no life can exist.

In the Chinese classic, The Tao De Ching, water is a metaphor for the Tao.

Water is good at benefiting all things but does not complete with them.
There is no substitute for it.

It dwells in places which people dislike
Therefore, it is close to the Dao

In dwelling, he is good at choosing a place
In thinking, he is good a being deep
In associating with others, he is good at practicing humanity,
In speech, he is trustworthy
In governing, he is good at management
In doing things, he is good at using his ability.
In activity, he is good at moving at the right time.

Only because he does not compete, he will be free from blame.

Lao Tzu
Translated by Professor Lu-Sheng Chong

Water always flows to the lowest place as that is its nature.  Flowing, it provides its benefits and moves on.  It reflects and conforms to the shape of its surroundings.  It has the ability to be in three forms, steam, liquid, and ice as it takes on the nature of the environment.  This is the flexibility of water.

Therefore, in Asian culture, water is a symbol of money.  The lowest point, where the water pools is the source of money.  Hence, many business districts are near water.

In Japan, the word mizu shyobai, literally translated as water business or “water trade”, refers to the night life and entertainment business.  These types of business are unpredictable whereby success and failure come rapidly like the flow of water.

I have recently been re-reading the Tao De Ching.  It gives me guidance in life and I really like how it captures the essence of water to how we should live our lives.  I don’t know why but it seems that everyday something unexpected is happening to not only the world but to our individual lives.  Nothing seems predictable anymore.  So, I find it’s good to think about the characteristics of water.  Water reminds us to go with the flow, help others without expecting anything in return, be flexible and be free.

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