Sunday, October 05, 2008

On Dr. Ong Hean Tatt: Part II

Because of Ong's academic training, I am very curious about his amazing career transformation from a plant culture specialist to a self-proclaimed chinese culture specialist.

To understand this conversion, it is maybe useful to briefly look at Ong's publication.

Phase I: Ong's Scientific Publications (1972 -- 1990)

Ong Hean Tatt (1972) Physiology of the responses of plant tissues to changes in water economy, PhD thesis, University of Malaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (1976) Studies into tissue culture of oil palm. Proc. Malaysian International Agricultural Oil Palm Conference, Kuala Lumpur (14-17 June 1976)

Ong Hean Tatt (1976) Development of in vitro culture techniques in MARDI as tools for plant propagation, Proc. National Plant Propagation Symposium, Kuala Lumpur (19-21 July, 1976)

Ong Hean Tatt (1977) Water stress action on the isoenzymes patterns of proteins and peroxidases of excised tomato cotyledons, Proc. 4th Malaysian Biochemical Society Conference, Kuala Lumpur

Ong Hean Tatt (1978) "In vitro" culture technology in agriculture in year 2000, in H. F. Chin, I. C. Enoch, W. Mohamad Othman (eds), Food and Agriculture Malaysia 2000.

Ong Hean Tatt (1978) Roles of hormones in the responses of excised tomato cotyledons to mannitol induced water stress, Biologia Planatarum 20(5), pp. 318 - 323.

Ong Hean Tatt (1978) Selective shift in the metabolic pathways of excised tomato cotyledons in response to mannitol induced water stress, Biologia Planatarum 20(5), pp. 324 - 329.

Ong Hean Tatt (1978) Gel electrophoresis patterns of proteins and peroxidases of excised tomato cotyledons subjected to mannitol induced water stress, Biologia Plantarum 20(5), pp. 330 - 334. (Plant Science Branch, MARDI)

Ong Hean Tatt (1980) Flowering of the tropical orchids, Proc. 3rd ASEAN Orchid Congress, UPM, Serdang.

Ong Hean Tatt (1980) Effects of actinomycin D, cycloheximide and kinetin on ribonuclease and beta-fructofuranosidase in water stressed tomato cotyledons, Biologia Plantarum 22(4), pp. 245 - 248.

Ong Hean Tagg (1980) Effects of mannitol induced water stress on the ribosomes of intact leaves of Azuki bean seedlings, Biologia Plantarum 22(4), pp. 249 - 254.

Yap Siaw Yang, Ong Hean Tatt (1989) Formulation of aquaculture development at an ox-bow lake in Malaysia: economic feasibility analysis, Aquaculture Research 20(4), pp. 427 - 439. (Sang-Dua Co. Ltd, Subang Jaya)

Yap Siaw Yang, Ong Hean Tatt (1990) The effects of agrochemicals on an aquatic ecosystem : A case study from the Krian River basin, Malaysia, The Environmentalist 10(3), pp. 189 - 202. (Institute for Advanced Studies, UM)

Phase II: Ong's Publications on Chinese Culture and Business Management (1988 -- )

Ong Hean Tatt (1988) The Amazing Scientic Basis of Feng Shui, Millbank Books, Ltd.

Ong Heat Tatt (1991) The Chinese Pakua: An Expose, Pelanduk Publications, Petaling Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (1993) Chinese animal symbolisms, Pelanduk Publications, Petaling Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (1994) Secrets of ancient Chinese art of motivation, Pelanduk Publications, Petaling Jaya.

Ong Heat Tatt (1997) Chinese Black Magic: An Expose, Millbank Books, Ltd.

Ong Hean Tatt, Yap Sin Tian, Takashi Kawatani (1997) Asian Winning Strategies for Modern and Global Business, Synergy Books, Kuala Lumpur.

Ong Hean Tatt (1997) Beyond Sun Tzu's Art of War: The Confucian "Way", S. Abdul Majeed & Co., Kuala Lumpur.

Ong Hean Tatt (1999) Chinese plant symbolisms : a guide to the symbolic value of plants in Chinese culture, Pelanduk Publications, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2003) Sun Tzu: Seizing strategic business opportunities and advantages, Star Publications (M) Berhad, Petaling Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2004) Hang Tuah's Strategy Mind: Strategies of Management Leadership & Business Success Secrets of the Malacca Sultanate, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2005) Haunting in Natural Landscape: Science and Feng Shui, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (year published unknown) Confucius Ching Yang Feng Shui: For Site Selection & Building.

Ong Hean Tatt (year published unknown) Scientific And Statistical Evidence For Feng Shui.

Ong Hean Tatt (year published unknown) Landscape Feng Shui Secrets of Xue Xin Fu (雪心赋).

Ong Hean Tatt; Chan Seng Siang (year published unknown) Landscape Feng Shui of Han Lung Jing (撼龙经), Vinlin Press.

Ong Hean Tatt (2006) Scientific Mechanisms Of Chi And Sha: The Feng Shui Energies, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2007) Scientific Feng Shui for Bedroom, Love and Marriage, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2007) Scientific Statistical Proof Of Chinese Astrology, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

Ong Hean Tatt (2008) Global Strategies of Cheng Ho's Seven Voyages, GUI Management Centre, Subang Jaya.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

On Dr. Ong Hean Tatt: Part I

Dr. Ong Heat Tatt is a botanist specializes in plant physiology. He was trained at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya in the late sixties. In 1972, Ong completed his research on the physiology of the responses of plant tissues to changes in water economy and was awarded a PhD degree. However, the way I got to know Ong is via a book on Chinese culture written by him.

The title of the book is The Chinese Pakua: An Expose. I was deeply disturbed by some of the arguments expounded in the book, in which Ong, based on a book by Kang and Nelson, errorneously associate the origin of some of the Chinese characters with the Biblical stories.

Following Kang and Nelson, Ong sectionalized the Chinese character "禁" (meaning forbidden) to the following components: "木" (tree) + "木" (tree) + "示" (God/divinity) and proceed to explain the character as follows:
God created two trees in the Garden, and He forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruits of one of the tree.
Anyone equipped with some basic training in Chinese lexicography would definitely scoff at this nonsense.

Actually, "禁" is an ideogrammic assembly of two pictographs: "林" (forest) + "示" (God/divinity). According to Xu Shan (徐山), it should be explained in this way:
In ancient times, religious ceremony conducted in woods/forest is a sacred activity. Only certain groups of people are allowed to participate. Commoner is strictly prohibited.
[See Xu Shan (2003) Note on the Word "Jin", Journal of Southern Yangtze University (Humanities & Social Sciences) 2(5), p. 68; Abstract: This paper explains the form meaning of xiaozhuan Jin (禁), with a conclusion that the associative compound character Jin is made up of two parts: Lin (林) and Shi (示). The explaination of character Jin as a pictophonetic character in Shuowen (说文) is incorrect. The form meaning of Jin is to offer a sacrifice to gods or ancestors in the woods, and the original meaning of the word Jin means the place of woods where a ceremony is held is the forbidden area, where the ordinary people who are not related to the ceremony are forbidden to enter; 徐山 (2003) 释“禁”, 江南大学学报(人文社会科学版) 2(5), p. 68; 摘要:文章分析了“禁”字的小篆形体,其形体为“从林,从示”的会意字,《说文》将“禁”字分析为“从示,林声”的形声字,不确。“禁”的形体义为在树林中举行祭祀活动,而“禁”, 一词的本义是指该祭祀场所的“林”为禁地,即一般的非祭祀人员不可入内]

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wuxing and Compatibility Coefficient: Part III

If the xing were to be arranged in a clockwise manner according to Dong's numerical order, we have the following pentagon of wuxing.

Interestingly, pentagon is the only polygon for which number of constructive relationship (number of sides) equals the number of destructive relationship (number of diagonals). This is easily proven since the only solution to the following equation:

is n = 5. Now, it is useful for a computer programmer to introduce a coefficient which can be used to compute the compatibility of any two given xing without having to refer to Dong's pentagon.

The three numerical values of compatibility coefficient cp (namely -1, 0, 1) are to be interpreted as destructive, neutral, and constructive, respectively. A convenient way to compute cp is to use the following equation:

For example, in the case of wood xing and fire xing, we have cp(0,1) = 1, a constructive relationship. In the case of fire xing and water xing, we have cp(1,4) = -1, a destructive relationship.

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Wuxing and Compatibility Coefficient: Part II

The first person in China to explain wuxing (五行) in term of the principle of mutual construction was probably Dong Zhongshu (董仲舒), a Western Han philosopher (around 135 BC).

In Chunqiu Fanlu, Fasicle 11, Chapter 42, (春秋繁露, 卷第十一, 五行之义第四十二), he wrote
There are five xing in the heaven: the first is Jupiter (wood), the second is Mars (fire), the third is Saturn (earth), the fourth is Venus (metal), and the fifth is Mercury (water). Jupiter (wood) is the first of the five xing, Mercury (water) is the last, and Saturn (earth) is in the middle, this is the heavenly order. Wood begets fire, fire begets earth, earth begets metal, metal begets water, and water begets wood, just like the father-and-son relationship. (天有五行:一曰木,二曰火,三曰土,四曰金,五曰水。木,五行之始也,水,五行之终也,土,五行之中也,此其天次之序也。木生火,火生土,土生金,金生水,水生木,此其父子也。)
The fact that wood is assigned the first place in that order is probably because of autotrophic nature of the plants (and hence wood). Following Dong's numerical order, we may assign a number ε to the five xing are follows:

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wuxing and Compatibility Coefficient: Part I

Wuxing (五行) is a very fundamental concept in Chinese fate calculation. Some scholars believe that wuxing originates from the planetary motion of the five planets visible to the naked eyes, namely Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In the Chinese literature, the term wuxing first appeared in a war declaration when Qi (启), the second King of the Xia Dynasty, was preparing to launch a war on the tribe of You Hu (有扈).
Shang Shu: Gan Shi (The Declaration of Gan)《尚书·甘誓》: The tribe of You Hu insulted the wuxing and muddled the correct calendrical order. It is the heaven will that they must be destroyed. I am now to dutifully carry out my heavenly duty to punish them. (有扈氏威侮五行,怠弃三正,天用剿绝其命,今予惟恭行天之罚。)
In this text, the term wuxing was not defined. It is possible that the author of the declaration meant to use the term wuxing in its planetary sense or `heaven' in general. The first discussion of Wuxing can be found in Hong Fan (洪范).

When Ji Fa (姬发) destroyed the Shang Dynasty, he had a conversion with an old Shang official named Qi Zi (萁子) on how to rule a nation. Shang Shu: Hong Fan (The Great Laws) 《尚书·洪范》is the record is that discussion. The book was probably compiled during the Spring-Autumn period.
Shang Shu: Hong Fan (The Great Laws)《尚书·洪范》: Wuxing: The first is water, the second is fire, the third is wood, the fourth is metal, and the fifth is earth. Water is characterized by downward flowing moist, fire by upward flowing flame, wood grows vertically, metal is moldable, the earth permits the growth of crops. (五行:一曰水,二曰火,三曰木,四曰金,五曰土。水曰润下,火曰炎上,木曰曲直,金曰从革,土爰稼穑。)
It is in the Book of Hong Fan (洪范) that the elemental characteristics of wuxing is first explained. It is quite clear that wuxing is treated as matter or substance here.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Log-Antilog Procedure: Part II

Not too long later, I learned in additional mathematics, certain trigonometric identities of the form cos(A ± B) = –(cos A cos B ± sin A sin B), from which we can form another identity: cos A cos B = ½ [cos(A + B) + cos(A – B)].

This identity is the basis of an obsolete technique known as prosthaphaeretic multiplication, which is very similar but older than the log-antilog procedure taught by my teacher. To illustrate prosthaphaeretic multiplication on 10.8 x 87.85, we proceeds as follows: First write 10.8 x 87.85 as 0.108 x 0.8785 x 10000, then read the arccosine values for 0.108 and 0.8785 from table, they are 1.463 and 0.498 in radians. With the identity, multiplication of two cosines is converted to addition/subtraction of their respective arccosines, that is,

10.8 x 87.85 = cos 1.463 x cos 0.498 x 10000 = ½[cos(1.463 + 0.498) + cos(1.463 - 0.498)] x 10000

The result is 945, which is very close to the exact solution: 948.78.

At the time, I thought, the only sensible reason for retaining the log-antilog procedure in a modern mathematics textbook in the year when we were building the Petronas Twin Towers was that the syllabus designers want us to appreciate the hardship and tortuous path gone through by astronomers and arithmeticians a few centuries ago when they need to multiply numbers.

However, if they want us to fully appreciate how mathematics is done a few centuries ago; they should put the prosthaphaeresis in the textbook. The real reason, as I now believe, is because the syllabus designers are insensitive to technological environment which is ever changing. One or two decades ago, when electronic calculators became cheap and popular, they should have reformed the curriculum and remove the obsolete techniques like the log-antilog procedure.

Luckily, our syllabus designers have now changed their minds. The modern math syllabus was reformed a few years ago and the log-antilog technique for performing multiplication is now removed. However, the harm cannot be undone, as we students could have spent our time more productively a decade ago.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Professor Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman: Part I

I came across a rather harsh commentary by Prof. Wilhelm G. Solheim II on a recent JMBRAS article written by Prof. Nik Hassan Shuhaimi, to which Prof. Nik replied bitterly in seven points.

Therefore, I decided to run a quick biographical check on both Prof Nik and Prof. Solheim.

Nik Hassan Shuhaimi Nik Abdul Rahman is currently the president of the Association Malaysian Archeologists. Academically, he is with the Institute of the Malay World and Civilization in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).

Prof. Nik was born February 4, 1944. He received his early education in Malay School Kubang Keranji, Kota Bharu and the famous Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Between 1962 and 1963, he went to study in Technical College, Kuala Lumpur. In 1965, he was admitted to the Malayan Teachers College in Penang. After obtaining his teaching certificate, he returned to Kelantan and taught in Kubang Kerian Secondary School for about 4 years.

After the riot in May 1969, he was admitted to the University of Malaya to study history. 4 years later, he obtained his B.A. degree, at the age of 29.

After graduation, Prof. Nik applied to become a tutor in the Departments of History, UKM and his alma mater. Before he was called to UKM, he taught briefly (about half a year) in Sungai Besar.

In 1972, Prof. Nik was fortunate enough to be selected by the UKM Academic Staff Training Programme. The result was his enrollment in the prestigous School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. Prof. Nik spent approximately 48 months there doing his doctoral works on Indo-Malayan Buddhist sculptures.

Unfortunately, it is highly possible that Prof. Nik was unsuccessful at his first attempt in getting himself a PhD degree and awarded a MPhil instead. His MPhil Thesis is "Buddhist sculpture from Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Peninsular Thailand during the Sriui Jayan Period (7th-14th century A.D.)".

When he returned to Malaysia in 1976, Prof. Nik was immediately appointed as a lecturer in the Department of History, UKM.

Four and a half years later, UKM sent Prof. Nik to SOAS London for a second time. This time, Prof Nik chosed a slightly different topic: Art, archaeology and the early Kingdoms in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra: circa 400-1400 A.D. After about 40 months of research works in SOAS, Prof. Nik, at the age of 41, was awarded his PhD degree.

Shortly after Prof. Nik completed his doctoral degree in 1984, he was promoted to Associate Professor and was chosen to head the Department of History, UKM. 10 years later, he was promoted to full professor in 1993.

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