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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 (197…

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 …

Wuxing and Compatibility Coefficient: Part III

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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…

Wuxing and Compatibility Coefficient: Part II

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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 wroteThere 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…

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 …

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 retain…

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 Mala…