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Showing posts from May, 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 …

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…