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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Dragon, the Phoenix and the Qilin - 2

I've been reminded by a couple of friends that my last post was on 15 June 2009! On hindsight, it seems that I got into blogging from the excitement of getting my first book published - Timeless Tales of Malaysia by Marshall Cavendish. Since then, I had the great fortune of having four more books published, this time by MPH Publishing. Three of the books are collections of folktales and legends from Asia (all books are available from :

Eight Treasures of the Dragon is a collection of folktales and legends about dragons or naga from Asia. (for more information on the naga, refer to my post The Dragon, the Phoenix and the Qilin - 1).

The chosen stories reflect the pervasiveness of dragon lore in Asia and its close connection with the element of water and with ruling houses. The book is illustrated by Tan Vay Fern. I had never met her when we collaborated on this book and we only corresponded by email. I looked her up on the Malaysia Author Index webpage and was impressed to find out that she had already had five books published by MPH - all at the same time!

The treasures in this collection include:

From China comes The Dragon Wells of Yanjing, the story of a dragon king and queen whose fates are intertwined with that of the city of Yanjing (ancient Beijing). When their underwater palace in the Great Lake of Yanjing was destroyed (the lake was drained and rivers diverted) to make way for the new city of Dadu by Kublai Khan, the dragon couple set out to destroy the people of Yanjing! The second story from China is The Cave of the Pearl Dragon, an epic tale of a young man's quest for the green water pearl which will save his village from starvation;
from India, Prince Mombathi (The Candlewax Prince) an intriguing tale of a queen's machinations to conceal the identity of her naga child;
from Indonesia, The She-Dragon of the South Seas; the legend of the Dragon Queen of the South Seas and the terrible vengence she exacted on those who wronged her;
from Japan comes Ho-Wori and the Princess of the Sea, the very ancient and haunting love story between the Lord of the Hills and the Princess of the Sea; the second story from Japan is The Acolyte, the Tengu and the Dragon, a story which echoes the ancient anmity between the tengu - a bird-man creature and the dragon/naga;
from Malaysia, The Dragon of Tasik Chini an Orang Asli tale of the origin of Lake Chini,
and from Singapore, Sang Nila Utama a reinterpretation of the celebrated story of Sang Nila Utama.

* Eight Jewels of the Phoenix is a collection of tales which are regarded as cultural icons from the countries they represent. Black & white illustrations by the author. Published in 2009 by MPH Publishing.
-From China comes The Girl with Snow White Hair (also known as Long Hair Girl) about a girl who sarifices herself to save her village;
-from India comes Chandrika and the Festival of Lights - a story about reversal of fortune and how the wisdom and wit of a young woman helped to restore her family's fortune;
-from Japan we have Kaguyahime (from the Taketori Monogatari), the celebrated story of a girl found in a bamboo grove and how she was courted by the Emperor himself;
-from Malaysia comes two stories known to most school children - The Princess of Mount Ledang is a story about a faerie princess who is courted by the Sultan of Malacca and has fascinating similarities to the Japanese Kaguyahime; the second story from Malaysia is Bawang Putih, Bawang Merah (literaly White Onion, Red Onion), which is the story of the Malay Cinderella;
-from the Philippines comes The Fruit of Passion and Repulsion - an amusing and enchanting story of the origin of the durian fruit - a fruit some find irristible and others repulsive;
-from North America (Pacific Northwest) comes the story of The Raven, the trickster who decides to help humanity find light in the Arctic darkness;
-and finally from Thailand comes the story of Manohra - a kinaree or bird-maiden who wins the heart of a handsome young prince but is betrayed by a jealous courtier and almost loses her life in a sacrifice by fire. The story of Manohra is known all over Southeast Asia, from Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Thailand all the way to Malaysia.

*Eight Fortunes of the Qilin is a companion book to the Phoenix book. As the fabled Qilin represents compassion, wisdom and respect for nature and life, these qualities are echoed in the stories. Black & white illustrations by the author. Published in 2009. The stories are:

-Princess Santubong and Princess Sejinjang - a haunting tale from Borneo about two sisters who fell in love with the same man. In my interpretation, one of the sisters, Santubong is a shaman who blessed the rice crops, represented Day while the other sister, Sejinjang, who weaved beautiful cloths, represented Night.

(A beautiful old song recounting the tragic relationship between the two sisters, Santubong and Sejinjang)

-The Jaguar is a legend from Central America about a shape-shifting pair of jaguars and the boy who stole their most precious possesion.
-Little Red Cricket is an engrossing tale from China about how an Emperor's obsession can make something as small as a cricket affect the fortune of a family.
-The Singing Bamboo is another haunting tale about two sisters, but this time from India. This story however is about a sister's devotion to her sibling even after her death.
-Keong Mas is an enchanting tale from the island of Java in Indonesia about a princess who is cursed by a witch and lost in the wilderness.
-The Sister is a chlling tale from Korea, about a sister who seemed to be possessed by an evil spirit and the brother who tried to save her.

(The video features the precociously talented young singer, Song So-Hee, who sings only Arirang - traditional Korean folk songs. This song is MiryangArirang)

-Princess Firefly from the Philippines is about an unfortunate young princess who refuses to marry her suiter.
-The Amber Tea Bowl is tragic story from Vietnam, about the unrequited love of the handsome son of a boatwoman for the highborn daughter of a mandarin.

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