Saturday, July 19, 2008

Interesting times

It is said that "May you live in interesting times" is the English translation of an ancient Chinese curse. However the source of this curse is still debated by various scholars. Frederic Coudert, a trustee of Columbia University, referred in 1939 to a letter from Austen Chamberlain, half-brother of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who introduced him to this phrase. Chamberlain apparently learnt about the curse from a Chinese diplomat. Another Chinese proverb has also been cited as the possible original line from which this "curse" was derived: It is better to be a dog in peaceful times than a man in a chaotic period.

While the origins or even existence of such a curse is in doubt, what is not is that "interesting times" is an apt description for the two score and something years of my life. Having lived mainly in Asia (with an educational stint in the UK) and working most of my career as a consultant of one sort or another - even when the job titles didn't always reflect it - I have had the opportunity to observe organisational ups and downs, political and financial crises, pandemics, wars, scientific breakthroughs, globalisation, fads and fashions .. you name it.

This is the very first posting of my blog, which I've entitled "Asian Observer". Hopefully there will be many and frequent entries in the months and years ahead on this theme. I plan to write from two perspectives - firstly, observations on Asian affairs, and secondly sharing my views, as an Asian, of broader world events. There'll certainly be no shortage of topics to write about.

I hardly think that "living in interesting times" is a curse. To me, it's a blessing and reason for living. I hope you'll join me and give me your feedback.


Anonymous said...

I am sure that you are writing in interesting times, even scary for some!

Anonymous said...

like to hear more views on what is happening in KL from East Malaysia perspective! KC

James Yong said...

To KC: Indeed some interesting views. I'll post a little of that a bit later, but to really do justice to this topic only possible over a nice bottle of wine ;-)