Monday, August 08, 2005

Fountain of Beer

The Book of Great Learning says:

"Before the Yin (Dynasty) came to an end,
Its decadance was as high as Heaven;
Taking the example of Yin,
Know that it is never easy to maintain the Mandate of Heaven."

In Harbin, China, the local "Happy" brand beer plant had recently used 90 tonnes of beer to build a great fountain right in the city's main recreation centre. This is the first "Fountain of Beer" in China (and perhaps the world) ever built. This monument had met with harsh criticism from the people of Harbin city as extremely wasteful and decadent.
This reminds me of the the last days of the ancient Yin Dynasty (around 1100BC), where the inhumane King Zhou built a Forest of Meat and Pool of Wine to frolic and swim in with his concubine Da Ji. Like the end of many dynasties, the last rulers were enjoying themselves totally without restraint whereas the people were starving and dying. Not long after that, the Yin Dynasty was overthrown by the Zhou Dynasty. Ever since that time, the Chinese idiom of "Wine Pool Meat Forest" has been used to describe the peak of decadence. Whenever any civilization reach such a stage, a revolution to overthrow it becomes inevitable.

China has came a long way since the first economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. Now it is already a rising dragon, and its annual GDP surpasses every other nation in the world except for the US. But with such progress also brings a lot of negative and corrupt practices, which will over time, destroy the fabric of the nation itself. A good example is the massive waste of food and beverage by rich and powerful people in every part of China. Just take the above fountain with 90 tonnes of beer! Can you calculate how many thirsty mouths it can feed? People in other parts of the world are dying of hunger and thirst and yet this "Happy" plant is treating so much drinkable beer like sewage water. Woeful indeed is the wasteful and extravagant man, for he has sowed the seeds of poverty and starvation for himself. Such a decadent monument is merely the tip of the iceberg, signifying a small aspect of the unseen state of decay behind China's rapid growth. Rampant corruption and widespread unrest are also troubling the communist government for many years, but they only know how to clamp down on problems with an iron fist. They do not see what is the real root of their problems or how to treat it. History moves in a cycle and almost always repeats itself; if these trends are not checked, in less than 20 years the current government will very likely be overthrown, like so many other ruling dynasties before it. The worldly Dhamma is such that Devas and Humans alike hate the wasteful and extravagant and respect the thrifty and contented person, for this is a sign that the craving in his mind is well under control. So let us take caution and guard our minds against decadence; let us be content and thrifty always, sadhu.

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