learning to swim from Deng Xiao Ping

swimming deng
cover art for a non-existent book, layout is by J.

I saw some footage of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping swimming in the sea on tv some nights ago.

It seemed that swimming in the sea was among Deng's many interests, which included watching the sports channel and playing billiards. The footage I saw was of Deng's last dip in 1992. At the age of 88, his doctors had disallowed Deng from swimming in the cold waters of Beihaide. But perhaps knowing that it would be his last, he kept up his questions such that in the end the doctors relented. They made him a special safety vest for this last swim.

In a country (Singapore, that is) on an endless push for progress and "relevance", so obsessed with "Change is the Only Constant" that it becomes a self-fulfiling prophecy, growing old can be pretty depressing.

Filial piety. "Mommy mommy, I want milk!" " You silly boy, everyone's starving, let grandma drink first!" Photo by J, tiled pic on the wall of a house at the backstreet of Little India

Going by the folk tales on aging that this guy has collated on his website, all cultures throughout history have their stories to warn against mistreating or disregarding the old. I remember this Japanese folk tale I read when I was very young, about some chap who had to piggyback his grandma up the mountain and to leave her there, because it was the practice in his village to abandon their old folks. But he couldn't bear it in the end and hid his grandma at home. I can't quite remember what happened, but grandma saved the village in the end and this practice was abolished.

All I know is that if I get to live till 88, like Deng, I would like to still be able to take a swim.
p/s Jing is planning a photography project on old folks in Singapore, and is calling for ideas and collaboration. If you are a writer, artist or have superb planning/organisation skills, get in touch with him.


tcn afen said…
correction:it's not just a photography project, but a mix of factual articles and artistic exploration in various mediums (including photography)

thanks for the link...interesting.I wonder if there is any asian equivalent? folklore regarding the theme of elderly people/growing old

I'm writing a paper that will highlight the objectives, scope, target audience, etc etc regarding this project by next weekend...hopefully that will be helpful? keep me informed of any ideas on your part...
ampulets said…
don't stress! these projects should be fun ;>
Anonymous said…
think you are talking about "Mountain of Abandoned Old People" from Japan. In this eleventh century tale, old people were taken by their children and abandoned on a mountain, as was the custom. Two sons take their father to be abandoned but find themselves lost, unable to return home. They return to their father who directs them home. They are so grateful that they hide him under the floor but look after him well. One day the lord issued a notice that the people had to make a rope from ashes and present it to him. The people tried but failed. The two brothers asked their father for advice. He told them to make a rope from straw and then burn it and present the ashes to the lord in the shape of a rope. The lord was impressed and asked how they possessed such wisdom. They told him about their father. It was proclaimed from that time on that no one should abandoned the old people again.

Popular posts from this blog

miracle man

on a Hou Hsiao Hsien movie set

fear not history

Saying goodbye


Taiwan Number 8

J for Jampulets