An excerpt from “Wallace Chan: Dream Light Water,” by Juliet Weir de la Rochefoucauld and Wallace Chan (Rizzoli New York.)
Butterfly: Perhaps the most famous dream in the history of Chinese philosophy, by the great Tao philosopher Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu). Zhuang Zi dreamed that he was a butterfly, flying free. The butterfly dipped and dived; it did not know that it was actually Zhuang Zi. Then Zhuang Zi awoke, confused. Asleep, he was a butterfly and now awake, he was Zhuang Zi. Was he Zhuang Zi dreaming of being a butterfly or was he a butterfly dreaming of being Zhuang Zi?
One of the great Chinese folk legends, it dates back to the late Tang Dynasty. Many regions in China have adapted this beautiful love story into traditional theater and opera.
Zhu Yingtai was the only daughter in a family of sons. Tradition dictated that women should stay at home, but Zhu Yingtai wanted to study like her brothers.
She disguised herself as a boy and on her way to school she met Liang Shanbo. They vowed an oath of fraternity and studied together for three years, without Liang Shanbo suspecting that Zhu was a girl. Zhu fell in love with Liang. She returned home and when Liang visited her, he was surprised to discover that she was in fact, a beautiful woman. They vowed to love each other for eternity, but their love was ill-fated, Zhu had been promised to another. Liang was heartbroken when he learned of Zhu’s forthcoming wedding; he fell ill and died of a broken heart.
On Zhu’s wedding day, the wedding procession was stopped by strong winds alongside Liang’s burial place. Zhu went to Liang’s grave and overcome with chagrin, she implored the grave to open up. Suddenly there was a sound of thunder and she saw the ground open beneath her feet, then threw herself into the grave to rejoin her beloved Liang. Their spirits were reunited and they became butterflies.
Flower: The gemstones sit, seeing, perched on the flower’s petals, they learn from the world that they observe. And then comes the fragrance in the air. The flower is awaking to the dawn, opening its petals and stretching toward the sun. The world is bright, as bright as a thousand suns. The reds, blues, and yellows shimmer in the morning dew soared up into the sky, never to be separated again, to live for eternity.
Light is the key to the secret of each gemstone. I watch how it dances off the surface and within, and seek to liberate its vitality and set it free. With emptiness comes light, and with light comes wisdom. Light and wisdom bring harmony. I live and breathe light.
Craftsmanship and creativity: The answer to craftsmanship is practice; to start in darkness unsure and unseeing, and then with practice, I move toward the light. My mind is concentrating and meditating in unison. My heart fills with joy when I accomplish what I have set out to do. It is the liberation of light and colors from my soul.
Creativity starts with emptiness and the unknown, and then, there, just out of reach, an idea starts to form. It shimmers and dances in and out of the shadows, disappearing and reappearing like a mirage. From every nook and cranny of my mind, I gather all my knowledge and I am ready to experiment.
Power of understanding brings calm and tranquility.