Wood and Metal

It is really difficult to reverse what you know. You are created within your culture. If you look at Ovid’s Metamorphoses and compare it to Lo Kuan-chung’s historical fiction ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ there are no real correlations. One is mythology and one is historical fiction. Though what I want to look at is the underlying ideas from two different cultures. China is due east and is in the wood chamber. The West is in the metal chamber due west. They are according to cultural ideas opposed through their relationship within feng shui. In Lo Kuan-chungs epic there is no incest, homosexuality, bestiality though these ideas are in larger cultural parenthesis. They are universal. Though they don’t relate to this particular historical narrative. If you look at Metamorphoses there are opportunities to explore these ideas. The consequences or punishments are being turned into an animal, maybe a bird or bull.

In Lo Kuan-chung’s epic when one young man dies it is assumed it was because of his over active sex life and general debauchery. Mostly though the deaths are from war and betrayal. It is just gleaning these little differences and subtle attitudes that I feel the general ideas thrown around show a prudish difference. Take for example Cao Cao and his villany. Then see how he buys himself time or so it seems by doing some good ceremonial works when he needs to. These two books really can’t be compared but what I see is different attitudes regardless. One is a much larger story of conflict and unification and the other an exploration of gods and humans in a chaotic world of myth where there is no unity except through physical change.

Then look at physical ideas of change in the west like a sex change for example. A change of body. From one sex to the other. Or a change of law to legalise gay marriage. An exploration of multiplicity to include people who have different identities. This has nothing to do with Ovid yet these ideas have always been in the cultural tradition. Would these things happen in China now? It is the difference of position and difference of thinking. I am obviously part of my culture and these ideas seem natural. Yet one is in one chamber and one in the other. Wood and Metal are sworn enemies. Or is this also just another construct? It is yet it has real boundaries. Can they be crossed? Is crossing them the answer? Are sworn enemies ever going to do what is best for each other? One may be a gentleman and the other a thug. Who is the thug and who is the gentleman? That it seems is very obvious.

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