The Temples of Sydney: Sze Yup Temple, Glebe

One of the loveliest places in Sydney, and one many don't know about, is the Sze Yup Temple in the back streets of Glebe.

The temple has been around since the nineteenth century.
It is one of the great hidden spiritual sites of the city and has been here since 1898.

It's funny, but everyone I tell about this place says me, "There's a temple in Glebe?" People still have no idea that this amazing place is there, even Sydneysiders with a Chinese cultural background. Whenever I mention it people ask me to take them there.
The temple is dedicated to the worship of Guan Di, the mythical Chinese general who is the special favourite of soldiers, students and business people.

I have something of my own relationship with Guan Di, having spent much time praying at his shrine at the Mingyue temple in Bonnyrigg when I needed help with my academic work. The temples late historian, the brilliant Helen Fong, pointed out a fascinating reason for the prevalence of Guan Di worship amongst the early Chinese diaspora. Because these people were overwhelmingly male, they erected temples to a uniquely masculine deity, instead of the far more common and beloved Kwan Yin, the feminine face of the divine who dominates shrines in China (as she does in Vietnam). These men felt they needed Lord Guan Di's example and help in their almost exclusively male milieu.
The Sze Yup community (Sze Yup is a district of four counties in Guandong province) were led to the site in the 1890s by a ray of light which they interpreted to be a mystical sign from Guan Di himself.

This is the original furnace for burning votive offerings. The temple has experienced several fires, so now all offerings are burned outside.

The site was also possessed of good feng shui, being on a slope facing the water and a view of hills.
The temple has faced fluctuating fortunes over its history. By the 1970s it was at the point of closing (as so many joss houses across Australia did), but an influx of Vietnamese-Chinese refugees brought new life to the temple, and it has gradually become stronger, more prosperous and lively as various waves of Chinese immigration have brought new communities of worshippers.


Sze Yup Temple
Victoria Rd. (entrance on Edward St)
Glebe (if you turn into Pendrill St from Glebe Point Rd you will see the temple gate at the end of the street)
There is a bus stop just before Pendrill St on Glebe Point Rd.
Keen walkers could get there on foot from Central Station (about 20 minutes) or from Broadway Shopping Centre.

7 Literary Quotes to Live By - From Dr. Wayne Dyer

When the travel writer and journalist Rosamund Burton called me up and said she had tickets to see Dr. Wayne Dyer at his only Sydney lecture, of course I wanted to come.
Wayne Dyer is a self-help legend, and the books he has produced in recent years have been very impressive efforts indeed. The fact is, I admire him very much. And he looks uncannily like my Dad, and how can you possibly mistrust a man who looks so much like your father?
Dr. Dyer was in fine form at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre, filling an auditorium with over 2,000 people. For a man of 71 he is quite amazing, keeping us all enthralled over the space of four hours (with the backup of personal-coaching guru Cheryl Richardson).
It's no secret that Dr. Dyer is something of a literary man. His books are filled with references to Emerson, Blake and all the great poets, along with Jung, Rumi and St. Francis of Assisi. But I was quite struck during his talk at just how much he relies on literature and the wisdom of some of the litarary greats. I made a careful note of his references, and here is what I've learned:

 7 Literary Quotes to Live By - From Dr. Wayne Dyer

  1.  “What if you slept? And what if, in your sleep, you went to heaven and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower? And what if,when you awoke,you had the flower in your hand? Ah, what then?”
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
      - Dyer sees this as a provocative challenge. For most of our lives we live as though our dreams were impossible, the merest phantasms. Real life, we tell ourselves, is made of sterner and less beautiful stuff. Coleridge is telling us that we in fact possess this fanciful flower of our dreams, that it is something glorious and we must allow it to bloom and to be carried over into our waking lives.
  2. "An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress..."
    - William Butler Yeats
    - This piece of verse was read to Ram Dass by Dyer on the event of Dass' 80th birthday. Dyer says it encourages us to live and celebrate. Our material self might be something humble indeed, but it is exalted through being gloried and celebrated. 

  3. "This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies
    And lads and girls;
    Was laughter and ability and sighing,
    And frocks and curls;

    This passive place a summer's nimble mansion,
    Where bloom and bees
    Fulfilled their oriental circuit,
    Then ceased like these."
    - Emily Dickinson
    - This is it - the end result of all of us. We return to dust, no matter how colourful or dramatic our lives have been. So don't trouble your imagination with worry or sorrow - that too will be dust, soon enough.
  4. "Once you label me you negate me." - Soren Kierkegaard - All of us balk at being reduced to our smallest parts, but how often do we do it to others? Each if us is endlessly complex, and no-one deserves to be made small and labelled for the ease of someone else's understanding.
  5. “This is my way. What is your way? The way doesn’t exist.” - Friedrich Nietzsche - Dyer tells this to his nitpicking daughter. You must have encountered people who insist that their truth is the only version, and that everyone else is damned by ignorance. This way lies real ignorance, and also unhappiness - being wedded to our own particular views will certainly make us miserable. Unless we acknowledge that there are myriad ways of understanding the world, we will grow despotic and inflexible. 
  6. "One day I found out that personal history was no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped it." - Carlos Castaneda - I don't know about you, but this is a challenging one. I am deeply wedded to my character, my past, my memories. I am a nostalgic creature. But the great shaman said that personal history is too often an excuse for remaining bound and unsuccessful. Our personal histories justify our fear of shining. We must be willing to change our personal history - completely. This is the way to transformation.
  7. "We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot - One day I realised my grandparents had stopped growing. They weren't particularly old - maybe just their late 60s - but they had decided to stop learning new things, and to stop "exploring." There could be no more novelty in the world for them. We don't need to be like this. Our learning and growing should be eternal, stopping only when we have realised that we know nothing. Dyer says there is a spark within all of us that requires a lifetime's searching to detect and then to feed. This journey, this internal exploration, must never stop. It's what we're here for.
Wayne Dyer's brand new book, Wishes Fulfilled, has just been released in Australia - another Hay House first. It won't be available in the US till March! I got a copy last night, and have already started. Dr. Dyer said it is based on his study of two of the great New Thought teachers: Neville Goddard (normally known simply as "Neville") and U. S. Anderson. It's interesting that he has resurrected two relatively obscure literary figures who were very popular in their day. I think it will make for a fascinating book.

Details: Wishes Fulfilled by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, published by Hay House.

Red Gate Gallery - Two Generations

Australian art entrepreneur Brian Wallace is one of the great pioneers of modern art in Beijing, and he has brought a selection of his best artists over for a really extraordinary exhibition at the Sydney Town Hall, as part of the City of Sydney's Chinese New Year Celebrations.

I visited it today in the cultured and stimulating company of Sydney crime novelist P. M. Newton, and spent an hour or two immersed in the works on display.

The premise of the exhibiton is quite novel - each of the gallery's senior artists (i.e. the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing) has nominated a favourite younger artist, and both are exhibited. This has resulted in a stunning and diverse selection, an almost chance-curatorship that is filled with surprises and the most wonderful new discoveries.

If you don't know much about contemporary Chinese art, then this is an exhibition you need to see. It is utterly fascinating in its depiction of Chinese soicety as well, and each piece could make up a little part of a collage of modern Chinese history.

The exhibition space itself is, of course, just wonderful, and worth the visit alone. The high camp of the Sydney Town Hall matches some of the campier and more whimsical pieces, blended in with other more serious or challenging pieces embracing a broad range of styles and media.

Do get along. There is also a programme of on-site artist talks, and also resident artists, so if you time it right you could be in for a fascinating afternoon.
And do note, it is an afternoon - the Centennial Hall at the Sydney Town Hall (straight up the stairs and inside) doesn't open till 12 midday.
Highlights? I was captivated by the cryptic Buddhist imagery of video artist Zhu Yu, as a plump, bare-breasted woman demonstrated the intricate mudras of Buddhist iconography against the soundscape of a mundane English-conversation learning CD ("You look fantastic today!"). I was also drawn to Han Qing's exquisitely rendered Nightscape, a piece which borders constantly on abstraction, and yet which makes up an entirely recognisable world each time you look more deeply into it. The impossibly handsome Han Qing was actually the artist in residence today, and was seated shyly all alone at a table by himself, but I was too shy myself to approach him. Pity, really, because I am sure he would have had something fascinating to say.


Red Gate Gallery: Two Generations 

  • Between Tuesday 17 January and Saturday 28 January from 12.00 to 20.00
  •  Centennial Hall, 483 George Street (within Sydney Town Hall) Sydney

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays (Jan.17)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  My Teasers:

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgementally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation"

~ p. 4, "Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life"by John Kabat-Zinn

Victory From Genocide Day - Cambodia

January 7 is Victory From Genocide Day, a public holiday in Cambodia.
It commemorates the end of the Khmer Rouge regime which only lasted from 1975 - 1979, but which saw almost two million Cambodians die.
Here are some images from Cambodia which highlight some of the things people remember on this day.

A photograph of one of the victims at the Tuol Sleng Prison. This was a suburban high school that was turned into a torture chamber for "enemies" of the Khmer Rouge regime. The Khmer Rouge were strangely particular about recording their atrocities, and carefully photographed all of the people they tortured and murdered. When you visit Tuol Sleng now you see the faces of all of those innocent people, knowing the horrible end they must have met.

A vandalised photograph of Comrade Duch. Duch was the commander of the Tuol Sleng prison. He is still alive, and on trial for crimes against humanity. He has converted to Christianity.

The stupa containing the remains of people buried at the Killing Fields. Thousands of nameless people had their bodies dumped at this mass grave. Their remains were collected and gathered together in this stupa, a traditional Buddhist monument for holding the remains of the dead.

Phil Harding Club Mixes of the 80s

I am one of those arcane creatures that still buys CDs.
I love their brittle jewel cases and the way they can fill a half-dozen cupboards and never be found again.
Yes, I do purchase music on iTunes, but I never really have the same relationship with the music I have bought that way - I never really feel like I own the album.
All that is by way of introducing the fact that I have bought what I think is the best CD ever. I may not need to purchase another in my lifetime.
The album in question is the 2 CD set of Phil Harding Club Mixes of the 80s. I have been in heaven ever since it arrived.

If 80s trash pop was ever your thing, and if you ever had scores of original 12" mix records (yes, I still have mine mouldering away in my garage), then you will be familiar with the work of the legendary Mr. Harding. He is a lwho started work in the 70s and came to full fruition at the PWL studios. He was really the populiser and king of the 12" mix. Many of the tracks on this wonderful set I own in vinyl, but I haven't actually played any vinyl in years. It has been simply wonderful re-discovering these gems again.
As is often the case, I bought this set in order to get a single song that I realised I'd been missing for 20+ years - it was Blue Mercedes' I Want to be Your Property, a song that enjoyed a particular vogue in gay circles when I was a teenager.
But of course, I almost skipped over this song in order to listen to the zany dance remixes, so evocative of my youth, of other, long forgotten tracks. If you wandered past my house this evening you might hear Eighth Wonder's version of the Pet Shop Boys song I'm Not Scared, or Rick Astley's micro-hit She Wants to Dance With Me.
80s 12" mixes! Bring them back!

Some other highlights from the album:

Kwan Yin at Pho Quang Pagoda, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City - Places to Visit in Vietnam

People who travel to Vietnam rarely make it to the suburban Buddhist temples, but if you possibly can, it is really worth the detour.

Many of these temples are large and quite dynamic centres of Buddhist learning. They also often have really fantastic gift shops where you can get all kinds of amazing Buddhist kitsch at bargain prices.

This is an A5 cardboard printed image of the main Kwan Yin statue at Pho Quang temple in Tan Binh district, Ho Chi Minh City. The shop at this temple is by far the best Buddhist shop in the city, and worth the trip alone. Along with the huge Buddhist gift shop, there is a fashion salon selling religious clothing for monks and lay-people, and a vegetarian supermarket! It's a regular mall!

Pho Quang is a large and important temple, and it is currently undergoing extensive renovation.

People flock there to visit and pray at the Kwan Yin grotto. There would appear to be large numbers of serious young lay-people attached to the temple, as there is always a smattering of twenty-somethings at the Kwan Yin shrine reading the sutras or using their rosary. It is nice to see, and until now it has been something I have rarely encountered, though I am noticing it more and more.


Pho Quang Pagoda (Chua Pho Quang)
643 đường Phổ Quang, phường 2, quận Tân Bình
Ho Chi Minh City

There is some confusion about the exact address because once the temple grounds covered this entire area. In recent years it has been developed and built up. Don't worry - once you are on Pho Quang road someone will be able to direct you to the temple.

About 30 minutes from central Saigon, close to the airport.
There are many aggressive sellers of incense and flowers outside, but just smile and walk past them. Also, there is paid parking outside the gates, but there is free (well, by donation), attended parking if you drive inside.
The shops are on your left immediately as you enter the gate, the Kwan Yin Grotto is on the right.

Welcome to my future

That's right, hard-boiled eggs.
I am on the Dukan diet for the forseeable future, and I will be consuming plenty of these babies.
Wish me luck.

Monday Blogcrawl

I haven't done a blogcrawl for ages becuse I've either been away or insanely busy. I am still insanely busy (my dissertation due in just a couple of weeks!), but since I'm blogging tonight, here is my blogcrawl:

The Korean boy-band Big Bang

First New Books of 2012

If this pile is any indication, I am in for a very glamorous year indeed!
From the top:

Francis Steegmuller's Cocteau - I have a long-lasting Cocteau obsession. And I'm in good company - I happen to know that Australia's legendary queen of style Maggie Tabberer is also a Cocteau-o-phile. This is the book being read by the dying lover in Angels in America.

Arthur King Peters' Jean Cocteau & Andre Gide - Two of my favourites! All I will ever really need to read. And books about Gide with other people is a favourite obscure genre of mine. His book of argumentative letters with Paul Claudel is an absolute classic.

Julie Saul's Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and the Mask - Lots of gorgeous pictures of M. Cocteau!

Donald F. Reuter's Greetings from the Gayborhood - Retro images from the golden age of Gay.

RuPaul's Workin' It! - RuPaul manages to combine self-help, camp and ole' time religion, and I can't get enough of the delicious mix.

Deborah Devonshire's Counting My Chickens - Signed by the Duchess herself, the last surviving Mitford. This is actually a certifiable treasure. A very generous gift from writer Rosamund Burton.

Christian George's Sacred Travels - I am very interested, obviously, in the subjects of pilgrimage and sacred travel. So I thought I'd check this one out.

Russell Wild's Uncles - I want to be the best Uncle ever, so I am always looking out for tips. Love you Ivy & Jonah!

Christian Lander's Whiter Shades of Pale - Lander's deliciously non-PC humour is always spot-on. It hurts because it's true.

Brian L. Weiss' Mirrors of Time - One of my resolutions this year is to commit to some serious meditation practice. This comes with a guided meditation CD which I am gonna try out.

Tilar J. Mazzeo's The Secret of Chanel No. 5 - Damn camp, but hey, why live a lie? I adore perfume.

Doreen Virtue's Saved By An Angel - Stories of supernatural intervention always cause a shiver up my spine, and I am always a sucker for a good angel story. F*** you sceptics :-)

Carolyn Bernstein's The Migraine Brain - Another of my resolutions is to explore other ways of dealing with my headaches other than swallowing vast quantities of pills. Good to find out what the hell is wrong with my head.

Karl Marlantes' Matterhorn - Did I ever tell you I hate war books? But my professional and personal interest in Vietnam means I have read an unexpected number of them. This is meant to be a masterpiece, though, and he seems like a fascinating man.

Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Karen Armstrong is one of my sheroes, and I am just busting to get started on t his one.

My Favourite Blogs

I am a contradiction, a mish-mash of conflicting ideas, feelings and personalities. And the worst thing is that I am completely unashamed in my inconsistency. People scratch their heads and glare at me, but it bothers me none. I am always incredibly suspicious of someone with a consistent worldview. They are normally crazy, dogmatic or lying. Often all three.
So my blog-browsing reflects something of my unpredictable personality.
In response to BVS Reader's Blog's wonderful post asking people what their favourite blogs were, here are some of my secret distractions:

Want to eat out somewhere really good in Western Sydney, Hong Kong or Cambodia? Well noodlies is there to help. I love this blog - and it's not just because the blogmaster happens to be my other half, and that the fat hand reaching for a bowl of noodles in the pics is normally mine. Well, thet's not the only reason. I love noodlies' unpretentious tone and his advocacy of humble restaurants in suburbs most people are too afraid to visit after dark - and yes, I am talking about my home suburb.

Stephanie Dowrick's blog is consistently inspiring, and Stephanie approaches her blog posts with a seriousness and professionalism that is rare in teh blogging world. If you are interested in spirituality, literature and/or personal development you should be reading Stephanie's blog.

I think that gossip is an artform, and have been known to while away an hour or so on In Case You Didn't Know, OMG, Queerty and Dlisted. Those are by far the best gossip sites.

Blogging and social media are a bit of an obsession of mine, and I get lots of tips and info on Jeff Bullas, We Build Your Blog, Blog Godown and BookBuzzr.

Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn - writing guru.

For writing you can't go past The Creative Penn, LiteraryMinded, Writing Bar and She Writes Books.

Reading is an obsession, and to keep me up-to-date I consult the Guardian Books Page, Should Be Reading and Reading Matters.

Finally, for matters spiritual, I can't go past Buddhist Channel, Spirituality & Practice, Dangerous Harvests and Art and Faith, Too.
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