This picture was taken in the Gardens of Suzhou in China walking on the smallest bridge ever built. A key message that transpires throughout my book is that small things count, and those small things are the key to happiness. It is very inspiring to hear stories of heroine such as Yu Gwan Sun or Joan of Arc (who features on the cover of my book) but ultimately not everyone has inside of them that capacity to do heroic deeds.
You don’t have to go out there and save the world. Every person great or small has important work to do. I believe that there is for each and every one of us a goal that we must follow. But it doesn’t have to be something extraordinary or amazing. It can be something very small indeed, that is the key to happiness.
Small things are important because the world needs more people who are content and happy.
Yu Gwan Sun (1902-1920) was a heroine of Korea’s Independence movement using non-violent means to protest against the Japanese occupation. She was imprisoned after taking part in the March 1st Independence Movement and was a true inspiration for the whole nation. She died from her abuse & torture at the young age of 17 years.
Yu Gwan Sun’s History
Yu was a student at Ewha Haktang in Seoul, which was established by American missionaries as the first modern educational institution for women in Korea. On March 1, 1919, Yu and four classmates joined others taking to the streets with cries of Mansei! (Long live Korean independence!). Protest organizers came to Ewha Haktang and encouraged Yu and her peers to join a student demonstration to be staged on March 5, she and her classmates marched at Namdaemun, a gate in central Seoul.
A few days later, Yu returned to her hometown, Cheonan, about 53 miles south of Seoul in South Chungcheong Province, with a smuggled copy of the Declaration of Independence. She went from village to village spreading word of the Samil (literally three-one, or March 1) Movement and rallying local residents to organize their own protests. By early April Yu was distributing homemade taegeukgi, or Korean national flags, and giving speeches calling for independence. The Japanese military police arrived at one of the protests and fired on the crowd, killing 19 people. Yu’s parents were among the dead.
By the time the authorities quashed the protests a few weeks later, an estimated two million people out of a population of 20 million had participated in 1,542 pro-independence marches, according to Djun Kil Kim, author of The History of Korea. More than 7,000 people had been killed, and about 46,000, including Yu, had been jailed. After being convicted of sedition, she was sent to Seodaemun Prison in Seoul where she was repeatedly beaten and tortured for speaking out. “Japan will fall,” she wrote shortly before dying of her injuries on Sept. 28, 1920, at 17.
“Even if my fingernails are torn out, my nose and ears are ripped apart, and my legs and arms are crushed, this physical pain does not compare to the pain of losing my nation,” she wrote in prison. “My only remorse is not being able to do more than dedicating my life to my country.”
In March 2019 the movie, A Resistance was released in South Korea to mark the centennial of the March 1 Independence Movement. There have been several biographic films of Yu in the past, but A Resistance: The Story of Yu Gwan-sun directed by Jo Min-ho, delves deeper into her emotions as she spends her days inside the prison along with other inmates.
I wrote about histories like Yu’s in my book 📖 because we can gain wisdom and courage by acts of bravery by the oppressed against their aggressors.
General Kim Si-Min was a prominent Korean General during the Joseon Dynasty. He is most famous for defeating 300,000 professionally trained Japanese soldiers with an army of just 3,800 men comprising of farmers, scolars, monks and women.
This army was known as the Righteous Army. Victory was obtained thanks to General Kim Si-Min ability to motivate and inspire his people to fight for their freedom and independence, thanks also for their superior strategy of using archers who had the power to accurately hit their targets from far away, and for their ability to find innovative ways to conduct warfare. This battle established General Kim Si-Min firm reputation as a fierce warrior. In Japanese theater play the villain is known as Moksa 👺 – Legend has it that Moksa is General Kim Si-Min.
In my book I described the act of courage of the opppressed against the aggressor.
On the 1st March 2019, South Korea celebrated the 100th anniversary of the March 1st Movement, a mass demonstration of Korean resistance against Japanese Colonial rule.
The Korean flag is full of symbolism and represents the spirit of the nation. The white background of flag means Peace. The red & blue circle in the center refers to the origin of all things in the Universe, Yin & Yang. The blue part is Yin and represents all the negative aspects whilst the red represents the Yang and describes all the positive aspects. Together they represent perfect harmony and balance.
Yin & Yang represents duality, there are many natural dualities, such as good and bad, light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting, however as these dualities cannot exist without each other the duality of Yin and Yang is also thought of as an indivisible whole.
The four trigrams at the corners of the Korean flag represent the four classical elements : starting from the top left corner: Heaven, Water Earth & Fire. The flag symbolizes the nation as a whole ; the white background represents the land, the circle represents the people and the 4 trigrams represent the government. All three make-up the essential elements of the Korean nation.
In my book I described the act of courage of the opppressed against the aggressor. For more on this subject please check out my book.
Extract from This Is Your Quest – Chapter 7 – Page 100:
“The idea of building huge temples and monuments was to instill the idea that the rulers were of a different class than the average man. The other way the rulers imposed their authority upon the rest was to make up stories/narrative in order to make the people believe that men were fashioned from clay and created for one purpose only: to serve the Gods and Sons of Gods living on Earth (i.e. Kings and Emperors) by supplying them with food, drink & shelter (i.e. palaces) so that they may have time for their divine activities spent mainly towards the preservation of their own glory & authority. The ultimate purpose of the rulers was to install control, regulation and fear into their subjects, so that they themselves could have a life of leisure and luxury.”
Photo taken in Beijing at the Temple of Heaven which was used to be a place where the Emperors of the Ming and Qin Dynasties went to worship Heaven and offered sacrifices to pray for good harvests & favorable rain.
The Forbidden City was the official residence of 24 Ming & Qin Dynasty Emperors & their entourage with 9,000 rooms built and hosting up to 30 000 people. The name “Forbidden City” describes very plainly the fact that the City was forbidden to the “Common People”. No commoner was allowed inside these walls and there were separate entrances and separate quarters for men & women.
Feng Shui Red Door Significance: red is a vibrant color that attracts attention and the attention can bring fame & fortune. In Imperial China, only the Emperor and High Ranking Officials could paint their doors red, which is one reason why red is associated with prosperity.
Dress to Empress!
All females living in the Forbidden City were sequestered for life. The concubines main task was to bear children for the Emperor. Those who gave birth were elevated to Imperial Consorts, with the Empress at the top of the pecking order. The selection process was rigorous & was based on beauty (white porcelain skin was a criteria of outstanding beauty), together with size of their feet (barbaric foot-binding practice was prominent at this time) ; their intellect, artistic skills (painting, singing, dancing) & temperament were tested, so was their physical condition (medical examination). Social background was no barrier and many Emperors chose concubines from the general public.
The Empress was the one exception. Only a few of those who made it through this rigorous process would be noticed by the Emperor, win his favors and be taken to the Emperor’s bed-chamber by the eunuchs. Eunuchs were servants who had been castrated in order to make them reliable servants of the Emperor. These emasculated men served as palace servants and as watchdog primarily to concubines, safeguarding the Imperial Ladies chastity. The majority of the concubines would spend their lives in bitter loneliness (away from friends & family), embroiled in daily Palace politics and jealousy was rife among the concubines. When the Emperor died, so did the concubines. They were forced to commit suicide (poison) or were buried alive with the Emperor.
I have been travelling throughout China following in the footsteps of explorers & adventurers and picking up some amazing stories along the way and some Chinese Wisdom too.
The Great Wall of China
Extract from “This Is Your Quest” – Chapter 1 – Page 18: “From the beginning of time, travelling has been part of human nature. Throughout history travelers and explorers have sought adventure for various reasons such as the search for trading routes, religious sites, pilgrimage, fame & fortune, conquests, science & knowledge. The Qin Dynasty was the first dynasty of Imperial China. During this time, many nomadic groups were fighting each other for territories, dominance and prosperity. The Great Wall of China was built during the Qin Dynasty in order to protect the Chinese State against numerous raids from nomadic groups of the Eurasian steppes …”
The Great Wall of China was built because the Mongolian Warriors were superior in height, size and strength compared to the Chinese Warriors and were therefore better warriors than the Chinese. The Mongolians were the first one to produce and consume dairy products because of the geography and area where they lived. Their diet was rich in protein and calcium which made them bigger & stronger compared to the Chinese. The Chinese realized that the odds of them winning battles 🤼♂️ against the Mongolians were not in their favor. So they built a wall that stretch over 6000 km to protect their population.
DIET & SIZE MATTER 💪 A GREAT DEAL!
The Silk Road
Extract from “This Is Your Quest” – Chapter 1 – Page 21:
“The Qin Dynasty was followed by the Han Dynasty whose ambition was to seek new trading routes and also to expand their territory and influence West. Zhang Quan was appointed Chinese Imperial Envoy in 138 BC and his mission was to ensure the safety of the trading routes. His journey into the heart of Asia would result in the most important Silk Trading Route in human history. While many different kinds of merchandise traveled along the Silk Road, the name comes from the popularity of Chinese Silk with the West, especially with Rome. The Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa & Arabia opening long distance political and economic relationships between those countries. It was although through the Silk Road that religion, philosophy, technology and disease ( most notably the plague) spread along the route.” Fast forward to the 21st Century, China announced in 2013 that it will resurrect the Silk Road. The initiative will encompass land routes (the Belt) and maritime routes (the road) with the goal of improving trade relationships in the region primarily through infrastructure investments. The vision is for connectivity and to trigger a new golden age of commerce that will benefit all.”
The world is full of unsolved mysteries. Rather than the land we live, what seems strange to us is the Ocean, which is home to many myths, legends & mysteries. Lost cities, hidden treasures, mystic ships are all part of the alluring marine world. Of all of these, the lost city of Atlantis tops the list.
The lost city of Atlantis was first mentioned by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato more than 2,300 years ago. In his stories, Plato describes Atlantis as a legendary island idealizing it as an advanced society where Utopia dominates. In Atlantis, wisdom is the primary characteristics of the people and their wisdom should bring peace in the world. According to Plato, Atlanteans were great engineers and their technology was much more advanced than in other parts of the world. Atlantis was special as it was technologically & educationally much more advanced than any other society.
Tale of God’s Love. Legend says that Atlantis city was built by Poseidon – The God of Sea, Storms & Earthquakes when he fell in love with a mortal woman called Cleito. He built his city on top of a hill, in an isolated island in the sea to show his appreciation for his wife. Atlantis was said to be inhabited by people who were more beautiful & more intelligent than the rest of the world. The myth says that the inhabitants of Atlantis City were superior beings.
Atlantis was paradise: no one had to work hard. Every type of wonderful food grew there, and animals were plentiful. It had a glorious culture with wonderful palaces and temples. The kings were rich in gold, silver and other precious metals. The people of Atlantis lived a golden age of harmony and abundance.
Then things started to change. As the Atlanteans grew powerful, their ethics declined. They became greedy for more than they had. They became corrupt. Angered by the Atlanteans’ behavior Zeus summoned all the Gods and decided to teach Atlantis a lesson.
The legend of Atlantis ends with the wrath of Zeus who sent an earthquake that made Atlantis sink into the sea in the course of one day and one night. And just like that, Atlantis, its people & its memory were swallowed by the sea.
This Is Your Quest is a self-help book, I despise the phrase because it describes pop-psych, hippy nonsense, espousing spiritual mantras and upper colonic irrigation. If those are your tools for leading a kinder, simpler life, then so be it. However, if you want to read a book, you need something a bit more cerebral. This Is Your Quest is nothing like any other self-help book you will come across. It is an enlightening delight that defies the genre, well-written, insightful and ever so sincere. The approach is individual, the words have depth and the message is uplifting and thoughtful”.
“The book itself is a journey, and Reed excels at holding the hand of her guest readers. There is a gentle voice to the message. In between each chapter, she includes letters to the readers, recapping what’s has been learned and continually encouraging growth”.
“There is a surprising amount of depth in the presentation. I learnt a lot while reading it. I am not a major history nerd, but history was what hooked me. I think it is a really interesting way to break down happiness and comment on the idea of our worth and potential quests”.
The amazing and true story of Professor Ueno and his dog Hachi is described in This Is Your Quest – Chapter 14 – Page 184:
This story takes place in Japan in the 1920s. The main characters are Eizaburo Ueno, Professor of Agricultural Science at Tokyo University and his Dog Hachiko (nicknamed Hachi).
Professor Ueno lived a normal and quiet life. He used to take the train to Tokyo every day to teach. One day, one of his students offered him a pure breed Akita puppy to adopt. Akita dogs are well known in Japan. They were originally bred to fight and hunt bears and to guard Japanese royalty. They are excellent guard dogs and are used today by the Japanese police and military for security, and thanks to Hachi, they are also known for their loyalty.
Professor Ueno and Hachi developed a very strong bond and became inseparable. Hachi got into the habit of seeing his owner off to work in the morning at Shibuya train station, in Central Tokyo and then going to meet him at the station in the afternoon when he returned from work. Hachi did this every day without fail.
On 21 May 1925, Hachi was sitting by the exit at Shibuya train station, as usual, waiting for his dear Eizaburo to return. But his owner never showed up. It turned out that Eizaburo had suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage and died suddenly and unexpectedly while at work.
Hachi moved in with a former gardener of the Ueno family, but for the rest of his ten-year life, he continued to go to Shibuya train station every morning and afternoon, waiting in vain for the return of his beloved owner, who sadly never came back.
A major newspaper reporter picked up on the story of Hachiko in 1932 and published it, which led to Hachiko becoming a celebrity all over Japan. In 1934 a statue of Hachiko was unveiled at a grand ceremony in front of Shibuya train station with Hachi himself present as the main guest. Hachi became an international sensation in 2009 when Hachi’s story was turned into a Hollywood movie with Richard Gere as the lead actor.
On 19 May 2012, a bronze statue of Hachiko was placed at the train station in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where the movie “Hachi” was filmed. The Rhode Island statue’s dedication ceremony was part of the Cherry Blossom festival. Dignitaries including the Mayor of Woonsocket and the Consul of Japan attended the ceremony. Decades after his death, the love and loyalty that Hachi showed for his master is still celebrated on the other side of the world and has drawn crowds and dignitaries from both the US and Japan.
Extract from This Is Your Quest – Chapter 14 – Page 183:
Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and their children; but it can also be found in the unconditional love that dog owners get from their dog.
Dogs are the only species who, like a child, run to their owner when they are frightened, anxious or just pleased to see their owner whenever they walk through the door.
Dogs have a very special capacity to demonstrate unconditional love that is quite refreshing. Their enthusiasm for their owner never falters. Dogs are the only animal to actively seek out eye contact with people, and truly want to be with us. Studies have shown that being in contact with animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and horses can lead to lower blood pressure and can combat stress and ease anxiety disorder and depression. Pets can provide friendship to those who are lonely, sick or depressed.
“Interesting reading from beginning until the end, now and then I felt like being at school again. I am familiar with the name Beguine women but never realized their background. I lived in Netherlands in a city called Haarlem about 20km West of Amsterdam. Haarlem is an old city with a long history and still has a Beguinage (Beguine courtyard) which is a national monument. I always took it at face value without knowing the history.
The book is well organized which is also important. Thanks for this book. I wish many people read it.”
Originally there were 37 beguine (Dutch” begijn”), courtyards (dutch “hofjes”), but most of them were destroyed by the Calvinists during the religious conflicts. Only two very beautiful beguinages remain today: Amsterdam and Breda, which have been protected by the Orange-Nassau family.
Extract from “This Is Your Quest” – Chapter 20 – Page 222:
“The tale of the Beguine Women who lived independently in the Middle Ages, who became very influential through their trades as healers & educators and their gifts as oracles, is a story worth telling. The Beguines Women were usually unmarried women, skilled in the art of herbal medicine and healing. They looked like nuns but never swore allegiance to any formal church organization.They organized themselves into self-sufficient villages where they catered for most of their needs themselves. They built schools for young girls. They built hospitals, cemeteries and pharmacies. They also became safe oasis for women who were left destitute. Slowly but surely the Beguine Women started to become very influential. This tremendous success drew a lot of jealousy from the clergy who saw them as direct competition to their authority and power…”
To find out how this story ends you have to read it in Chapter 20 of my book.