Sunday Signs & Symbols: Laughing Buddha and the Number Eight

Today, I am attending a wedding. This ritual of joining two people together in marriage is full of rich symbolism.

Several months ago, I attended a wedding where the groom was of Chinese descent and the bride was of Filipino descent. They incorporated important symbols from each of their cultures into their special day. As I entered the dining room at the reception, I was greeted by an army of laughing Buddhas all arranged neatly in lines. Each Buddha had its arms raised, holding up a small piece of paper. On these slips of paper were the names of each guest and the table number they were assigned to sit in. How lucky of me to be assigned to table 8!

Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved enlightment and his image came to embody this state of being. In turn, the Chinese culture projected ideas of health, happiness, prosperity, and longevity on to the Buddha. Rubbing the Buddha’s belly is considered to be lucky.

In Cantonese and regional dialects, the pronunciation of the word “eight” is similar to the pronunciation of the words “wealth” and “prosperity”. Because of these similarities, the number eight has become synonymous with these words.

Years ago, we worked with a Chinese-American realtor when my husband and I looked to buy a house in a neighborhood with a significant Asian population. We learned that a house on the market with a price tag of multiple 8s or ending in an 8 meant the seller was Chinese. When our realtor put a bid to purchase her own house, her figure included three 8s at the end.

As the Summer Olympics in London approach, I think back to four years ago when China hosted the Summer Olympics. The Opening Ceremony was held on August 8, 2008 or 8/8/08 as close to 8:08:08 pm, Beijing time. How fortunate for the Chinese to work these logistics in their favor! It all makes sense.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Hindu Temple?

What I love about the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights Elmhurst, Queens (besides the fact that I grew up in Elmhurst) is the fact that that it is a melting pot of so many different cultures.  The local hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, apparently has staff that can speak approximately 80 languages and dialects to serve the community.

I was in the neighborhood one day and walked by this Sunoco gas station on Roosevelt Avenue & 72nd Street, I realized that there was one sign out of place from the rest.

Amid the signs for gas prices, state inspections, and washes there was a sign for what I’m guessing is a Hindu temple?  I didn’t have time to explore further so I can’t say exactly what place this sign is advertising.  I will have to come back and find out and let you know!

It is a little odd that a sign like this is mixed in with the gas station signs but maybe for this neighborhood, it makes a lot of sense.  If anyone can read the text, please let me know what this sign says in a comment.  Thank you!!!

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Hindu Temple?

What I love about the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights Elmhurst, Queens (besides the fact that I grew up in Elmhurst) is the fact that that it is a melting pot of so many different cultures.  The local hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, apparently has staff that can speak approximately 80 languages and dialects to serve the community.

I was in the neighborhood one day and walked by this Sunoco gas station on Roosevelt Avenue & 72nd Street, I realized that there was one sign out of place from the rest.

Amid the signs for gas prices, state inspections, and washes there was a sign for what I’m guessing is a Hindu temple?  I didn’t have time to explore further so I can’t say exactly what place this sign is advertising.  I will have to come back and find out and let you know!

It is a little odd that a sign like this is mixed in with the gas station signs but maybe for this neighborhood, it makes a lot of sense.  If anyone can read the text, please let me know what this sign says in a comment.  Thank you!!!

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: US Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This sentence is arguably the most recognized sentence in the US Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, the words of this document were approved. The thirteen American colonies publicly asserted their desire to separate from Great Britain and the rule of King George III.

The success of the American Revolution and the subsequent creation of a new republic based on the principles of democracy and liberalism affected the entire world at the time. Notions of equality and liberty espoused in the Declaration of Independence fueled revolutions in the late 18th century such as the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution, and in the early 19th century, the revolutions in Latin America. These ideals were used as the basis for change during periods of American history when the rights of a certain group of its citizens were contested namely, the abolitionist movement, the civil right’s movement, and the women’s suffrage and women’s rights movements. Even in the mid-20th century, these ideals were embraced by African and Asian colonies seeks independence from their colonizers. In America today, individuals and their respective political parties seeking election will appeal to voter sensibilities through the utilization of these ideals.

Happy Independence Day America! Read more this coming Tuesday on my trip to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia where I got to see the only known printed copy of the US Declaration of Independence on vellum.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs and Symbols: Sun

In honor of the recent Summer Solstice and my practicing Bikram Yoga in Times Square that day, I think it appropriate to dedicate a Sunday Signs & Symbols post to the sun. The image above depicting a circle with a heavy dot in the middle is an ancient symbol of the sun that is often used in astronomy and astrology.

The sun is such an integral factor to life on earth and it only makes sense that various cultures, disciplines, and religions have various representations for it. Throughout history, you will find groups of people worshiping the sun to varying degrees, in either the literal, metaphorical, or metaphysical sense.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped Ra, the sun god, while the Incans believed that their sun god Inti, was birthed out of a rock on Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) in Lake Titicaca, a mountain lake that inhabits both Bolivia and Peru.

"isla del sol", "lake titicaca". bolivia, peruHiking along the top of Isla del Sol with Lake Titicaca in the background.
"isla del sol", "lake titicaca", bolivia, peruThe sacred rock believed to be where Inti, the sun god, was born.

In hatha yoga, students practice sun salutations, a series of postures done in a flow sequence. In fact, the Sanskrit word “ha” means sun and “tha” means moon and put together, “hatha” represents the cosmological balance found in the universe. In Sanskrit, “ha” represents energy, masculinity, and the right side of the body while “tha” represents serenity, femininity, and the left side of the body.

Today’s modern day sun worshipers can be found mainly in Westerners who love to soak in the sun and get a tan. In NYC, locals and tourists alike, flock annually to the streets for several days in the year to watch Manhattanhenge. I actually discovered a lesser known but equally interesting solar event in NYC that I coined Queenshenge.

Sunday, derived from “the sun’s day”, can stir up debate as to whether it is the last or the first day of the week. Nevertheless, it is a testament to our deference to the sun and the word itself embodies how we understand and measure time.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic. Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Denver International Airport

image

This weekend I am in Keystone, Colorado for a conference called TBEX, Travel Blogger Exchange. When I attended TBEX last year in Vancouver, it helped solidify my decision to take a leap of faith, leave my job, and follow my dream.

This year’s TBEX location had me flying into Denver International Airport. I’ve seen airports offer a lot of amentities but this option is something new to me.

In your travels, what unique things have you seen in airports? Leave a comment below!

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Philippine Nationalism

Philipppine Independence Day is celebrated on June 12. The symbols that evoke great Filipino pride are the country’s flag and its national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Taken at the Philippine Consulate in NYC

Flags are designed to have symbolic meaning.  According to World Flags 101, the Philippine flag means the following:  

The blue stripe symbolizes patriotism and justice. The red represents valor and the blood spilt for freedom and independence and the white stands for peace and purity. The white triangle represents equality and the Katipunan nationalist organization. The three stars represent the three main geographical regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao and Visayas. The sun represents independence and its eight rays represent the eight provinces that led the Philippine uprising against Spanish rule.

When I first visited my family in the Philippines as a child, my aunt (an elementary school teacher) taught me that the flag can be flipped so that during war time, the red stripe flies on top.  Fortunately, this turning of the flag has never been purposefully done.  Recently, it was wrongly displayed to the embarrassment of the US government.

Dr. Jose Rizal is considered to be the Philippine national hero.  Trained as an ophthalmologist, Rizal was multifaceted and seemingly a genius.  He apparently spoke over 20+ languages, wrote poetry, essays, and books, drew, and had many more interests.  Every Filipino child learns about Rizal in school.  His books Noli Me Tangere and its sequel El Filibusterismo are required high school reading.  These books describe life in the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century.  Eventually, the Spanish imprisoned and executed him as a revolutionary instigator.  His death made him a martyr and fueled the movement to fight for independence from Spain.  Today, the Rizal Memorial located within Rizal Park, or Luneta, stands near the site of his execution in Manila.  The memorial has a statue of Rizal along with his remains; it is guarded at all times by two soldiers.  Below, an excerpt from “Mi Ultimo Adios” a poem written by Rizal, on the eve of his execution.

“My Last Farewell”
Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Utopia Parkway

Australian native James Clark of Nomadic Notes has been traveling the world for the last eight years. In February 2011, I wrote this post declaring my intention to be Queens-centric when writing about my hometown of NYC.  I suggested that Queens is a pretty awesome borough because it has a major thoroughfare with the coolest name ever.

As a Fountains of Wayne fan and curious world traveler, James read my post and was convinced to visit Queens the next time he planned to be in NYC!  By July, I met James in Vancouver at a travel blogger conference and in one month, he visited Queens.  I showed him around Flushing (he said he felt like he was back in China) and we ate in Astoria.  While he was here, we had to take a trip down the street that helped us become friends.

I think he was a happy man that day, able to experience a different slice of the Big Apple as well as finally being able to walk down the street singing the Fountains of Wayne song of the same name.

I got it made
I got it down
I am the king of this island / goddamn town
I’m on my own
I’m on my way
Down Utopia Parkway

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: In the Event of a Tsunami

In College Point, a NYC neighborhood on the northern shore of Queens, this sign is in the town center (14th Avenue & College Point Boulevard) away from the shore.  No other sign with this image can be found in the neighborhood so I am left to wonder what it means.  Is this location where people are to gather OR escape from in the event of a pending tsunami?  What do you think?  Leave them in your comments below.

Sunday Signs & Symbols is a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.

Sunday Signs & Symbols: Harmony, CA

After visiting Hearst Castle near San Luis Obispo, California, I was driving on Highway 1 and came upon a sign for a town called Harmony (population 18).  What a unique name for a town so I stopped to strike a pose!  Tree posture strengthens the legs and improves balance.  When you practice tree pose, your standing leg remains strong and rooted to the ground as you stretch your spine up towards the ceiling, growing taller like a tree.

Beginning today, Sunday Signs & Symbols will be a weekly blog event, showcasing a picture and an explanation on this broad topic.  Every culture uses signs and symbols to interpret their environment, inject meaning to life, and attach value to an object or practice so that its people share a common understanding of the world and the social rules that dictate the behavior within it.