The Thick Black and White Ocean among Buddhist Pilgrimage Tourist Operators in Thailand



Nithisathian, Kittichok, Lavanchawee Sujarittanonta and John Walsh, “The Thick Black and White Ocean among Buddhist Pilgrimage Tourist Operators in Thailand,” Journal of Social and Development Studies, Vol.7, No.3 (2016), pp.11-19, available at:


The White Ocean strategy proposed by Thai scholar Danai Chanchaochai addresses management based on Buddhist philosophy, and emphasizes the society first before looking to oneself. At the same time, there is also the concept of Black Ocean, or Hòuhēixué (厚黑學) which translates to Thick Black Theory, proposed by Li Zongwu (李宗吾). Theoretically, an understanding of both white and black can lead the businessman to adjust his plans for better performance. Therefore, this research examines both Black and
White concepts in the context of religious tourism, by collecting business data from tour operators that offer pilgrimage packages to Buddhists. It was found that the Buddhist aspect of the religious tour businesses puts “Blackness” profiteering goals in the background by building a “White” image of charity and donations, thus suggesting that the Black and White co-exists and are inseparable, similar to the middle path or yin-yang
balance in nature.
Keywords: White Ocean Strategy, Black Ocean Strategy, religious tour operators

Review of Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest

Cixin Liu


Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest is the second instalment of a trilogy that began with The Three Body Problem (spoilers of which immediately follow).

Earth is under attack from distant aliens who not only have superior technology but the ability to suppress technological development on Earth. That means that any attempt to resist the forthcoming attack will have to use already existing technology, albeit with the most ingenious engineering imaginable. The good news, if there is any, is that it will take the alien fleet several centuries to reach the Earth so there will be some time to prepare. The wise people of the planet decide that four individuals should be selected and provided with all resources required to lead the resistance. Since the aliens have agents on Earth able to communicate with their own home planet, it is necessary to conduct all activities and complete plans in secret. The ability to hibernate for extended periods means that the people involved (the Wall Facers) can order some development to take place and then be woken up perhaps decades later when engineers have been able to work out how technical difficulties might be overcome. Of the four selected, one is Chinese and since this is a book by a Chinese author writing (at least initially) for a Chinese audience, it is not unreasonable to suppose that it is the Chinese guy whose story we will be following the most.

I do teach East Asian literature to a certain extent and one of the questions that arise is not so much the differences it exhibits from western literature but how people from one context can appreciate the literature from the other context. There are some issues to do with personal and family relationships to understand, of course, since these are often more important in East Asia and structure the ways in which people treat and communicate with each other. The subtle usage of a diminutive or pet name, for example, can reveal a torrent of understanding about a relationship which would not necessarily be available for western readers. There are also issues related to historical and cultural allusions and to the meaning of high culture context items such as food. However, perhaps the most important difference (and, I suspect, the reason why East Asian literature is not often recognised for literary prizes) is the general absence of the Freudian exploration of character. In western literature, it is now almost unimaginable to read fiction and not expect to make some analysis of the characters based on our understanding of their psychology. We judge the characters based on their supposed virtues and vices and expect them to behave in a way which is consistent with their personalities. This approach is often absent from Asian literature and Cixin Liu’s work is an example of this. Characters are to be considered and, if necessary, judged according to such criteria as the extent to which they fulfil their roles in society and as part of family networks and how well they embody recognised principles such as Confucian or neo-Confucian propriety. This might prove to be an obstacle for some readers who will want and expect to be given insights into the characters based on psychology which are not made available here. This would be a pity because this is a fascinating book with some genuinely philosophical inquiries into humanity’s place in the universe and the individual’s place in society, not to mention the consideration of how society would cope, if at all, with the approach of what seems likely to be an existential threat to our civilization.

At the end of the novel, there is a difference in the relationship between humanity and the aliens that means the conclusion of the trilogy – Death’s End – will be based on a different kind of problem. I look forward to finding out what it will be. The current book, unobtrusively translated by Joel Martinson, is lucid and well-paced without being frenetic and there is a chance for the reader to take a look around the world. A new language has been developed, in which a large amount of English vocabulary has been incorporated into standard Chinese, which indicates the general dominance of Chinese society in a plurality of different natures and cultures. Globalization of communications and commerce appear to have eroded most political ideologies and a form of global consensus is used to deal with transnational issues on a generally rational basis. This is, again, a typically Chinese approach. Let’s see how well it deals with humanity’s next crisis.


Review of Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Raymond Carver


“L.D. put the shaving bag under his arm and picked up the suitcase.

He said, ‘I just want to say one more thing.’

But then he could not think what it could possibly be (p.134).”

This passage, the conclusion to the final story in this collection, ‘One More Thing,’ is emblematic of the world which Raymond Carver so precisely describes and dissects. In post-war America and subsequent decades, mostly young and inexperienced couples struggle to understand the bourgeois mores they are expected to observe and to find something meaningful in the suburban world of consumption and commerce they inhabit. Generally, they are unable to do so and so we see L.D. thrown out of the house by his wife after being abusive to their 15-year old daughter after what is “… another tragedy in a long line of low-rent tragedies (p.130).” In the end, faced with the consequences of their actions, inadequate as they may be in the face of overwhelming forces beyond their ability to influence, they are reduced to silence. The image brings to mind the conclusion of Dante’s Inferno, where we are brought into the presence of Lucifer, who has been reduced to glacial, frozen immobility because of his inability to bring the universe under his own control.

In the eponymous story around which this characteristically slim collection is based, the characters try with only limited success beyond the obvious and the physical. Estranged seemingly from both religion and political ideology, they have few resources when seeking to explain or to understand their own circumstances. They search for something special in love, as if such a construct could genuinely provide some meaning to life. They are also reduced to silence and then all the gin runs out.

Carver was a wonderful writer and while, on the one hand, it is possible to appreciate and enjoy these short stories for what they are, on the other hand there is some measure of regret that he did not write something more substantial to outline his world view in some more depth. Instead, he moved towards verse an while poetry is of course a perfectly good medium for dealing with the big picture, it does seem that he preferred to pare down his work until he could illuminate daily life in a haiku or a moment of zen-like enlightenment. The stories in this collection are a little bleaker than in other collections and the sense of optimism to be obtained is very fragile and ephemeral. The most that people can hope for, it seems, is that things are not worse than they are now and then things do get worse and then they die. Usually in silence. At least they can have a drink while they get through it all – something that Carver himself had to give up in order to save his life and launch his writing career. He became a major part of modern American literature.

Seasonal Labour Migration from a Rural Nepalese Village


Announcing: Jha, Dilip Kumar and John Walsh, “Seasonal Labour Migration from a Rural Nepalese Village,” International Journal of Migration and Residential Mobility, Vol.1, No.3 (2016), pp.219-32, abstract available at:


The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature and extent of seasonal labour migration among a sample of villagers in Janakpur province of Nepal. Personal interviewing was combined with ethnographic observation with content analysis of the database of findings subsequently conducted. The system of migration is persistent rather than stable; work is available in natural resource extraction or processing facilities and urban environments. The former is easier to plan for than the latter, which can be risky and some migrants are unable to support themselves. The research is limited in both space and time and, owing to the lack of knowledge about the working practices of people in this area, can be considered to be exploratory in nature. It is shown that, under current circumstances, few benefits are yet flowing to the Nepalese village studied.

Keywords: seasonal labour migration; Nepalese villages; India; seasonal work; rural Nepal; ethnography; rural communities.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMRM.2016.10000391