My superior forwarded to me the above calligraphy for translation and interpretation.
I refer to the Chinese calligraphy written in the classical Chinese style forwarded to me for translation and interpretation. Initially, I came out with this finding after discussing with my friend Dr Mike – “Mists of cloud or snow spell good fortune.”
I’ve consulted few of my friends. Cpl Chua who is knowledgeable in Chinese sought his wife’s teacher who is a graduate of the famous 清华大学 Tsinghua University gave the exact modern Chinese written version 龍得雲煙而祥瑞 lóng dé yún yān ér xiáng ruì Sgt Lee explained at length on the last two characters xiáng ruì. Both officers are Chinese educated.
However, from Dr Mike’s friend in China: 好像是：龍伴雲烟而祥瑞。第二个字写的不规范，有的像伴字。
The only disparity between the 2 versions is that on the second Chinese character – whether it’s 得 or 伴？得 roughly means to get, in possession or having it. Whereas 伴 simply means accompany. Thus, only one Chinese character could make a great difference in the meaning or thrust of the entire verse or sentence written in classical style calligraphy.
The sentence or verse of the calligraphy roughly translated : “Dragon (1st Chinese character) accompanied or acquires / possesses clouds and mists (smoke) spell excellent omen / good fortune.”
The last two Chinese characters 祥瑞 xiáng ruì mean auspicious sign; propitious omen.
I would prefer the first version ie. The dragon when possesses or acquires the clouds, snow or mists will surely portend/forestall good omen and fortune. It is auspices.
To add further, the dragon is a mythical creature awed by the Chinese throughout their long history especially during ancient times in the era of emperors and dynasties. The dragon symbolises the emperor. The dragon throne, dragon robe, dragon body, dragon mood or anger etc etc are all associated with the Chinese emperor.
The Chinese even declare themselves as descendants of the Yellow Emperor (Dragon) 龍的傳人; lóng de chuán rén, also translated as “Heirs of the Dragon”. Yellow color is also the color of Chinese royalty. Only the Chinese emperor uses yellow.
In the calligraphy, the dragon without the clouds, snow or mists (high up in the mountains, it’s cold) is insignificant and insubstantial. The dragon MUST be accompanied or possesses the clouds and mists in order to exhibit its full power or impact of good fortune and propitious omen. It is akin to fish and water. Without water, the fish could not survive.
To paraphrase the above. We may safely interpret it as the leader (as in dragon synonymous with the Chinese emperor/ruler) is NOT effective without able, capable and competent subordinates (ministers) assisting him to rule or run the country.
To illustrate further. LKY is great partly due to his inner core of brilliant ministers especially Goh Keng Swee, Hon Sui Sen, S Rajaratnam, EW Baker etc Those brilliant ministers were LKY’s (dragon as leader/ruler) clouds, snow and mists! That brooked well in our early difficult years and portended our great economic miracle with what we have inherited today.
The person who presented you that scroll might have harboured that notion in his mind. He meant you well and wish you success in all your future endeavours as a leader (dragon) with all the blessings of the clouds and mists!
Thank you for allowing me that rare opportunity to enlighten you. Hopefully you’ve gained some insight into that priceless phrase written in the style of ancient Chinese calligraphy.
“The Art of Rulership” (9, 主術訓) parallels the yinglong with the tengshe 騰蛇 “soaring snake” dragon. “The t’eng snake springs up into the mist; the flying ying dragon ascends into the sky mounting the clouds; a monkey is nimble in the trees and a fish is agile in the water.” Ames (1981:74) compares the Hanfeizi attribution of this yinglong and tengshe metaphor to the Legalist philosopher Shen Dao.
Shen Tzu said: “The flying dragon mounts the clouds and the t’eng snake wanders in the mists. But when the clouds dissipate and the mists clear, the dragon and the snake become the same as the earthworm and the large-winged black ant because they have lost that on which they ride. (tr. Ames 1981:176)