Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia’

Because of it’s essential nature as a “free to edit” site, Wikipedia is often referred to in jokey terms as an information resource.

But many of its articles, supported by references, are hugely useful to a wide variety of people. The project has vastly contributed to the free flow of information and opinion around the world.

While you read this, Wikipedia develops at a rate of over 1.8 edits per second, performed by editors from all over the world. Currently, the English Wikipedia includes 5,854,311 articles and it averages 564 new articles per day. This amount of data can be analysed in a huge number of ways.

What is certain is that it is a highly valuable resource to make world conversations better informed.

Which is why it is so sad that for one-third of the world’s population, it just disappeared.

Screenshot of Wikipedia ad

Wikipedia is now blocked in China.

All language editions of Wikipedia have been blocked in mainland China since April, the Wikimedia foundation has confirmed.

Internet censorship researchers found that Wikipedia had joined thousands of other websites which cannot be accessed in China.

The country had previously banned the Chinese language version of the site, but the block has now been expanded. Wikimedia said it had received “no notice” of the move.

In a statement, the foundation said: “In late April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China. After closely analysing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm that Wikipedia is currently blocked across all language versions.”

The free community-edited encyclopaedia has been intermittently blocked by authorities around the world.

In 2017, the site was blocked in Turkey and it has been blocked intermittently in Venezuela this year.

Experience shows that there is one thing that authoritarian regimes detest more than anything else, and that is losing control of the flow of information to their citizens. And experience shows that nothing forces them to back-track on these incursions into people’s freedom than their embarrassment at being found out and criticised.

The answer? Make a fuss. Stand up for the freedom of our Chinese brothers and sisters. Re-blog this article, put a link to it on Facebook, and on Twitter, and on any other platform you use regularly. Just hit one of the buttons at the end of this article.

Those in power in China will notice.

And if you want to know more about how important Wikipedia now is, go here:

Danny Vanzandt's house, where he mysteriously burned to death. There are two things I have learned never to do when drunk - smoke a cigarette or take a night-time laxative. Tell your friends.

Danny Vanzandt’s house, where he mysteriously burned to death. There are two things I have learned never to do when drunk – smoke a cigarette or take a night-time laxative. Tell your friends.

I have always loved the line in Sherlock Holmes (and elsewhere, quoted in Poirot, and many others) that when all else has been explained, the inexplicable or the impossible must be true.

However in the case of so-called spontaneous combustion, as is revealed in this very helpful Wikipedia article, in as many cases as have been examined closely, the cause of this peculiar and shocking phenomenon is actually usually quite clear.

A person, usually elderly or infirm, or affected by drugs or alcohol, and often a smoker, strays too close to a fire source – heater, kitchen, candle, etc. And once alight, they lack the wherewithall to escape the flames.

As a result, the body literally feeds on itself – the so called “wick” effect – until it is consumed, either entirely, or often the upper portion of the body, where most fat resides.

That will not stop credulous police or observers making an assumption of peculiar spontaneous combustion before a forensic examination of the scene or an autopsy, nor will it stop the world’s media breathlessly reporting the case.

As you can see from the following Yahoo article, the comments of Sheriff Lockhart actually completely support the known characteristics of this distressing phenomenon: in this case, very probably, a cigarette catching alight a drunken person, who then “combusts” with no added accelerant needed – because the accelerant is their own body. Anyway, very sad, but really no need to go blaming Old Nick or any other supernatural causes. Nor is it a sign of the end of the world.

Spontaneous combustion theory in man’s death

Police in America are investigating what they believe could be a case of spontaneous combustion after the charred remains of a man were found in his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Investigators say there was no other fire damage and there was no evidence of an accelerant being used.

"This is very bizarre," said Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart. "You're thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source." Well, there was a fire course. It was himself.

“This is very bizarre,” said Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart. “You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source.” Well, there was a fire source. It was himself.

Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart told that deputies were called to the house after a neighbour saw smoke coming from the home.

Sheriff Lockhart said they found the nearly completely charred remains of a man in the kitchen.

The man was identified as 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt, according to local reports.

The man’s remains have been sent to the medical examiner.

Sheriff Lockhart told 5News: “The body was burned and it was incinerated. This is a case that I’ve never seen before. This is very bizarre. You’re thinking someone poured something on him, but there was no fire source.

The body was burned and it was incinerated. I think there is only about 200 cases (of spontaneous combustion) worldwide. I’m not saying this is what it is, but I haven’t ruled it out.”

Well, rule it our, Sheriff, coz it doesn’t happen. A veteran law enforcer with 20 years in arson investigation for the Fort Smith, Ark., Police Department, Lockhart has never seen anything like it. Fair enough too, but so have very few people, hence, no doubt, the good Sheriff’s confusion.

Authorities said the man had a history of heavy drinking and smoking, according to Tulsa World. But Sheriff Lockhart said the way his body was burned was inconsistent with an accidental fire – such as from a cigarette dropping. Probably not. In fact, for “spontaneous combustion” to occur a cigarette is very often the cause, and the cigarette remains, of course, are duly consumed in the resulting fire.

Nevertheless, for whatever reasons – usually cost or lack of expertise – not all cases of spontaneous combustion ever get investigated closely enough to explain the cause, which is why these sad events provoke such superstitious speculation. A baffled coroner ruled last year that a man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous human combustion. In other cases of apparent spontaneous human combustion, in December 2001, a 73-year-old woman in Garden Grove, California, died from the third-degree burns to 90 percent of her body. The fire took only four minutes to extinguish and was confined to a couch, a table, and the chair in which the victim was sitting.

And on March 24, 1997, John O’Connor, 76, was found dead in his living room at Gortaleen in northern Ireland.

An intense and localized heat had left only his head, upper torso, and feet unburned, as well as the chair in which he was sitting.

There was very little smoke damage done to the room or the furniture.

Read the Wikipedia article, Dear Reader, and it will become clear why.

What’s not to like?

So yesterday I blogged on yummy Chinese food, and suddenly realised that I didn’t know why we had a fat Buddha outside our front door greeting our guests when the Buddha himself was a thin ascetic type who eschewed the pleasures of the flesh. Flesh? He even eschewed the pleasures of bok choy  in oyster sauce …

Anyway, the answer is that I was confusing Budai (Chinese: 布袋; pinyin: Bùdài), pronounced Hotei in Japanese, Bố Đại in Vietnamese, who is a Chinese folkloric deity, with the Buddha.

Wikipedia, as so often, is our friend here. (What a great experiment in information dissemination Wikipedia is, to be sure.)

Anyhow, courtesy of Wikipedia’s contributors, here is the fascinating story of the “Fat”  or “Smiling” or “Laughing” Buddha. Look, he’s fat, celebrates kindness, is nice to kids and is poor but contented. I mean, hello? What’s not to like? I am clearly channelling him in my life. I wonder if he enjoyed a pint or two of bitter British ale?

Anyhow, I have left the Wikipedia internal links in, in case you want to explore further …

His name – Budai – means “Cloth Sack,”and comes from the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying. He is usually identified with (or as an incarnation of) Maitreya, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya is depicted in East Asia. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛; pinyin: xiàofó). Many Westerners confuse Budai with Gautama Buddha. (There ya go. I’m not uniquely stupid.)


The laughing or fat buddha

“So I said to the girl at the drive thru at McDonalds, “You know what, supersize me”. And now look what happened.”

Budai is traditionally depicted as a fat bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads.

He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content. He is often depicted entertaining or being followed by adoring children.

His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses.


According to Chinese history, Budai was an eccentric Chán monk (Chinese: 禅; pinyin: chán) who lived in China during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 CE). He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (Chinese: 契此; pinyin: qiècǐ; literally “Promise this”). He was considered a man of good and loving character.

The term buddha means “one who is awake”, connoting one who has awakened into enlightenment.

Over the history of Buddhism, there have been several notable figures who would come to be remembered as, and referred to as, buddhas. Later followers of the Chan school would come to teach that all beings possess Buddha nature within them, and are already enlightened, but have yet to realize it. This teaching would continue into Zen.

Budai is often conflated with (or simply replaces) the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, in spite of the distinct visual differences in how each has been depicted. In India, Nepal, and throughout southeast Asia, Gautama (who lived during the 6th c. BCE) is commonly depicted as being tall and slender in appearance. In contrast, in China and those areas to which Chinese cultural influence spread, the depiction of Budai (who lived during the 10th c. CE) is consistently short and round. Both depictions are the idealized results of the religious, cultural and folkloric traditions which evolved in the centuries after their respective deaths.

Traditions that revere Budai


Budai in folklore is admired for his happiness, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment. One belief popular in folklore maintains that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity. (When I did business in China, young ladies often wanted to rub my belly. So it’s for good luck, huh? Who knew? They might have explained: could have saved some embarrassing mis-understandings.)

In Japan, Hotei persists in folklore as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin) of Taoism.


Some Buddhist traditions consider him a Buddha or a bodhisattva, often identifying him with Maitreya (the future Buddha).

His identification with the Maitreya is attributed to a Buddhist hymn he uttered before his death:

Maitreya, the true Maitreya
has billions of incarnations.
Often he is shown to people at the time;
other times they do not recognize him.


The primary story that concerns Budai in Zen (Chán) is a short kōan. In it, Budai is said to travel giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from Zen monks or lay practitioners he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, “What is the meaning of Zen?” Budai drops his bag. “How does one realize Zen?” he continues. Budai then takes up his bag and continues on his way.

I Kuan Tao

Statues of Budai form a central part of I Kuan Tao shrines, where he is usually referred to by the Sanskrit name Maitreya.According to I Kuan Tao, he represents many teachings, including contentment, generosity, wisdom and open kindheartedness. He is predicted to succeed Gautama Buddha as the next Buddha, and helps people realize the essence within, which connects with all beings.

Conflation with other religious figures

Angida Arhat

Angida was one of the original eighteen Arhats of Buddhism. According to legend, Angida was a talented Indian snake catcher whose aim was to catch venomous snakes to prevent them from biting passers-by. Angida would also remove the snake’s venomous fangs and release them. Due to his kindness, he was able to attain bodhi.

In Chinese art, Angida is sometimes portrayed as Budai, being rotund, laughing, and carrying a bag. In Nepali, he is also called hasne buddha (“laughing Buddha”).

Phra Sangkajai / Phra Sangkachai

In Thailand, Budai is sometimes confused with another similar monk widely respected in Thailand, Phra Sangkajai or Sangkachai (Thai: พระสังกัจจายน์). Phra Sangkajai, a Thai spelling of Mahakaccayanathera (Thai: มหากัจจายนเถระ), was a Buddhist Arhat (in Sanskrit) or Arahant (in Pali) during the time of the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Phra Sangkadchai for his excellence in explaining sophisticated dharma (or dhamma) in an easily and correctly understandable manner. Phra Sangkajai also composed the Madhupinadika Sutra.

Gratuitous photo of not fat body for journalistic balance.

One tale relates that he was so handsome that once even a man wanted him for a wife. To avoid a similar situation, Phra Sangkadchai decided to transform himself into a fat monk. (That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it – Ed.)

Another tale says he was so attractive that angels and men often compared him with the Buddha. He considered this inappropriate, so disguised himself in an unpleasantly fat body. (Or that one. That’s a good one, too.)

Although both Budai and Phra Sangkajai may be found in both Thai and Chinese temples, Phra Sangkajai is found more often in Thai temples, and Budai in Chinese temples. Two points to distinguish them from one another are:

  1. Phra Sangkajai has a trace of hair on his head (looking similar to the Buddha’s) while Budai is clearly bald.
  2. Phra Sangkajai wears the robes in Theravadin Buddhist fashion with the robes folded across one shoulder, leaving the other uncovered. Budai wears the robes in Chinese style, covering both arms but leaving the front part of the upper body uncovered.