"'Buddha and Fish Promote Abundance"
In feng shui, water symbolizes prosperity and abundance, and for that reason, aquariums, fountains, ponds, and other water-related items are sometimes recommended to attract wealth energy into homes and offices. Fish, too, denote water, so carp (aka koi) and goldfish are both Chinese fortune symbols. Chinese traditions indicate that wealth symbols should come in "pairs" because couples propagate future generations – and subsequently, future expansion. Notice how all the creatures in this painting come in pairs: two goldfish, two dragonfish, two koi and two sea snakes. Chi-Jen Liu's message reads loud and clear when he titled this piece "Buddha and Fish Promote Abundance."
The Chinese language is multi-layered; therefore, phonetic wordplay is frequently used by the artist to enhance symbolism. Take, for instance, the Prosperity Buddha featured in this painting. He is depicted holding a cornucopia from which eight red stars pour forth. Why eight? Because in Chinese, the number eight is pronounced "ba," which can be linguistically interpreted to mean "prosperity." It is easy to miss this symbol at first glance, so Chi-Jen Liu gives another clue by curling the tail of the red sea snake into a figure eight!
Wisdom is a prerequisite for the attainment of wealth. In his book, "The Ultimate Feng Shui Solution," Chi-Jen Liu reveals an intimate memory that explains why spaceships play an important role in his work. He says, "My family moved to North Vietnam when I was seven. In retrospection, I can still recall playing with bottle caps with some of my friends in our elementary school playground. The sky was darkened by what we assumed was a cloud covering the sun, but instead, I had my first paranormal experience of seeing a UFO in the sky. It came as fast as it went, disappearing in a white glow. Today, I believe that extraterrestrial beings are part of human ancestry. They guide us with their intelligence. From that day, my friends and I became fascinated by all mysterious things." The spaceships represent the wisdom bounty that the artist believes will guide generations to come. Not coincidentally, the spaceships in his piece are arranged as pairs.
The founder of Buddhism can be traced back to a young prince, from around the 5th century BC, called Siddhartha Gautama. He renounced his royal life, leaving behind his home and family, in search of the way out of worldly suffering. After years of austere meditative practice, Siddhartha reached self-realization and paved the way to liberation – freedom from the repeated cycles of birth and death (reincarnation) – and became the "Buddha." In Buddhism, it is believed that anyone can achieve the state of perfection (Nirvana) by following what is called "The Noble Eightfold Path." Hence, "Buddha" is the hard-earned title bestowed upon individuals who have dissolved their material desires, who have reached the highest states of self-awareness, and ultimately, who have freed themselves from all earth-binding karma. They become incarnations of universal understanding, compassion, and right conduct.
When Chi-Jen Liu describes his art, the term "buddha" is synonymous for any Eastern god or deity. As a lifelong practitioner of Taoism and Buddhism, he has painted divine personages throughout his career. For him, they embody the qualities we need to cultivate and the truths we need to grasp in order to find happiness. Taoist figures can range from legendary sages or powerful leaders with holy stature to personifications of Nature that have the power to reward man for his good deeds. Buddhist-related gods include heavenly guardians and bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who return to earth to help others) who are revered for bestowing grace, peace and enlightenment to man.