Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, June 17, 1999

Linda Ching photo
Ching's latest book, "Story of the Stone," focuses on her
Chinese roots. It was photographed on location in China,
with wardrobe provided by film studios.

Photographer on a quest
for goddess within

By Nadine Kam
Features editor


The myths of old Hawaii and ancient China have a lot in common with the biggest myth there is today, George Lucas' "Star Wars."

"One of the key themes in mythology is the mythic quest," says photographer Linda Ching. "We're all on a mythic quest whether we know it or not. Lucas took from the mythology and tried to create a contemporary myth.

"We're in a time of false gods and fallen heroes and we need that. I really commend him, but I'll wait to see the movie when the lines get smaller."

That would be some time after Ching's free talk at at 7:30 p.m. today at the University of Hawaii's Krauss Hall Yukiyoshi Room 012.

The talk, "Fire Goddesses and Red Chamber Dreams: How to Use the Power of Myths to Realize Your Dreams," grew out of Ching's quest, which began with her "Hawaiian Goddesses" photo series.

"It started as a high-fashion session with my model and stylist friends. We did the big hair and the makeup to showcase the beauty of Hawaii's women, but as I started doing research on the goddesses, I found the myths had a bigger story to tell," she said.

"It's been 20 years, but it's been slow progress. It began with my interest in the stories, but I took them as being interesting and entertaining. It took a while to understand the metaphors and apply them to what I'm trying to accomplish.

"If we look carefully, the stories give us all the clues as to how we conduct our lives. They talk about an outer journey -- the hero goes on an adventure -- but they're really talking about an inner journey. Within the myths are guideposts for us to fall on."

Ching's photo series eventually led to the book "Hawaiian Goddesses," published in 1987. This was followed by other books exploring aspects of Hawaiian history and legend: " 'Ano Lani, The Hawaiian Monarchy Years" (1993); "Hawaiian Memories" (1994); and "Powerstones" (1994), written with Robin Stephens.

Ching's latest book, "Story of the Stone," focuses on her Chinese roots. Through evocative photos, taken on location in China, and translated text, Ching adapts the first five chapters of Cao Zuequin's 18th century classic, "Dream of the Red Chamber." The 120-chapter novel tells of a wealthy family's life during the final days of the Ch'ing dynasty, while exploring Taoist and Buddhist philosophy.

"The further I get into this, the more I realize I'm a beginner. I think the myths put a focus in my work. If I try to communicate to people as I'm learning, I think I can do a service.

"While I'm not saying anything new, my work is largely visual and it's said there are a lot of thoughts that cannot be communicated by speaking. Hopefully, I can bring a new audience to the work."

For more information about the talk, call the Outreach College at UH, 956-3836. The talk is part of the Shunzo Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture Series.

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