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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Counting Sheep 數羊 羊を数える

Updated: Jan 14

大人的世界太紛亂了… 總有些時候,我們會想逃回兒時的那一塊淨土

The adult world is too complicating, sometimes we all want to retreat back to the innocent times when we play like children...

Counting sheep is a mental exercise used in some Western cultures as a means of putting oneself to sleep.

In most depictions of the activity, the practitioner envisions an endless series of identical white sheep jumping over a fence, while counting them as they do so. The idea, presumably, is to induce boredom while occupying the mind with something simple, repetitive, and rhythmic, all of which are known to help humans sleep.

Although the practice is largely a stereotype, and rarely used as a solution for insomnia, it has been so commonly referenced by cartoons, comic strips, and other mass media, that it has become deeply engrained into popular culture's notion of sleep. The term "counting sheep" has entered the English language as an idiomatic term for insomnia. Sheep themselves have become associated with sleep, or lack thereof.

Sheep are associated with Christmas in folk tales told across Europe and the British Isles. An ancient saying reports that on the night before Christmas, all sheep face east, bow three times, and are gifted with the power of speech from the stroke of midnight until the rise of the sun. This holy ritual cannot occur under the gaze of human beings, but provided the sheep are unobserved and unaware, their conversations can be overheard. In some reports, the sheep sing hymns; in others, they foretell events of the year to come; and in some they gossip, praising or bemoaning the conditions in which they live. An irked sheep, can be a cause for woe, because sheep are especially beloved and protected by Mother Mary in folklore tradition, and a censure is lodged in the heavenly accounts against farmers or shepherds who mistreat their flock.

Sheep are key symbols in fables and nursery rhymes like The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Little Bo Peep, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Mary Had a Little Lamb; novels such as George Orwell's Animal Farm and Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase; songs such as Bach's Sheep may safely graze (Schafe können sicher weiden) and Pink Floyd's Sheep, and poems like William Blake's "The Lamb".

I have been coming to Venice for the Carnevale annually for the past 7 years. The festival is a real fairy tale world for me to escape from my ultra-hectic work schedules.

The Venice Carnevale is famous for its masked costumers, but local Italians prefer costumes with painted faces. Some of the masks are classically in the shape of animals and in white collar - usually in the form of rabbits, lamb, foxes or dogs. On this occasion, I am lucky to get a beautiful sheep with painted faces. I suppose the sheep in Venice during Carnevale have the same ability of speech as they have on Christmas Eve. The simple portrait is done on the busy streets of Venice during Carnevale. And with most of my photographs, 100% natural lighting for this one. I wanted a simple, childlike, playful but classical portrait with a lot of Italian flavour. It has to be classically and traditionally Italian, add to this a some fairy-tale goodness, with a hint of the Venice Carnevale, yet different from most of the Venice Carnevale photos you see online and in books. I need to be a little different. And here's the end result, I hope it is to everyone's liking.

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