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In this issue

Some of our profound thinkers might look at the world’s myriad crises and say we are living in an era of struggle but they’d be expressing a tautology. Human life and struggle are indivisible, for good or ill, between angels and demons, gods and monsters, purity and debauchery, brilliance and mediocrity. And often there is a fine line between the two. Lucifer, the prince of darkness, started out as an angel, an innocent embrace can suddenly become uncontrolled desire and a single splash of colour can transform a painting from a dud into a masterpiece. We are like border agents within our own consciousness, one foot on home turf, the other always straying toward an alien country of uncontrolled passions where the laws are made by some body else. In this fourth edition of Quintessentially Asia magazine, which completes our first cycle of four quarters and takes us to our first anniversary on September 28th, we celebrate the passion that is generated by the Gods and Monsters within us all. This theme was inspired by a visit to Indochina in April, where I stayed at Amansara in Cambodia and Amataka in Luang Pranbang. At the first the focus is on the extraordinary temples of Angkor Wat and it was among them that I encountered the bas-relief representations of the Hindu and Buddhist creation myths, which so powerfully capture the struggle between good and evil. In the English language we have the expression “They looked calm but their emotions were running deep” and we used this notion in this season’s fashion shoot, to capture the dialectical turmoil in the minds of men and women as they navigate a stormy relationship. Based on the ménage a trois at the heart of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, (which will be seen in a new cinematic treatment by Australian director Baz Luhrmann later this year) we set three characters from a formal cocktail party on a basketball court and let the physical intensity of the players speak for the feelings that burn just below the restrained demeanour of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom. And our cover picks up the theme, capturing the tragic death of Gatsby, Nicks’s betrayal and Daisy’s femme fatale insensitivity to the suffering of others in a stunning image inspired by the Roman Catholic tradition of family members wearing prayer cards at funerals and baptisms. Not that every clash of forces has such a melancholy outcome. In this edition stories on the battle to become the world’s most prestigious art collector, the triumphs of Hermès in China, Italian cashmere baron Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s love affair with the high seas, a Japanese entrepreneur’s bid to launch Hong Kong’s most interesting new restaurant venture, Royal Salute’s triumphant bonding exercise with Britain’s royal palaces and the fight to choose which is London’s best grand hotel reveal that some struggles produce marvellous results. The point about struggle is not to duck its challenge, for without it there is no life. The point is to understand its effects. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche would have it “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” So here’s looking at you kid.

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