Monday, October 29, 2012

Stores and Markets in Shenyang, China

This is the last post of a series reports on my visit to Shenyang, China in May this year.

My home city, Shenyang, like many other Chinese cities, has changed much.  There were more international branding stores residing in large department stores or shopping malls like the one below:

DSCN0077 _ Department Store, Shenyang, May 2012

However, one could see something you might not encounter in the US, such as a customer bearing his chest to try on a shirt in public, in a Zara store:

DSCN0095 _ Zara, Shenyang, May 2012

There were also many clothes shops in underground tunnels, constructed during the time when China was preparing a showdown with the Soviets:

DSCN9314 _ Underground Shopping Street, Shenyang, May 2012

When I go to supermarkets in Shenyang, I liked to linger in food section, particularly the counters selling local specialties, such as pancakes and breads:

DSCN9844 _ Super Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN9843 _ Super Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN9838 _ Super Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN9836 _ Super Market, Shenyang, May 2012

I also found it fascinating to see rows of Pepsi and Coca-Cola:

DSCN9832 _ Super Market, Shenyang, May 2012

For fruits, the locals often frequented special fruit shops - less tidy but quite fresh, and a bear-chested salesperson fit here better than Zara:

DSCN0289 _ Fruit Shop, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN9778 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN9779 _ Fruit Shop, Shenyang, May 2012

What I really didn't like visiting was produce marketing - messy, dirty, and littered with dust and animal feeds around live-fowl vendors:

DSCN0458 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN0457 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN0453 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN0452 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN0451 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

DSCN0439 _ Market, Shenyang, May 2012

The image of those pensive caged birds really haunted me.

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Honorable Mentioned in A Juried Competition

I just received an announcement via email:
Dear Matthew,

Congratulations! Your artwork titled "Bombed Bridge, III" has been selected as an Honorable Mention of the 2012 Landscape Art Contest, an international juried art competition with submissions from talented emerging and established artists from around the world. Your work will have a full page feature in Artist Portfolio Magazine Issue 10. Artist Portfolio Magazine is a free digital online magazine, which averages over 20,000 unique viewers per issue. To view the current issue, which was released on August 1st go to  
Your longstanding commitment and achievements in the arts as displayed in your art work make us feel honored to have you as a featured artist in a future issue of Artist Portfolio Magazine and To view the full art exhibit visit and a full list of winners go to

We look forward to featuring your work and seeing more of your artwork. Please do not hesitate to send us your event notifications to . We’d be happy to share your events with our community, and please check out our new blog at  as well. Thank you for being a part of the community, and congratulations again!

Bombed Bridge, III / 炸斷的橋樑之三 / Bombardierten Brücke, III
Bombed Bridge, III
Oil on Canvas
24" x 36"
Completed in 2007

This landscape was inspired by a bridge used to connect North Korea to China, bombed during Korean War in the 1950s.  More than 60 years later, the ruin of it stood, along side a new construction, over the frozen river, which seems refuse to thaw.

Previously, my entry oil painting, "The Song of Orpheus", won an Editor's Choice Award in its Cover II Art Contest 2011 for Artist Portfolio Magazine, Issue 2, published by My Art Contests, Issue 2, 2011. 

Both citations of my current Honorable Mention and Editor's Choice Award can be viewed at:

My current entry for this Landscape competition has been archived by My Art Contest:

Related posts on Art · 文化 · Kunst:
- "Diptych - Dawn" Won Another Award

- Editor's Choice Award for "The Song of Orpheus" - Artist Portfolio Magazine
- Another Award for a Drawing
- Editor's Award on Artist Portfolio Magazine, Published by My Art Contest
- One More Award from ArtSlant Showcase Competition

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hospitals in Shenyang, China

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 
When I visited my family in May this year, several time, I accompanied my ailing relatives to hospital for diagnoses and treatments, and gained some fresh first hand knowledge of the sorry state of the health care in Shenyang, one of the largest cities in China, and more generally in China.

Before I dive into the stories, I should provide some background information on health care system in China.  First, China is not a socialist country and it has never had a universal health care system.  Before the rapid urbanization, only a small percentage of Chinese citizens - city dwellers with jobs and their direct kins - enjoyed a universal free health care.  That changed once China shifted policies in the late 1980s to early 1990s, and governments started to cut off their support so companies had to be self-reliant and once they became unprofitable, their employees would no longer be reimbursed and many had to forgo health care altogether.  That happened more often in the old industrial center, such as Shenyang, when the companies had to support a huge population of retirees, while companies in the newer industrial centers, such as Shenzhen, didn't have such burden.  If the companies went bankrupt, those jobless people were entirely on their own.

In recent years, government started to amend such situation and introduced some health care systems in cities, usually similar to vouchers.  For example, citizens of Shenyang would be given a certain amount of money to spend annually on medical care.  If they suffered serious illness, they could apply for extra money.  Usually, people still had to pay a large portion out of their pocket.

China is a class regimented society and some people still enjoy 100% medical care, if they had achieved certain ranking in the political hierarchy, or if they had "joined the revolution" early enough.  For those lucky ones, their relatives often rely on them to get free medications.  Some would be covered up to 95%, like my father, and my mother would rely on the vouchers from the city government, and her own savings.

In countryside, government health care systems, similar to those in cities, are being established slowing but in the economic backwater regions, such system does not exist.

Younger people could buy some medical insurance, but the policy usually was not good.

Now, into my direct experiences.


Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9240I accompanied my aunt for treatment in a hospital specialized in tumor.  She had a surgery several weeks before I visited.  The hospital was modern and clean enough but rather crowded - not as bad as some general hospitals.  Hospitals in Shenyang, generally do not take appointments so the patients had to wait in line for the registration and face time with doctors.

While my aunt was in the treatment room, my sister, who chauffeured us to the hospital, showed me the operation section.  I was truly alarmed.  Though the other parts of the hospital were well lit and clean, the surgery section looked dark and squalid.  The entrance to the operation room resembled a freight elevator in a poorly maintained warehouse.  The relatives of patients milled around in the hallway, sitting on the stairwell, reading and smoking.  They were there not only to provide mental support, more crucially, they needed to sign paperwork if extra treatment was deemed necessary - therefore to pay additional fees.  The decisions were to be made quickly because the surgeons needed to know if they out to remove an extra tumor, insert artery stunt, etc., or sew the patients up.  The decisions were often depending on if the families could afford further treatment or not, rather than medical necessities.  The third photo below was taken outside the surgery room.  It looked much better than I remembered, I had to admit.

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 0328
Crowded hallway

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9241
A waiting area

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9251
Outside Surgery Room

While waiting for my aunt in the hallway, I noticed that the floor was extremely slippery.  The hospital was not unaware of it - they posted a big sign, warning people of slippery floor.  What I could not understand was why the floor made slippery to begin with, and why not some dull runners installed to prevent a bad fall from fragile patients.  Another sign in the same corridor said "Do Not Throw Cigarette Butts", hanging on a potted plant on a window sill.

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9257
Slippery sign

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9258
Notes: Do not throw cigarette butts


During my visit, one day, my mother did not feel well and I accompanied her to the hospital just cross street from her flat.  Since it was in the suburb, it was way less crowded.  It was also relatively new and quite clean.

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 9093

However, once we had registered to and found the doctor, who had been seeing some patients before, just stood up and left the room without a word.  We waited for twenty minutes, together with other patients in and outside the room, and finally was told by a passing by nurse that the doctor was not available at the hour because he was to perform an operation on someone somewhere else.  We were then ushered to see another doctor.  When it was my mother's turn, the doctor just asked her to unbutton her shirt in the full view of all the people. 

Mother was asked to have ECG done but the lab door was closed.  We knocked but got no answer.  When I went back to the doctor for advice, and he was rather surprised: "Why didn't you shout for the lab doctor for test?  You need to shout for her."  When I returned to my mother, mercifully, the lab was open already so I was spared an unpleasant experience.

The rest of that vist was rather smooth.  However, on our way out, there was some disturbance at the entrance.  Some patients or their relatives and the security guards had an altercation.

Such scene was very common in Chinese hospitals nowadays.  Patients often had no discourse other than violence to have their grievances addressed if malpractices occurred or believed to have occurred - in China, doctors and hospitals didn't purchase malpractice insurances, courts often refused to deal with malpractice charges, oversight board were filled with friendly medical professional peers, and the local police often banded together with hospitals to fight the patients and families, etc.  Things often got very bad and quite a few doctors and nurses, often innocent bystanders, were killed by the enraged patients or their bereaved relatives.


Several weeks after I returned to the US, an uncle of mine fell ill for a while.  Depending on which hospital he chose to have his medication filled, the cost varied drastically.  The most economic one he selected always insisted on his personal presence for refill, even after he had suffered some strokes.  They told his daughter that even if he had become completely paralyzed, he still would have to show up.  There was no governmental department to hear such complaints.

Below are pictures of several hospitals in different conditions:

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 

Hospital in Shenyang, China _ 


Looking back at the US, the Republicans, including Romney, whose "Romneycare" in Massachusetts had at least partially inspired the "Obamacare", are doing everything they could to mimic China.  Not only they are to change Medicare to voucher system, which would under compensate the patients in the long run, and to make it impossible for the families to get malpractices redressed in court. What they are doing is to court disasters.

Shame on them.

The problem of the health care systems in China and US are socialism but not enough of it.

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Favorite Paintings in Prince William V Gallery, Den Haag

In Den Haag, beside the estimable Mauritshuis, I also made a stop at a smaller museum - Prince William V Gallery (Galerij Prins Willem V).  The Prince William V Gallery was the first public collection of paintings in the Netherlands dating back to 1774.  It showcased the eighteenth-century painting collection of the  Stadholder William V, Prince of Orange-Nassau (1748-1806), in its original setting of long and high-ceilinged room, cramped from top to bottom of the walls.  Many of the highlights from the original collections were moved to Mauritshuis in 1822 but it still contained some impressive paintings. There were about 150 paintings hang in the Gallery, mainly by Dutch and Flemish masters such as Steen, Potter, van Mieris, van Honthorst and Rubens.

I am very partial to Greek mythology so it was no surprise that I was attracted to the painting named Sisyphus, a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.

Sisyphus, c. 1660-1665, Antonio Zanchi (1631 - 1722)

Sisyphus / 西西弗斯 / Sisyphus
Sisyphus, 2003
Matthew Felix Sun
I found the Sisyphus by Antonio Zanchi (above) startling in its direct confrontation to its viewers.  The view point zoomed into the condemned laborer, and omitted all of the other elements in the story.  We saw only half of the hero, carrying the large, but not outsized stone, in some flowing draperies, which gave him some modesty and dignity.  Burdened by not beaten, this Sisyphus held himself together, muscles flashing, strides steady.  This was a defiant tragic figure. 

I found it worth pointing out that Zanchi painted no slope where the boulder was to repeatedly roll down.  When I made a painting on the same subject three years before my trip to the Netherlands, I was more interested in the overall impression and narrative of the story, than depicting the character of Sisyphus.  My boulder was much larger, the slope vertical and Sisyphus tiny without details.  Very different take from Zanchi, whose version, if not for the title, it could be depicting any human being in such a struggle.  That was why a well-known classic story so fascinating to reinterpret. 

The other painting I liked very much from that Gallery was titled Argus, Mercurius and Io, by Jacob van Campen.  Io was, in Greek mythology, a priestess of Hera in Argos, a nymph who was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to escape detection. His wife Hera sent ever-watchful Argus Panoptes, with 100 eyes, to guard her, but Hermes was sent to distract the guardian and slay him. Heifer Io was loosed to roam the world, stung by a maddening gadfly sent by Hera, and wandered to Egypt, thus placing her descendant Belus in Egypt; his sons Cadmus and Danaus would then "return" to mainland Greece. [] 

Argus, Mercurius and Io, c.1630-1640, Jacob van Campen ( 1596 - 1657)

This painting was about disguise, deception and anticipation.  Here, Van Campen used the Roman name of the god, Mercury, who was a smooth and graceful youth, confidently lured the old Argus to sleep.  Argus was presented as a balding old man though with younger person's body, without his numerous extra eyes, which would adore Hera's peacock feathers.  I almost felt pity for Argus, knowing that he would be slay by the deceptive Hermes.  Also interesting to me were the two heifers in the background - one looked away indifferently, and the other peeping at the activity with intent interest - this one must be Io.  I also like the parallel poses Hermes/Mercury and Argus - their torsos and limps, formed a diamond shape - diagonal, dynamic, yet serene and sleepy.

Few dogs scattered across the painting enriched the setting and added some intrigue and nervous energy.  The gaze from Io/Heifer and from the black dog at the feet of Argus were full of anticipation and anxiety and I got a sense of upcoming storm, which was also reinforced by the dark clouds dramatically hanging high, again, in diagonal formation, added another touch of a high stake.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 56: My Favorite Paintings in Groeninge Museum, Bruges (Brugge), Belgium
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 54: My Favorite Paintings in Mauritshuis, Den Haag, Netherlands

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Favorite Paintings in Mauritshuis, Den Haag, Netherlands

In recent years, the main fine art museum in the Dutch capital city of Den Haag, gained additional renown for one of its particular painting - The Young Girl with Turban, a.k.a. Girl with a pearl earring, by Johannes Vermeer.

The Young Girl with Turban (Girl with a pearl earring)
c. 1665, 44.5 x 39 cm, Johannes Vermeer

This painting, portraying a very young girl at the threshold of womanhood, half-turning her head and gazed at the viewers, in a state of irresolute, hesitating, seductive and seduced, inviting and withdrawing simultaneously.  Her large eyes and half-open ripe lips betrayed passion underneath her alabaster pale skin.  A huge pearl, hanging from her half-hidden ear, echoing those soulful eyes, with a highlight too bright to stare at.  Adding exoticism to the painting was her blue and yellow turban, which completely concealed her hair and that made her appear bald and chaste; yet as if to negate such impression, part of the turban cascaded down her shoulder, therefore gave her a coquettish flair.

Furthermore, what was so remarkable about this painting were Vermeer's fresh colors, virtuoso technique and subtle rendering of light effects, such as the small highlights on the turban and the pearl, which was painted with economical brushstrokes, mainly a bright highlight at upper left and the soft reflection of the white collar below.

As reported in my previous entry, Paintings As Pivotal Elements, this painting and its imagined inception, was detailed in a lively novel Tracy Chevalier and an ensuring movie The Girl with a Pearl Earring.  The novel and the movie were so overwhelmingly popular that even the collector of this painting, Mauritshuis, was presumably forced to change its title to The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

After the subtle and sophisticated sensuality, I appreciated simplicity and charming innocence in Carel Fabritius's The Goldfinch below.

The goldfinch period ca. 1654, Oil on Panel, 33.5 x 22.8 cm
Carel Fabritius (bapt. 1622 - 1654)

Fabritius died young, in the explosion of the Delft powder magazine – a disaster which destroyed a large part of the city, and left a known body of work of only fifteen.  He painted this small panel of goldfinch, a kind of birds had long been popular as house pet and been taught to perform tricks, as a trompe-l'œil (deception of the eye), to be hung above the viewers, and aided by the metal perch, to trick the viewer to believe that they were seeing a real bird perching above, playing his own trick on us.

This bird was full of necessary details and remarkable vitality, though broadly painted and without fastidiousness which could have rendered such subject a zoology illustration.  A perhaps slight work but a whimsical and delightful one.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 55: My Favorite Paintings in Prince William V Gallery, Den Haag 
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 53: My Favorite Paintings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Related posts on Art · 文化 · Kunst:
- Last Call - "The Girl With A Pearl Earring" in De Young Museum, San Francisco
- "Compliments to Vermeer" - Controversial Solo Exhibition of the Renowned Chinese Painter JIN Shangyi
- Paintings As Pivotal Elements
- Last Chance to See Terracotta Warriors in San Francisco Asian Art Museum
- Birth of Impressionism at De Young Museum, San Francisco
- Venetian Masterpieces from Vienna at De Young Museum
- My Favorite Works at De Young Museum, San Francisco
- My Favorite De Young Museum Collections

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Favorite Paintings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam

Rottderdam in Netherlands had a wonderful art museum - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, whose collections far surpassed my expectations, fresh after my stay at Amsterdam, where Rembrandt and Van Gogh were amongst the highlights in its world renown museums.

Since Rotterdam, two relatively small paintings haunted me ever since.  The first was one of the several versions of The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. 

The tower of Babel c. 1565, Oil on Panel, 59.9 x 74.6 cm
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Brueghel c. 1525 - Brussel 1569)

In Bruegel's eyes, the Tower of Babel was an imposing fortress, with a broad base and classical arches in rows atop rows, like the an ever-growing Colosseum in Rome.  The setting was seaside, common in the Netherlands, with ships swamping in the emerald green tranquil harbor. 

The imagination of the painter was astonishing.  His most intricate gargantuan structure not only had fantastic sense, but also quite logical and looked almost like a scientific sketch.  Zooming into the details, I was amazed and excited by many details he incorporated into the panorama.  You may see laborers of every trade and tool of every kind, schematically employed on all levels of the tower, reaching to the clouds, before a Babelonian confusion of tongues stopped their lofty endeavor.

The second favorite of mine was a painting with even more overt religious theme, The glorification of the Virgin by Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Leiden 1465? - Haarlem 1495?):

The glorification of the Virgin 1490 - 1495, Oil on Panel, 24.5 x 20.5 cm
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (Leiden 1465? - Haarlem 1495?)

This remarkable small panel was just as crowded with details as the Bruegel, but these details were larger and easier to see but just as hidden, by blinding light in this version.  The painting depicted an adoration of Mary.  In typical style of the time, Mary looked a typical European beauty, pale, and delicate, with an almost bald large forehead.  The baby looked strange too, with his outstretched thin arms and legs, he resembled the skeletal angels surround them, half hidden by light and darkness.  Mary, in magnificent red robe and wearing a huge crown, carrying Jesus in her elongated elegant hands, seated on the moon sickle and crushing the dragon under it, surrounded by angels with musical instruments and the instruments of the passion, all of which illuminated and silhouetted by the heavenly light surrounding mother and child. With the diminishing of the light away from Mary and the Jesus, these angles and the instruments took on a ghostly impression, and gave this painting a hallucinatory effect.  A most strange and beautiful depiction of enthroned Mary and Jesus. 

According to the Museum, "this depiction of Mary refers to the Revelations of St. John 12:1: 'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.' The panel was originally part of a diptych. The other panel is in Edinburgh and depicts the crucifixion of Christ. The panel in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh."

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 54: My Favorite Paintings in Mauritshuis, Den Haag, Netherlands
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 52: My Favorite Paintings at Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Netherlands

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

Thursday, October 4, 2012

More Animals in Shenyang, China

After describing Cats in Shenyang, I would like to talk about other animals I saw when I visited my home city Shenyang, China in May this year.

In my parent's compound, from their window, I could see a neighbor's little garden, and cages of bird and cricket.  The bird sang beautifully and the cricket chirped loudly.

Bird and Cricket, Shenyang, China _ 9882

Singing Bird in Cage, Shenyang, China _ 0010

Cricket in a Cage, Shenyang, China _ 0246

One day, I saw a cat became infatuated with the place.

Cat Trying to Catch a Squirrel in Cage, Shenyang, China _ 0016

Later, I realized that there was a squirrel confined behind the horizontal bars and I surely hoped that the cat wouldn't get his wishes.  Better still, the family should have given the squirrel its freedom.

As I mentioned in the cat article, pets were practically nonexistent when I grew up in China but now they were everywhere.  Below is a picture of a woman walking her dog in the same compound.

Woman Walking her Dog in Shenyang, China _ 9410

More bizarrely, in the Province Museum, I saw this sign below by the escalator, telling people to hold their pets when using the escalator.  Bring pets to museum?

Sign of Holding Dog on Escalator in a Museum, Shenyang, China _ 9745

Back to my parents' compound, I also saw some a couple fish pounds teeming with fish.  Considering how many cats roaming around in the compound, it was a relief to see the fish being so worry free.

Fish in a Pond, Shenyang, China _ 9963

But the shrimps in the tank in a restaurants were definitely not for eyes' pleasure.

Seafood Restaurant - Shenyang, China _ 0102

One day, I walked by a real estate office and in front of it, a man was playing with a tortoise and I surely hoped that this was a pet, rather than food.

A Man and A Tortoise, Shenyang, China _ 

If the sight of a tortoise was strange, it was even stranger to see donkeys in the city.  When I was little, it was not uncommon to see horse- or donkey-drawn carts delivering produces to the city.  That practice had ceased to exist since late 1980s through early 1990s before I left China.  Now the donkey carts were back.  Very strange.

Fruit Vendor and His Donkey in Shenyang, China _ 9266

Fruit Vendor and His Donkey, Shenyang, China _ 0372

Well, at least those donkeys themselves were not the merchandise, unlike the unfortunate chickens and ducks I saw in a farmer's market:

Live Ducks and Chickens in Cage in Farmer's Market, Shenyang, China _ 0440

Live Chickens in Cage in Farmer's Market, Shenyang, China _ 0455 Live Chickens in Cage in Farmer's Market, Shenyang, China _ 0446
Live Chickens in Cage in Farmer's Market, Shenyang, China _ 0441 Live Chickens and Ducks in Farmer's Market, Shenyang, China _ 0439

Yet, not every animal in the market was to be slaughtered and consumed.  This cute dog below was a pet dog belonged to one the of vendors and this little guy was just enjoying himself in his home turf.

Pet Dog in a Market in Shenyang, China _ 0444

Label: Shenyang, Shenyang Trip 2012