Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

Last May, I took a day trip to Manchurian city Dandong, the large border Chinese city next to North Korea.

I entertained myself during the short train ride from my home city Shenyang, when the scenery got dull, by observing the speed of the train, which had reached 244 km/hr (152 mi/hr).

DSCN2528 - High Speed Train in Dandong, Liaoning, China

DSCN2521 - Train to Dandong, 244km:hr

Dandong was the entry point of the Chinese "Volunteer" Army and military materials pouring into the battlefields of Korean War in 1950s. The bridge connecting Dandong and North Korea was bombed during the war and it remained damaged, as a relic of the war, stood next to a later bridge, which channeled legal or illegal imported and exported goods between China and North Korea. The image of destruction had made a strong impression on me, and I even made a painting of those parallel bridges, titled "Bombed Bridge, III".

Bombed Bridge, III / 炸斷的橋樑之三 / Bombardierten Brücke, III
Bombed Bridge, Oil on Canvas, 24"x36", 2007

It should be noticed that the damage to the old bridge was limited to the North Korea's side only, while the rest remained intact inside Chinese territory. At the right vantage point, one could see both bridges stood side by side over Yalu River.

DSCN2550 - Bridges over Yalu River

DSCN2657 - Bridges over Yalu River



I took a little river cruise along the river, so as to take a quick survey of the border region of North Korea, Sinuiju.

DSCN2713 - Cruise boat on Yalu River

DSCN2732 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2744 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2757 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2562 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China

DSCN2563 - A glimpse of North Korea from Dandong, China



Looking back at Dandong, which though in the economic depressed rust belt Northeast China, comparing to the slow-paced North Korea, looked like a thriving metropolis:

DSCN2780 - Border city Dandong, China

DSCN2781 - Border city Dandong, China

DSCN2758 - Border city Dandong, China




It seemed so arbitrary that one could be born in a "wrong region", or at a "wrong time". Or both. And for the unlucky ones, hope simple didn't exist.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Featured Painting "Cascades"

Inspired by the lush fall colors in the valleys, and rushing cascades in the mountains of Yosemite, which I recently visited, I made a gouache painting, titled Cascade, trying to capture the spirits and impression of the marvel, instead of literal shapes and shades.

Cascades / 瀑布 / Kaskaden  

Cascade
Gouache on Paper 12”x8”
Completed in 2017

A simple and heart-warming souvenir.


Originally posted on matthewfelixsun.com

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Tomb Treasure Exhibition at San Francisco Asian Art Museum


IMG_1352 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, in collaboration with Nanjin Museum in China, just opened a breathtaking exhibition, "Tomb Treasures, New Discoveries from China’s Han Dynasty" (February 17 - May 28, 2017), with the majority of the artifacts from Dayushan Jiandu Royal Tomb (excavated in 2011) and Xuzhou Chu Royal Tomb (excavated in 1995).

According to the Museum,
One of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world, China’s Han dynasty achieved profound cultural and artistic influence, technological advancements and military might. Two thousand years later, discoveries of royal tombs allow us to glimpse these extraordinary accomplishments firsthand.
IMG_1349 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

One of the most impressive artifacts on display was a rare percussion instrument - a group of bronze bells of various sizes on a rack in formation, each bell has a different pitch, like a ancient keyboard. Music and ceremony played very important roles in ancient China and this Bell Group perhaps was almost as important a symbol as a scepter of the state.

IMG_1339 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1154 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1153 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

For indisputable symbols of royal status and state power, the exhibition presented some ceremonial and war weaponry, along with armor and warrior status made of wood, recalling bronze horses by Deborah Butterfield, in the shape of driftwood.

IMG_1343 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1162 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1187 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1336 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1157 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

There were other objects symbolizing the royal status and power of those tomb owners, such as some powerful and graceful bronze tigers with gold and silver inlays, and other noble beasts adorning different daily objects.

IMG_1322 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1166 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1327 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Another important aspect of court life was cooking, which, besides providing  indispensable daily subsistence, was as important as music in ritual ceremonies. The daily or ritual cooking utensils were abundant in these tomb discoveries, and they impressed with their imposing bulk and delicate details.

IMG_1164 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1142 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1141 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1159 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum  IMG_1283 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum
IMG_1312 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1331 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum
IMG_1275 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1274 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1308 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Courtly entertainment was represented by graceful dancer figurines and tiny jester statues, along with some stylized and humorous figure and animal statues.

IMG_1329 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1169 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1172 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1321 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1156 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Echos of graceful shapes and movements of those court dancers could be seen on some wonderfully shaped lamps, including the joint-armed, heart-shaped one, whose unique design rendered it smokeless.

IMG_1144 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1140 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1278 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

More personal objects in the exhibition were metal mirror, jade accessories, and precious metal clasps, etc. Elegant and delicate.

IMG_1205 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1249 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1247 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1238 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1301 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1158 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1289 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

Finally, there were impressive objects from homes for the living and for the dead.

IMG_1234 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1267 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1263 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1197 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum IMG_1201 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1202 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

A pair of terracotta figurines, whose wooden arms had rotten away, were startlingly creepy and memorable. Time had changed by Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and artificial, instead of human sacrifices were to be entombed. A marked progression of society and culture.

IMG_1265 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

The most memorable objects of this exhibition were a huge marble tomb and a death shroud made of jade plates wired together with gold threads. Muted and low-key, yet most extravagant.

IMG_1245 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum

IMG_1220 _ Tomb Treasures, Asian Art Museum



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