Monthly Archives: November 2016

Julie curates China 热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau. Visit my website for more.

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“Chinese cool” in ancient times

八雅

 

It’s “Chinese cool”, not Chinese coolie.

Being cool in ancient China means that one has acquired “eight graces”: 八雅。

Zither, Go, calligrapghy, ink painting, poetry, glass of something, flower art, tea tasting. These eight ingredients make you an ancient hottie.

Zither 琴

I strum an airy tune when I’m merrily drunk

How many strings shall break before I sober up finally?

This is not a poem promoting alcoholism but one advertising the ancient cultivation of zither. Zither, Go, calligraphy, and ink painting are four scholarly performances; four required talents for wannabes. Zither, 琴or 古琴 is the foremost skill and holds “nine virtues”. It is known as “gentleman’s instrument” and a symbol of fine taste and honour. Zither is synonymous to true music.

Go 棋

I dream of this life between my moves

I’m pleased to think three times before I act.

Playing Go is art. Go has been an important component of ancient cultural life and is different from any other recreational games because Go is believed to shape one’s moral views, day by day behaviour and aesthetic taste. It provides you with different ways of thinking.

Calligraphy 书

My strong strokes and elegant curves write timeless words

The past is hidden in one calligraphy brush.

It’s said that Cang Jie invented the Chinese characters, which are also pictograms. Chinese script contains both audios and visuals, which is why it’s still a significant medium to transfer human knowledge.

Ink painting 画

Who can make the spring stay?

Only my ink catches the perfume of her flowers.

Chinese ink painting tradition focuses on the beauty of nature and reflects only indirectly the social aspects of the ancients.  One dips a brush in prepared ink wash to paint on silk or paper. The topics can be landscape, flowers and birds either imagined or true-life, dream-like tableaus.

Poetry 诗

Spring flower and autumn rain compose my poems

Morning moon and night frost sing my songs.

The pictographic quality of Chinese writing makes classic poetry rich in imageries. These poems are more like moving pictures freed from grammar rules and allow the reader to enter the poet’s vision instantly without hesitation.

Liqueur 酒

I travel to the end of the world to find the way back again

But only my wine cup knows to love my native land.

Wines and liqueurs are as ancient as Chinese poetry. Chinese poets are often associated with witty, colourful, sometimes tragic, alcoholic anecdotes.

Flower art 花

The spring invites gorgeous splendour to my garden

A breeze stirs the land draped in a perfumed mist.

Better known as ikebana today, the ancient flower art was once considered a key element to improve one’s spiritual happiness.

Tea tasting 茶

With the essence of the sun and the moon absorbed in the tea leaves

I meditate in solitude while bathing them in silent, clear water.

Tea tasting equals artistic and aesthetic experience.  It is a life style that seems to believe in secluded, lonely appreciation.

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Julie curates China热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in Hoje Macau. Visit my website for more.

Chinoiserie

此照片获中国新闻摄影奖

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“This patch of land belonged to my family during the Qing Dynasty. It was our family property during the republic time. It was still ours after the Little (Japanese) Devils came here! How come that our land suddenly became yours when you (communists) took over? I simply can’t follow your logics!”

In the wake of forced demolition and home rearrangement all over China, an old stubborn man has taken legal action against the local government three times. He won. The old man did not appoint a lawyer, but instead he decided to defend himself in the court. The picture shows the old man who walked to the front to face the jury and deliver his fiery speech. He wore rubber boots covered in mud. The photo received Photojournalism Award of the year (2015).

With its ample resonance both within China and internationally, the ‘rule of law’ (依法治国yifa zhiguo) is an expression that can justify the most disparate justice reforms. It is both a political value worth defending and a reason for consternation; it is an ideal that is inherently troubling and troubled by its interlocutors, advocates, and critics. For this reason, even the term ‘yifa zhiguo’ has been translated differently by different interlocutors, with ‘rule of law’, ‘rule by law’ and ‘ruling the country according to the law’ being the most frequent renderings in the English language.

While the rule of law has become a key component of the Chinese legal-political vocabulary since the onset of the reform period, under Xi Jinping’s leadership it appears to have increased in importance. Since Xi took the helm in 2012, he has chosen to adopt exactly this expression to shape his policy and justice agendas. But the authoritarian way in which the concept has been used thus far has, in many quarters, produced a palpable sense of surprise and dismay over the future of the Chinese legal system.

A number of basic elements of Xi’s ‘yifa zhiguo’ push may, in the future, become very helpful in improving greater transparency and accountability. But the concept of ‘yifa zhiguo’ will not promote an overall improvement in the relationship between the Party-state and society (or more precisely between the Party and ‘the people’). This is because the very purpose of ‘yifa zhiguo’ is to promote the idea that the law is a manifestation of the people’s will and interests, and that the Party exists in order to protect the people’s interests. Under the ‘yifa zhiguo’ ideology, the people cannot enjoy any rights and interests outside the leadership of the Party whose role it is to develop and protect (Party-initiated) rights and interests.

 

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Of snakes and men

Julie contributes a column to Hoje MacauVisit her website for more.

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Stendhal said, “Beauty is the promise of happiness”, but this didn’t get to the heart of the matter. Whose beauty are we talking about? Whose happiness?

Consider if a snake made art. What would it believe to be beautiful? What would it deign to make? Snakes have poor eyesight and detect the world largely through a chemosensory organ, the Jacobson’s organ, or through heat-sensing pits. Would a movie in its human form even make sense to a snake? So their art, their beauty, would be entirely alien to ours: it would not be visual, and even if they had songs they would be foreign; after all, snakes do not have ears, they sense vibrations. So fine art would be sensed, and songs would be felt, if it is even possible to conceive that idea.

From this perspective – a view low to the ground – we can see that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. It may cross our lips to speak of the nature of beauty in billowy language, but we do so entirely with a forked tongue if we do so seriously. The aesthetics of representing beauty ought not to fool us into thinking beauty, as some abstract concept, truly exists. It requires a viewer and a context, and the value we place on certain combinations of colors or sounds over others speaks of nothing more than preference. Our desire for pictures, moving or otherwise, is because our organs developed in such a way. A snake would have no use for the visual world.

I am thankful to have human art over snake art, but I would no doubt be amazed at serpentine art. It would require an intellectual sloughing of many conceptions we take for granted. For that, considering the possibility of this extreme thought is worthwhile: if snakes could write poetry, what would it be?

by Derek Halm

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Everyday philosophy: Death in the age of Facebook

Life, death, dream  written in Chinese calligraphy. In my opinion, this is Chinese A, B, C. — Julie O’yang

And nope, both Molli Bernstein and Jack Weinstein are complete strangers to me, just like Gypsy Rose Lee and Socrates are. They are not personal friends, but that’s exactly the point. JO’y

Death in the age of Facebook                 

 By Jack Russell Weinstein

Molli Bernstein died of a drug overdose this weekend; I didn’t really know her. She was one of the hundreds of Facebook friends I have acquired because of my radio show and blog. I was first connected to her via a mutual acquaintance—a young photographer—when they both started complaining about Facebook censoring their pictures.

Molli was a fashion model and she had posed for some test nudes, helping an inexperienced photographer-friend as they both learned their trade. She posted them on a blog, shared them on Facebook, someone complained about the nudity, Facebook took the link down, and eventually, I wrote a post exploring the tension between the idea of “art” and the pragmatic practice of labelling images. It was a totally unnecessary chain of events.

We only chatted a few times, via private messages, although occasionally I would PM her to ask if she were okay. She would respond about five percent of the time. She was struggling, very publicly, with a drug addiction, and you could see the effects on her face as she lost and gained weight, as she felt better, then worse, then better about herself. She would share these excruciatingly-long videos of herself detailing her struggle and laying bare her emotions. Once she recorded a monologue from her bathtub. I couldn’t watch more than a minutes or two of any of them. They were too painful. It is awful to watch someone commit suicide ever-so-slowly.

There was nothing I could do to help her, of course. I had no real relationship with her, and short of the butterfly effect, my intervention would have had no consequences. She had family where she lived—a whole community who knew what she was going through—and if those who were important to her couldn’t do anything, what could I do?

I periodically thought about inviting her to hang-out together when I visited Fargo, but I never acted on it. First off, I can’t remember the last time I hung-out anywhere, and second, I couldn’t manage what it might have seemed like for a 47-year old married man to invite a mid-twenties woman whom he’s never met and whom he only knows from often-provocative pictures, out for a drink or coffee.

This is the nature of relationships in the Facebook age: friends without contacts, intimate glimpses of people’s lives without true interactions, balancing what it means for someone to be a real person but only actually knowing her as an object on your screen.

Two of my dearest friends died in the last six months, Julius died of a heart attack a little more than a week ago and Brooke died from cancer in June. We were all so far away from each other that all of our interactions with each other were also on Facebook. Since I often thought of visiting them as well and couldn’t, since I didn’t even have the time to get to Julius and Brooke, how would I have had time for Molli?

The thing that I learned from Molli above and beyond everything else is that modelling is a creative activity. We are encouraged to think of models as blank canvasses for photographers to pose, for designers to dress, and for make-up artists to alter. But Molli was quite explicit about how she expressed herself through her modeling, how she communicated her own look through the shoots, and how working satisfied her creative needs. Molli articulated well how models are not passive but integral to art and was the first to make me really understand why some models are good and some are bad, independent of whether or not they are “pretty.” I am including much more photography on this blog entry than I usual do because only then can you really see her the way I think she wanted herself to be seen. Undamaged. Theatrical. Brave. A force to be reckoned with.

Molli was born Molly. She changed the spelling of her name, although I don’t know why. I don’t know if she liked to read, or what movies she enjoyed, or what her favorite food was. I knew she had a boyfriend whom she loved but I also knew their relationship was complicated. I know another person overdosed with her, someone named Patrick with whom I never interacted. But, that’s all I know about Molly with a y, even though I spent two and a half-years responding to pictures, sharing one liners, having brief chats, and looking at images shared by Molli with an i. Both are dead now.

Did I have a responsibility to try to help either of them even if I couldn’t? I guess I tried a little by asking how she was and having a few brief encouraging chats with her, but I don’t know if I was morally obligated to do so. Her death doesn’t make me feel guilty; it just makes me really really sad.

I firmly believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, but the internet keeps so many people at such a distance that it is hard to know when it is proper to try to make that divide smaller. I was just one of Molli’s many appreciative audience members. I thought she was a great, interesting, and challenging model. But her sharing her pictures was not an invitation for any and every person to get involved in her life. Many men don’t seem to understand this about women. Just because they perform for an audience doesn’t mean they want to talk to you. If Molli wanted to be my friend she would have told me so. If she wanted my help, she knew she could ask. In fact, the last thing she wrote to me was that she always appreciated me asking how she was. She was rarely on Facebook chat even when it said she was (her phone was wonky), she told me, but she always got my message.

Others will mourn Molly with a y. I know all too well the pain of loss by addiction, a pain that never goes away. I lost many dear friends to its darkness. So, to those who survive her, my heart goes out to all of of you. I am truly sorry your loss.

But I am who I am and our relationship was what it was, and I only knew the tiniest speck of her existence. So, with all of that said, and for the sake of symmetry, I shall end my friendship with Molli the same way I started it, by writing about her.

Molli Bernstein died this weekend. I just wanted you all to know.

 

This article is re-blogged from PQED. Jack Russell Weinstein is the Director of the Institute for Philosophy in Public Life, the host of Why? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life, and a Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Dakota.

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Julie curates China 热风

Julie Curates China appears every Wednesday in the Portuguese language newspaper Hoje Macau or read a selection of articles here.

Visit Julie’s website for more.

 

F1960.4Zhou Fang painting: Tang women playing Double Sixes

A vision of the male-chauvinist hell plus a poem

“我是武则天。”

“She killed her sister, butchered her elder brothers, murdered the ruler, poisoned her mother, and choked her own son to death,” so the chronicles write.

Is China’s only female emperor Wu Zetian 武则天unfairly maligned? The short answer is: yes. Why? Because official history writing was done by men. After her death, her successor organised Emperor Wu’s systematic black washing.  Of all the female rulers in the world, perhaps none has aroused so much controversy, or wielded such great power, as a monarch whose real achievements and character remain obscured behind layers of obloquy. In the seventh century A.D. she became the only woman in more than 3,000 years of Chinese history to rule in her own right.

With exceptional wisdom and great talent, Wu was most certainly a complicated heroine. Fearless and confident, ruthless and decisive, she stabilized and consolidated the Tang dynasty at a time when it appeared to be crumbling – a significant achievement, since the Tang period is reckoned the golden age of Chinese civilization.  She would reach her goals by fair means or foul in the intrigue-filled imperial palace. Nevertheless, she made great political and diplomatic achievements and China gained global power. Being a devoted Buddhist, she also adopted liberal and benevolent ruling systems, including selecting talent on a large scale, conducting economic development and responding positively to criticism and dissident voices. The stable society and booming economy during her reign laid a foundation for “the Kaiyuan Flourishing Age” later in the Tang Dynasty. During her rule, Chinese women enjoyed unprecedented independence and freedom and in her capital, women took part in state exams, rode horses and wore men’s clothes. The great poet Li Po of the Tang Dynasty listed her as one of the “Seven Sages” of the dynasty probably because she promoted printing, which greatly benefitted the spreading of poetry.  Wu also introduced Panda Diplomacy, which is ever popular with the communist leaders.

This was the woman as a politician. But how did she (or any Chinese ruler in the past) exercise power? One thing we know is that being an educated ancient Chinese means you are a poet. Wu was no exception. We shall take a close look into a fragment of her writing.

Tomorrow morning I will make an outing to Shanglin Park,

With urgent haste I inform the spring:

Flowers must open their petals overnight,

Don’t wait for the morning wind to blow!

The poem has an almost conversational tone. Emperor Wu discusses her plans for a walk in the park. It has irregular meter and no rhyme scheme, which underscores its informal nature. This is in sharp contrast with the primary style of the time which clearly preferred tightly regulated verse.

It has been speculated that the Emperor had enjoyed creating myths about herself in order to manipulate public opinion. The imagery of the Emperor informing the spring is similar to the mythical hyperbole of a rhapsody. It is likely that the Emperor intended to use this poem to indicate her power was not just over the human realm but also over nature and she demonstrates her supreme confidence in her power with the casual tone of a poem, implying she possesses powers beyond mere mortals. Her patronage of Buddhism and work through religion to strengthen her political position support the possibility that she was using this poem to add to her reputation as a divine leader.

After her death, she had a “Wordless Tablet” erected in her name, as if to tell us: It is fine to pass judgment on me and demonise this woman, I know you would.

 

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Wordless tablet and Emperor Wu’s tomb

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Top Belgian photographer Filip Naudts transforms author/artist Julie O’yang into albino

Filip Naudts is currently working with Europe-based Chinese writer/artist Julie O’Yang on a phiction – a photo-novel which will be published by an international publisher of art books in Singapore. The intellectual centipede Julie O’Yang is Dutch with Chinese roots. She has lived in England and the Netherlands and stays in Denmark at present. For the cover shoot, Filip invited her over and her entire transformation took place at De Cliént in  Lochristi close to his Flemish studio. Nieuwsblad reports.

>>You can read original Dutch language publication here <<

Naudts and O’Yang met each other in 2008 during Antwerp Book Fair, at which occasion Julie held a book burning ritual to launch her new novel China Noir. “Ladies and gentlemen, dear arsonists, this burning is a memorial (rooted in the ancient Chinese tradition, J Oy) to those who have died for a free and modern China,” she spoke to the audience. “Now they have something to read in the heaven.”

Filip first contacted Julie back then. He was considering to take his daughter Yang who was born in 2005 and adopted by him and his wife in 2006 on a journey to look for her roots. Filip: “I was trying to find good advice and was convinced that Julie could help me. Out of our first contact an idea grew to make a documentary film together about our searching and all. We still want to make this project real at a certain point. In the meanwhile, creative chemistry is boiling and I’m also making other plans with Julie.”

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Filip Naudts: paparazzo series (c)2015 Guarda La Fotografia

Julie: “On 25 May I received an email from Filip. He asked me whether I was interested in making a photo-novel together. I know Filip’s work quite well. I sat down at my desk immediately to concoct an idea. I wanted to invent a fictional character with strong references to art history, but also I must speak to the urgent, contemporary issues. The story is set in an unknown time in the future, on an unknown planet where people are shadows of themselves. I will be a future dictator, there and then. The story is also a homage to Oscar Wilde’s philosophical novel the Picture of Dorian Gray and yes, there is going to be a murder or double murder on that alien planet.” O’Yang is particularly interested to find out how Word and Image work against each other or embrace each other. “This is a hot subject. Our story is a relevant Romance Noir, but more explosive. Speaking of creative chemistry.”

According to the current plan, the book will be launched in the summer of 2017 and there will also be a travelling exhibition.

To complete Julie’s transformation for the cover shoot, Filip made a call on the hair studio De Cliént. Julie was made as pale as possible, but finetuning will be done through PS. Bleaching Julie’s dark hair appeared to be less optimal, Filip wasn’t disspirited either. He knocked on his neighbour’s door, knowing Carine Stevens’ house is filled with dress material for her various cabaret shows, and then Carine dug up a blonde wig at once.

For their second phase shoot in the coming spring, Filip and Julie are looking for a perfect location. A house with atmosphere and authentic details and lots of daylight pouring through many, large windows . If you know such a place or if you are interested to offer yours, please contact: filipnaudts@telenet.be

 

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80 years of Antwerp Book Fair in 8 images: 2016 special

 

 

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