» Archive for the 'pop culture' Category


4 June 2012

Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery, a French-owned gallery devoted to works on paper, is currently exhibiting sketches from more than 20 iconic works, dating from 1950-1980, all master works in the NAMOC collection. Through the display of preparatory studies and sketches by the artists themselves, the show deconstructs the production methods of art in this unique period of Chinese history, and offers a first-hand look at valuable art historical documents. Here, Hadrien talks about his experiences putting the show together, how he developed his unique approach to historical Chinese works, and reactions from the community of artists. “History in the Making: Sketches for Iconic Paintings” “创造历史:经典绘画手稿” is on display in 798 until late June. See gallery website for details.


[Left,Xiao Feng & Song Ren, sketch for “Dr. Bethune,” 1974; Right: Jin Zhilin, study for “Chairman Mao in the Mass Production Movement,” 1959]

My interest in this period was actually sparked over a dinner conversation with Chen Danqing, where he told me a lot of things about the Mao era, like that the wife of Mao didn’t want the painters to sign the paintings, etc., he gave me some “appetizers” that made me wonder what had happened during this period. So I met the first artist, who talked to me about the period, about how artists were perceived, and I really wanted to do a show about it, because I had never seen anything about it, except for the 60 years of drawings exhibition at CAFAM.

So I met with other artists, perhaps 20-30 artists from this period, and it was first a discussion, I also told them about a show that I might be doing. Eventually I found a logical theme that could bring them all together, the first theme was “portraits.” The first show last year featured portraits from 1955-75, and it was a huge success, in the sense that we really had some very high quality people who came, and the artists were really happy; for many it was also the first time they were shown in a commercial gallery. We really tried to do our best to make it happen in a good way, with a nice catalog, a good exhibition layout.

So after the first show I asked, “what next?”, and our team lined up a few other themes, one was, of course, “landscapes” and the other one was “nature morte,” but at on the top of our list was to feature preparatory sketches for paintings in the national collection. And, yes, we worked for maybe a year and a half, to put together forty drawings or sketches for paintings that are in the Chinese national collection.

Like any work in a gallery, I discovered, it’s really a question of human relationships, people earning your trust and earning the trust of other people. Not just the artists, you also have collectors, the press, and they have to believe what you show and believe in your instincts. I could tell thousands of stories from this year and a half of work …. For example Jin Zhilin has been here many times, we have had wonderful talks, he loves France, it was also these human experiences that really taught me a lot about China.

I think that the families and artists were quite interested to see a foreigner doing this exhibition, and they are really, really close to their drawings. I could sometimes feel that after we would sign the contracts, and when I was taking the drawings out of the house, you could see something in their eyes… as if maybe they had made the biggest mistake of their lives. Sometimes you feel quite bad, but on the other hand, you know that you’re going to do something good for the work.

The Dong Xiwen sketches are actually not allowed to leave China, You have ten artists whose production is not allowed to leave China, like Li Keran, Dong Xiwen, etc. And when I was preparing the show, my only fear was that a Chinese museum director, or someone from the Cultural Bureau would come to see it, and there would be some problems because these works are in a foreign gallery. Not in the sense that “he’s cheating” or breaking the law, my concern was that there may be trouble because this is a French gallery. This was my only fear.

sun zixi

[Sun Xizi, sketch for “In Front of Tiananmen,” 1964] 

I think that the role of a gallery is to show what you like, perhaps you like it for its aesthetics, or the historical value. I don’t think that it is our role to analyze what we show. In the case of these two shows, I really thought I should get an historian to help me, or to put together a nice catalog, but I want to keep to my role, and I’m here to show what I like. In the portraits show for example, I’m sure that I missed a lot of great artists—important in terms of art history, or historical value—but I could never put together an exhaustive show with a similar train of thought. So, I decided to focus on showing what I liked, and thus put together a show by making the most of the information I have, or can get. We’ve sent 5 students to the CAFA library to see if these images have ever been published, or if the sketches have ever been exhibited before, we do this kind of research, but research based on fact, not based on analysis.

Of course in the show you have artists who are well known, and I know that its very complicated in terms of their ranking or importance––the head of CAFA is important, the head of China Art Academy also, but how do you position them so? Maybe someone else is the son of whoever… so, shall I do it in alphabetic order, starting with the name of the artist? Should I start my catalog with the name of the painting? In both the gallery and the catalog presentation, we had quite a lot of issues in terms of how to present information in the most logical, fact-based way. We decided to go chronologically in the catalog, with the famous image coming before the sketch—first the painting, then the drawing. I was faced with questions that galleries don’t normally encounter.

Through the process, I think I’ve learned more about history than art history, and the most incredible thing has been meeting really great people, and having them share their history with me. It was really amazing. Also, when we opened the show, most of the artists who are still alive came, and some of them haven’t seen each other in 20 years, even though they even shared rooms in St. Petersburg, etc. When they saw each other again, it was really touching. Really touching. I know for a fact that the artists were really happy with the way things were presented, we had a good mix of artists, in the sense that they all belong on the same level. This would have never have succeeded if there had been two or three artists who weren’t famous at all.

What I often say about sketches and preparatory studies is that the painting is like writing your autobiography, you are writing it knowing that people will read it. Doing sketches is like writing for yourself, it’s like a diary. So you are much closer to the artist that any painting or finer work, because you don’t have a filter, it is much freer.

Interview with Lee Ambrozy; A Chinese version of this interview was posted here, on artforum.com’s Chinese edition.  


26 April 2012


The Archive of Modern Conflict is a photographic archive based in London and curated by Timothy Prus and Ed Jones. As a part of Caochangdi Photospring 2012, highlights from its collection and a selection of the AMC’s publications are featured in a rare exhibition organized by head of the Beijing office Thomas Sauvin 苏文. Here he discusses his work for the archive in Beijing, the exhibition, and their recent publication, Happy Tonite, which features the work of 12 contemporary Chinese photographers.

[Gordon Earl Adams and his Time Machine, UK, Twentieth Century © Archive of Modern Conflict]

“From 2006-2010 we were focusing on Contemporary Chinese photography, it resulted in the Happy Tonite publication that only showcases a tiny facet of the collection, 75 prints from 12 photographers. The collection now counts 55 Chinese photographers and a little more than 4000 prints. The AMC collects photographers from all over the world, although contemporary works are not the core of the collection.

But the AMC is open to any type of work, as long as it surprises them. I guess the game is how to surprise them. It’s not that easy, as they have been looking at images everyday for 35 years. Photography can be an amazingly boring medium. A lot of Chinese works, especially from the early 2000s, convey some sort of strange, twisted, dirty fairytale style of photography. It’s pretty unnatural, so the game was to put them together and see what happened. The photographers in Happy Tonite are all mixed together, its very hard to tell who took what.

Nein, Onkel: Snapshots From Another Front 1938–1945 is definitely their most important publication, it is actually why the AMC is called so, because in the beginning they were collecting material related to WW2. From 1993-2005 they were gathering private photo albums from German soldiers all around the world, the idea was to challenge the notion popular in that period, the “German killing machine,” and to challenge the collective memory with authentic images from the same period.

The Beijing office of the AMC has a physical space, and I’m pretty proud of it because it finally smells like Panjiayuan in there. I have bought enough dusty books, period publications, photo albums and all kinds of stuff. The archive is not public, but if I had to divide the archive into three branches, there would be the contemporary, which is still growing, period publications (mostly books), and personal photographs and albums. Two albums showing in the exhibition are the PLA clothes factory sample album, and the special effects make up artist.

If we want to build up a visual chain from 1949 to now, the only way to cover 1949-79 is through official propaganda period publications, and one must admit that pretty amazing books were made. A lot of time, money, energy and talent were spent on these huge publications, especially publications in 1959. Martin Parr is focusing on Chinese publications now, he is working with the Dutch photographer Ruben Lundgren in Beijing.

I try to go to Panjiayuan every week, but the main problem with Panjiayuan is that the sellers always think they know what has value. They have great things, but they never show them to me, because, being a foreigner, they think that I’m only obsessed with Mao or the Cultural Revolution, etc. AMC doesn’t try to dig out sensitive material, or to press where it hurts. A lot of people like to do that, especially in photography.

[Beauty and the Fridge (left); Lucha-Libre © Archive of Modern Conflict]

There are no themes that we collect by. We like to have something amorphous. You never know if something is the right thing to collect, but anything that generates an emotion, surprise, nostalgia, melancholy, amusement, is probably worth keeping. Things emerge organically. We don’t have a purpose that we try to illustrate. We try to take interest in all kinds of people and different visual universes. The best photo album I could imagine is by a real estate agent, he’s not an artist, but for years he’s been taking simple snapshots in a hardcore way—what is the price, what is the size (of real estate). I like when images are not taken for an artistic purpose, but when you decontextualize them and put them in such a space, they have another meaning.

We tend to like funny people and funny work, and a little bit of humor is very nice to find in photography. Photographers often try to convey very sad feelings and melancholia, and somehow it’s very hard to find funny work, but people really like it. So if there were one rule, it would be not to take photography too seriously, and not to pay too much attention to technique.

Most important is the history behind the image, and perhaps the great masterpiece of this exhibition is Gordon Earl Adams’ time machine. The images are not spellbinding, but the story behind them is: in the 1920s Adams’ started to build a time machine in his basement, and now both the time machine and the guy are impossible to find. So maybe it worked. We don’t know. I didn’t actually do the research myself, but AMC ended up with this huge manuscript he worked on, a huge photo album and handwritten diagrams based on Indian mythology on which the design of the machine is based. Adams was an engineer, a seeker of spiritual truth, and an unusual character. And that is all that’s left of the story. The machine––and you’ve seen it’s no small machine—and the man disappeared. Nobody seems to know, there are no records in cemeteries, and no one kept the machine. In this case, if you take the images individually they don’t say much, so we also wanted to feature his diagrams prominently in the exhibition. They were maps on how to build the machine, and showing the connection between infinity and eternity, the material universe and spiritual universe, hell and heaven.

Its always very hard to define the archive, the best way is to define what it is not. It is not a photo agency, it’s not a gallery, and it’s not a museum. It doesn’t look like anything we know.

“Photographic Oddities from The Archive of Modern Conflict” is on display from April 14 to May 6, 2012 at Chamber’s Fine Art in Caochangdi. A Chinese version of this interview was posted on artforum.com’s Chinese edition. 

Things I’ll Never Understand, or, Deplaning at T3 with Air China

15 March 2012


I no longer mind 12 hour Air China journeys with no personal mini screen; I can now laugh at the CA flight where I watched “Mamma Mia” three times in a row; and then there’s the horrible in-flight meals…. But I’ll never forgive Air China for not making use of that fabulous new *Norman* Foster airport. Every single time I’ve landed at Beijing’s new T3 with Air China, I’ve never been granted permission to deplane at a proper gate. Even if we stop a few meters from one.

Bedazzled Jaguar Hood Ornament

14 October 2011

bedazzled jaguar

bedazzled jaguar 2

…spotted in 798. Some good things can get better.


23 March 2011

Late March. Public heat has ceased for eight days now. With concrete walls for insulation, my hands are freezing!It just might be warmer outside….I’ve been doing some research lately, and when I came across this cartoon from the May 1955 issue of Meishu 美术, I thought it should be shared, if only to show how much has remained the same.The title is “Four Seasons in one Building.” When this was drawn, urban dormitory dwellings were under construction en masse, according to the caption, the four season phenomenon was caused by irregular water pipes.I ran into a friend yesterday who hasn’t had hot water in their 15th floor apartment for three days, their building was built in the 90s. I’d rather be cold!At Beijing University, I lived in a dorm room which looked like the 3rd in the cartoon below (ah, Shaoyuan!). Now, as I write to you dear readers, I look like that huddled mass on the first floor, with just my hands sticking out from the folds….lou

Sino-Semiotics Test #3

13 March 2011

hope“Hope” in the Beijing springtime…

Sino-Semiotics Test #2

9 February 2011

yodaMaster Yoda speaks …

Why Top Gun Footage Does Not Equal Homer Simpson’s Brain

7 February 2011

Recently, CCTV aired “footage” of the new Chinese-built J-10 fighter plane. The clip in question, which featured air-to-air missiles destroying a enemy fighter plane, was recognized by some shrewd-eyed movie buffs in China as footage from Top Gun, the 1986 Hollywood blockbuster featuring Tom Cruise. In these final scenes, pictured here in CCTV=Top Gun equivalencies (via the Chosunilbo) Cruise’s F-14 fighter jet destroys a Russian F-5. The footage was quickly pulled from circulation and requests for commentary denied.

This fascinating example of Chinese copyright infringement and corrupted journalistic integrity has been compared in numerous news clips and blogs to the 2007 incident of an illustration of cartoon character Homer Simpson’s x-rayed brain used as an illustration for a scientific article on multiple sclerosis. Both incidents prove that CCTV “borrows” images on a regular basis, both further suspicions about government-backed media’s lack of credibility, and both are quite humorous. The fact that both Homer Simpson and Top Gun are images originating from US popular entertainment brings an end to their similarities.


Without a thorough examination of why the phenomenon of poaching images (and text) occurs, these two extreme examples should be enough to assure us that similar forms of copyright infringement is happening with regularity, but is just not as entertaining for western readers. (The Onion news debacle of 2002 was another hilarious instance.) There must be literally millions of images that been inserted, completely out of context, in countless news reports over hours, months, years of CCTV news. Low operating budgets (unlike those for abalone banquet for officials) preclude the updating of archival footage; on CCTV News last week, the “file” footage aired for a spot on computers was so outdated, I’m impressed they avoided showing floppy discs. This reality of television news is probably another reason why Chinese netizens were so quick to suspect the visually stunning images of this military maneuvering last month––only Hollywood would have a budgets capable of producing such footage. And anyone familiar with Chinese media and toting basic critical thinking skills could deduce that.

Unlike the Top Gun incident, the photo of Homer Simpson could only be earnest humor. There was an image slot in somewhere that needed to be filled, and instead of the trite stock image of a double helix, someone inserted Homer Simpson’s head. You don’t have to be a fan of the Simpson’s to recognize that the x-rayed cartoon of Homer’s brain is not authentic, nor is it scientific. No one “mistook” the image for real, it seems like a good-natured joke from the over-worked, underpaid offices of the Xinhua newsroom. But Top Gun footage is another story.

Compared to web-based media, where one or two individuals can be held responsible (the Homer image also appeared on the English version of Xinhua, much less traffic, different departments than its Chinese-language counterpart), more editors are accountable in the Top Gun footage incident, this was television news, and broadcast to a mainstream Chinese audience.

Whether or not you take stock in the images the news media, Chinese or otherwise, they reflect more than one lazy editor’s decision making, they reflect to some degree the expectations of the audience. And despite the many suspicious viewers who tune into CCTV daily, the simple choice in what news sources chose to pirate belies a shift in viewers’ attitude. Homer Simpson might be that lovable underdog, but Top Gun is awesome military might! They are stealing the master’s guard dog. The message here is rising confidence.

Western commentators on this incident are likely sub-consciously aware of the threat, but do the millions of viewers who saw it really care where the footage came from? For a population accustomed to hidden agendas in the news, all that counts is that Central Television aired it. It could be considered irrelevant whether viewers believe it or not.

The Top Gun incident is brilliant in the sense that it illustrates perfectly how modern China has crafted its image of military might in emulation of the United States. Not the US as its citizens might know it, but the “imagined West,” the one most Chinese know, and that we call Hollywood. Instead of boo-hooing over copyright infringement, or laughing at the silliness of “Chinese ‘journalists’” we should step back, and begin to appreciate ourselves reflected through this crazy lens we helped create.


3 February 2011


Belated New Year to all, and apologies for the protracted absence. Lots of travel in the late months of last year, and busy updating artforum.com.cn leaves little time to blog. But hopefully, this spring will afford more time to post, more love from the archives. For now, despite the danger of blocking Sinopop behind the firewall, I’d like to wish sinopop readers a happy new year, 拜年拜年 with this, a most inspiring piece of contemporary folk art, door gods designed by Ai Weiwei’s FAKE office in Caochangdi.

Read about the door gods here, on the Epoch Times site. Truly auspicious protectors for 2011, (protection from censorship and littered with Grass Mudhorses and River Crabs) I’m glad that I hung mine on the inside of my door!


18 October 2010

COFFEE AND DOGRecently, an American friend in Beijing told me about the fear of carbohydrates shaking down health/diet freaks in that nation. Here in 798, we scoff at gluten fears, and have produced a cross cultural dish that can put any fortune cookie to shame. Behold, the spaghetti dog: A toasted white flour bun brimming with crisp pan fried wheat vermicelli that has been tossed with bean sprouts and leek tips.This offering was spotted in an advertisement outside a small corner cafe in 798, the hot dog bun gives away its true identity as “Western food,” and testifies to the cosmopolitan nature of Beijing’s art zones. Wash it down, and kick yourself  out of that digestive slump with a cup of pitch-black coffee. A little taste of “the West,” right here in 798. The photo is a photograph taken outside the restaurant. I did not indulge in the spaghetti dog.dogThe artful placement of the two onion sprigs inspires me,  I would love to treat any willing readers to a spaghetti dog. Just get in touch, this place sells churros too.


6 September 2010

candyland有时候,被红“中国色”弄得眼花缭乱的时候,我需要重新认识到美国所存在的“媚俗”文化。毕竟,一个人的本国文化就像他的母语——我们讲的最流利的符号系统,最能反映出他们的内心所想。这也许就是我在乡愁发作时,我不用吃比萨,更需要在网上观看碧昂斯的视频的原因吧。有了地理的距离作为镜片,流行文化存在着非常不同分析的视角。作为全球最大的文化输出者,美国人应该意识到世界其他地区的人民不会以相同的方式来解读Lady Gaga和迈克尔·杰克逊。这种作用是双向的。许多在中国生活的外国人会发现一些晚会类节目也很“媚俗(kitschy)”,从文化角度上看更有些低俗和可笑。前几天,当我看到Katy Perry在《今日秀》的表演时,瞬时间被中美文化间的相似性所震惊。从外面看,美国文化中的极其的媚俗、毫无意义的煞费苦心和荒唐可笑,与中国电视晚会类节目所追的效果是一摸一样。的确,这很显然。然而,我想在此做一个有趣的比较,一个窥探两个国家在电视上分别出现的粉红色、闪耀的梦境的旅程。 (more…)


1 August 2010

Traveling out West, tea migrated to bowls, and as we approached the Ottoman Empire, the coffee seemed easier to find than a dish of home-style tofu. Here are a few of my favorite images from this daily ritual, Western-China style.


coffee (more…)

Pabst Blue Ribbon! Select Hipster H20

29 July 2010


In honor of Evan Osnos’s “Pardon Me, Would You Have Any Pabst Blue Ribbon?” post in the New Yorker blog, I dug up this carefully preserved, very old photo of PBR “兰带” bottled water.

Perhaps it is the ideal thirst quencher for those hipsters smoldering in the Beijing heat this week…


3 July 2010


I’m celebrating this July 4th national day with the “Soldier’s Pocket Guide to China,” published by the US War Department in 1943. (No bbq’s for me, but as American as one can get at S.I.T., I’m enjoying an omelet slathered in ketchup and Tabasco with a cup of joe, black.)

This guide is deftly written, and delightfully full of insight and sympathy for the Chinese, “our gallant ally.” It comes replete with analects of Confucius––characters included––tips on shopping, girls, racial superiority complexes and more, and how much of it still rings true! (Aside from some predictable cartoonish characterizations of Chinese.)

For all of my American friends in China, remember, “Forget your old notions,” you’re on Chinese turf now, and “You are our Ambassador.” Happy Fourth of July!


“The Chinese are like Americans,” they laugh at the same jokes, and the “Chinese have their great men who were born in cabins” (Chiang Kai-shek).

And tips aplenty, on visiting traditional families: “the quieter you are, the better.”

How to eat in a restaurant: “If you want a good meal in a Chinese restaurant, take your buddies with you.”

Shopping: “If you pay what is asked, the shopkeeper will not respect you for it. If you argue him down too much, he will prefer not to sell it to you at all… But above all, keep good humored throughout. In China it is a sign of bad breeding to grow heated over a purchase.”

Learn about the “squeeze” [this isn’t the same “squeeze” as trying to exit the subway, but commission], and the use of “servants… who are smoothers of your way.”  And discover that “Chinese have ways of getting information which has nothing to do with newspapers or organized sources of information.”
“Important things to remember: …By following these suggestions, you will not only avoid difficulties, but you will guarantee your own popularity.”
“…China is the oldest nation in the world and its civilization is in many ways the greatest. As a natural result, the Chinese will not bear any assumption of superiority on the part of a white man because he is white.”
“…Discourage anyone who acts as though the Chinese people are queer. They are not queer.”
“…Try not to lose your temper. You will see plenty of Chinese lose theirs, but they are looked upon as lower class when they do so.”
“…Bear in mind that many refined and well educated Chinese––professors, students, government employees––are today poor and underpaid. … Do not be too quick, therefore, in judging by appearances.”



Images of the introduction below. (more…)


27 June 2010


No, this is not a Chinese equivalent to Twilight. This is Komi, an “Uber-Internet Beauty” 网络超强美女. In case you weren’t aware, big, round eyes, with their giant irises and enormous pupils glinting with anime shine, white skin, pointy almond chin, and pursed rosebud lips are ke’ai, cute. They are cute that has crossed to the other side. Thus,  the “Post 90s” generation strikes fear in me. And Komi’s photos caught my eye in the sidebar of some Chinese web portal, a bizarre consequence of the social/technology machine driving self-photography. What were the many stages of production that created this photo, what contributes to the collective failure in recognizing the disturbing nature of this image? (more…)


1 June 2010

towerThe North Korean pavilion at the Shanghai World’s Fair was inspiring, but last week I discovered the Mansudae Art Museum in 798 just across from Pace Beijing. The current signage in 798 can’t be missed, and although a stop in to this spacious museum might cause most visitors to smirk at its “kitschy” socialist realist oils and statues with chiseled, idealized proletariat features, there were some artistic treasures within after all. The museum itself seems to be privately funded by one of the DPRK’s most enterprising cultural firms, the Mansudae Art Studio, whose “overseas projects” division is responsible for other monumental statues across Africa, including the controversial Senegalese “African Renaissance.” Look for the Mansudae Museum underneath the book-bearing youth astride a winged horse and crowning an enormous faux-brick pedestal.

Deferring comment on the works themselves, and not knowing enough about the context in which they arrived in China’s most prominent arts district, I’d rather tell you about my joyous discovery of other art within––DPRK stamps! While “Korean jewel painting” and the realist ink and wash landscapes depicting craggy mountains might not appeal to Western tastes, I don’t know who could resist the wonderfully rendered ratus norvegicous found on the pleasingly designed “Rodents” sheet of stamps.

Amidst political themes fawning on the P.R.C. (a plethora of stamps depict Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and more recent visits by the “dear Leader” to China), there was also a fascinating visual interpretation of the “History of the Earth” in which the planet swells like a bubble, and a equally reality-bending 1997 skyline view of Hong Kong, surely a commemoration of her return to Chinese rule. Mushrooms and alpine life sit high on the list of muses for DPRK philatelic society artists, and in the small books for sale inside the museum (13-31RMB), you can find their issue date in both the Western calendar, and in the Juche year (0 = 1912, the year of Kim Il-sung’s birth).





mushroom stamps

juche year 91


1 May 2010

Round two of the Beijing art fairs opened on April 30th, and the buzz in the art scene confirms, ArtBeijing has surpassed CIGE, providing a better show all around. While the unofficial theme at CIGE was “fear,” ArtBeijing has embraced the spirit of Shanzhai!


These skulls by Fang Shengyi 房圣易 seem to be popping up everywhere lately, a pyramid of at least 50 similar skulls was spotted at the young artists portion of 《Reshaping History 改造历史》 that opened last weekend. Each skull is mounted with 3700 Czech-crystal “diamonds” and took ten workers more than 45 days to complete all these crystal-studded metal alloy skulls.


Here they are again, lower mandibles disjointed and floating in a pile of red and white sand. The title of this installation is “Original Sin” 《原罪》. The artist’s statement reads “a lateral reconsideration towards the frantic pace of economic growth in a socialist motherland… The utilizing, plagiarizing and plundering of intellectual property of advanced civilizations by developing countries equals a bald-faced exploitation of developed culture under the premise of identification…”

Let’s embrace brevity: It’s Shanzhai contemporary art!


This random installation could be a commentary on the art fair, perhaps we could interpret it as the “shanzhai fair within a fair.” (more…)


25 January 2010

happyold kongzi

I haven’t seen the biopic on Confucius, Kongzi yet, but I can already tell it’s going to be a doozy. Chow Yun-fat’s omniscient face looming in the heavens on the film poster, and his self-bemused, wizened sage smirk on the film stills is one hint, and recent dogged attempts at drumming up nationalism through culture and the arts is another.

Since I am not a Chinese, and non-Chinese are simply not allowed to mock things Chinese (especially Kongzi) even in good spirit, I figure I’ll do like other bloggers and just rip off Han Han’s brilliant post this morning, entitled, “Watching Kongzi.” Read the Chinese here: 韩寒: 《看孔子》

“…To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought there was a need to turn these classic stories into films. From a film perspective, the moment such films are born, they become the antithesis filmmaking, strangling creativity. But if you say that China’s movies with classical-historical themes show no creativity, that’s not right either, because those scriptwriters are often writing incredibly counter-historical scenes, the situation is tangled. And thus the reason why a vast majority of big-budget Chinese films are borrowing classical themes and historical figures is because their investors have lack a sense of security, they hesitate to invest such a great amount of money on some plotline dreamed up by some dubious director. Occasionally, there comes along a director who has an enormous investment, and the freedom to write their own screenplay––the resulting films are even worse. And such is China’s tragic history of film. According to Chou Yun-fat, people who watch this movie and don’t cry cannot be human, I can believe this is his delusion, and I’m sure that during the in-house screenings, all of the producers cried. They cried thinking about how many elementary school students and governmental organizations they will have to drag to the theaters just to break even.
Let’s forget about all political reasons and look at the film itself, it is a failure of a film. The sermonizing in the film isn’t infective at all, when Kongzi is talking about propriety and benevolence in the film, the guy next to me was having a ten-minute long conversation on his cell phone. …

smugFinally, I want to say that the film Kongzi, no matter if it’s from the point of view of the significance of film, profits, artistic pursuits, film exploration, educational enlightenment, warning or admonishing the public, audio-visual experience, entertainment, or documentation of history, there is no need for this film to exist. This film could be erased completely from film history.”

Despite all this, I’m still happy that Avatar was pulled from the theaters just to make room for this film.
The illusion of global culture has been shattered by recent events with Google.cn, and Hillary’s speech on the “freedom to connect.” China’s official response to “so-called Internet freedom” makes me shudder, are we truly entering a virtual cold war? At the very least, films like this should prove the national agenda is still filtered through culture, remember Founding a Nation? At the least, its one more attempt by China’s film industry to harmonize ticket sales and pleasing the film censors. Yes, I will see Kongzi, because who can’t appreciate the wry irony of watching the former “God of Gambling” play the sagely man of morals Confucius? It’s like a national face lift. Well, I’ll see in on DVD anyways…

城市中国: 进行时

5 January 2010

ucPerhaps artists like to think of themselves as harbingers of social change, at least think they like to imagine themselves on the vanguard of something. In China, they seem more like backseat drivers. However, the world’s fasting urbanizing nation is heaving forward in myriad expressions, and relentlessly posing challenges to the entire globe with a host of issues that will shape the next decade.Urban China is a magazine that has hovered on the fringes of the art world since it was founded four years, it examines various urban issues in themed monthly issues, featuring intellectuals, artists and social scientists writing on topics such as Chinese creativity, education, migration, or Chinatowns. URBAN CHINA: Work in Progress (Timezone8, 2009), is a new publication co-edited by magazine founder Jiang Jun and Brendan McGetrick that seems to reiterate the supremacy of the urban machine over the artist’s ego, as the book itself grew out of a series of questions that emerged from UC’s participation in Documenta 12 (2007). (more…)

2009 “Best of the Worst”

30 December 2009

xiaoshenyangWhat more is there to say? If we should learn from history, and images are the most powerful medium of our age, then the following should need no introduction. For all the love of spectacle we endured, 2009, thank you most of all for introducing me to the perils of the Caonima, watch your back, river crabs are everywhere.

Click on photos for news links.

cctv burn



qiu zhijie

ai weiwei

60th anniversary


obama on great wall

2012 madness


24 December 2009

tree全球化的背景中的圣诞符号‭  ‬…  ‬跟随圣诞树的传统在全世界流传的故事圣诞传统习俗丰富多彩且随不同国家和语言各异。除了传统的食品菜肴以外,美国的圣诞符号包括圣诞树(和社团的点灯庆典),圣诞老人和他的驯鹿,冬青叶子,小铃,长统袜,等。有关圣诞的习俗有互送礼物,高挂夹心长统袜,寄贺年卡给亲戚,朋友、和官方的合伙人,‭ ‬酒宴和沿街串门唱圣诞颂歌,展现耶稣诞生场景的小工艺品‭ ‬(与“找耶稣宝贝”的游戏),还有慈善募捐的习惯。圣诞树无疑是圣诞节传统中最普遍最重要的象征符号。‭ ‬在中国可以看到各个别圣诞习俗,哪怕不是在节日期间我们能听到例如“耶诞铃声”或‭ ‬“安静的夜”这两首歌被当作电梯背景音乐或彩铃。其他传统像贺年卡、送礼物(红包)被中国本地的春节所代替。还有的习俗因某原因在亚洲还没有流行,比如去各家各户去唱圣诞颂歌。当代中国人采纳的圣诞习俗虽然少,在一定程度上跟西方当代社会保持有趣的平行性,同时又体现本地的特色:我们可以看到圣诞老人抱着“双喜”字、大红和金色的圣诞树摆在购物中心的广场上。世界各地接受圣诞符号的方法都不一样,都融入了自己文化的特点——也许这点能够证明圣诞的传统越来越世俗化了,这也是最近20年美国宗教保守派人士排斥圣诞树作为圣诞节标志的原因。当美国的基督徒埋怨当代圣诞节的仪式失去了宗教的含义的同时,今天的学者们还讨论圣诞本身的异教的来源。从圣诞的日期以及圣诞树本身我们的确能看出可信的异教来源。‭ ‬‭ ‬异教徒‭ ‬Pagans广义的解释,“异教徒”包括非基督教、犹太教、清真教的人,也可以用来形容世界上任何文化的人群。在这篇文章里,“异教徒”指欧洲基督教之前的巫医民间的信仰。虽然神教的文化给这单词有轻蔑的含义,指他们的“无信仰”的状态,拉丁语的词根是形容词“paganus”‭ ‬意思又是“土气、农民”。‭ ‬我们研究圣诞树的历史就从这开始,首先我们将基督教前的德国和希腊文化归属“异教”范畴。圣诞是否有异教的根基?12月25日的日期是否从异教的根源来的?教会为什么选择12月的25日过圣诞节?有两个主要争论,第一说12月25日的日期是从更早的异教节日挪用的,第二说这日期是按照9月的孕期逻辑地来判断的。土星神的节日与太阳诞生节‭ ‬Saturnalia‭ & ‬Sol Invictus冬天的节日全世界的文化都有,古代罗马人有“Saturnalia”,纪念土星(Saturn‭–‬收获的天神)的宴会。这次“收获节日”平常在12月17日开始,随着时间推移在民间产生巨大声望,节日扩大为一周的时间,在12月23日结束。‭ ‬无疑Saturnalia‭ ‬是古代罗马人的最受欢迎的节日。有人说第四世纪的早期基督徒选择12月25日也许是由于‭ ‬罗马儒略历(公历‭) ‬的冬至已经有过节的习惯。罗马儒略历是罗马历的修改版,在公元46年由朱利尤斯.恺撒施行。后来罗马儒略历被格里历所替代,这便是现代世界最普遍的日历——中国的阳历。Saturnalia‭ ‬的日子与圣诞节的时间不完全重合,另外也有说法解释12月25日在‭ ‬Sol Invictus‭ (‬太阳诞生节‭)‬宴会的日上。在古代罗马这节日逐渐地取代土星神节,它地很多习俗包括在太阳诞生节,例如送礼物,也包括在基督教的圣诞节习俗中。‭ ‬在公元274年,罗马皇帝Aurelian宣布12月25日为“未被击败太阳的诞生节”,正如当时帝国接近灭亡,众多学者因此认为这是皇帝企图帝国和异教的复兴所作的假象。但是“太阳诞生节”是否可以承担“圣诞节选期”的责任已经被天督教的学者Joseph Ratzinger‭, ‬现在的第十六位教皇所质疑;他挑战这个说法而提出以下几点:首先12月25日仅仅是在3月25日‭ (‬天使报喜节—而被认为是耶稣的怀孕‭)‬后简单计算九个月‭ ‬的孕期之后。还有,公元274年之前没有宗教礼拜太阳的记录,事实上冬至出现在25日之前,所以皇帝的“太阳的诞生节”没有事实上的证明,使人不得不怀疑他偷用了早期基督徒的节日‭ ‬(基督教在当时日益受欢迎)。不过,‭ ‬就像圣诞重合冬至,‭ ‬天使报喜节又吻合于春分,也是历史上含着异教的繁衍礼仪——也许其他异教对基督教的影响。‭ ‬早期圣诞习俗的异教根基圣诞日期的争论明确质疑圣诞的异教根基,我们一样可以看出有关圣诞传统的古代罗马和异教的根源;罗马的宴会应该有助于早期基督徒选择圣诞在12月25日,圣诞烤火腿(丰收大餐)和送礼物的传统与慈善活动一样都有各种相等在异教的节日。除了古代罗马文化以外,影响当代圣诞的传统最大的文化是基督教前的日尔曼文化和异教习俗。‭ ‬圣诞树的日耳曼来源和它的传动有明确记载最早的圣诞树产生于16世纪,而圣诞树像很多当代圣诞的传统例如圣诞柴、添满礼物的长袜、圣诞老人夜里天空的游行被认为是导源于基督教前的日尔曼文化和异教习俗。聚焦在圣诞树的风俗,一下指明圣诞树是从德国的西部迁移到欧洲大陆然后通过德国移民将德国文化传播到了美国。中世纪‭ ‬(公元5世纪-16世纪)boniface_relief_lrg.jpg关于圣诞树的来源有不少传说,很多提出圣博尼费斯‭ ‬(公元672年-6月5日754年)。据说,圣博尼费斯‭ ‬(德国的恩人和介绍基督教到德国的主要人物)停顿异教土的婴儿祭献在神圣柞树的地下,这棵树是德国异教徒部族的圣树名字叫“雷神的柞树”‭ (‬Oak of Thor‭)‬。在这传说的大多数版本,圣博尼费斯将柞树打断,针对旧神与本地的异教部族。在倒下树干的边上出现了一小常绿的枞树,博尼费斯向异教徒宣告它代表基督:“此卑贱树木的木材用于建筑你们的房子:让基督在你们住户的中央。天气再黑它的树叶一样是青绿:让基督不断地做你地光明。它用树干伸手怀抱你,它的树冠直指上界:让基督安慰你并作你的指南。用基督教的词语来讲,树木跟福音最早的关系出现在《十字架之梦》‭(‬Dream of the Rood‭)‬,公元700年的古英语诗歌。这首诗连接耶稣被钉死在十字架与树木,十字架本身的材料,然后赋予树木宗教的角色。在诗里面,黄金和宝石装饰树木,而作者承认天然材料代表宗教的能量——这两特点也属于当时英国异教传统的信仰,被认为奉告基督的信仰。16世纪‭ ‬树木作为基督教的符号可以回溯到中世纪之前,虽然任何一个发起者或者任何一个市镇都不可以声称自己是圣诞书的原点,但在私人领地或公共场所树立圣诞树的风俗仍可明确追朔到16世纪的德国开始。圣诞树熔合了很多跟老的流行的风俗,1539年在斯特拉斯堡的大教堂,教堂的记录世界第一个为了基督教过节的圣诞树。在这之后记载有不少行会‭ ‬(工匠或商人)开始立圣诞树在它们行会会堂,也算是社会交流中心。‭ ‬欧洲的学者有最早的记载在1570年,行会大堂里立着小的枞树,上面挂着苹果、奶酪、坚果、枣、纸花‭ ‬“为了行会人员的孩子,孩子们又受了各种礼物。”‭ ‬其他早期的记载在瑞士的巴塞尔,裁缝的学徒们扛着装点着苹果与奶酪的枞树游行在市中心街道上。17世纪时,此风俗走入家庭。至于圣诞树如何接受基督教的含义,有人说在16世纪中叶,著名的德国改革运动者马丁路德听说了古代的波斯人的在冬至装饰柏树的传统。‭ ‬马丁路德有可能受了波斯文化的影响,然后向德国人介绍类似的习俗,只不过选择了本地丰富的树木——松树。在其他记载马丁路德夜里回家途中透过松树看到的满天星星得到灵感回家用蜡烛和金色和银色箔装饰家里的小树,为了指引宾客来看耶稣的圣诞星。18到19世纪随着不同来源的记载,‭ ‬18世纪初德国西北部家家户户立圣诞树已成为普遍风俗,但这个风俗还没有扩展到农村,而是在西北部长期驻留,而德国南部多数的天督教徒认为圣诞树仅限于新教徒的家庭。又由后来的普鲁士移民带着这个风俗来南方。在欧洲的19世纪初,贵族间盛行圣诞树的时尚一直扩展到了俄罗斯。在维也纳,亨利埃塔公主‭ ‬(奥地利皇家唯一个新教徒)在1816年介绍圣诞树;法国的德奥尔良公爵夫人(也是她家唯一个新教徒)在1840年立起了第一棵圣诞树。18th在英国,圣诞树的风俗一样是受到德国的影响,维多利亚女王在童年时接触到了这习俗。1832年平安夜,13岁的公主在她的日记中写到:“晚饭后…在客厅里有两个大桌子…上有两棵挂着灯火和糖做的装饰品的树。”她后来嫁给了她的德国表弟‭, ‬阿尔贝二世亲王,以后,圣诞树的风俗越发普遍。《伦敦图文报》‭(‬London Illustrated News‭) ‬在1848年刊登了一张木版画描述皇室家庭和他们的圣诞树,两年后在美国再版,使其成为风尚。这一个英国皇家过圣诞的场面帮助在英国以及美国的上层社会阶级间推广圣诞树。罗马天主教会终究收用了圣诞树是因为它太流行,无法控制圣诞树的亲和力。这足以证明圣诞树渗透在民间文化中的深度。几个德国移民较多的美国城市都号称给美国带来了第一棵圣诞树:‭ ‬康涅狄格州的Windsor Locks认定第一棵圣诞树是由1777年一个德国黑森州的士兵在他被囚禁的时候所立。宾夕法尼亚州的伊斯顿也认定1816年由德国移民所立的圣诞树才是“美国的第一棵圣诞树”。还有Matthen Zahm,‭ ‬从兰开斯特,宾夕法尼亚州,在他日记中记载了1821年的圣诞树,同年还有另一个德国移民Charles Follen也宣告自己是传播装饰圣诞树的风俗到美国的第一人。在历史上信基督教和天主教的人们一直因其非圣经记载根源而排斥圣诞树。1851年,俄亥俄州克里夫兰市的牧师‭ ‬Henry Schwan,装饰了很可能是美国第一棵在教堂里的圣诞树;Schwan是德国的移民和路德教会的。当时他被教区排斥因为教区都认为这是异教的做法。20世纪‭ ‬到了20世纪圣诞树传统迅速流传,在1900年缅因州香脂枞树的收成达150万棵。‭ ‬在美国的城镇,百货公司等等公共场所都可以看到圣诞树,点灯庆典也成为重要的公众活动。rockerfeller tree洛克菲勒中心年度圣诞树的传统也许使其成为美国最有名气的圣诞树,每年在11月底或12月初全美电视转播洛克菲勒树点灯庆典。此传统开始于在萧条时期的1931年,洛克菲勒中心成立同年。工人自己用“一条一条的曼越橘,纸的花冠,还有几个铁罐头”装饰小香脂枞树。在70年中,洛克菲勒树发展到荒诞的尺度,现在洛克菲勒树每年平常选择的挪威云杉都高达23到27米。‭ ‬得到此树耗资大得不可思议:首先需要在北美森林里找到合适的云杉,开始锯的时候再用特殊的吊车撑住它,然后放在专用的38米长的伸缩拖车上。到了洛克菲勒中心再用4条钢缆与钢架在主干辅助安装。工人站在脚手架上装饰大树,他们每年挂3万小灯,用掉8公里长的电线。从2004年开始在树尖上安装直径3米重达249.5公斤的星星。相似情况是‭ ‬1923年在美国首都华盛顿特区在开始树立“国家圣诞树”。那年佛蒙特州赠送了一棵14米高的香脂枞树,随着总统的换届每年的大亮典礼的传统因而略有不同。国家圣诞树的电灯庆典也是白宫年底的重大活动。以上两座大树可说是国家的象征,我们因此看出圣诞树已经走出了宗教的领域回到了世俗“节日”[普遍美国法律不允许优先用“圣诞节”“‭ ‬光明节”等,公共场所必须用“节日”一般说法形容年底的欢庆活动。今天“圣诞树”出现在很多非宗教的私人家里,在官方的办公楼,被各种民族和文化背景的人享受。圣诞树好像来自异教的传统,进入宗教的教堂,然后逐渐削弱其宗教的含义变成“12月底”的一般符号。‭ ‬“圣诞蔓延”21世纪的商业化‭ ‬“Christmas Creep”美国的整体经济越来越依靠“节日”时期的生意,商家发现“节日销售季”越长对利益越有好处,他们想方设法创造“节日”(圣诞节)的气氛。作为主要装饰的一部分,圣诞树在购物中心出现得一年比一年早,绿油油、光彩照人的圣诞树提醒大家要开始购买礼物了。圣诞节的商业化和它的逐渐更早的到来是21世纪新的现象在美国被叫做“圣诞蔓延”。在英国10月到12月的狂购物时期叫做“黄金的一刻”。根据市场分析报道,年底40%的顾客会在10月31日之前开始积累礼物,百货商场使圣诞树资本化,有时9月已经摆出圣诞树、小灯和银箔。‭ ‬豪华的圣诞节装置在全世界各地的百货商场已经是标准。‭ ‬如此,有资本主义与贸易的地方自然会出现圣诞树。圣诞树在中国chinese圣诞树在全世界有这么流行而好像是国际化商场永久固定的标志,它在当代中国背景之下我们并不觉得有什么时代错误。但是圣诞树是怎么来到中国的?当代中国人怎么看、怎么用这一符号,而它是否给中国带来什么特别的含义?在解放前中国跟西方自由地交流,双方文化传统在两岸间快速的传播。天主教传教士和教会学校的出现预示圣诞树的到来。‭ ‬跟其在20世纪之前的传播不同,全世界接受圣诞树的传统不仅仅是通过德国的移民或文化。而是从传教士开始,之后加速进行的全球化的经济和商业化彻底完成了宣传的任务。解放前到文化革命杨静如今年91岁,‭ ‬她很清楚记得她见过的第一圣诞树,是在1920年的12月份。当时的小学生静如在天津的一个叫keen Girl’s School教会学校上学;她去参加她同学的圣诞派对,碰巧同学的父亲是中国驻美国大使。大使家的客厅有很高的圣诞树,这是她第一回领略到了这习俗。第二次过圣诞也在朋友家里,朋友的父亲是美国人,母亲是天津人。美国父亲还打扮成圣诞老人给孩子们送礼物。还有外来的习俗,比如每年在教会学校同学们一起演出耶稣诞生之夜以及圣诞故事,例如三王来见。 圣诞树当时是通过跟西方文化有关的人物和生活在民国时期的外国人传播到中国社会的一些角落里。解放后,随着其他西方符号在中国的消亡,圣诞树也跟着不受欢迎。可以说在文革时期圣诞树和其他西方过节的习俗从眼前消失了。据杨静如所说,那几年”宣扬这方面的习俗很危险。”改革开放八十年代以后中国接受不断涌入的外来风俗文化、与外国人。这时候圣诞节与它有关的传统、符号再次出现。商业繁荣而西式购物中心和海外模式的百货商店,圣诞节及其豪华的装饰,圣诞树、 冬青树叶、小灯、 花圈等等都出现在市场上。到了90年代中国南部的工厂开始制造圣诞节的装饰品,有关的符号像圣诞老人、雪人和圣诞树又找到了进入中国社会的渠道。虽然它是外来的,在很多中国人眼里圣诞树不一定带有宗教的含义。圣诞树在今天的北京laitai北京有两个销售真假圣诞树、圣诞装饰品的市场,莱泰花卉市场和在俄罗斯居民区的雅宝路市场。 与装饰品。 北京的“圣诞蔓延”约为每年的11月底12月初,除了雅宝路个别商店全年在买圣诞节的东西。那些老板们主要批发节日装饰品给俄罗斯的客户。莱泰花市场,在北京的新使馆区和女人街旁边,也为不少外国客户服务;它的户外节圣诞市场只在12月分出现。虽然莱泰主要面向国际化的客户,仍然有很多本地北京人来购买圣诞树和装饰品,不少商品用中文来写上“圣诞快乐”还能找到中文的圣诞卡。莱泰花市场有5家买圣诞树的摊点。大部分货是假树,真树比较少有时候需要预定,我采访的3家卖鲜圣诞树的人都对客户的理解是一样的:购物圣诞树的人大概70%是外国人,30%是中国本地人。中国顾客喜欢买什么?朴先生在莱泰卖了三年的圣诞树,他的回答能代表所有的被采访的人:大多数的中国人买圣诞树是为了摆在办公室、餐厅、咖啡馆或开派对等用途。少数中国人买树放在家里,要是买给自己家的话,这样的客户一般住别墅,而且还会购买装饰院子的圣诞老人和鹿之类商品。大部分的客户比较喜欢购买假树,真树放在家里既浪费又不好打理。朴先生本人不过圣诞,他家里也不摆圣诞树,他认为圣诞节很热闹但还是更喜欢跟家人过春节。 据他理解,圣诞就是人们一起大吃大喝的节日;这种对圣诞的理解也许是莱泰商家的普遍观点。那天我还非常幸运地碰到一位中国女士在为自己家里的圣诞树购买装饰品,她非常乐意地接受了采访。女士的英文名字叫“林达”而她曾经在英国读书5年,在那里她第一次接受到圣诞树的传统。今年是她第二次在北京的家中摆圣诞树,她和丈夫(还没有孩子)喜欢买真树,以及开始了每年12月25日请朋友来参加圣诞派对的传统。今年的圣诞树有1.7米高,比去年大。我们分开时林达又在选择红红绿绿挂在树上的玻璃球,每年她会添置几样新饰品。在隔壁的摊主介绍了她很特别的存货:圣诞日历与诞生场面的小雕像,都包含了基督教的东西。这些都是她在广东省的工厂生产的,绝对不允许拍照而她从来不卖给中国人:“中国人不知道怎么用这些东西,我不卖给他们因为会被剽窃。”关于此产品的用法或含义她了解的不多,也没有必要做更深的理解——她认为外国的客户自己应该知道。總結有人说圣诞树已经是现代中国家庭的一部分 (虽然最肯定的人家里都没有圣诞树)但是大多数人认同圣诞特色更多出现在中国的公共场所和商场中,比较少出现在家庭中。分析以上的信息我对当代中国社会的圣诞树的结论是: 圣诞树依然代表西方,但已经摆脱掉了几百年前的宗教含义变为纯粹商业化的符号。虽然真树可以买到,更多人却愿意选用本地生产的的玩具;它们既方便又便宜。在西方,尤其美国的文化圣诞树是主要的风俗,它的摆放在普通家庭代表圣诞的来临,它的位置是家里客厅的中央——跟普遍中国家庭比较,还是能看出很大区别。不过在公共环境里圣诞树基本上是无区别的。从异教的根源到基督教圣诞节传统的主要性,再到非宗教的含义 … 从德国西北部的小地区到整个欧洲皇室的客厅,到美国流行文化的中心,最后传播到全世界的贸易中心——圣诞树绕地球一周作为普通人一年一度庆祝的符号最终回到到它的异教根基。也许异教传统的持久能力证明了其普遍吸引力,也许在最冷最冬天的时候设宴和创造热闹的习惯是人类的本性,也许圣诞树只是热闹的一部分。无论怎么认识它,或在哪里看到它,装饰过的树永远都标志着欢庆和节日; 即使我们搞不清楚它的真正来源,似乎圣诞树符号将永远地存在下去。


11 November 2009

Sometimes, in the spirit of preserving our mental health (and also following the sound example of many Chinese citizens) we block out the droves of nincompoopery political advertising that  inundates Beijing’s population during political festivals. However, China’s 60th anniversary recently passed, and left behind a rich trail of propaganda and harmonious good-tidings that begs to be deciphered by the twisted minds who are so inclined to pay interest to such mass messages from the state.

Thus it follows, a Chinese lesson for all souls who wish to join the“family,” as delivered to you by the creamy voices of Jackie Chan and favored Party chanteuse Liu Yuanyuan. The first video below was the National Day ‘debut’ of the patriotic song, written especially for the 60th anniversary and sung in The Square complemented by hundreds of jubilant dancers.

Please note the harmonious joy of China’s minorities as they dance happily in unison in The Square, this is very likely the favored past time of all the 56 minorities. This joyous display (which later incorporates Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, etc.) of course also indicates that even though we may be wearing different satin costumes, or of economic classes, our common ground is here: dancing below the benevolent face of the great leader.

Which brings us to our lesson, where we focus on three words:
国    GUO    (kingdom––the simplified character is a composite of characters for “jade”surrounded by a “mouth”)
家    JIA     (family, home––literally a “pig” covered with a “roof tile”)
国家     GUOJIA    (nation, country, state––the combination of the above two characters)

The Chinese for “China” is 中国 ZHONGGUO  (中=middle, inside) All of this word dissection is vital to understanding the first two lines of the song. Pay attention!

Now, due to the ingenious word play in this clever song, the appropriate words will be substituted below: GUO, JIA & GUOJIA.

Note that each time “JIA” is sung, one or both singers makes the sign language signal  for “home.” Special note for Cai Guo-Qiang fans, he was the “General Director” of the fireworks display you see at the end of the video.

(China based readers can see it on Sina here)

一玉口中国    Jade inside a mouth––ZHONGGUO
一瓦顶成家    Add a roof tile for a JIA

都说国很大    everyone says the GUO is large
其实一个家    but actually, it’s a JIA

一心装满国    A heart laden with GUO
一手撑起家    a hand props up JIA

家是最小国    JIA is the smallest GUO
国是千万家    a GUO is ten million JIAs

在世界的国    In the World’s GUO
在天地的家    and the JIA of heaven and earth,

有了强的国    having a strong GUO
才有富的家    makes for a wealthy JIA

国的家住在心里    The JIA of the GUO lives in your heart
家的国以和矗立    the GUO of the JIA stands upright with harmony

国是荣誉的毅力    GUO is the perseverance of glory
家是幸福的洋溢    JIA is brimming with prosperity

国的每一寸土地    every inch of the GUO’s soil
家的每一个足迹    every footprint in the JIA

国与家连在一起    GUO and JIA are joined together
创造地球的奇迹    to bring about a planetary marvel

国是我的国    This GUO is my GUO
家是我的家    This JIA is my JIA
我爱我的国     I love my GUO
我爱我的家     I love my JIA

我爱我国家    I love my GUOJIA!!!

And here, one more time, you have Jackie’s MV version. It features more happy minorities, students reciting their lesson (“GUO, JIA, GUOJIA”), and even some thoughtful calligraphers demonstrating how to write the characters. Later, superstar pianist Lang Lang makes an appearance for a solo played in the Great Hall of the People. (more…)


3 October 2009

Hopefully these pictures can let you experience China’s national day parade as it was enjoyed by hundreds of millions on the morning of October 1st (only the very loyal, and high ranking cadres and military folk actually made it to the bandstand that morning). The painting of Mao looking over the square has been replaced with a smiling, benevolent and satisfied looking comrade, “Old Hu” inspected the troops poking out of the sunroof in the same Hongqi from 1949, and after a very proud and spine-tingling display of “model” soldiers and firepower, the parade began. Perhaps the most elaborate display of socialist pagentry possible today, the parade cost billions of RMB, and (of course) made the DPRK’s birthday celebration look like a mere joke.


parade floats

Below are some shots of thrilled, smiling crowds and saluting policemen and soldiers. Judging from the blue skies, and the nicely balanced crowds of citizens, we’re pretty sure these were “filler shots” filmed at the rehearsal that happened the previous week.

happy people

happy people 2



Aerial shots provided uplifting views of the poignant messages that were delivered via cards flipped by the masses seated in the square they read as following:

“loyalty to the party”/ “socialism is good” / “protect world peace”

The final image is an amazing recreation of the Fu Baoshi painting that hung in the Great Hall of the People. It was commissioned for the hall in 1959 and for decades it provided a most dramatic background for diplomatic missions.

loyalty (more…)

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