Archive for August 13, 2012

Chinese Students’ Impressions of “Fine Arts”

Our 38 Chinese students took a field trip to the big metropolis of the Twin Cities several weeks ago, the following are their impressions about what they absorbed.

Amber – Yesterday I saw “Noises Off” in the Jungle Theater. It was really a funny play which made me and my friends laugh and laugh and laugh. Bright color on faces and costumes, beautiful stages, and perfect performances brought us behind the scenes to see how one play was performed seeing the backstage antics. Though the play within the play “Noises Off” was named “Nothing On,” it did not go as the actors thought it should in the final performance, the lives on the stage as well as behind the stage always made audiences interested and funny.

I was a member in my high school’s drama club and I’ve taken part in “One Year One Play” in my school for two years (grade10 and 11) so I can easily understand the play and think it was funny! We always do that behind the stage when a play is on.

I think the difference between fine arts in Minneapolis and China is that there are so many people who enjoy fine arts in Minnesota. In my hometown, Fujian Province, fine arts is considered as a kind of art only artists can join in and only artists will have fun. The theater is not popular in common people because many young people think movies fit them. But in Minnesota, many people enjoy art. They visit the Art museum as well as see interesting play. Fine art can teach people more in Minnesota. It is quite a good thing.

Tina – I liked the Minnesota Institute of arts since I had only traveled through the Asian exhibitions.

A picture painted in the end of Vincent van Gogh’s life. He painted all of trees from in the hospital. He is an Impressionism painter. I liked him because of one of his painting named “hug”. Another picture in the museum named “Grainstack, Sun in the Mist”. It is a magic picture for me. Monet used many colors to draw it. And it makes me feel the trees or other sight is not exactly same but still full of life. When I saw the painting, I strongly felt that yellow is color of god’s love.

I also enjoy a group of jade ware from China. That jade ware looks like crystal. The body of the ware is clear and light. It has the amazing handmade work, which makes me feel so fantastic and surprised. Cyan color, light structure, almost transparent, everything makes me have a deadly love of it. I cannot use the words to describe the extent how I love it.

The last work I like is the sculpture named “Veiled Lady.” I find that I like the delicate works. The guide told us that this is a woman with a veil. The thing makes me have a deep memory is that this lady is covered one piece of marble. Some dark place on the sculpture is not the flaw, but people touching it. It would be perfect without people’s touch.

These three works have a big impression in my travel which makes me will remember the Institute of arts forever that I have had a such memorable experience. I like this tour very much.

Juliet – The origin of painting can be tracked to the cave painting. How about fine arts? It’s hard to define because fine arts include so many fields, like architecture, painting, music, etc. During the last two days, we visited Minnesota Institute of Arts and Jungle Theatre. This tour really gave me a deep impression of fine art.

The piece of work that truly is imprinted on my mind is “Olive Tree” made by Van Gogh. The powerful black strokes and yellow sky are so unusual that completely show the style of the impressionists. The yellow sky shows the love of god. When Van Gogh created this painting, he had a mind of confusion and maybe during that period, he was looking for the god’s love. The main three tools to create this painting are brushes, fingers and knives. While I was facing that painting, I was totally attracted by the bright color and twisted substances and I was lost in thought. It’s not enough to describe this masterpiece as perfect.

Besides that, at the beginning of our tour given by the docent was Mountain Journal. It was another modern art that astonished me. It’s made of metal, and the creator said that he was inspired by Japanese sword and airplane. He even took the metal of a whole car to complete his work. In contrast, traditional Chinese painting is closer to life, not as abstract as western painting and the color which painters use isn’t very bright. Black, red and white are the basic colors in China.

Eastern and western fine arts are opposite to each other. It can be seen from the fields of fine arts. For instance, traditional Chinese architecture can be described by following poem “Green glazed tile brick, cornices BOUNCE, gingko Lunatia, joy instant.” On the contrary, western architecture has many different types of style, like Ancient Greek architecture, ancient architecture in Rome and Byzantine architecture, etc. There are abundant differences between Chinese and eastern fine arts, no matter earlier times or present.

People need fine arts to satisfy their mental thoughts.  Just as a person who loves art and music, I can’t imagine my life without those things. Fine arts come from our hearts and flow into our life. Lacking of sense of appreciation, seldom do people spend time in museum and appreciate these masterpieces. It should be pointed out that fine arts play a significant role in our lives.

Athena, My reflection about the trip in Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) is the most exciting part of the tour was the Art of Asian Exhibition. It is a great honor to see something from your own culture shining on another land of the world. Yamantaka Mandala, a kind of Buddhism sand painting on the wall left me with a deep impression.

The docent from the museum told our group that the circle represents the process from the hell to nirvanain Buddhist universe. It is said that Tibetan monks created this sand mandalaat MIA, believing it would help tell their story to museum visitors. However, sand has the nature of fleeting. Under the sponsor of some wealthy people in Minnesota, the museum cooperated with 3M Company and finally invented a special material that could preserve the mandala on the wall. Then the monks spent 4 weeks creating this masterpiece drop by drop with a tool like a test tube.

I was moved at that moment, not only by the power of art itself, but also by the spirits showed by the groups of people behind the sand painting. We can see the loyalty towards belief from Tibetan monks. They are trying to pass down this loyalty in a creative way—a way makes people better-understood the spiritual world. We can see the perseverance from the museum, countless sponsors and also the 3M Company. Because of this perseverance from the whole society, could we enjoy the beauty of art and feel the deepest power from our heart. I believe that is just the truth of art.

(Athena attached a clear picture of Yamantaka mandala from the website.)

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China’s “Humor” or “Youmo” According to Lin Yutang

Another of my Chinese students wrote about humor, somehow this slipped my attention. There’s some worthwhile quotes he used according to Suoqiao (2007) in article “Translating ‘humor’ into Chinese culture:”

It was Lin Yutang who first coined the term in 1924 and introduced and promoted the idea of humor into Chinese culture. Lin’s translating ‘humor’ into youmo was a conscious cross-cultural act that exchange meaning between East and West culture.

To non-Chinese speakers, the Chinese term “youmo” may not have an clear relation with ‘humor.’ To Chinese speakers, “youmo” has become such an accepted term in modern Chinese today that it is used in daily life. But to bilingual speakers of Chinese and English, it would not be hard to notice the effect of transliteration between “youmo” and humor. In fact, “youmo” is one of hundreds of new words that appeared in modern Chinese. Unlike other new words, “youmo” has a specific translator—Lin Yutang, and his translating ‘humor’ into youmo was a conscious cross-cultural act that played an important role in the modern transformation of Chinese culture.

In the Chinese literary and cultural world, however, Lin Yutang was best known as ‘‘Master of Humor’’ for his translation and promotion of ‘humor’ into Chinese culture. In 1932, a group of Western-trained professionals and writers, among Lin Yutang, assumed an active leading role, launched a literary periodical “Lunyu” to introduce and promote humor into Chinese literature and culture. Because the journal was an instant success with its inaugural issue, youmo suddenly became the talk of the town so that writers of different styles and backgrounds were all tempted to try “humor”. In any case, while there is still debate concerning the politics of Lin’s journals in the 1930s, youmo has been used for so long in the Chinese language.

In ancient China, a famous Philosopher Zhuangzi said, “Above ground I’ll be eaten by crows and kites, below ground I’ll be eaten by mole crickets and ants. Wouldn’t it be rather bigoted to deprive one group in order to supply the other?’’ (Zhuangzi 1968: 361). We do not know if Zhuangzi ever had any funeral as most Chinese people do in the end. But as Lin Yutang points out, it is precisely in Chinese funerals that the Chinese sense of humor is supreme. If life is a huge farce and human beings are mere players in it for a short time, there is really no need to take death seriously. Therefore, in the Chinese mind, as Lin tells us, ‘‘A funeral, like a wedding, should be noisy and should be expensive, but there is no reason why it should be solemn. Solemnity is already provided for in the grandiloquent gowns, and the rest is form, and form is farce’’.  And Lin holds that Western observers who fail to appreciate the humor of a Chinese funeral are probably in want of humor.

Lin Yutang did a lot in his translating ‘humor’ into youmo. And the most important thing that in the case of Confucius is: Only when one’s personality is naturally developed and given full play can one achieve a high-mindedness and become broadminded and tolerant toward life with a ‘‘smile out of understanding-of the- heart/mind’’.

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