Author: changabula

Chinese Tradition and Culture [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-8-6 18:38:48 |Display all floors
Brushing up on Tradition

Bu Zhen'e, 62, works on brush tips in a studio in Shanlian Township of Huzhou, Zhejiang Province
In 1856, Lady Yehenara was confronted with the question of what to give Qing Emperor Xianfeng for his 25th birthday. So, the learned and ambitious concubine, who would later be known as Empress Dowager Cixi, ordered the creation of a top-quality writing brush.

Emperor Xianfeng, an enthusiast of calligraphic arts, received piles of birthday gifts. But the special present from Lady Yehenara grabbed his attention most.

It turned out that the elegant writing brush, inscribed with the auspicious words "soaring dragon, dancing phoenix", boosted the intimacy between the concubine and the emperor.

The satisfied concubine then awarded a plaque to the brush's creator He Lianqing for his excellent craftsmanship.

This very writing brush remains a Grade-2 cultural relic under State protection in the Palace Museum, according to Zu E, a researcher of traditional Chinese art with the museum.

He Lianqing crafted about half of the more than 200 writing brushes in the museum's depository , Zu says.

He was a native of Shanlian Township, in Huzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, which is about 160 kilometers west of Shanghai. In the 1820s, He ran the largest writing brush workshop in Beijing.

This month, top-quality Helianqing writing brushes, named after the genre's creator but modified in design and packaging, attracted much attention at the 2007 Luxuries Global Carnival, which ran at the New National Agriculture Exhibition Center in Beijing from July 5 to 8.

Sponsored by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council and organized by China Luxuries magazine, the expo featured luxury items such as yachts, sports cars, watches and jewelry.

The Helianqing writing brushes, priced from 30,000 yuan to 60,000 yuan ($3,950-7,890) apiece, "are stand-alone exhibits featuring a strong flavor of traditional Chinese culture", says Lin Zhenyu, who rallied some of the country's top craftsmen, artists, designers and cultural heritage experts to inject new life into the writing brushes.

On current markets, the most expensive writing brushes are sold for no more than 20,000 yuan ($2,630) apiece, Lin says.

In the 1950s, He Lianqing's descendants were frequently commissioned by master painter Li Kuchan, renowned calligrapher Qi Gong - also a scholar of Chinese classics - and Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong, two of the most influential traditional Chinese painters of the last century.

But in 1956, most private writing brush studios, including the Beijing branch of the Helianqing Writing Brush Studio at today's East Liulichang Antique Street, were merged into the State-owned Beijing Writing Brush Factory.

Likewise, Shanlian studios, among others, were absorbed by State-run factories, "where the traditional working procedure was simplified, and technological requirements were compromised", recalls Yu Peifang, 76. Yu is the fourth-generation inheritor of the Helianqing writing-brush tradition.

So, Yu made up her mind to carry on the traditions of her ancestors by practicing the difficult craft in her spare time.

"It seems that traditional handicrafts and craftsmanship have again become fashionable, so people are calling for the preservation of Chinese cultural heritage," says Yu, who has been working with Lin during the past four years to revive the brush's power.

"I think it is high time we created the best quality Helianqing writing brushes for today's users and collectors," Yu adds.

But realizing such a glamorous comeback was not easy. Despite the brand's fame, Yu and Lin found they have to innovate to meet the demands of modern consumers.

Wu Zhengyi, a folk artist in Shanlian Township, has 25 years' experience engraving patterns, portraits or words on the bamboo or wooden holders of writing brushes. But Lin and his advisors rejected Wu's first batch of containers last year.

"I had tried my utmost, and could not go further," recalls Wu, who flew from Zhejiang Province to meet Lin in Beijing.

"I came to understand that I must meet the strict technical and artistic requirements with new ideas and continue to improve my skills," Wu says.

The most critical component of the writing brush is the tip. Traditionally, there were 72 steps involved in creating such a brush. Today, the procedure has been expanded to 150 steps, with improved results, Lin says.

"Everyone involved in this mission has to be open-minded and ready to make adjustments so that he or she can better accomplish this demanding task," Lin says.

To revive the ancient art, Lin and his advisors traveled far and wide to find talented craftsmen to produce the writing brushes, copyrighted designs and packaging.

Lang Sen, an art professor with the Beijing Fashion and Design College, eagerly joined Lin and Yu three years ago. The reputable calligrapher and birds-and-flowers painter gained support from artists such as Fan Zeng and Aisin-gioro Pu Ren, as well as experts from the Palace Museum.

Because the selected artists live in locations scattered across the country, Lin makes monthly travels to collect materials for the brushes before putting final touches on the handicrafts at his workshop in Shunyi, in suburban Beijing.

Because the raw materials for top-quality brushes are so rare, Lin and his team have created only about 2,000 top-quality Helianqing writing brushes.

Last month, the Palace Museum inked a deal with Lin to develop a series of writing brushes that are high-fidelity imitations of the brushes created for emperors.

Lin has great confidence in the high-end market demand for his wares. "China's economy grows so fast," he says. "More and more Chinese and foreigners are showing a strong interest in traditional Chinese artworks and exquisite handicrafts." ... ontent_101977_3.htm
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Post time 2007-8-6 18:45:56 |Display all floors
Dongba Love Epic Melodrama "Lubanlurao"

"Lubanlurao," a 2,000-year old ethnic epic, has encouraged the suicides of hundreds of lovers since its creation. So many people were killing themselves because of the epic in the 19th and 20th centuries that the government banned local youth from hearing it. Now, a dramatized version will premier July 29 at Mufu Palace in Lijiang, in southwest China's Yuannan Province.

The musical drama is based on two parts of an ancient epic trilogy of the Naxi people, "Lubanlurao" (which means a paradise of eternal love and youth) and "The War of Black and White." The third part of the trilogy is "The Creation of the World."

The epic tells the story of two lovers fated for arranged marriages, who commit suicide in order to remain together after death for eternity. Historical records say that each time the epic was sung at a special religious ceremony for deceased lovers, several lovers attending the ceremony would commit suicide. The epic was banned from daytime performances by the government in 1912.

According to Naxi beliefs, dying for love isn't a tragedy. They believe lovers are reborn in a paradise after suicide, the Third Kingdom of the snowcapped Jade Dragon Mountain.

"I am moved by the epic and Naxi people's unique perspective on romance," said Li Yapeng, producer and general planner, at a press conference, talking about his motives to dramatize this story. "In the epic, the afterlife world of deceased lovers is so beautiful. I have never seen such an interpretation in any other culture."

"I am also moved by a Naxi girl in my company who had been working 10 years to realize her dream to dramatize those epics," Li recalled. "It's been years and I haven't heard people talking about their dreams." This dream has taken Li's company 7 million yuan to make a reality.

All of the 50 actors involved are from the local Naxi community. Twenty of them didn't know anything about dancing. "We recruit the actors right from the streets," said director Zhang Yang. "After a month-plus of training, they dance as good as the professionals."

Some may compare the drama to world-renowned director Zhang Yimou's "Impression of Lijiang." Director Zhang Yang, however, thinks the shows are two different things altogether. "Lubanlurao is a music drama with plots while 'Impression of Lijiang' is a large-scale on-site song and dance performance without plot," he said. "It makes no sense to compare two totally different things."

"Impression of Lijiang" is presented as an extravaganza integrating the ethnicl charm and the natural landscape of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain area. With a lavish investment of 250 million yuan, the show has been prohibited from being staged in some core scenic areas as the government intervened to prevent the local environment from being damaged.

Taihe Rye Music Co. Ltd is responsible for the Lubanlurao's music. The producer has spent several months in Lijiang to draw inspiration from local music. A number of traditional ethnic instruments are being used, in addition to modern electrophonic music. The drama is expected to be performed in Beijing and Shanghai in 2008. ... /content_101753.htm

Do You Love Me? Let's Go to the Third Kingdom

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-8-6 06:47 PM ]
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Post time 2007-8-7 21:52:06 |Display all floors
Chinese Bamboo

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Bamboo is one of the four favorite plants along with Chinese plum, orchid and chrysanthemum, the so-called Four Men of Honor (Si4 Jun1 Zi3) by the Chinese. The characters of the four plants are highly admired by the Chinese people so they want to be just like the four plants. In turn, the plants have possessed some human nature. This is an example of the harmony between nature and human being (Tian1 Ren2 He2 Yi1).

    You can find bamboo just about everywhere in China as long as it can be grown. Gardens are usually good places to see bamboo, such as the famous Purple Bamboo Garden in Beijing and Guyi Garden in Shanghai. The Bamboo Sea Scenic Area in Sichuan Province has become a popular destination, which consists of 28 peaks fully covered with bamboo, thanks to the movie 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.'

    Bamboo culture is deeply rooted in the daily life of the Chinese.

    Bamboo chopsticks are still the most common tableware in China. Dizi (Chinese flute) is made of bamboo. People are still using paintbrush made from bamboo today. It is quite common to see lucky bamboo and wenzhu (asparagus fern) in Chinese homes.

    Bamboo Culture Festival has become popular in recent years. There are many such festivals held in different places across China each year. To take part in a bamboo culture festival is probably the best opportunity to learn the bamboo culture. During a bamboo culture festival, there are usually exhibitions of bamboo carvings, poems and paintings. Bamboo painting is an important part of Chinese traditional painting. You can also see all kinds of bamboos, listen to them as well as feel their spirit with your heart to bring you peace and harmony.
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Post time 2007-8-7 21:53:56 |Display all floors
Chinese knots

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Traditional Chinese decorative knots, also known as Chinese knots, are typical local arts of China. They are a distinctive and traditional Chinese folk handicraft woven separately from one piece of thread and named according to its shape and meaning. In Chinese, "knot" means reunion, friendliness, peace, warmth, marriage, love, etc. Chinese knots are often used to express good wishes, including happiness, prosperity, love and the absence of evil.

Chinese people have known how to tie knots using cords ever since they began learned how to attach animal pelts to their bodies to keep warm thousands of years ago. As civilization advanced, Chinese people used knots for more than just fastening and wrapping. Knots were also used to record events, while others had a purely ornamental function. In 1980, dedicated connoisseurs collected and arranged decorative yet practical knots passed down over centuries in China. After studying the structures of these knots, the devotees set about creating new variations and increasing the decorative value of knots. The exquisitely symmetrical knots that come in so many forms are as profound as the great cultural heritage of the Chinese people.

The Chinese knot is based on over a dozen basic knots named according to their distinctive shapes, usages, or origins. The Two-Coins Knot, for example, is shaped like two overlapping coins once used in ancient China. The Button Knot functions as a button, and the Reversed Swastika Knot was derived from the Buddhist symbol commonly seen on the streamers hanging down from the waistband of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.

The knots are pulled tightly together and are sturdy enough to be used for binding or wrapping, making them very practical. Furthermore, the complicated structure of the Chinese knot allows all kinds of variations and enhances its decorative value. Almost all basic Chinese knots are symmetrical, which has set certain technical limitations on the design and creation of new patterns and themes. Symmetry is consistent with time-honored ornamental and aesthetic standards in China. Visually, the symmetrical designs are more easily accepted and appreciated by Chinese people.

Except for the Two-Coins Knot, the Chinese knot is three dimensional in structure. It comprises two planes tied together leaving a hollow center. Such a structure lends rigidity to the work as a whole and keeps its shape when hung on the wall. The hollow center also allows for the addition of precious stones.

Crafting the Chinese knot is a three-step process which involves tying knots, tightening them and adding the finishing touches. Knot-tying methods are fixed, but the tightening can determine the degree of tension in a knot, the length of loops (ears) and the smoothness and orderliness of the lines. Thus, how well a Chinese knot has been tightened can demonstrate the skill and artistic merit of a knot artist. Finishing a knot means inlaying pearls or other precious stones, starching the knot into certain patterns, or adding any other final touches.

Since ancient times, the Chinese knot has adorned both the fixtures of palace halls and the daily implements of countryside households. The Chinese Macrame has also appeared in paintings, sculptures and other pieces of folk art. For instance, the Chinese Macrame was used to decorate chairs used by the emperor and empress, corners of sedans, edges of parasols, streamers attached to the waistbands of lady's dresses, as well as all manners of seals, mirrors, pouches, sachets, eyeglass cases, fans and Buddhist rosaries.

The endless variations and elegant patterns of the Chinese knot, as well as the multitude of different materials that can be used (cotton, flax, silk, nylon, leather and precious metals, such as gold and silver, to name a few) have expanded the functions and widened the applications of the Chinese knot. Jewelry, clothes, gift-wrapping and furniture can be accentuated with unique Chinese knot creations. Large Chinese knot wall hangings have the same decorative value as fine paintings or photographs, and are perfectly suitable for decorating a parlor or study.

The Chinese knot, with its classic elegance and ever-changing variations, is both practical and ornamental, fully reflecting the grace and depth of Chinese culture.  中国结
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Post time 2007-8-7 21:56:18 |Display all floors
The cheongsam旗袍

The cheongsam, or Qipao in Chinese, is evolved from a kind of ancient clothing of Manchu ethnic minority. In ancient times, it generally referred to long gowns worn by the people of Manchuria, Mongolia and the Eight-Banner.
In the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), long gowns featured collarless, narrow cuff in the shape of a horse's hoof, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist. Wearers usually coiled up their cuff, and put it down when hunting or battling to cover the back of hand. In winter, the cuff could serve to prevent cold. The gown had four slits, with one on the left, right, front and back, which reached the knees. It was fitted to the body and rather warm. Fastened with a waistband, the long gown could hold solid food and utensils when people went out hunting. Men's long gowns were mostly blue, gray or green; and women's, white.
Another feature of Manchu cheongsam was that people generally wore it plus a waistcoat that was either with buttons down the front, a twisted front, or a front in the shape of lute, etc.
When the early Manchu rulers came to China proper, they moved their capital to Beijing and cheongsam began to spread in the Central Plains. The Qing Dynasty unified China, and unified the nationwide costume as well. At that time, men wore a long gown and a mandarin jacket over the gown, while women wore cheongsam. Although the 1911 Revolution toppled the rule of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, the female dress survived the political change and, with succeeding improvements, has become the traditional dress for Chinese women.
Till the 1930s, Manchu people, no matter male or female, all wore loose-fitting and straight-bottomed broad-sleeved long gowns with a wide front. The lower hem of women's cheongsam reached the calves with embroidered flower patterns on it, while that of men's cheongsam reached the ankles and had no decorative patterns.
From the 1930s, cheongsam almost became the uniform for women. Folk women, students, workers and highest-tone women all dressed themselves in cheongsam, which even became a formal suit for occasions of social intercourses or diplomatic activities. Later, cheongsam even spread to foreign countries and became the favorite of foreign females.
After the 1940s, influenced by new fashion home and abroad, Manchu men's cheongsam was phased out, while women's cheongsam became narrow-sleeved and fitted to the waist and had a relatively loose hip part, and its lower hem reached the ankles. Then there emerge various forms of cheongsams we see today that emphasize color decoration and set off the beauty of the female shape.
Why do Han people like to wear the cheongsam? The main reason is that it fits well the female Chinese figure, has simple lines and looks elegant. What's more, it is suitable for wearing in all seasons by old and young.
The cheongsam can either be long or short, unlined or interlined, woolen or made of silk floss. Besides, with different materials, the cheongsam presents different styles. Cheongsams made of silk with patterns of flowerlet, plain lattices or thin lines demonstrate charm of femininity and staidness; those made of brocade are eye-catching and magnificent and suitable for occasions of greeting guests and attending banquets.
When Chinese cheongsams were exhibited for sales in countries like Japan and France, they received warm welcome from local women, who did not hesitate to buy Chinese cheongsams especially those top-notch ones made of black velour interlined with or carved with golden flowers. Cheongsam features strong national flavor and embodies beauty of Chinese traditional costume. It not only represents Chinese female costume but also becomes a symbol of the oriental traditional costume.
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Post time 2007-8-9 16:17:12 |Display all floors
Private bamboo carving art museum in Xiangshan
Updated: 2007-06-10 09:22

Tourists walk in Dehe Bamboo Carving Art Museum in Xiangshan, a county in East China's Zhejiang Province, June 9, 2007. Zhang Dehe, a craftsman in root carving, invested about 12 million yuan (US$1.54 million) in a bamboo carving museum named after himself at his hometown Xiangshan. After five-year construction, the museum, covering an area of 4,000 square meters, has been open to the public since last year. All the exhibits at the museum are Zhang's pieces except those in a special exhibition room where his collections of other craftsmen are on display. [ Zhiping]

[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-8-9 04:19 PM ]
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Post time 2007-8-9 16:37:18 |Display all floors
Milestones in Chinese Cinematic History

1905 China’s first film, Conquering Jun Mountain, was made.

1909 Asia Film Co., the first Chinese film studio, was launched in Shanghai.

1913 The Difficult Couple, the first-ever Chinese fiction film, was released.

1913 The first Hong Kong film, Chuang-tzu Tests His Wife, was released and became the first Chinese film shown overseas.

1913 Yan Shanshan, China’s first film actress, appeared on-screen.

1922 Star Film and Theatre School, the first acting school in China, was established.

1925 Xie Caizhen, China’s first female director, released The Sad Swan.

1926 China produced its first animated film, Mess in the Paint House.

1928 China’s first film series, the 18-part The Burning of Red Lotus Temple, was released.

1934 China’s first talking film, Plunder of Peach and Plum, was produced.

1935 Song of the Fishermen won China’s first international film award at the Moscow Film Festival.

1950 China had its first international award-winning actress, Shi Lianxing.

1956 The Kite, a Sino-French joint production, was finished, becoming the first film co-produced with a foreign country.

1962 China’s first 3D film, The Adventure of a Magician, was released.

1983 China’s fifth generation filmmakers yielded their first masterpiece, One and Eight.

1988 Red Sorghum won the Golden Bear Prize for best picture at the Berlin Film Festival, becoming China’s first prizewinning film at a top-level international festival.

1989 Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film A City of Sadness won the Gold Lion Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

1993 Farewell My Concubine won the Palme d’Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the first-ever top film award in Chinese film history.

1993 The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television introduced reform in the film distribution section.

1993 The Shanghai International Film Festival, China’s first competitive top-level world film festival, was launched.

2002 The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television began promoting the cinema-line system nationwide, whereby filmmakers or distributors base their distribution and screening network on contracts or exchanges of assets.

2003 Six private enterprises obtained filmmaking licenses, breaking up monopoly by state-owned enterprises in China’s film industry.

2005 Legislation of the China Motion Picture Industry Promotion Law was accelerated. ... 2/content_51651.htm
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