Not a good day to be outside, so will have to spend the day completing digital errands like updating CV, writing memos, etc.
Thanks to Zhang Rui, I know the difference between Song, Ming, Yuan, and Qing Dynasty pottery. Song pottery is probably more of my taste with its subtle blue porcelain. The Ming pottery is very refined. It is this pottery which the Dutch sought to emulate. The Yuan pottery is more broad with bold rather than refined flower motifs. The Qing Dynasty pottery is either poorer copies of Song and Ming pottery or brightly blinged out pottery with many colors and gold overlays. Qing Dynasty is not my taste at all.
Today I went with Zhang Rui to the Beijing National Museum. We only got through the Ancient China Gallery, the Revolution Gallery, and the Chinese Pottery Gallery in the seven hours we were there. China's history is amazing in terms how far back certain motifs like the dragon and the Phoenix go back.
I am fascinated by the female historical figure Fu Huo, who was a queen and military general during the Shang Dynasty. Her tomb dates to 1200 BCE. Most of the most famous bronze artifacts of that period come from her tomb.
Yesterday were the final presentations for the CAFA research methods intensive that I taught. I am sad that it has ended.
I am winding down my lessons. Friday is the last class which makes me very sad. I have learned a lot from the students.
Sunday was graduation at CAFA. I went to the photo session and then the reception in the main hall. It was cool to see people's happiness in terms of completing their degree but sadness in terms of leaving their friends.
The pretty girl in the photo is XiaoXi, who finished her Masters this year. She has been working as the translator for my class. She took me to an amazing vegetarian buffet across from Confucius's Temple for dinner.
Mr. Chin told me a urban legend of being served fish with the head and tail still moving. The last day in IM we went to a restaurant known for its fish. They have a special table which had a huge wok pot built into it. They said that in the countryside, the stove would be connected to the bed to keep it warm.
They picked out five live fish who were cut up and thrown into the pot with water and spices. The wood fire was lit with a pink bar of solid alcohol.
We selected a variety of vegetables and some thick noodles. The fishes tail was still moving when it was in the pot. It only stopped moving when the heat was too hot. So not an urban legend at all.
The fish soup was the best that I ever tasted. They baked bread on the sides of the wok pot which was delicious as well.
We had gone early but around noon groups of women in their 40s and 50s arrived and chatted loudly. Later families of parents, toddlers, and grandchildren arrived. It seemed a nice place for lunch.
The museum in Holhot had the most amazing dioramas. From natural history ones of animals (the wolf is the totem here), mining operations, traditional family life on the steppe, life in the mountains, to the court of Genghis Khan, you felt like you were in the middle of these vast scenes. And because they were not behind glass, they felt more tangible and real. Eventually these will be done with holograms, but it was cool to experience first hand.
One thing I observed was how very few people were at the museum.
Continuing my description of my two days in Holhot, Inner Mongolia, they drove me to my swank Westin Hotel where we had lunch of a Chinese banquet worth of food.
Holhot is a growing city so there are entirely new urban developments of mid-rise shopping plazas and high-rise tower condos and apartment complexes. In the new developments, the buildings are so new that many of them are not occupied by tenants. The shop keepers, of mostly young men, sit in the doorway smoking cigarettes or playing games.
You feel like you are in a modern old West film with a Chinese set of actors. I guess the Mongolians would be the Indians as they are directly related to our North American Indians.
We went to the new campus of Inner Mongolia Normal University. The "normal" means that they focus on teaching teachers and that they do not have the full range of program's as a university. The new campus was built in 2006, but some of the buildings were just finished last year.
I met with Dean Wu Li Ji, who is the expert on Mongolian art. I also meet with the Vice Dean who is a noted traditional Chinese painter. We went to visit the Mongolian cultural museum.
The museum is underground and designed like the tombs found in the area. It shows the history and culture of the Mongolian peoples from prehistoric times until the end of the Qing Dynasty.
The early Mongolians were nomadic. They always had chiefs as there were raids and conflicts over grazing lands, so strong men led those raids. As they assimilated Han culture, they became more settled and had kings, queens, and tombs and bling which is the main displays in the museum. What it boasts is a 1.5 scale replica of a Mongolian tomb found not too far from the city. Inside the tomb are murals of daily life and sacred life.
Photos were prohibited in the museum but I will see if I can find it on the web.
Through the loveliest young translator, Joan, Dean Wu asked many questions about Aboriginal Australian culture. How they live? How they buried their dead? The use of body art. The reply was that it was very similar to how the Mongolians were before they became Han-ised. This would make a great comparative research project.
After the museum, we went for dinner at a restaurant across from the largest dairy factory in mainland China, Esse. The diary factory and mining are the main employers in the town. The dairy company owns most of the land around the new campus. The restaurant is shaped like the traditional Mongolian yurt (tent). Normally, they would order lots of beef and lamb, but with me being vegetarian they settled for vegetables, eggs, and fish. I got to try the Mongolian milk tea which was tasty. We discussed our colleges and futures exchanges after more higher level talks.
After dinner, we went back to campus where I gave my lecture. The Q&A was amazing. My trick of offering gifts to those who ask questions got the ball rolling. I think we went on for over one hour. My talk was about Cultures-based innovation. They expressed their happiness to hear my message about developing and maintaining their cultural values through the creation of resonate forms for today and the future. One student said how an artist the week before said to not focus on old culture to just be modern, but he disagreed and was happy to have his feelings validated by my talk. It is especially important because Mongolian culture is a minority culture.
After the lecture, Dean Wi showed me around the art studios where they imitate both modern and traditional painting styles. We then went to his office where we exchanged gifts. He gave me his book on Mongolian art history. I have him and Aboriginal painting and kangaroo meat. I gave the Vice Dean and my translator Joan a small Aboriginal drawing and Mr. Chin who showed me around a CD.
I then returned to the hotel where I stayed up to 1:30am watching movies on HBO just because they were in English.