Archive for the ‘China Vision (vols 2.1 + 2.2)’ Category
We here at Glimpse view seeing as a complex act. When looking at a chair, a house, a tree, or a human being, we’re not looking at a stagnant, isolated thing. We’re seeing the product of past events and movements and circumstances. We’re seeing a thing in transition that has the power to act or the possibility of being acted upon. We’re seeing the potential for change.
This month, Lily Yeh (Artist/Activist interviewed in our China Vision II issue) and the Barefoot Artists depart to Rwanda to continue their work rebuilding communities ravaged by genocide, disease and displacement. In locations where most would see only destruction and disrepair, Yeh sees “endless resources for…an innovative way to create a new future.” Here, we present a clip of Yeh speaking at last year’s Bioneers Conference. Or click here to see the whole transformative thing.
Don’t forget to check out–or if you’re already one of Glimpse‘s fabulous readers, revisit–our conversation with Lily Yeh about the transformation of the Dandelion School in Beijing!
Glimpse Journal contributor Mary Ting (China Vision 2.2) is pleased to present the work of James Wong and Robert Visani in her newly curated show War Toys/Toy Wars. The show will be up from Oct.9th – Nov. 6th, 2009 at Gallery 456, Chinese American Arts Council (CAAC), 456 Broadway, 3fl, New York, NY 10013. For more information please visit the CAAC website.
Yang Liu, a Glimpse Journal contributor from China Vision 2.1, is a Guest of Honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair where she will provide audience members with a taste of her 2007 book East Meets West; Cultural Differences Between Germany and China. Her work will be on view from Tuesday, October 13, 2009 – Sunday, October 18, 2009. To see the specifics of the event visit the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair site.
The Gund Kwock Asian Women Lion & Dragon Dance Troupe began with a small desire: to dance. But like learning any new dance, the initial steps were hard. “I’d seen lion dance many, many times,” recalls troupe founder Reverend Cheng Iaam Tan, “but one day, I saw a performance right up close, and it looked really good! I thought—I can do this! So, if I can do this, other women can too.”
Gund Kwock started in 1998 in the donated space of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) of Boston. The troupe, currently with twenty permanent members and growing, is what Reverend Tan believes to be the only all-female lion dance troupe in the United States. “Our goal is Asian women empowerment and community contribution,” Reverend Tan says with a smile of determination, “The challenging thing was recruiting a teacher. It’s not heard of to teach women lion dance, and I was very lucky to find Eddie Lau, who is our sifu.” Reverend Tan met Eddie Lau through her husband’s group of friends eleven years ago. In the video above Gund Kwock is practicing a dragon dance for the 2008 August Moon Festival in their new space at the China Trade Center. The lion and dragon dance is divided between Northern and Southern style, differences between the northern and Southern styles are identified by movements, gestures and costume. Northern style costumes are hair-like and come in variations of red, orange or green dress. Southern style lion costumes look a little like soft scales coming in color variations of gold, white, black, red, orange, and green.
Lions are not indigenous to China and numerous histories and folklore speculate their arrival. It is generally accepted that the animal arrived in China during the era of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). One history is that the lions arrived in China along the Silk Road as a gift from merchants in the current regions of Iran and Afghanistan. The lions were presented as a gift in exchange for use of the trade route. All of these stories present the lion as a symbol of courage, prosperity and good fortune. Today, the lion dance is performed during festivals and new business openings as a symbolic warding-away of all things bad and welcoming-in of all things good. “There are lots of stories about the history of lion dance,” says Reverend Tan, “one story tells about a monster that would torment a village on a yearly basis—destroying crops, ruining property and taking lives. The villagers tried fighting the monster with the help of other animals but none of these solutions were successful until they found the lion. The lion fought with the monster and defeated it, promising to come back the next year. When the monster came back, the lion had been recruited by the emperor to guard the imperial court and was unable to leave its post. The villagers came up with a solution to create a costume to impersonate the lion and succeeded in warding off the monster themselves.
For more information about the Gund Kwock Asian Women Lion & Dragon Dance Troupe and view upcoming shows please check visit their web site: http://www.gundkwok.org/about/index.html
To view more videos of Gund Kwok performances please visit Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gund+kwok&search_type=&aq=f
師 傅 – pronounced “sifu” means teacher
Gund Kwok Asian Women Lion & Dragon Dance Troupe. “What is Lion Dance: History and Folklore.” http://www.gundkwok.org/about/index.html (accessed on Oct. 1, 2009).
Hong Kong Luck Kung Fu Club . Chinese Lion Dance History. http://www.hongluck.org/lion-dance-history.html (accessed on Oct. 1, 2009).
Video and words by Angie Mah
A comparison of two letters, one from Shanghai to Hong Kong the other from New York to Austin, implicitly reveals profound differences between Western and East Asian cultural psyches. In contrast to the Western address format which first lists personal information and broader geographical information follows (Name of recipient, Street address, Town, State, Postal Code, Country), the standard Chinese format displays the reverse, beginning with the general and successively narrowing to the specific (Country, Province, City, Postal code, Street name, Name of recipient). The sequence of information is reflective, however simply, of China’s complex social structure in which the individual’s status and function is a derivative of the greater collective.
This framework, which is pervasive throughout professional, academic, and familial spheres, calls for a standard of behavior that sees beyond personal gain and values the perpetuation of a harmonized social structure from the top down, necessitating an awareness and appreciation of context – of the overarching network in which the individual exists in relation to the others around her. A behavioral archetype in which the self is secondary may seem inauthentic to the uninformed outsider. Even the Western notion of Social Contract Theory, which values a similar model of social order, resembles this East Asian social structure only superficially. Although the goal is a harmonious and controlled society, the inherent motivation lies in one’s self-interest (one agrees to adhere to a moral code because it’s to one’s benefit to live in a society that condemns stealing, killing, etc.). Still, China’s social code and the mass exhibition of selfless behavior is indeed no performance. In fact, studies have shown that this inherent concern for the whole is apparent not only through actions, but also through the physical act seeing.
A study performed by Hanna Faye Chue, Julie Boland, and Richard E. Nisbett compared the cognitive and perceptual differences between Americans and Chinese. Each group was shown a fixed set of images which featured prominent foreground objects placed against more complex backgrounds. Equipment tracked their respective eye movements, revealing distinct viewing styles:
The eye-movement patterns of American and Chinese participants differed in several ways. The American participants looked at the foregrounded object sooner and longer than the Chinese, whereas the Chinese looked more at the background than did the Americans. The Chinese made more fixations [on the background] during each picture presentation than the Americans. The Americans looked at foregrounded objects 118 ms sooner than did the Chinese.
The Chinese approached looking at the images holistically, their pattern of eye-movements allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the whole. The “focal” point demanded little more attention than did the context in which it was placed. In fact, when looking at images which showed the originally viewed foreground objects juxtaposed against new backgrounds, the Chinese participants experienced greater difficulty than did the Americans in recalling that the object had been previously viewed. The explanation is rooted again in the Chinese’s pattern of eye movements, which darted from foreground to background with more frequency than the Americans’. This style of absorbing the entire image essentially bound the focal point to its context, rendering it less recognizable when its original defining environment was replaced by another.
For those immersed in the culture of China the way one sees a scene’s foreground object parallels the way one sees the self. What appears to be most independent and accessible is in fact inextricably linked to and defined by its context. That the understanding of the self is ultimately achieved through an understanding of relationships perhaps rings true for those belonging to many cultures outside of the East Asian tradition (no one – or at least very few of us – live in a vacuum after all). But perhaps unique to East Asians is the vast cultural awareness of this concept, as well as its internalization and its ability reach into one’s very physicality and shape, quite literally, the way one sees the world.
To read more about the study described in this post, go to http://www.pnas.org/content/102/35/12629.full.
Mirrors have been created for centuries to aid, inspire, and even distort human seeing. The next issue of Glimpse features historical “Chinese Magic Mirrors” whose manufacture and optics confounded 19th- and 20th-century European and American scientists for years. We will also look at the workings of China’s newly completed Large Sky Area Multiple-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), which promises to accelerate astronomers’ and astrophysicists’ discoveries. Thanks to its wide aperture, the unique flexible, hexagonal structure of its focusing mirrors, and the 4000 optical fibers transmitting light to the focusing plane, the telescope offers wider-field and more detailed imaging from the night sky than previously available in a single telescope. According to the LAMOST web site:
Its focal plane is 1.75m in diameter, corresponding to a 5° field of view, may accommodate as many as 4000 optical fibers. So the light from 4000 celestial objects will be led into a number of spectrographs simultaneously. Thus the telescope will be the one that possesses the highest spectrum acquiring rate in the world… LAMOST adopts the active optics technique both for thin mirror and segmented mirror on the Schmidt corrector MA, as well as the parallel controllable fiber positioning system. With these new concepts and design, LAMOST is expected to be a unique astronomical instrument in combining a large clear aperture and wide field of view. [http://www.lamost.org/en/modules/wfchannel/]