Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Please click the pictures to enlarge.
When I was growing up, our home was near a slaughter house. When a working cow got old and could no longer work, the owner would take it to the slaughter house. These are "yellow cows". Or Huang Niu in Chinese. They mostly tow heavy loads of coal or other stuff. These cows are very intelligent. They know that they are being led to be slaughtered. I saw them mowing and crying. I believe I had seen their tear drops. It was hard to watch. That image has such a strong imprint in my brain.
I use my computer painting software to come up with these two drafts. I will paint them on canvases later. I think the first one may need a large canvas to get the psychological impacts. I may do a few more versions of these seemingly comical yet dark paintings.
Remember Joan Baez's song Donna, Donna, Donna...? It goes "There's a wagon bound for market, and a cow with a mournful eye..."
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Please click on the Figures to Enlarge 請點圖片放大
TIE (iron) Figures
Nearby Xian Hall, there is a patio with four figures cast in iron. These are supposedly guards to protect the compound. A few of them were cast in early 20th century, and with poor design and workmanship. But, this one in Figure 9 was built in Song Dynasty. The facial features are definitely not ethnic Han. The weapon in his hands is missing. Both the posture and the facial expression of the figure are very well modeled. Although it is one thousand year old, there is no rust on it. It seems that stainless steel was already being manufactured 1000 years ago!
獻殿附近的平台上有4尊鐵人。他們是護祠的武士。 其中幾尊是民國時補鑄的。 造型不佳， 作工粗糙。 圖9這一尊是原來宋朝鑄的。不但造型生動，威武，而且歷久不銹。 至今仍然保持得金光閃閃。令人不知1000年前， 他們是否已經知道怎樣鑄造不銹鋼。
Winding in front of Xian Hall is this un-assuming ditch (Figure10) that has the longest history in the whole compound. It was dug in Chun-Qiu Era (BC 5th Century) some 2500 years ago. At the time, the nation of Jin was dominated by 3 war lords. They warred against each other. One of them linked up with the other in an attempt to eliminate the third. This third war lord walled themselves up well, and the siege continued for a long time. There was this strategist by the name of Zhi-Bo (meaning wise old man) who suggested that they dug a ditch to divert the water from Jin Creek to flood the besieged city. However, before they were able to subdue the third war lord, the coalition fell apart. Instead, the first initiator of the conflict was eliminated. This ditch remains as the reminder of that ancient conflict.
獻殿的前面繞了圖10顯示的這道小渠。不要看它不起眼。 它是整個祠園中最古的人工修築物。據說2500年前的春秋時代，晉世卿智伯為了久攻越國不下， 要引晉水來淹攻敵人。 後來沒有成功， 自己就被‘三家分晉’了。這個渠道就是他挖掘留下來的。
Shui-Jing Performing Stage
This is a building (Figure 11) that provides a stage for performing opera. This is actually the back side of the stage. The stage is on the other side facing a courtyard. The audiences sit or stand outdoors to enjoy the performance. It was built in Ming Dynasty (17th Century). The ornate style of the building is the hall mark of Ming-Qing architecture.
圖11的建築是水鏡台。是演戲的舞台。照片是面對晉祠入口拍的， 演戲的舞台在另一面， 面對院子。這是明初造的。 它明顯的華麗裝飾性和宋朝造的聖母殿形成對比。
Please Click On the Picture to Enlarge 請點圖片放大
Flying Beams over Fish Pond
Right in front of Sheng Mu Hall, there is a cross-shaped stone bridge (Figure 1 of the previous post) that covers a fish pond. Figure 3 is another look of the hall and the bridge. The bridge leads down to Xian Hall at a lower level (Figure 4). This bridge was also rebuilt at the time of rebuilding Sheng Mu Hall. It is very elegant and is one of the most treasured structures at this site.
在上一集的圖1， 我們可以看到聖母殿前面有一個十字型的石橋架在聖母殿面前的一個魚池。圖3是從另一個角度看橋和聖母殿的配置。 而圖4可以看到橋和下面的獻殿的配置。這個橋也是和聖母殿一樣， 在宋朝時造的。 這個橋造型特殊美觀。 配合殿堂，樹木的配置，當初總體設計園區的古人是很用心而有創意的。
Nan Lao Spring
Facing Sheng Mu Hall, you will see (Figure 5) a spring with a pavilion over it. The water flows into a beautifully constructed pond. This spring is said to be one of the sources of Jing Creek that played an important role of the irrigation system. The pavilion was said to be erected back in North Qi (6th Century). However, the present structure seems to be built at later time.
我們面對聖母殿， 左邊有一個用一個小亭子蓋著的泉叫‘難老泉’（圖5）. 泉水流入一個用石頭砌的渠道。據說這個泉就是歷史上造福這一帶農業的晉水的源頭之一。 亭子原來是在第六世紀的北齊時造的。 現在這個亭子何時造的就不清楚了。這個景觀和整體的配置替這個祠園增色多多。
Xian (Offering) Hall
Across the Flying Beam Bridge going toward the entrance, one can see Xian Hall. Figure 6 shows how beautifully the hall integrates with the landscape. Xian means offering. During the ceremony, offerings were placed inside the hall. It is an unusual structure with no enclosing wall (Figure 7). It was built in 12th Century during when the area was ruled by Jin, an ethnic group from Manchuria. It was rebuilt in Ming Dynasty. In 1955, the building was rebuilt again using the same material and the same building style and technique in Jin era.
圖6的獻殿是在祭祀時擺設祭品的地方。這個配置， 在中國祠寺是比較少見的。圖7可以看到這個殿是沒有牆壁的。獻殿是12世紀金朝代建的。 殿內沒有柱子（圖7），顯得寬敞。
Monday, October 25, 2010
Please click on the pictures to enlarge.
This compound（Figure 0）in present day Shan Xi Province was built as a memorial hall to honor a 1050BC Zhou dynasty high official Shu Yu who was a son of Emperor, Zhou Wu Wang. (See Foot Note) He developed the irrigation system in this area some three thousand years ago. As a result, this area became the most prosperous region in ancient China. People living in this area built this temple compound to commemorate Shu Yu who laid the foundation for prosperity for generations to come. Although the written record of this memorial temple (not a Buddhist temple) can be traced back to the 5th century。 The main hall Sheng Mu Hall (Holy Mother Hall) and the bridge in front of it were rebuilt in 11th century during Song Dynasty. Other buildings were built or rebuilt in later period. Therefore, the mix of styles recalls the evolution of aesthetics in Chinese architecture.
The premises were beautifully laid out. There are cannels, springs, bridges, tall cedar trees, and the well preserved wooden halls. The waters and the trees, in particular, soften the solemn atmosphere, and make it feel approachable and humane. It is a very enjoyable place to stroll around.
The following description of the compound reverses the order of what a visitor may proceed from the entrance. We start from the main hall and work our way down to the Shui Jing Hall near the entrance.
山西太原附近的晉祠 （圖0）是紀念周武王的兒子唐叔虞的。他被封在當時稱為唐的山西，他利用晉水，大興水利，造就這地區成為富庶之鄉。人們就造了晉祠來紀念他。這祠始建年代雖然不可考， 但是5世紀的水經註已經有晉祠的描述。 現在祠園中最早的建築物是11世紀宋代造的。其他的建築有遼金和明代造的。
The Sheng Mu( Holy Mother) Hall
Since there was no clear historical record, the identity of “holy mother” that this main hall was to honor is not clear. The general consensus is that it honors the mother of Shu Yu, or wife of Emperor Zhou Wu Wang. Her name was Yi-Jiang. She was said to be one of the ten most capable people who helped her husband conquered the surrounding warlords, and established the empire.
The present hall (Figure 1) was built in 11th century during Song Dynasty. This beautiful 62 feet high hall has royally 7 bays. The roof has double layers giving it a much more substantial look than the Tang era single layer roof as seen previously in Fo Guang Temple. A better understanding of the structural requirements reduced the size of the corbel brackets, relative to those of Tang buildings. The columns and the building have a more slender and tall look. The most remarkable feature of this building is that there is no column inside the hall, giving the interior an expansive feel. This was achieved by a complex wooden truss system that supports the heavy roof, as can be partially seen in Figure 2. The exterior columns were originally bare without these dragons. The beautifully carved dragons as seen in the pictures were added in Ming or Qing dynasty. They are not overly decorative as many of the stone carved columns of late Qing dynasty are. Aesthetically, they integrate with the rest of the structure well.
Foot Note: Zhou Wu Wang was the second emperor of Zhou Dynasty (11th Century BC to 3rd Century BC). He and his brother Zhou Gong defined the social order, and the corresponding rituals that had been followed by the succeeding Chinese dynasties for 3000 years. They are the most influential figures in the history.
因為沒有用文字記載下來， 聖母到底是誰，成了個謎。 一般說法是紀念叔虞的母親， 也就是周武王的皇后邑姜。 據說她是輔佐武王平定天下的10個主要人物之一。
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Before we go further, one thing which was not made clear in the previous blogs, is that all these Chinese wood buildings did not use a single nail. All joints were built with notches that fit together. It is important to keep this in mind when we look at these magnificent 1000 year old buildings.
Manjusri Hall (Figure 1) houses the leading disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. He was said to be the wisest among all disciples, and is widely worshipped in China. This hall was built in 1137 during Jin era (parallel to South Song Dynasty). The structural design had advanced truss system (Figure 2) reducing the number of interior column by 12. Notice the increased depth of truss-like beam on the right hand side of the picture. That enabled the large interior span. The interior space is even more impressive. The corbel bracket (Figure 3) evolved to include 45 degree fan-out design. They are more decorative than the austere elegance of Tang bracket. The clay figures inside (Figure 4) were painted with more golden and reddish colors. They give a more harmonious feeling as opposed to Tang color scheme of contrasting primary colors.
Garan Hall (Figure 5) was built in late Ming around 1630 and was rebuilt partially again during Kang-Xi period (1700) in early Qing . It is the smallest hall among three major halls. The bracket system (Figure 6) and the painting around them had already shown the decorative style of Ming-Qing buildings. This particular hall still maintains the simple yet dignifying elegance, in keeping with the rest of the buildings in the compound. Some late Qing buildings and present day reinforced concrete imitations are vulgar and decadent.
文殊殿 （圖1） 供奉文殊菩薩。 文殊是釋迦佛的大弟子， 也是最有智慧的弟子， 在中國被廣泛地供奉。 這個殿是金朝（1137年） 建的。 當時的木結構已經進步到使用桁架（圖2）， 叫做“減柱造”。注意到圖的右邊 橫梁桁架整體的厚度。 這就是為何可以“減柱”的原因。 圖3 的斗拱已經從唐朝簡潔的設計，演化到使用比較有裝飾性的45度設計。裡面的佛像（圖4）使用比較調和的金和暗紅色， 已不像唐佛像的鮮明了。
珈藍殿（圖5）是在明末1630時造的，康熙時（1700）重修。 這是3大殿中較小的一個。 看看斗拱和周遭的彩畫，已經看到清代非常裝飾性的作風了。 不過這殿仍然保持全寺莊靜高雅的風格。 不像晚清的華麗風格。 看到有一些現在用鋼筋混凝土的仿造“木”建築， 真有慘不忍睹的感覺。
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The temple compound contains three main buildings: the Great Eastern Hall, the Manjusri Hall, and the Garan Hall. Each was built in different period of Chinese history, providing an opportunity to examine the differences in and evolution of building styles.
Great Eastern Hall
This main hall housing Shakyamuni Buddha, was built in 857 during the great Tang Dynasty. (Figure 1). The exterior is a simple one layer roof supported by square corbel bracket (Figure 2 and 3). These brackets (dou gong in Chinese) are essential elements in Chinese wooden structure. They transmit the weight of the roof to the columns and enable larger spans of the beam-post structure than other-wise. Tang brackets are square and simple. Together with the single layer roof, undecorated columns, and earthy red tone of the painted wall, the whole building exudes simple elegance unseen in the latter buildings in Chinese history. This simple elegance inspired Japanese Zen-feel architectures ever since. The Hall has 7 bays that were only allowed for a royal building at that time. This seems to indicate the importance of this building in the mind of the sponsoring emperor.
We were not allowed to take pictures inside the hall. So, I just scan this picture from the book that I bought to illustrate the clay figures inside the hall that were sculpted in 9th century (Figure 4). A wooden and cloth armature was covered with clay. The surface was sanded and painted with a mixture of egg white, clay, and rice powder. The sanding and painting were repeated several times to achieve a smooth surface. Then, paints made with mineral colors were applied. The vivid colors and the smooth surface were preserved for more than a thousand years without losing their lusters!! Tang color scheme utilizes contrast between complementary color to achieve a striking beauty. We will see that this scheme will evolve to a more subdued color scheme in Liao-Jin era.
The 25 feet brick pagoda in the last picture is the only original 5th century structure left in the compound. The North Wei ruler at that time was of Xian-Bei race that is linguistically related to the present day Turks. The influence of their culture contributed to the unique form of this pagoda. This is said to be one of the two North Wei pagoda left in China
佛光寺有三個大殿： 東大殿， 文殊殿， 和珈藍殿。 有趣的是它們是在不同時期建造的。讓我們有機會在同一個地方，體會到木建築的演變。
這個供奉釋迦摩尼的大殿是在唐代（公元857）造成的 （圖一）。外觀是單層屋頂，由 直角斗拱 （圖2，3）和直柱支持著。 這些斗拱是中國木構造的要素。 它們將部分屋頂的重量直接傳到柱子，減輕棟樑負擔， 使得柱子的間空可以增加，殿堂更加寬敞。唐建築的簡單屋頂，直角斗拱，光柱，和土紅的牆壁， 構成了後代中國建築上少見的高貴的氣質。這些特質影響了後來日本具有禪味的建築風格。大殿有7間。 據導遊說， 當時只有皇家可以在殿寬使用這個數目字。 可見當權者對這個大殿的重視。
我們不能在殿內拍照。 所以我書上找來這幅照片來說明這些珍貴的9世紀塑像。先用木頭和麻布做成支架， 再用泥土塑成胚， 磨光後用蛋白，糯米，和泥土塗上， 經過幾次打磨後， 用天然顏料上色。這樣鮮豔的彩色和光滑的表面， 至今如生。唐代色彩著重對比，非常鮮豔。 我們以下看遼金時期顏色就偏向調和了。
最後一圖是寺院內唯一留存的5世紀北魏建築。 塔高25尺。 是青磚造成的。 北魏皇帝是鮮卑族。 這個塔的獨特造型是他們文化對中國影響的一個例子。 據說現在只有兩座北魏石磚塔留存下來。
Most of Chinese wood structures remained are from Ming-Qing period (14th to 19th centuries). Wood structures simply cannot endure the inevitable destruction of war, fire, lightening, weathering, and time. We recently visited a few places in ShanXi province. It is quite gratifying to see some of the earlier wood structures that survived relatively intact, some of them more than 1000 year old. They are very elegant and beautiful. By comparing buildings of different periods, we can also learn the evolution of aesthetics and design/construction method. We like to share with you what we have learned in the following few blogs.
There are only four Tang wooden structures left in China. The Great Eastern Hall of Fo-Guang Temple is one of them, and perhaps the most significant one. It was ignored and forgotten many years, and was re-discovered by the architect Liang Si Cheng, son of the famous cultural figure of Liang Chi Chao, in 1937. Fo Guang Temple was rebuilt in 857AD during Tang Dynasty, soon after the destruction of the original 5th century temple during the ban on Buddhism in 845AD by the previous Tang ruler. This was one of the several ban-and-resurrection of Buddhism in Chinese history. The worship was banned and temples destroyed by the ruler of North Wei in 444AD, only to be resurrected by his son as his successor. We will touch upon this subject again when we talk about the two grottos we visited. This pattern seems to have a reincarnation in recent history following the ban of any religion during Mao’s rule in 1950s and 1960s. Now Chinese authority has discovered the value of these ancient sites, at least for attracting tourists, and is making a big effort to preserve them. It seems history just keeps repeating itself.
The main hall, the Great Eastern Hall, can be seen perching high above the stone built base in the second picture. We will go into the detail description of these buildings in this series latter.
大部分留下來的中國木造建築， 都是明清時期留下來的。 木構造無法在戰火，天災，時間的洗禮下存息。 這次旅遊， 在山西終於看到了一些僅存的唐，遼金，和宋代木造建築。 我們感覺到一派高貴美感的震撼力。 同時看到不同時期的建築， 也體會到美學上和建築構造的演變。 以下的一系列只是將我們看到，學到的和大家共賞。
唐以前的木造建築已經都不存在了。 1930年代， 梁思成 （梁啟超兒子）和他的夫人極盡心力地尋找古建築。 他們發現了佛光寺的東大殿是唐朝建築。 該寺原建於第五世紀的北魏， 毀於唐武帝會昌滅佛， 公元847年唐宣宗時重建。 現僅存東大殿。這只是歷史上很多佛教滅/复事件的一次。 在北魏時已經來過一次，我們在以後談論雲岡，龍門兩個石窟時再來談。 不過近代歷史上，50 到60 年代毛澤東的禁止宗教， 和現在以佛教賺錢， 似乎也在重演歷史。
在第二圖裡， 佛光寺的主殿， 東大殿，高踞在石造的台基上。 以下的系列， 我們將一一介紹。
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
I am getting older, and perhaps wiser. Somehow, the process of searching for my own modern aesthetics is not satisfying. So, I just paint what matters to me. I spent quite a bit of time painting this picture of my daughter. She is an ex-classical musician, and now a litigation attorney working in NY City. We visited her in May and went to Metropolitan Art Museum to see the Picasso exhibition.
I spent quite a bit of time composing this picture. The figure in Picasso painting and Chi-Ru are facing in opposite directions creating some interesting dynamics. It also presents me with some difficult design issues to solve. I use the picture frame on the right side to stop the visual path from going out. Same mechanism is provided by the strip of wall on the left. The repeated vertical lines with varying spacing creates some sense of rhythm. I painted her in a confident, inquisitive, and yet feminine posture, a lady litigator. The "zebra" print on her dress supports the large area of hair, painted relatively flat, and leads to her face.
I really enjoyed the process of making this seemingly simple picture.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I painted the second one. But, it is a larger than life, strongly egoistic image. I thought it will be good if I paint a triptych starting with self-inflating image, to self-doubting, and finally to the suppression of ego that is in peace with...
That should be the goal I set for myself in life.
So, I paint this image that is merging into the background. Don't quite get what I want. Just the best effort for now.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
After the wax-mixed-paint dries, I use a hair dryer to heat up the paint. It does give a nice sheen resembling the encaustic painting. I will mix more wax and use thicker paint in my next experiment to see whether one can get close to a painting using traditional encaustic technique.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Saturday, January 2, 2010
These are work by Anching Lin (or Anking Lim) using a software on the photographs he took in Taiwan. I am just amazed how well these photographs turn into pretty convincing pencil sketches. Do click on each picture to enjoy the convincing pencil strokes and marks.