Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 28 September 2009
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 02:41

A Museum for Tushanwan

Shanghai World Fair comes with a surprise: The Tushanwan Museum, to be opened in May next year, celebrates the Tushanwan Training Studio and Orphanage established in 1852 by Jesuit missionaries. A project managed by the Xuhui District Cultural Bureau.

The founder of the workshop was the Jesuit Spanish Brother Juan Ferrer born near Valencia in 1817. His father had been a distinguished sculptor who had worked on the decoration of the Escorial Palace. He entered the Jesuit order in Naples where he was completing his artistic education and, on his request, was sent to China in 1847. He drew the blueprint of several churches of Shanghai and contributed in their decoration. With the approval of his superiors he founded a training workshop in Xujianhui (Zi-ka-wei), the domain where Jesuits in Shanghai were gathering their various works and schools, in 1852. The workshop educated outstanding Chinese sculptors and painters, working first for religious buildings and later on extending the range of its activities. Juan Ferrer died a premature death in 1856.

Other professors and artists at the orphanage included Brother Nicolas Massa (1815-1870) who taught oil painting, Brother Lu Baidu (1836-1880), Brother Adolphe Vasseur (1828-1899), and, most notably, Brother Liu Bizhen (1845-1912).

In 1864, an orphanage founded by the Jesuits was transferred to Tushawan (Tu-se-wé) on the periphery of the Xujiahui domain, and the workshop became a part of it, providing artistic and technical education to the orphans. Printing, woodwork, music and other trades were added to the curriculum.

Tushanwan played a key role in the development of modernism in Shanghai. The center had a casting plant, a printing press, a photolithography workshop and a stained-glass making facility. Tushanwan’s graduates often went on to teach other craftsmen and artists.

tusewei-8_rAround 1886, there were 342 orphans living in Tushanwan, 133 of them receiving a formation in the workshop. The trades taught then included woodwork, cobbing, tailoring, sculpture, gilding, varnishing, painting, weaving, engraving and printing. For a time, agriculture was part of the formation, but the experiment was interrupted. From 1870 on, book printing became one of the main activities of the workshop. After 1876, former students of the orphanage, working in different workshops around Shanghai, started to inhabit houses built nearby the orphanage, shaping a distinctive village life.

The sculptor Zhang Chongren, who was the friend of Hergé and was immortalized by him as the ’Tchang’ character of the Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet, was a pupil of the school and became later on the director of the Shanghai Arts Academy.

The last director of the workshop was another Spanish brother, native from San Sebastian, Jose Antonio Navascues (1910-1979). The son of a painter, he brought to the workshop his gift in this discipline and in the making of glass-window.

No doubt that the opening of the museum will give light to the international history of Shanghai and retrieve some of its diversity and uniqueness.

The Official Xuhui District Website

If gardens are the hidden paradises of China, Suzhou is the paradise of gardens...

Among those she hides within her walls, eight are now included into the world heritage sites. The "Humble Administrator Garden", the "Garden of the Master of Nets", the " Blue Waves Pavilion ’, the “Lingering Garden" are among the most famous of them. Often, they were created by scholar-officials aspiring to escape the worries of their offices Suzhou leads us towards the secret of Chinese gardens: a mystical place, a dream land, a fragile and tenacious Utopia, a garden is also and ultimately a living body, complete with orifices, vessels and limbs.

Orifices, first ... The garden, a small and secluded place, endlessly increases its size through its internal divisions - mounds that break the perspective, walls running along the walkways, partitions all around its pavilions. But these partitions are pierced by openwork windows, round doors and numerous small openings through which the walker can appropriate space and sight, reconstructing the scenes and dividing anew the world ... The space actually occupied by the garden must be kept modest - its bends, its curves, its openings extend it towards infinity, till it spreads over the extent of a soul.

The openings suggest the paths to be followed. Windows and doors gradually reveal the garden to our senses, as the painter’s hand unfolds with pride and caution the scroll on which he made the roaring waterfall, the trail on the side of the mountain, the grove pines and the sea of clouds come to life ... The garden indeed is a scroll, a miniature world opened up and enlarged by our walks and our whims. For whom wanders from one window to another, to the peaceful bamboos, to the banana trees gently whistling in the wind, succeed a rock mimicking the peak of a cliff, a hill of which the summit is hidden, the corner of a roof, or a cut of the sky speaking only of emptiness... Through its countless orifices, the garden multiplies the eyes and the dreams of the one who walks in its midst, till our visions are gathered in an unique glance that plunges into the secret and double soul of the garden and his dweller.

Pierced with orifices, the garden is irrigated by vessels through which circulate life, breath and seasons ... Water animates a garden - water collected in a pond and divided into channels that flow in its interior; water that makes small garden rocks the mimes of the formidable mountains that the sponsor and the creator of the place have marveled at during their travels before suggesting their majesty in their private compound. The passer-by crosses over miniature seas fringed with dwarfed vegetation on tiny suspension bridges... Ethereal scents mixed with the sounds of faint waterfalls whisper around – the garden stammers our dreams between the lines of day and shade. Nearby the water, are scattered small and pensive trees, and pebbles that speak of the shore and are strung like a string of islands. A flute, a bird leaving traces of their absence...

Irrigated by the vessels that make it a living body, the garden can deploy its limbs, taking the form of a lying dragon, a unicorn, or perhaps one of these Taoist immortals of whom we do not know whether they are men or gods. Its limbs are made of its eminences, these modest mountains that transform the pond into a sea, the channels into giant rivers, and the courtyards into continents. They are also its paths lined with plants and flowers that speak of the virtues shared between the garden and who called it to existence: temperance, courage and longevity ...

And yet ... Though it covers the full extent of a soul, the garden can not forget that it is also so tiny – a grain that condenses the world, but all the same a grain, perishable and insignificant ... And Chinese gardens, throughout history, were often destroyed, burned, redesigned and re-emerging ... Ultimately, the garden is perhaps a boat, the boat which leads us gently to the sea of things impermanent, and which, for a moment, makes its bitterness more bearable...

Monday, 28 September 2009 21:24

Ersu people in Southwest Sichuan (I)

Villagers from Shimian county, southwest Sichuan, sing an Ersu song. Ersu people today number around 20,000. They have not been officially recognized as an ethnic minority and have been attached to the Tibetans. They are very close to their Yi neighbors. Depending on location, they sometimes call themselves “Lusu”, “Lisu”, or Buersi… Their disappearing writing system, used almost exclusively for religious purposes, is pictographic, and makes use of colors to indicate degrees of expressivity.
In the wake of modernization, despite often expressing the wish to see their traditional culture protected and revived, Ersu people are rapidly losing their language, rituals and other ethnic markers. In Shimian county, though there has been an officially sponsored program for learning the traditional diviner-priest skills, finally none of the ten selected youth has been willing to enter the time-consuming formation with an elder. Music has been better preserved, and a group dedicates itself to Ersu repertory.

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Watch here the second part of the song


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