Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Man and the Tree

Old men are a force. Young men too. We - along with the Ladies - are the fruit on the Tree of Life. I am often astonished at the creativity, dedication and persistence of men I meet and hear about. And the wonders we create.

And so it was that while musing on Dogs and how we seem to be as much their best friend as they are to us, and some awful tale told in the bar about how the Chinese kill dogs, my thoughts were interrupted and redirected toward an artist who has gained reknown. A Chinese artist, sculptor. I was pleased to hear of him as my thoughts were turning dark. 

There is a very old and valuable picture that is revered in China. Along the River During the Qingming Festival  is a painting by the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145).  A contemporary of mine in a distant land. It captures the daily life of people and the landscape of the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng, from the Northern Song period.

A young fellow has recently brought it into the third dimension, carving the same scene in to a single, old tree trunk. It looks like an old rotten tree trunk until you look closer.

Artist Zheng Chunhui has created a piece called “Along The River During The Quinming Festival”. It has been recognized as the world’s longest wood carving by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The sculpture contains over 550 individually carved people, not to mention all the buildings and foliage and took four years to complete.

The original painting is meticulously rendered in wood in this magnificent piece. 

Wiki tells us that the theme is often said to celebrate the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the Qingming Festival, rather than the holiday's ceremonial aspects, such as tomb sweeping and prayers. Successive scenes reveal the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor as well as different economic activities in rural areas and the city, and offer glimpses of period clothing and architectureThe painting is considered to be the most renowned work among all Chinese paintings,and it has been called "China's Mona Lisa.
As an artistic creation, the piece has been revered and court artists of subsequent dynasties made re-interpretive versions, each following the overall composition and the theme of the original but differing in details and technique. Over the centuries, the Qingming scroll was collected and kept among numerous private owners, before it eventually returned to public ownership. 

The painting was a particular favourite of Puyi, the Last Emperor, who took the Song dynasty original with him when he left Beijing. It was re-purchased in 1945 and kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. The Song dynasty original and the Qing versions, in the Beijing and Taipei Palace Museums respectively, are regarded as national treasures and are exhibited only for brief periods every few years.

The Song original. The scroll is 25.5 centimetres (10.0 inches) in height and 5.25 meters (5.74 yards) long. In its length there are 814 humans (of whom only 20 are women),28 boats, 60 animals, 30 buildings, 20 vehicles, 8 sedan chairs, and 170 trees.The countryside and the densely populated city are the two main sections in the picture, with the river meandering through the entire length.

The right section is the rural area of the city. There are crop fields and unhurried rural folk—predominately farmers, goatherds, and pig herders—in bucolic scenery. A country path broadens into a road and joins with the city road.
The left half is the urban area, which eventually leads into the city proper with the gates. Many economic activities, such as people loading cargoes onto the boat, shops, and even a tax office, can be seen in this area. People from all walks of life are depicted: peddlers, jugglers, actors, paupers begging, monks asking for alms, fortune tellers and seers, doctors, innkeepers, teachers, millers, metalworkers, carpenters, masons, and official scholars from all ranks.

Outside the city proper (separated by the gate to the left), there are businesses of all kinds, selling wine, grain, second-hand goods, cookware, bows and arrows, lanterns, musical instruments, gold and silver, ornaments, dyed fabrics, paintings, medicine, needles, and artifacts, as well as many restaurants. The vendors (and in the Qing revision, the shops themselves) extend all along the great bridge, called the Rainbow Bridg or, more rarely, the Shangtu Bridge.
Where the great bridge crosses the river is the center and main focus of the scroll. A great commotion animates the people on the bridge. A boat approaches at an awkward angle with its mast not completely lowered, threatening to crash into the bridge. The crowds on the bridge and along the riverside are shouting and gesturing toward the boat. Someone near the apex of the bridge lowers a rope to the outstretched arms of the crew below.

In addition to the shops and diners, there are inns, temples, private residences, and official buildings varying in grandeur and style, from huts to mansions with grand front- and backyards.

People and commodities are transported by various modes: wheeled wagons, beasts of labor (in particular, a large number of donkeys and mules), sedan chairs, and chariots. The river is packed with fishing boats and passenger-carrying ferries, with men at the river bank, pulling the larger ships.
Many of these details are roughly corroborated by Song dynasty writings, principally the Dongjing Meng Hua Lu, which describes many of the same features of life in the capital.

I cannot claim that the tavern is quite so ornate, not made all of wood.  But I would happily give this sculpted work a room for display.

Bravo young man.

The works of men. A thousand years ago, almost, a man created a work of art that added to the glory of mankind. It was magnificent. It 'illustrated' for history, for you and I,  the daily life of a culture. And now nearly a thousand years later another man, does not simply 'recreate' but, produces yet another brilliant work on exactly the same theme. But quite differently.  He too adds to mankind's stores of wonder. I hope his wood work lasts until at least 3199.

What we can almost guarantee is that many more men will show that deep dedication and persistence - four years work there ! - to also continue to add to the works of men.


PS.   H/T Christine  :)  


  1. WOW!!! What a fabulous piece of artwork. Incredible craftsmanship :-)

    1. There's 'art' and there's Art. His is a wonderful work.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..