Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chinese History: Roundup

Ken Johnson, "To See a Universe in the Tiny Details of Chinese Artifacts, Boxes to Birds," New York Times, December 31, 2010

Organized by Denise Leidy and Joyce Denney, curators in the Met’s Asian art department, the show presents about 160 mostly desktop-scale works from the museum’s collections, including ornate boxes; carvings in wood, jade, amber, ivory and other semi-precious materials; ceramic vases; and lavishly embroidered silk kimonos used in royal theatrical performances. To pore over these objects is to be repeatedly astounded by the level of design and technical achievement.>>>

Pankaj Mishra, "Staying Power: Mao and the Maoists," New Yorker, December 20, 2010

This persistence of Mao in official discourse and popular imagination may seem an instance of ideological pathology—the same kind that makes some Russian nationalists get misty-eyed about Stalin. Indeed, the Communist state’s vast propaganda apparatus first exalted Mao to divine status. But then a non-ideological view of Mao has rarely been available in the West, even as he has gone from being a largely benign revolutionary and Third Worldist icon to, more recently, sadistic monster. This is largely due to China’s ever shifting place in the Western imagination.>>>

Perry Link, "China: From Famine to Oslo," New York Review of Books, January 13, 2011
The main reason why the Great Famine continues to haunt China fifty years after it happened is that people are obliged—forcibly, if necessary—to continue to accord the famine’s primary perpetrator, Mao Zedong, a position of honor. Mao’s portrait still hangs at the center of Tiananmen, where it overlooks his embalmed body, which lies supine in his mausoleum within the giant square. And Mao remains the spiritual godfather of today’s regime.>>>

Laura Allsop, "The hidden history of China in photos," CNN, December 23, 2010

Daguerreotypes and photographs from the period between 1840 and 1911, which up till recently have not been widely collected or displayed, show a country undergoing vast change, caught between its ancient traditions and modernization. But they are not only historical documents of a changing land: the delicate, sepia-toned images that exist are now being assessed for their art historical value as well and show Chinese photographers of the time interpreting the medium according to centuries-old artistic traditions.>>>

Roger Ebert, Review of Last Train Home, October 13, 2010

The film opens like a big-picture documentary, showing us a huge crowd being directed by police as it grinds its way forward. We are informed that these are some of the 130 million Chinese citizens who make an annual train journey from urban centers to their provincial villages — “the largest human migration in the world.” . . .

There is so much to say about this great film. You sense the dedication of Lixin Fan and his team. (He did much of the
cinematography and editing himself.) You see once again the alchemy by which a constantly present camera eventually becomes almost unnoticed, as people live their lives before it. You know the generations almost better than they know themselves, because the camera can be in two places and they are usually in one or the other.>>>

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