China-related: Jiawei Shen, Michael Wood, Du Fu

News item from ABC:

Former serviceman in the Chinese Army Jiawei Shen has been awarded the 2016 Gallipoli Art Prize for his depiction of Anzac mateship.

The Chinese-born Australian artist won the award for his work Yeah, Mate! which he said captured what the Anzac spirit meant to him: mateship, courage and humour – even in the darkest times.

The large-scale oil painting is an adaptation of a black and white photograph which hangs in London’s Imperial War Museum, and shows an Australian digger carrying an injured soldier over his shoulders at Gallipoli.

The photograph by Ernest Brooks has no name but includes the caption, “At Anzac Cove, an Australian bringing in a wounded comrade to hospital. The men were cracking jokes as they made their way down from the front”…

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See also my 2008 post Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen.

Then last night I watched with great delight Episode 2 of Michael Wood’s The Story of China—SBS 7.30. See The Story of China, episode two, review: ‘a delightful travelling companion’.

As he constantly reminded us, many of the attributes we associate with modern China – its status as trade hub, manufacturing powerhouse and global superpower – were also features of the Tang era. Standing in Xi’an, the old imperial city on the Grand Canal that marks the eastern end of the Silk Road, he reminded us that the canal (still in heavy use) was cut by hand in 605 by five million people, at a time when China’s manufacturing and export accounted for an estimated 55 per cent of gross world product. From Xi’an, “probably the first city in history to employ artificial lighting on a large scale”, China was also exporting religion, culture, language and, since woodblock printing was invented in this period, the technology of learning as well. It exerted on the East, as Wood put it, “an influence as profound as that of Rome on the Latin West”.

I was especially taken by the classroom scenes dealing with the Tang poets Bai Juyi. Li Bai and Du Fu. From the MayaVision site: “This was very impressive. We filmed in a school in Yanshe where the students teach me a Tang poem by the Chinese Shakespeare, Du Fu, about the cataclysms of the 750s.”

Michael-Wood-with-students-at-Yanshi-middle-school-where-there-is-a-tomb-monument-to-poet-Du-Fu-1

Wonderful. A tiny snippet of Li Bai from Leonard Durso’s blog:

from Fighting South of the Ramparts by Li Po (Li Bai)

What have the generals accomplished?
what they know
is less than what we’ve learned–

a sword’s a stinking thing
a wise man will use
as seldom as he can.

translated by David Young

And from Du Fu’s “Song of the Wagons”:

…We’re always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man’s gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices’ screeching.”

001ec94a1ee410de0f9c0e Du Fu

See also Four Poems on War By Chinese poets translated by Geoff Waters.

At the Frontier by Xu Hun (791?- late 850s)

We fought all night, north of the Sanggan River;
Of our forces, half did not return.
When morning came, so did mail from home;
Families still sending dead men warm clothes for winter.

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4 thoughts on “China-related: Jiawei Shen, Michael Wood, Du Fu

  1. I really have been enjoying some of these reflective posts of yours, Neil.They are not posts that I can skim, although I do; really they require proper reading.

  2. Pingback: Recently on TV: India, Europe, China | Neil's Commonplace Book

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