Spring of Diversity
by Nancy Rupp

I walked on the Great Wall, visited the Ming Tomb, and so forth. But on this, my second visit to Beijing, I also included two wonderful places for an artist – the Chinese Fine Art Museum and Gallery and the famous art supply store, Rong Bao Zhai. In the gallery we chatted with several demonstrating artists and viewed many styles of recent Chinese art. At Rong Bao Zhai I began my quest for new and different art supplies.

Wanshou Temple Photo

The Central Institute of Fine Arts in Beijing greeted us with demonstrations by faculty artists Jing Hong-pin and Huang Run-hua. Our group viewed a display of works by these two artists of different styles, and then we received critique and comments on our own paintings. The common interest in Oriental art and lots of friendly laughter quickly facilitated the exchange of ideas and techniques.

After Beijing, a short flight took us to the port city of Shanghai. Here artists from the Shanghai Artists Association gave us classes. Flower, bird and landscape techniques were demonstrated. Types of bamboo brushes and rice paper were discussed plus the importance of living and absorbing art. An ancient saying from a Taoist sage was offered, "If you dip your brush into red ink, you become red. If you dip into black, you become black."

We also visited the beautiful and lovely Institute of Chinese Painting Museum. I was most impressed by many famous painting scrolls from the Ming and Ching Dynasties.

At the China Art Academy we were greeted by members of the faculty including the famous figure painter, Cheng Shi-fa. The Academy showed us paintings from their collection of famous Chinese artists while we sipped green tea. A visit to the academy's bookstore provided us with books on faculty artists and exciting new approaches to traditional painting they are exploring.

We left Shanghai by bus for Suzhou very early in the morning. The Ching Ming Festival was in progress and many families were traveling to Suzhou and its countryside to clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors. During the journey, burial grounds were easily sighted by paper decorations fluttering in the breeze.

[In China, the two cities Suzhou and Hangzhou are believed to be nearest Heaven, so many bury their ancestors near these cities. Of my new city, Ojai, it is said "Heaven is a local phone call" - but most Americans try to visit earlier in their life cycle.]

Suzhou Photo

Suzhou's height of development in the 16th century produced numerous gardens, large and small, that remain to make this ancient city along the Grand Canal a delight. The smallest, yet most beautiful, is the Garden of the Master of the Nets. While sketching and taking photos of this garden, we shared it with a crew making a movie. The Chinese have a fascination with movie-making similar to ours.

Artists and calligraphers from the Suzhou Academy of Calligraphy and Art demonstrated their art specialties and showed their paintings. This was followed by a discussion on ink stones and ink sticks after a critique of our group's paintings by the Suzhou artists.

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Wanshou Temple ("Temple of Longevity"), the host of Beijing Art Museum, was built in 1577 under the reign of Wanli Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. It was an imperial dwelling and a place of birthday celebrations for the imperial family during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Click here for a photo tour.

Scene of Suzhou: the Yunhe flows through the river-rich city, which is also called by many the "Venice of the East". Click here for a photo tour.

Brush Painting Links:

American Artists of Chinese Brush Painting

Purple Bamboo Studio

The Chinese Fine Arts Society

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