Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

30 April 2021

Graffiti Tunnel at Lower Marsh, Southbank, London







People come from all over the world to paint at Lower marsh, a quaint street in Lambeth where we are living for a couple of months. It takes hours and hours of work for a graffiti to come alive and they are gone a few hours late, usually the next day, perhaps in a week.

The tunnel is near Waterloo station, and it is officially sanctioned for graffiti. Every day dozens of street artists congregate and let their imagination loose through spray color cans. Hours of work go into each graffiti, only to be covered up the next day. Ephemeral art.

A young Slovakian (I know she is, I asked) lady sells fresh fruits just outside the gallery and only a few meters away from our apartment. Too bad she does not work on weekends when the graffiti painters are most active.

19 October 2019

Arte ed ostriche a Chongqing

Visita al monumento della liberazione, una grande stele che commemora le vittime della guerra contro il Giappone. Chongqing era la capitale cinese provvisoria durante la guerra.

SI trova a Times Square, con un grattacielo copia molto approssimativa del Chrysler Building di New York! Ovunque Cartelloni elettronici di pubblicità come nella Time Square originale.

Marche superbrands, Giorgio Armani, Longines, Rolex di fronte al negozio un tipo si avvicina e mi chiede con grande naturalezza se sono interessato a comprare dei Rolex finti a prezzi molto convenienti.

Pranzo in un food court non so come tradurre, ma è una zona che assomiglia ad un mercato coperto con molti ristoranti che servono pietanze cotte al momento da piccole cucine. Per mangiare ci si sistema su tavolate comuni a tutti i ristoranti, spesso condividendo tavola e sedie con perfetti sconosciuti.

Anche un negozio di Apple computers è praticamente una fotocopia di quello di New York, solo che qui sta accanto ad una grande fioriera che commemora i 70 anni della fondazione della Repubblica Popolare Cinese, con tanto di bandiera rossa e stellette, che a New York mancano!

Mangiamo ottimo pollo con ortaggi e riso. Poi Lifang trova una specialità: ostriche grigliate in salsetta piccante (dopo tutto siamo in Sichuan!) che dopo aver superato una prima ritrosia si sono rivelate squisite.

Museo delle Belle Arti, edificio rosso molto moderno, circondato da giardini on famiglie che giocano e un paio di signori di mezza età che corrono. Panchine di pietra, Lifang si fa una siesta mentre io guardo il mondo che mi passa davanti.

Nel museo, gratuito, due piani di quadri di autori di Chongqing e di Taiwan. Chissà perché questo gemellaggio, fra l'altro in un momento politicamente delicato per i rapporti "tra le due parti dello stretto" come si dice in termini diplomatici. Misto di quadri moderni, anche astratti, e soggetti più classici e politici, come soldati comunisti che liberano il paese.

Andiamo a piedi verso Hongyadong, non ci orientiamo e il mio navigatore Google Maps sul telefono non funziona perché Google è censurata in Cina. Il navigatore di Lifang non ci indica la strada giusta ma ogni volta che chiediamo indicazioni cercano di venderti qualcosa, un tour organizzato, un pranzo, persino un guardia della sicurezza stradale!

Ci arriviamo dopo un po’ di tentativi, troppa gente, troppo commerciale, ha perso il fascino che aveva una volta. Comunque restano alcuni scorci interessanti, soprattutto la sera quando si accendono le luci gialle sui tetti, che creano un'atmosfera antica.

Strapaghiamo un cocktail in un bar che però offre una vista strepitosa sullo Yangtse dalla terrazza di legno.



Il bar ha anche un utilissimo bagno, le due porte del quale (uomini e donne) sono indicate da un segnale speciale: una pipa per gli uomini e due orecchini per le donne. A ognuno il suo.

Ancora due passi dopo il bar. Lungo una scalinata che si arrampica su per il ripido pendio sulla riva destra del fiume vedo molti pezzi di carta attaccati al muro, con una descrizione e numero di telefono per contatto. Mi spiega Lifang che si tratta di annunci matrimoniali, attaccati dai genitori di celibi e nubili, che decantano le qualità della prole e specificano le caratteristiche ricercate per eventuali futuri coniugi.

Noto un curioso cartello lungo la stessa scalinata, vicino ad un idrante: "In caso di incendio non usare l'equipaggiamento anti-incendio". Mmmmhhh...

Torniamo a casa in metropolitana, pulita, veloce e con frequenti treni che portano in tutta la città. Accanto alla stazione di Shapingba vicino casa un Carrefour ed un supermercato cinese, si chiama Bravo, che mi ripropongo di andare a visitare.

17 February 2019

Fruit market and calligraphy exhibition

In the morning we walked to the flower market, just opposite the jade market I visited last week.

Some European food for sale, interesting to see prosciutto, salami and mortadella from Italy, and Iberico from Spain.



Lots of flowers but also wood carvings, tableware, exotic (for me) fruits.

Afterward, it was time to head back to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial for the calligraphy exhibition we heard about would be taking place today.



As we arrive we are welcomed by a lively scene of families, elderly people, some with their carers,

A whole huge room of the memorial is reserved for this event.
first children, then high school students followed by professors and finally masters. It is amazing to see all this talent pooled together to honor and perpetuate the ancient art of Chinese calligraphy.

At 5 o'clock sharp the staff start packing everything up, seats tables...

As I see some blank paper, a brush and an inkpot that have not been packed away yet, I call my wife and she paints my Chinese name on a white scroll in beautiful calligraphy!

In addition to local calligraphers, there are many participants from Japan and the United States.

As we are about to leave we met Mr. Zheng, a slim and tall Chinese who was born in Malaysia but emigrated to California in 1980. He is an active member of the American Association for calligraphy...

His main hobby however is painting and he's also been performing Peking opera for over 30 years.

His brother lives in London, his sister in Australia but his 98-years-old mother is still in Malaysia. They try to get all together with her as often as possible!

Before parting ways he wants to take a picture together, then the official photographer of the event comes up and wants to shoot us too, what an honor!

15 February 2019

National Palace Museum and Shilin night Market

Per la terza volta al National Palace Museum di Taipei. Mai abbastanza anche se certamente non c'è più l'effetto novità. Vero che le circa 700.000 opere delle collezioni imperiali sono esposte a rotazione (solo l’1% è visibile, il 99% sta negli scantinati) sono probabilmente diverse da quelle che ho visto nel 2002 e nel 2010. Non sono però in grado di ricordare, e tanto meno valutare, le differenze tra diversi capolavori.

Fa sempre impressione ricordare la storia di questa collezione. Per secoli a Pechino nella città proibita, poi portata via da Chiang Kai-shek in ritirata e trasportata a Taiwan quando i comunisti di Mao vinsero la guerra civile. C'erano molte più opere, ma i militari di Chiang non poterono portare via tutto. Alla fine comunque qualche migliaio di bauli sono adesso protetti nella motagna adiacente a Taipei, a prova di attacco nucleare!

Il possesso della collezione è vista, in sé, come una sorta di legittimazione del potere politico, per questo a Pechino sono così arrabbiati. Il direttore del museo che organizzò la prima esposizione è visto come una sorta di usurpatore, vilipeso quasi quanto Chiang. Molti a Taiwan pensano che sia un bene che le opere siano qui, avrebbero potuto essere distrutte durante la Rivoluzione Culturale di Mao.

Ottima audioguida multlingue, ma sono sorpreso che bisogni pagare in contanti, Taiwan dovrebbe essere all'avanguardia tecnologica ma invece no.

Nel museo i cartelli esplicativi sono in inglese e cinese, e anche traslitterati in Pinyin (il sistema inventato negli anni 50 in Cina e ora adottato in tutto il mondo) e Wade-Giles, il vecchio sistema della Cina imperiale.

C'è molta gente, soprattutto scolaresche, poi dopo le 5 tutto più calmo e ci possiamo godere le opere d'arte con calma.

Uber a Shilin in prima serata, il "mercato notturno" per antonomasia. Sicuramente un pochino turistico ma comunque interessante. Ci sono turisti ma anche molti locali.

Sauté di vongole, zuppa di costolette di maiale e poi ostriche e uova. Poi andando via siamo stati imbrogliati da una venditrice di frutta fresca. Ottimi prodotti ma prezzi triplicati rispetto agli altri mercati "normali" della città. Non era così quando ero venuto in passato, nel 2010 l'ultima volta, era più genuino!












Abbiam preferito un Uber, aspettanto qualche minuto, invece che prendere uno dei tanti taxi che aspettavano all'uscita del museo, perché TUTTI i tassisti erano incalliti fumatori e le auto puzzavano in modo indecente.

Qualche colpetto sulla app e mi arriva una email annunciando l'arrivo della macchina. Pulita e profumata. La cosa strana è che a Taiwan non è consentito lasciare una mancia agli autisti Uber, vai a capire.

23 August 2018

Singapore maiolicas and crabs

Sveglia tardi, forse ancora un po’ di jet lag. E poi siamo stati in piedi sempre fino a tardi in questi giorni, io a scrivere il mio libro sulla Polonia e Lifang a far post-produzione dei suoi video per il sito cinese. Coppia molto attiva.

Piscina e relax fino al primo pomeriggio, poi in visita al Thian Hock Keng Temple, uno dei più venerati a Singapore, dedicato alla dea del mare, Mazu. Simbolo della tradizione Hokkien tramandata qui dai tanti immigrati che sono venuti a cercare fortuna nel corso dei secoli.

Prima però un rapido pranzetto in un ristorante che ci era stato consigliato ieri dalla guida del museo delle music boxes, proprio davanti all'entrata del museo. Scegliamo una zuppa di pesce agrodolce e due enormi gamberoni leggermente piccanti. Le possibilità di ristorazione a Singapore si confermano infinite, si mangia quasi sempre benissimo e si spende quasi sempre poco.

Dopo la zuppa, mentre aspettiamo che siano pronti i gamberi, notiamo un piccolo museo della ceramica affianco al ristorante. Anzi, fa parte del ristorante, stessi proprietari. Strana combinazione, ma ci alziamo a dare un'occhiata. Ci sono maioliche antiche di molti paesi, specialmente giapponesi, belghe e inglesi. Stranamente mancano quelle italiane e olandesi.

Il proprietario dice che è il suo hobby, quando viaggia per il mondo compra maioliche e poi le rivende qui a Singapore dove sono una vera rarità. Ingegnoso.

Serata al MBS, vediamo lo spettacolo suoni e luci alle 8. C'è molta gente, peccato per un gruppo di russi maleducati che fanno chiasso, rovinano un po’ l'atmosfera. 

Cena per un tradizionalissimo "black crab" ad uno dei tanti ristoranti sul lungofiume a Clark Quay: 1,5 kg di crostaceo per 98 dollari. Un cartello avverte che non è educato chiedere il peso delle signore, ma è necessario chiedere il peso dei granchi quando si ordina, per evitare sorprese al momento del conto!

Buffo finale. È quasi mezzanotte, stanno per chiudere. Arriva una coppia asiatica, forse malese non sono sicuro, e chiedono di essere serviti nonostante l'ora tarda. Lui in T-shirt, quasi trasandato, lei con un grazioso vestitino rosso, chiaramente in ghingheri per la serata romantica, mentre lui quasi pare pronto per andare a giocare a pallone. La cameriera esita, hanno già cominciato a pulire i tavoli e ammucchiare le sedie. Poi parla con il capo e annuisce, gli porta due menù e gli lascia qualche minuto per decidere l'ordine. Quando torna il maschione della coppia (molto corpulento, mentre lei è una mingherlina quasi fragile) ordina due ciotole di riso. Ue ciotole di riso! E basta.

La cameriera è visibilmente delusa ma dopo un paio di minuti torna con le ciotole e le mette sul tavolo, e intanto allunga il conto all'imponente ragazzotto. Passano i minuti, noi abiamo finito il granchione nero e ce ne stiamo per andare, la cameriera torna per ricevere il pagamento dell'omone ma lui, con gran faccia tosta, chiede di poter restare ancora al tavolo! Ristorante chiuso, sei arrivato tardi, ordini una ciotola di riso in bianco e vuoi restare con la pupa a chiacchierare davanti alle luci si Singapore fino all'alba?!?

23 September 2017

Film review: Farewell my concubine (1993) by Chen Kaige, *****

 Synopsis

The film gives a most interesting overview of China's history in the XX century through the eyes of Peking opera actors. We see the country moving from the fall of the Qing Empire (the last eunuch is still around for a long time after the advent of the Republic), through the Japanese invasion, the civil war and the various phases of the Communist rule.

Two boys are educated to play two classical roles in the Peking Opera, one masculine and the other effeminate. They are so good at it that they play the opera together for their entire career: during the chaos of China after the fall of the Qing Empire, during the Japanese occupation, the brief Nationalist takeover, the Communist take over, the Cultural Revolution.

Gong Li becomes the wife of the masculine actor, and as such created serious, and ultimately unsolvable, dilemmas in the mind of her husband, with tragic consequences.






Review

In this film the character Douzi represents in many ways the real life of the actor Leslie Cheung. Douzi was gay and struggled to be accepted in the society of his time, and so was Cheung in real life. He is however successful professionally and admired for that, and so is Cheung, the first Hong Kong actor who acted in a mainland China film. And the real life of Cheung represents Douzi's role in the film: he can't take the pressure any more and ends up committing suicide. Beautiful costumes!

A courageous masterpiece by Chen Kaige, a pillar of Chinese film in the XX century. He addressed the controversial issues of homosexuality and the Cultural Revolution in a film before anyone else dared to do so in the People's Republic of China. For this "farewell my Concubine" was banned shortly after its release in 1993, only to be cleared by the censors a while later in an abridged form.

This was the very first film from the People's Republic of China to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

See my other reviews of films about China here on this blog.

















Buy this film by clicking on one of these links



24 August 2017

Fullerton history and national gallery

Dopo un'altra sontuosa colazione di salmone e champagne al Fullerton Hotel, decidiamo di unirci ad un gruppetto per una visita guidata dell'hotel, che è uno dei 73 siti riconosciuti come monumento nazionale, di importanza storica oltre che architettonica.

Prende il nome da Robert Fullerton, uno scozzese che fu il primo governatore dell "Possedimento degli Stretti", come la Compagnia delle Indie di sua maestà britannica chiamò i possedimenti in sud-est asiatico di cui Singapore faceva parte.

Nel tempo è stato un ufficio postale, un club esclusivo, e poi, per nostra fortuna, un albergo di lusso. Non so quante volte ci alloggerò nella vita, ma ne vale la pena!




Pomeriggio alla National Gallery, una collezione di opere d'arte di artisti locali e internazionali. 





Colonna di libri, Museo Nazionale

Magic chair




22 August 2017

Asian Civilization Museum and Night Safari of Singapore



Today culture and nature. The Asian civilizations Museum of Singapore is a well-organized center of the celebration of art from the whole continent. Well-run guided tour with a volunteer guide.




Interesting fountain in Singapore

The day ends at the famous night safari, for which Singapore is famous. There is a long line, I think we waited almost an hour to get in, but it is worth the wait. After paying for the ticket you are driven on a small train to the zoo itself and start walking along the cages. All kinds of animals from around the world are shown here. It is my first (and probably last) time to see a leopard up close!

We were the last ones out, the guards politely waited for us and escorted us to see the last exhibits on the way to the exit.

29 September 2016

Changsha theater





Street theater performance downtown Changsha.

24 September 2015

Barong and Kris Dance in Bali

The Monster

The Barong play represents an eternal fight between good and evil. Barong (a mythological animal) represents the good spirit and Rangda (a mythological monster) represents an evil one.

It is my second time I watch this in Bali, this time with family. During the preparation time, I enjoy walking up close to the musicians who are tuning their instruments and practicing. Lots of drums and stringed instruments.

The dance starts with a musical background

Followed by his friend the monkey, the tiger comes out. Three masked dancers appear, representing men making palm wine in the forest, whose child is killed by the Barong. The three men get angry and attack the Barong which is helped by the monkey. During the fight, the nose of one of the three men is bitten off.

First act

Two girl dancers appear, representing the servants of the Rangda, looking for the servants of Dewi Kunti who are on the way to meet their Patih (Prime Minister).

Second act

The servants of Dewi Kunti come. One of the servants of the Rangda changes into a witch. The witch enters and makes both servants angry. They meet their Patih and go together to Dewi Kunti.

Third act

Dewi Kunti and her son, Sadewa come up. Dewi Kunti has promised the Rangda to sacrifice Sadewa. A witch appears and enters Dewi Kunti. She becomes angry and orders the Patih to bring Sadewa into the forest. The Patih also enters and does not have pity on Sadewa. Sadewa is then taken to into a forest and tied to a tree.

Fourth act

Unknown by Rangda, Siwa God appears and gives Sadewa immortality. The Rangda appears, ready to kill Sadewa, and eat him up but Sadewa is still alive. She then surrenders and asks him to redeem herself. Sadewa agrees and kills the Rangda. The Rangda goes into Heaven.

Fifth act

The Lion
One of the servants of the Rangda called Kalika comes up before Sadewa and asks him to redeem herself, too. Sadewa refuses. Kalika gets angry and changes herself into a boar and fights Sadewa. The boar can be defeated. She then changes herself into a bird but is defeated again. At last she changes herself into Rangda and Sadewa cannot kill her.

In such circumstances, Sadewa decides to then change himself into a Barong. Still the Rangda seems to be too powerful and the fight is ended. Followers of the Barong appear and help him fight the Rangda.

Information above from the theater in Ubud. This a video from a perfomance similar to the one we watched today.

05 May 2013

The National Museum of Maldives (second visit)

Today it's my second visit to the Maldives National Museum. I came here for the first time in 2009, and I wrote about this visit in my book (in Italian) on the Maldives and in this blog. Actually I did not quite come here, as in 2009 the museum was still housed in its old premises.

The National Museum of the Maldives was inaugurated on 19 November 1952, by the Prime Mnister Mohamed Ameen Didi, in the Usgekolhu, the last remaining building of the old Sultan's palace. It was an old building, inadequate for a modern museum.

Construction of the new (current) museum began in 2007 and it was inaugurated by then president Nasheed on 25 July 2010. The new building is a donation from China.

The museum houses artifacts as well as shells and corals, symbols of the Maldivian cultural as well as natural heritage.

There is a hard to find book on sale, probably the only one about the Museum of Malé, Maldives. Printed in 2010, just after the new museum gifted from China was completed, and before the tragic events of 8 February 2012, when almost all of the pre-islamic items in the museum were destryoyed by islamic fundamentalists.

The then president Nasheed had just been deposed and a wave of fanaticism shook the capital. A group of fundamentalists broke into the Museum and destroyed everything that was associated with the rich pre-islamic culture of the islands.

The book contains short descriptions of most items on display and color pictures of many of them, including some of those destroyed, some irreparably. As such it is bound to become a rare document, even tough not all objects are represented here.

President Nasheed at the Museum inspecting
 now destroyed pre-islamic scultpure (photo by Wearetraveller.com blog)

You can contact the Museum or the Ministry of Tourism and see if they will mail the Museum's book ((2010), edited by Nasheema Mohamed and Ahmed Tholal) to you as it does not seem to be available online and at bookstores.

Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture
Heritage Department
Malé
Maldives

You can buy my book on the Maldives here (in Italian)


17 February 2013

Film review: Born into Brothels (2004) by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, ****

"Running" by Gour, 13 years old
Synopsis

The most stigmatized people in Calcutta's red light district are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life. Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in the red light district. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.

The winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels offers a tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art. Devoid of sentimentality, Born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.


11 November 2011

Glass and gondolas in Venice


Murano glass taking shape
Early start of the day in Venice. I am here for a photo workshop and we are off to catch the sun rise by the dock of the ferry to Murano, where Stefano has talked to his brother in law who owns a glass shop. We will have the privilege of being let into the shop while the dozen or so glass blowers are working to make the glass masterpieces which make Murano famous.

About a dozen artisans are blowing glass today, all Italian men plus a young and very thin French lady who has moved here six years ago to learn the trade. It seems that with 8% "unemployment" in Italy we need to import tall young girls from Burgundy to keep the magic of Murano glass alive! She follows closely each and every move of the senior master, who sometimes holds her hand in a fatherly fashion to guide her through the moves that transform sand into glass masterpieces.

The atmosphere is magic. In the middle of the shop a huge furnace radiates intense heat, and all around skilled workers dance with their red-hot glass at the end of a steel pole, blowing, cutting, chiselling, attaching gold leaves, shaping and reshaping their creations.

We leave the shop after two very full hours and take the ferry back to Venice, where a lineup of "spritz" is waiting for us at a local bar. They will be followed by delicious cicchetti for a true Venetian lunch by Rialto. I was afraid to run into a tourist trap, of which there are too many in the neighborhood, but ended up in a delightful little restaurant for a very special treat.

Fixing gondolas
The day then continues with a visit to  "squero" of San Trovaso, a shop where they build and maintain gondolas, the trademark boats of Venice. Again thanks to the good offices of Stefano we are welcomed into one of a handful of workshops where this ancient art is kept alive by a bunch of skilled masters.

As one of them shows us the tools he explains that a gondola costs about thirty thousand euro as it comes out of the carpenter's shop, with no accessories, decorations, or anything one would call an "optional" in a car. It can be twice as much when it hits the water with all its bells and whistles installed. There are only 420 licensed gondolas in Venice and licences are impossible to get unless you are well connected into the inner circles of the city and come from a family of gondolieri.

This squero can only make two new gondolas per year, and spend most of its labor time on maintenance. I had the good luck to witness some of this work today, one master was pushing special straw thread in the crevices between the long beams of a gondola to improve its water tightness. As the sun sets, a gondoliere arrives at the squero to deliver his gondola for repairs. Everyone gives a hand to raise it from the water, and after a first inspection a workplan is agreed upon. It's time for us to say farewell, and head off to town for a dinner of polenta with cuttle fish in its black ink sauce...

02 May 2011

9. - 2 MAY: Dazu, legend of the country girl; board ship for Yangtse cruise

The highlight today is another Unesco WHS: the Dazu rock carvings dating from the 9th to the 13th century of our era.. I won't take time to describe them here, just click on the Unesco page linked above. It is a magical place, and worth spending a full day in. Maybe even two if your schedule allows.

Dazu Rock carvings



But I would like to share the "legend of the country girl", subject of one of the carvings, as reported to me by a local guide. I found it moving.

A beautiful country girl is invited to town by a bunch of boys she does not know. She does not want to go because she is shy, but they insist so much that she relents and accepts to follow them. And that's when her troubles start...

Once in town they take her to a party and force her to dance. But she is weak because of pregnancy and after many hours she collapses and aborts her child. Soon thereafter she dies of grief and goes to hell. Here she gemerates five hundred children with all the demons she meets in the ghastly place. Nonetheless, she never forgot her one child on earth and wants revenge against the town boys for her lost child. Strong of her afterwordly powers, she goes back to the town where she died, attends more parties and every night she eats a local child.

After this had been going on for a while Buddha Sakyamuni decides to intervene, sneaks up to her and kidnaps one of her 500 children. He then goes to pay a visit and finds her in a desperate state of mind and asks her why she is so cruel since, after all, she now has 500 children. What does she think of the mothers of the children she eats, Buddha asks her. She understands and stops eating children, at which point Buddha returns her kidnapped child to her. She then loved all children of the world for the rest of her life and became a goddess of children!


Recommended reading: This one below is one of several books on the Dazu carvings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the best of the bunch, great binding, good photographs and detailed descriptions, in English, of each one of them. It is expensive: there are cheaper versions of this book but this is the one to buy if you can afford it. It is impossible to convey the sheer size and majesty of the carvings in pictures, but this is as close as it gets.


In the US and worldwide buy it here:



In the UK buy it here:





My guide tells me another legend, which I struggle to understand: a woman who had a chicken was sent to hell because during her lifetime she had fed this chicken lots of prime food. In doing so she made the chicken fat. One man thought the fat chicken would be very tasty, killed it, cooked it and ate it. If the chicken had not been fed so well she would not have looked so mouth-watering and the man would not have eaten it. OK I'll need some time to think this through.


It is a rainy day, and the long bus ride makes a few of us doze off... I stay awake, mostly, and from my seat at the front of the vehicle keep looking at the two flags our nostalgic driver has glued to his dashboard...

Nostalgic driver...

After the visit to the carvings' site we go for lunch, but first we stumble into another great temple. The Longevity temple, built in 1178, and now again in use after decades of neglect during Maoist times.

In the evening we board our cruise ship, the "President", for a 3-day run down the Yangtse, which in some languages is referred to as the Blue River, the longest river in Asia and the main artery of life in China since time immemorial!

27 April 2011

4. - 27 APR: Lijiang, Jade Dragon Mountain, Baisha, market

Up early and off to a bus ride to the mountains of Yulong Xueshan (Jade Dragon Mountain), where we leave the bus and buy some tickets. To do so, one must go through a weird sort of hangar, with a whole series of stands selling anything from oxygen bottles (in case of mountain sickness) to T-shirts, to traditional Chinese medicine, to dried frogs... I end up buying some CDs of local music.

A chairlift takes us up to the “yak meadows”. The view of the peaks from the top is stunning, and the white snow against the blue sky provides a perfect frame for the Buddhist gompa on top of a hill that we reach with an easy 20 min walk. The gompa is not the most impressive I have ever seen, still, it's good to see it here, open for business.

A few yaks graze around, it is all by the book! Not enough time to savor the atmosphere unfortunately, time to go back. I detest fixed schedules when traveling but today I have no choice, I am in the hands of the local guides. To make things worse, some of my clients, especially 50+ single Italian ladies, complain to me! Oh boy...

Lunch is in a typical restaurant in Baisha, the capital of the old Naxi kingdom and still one of their major centers, where murals from the Ming dynasty were once world famous, before, yes you guessed it... the Cultural Revolution did irreparable damage to them. Some of my companions begin to display uneasiness with Chinese food. (Figures...) I, on the contrary, find the fare fed to foreign groups to be too edulcorated, its taste made way too plain to adjust to the wimpy palates of Western tourists. Therefore, after making sure everyone has his plate full, I go and eat with the driver and the guide, who get REAL Chinese food: hearty, sometimes spicy, sometimes VERY spicy, and sooooo good! As of today this will become my standard operating procedure for the rest of the trip.

After lunch off to town for a visit of the food market, with impressive displays of all kinds of delicacies, clearly a successful farmers’ market that may not be very communist but has all its shelves full. Very colorful cabbages and other greens are on display next to bright red chili baskets that will spice up local dishes. Southern Chinese cuisine is known for being generally more spicy than the rest. In a semi-dark covered pavilion a number of butchers are busy chopping and skinning all kinds of animals, but especially pigs and cows as I can tell. No refrigeration system is in sight but the meat looks very fresh, I suppose there must be a high turnover.

I bought a red mahjong set, kind of old looking if not necessarily that old. Nearby, a palace that used to belong to an old pre-revolutionary governor exudes some ancient charm. I especially appreciate its old wooden doors. Many frescos all around, we are told by our local guide, were destroyed by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, but these doors survived because local farmers painted them over with portraits of Mao.

We then move on to the park of the Black Dragon Pool. It is a stunning location, with lots of history, art and architecture which we only have time to taste in part.

There is an old and very big camellia tree. It has its own guardian, who is well known because he has had this job for over 50 years. He says, through our guides, that the Red Guards wanted to cut the tree down as it was an "old thing" but he stopped them and told them they would have to kill him first, and they gave up. Who knows what really happened but the tree is here!

Dinner tonight brings a new guest: Baiju, the rice liquor that will accompany most of the rest of our dinners in this trip. Sort of similar to grappa (very sort of) it can be made with rice or sorghum. It has a rather coarse taste but can go down very well after a hearty Chinese meal.

23 September 2010

Recensione: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Invenzioni, avventure e passioni di un rivoluzionario (2010), di Giordano Bruno Guerri, *****

Sinossi

Dopo il Rinascimento, la creazione culturale italiana più originale e importante è stata il futurismo: avanguardia di tutte le avanguardie del Novecento, ha cambiato per sempre il modo di intendere l'arte e il rapporto arte-società. Da non molto la critica ha cominciato a riconoscere la forza dirompente di questo movimento che nel 2009, centenario del Manifesto, ha avuto la sua apoteosi, in un diluvio di mostre, studi e celebrazioni. Eppure si continua a trascurare la figura e l'opera del geniale inventore del futurismo. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ebbe una vita affascinante di artista e rivoluzionario.

Lancio del manifesto futurista su Le Figaro, 1909
Nato nel 1876 a Alessandria d'Egitto, fu poeta, editore, romanziere, saggista, oltre che uno straordinario provocatore, dissacratore e motore di cultura, in ogni ambito. La sua capacità di scoprire e suscitare talenti non ha pari. Per sostenere il futurismo, disperse il patrimonio di famiglia, ma una sua caratteristica peculiare fu essere un uomo felice, cui non venne mai meno l'entusiasmo. Seduttore dalle mille avventure, ebbe un lungo e appassionato matrimonio con Benedetta, pittrice e scrittrice futurista. Fra i tanti luoghi comuni che questo libro smentisce c'è quello del "disprezzo della donna", che in realtà Marinetti voleva emancipare fino a metterla alla pari dell'uomo. In politica fu sostanzialmente un anarchico: anche nello stesso pensiero anarchico, perché considerava la Patria più importante della libertà.


30 August 2010

Book Review: Buddhist Monasteries of Himachal Pradesh, by O.C. Handa, *****

Review
This book is a priceless resource for anyone interested in a concise account of all Buddhist monasteries in the Indian state of Himachal. There are several introductory chapters on geography, the cultural background of the region, che concept of monasticism and the arrival of Buddhism in Himachal from Tibet.

The main body of the book is a catalog of all major and most minor monasteries and other votive structures. Further chapters deal with the architectural and artistic features of these buildings.

Finally, some photographs and drawings provide a pictorial complement to the text. A reference work not to be missed by anyone interested in the region.

28 August 2010

17° g - 28 AGO: Chandigarh – Delhi TRENO: km 300

Alle 9 alcuni di noi partono in rick-shaw a motore per il Neck Chand Rock Garden, un enorme parco/giardino surreale, pazzesco, iperbolico, creato da Neck Chand, un artista locale, con materiali di scarto riciclati. Sculture, allestimenti, corsi d'acqua, cascate... Un mix di kitsch, postavanguardia e delirio puro. Da non mancare. Caldo umido già la mattina presto, ma il rickshaw a motore fila fresco per i grandi viali alberati della città...

21 February 2010

Taipei: National Palace Museum, 101, Longshan temple

National Palace Museum
My morning is entirely devoted to the National Palace Museum. I was here eight years ago but I am just as excited today. The best museum for Chinese art in the world. The story is well known. Chiang kai-shek took about 20,000 trunks wirth of art from the imperial collection of the forbidden city when he had to leave Beijing during the civil war. All that stuff traveled around China, but when Chiang saw that he was losing to mao, he had his staff pack "only" about 7,000 trunks of the best items and shipped it over to Taiwan. This treasure is still a major bone of contention with Beijing, though in recent years there have been cooperation programs with museums in the mainland.

This is la crème de la crème of Chinese art, collected by emperors as far back as the Tang dynasty. Chiang had a nuclear bomb proof vault buil in a mountain next to Taipei and then, next to the mountain, this museum. The world is lucky that the stuff is here, or it would probably have been dstroyed during the cultural revolution in China. Today, only about one percent of the items are on display, and the Museum's staff rotates it ever so many months. Incredibly refined, pottery, ceramics, calligraphy, jewellery, jade, bronze...

I can see myself coming back here many, many times...

Leaving the Museum I head to the XXI symbol of pride of Taiwan, Taipei 101. When it was completed in 2004 it was the tallest building in the world, and it remained that until last month, when Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. Taipei 101 is a controversial project. My friend S., who openly sympathizes for the independentist school of thought in Taiwan, says it was not really necessary and it was motly a trick by the Nationalists to impress an increasingly disillusioned electorate.

Taipei 101


Moving fast in 101 elevator
Be that as it may, it is still impressive. Inside, there is a slurpy food center in the basement. Then several floors of shopping mall, and what a shopping mall! Luxur brands from all over the world and a pleasant yet awe inspiring carousel of escalators, lifts, lights, and immense empty spaces that provide a welcoming and warm atmosphere.

At the top, it is cold and windy today. Not the best day to enjoy the landscape. I don't spend much time there, but again I must admit to being impressed: this time by the elevator, the fastest (at this time) in the world, going up and down at 17 meters per second without the slightest discomfort for the user. Well, may I should say the traveler, since it's over half a kilometer up from ground level!
Inside 101


An impressive 730 tons tuned mass damper is installed near the top to absorb shocks caused by wind or earthquakes.

tuned mass damper in 101
In the evening I went to the Longshan temple, where I spent some time looking at the faithful perform Buddhist ceremonies and giving offerings. It is a mystic atmosphere, welcoming and somewhat magic. Free CDs with Buddhist music ara available.
Longshan temple


06 January 2010

9. - 6 JAN: Axum

Whole day in this town, a symbol of Ethiopia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the terrace of our hotel we can enjoy a great view over the main field of steles. Among them, the famous Rome obelisk, returned in 2008 after seventy years spent in the eternal city. It is a magic site, very few people around, and this allows us to fully enjoy our visit. Unfortunately the sun is already too high to take good photos, so I'll have to come back at sunset. A small museum completes the educational aspect of the site. I especially appreciate a sign by the ticket office: "The fool wanders, a wise man travels".

I am struck by a Swedish couple walking around with their two kids, a boy and a girl aged perhaps 4 and 6, each with their little backpack, following diligently in their parents' footsteps. The answer to my many friends who have children of similar age and don't travel to Africa because it is "dangerous" for them.

From here we walk across the street to the Church of Our Lady of Zion, which is actually two Churches, one new and one very old, where legend has it that the ark of the Covenant if guarded by a single monk appointed to this only function for life. Well... Lots of people sitting around here, some musicians playing away with their trumpets and deums in the courtyard and a few faithful inside. One monk takes out a few old bibles for us to look and photograph.

Our next stop is the ruins of the palace allegedly built by the Queen of Sheba, supposedly an ancestor of the Ethiopian imperial family, just out of town. Not so interesting for the uninitiated to the arcana of archeology I must say. By 4 o'clock in the afternoon I decide to go back to the stelae for optimal sunset light photography. Indeed, the effort pays out: a warm amber light soon begins to envelop the monuments, and there is no one around at all.

In the evening I decide to attend the orthodox Christmas ceremonies at the small Church of Enda Iyesus by the stelae field. It is a highly suggestive setting. The warm evocative candle light mixed with cold cheap neon creates a surreal atmosphere. Many priests are celebrating mass, and quite a few faithful are attending, many stranded outside.

A few youngsters are visibly happy about our presence that perhaps for them is a welcome distraction from the boredom of the liturgy. The main priests at first refuses us entry, but then relents after we tend a monetary offer. I try not to disturb the proceedings and take quite a few pictures from the sidelines.