More about Chinese Old Prints

Something more on the last post on a new style of folklore prints in China. In the example I gave, the scene depicts characters in the fashion of the Republic period, with men wearing Western-style hats, and the woman in fringed shagged hairstyle. The inscriptions on the top right-hand corner tells of a story reminiscent of one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The Boy who Cried Wolves’: Continue reading →

Old Prints from China

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王樹村編著,《楊柳青墨線年畫》, 頁40。 出版日期:1980年06月第1版

I’m studying popular prints of China and came across this rather refreshing one that does not copy from old styles. Instead of using fables as subject matter and character names as the title, this new style of prints is very straightforward about the content – a moral teaching on the ‘disadvantages’ of lying.

An Old Photo

大事不糊塗

大事不糊塗

Came across this old photo of a lady of the Qing Dynasty, probably of minor ethnicity. Love her composure, the composition, the setting and the reflection of the photographer in the mirror. The large words on the tapestry say “scrupulous in principle matters”

Great Literary Works are not for Everyone

Writing for New Yorker, some Mark O’Connell (no doubt trained in an area where political ideologies override existential realities) complains about Borges’s reluctance in political engagement and his general non-interest in women writers. As a woman myself, I often find female writers utterly uninteresting to read: Virginia Woolf? Her Mrs Dalloway is less than 200 pages long and it pained me to finish it – that why I didn’t. Muttering in that voice inside your head without so much crafting out the larger scheme of things but keeps dabbling on seemingly important topics for a second is the very antithesis to novel writing. Walker? Constantly banging on colour and mother-daughter relationship proves that she is a very sensitive observer of her own life but lacks imagination in the grander truth. Sylvia Plath? Yes, she may be a genius but she is mad and arrogant, her ego blows up on every page of her works before it implodes to that nothingness that Hughes tries to salvage, over and over again, to no avail. You’ve got to be pretty mad yourself to like her. So yes, I’m a woman. I don’t generally read female writings except chick lit.

But let’s not be sexist about this, because to each his own, and let’s face it – not everyone has the intellectual capacity to write the Paradise Lost, or the Divine Comedy, or Hamlet, or Molloy, or Watt, or Elizabeth Costello, or The Aleph. Of course, not everyone has the intellectual capacity to enjoy or understand them either.

What Borges is doing in The Millions : A Literary Hedonist In The Classroom: On Professor Borges, or what he has been doing throughout his life, is to defy the commercial turn of literature in the classroom. He has kept the allure of literature and philosophy fresh and alive. In fact, he may even have suggested that they are doppelgänger of each other. Fascinating.

Borges and his cat, Aleph

Poet and Philosopher (I)

e349d103f3288149484e63e5cba7cf8bI know a man who lives on cotton clouds.
He dreams all day and talks philosophy.
His brain is spread with salmon-colour thoughts,
His fridge is always empty but for gods.

One day he parks his cloud beneath a bridge,
Across the road, there glistening in the sun
A vagabond who’s scribbling in his head
An epic poem, a tribute to the dead.

The poet tips his crown, hearing him anear –
who shouts: O Master! Please come to my help!
I cannot get the drumming off my head!
It lingers on and driveth me so mad!

Dear son, the master answers in a hush
Do not despair, and even if you must
Scream out loud to that golden distant place
Across the tinselly sea, into her face –

She whose snaky snarls ensnare your brain,
And loading it with feisty hollow forms
Of beauteous lies, painted white with wrath:
So white and pale, her fake virtue shines forth.

She who is robed in luxurious garment
Is but a man, a wicked and stupid
One, if you ask me, but followed by
Many, because of his simple make.

Oh dear! Cried the thinker in despair,
Have I been intercoursing with a man?
Albeit I never offered my body,
For she, or he, is concerned with my soul.