20 March 2012

Art of Nature, Nature of Art

Another Yin-Yang bit of wholeness came into my life this week: a day-long hike on nearby Jinyun Mountain and an exhibit of Western late-Romantic art at the Chongqing Art Museum.

Jinyun Mountain: Art of Nature

My minority pre-graduate students are amazing. They stem from many of the 50-some minority groups in China (with well known examples such as Tibetans and Inner Mongolians and Uighur peoples) and from many provincial universities. They are relatively mature, 25-30 years of age, and have been competitively selected to go on to graduate school, with Southwest University hosting a special one-year preparatory program. Their spoken and written English is generally excellent. If I merely suggest something in class, a group shows up at my office door. A few examples:
  • Maybe a group of us should have dinner some night? Four students show up at 5 p.m. 
  •  Friday class was canceled for field trip. Oh, let's have class at 9 a.m. Saturday!
  • Maybe a group of us should hike Jinyun Mountain? Eleven students organize a hiking group and tell me to meet them at the Confucius statue at 8 a.m. Sunday.
 Jinyun is a prominent ridge (several thousand feet high) between Southwest University in Beibei and the big city of Chongqing. After a short bus ride, we were ready to begin the ascent on a well-developed trail:

All was well as we made our way through a Taoist monastery and to the first peak. Some hikers were beginning to lag behind, but this was a pleasant place to wait for them and enjoy our lunch:

Some of the students had hiked Jinyun before, and thought they knew the way to a second peak. We knew we were nearing a peasant farmstead when we saw the proverbial chickens crossing the road:

One student asked the peasant woman about the way, several other students joined the discussion, and I realized that the students and the old woman had trouble communicating for she spoke only a local dialect. After a mile or so of the trail petering out and then leading to another farmstead, I realized that it wasn't just "trouble" communicating, it was a near total lack thereof. Here we are, a mile later, on a trail leading to a second peasant's back door:

Here, thanks to a young schoolboy who knew Mandarin and could translate between his Grandpa and the students, we set off on a path that, in a few miles, would put us back on the main route. Nice view from the front of the house, too:

It was a pleasant route (easy enough for the guy with comfortable hiking shoes to say). Surprised by how alone we were once off the beaten path. Leo fills his bottle and Ava washes the orange from her hands at a spring (love how bamboo is the universal material):

Fiddleheads (young unfurling ferns--good to eat, too):

And various wildflowers I feel no pressure to key out and identify (though the first is like a Sego Lilly):

The path eventually led to a road, and then to a small village where a way back was clearly marked. With six or so kilometers yet to go, old Professor EcoRover was a bit prideful of feeling he could still walk twice that far while his students were on their last legs:

Leaving the village, though, we came to a small park. The students took to the swings like happy children and the short break revived their spirits as they took turns on the swings:

As we approached another monastery that marked an exit:

It was time again for a lunch break. WangChao ("Leo") and I taught the group "You Are My Sunshine," and soon everyone was smiling and singing along, much to the amusement of neighboring groups. One last group pic:

Then out the gate:

A short bus ride back to Beibei, and yummy fish hotpot:

Chongqing Museum Exhibit: Nature of Art

After modeling for his art class, Professor Funianping kindly invited me to a late-Romantic exhibit that he had brought together. I never expected to see great Western art in China, but there were some wonderful pieces and the flow of the exhibit marked an important episode in art history.

I like the professor's expressive interpretive tour--although in Mandarin, I could feel what he believed was important about the art:

Chierici's "Joy" and "Grief" (1871) show us that the emotions of a small boy are no different from the greatest emotions that an adult may feel over the acquisition of a treasure or the loss of a beloved:

Barries' "Nature Unveiling Herself to Science" (1899) expresses the rational wooing and conquest of female nature as described by Einstein or Descartes or depicted by the Nobel Prize for physics:

Pissarro's "On the Banks of the Seine in Paris" (c. 1875) and Dupre's "The Gleaner" (c. 1900; I think it was mislabeled in English) depict the beauty and dignity of all physical labor:

Finally, my favorite of the exhibit--Rodin's "Eternal Spring" (c. 1900) simply leaves me speechless, that wonderful moment when love and lust are one:

All too soon, it seemed, we assembled in front of the museum for a group pic before our trip through the tunnel under Jinyun Mountain, and back to Beibei:


troutbirder said...

Simply put, I think the smiles on the faces of your students is worth the price of admission alone...

Sylvia K said...

I agree with troutbirder -- the smiles are priceless and your captures are terrific! Thanks again for taking us along!


BLD in MT said...

The "Joy" and "Grief" are so stunningly haunting as a sequence.

How wonderful you have such agreeable folks to help introduce you to the place!

Anonymous said...

Your students are adding to your experience at Southwest University, aren't they? Impromptu outings give you a look at the area that you may not have otherwise.

I enjoyed it all. Keep the wildflower photos coming, please.

Judy said...

Loved dropping in for a visit!! Just goes to show that practice and good shoes can get you a long ways further than sheer youth and enthusiasm...

John Bardsley said...


Janie said...

Your students have a lot of enthusiasm, although they don't seem to have quite as much hiking endurance as their Prof. Eco.
You seem to be having a few wilderness adventures, even in China.