Holistic Spiritual Ecology Launched In Nepal

Over the millennia and ages past many human traditions and policies have institutionalised violence and brutality. From cruelty toward animals, mass-slaughter of humans, to destructive pillaging of the planet, human ignorance and greed have created dogmata and laws that are bringing the world to the brink of self-destruction. In this eleventh hour, Nepal is generating a new way of life in a quiet grassroots reform. The new messengers of peace called Maatma Marga Gurus, are directing this groundswell as part of the 21st Century Maitreyan phenomenon.

For more than five weeks continuously at the mountainous Maitri Dharma Centre in Todhkebari, Badegaun in the Spring of 2016, an intense synergy of solemnity mixed with celebration affected everyone there as over a hundred Maatma Marga Gurus gathered from many regions of Nepal for their initial studies and preparation under the Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha Guru (the Boy With Divine Powers, subject of the 2006 BBC Documentary that had brought the world to Halkhoria.)

Fomerly local lamas, many of the new Maatma Marga Gurus had been those originally in careful attendance as the then-young meditating Guru sat in the Pipal tree for his historic meditation, surviving alone in the jungle without food, water, movement or sleep for six years uninterrupted, taking on the suffering of all mankind for their liberation. From those early days to this, these devotees had been yearning for Guru’s direct teaching in order to be well qualified to serve mankind. Now wearing robes of Maitri blue brightened with Maatma Marga stripes, this their greatest life wish is being fulfilled, and far beyond their original imaginings.

The term Maatma (Maa+aatma) means Earth’s Soul, and by extension it may be perceived as Light of the Earth; Marga means path, and theirs is the first spiritual practice of its kind in the world. Following the Earth-Light Path, the newly trained and initiated gurus will disseminate loving compassion of Maitri-bhav or the Maitreyan way of being throughout their life. They shall have the ability to be gurus to all people. Having renounced former allegiances to all Old Paths and practices, they now live in Maitri universal compassion and equality, never to cause the slightest harm, to love all living beings equally without bias or separation based on cast, gender, nationality, position, ability or the like. They will teach people to serve the planet, retrieving the binding love of primordial oneness that had once existed before differentiation caused schisms. The aim is for people to gain greater ecological awareness, to experience their unique role on Earth, become familiar with the Earth’s many natural resources, especially the herbs to potent and so abundant in the wildernesses here, to coexist with all other beings living on it and in it in symbiotic harmony.

Maatma Marga Gurus are the first messengers to spread Maitri Dharma in Nepal and, eventually, throughout the countless other countries in the world from many of which truth-seekers have already begun to congregate here. Including both householders and single persons (men and women are equally welcome), the new gurus will serve in towns and villages to perform different functions, abiding strictly by Maitri guidelines: they will not demand exorbitant fees, they will teach people not to eat or sacrifice any living being from the sky, land or waters; nor will they be cutting down trees in acquisitive greed, but cull selectively and sparingly only as needed. They will launch reforestation wherever and whenever possible, planting trees in all devastated areas of this ancient land so wounded by the recent earthquakes. In rituals and ceremonies the new gurus will abolish wrong, wasteful or harmful beliefs and practices accumulated over past millennia, whether in mourning or in celebration. The aim of their ministry is for this planet, beginning with Nepal, to regain her health and wholeness, and for humans to reactivate their symbiotic oneness with the world.

For instance, the traditional forty-nine-day mourning period following a funeral will now continue for seventy-five days punctuated by praying sessions between five AM and five PM on certain days. Throughout these months the family will conscientiously work for the purity of their Maitri-bhav, the Maitreyan ways of being. There will be no consumption of alcohol or tobacco, meat, fish or seafood, nor performances of harmful drum-dancing or soul-snatching. Instead, energies will be drawn upwards to steep in Maitri compassion for the pure and peaceful passage of the departing soul. Family members pray for its total liberation from any further rebirths and to enter the realm of eternal bliss. At the same time they pray for the liberation of all other living beings in the whole universe. To help a beloved soul in its Journey of ascension, family members themselves must attain the greatest purity possible, as any tears or intention of holding on to the beloved will only obstruct their passage to heaven, in fact any defilement will impede the soul’s journey in harmful ways. Family accordingly will live in watchful purity and compassion, growing ever more in Maitri-bhav.

On the day of their departure from Guru’s Dharma Centre they came first of all, more than a hundred strong, to the city of Kathmandu where well wishers lined the streets happily shouting Maitri Mangalam and offering kathas, water, refreshments in happy welcome. Throughout Nepal towns and villages have opened doors and hearts to receive their Maatma Marga gurus, proudly celebrating with feasts reflective of the new order. Among the new gurus are former Sangha Presidents like Suk Bahadur Tamang of Chitwan District who just handed over his gavel to new incoming President, Mansubbha Tamang. In many ways fundamental change is underway as families and friends undergo shifts in lifestyle starting from simple daily practices. Gone are traditional ingredients of garlic, onions, chives and turmeric along with all flesh of hot and cold-blooded animals, milk, or honey. In clothing, silk will be renounced to protect the silkworms in their cocoons. Gone are tears of wailing or crying, genuine or commercially performed, as crying would affect the departing soul in a harmful, negative way, blocking if not preventing altogether its progress in ascension. Mourners learn instead to nurture the purity of heart needed to bless the departing soul with unconditional love, to send it onto higher realms in calm, in peace and joy. Now people will gently accept death with gratitude, as physical death is indeed Gateway to the soul’s release from suffering in this mortal body. Deep calm is gained and spread from better understanding of the soul’s eternal journey. Family members will replace the sadness and wailing with peaceful parting, stressing love and purity to create a beautiful warm sendoff for the beloved departing.

Death is now understood as the important beginning of the soul’s journey to eternal liberation and bliss, and our lifetime on Earth (in human form or that of any living being, be it elephant or flea) but a tiny blip on the eternal life of the soul. Many Maatma Marga gurus remember their first Maitreyan funeral some years back, and the profound calm that had surrounded the Dharma Sangha Guru as he conducted the rites, lit the flames of the pyre and blessed the departing soul now headed toward Mukti and Moksha (final liberation from cycles of rebirths, ignorance and suffering). Everyone present had felt drawn inwards, flooded in an ocean of peace and benevolence as a giant gentle light of blessing descended from the skies, warming the hearts of all those witnessing the uplift as the loved one moved from death into eternal life.

Marriages become Maitri Unions where couples are joined not only legally and socially, but spiritually, as they become one single love energy surpassing the sum total of the two parties combined. Their paths will be unified, empowered as they gain responsibility one for the other, and their lives in Maitri will blaze like a beacon in the community. From birth through death, many Nepali families will experience a leap in ecological and spiritual growth.

Joan Stanley-Baker

Maatma Marga Gurus Welcomed in Kathmandu

More than hundred new Maatma Marga Gurus arrived in Kathmandhu after completing their five-week intensive training under Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha Guru at the Maitri Dharma Centre in Badegaun, Sindupalchowk last spring. The streets in Kathmandu were lined with well-wishers cheering their achievement. Offering khatas, water and biscuits, families, friends and devotees were on hand to express their shining joy now that Maitribhav has been launched in these embodied gurus who will uplift and transform towns and villages throughout Nepal, practicing and teaching compassionate love and Maitri Peace.

Calling All Rainbows, Indigos, Crystals, Truth Seekers, Children of the Golden Age: a Sunburst Invitation


Way back when… we started from unrequited yearning that flowed wordlessly in the undercurrents of our heart’s breath longing for unspoken union, for love we knew was infinite and would be eternal once found, searching in despair for Truth so deeply hidden that we no longer knew its name…

Remember that soul-searing beginning?

Now, believe it or not, this lost key to true peace has been found! The Pathfinder was born in 1990. Raised in rural farming Nepal, He started searching as a child, single-mindedly seeking the sure Path to eternal bliss not for himself alone, but for all beings in the universe. At age 15 he stole away from home. Walking deep into the wild jungles of Halkhoriya, He plunged into extreme austerities sitting first inside a large banyan tree and, for the next six years, staying locked in meditation without motion, without food, without drink and without sleep, undaunted by extreme weather, wild fauna, or even the many human attempts to break His quest. The-buddha-boy-mkBy the time He completed this legendary tapasya at age twenty-one (2011), He had found the lost treasure of our deepest longing! Maitreyan Dharma: original essential oneness, liberation leading straight to Heaven!

Completely absorbing all divine wisdom, He has returned as the Omniscient One, the Maha Sambodhi Guru Dharma Sangha, the Divine Interface that closed the gap between gods and humans, between heaven and earth. Glowing in the light of peace, radiating loving compassion equally onto all, He has launched the Golden Age. He will remain in human form to guide us to freedom and bliss as we learn to retrieve our primordial state of being in Maitribhav. IvyGuruStarSpray

Not here to build marble temples, golden shrines or multi-national corporations, the “Green” Guru remains in pristine uncompromised Nature to bestow the true bonding dharma that had sparked Creation itself and that is so desperately needed now to hold the universe together as it was in the beginning.

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Guru will be giving personal blessings non-stop at His last public MaitriPuja in Nepal next Spring, 21 March – 2 April. To this historic event all Rainbows, Indigos, Crystals, Truth-seekers and all children of the Golden Age are joyfully invited to report for duty to join in maitrifying the whole world even as we merge into one another in Divine Maitribhav.

Check it out for yourself at www.Maitriya.info

Welcome one and all! See you in March!

Little Brother George Has Gone Ahead

Tribute to My Lilbro George Stephan Hsu, COL
(17 May 1943 – 20 Sep 2015)

George Hsu

Lydia and George Hsu

Kite flying with Lydia

George Hsu was many things to many people. He was and remains first of all father, husband, brother, cousin, uncle, father-in-law and grandpa to his large, far-flung family now gathered at Elgin in profound shock and grief. There was for many days perhaps also some defiance, as many of us found it hard to accept the fact that George has actually been wrenched away from us with such cruel suddenness. For 72 years, 4 months and 3 days, George had lived a full, creative and productive life, bringing joy, comfort and a sense of wellbeing to all those who have known him.
George Super DadGeorge's horse
Walking Jen down the aisle

George walks Jen down the aisle.

It was to be a happy, honeymoon-like trip for Kathy and sister Joyce Bless, this time to be just with their husbands George and Rick to enjoy a romantic visit to Key West Florida in a well deserved celebration of themselves, and of staying together as couple. But on Sunday the 20th September, when they were snorkeling some ways off Key West in eight feet of water watching stunning sea creatures and corals, God gently and silently scooped George up to Heaven. As if lost in a starless night sky, the world darkened around George’s beam, becoming suddenly pitch black for everyone else.
Root hunting with the Hsu clan
Stunned as if hit by a huge lightning thunderbolt, all became speechless, uncomprehending. People vehemently refused to accept the idea that they no longer have George on call. For here on earth still, each one of us in his or her own way had taken for granted that we would meet and hug and joke and laugh together, sharing our love for many, many long years to come. Dearest God in Heaven, forgive us, we are simply not ready to accept this loss. But we do thank Thee for sparing our George the agony of protracted hospitalization. He left earth during one of the happiest times of his life. Bless you, Happy Georgie, you lucky lad.
Doc's Saloon Menu
To myriad others beyond the Hsu clan, George was their best friend, college schoolmate, football team quarterback or tailback, drinking buddy, fellow prankster, chief story teller, unbeatable mechanic, brilliant physician, respected counselor, most trusted and beloved Captain – Colonel, and Community Leader. No one was ready to let him go, as if one had any say in the matter. Dear God, help us heal.

Our early family history

George as a young manWhen he was six, Mother took us three children to America away from China’s Civil War. There we lived with the large and loving family of Stephan Kuttner, Father’s best friend during their Jurisprudence School years in Berlin in the late 1920s. The Hsu children were quickly assimilated into the family, becoming part of the dinner table that pivotal year (1949-1950), where children of the two families fell secretly in love unbeknownst to one another.

When he was twelve, he became a step-uncle to my two young step-sons boys and told them, “Don’t be afraid of your step-mother. She’s only my sister. You don’t have to eat the spinach if you don’t like it.” On our trip to Europe when my baby daughter was found dead in the crib high up in the Alps, it was little George who bent over his infant niece, trying to breathe air into her lifeless body, tears streaming down his agonized face without letup. That was his first encounter with the profound urge to heal, to save, to protect life.

A most caring and insightful gentle man

Nearly thirty years later, in order to protect his own adopted and natural children in a State without public health care, he decided during an outbreak of equine encephalitis in the area, to study Medicine and become a local doctor. Almost forty years old, George was able to enter medical school on an Army grant, becoming the oldest student around.

But his doctor-teachers soon discovered that this Haverford mechanics graduate who designed car-crunching machines for the wide-open countryside, who turned Honda Preludes into super racing cars, who alone appeared in the OR with black fingernails, etc. turned out to be the only man in the cardiac ward to remain cool and calm when they discovered that the bulky pacemaker they were placing in the patient’s gaping cavity was dysfunctional. Sweat poured down the face of doctors and nurses alike as time ticked loudly away.

“Anyone have a screw-driver?” finally came George’s soft voice. And in no time the pacemaker too, began to tick away, in the fortunate patient’s chest. From the beginning, George had excelled at tying good knots with hand in pocket. But when his supervisor suggested he become a heart surgeon, George remarked, “That is a Craft. I wish to become a GP (General Practitioner) for that, Sir, is an Art.”

Eventually George became the most widely respected GP around, and people would drive hundreds of miles to get the opinion of Dr. Hsu. George dedicated his life and skills to medicine out of love of his fellow beings. He refused to prescribe unnecessary medication or order costly lab tests and exams for the many patients in his hard-working but also hard up farming community.
farming community with George
But this was to run squarely against vested interest, not only of private physicians, but of the State whose Board of Medical Examiners comprised of doctors with vested interests. A small group of Bismarck doctors had invested in just such an expensive lab-test service center, and in time came to resent the fact that they were missing out on George’s many patients who did not go for their costly tests and scans. Together they sued the country doctor George Hsu, for “Inappropriate Care” that is, for not doing everything possible for his patients. Our Family had thought nothing of the matter, since each of the city plaintiffs had serious lawsuits against them from mistreated patients whereas George had not a single complaint by any patient in all his more-than-twenty-years’ practice.

But to our dismay, the State of North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners comprising these disgruntled physician-investors, together with the Surgeon General and the State Supreme Court, seemed adamant that Dr Hsu’s Medical License be revoked, and the citizens of North Dakota deprived forever of their favorite country doctor. George’s patients were in shock, and in different areas held fund-raisers to hire a lawyer for George. They wrote to the government and to the newspapers – but all to no avail.

When asked once, “Without taking an MRI, how can you tell if your patient is bleeding in the brain or not?” he replied, “I have known my patients for three generations. You can tell simply by watching them walk.” To George, his patients were like his children. He lived to protect them, to heal them and nurture them, and to share his life and his joy with them. When a patient once let on that he no longer had a particular type of harvester, George drove his own over to that farmer’s ranch the next day. The startled patient found his favorite doc driving up and down in the morning sun working his fields, finishing all his chores by noon. George’s positive, giving nature and contagious good humor brought out the best in all those he met. the best in humanity, and that is Love. Love radiates outward; it is sharing in compassion.
Family at George's funeral
At the funeral, one of George’s nurse practitioners came up the pulpit and told us she had been working with all kinds of doctors on all kinds of jobs for over thirty years. “Never in my entire career have I ever met a doctor who knew more about medicine than George. George cared more for his patients, had such common sense when treating illnesses and wounds. No one was more skilled in diagnostics. He was simply one of a kind, a brilliant, unique man all around. He will be sorely missed.” The legendary Doc Hsu lived in a decaying society during a decadent age. His memorable medical career was sabotaged out of envy and greed, but continues to shine as a beacon of hope for all his patients, his friends and for young medics as an exemplar for the coming Age.
George with friends
George’s idea of a good life was to be able to devote as much time as possible to the people and activities he loved, in as creative and productive a mode as possible. First came the idea of farming. Farming land that the US Government paid farmers to let lie fallow. He amassed 1500 acres in North Dakota, mostly raising hay for horses and beef cattle. He also planted delicious chokecherries, buffalo berries, plums and currants that he would brew into a heavenly wine. To be sure, he grew the shrubs not only as windbreak, but in particular to entice the scrumptious North Dakota pheasants and grouse who would come to fatten themselves in Autumn, and adorn his dinner table in Winter.

On the farm, George did everything from plowing, sowing to harvesting, cutting and bailing, he was also a masterful fence-builder, agile horse-rider able to make his mount shimmy straight down the vertical side of a steep mountain. All the animals loved him, as do his children, making each their happy sounds whenever he’d come near. George was one of the very few people around who could fix tractors, twenty-ton trucks, highway line-painting machines, racing cars, sowing machines, snow-blowers, food blenders or pacemakers but also produces hay-bales on even square fields, keeps his cattle immunized and healthy, hand-delivering their calves. George was cheerful and helpful to anyone who ever came in need of healing, fixing, repairing, lending or feeding, and became a great friend to the farming families as well as the Sioux Indians miles around. If this sounds too good to be true, George indeed was to all of us not only incredible, but indispensable. He loved being admired – but admiring George was always a natural result of knowing him.

George met Kathy in Medical School when they became a valued team, especially in national emergencies. During the Gulf War when George was called to active duty for the second time after Viet Nam, now to the Middle East, Kathy was summoned as well as Army Nurse, and they left their eight children, their fields and cattle behind in Elgin to run the medical unit in what we the family believed was a chemical warfare zone. Our aged parents from urban Washington DC came over in their high seventies to look after George and Kathy’s virtual orphans, ready to remain indefinitely should the field doctor-and-nurse fail to come back. But these Medics eventually returned home to a Hero’s welcome when all Elgin and neighboring towns came out with flowers and flying banners, creating a memorable day near and far.

George PensierosoAs an army doctor in mobile hospital under extreme conditions, or from his quiet clinic in Elgin, North Dakota, George’s priority was always to do the job well. He didn’t care too much for all the formalities and protocol that calcify around institutions as they age, making it hard to distinguish what is more important: to heal or bandage the patient, or to fill out the form. George invariable chose the former, often to the neglect of the latter. For this neglect he was driven out of the medical profession by his peers who felt that failing to fill out all forms was more of a detriment than George’s unusual ability to heal, his pure record of complete trust from all his patients, some who had asked not to be put on tubes and costly equipment. They would rather North Dakota be deprived of one of their best physicians, in order to ensure everyone towed the line and filled out all formal requirements purely administrative in nature.

But this only freed George to turn his attention to his other beloved activities, Mechanics. Together with son Stevie a company was formed to do road-striping, providing the white, yellow, red, solid and broken lines we see on the highways – a rather lucrative job under Union Pay. This does not deprive any patient of their wherewithal, but brought in surprising income, and challenged George’s ingenuity to his great delight. He designed and put together from spare parts by hand, an entire truck-cum-device that mixed and spread paint on the road, and so began happy outdoor days working together with his beloved family. When the State approached him saying they would give him back his license to practice medicine provided he signed a paper admitting to “inadequate care of his patients” and/or paid the Board a fee of $50,000, George gave his wry smile and declined. He refused to cooperate with a world that cared more for protocol than for the practice of medicine.

George did not consider himself to have lost any self, aside from his Colonel’s uniform, to be shifting from a white gown to the proverbial blue collar – because to him all jobs carried out with his whole heart and mind bring satisfaction and joy. And the blue collar he had come to know harbored less hypocrisy or hidden greed. In time he opened up Doc’s Saloon in Glen Ullen that served all his favorite foods and drinks, delighting one and all. When we entered the place the local people immediately recognized us as George’s family; staff from Chef to waitresses came to us to hug us, one after the other each weeping tears of deep personal loss. George had given them the sense of self-worth, had appreciated and admired each of them for their special contributions. Their love for George was no less than that of nurse practitioners.

For George, no one was ever unimportant. He never entertained sentiments like, “Wait, I have something more urgent to do first.” He helped his kids with home-work, his grandchildren with kite-flying or buggy rides. He adopted and reared the children born to his wives from their former marriages, never saying to any child, “You are not of my blood. You are not my family.” He adopted them all, giving them the Hsu name, and cared for them with the same love and pride with which he reared all his own progeny. Later he took in our mother and step-father, caring them for years through their dying days. He took in and gave employment to his nephew, offered permanent shelter to his oldest retired sister and opened his home to his nieces each time any should face homelessness. George helped all who came to him, laughingly solving problems academic, chemical, emotional, financial, mechanical, medical, military or psychological.
Colonel George Hsu
In the Armed service, he earned the love of all his men as their platoon leader, captain or colonel, since he cared more about his men than anyone else. Throughout all the years in the Army rising from rank to rank, George never, ever had a gun in the house. He did not believe problems are solved by killing others. He even gave his mind to politics in the hope that this great nation to which he’d dedicated his life energies, would one day rise above mediocrity and fill its potential for genuine world leadership.

To this end, George gave tirelessly to the National Democratic Committee, even trying once for a seat in the State Senate to fight the growing corruption then directly harming ND’s own people. But he never let defeat of any sort dampen his own Spirit. There was always burning inside his heart a huge and compassionate store of love and of service. It is with this selfless spirit that he sailed through his colorful and multilayered life, earning the love of countless people of different persuasions and from all walks of life. He was always there for us. For anyone, actually.

Now George has taken this rare but eternal harvest of universal Love with him to Heaven. For unlike earthly riches or power, Love is what we can take with us. The outpouring of overwhelming love for George we have heard in Church and in the Community Center these past three days will in turn spawn new streams of inspiring and uplifting memories, gratitude and emulation. Although these rare and precious gifts are invisible, they are divine.

Go in Peace, beloved Lilbro, I came to America this month because of your urging, and promise to come and visit. Maybe you had some inkling, Georgie, about playing this last prank to stun the world around you. Before going on this last vacation you’d called up all old friends for long chats and, for once, you’d paid all your bills, ahead of time. You shed your body without a moment’s illness or struggle doing a most enjoyable watersport, sparing your family the draining anguish of protracted hospitalization. What a beautiful and carefree way to live, George, and to die. You are very, very blessed indeed. Let us give thinks to your Guardian Angels who have even made the Funeral Gathering in Elgin, a most Memorable Three-day Family Blast.
George Hsu at ease
Keeping him in their fondest loving memories are his wife, Kathy, Elgin, ND; 4 sons and daughters-in-law, Michael Hsu, in Texas, Stephen and Jody Hsu, Bismarck, ND; Anthony Hsu, Seattle, WA; Charles Hsu, Elgin, ND; 4 daughters and sons-in-law, Theresa Hsu, Elgin, ND; Jennifer and Casey Bettenhausen, Bismarck, ND; Sarah and John Bonvini, Gloucester, Virginia and Barbara Hsu, Mandan, ND; 8 grandchildren, two older sisters, Joan in Nepal, and Katherine in Annapolis, MD; step-mother Nancy Hsu, Seattle, WA; half-brother Alex Hsu and half-sister Barbara Hsu, both married and living in California. There is a still-growing number of nieces and nephews around the world as well as grandchildren to most of whom beloved Uncle George is already Legend.

The Puja at Lamjung

February 22-27, 2014, Lamjung Maitri Puja for World Peace

From the village of Khudi at the foot of the Himalayas, the eye can reach directly onto the snowcapped peaks of Manasulu, towering 8163 metres above sea level, giving an illusion of being only three or four kilometres away.
This is the view from the site of the last puja of the Nepali year 2070, held in the District of Lamjung in northwest Nepal, on the border of Tibet. People had come from everywhere. Nepalese devotees had arrived from Manang, Pokhara Lake, Kaski, Gorkha, Tanau, Dading, Kathmandu, Kirtipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavry, Nuwakot, Sindupalchowk, Ramechhap, Makwanpur, Chitwan, Parsa, Bara, Sarlahi, Sindhuli; and from the far distant mountain region of Mustang they had travelled across the great ranges, taking more than three days for the journey. There were also Indian devotees from Sikkim and Darjeeling, Europe, East Asia and the Americas.LamjungFrgnSangha
The air throughout the highlands of Nepal is cold in the morning and evening, with sun during the day warming the breeze. But, here in Khudi, the air seems especially fresh, brushing down from the highest peaks of the world, and quickening the heart with a strong feeling of being in the presence of the divine. Devotees who have attended many of the Maitri Guru’s Pujas, agree that there was something rather special about the Lamjung Puja.

The Maitri Guru had left his mountain retreat in Thodkebar of Badegaun Township in Sindhupalchowk Disctrict, on the morning of February 19th, to travel with his immediate entourage for ten hours by jeep to Lamjung. From the very beginning atop the tiny mountain village, there were already twenty cars filled with neighbouring devotees waiting to follow Guru’s car and, when they reached the town of Sipaghad below, thirty more cars were there with motors running, along with untold numbers of motorcycles, ready to brave the long journey over the bumpy and dusty Nepali roads. 15
Along the way, motorcycles and private cars, seemingly out of nowhere, continued to join the motorcade, their numbers growing at an alarming rate, with offerings of flowers, candles and incense, khatas and fruit, waiting patiently for the Guru. At times, in certain populated towns, the road ahead became completely blocked by devotees to the point that nothing could pass, often requiring the gentle assistance of the local police. The vehicles continued to multiply as the day wore on. The roaring wheeled assemblage came to stretch long and wide for kilometers, creating a memorable sight along the roads leading to the large town of Chabel where an additional 700 devotees were waiting. There was a joyous celebratory mood among them, one and all. Whenever the caravan passed villages and towns, there were groups of devotees gathered along the road with flowers and other offerings to greet Guru’s passage, hoping for a glimpse of the beloved face, and possibly even a blessing.
Throughout the day, devotees continued to appear along the 180 kilometers between the districts of Sindhupalchowk and Lamjung. In the darkness past sunset, they stood on the roads holding offerings of flowers, incense, khatas, and now also flickering candles. The reverent devotion shown by the tens of thousands of devotees was overwhelming to the observers. There were spontaneous local receptions all along the way during the ten hours of travel, giving the travellers an unforgettable sight. Guru’s journey was attended throughout by waiting devotees from town to town, and in between. There seemed to be more people, more new faces, and more crowds than ever before.
By nightfall when the convoy reached Besishsahar, the largest town at the foothills, devotees stood there still, holding lights or candles in the darkness, their hearts aglow like their flames, eyes glistening for a glimpse of the Maitri Guru.
25Already for some years, he has ruled their hearts in loving compassion. But now was the chance for them to be there, even for a fleeting moment, close to Guru’s actual aura, to feel the Maitri Presence.
Ten hours after setting out, Guru’s party arrived at the Lamjung site where accommodations had been already prepared by the local Sangha. After a good night’s sleep, everyone rose to work on the preparations for the Puja itself. The great tarps were laid over the bamboo foundations, and flags in the Maitri order of blue, white, yellow, red and green were stretched in long strings in all eight directions from the pole-top, announcing the event. On the newly made platform, the Maitri Guru’s dais was placed, and on the surrounding fabric walls were hung thangkas of the Great Deities uniquely related to Maitreya. For two days feverish work joined all the fervent devotees in one large workforce, as people hitherto unknown to each other worked side by side for the same purpose. and with the same joyous dedication.
“Rain blesses the beginning and the end of the Maitri Guru’s every puja,” a long-time assistant of Guru said. It will always rain when Guru arrives, and again when Guru leaves. Sometimes the rain may be big, sometimes so subtle that people may not be aware of it, while at other times it is loud and wet. But for sure there will always be rain…. followed by the rainbow.” This time the rainbow was unmistakable for all to see and marvel. A huge ring of a rainbow appeared around the sun, glowing in the mid-heavens and forming a complete and perfect circle. There was a smaller ring immediately around the sun, a rim of red and yellow filaments surrounding a relatively bluish sun in the middle, much like the pupil of a huge round eye. This phenomenon hovered continuously, suspended exactly above the Puja mandala holding the tent and blessing program. The rainbow was so large, so clear, and so perfectly centered overhead that onlookers were awestruck with wonder at the surprising and inspiring manifestation.
For three days the haloed sun-eye hovered overhead, enveloping the sacred precinct. Passersby and devotees both were awed at the sight of such auspiciousness and benevolence. And for the last three days many devotees saw a bright light emanating from the middle of the Maitri Guru’s forehead, with a startlingly warm and gentle glow. Many such unforgettable manifestations around the Maitri Guru were recounted by eye-witnesses and spread across the world.
The Lamjung site is situated at the base of the famous trekking paths leading up to Annapurna in the Himalayas. It is a stop for mountaineers. During those days many hikers passing by were drawn irresistibly to the Puja. Here they received unexpected blessing of unbounded love and compassion that flowed unceasingly from the Maitri Guru for more than eight hours each day. It has been estimated that several hundred thousand people received Guru’s blessing during the six days.
There were many familiar faces among the foreign sangha, as well as new ones here for the first time, together representing more than thirty nations. There were two Italian couples, one having brought along their children. Many Buddhist and Chan monks came from monasteries in Korea and Thailand, among others. About seventy Nepali Buddhist monks from diverse monasteries, dressed in crimson and orange, came to join the chanting of prayers and mantras and to participate proactively in all proceedings.
When devotees saw the Maitri Guru in a white robe with blue trim coming with his monks in blue robes and white tops, there was a gasp of surprise and awe.
This was the first time that Guru’s Maitri colors were worn at a public event, and they presented a startling contrast to the traditional clerical colors of crimson and orange, brown, black or grey. Gradually, devotees began to realize that something was rather different about this timespace. They found themselves under a new banner, witnessing a new Order and, in their hearts, many knew that the world would be listening to a new language and hear a new Message.
Guru ascended his dais and dropped into lotus position in one graceful move. In due course, he gave his Teaching. Without quoting from the as yet unpublished Official Translation to be issued direct from Guru’s headquarters, a strictly personal interpretation follows here in the paragraph below:

As ever, Guru instructed humanity to abstain from harmful actions. Now he explained how in cosmic oneness in there being no separation whatever between the countless life cycles of all beings of all categories in all worlds or between the atma, paramatma and anatma: all seemingly disparate energies are in fact inseparably part of One. Rather than enquiring about religions or techniques of meditation, Guru asked us to reflect first of all on what we have gained from our habitual passions and worldly attachments. He seemed to be addressing humanity from a unique perspective of being in human form with feet on the earth yet with cosmic consciousness remaining in the sky, above and beyond the myriad illusions that since primordial times have imprisoned humanity inside illusions. From this cosmic perspective, the Maitri Guru pointed out that whilst all other life forms already thrive in Maitriyan Dharma, human beings alone remain in the ignorance and suffering created by the misdirected dogmata they have been perpetuating since primordial times. By simply surrendering in complete trust and faith to the GuruMarga – the Way of (all) Gurus – human beings, too, can quickly experience true Dharma. Bringing Maitri Dharma closer to home, Guru said that the drive and goal of all religions in their primordial stage had been to attain Maitri Dharma – the Way of Maitriya – ; that in the beginning, all religions had been on the same all comprehending Maitri Path. And now the GuruMarga has descended to bring all humanity, with all religions, back onto the Maitri Dharma of universal loving compassion that had been here since the beginning.

Marking the Fourth Year of Maitreya, the New Age following upon the long preceding Kali Yuga or Age of Darkness, the Maitri Guru in this way revealed yet a little more of the special attributes of the world to come, providing a hint of the peace and happiness that shall bloom forth once the basic precepts of universal respect, compassion, equality and true faith are revived in our hearts.

On the morning of departure, rain began to fall gently over the land, smiling on the convoy like a blessing. Again, villagers from nearby stood along the streets in the morning sprinkle to bid Guru farewell. But, once the motorcade left the district of Lamjung, the rain intensified, falling loudly, and soon filled the streets with small rivulets. By the time they reached the Naubisey highway going to Kathmandu, the road was congested for a full kilometer with cars that had been there for nearly ten hours. The passage became inundated and water covered the tires of Guru’s Jeep. Motorcyclists had water coming up to their waists. Miraculously, local sangha members appeared, and managed in groups to open up a pass way for Guru’s convoy of about thirty cars, busses and cyclists to go through. Curiously, throughout this stretch, the towns to the left or right of their journey remained dry, without the least rain. By this time, close followers have become used to certain manifestations of the unusual. ##

James Cahill

Jim has left the world. Yesterday on Valentine’s Day, it is reported today, James Cahill put aside his long ailing body, his ever proactive service to the world of Chinese art history, his huge legacy books, papers, online lectures, mountains of indexes, photographs, slides many of which he’d taken himself, for us, and the thousands of other blessings and gifts to his field, his friends and family too numerous to assess, a legacy that will continue to nourish the coming students of Chinese painting for generations. But his indefatigable energy, his unbounded passion for his work, his singular generosity will remain a standard hard to match.
At last free from disease and suffering, dear Jim, lift off in joy to explore the wonderous realms beyond our present ken to which we’ll all return. Good night, sweet Prince.

香港明珠HKSTV《文化风情》2013年 王明青徐小虎在杭州象山王澍新招待所聊古怀旧(1+2/2)HKSTV Interview with Wang Mingqing

This link leads to a TV interview (part 1 of 2) with the Hong Kong HKSTV’s beautiful and talented hostess Ms Wang Mingqing, in Hangzhou late June. During interludes Ms Wang plays the ancient qin zither, with a clarity and force belying her gentle mien, bringing out a depth of feeling hidden from ages past. The visit took place in the just completed Visiting Faculty Lodge by Dean Wang Shu of the School of Architecture,China Academy of Arts, and 2012 winner of the distinguished Pritzker Prize. Link to Part 2 of 2.



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Art History Without Names 沒有大師的藝術史 (2003 Tainan)


在此所秉持的 不是絕對的威權

Disclaimer and Invitation

Most Chinese paintings and calligraphy works are not as dated
But Months to Centuries Later
Here we share research results
not often found elsewhere
Fearless of New Findings
witih no claim to Absolute Authority
but only Absolute Honesty
and the right to err as seekers err
but now in untried ways
let us lift off where Rowley’d left it
and clear our minefield with method
to let in light where darkness looms


This Web-Paper is an attempt to explore the visual features or Period Style of an era in Chinese landscape painting rather than proceeding from attributed works clustered under the name of a single Master. Here we explore the perceptual characteristics that seem to be unique to Qing painting around the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r.1736-1796) Hongli. This period has left much unspoiled authentic testimony in its Court-commissioned paintings, scrolls and copper-plate engravings that have not been subject to retouching, cropping or resizing and, in the context of imperial paraphernalia, garments and utensils from the same period, makes it possible to attempt to describe in an orderly manner the changes in painting then or recently manifested. Much has been brilliantly studied on the meeting of East and West, notably by Michael Sullivan, James Cahill and Richard Vinograd. Here we explore only the formal aspects, with the hope of becoming better acquainted with the zeitgeist and image of this period.

It is also a first attempt to present in web-page format an academic ‘paper’ with the unique advantages of the internet. Now we can, and should, proceed from the visual evidence as our first point of departure, being able to enlarge details for close-up examination as rarely possible before on such a wide scale. And the text, like a children’s book, only follows the images with enquiries, hypotheses or exegeses.

Riegl’s notion of an ‘History without Names’ frees art historical scholarship from its traditional bondage to ‘signed and dated’ attributions. For the past century or more it has been this stifling bondage that has confined the student to works attributed to a certain Master and to line up his attributed oeuvre in a fictitious ‘chronology’ based on purported ‘dates’ rather than an in-depth investigation of the works themselves. This passive method has obliged countless scholars to concoct lame explanations for a Master’s evident ‘change in style’ when confronting what in effect are works from different hands and usually different periods.

Here we can depart from the approach of studying a famous Master through whose works light may be shed upon his person, his thoughts or his age. Instead, we first examine authentic visual evidence drawn from Qing Court collections, and these collectively and in context of the furnishings, architecture, lacquer and ceramics present enough parallels to form hypotheses about prevailing perceptual tendencies.

Qing Court-based works have revealed unmistakable characteristics that distinguish this period from all previous ones. These features bear a strong relationship, not by accident, with contemporary tendencies in Baroque Europe. Incidentally, these features appear also in paintings bearing names of ancient masters as well. In this essay some though by no means all of these interesting period features are highlighted in chapters and by sections. In many, corresponding details are cropped from their respective paintings and placed side by side to show the similarity. When an individual detail is clicked, the name of the painting as well as the total view should pop up in a separate window, which can be closed to return to the discussion, Qing-dated and also forgeries ascribed to ancient masters appear side by side to highlight in each section the particular period feature in the heading, and in the context of similar features appearing on contemporary Qing works.

In the first ‘chapter’ we begin with an examination of the copperplate engraving of a scene from the Yuanmingyuan Western Compound, to study the ways in which this work differs from works of previous centuries. The analysis proceeds in logical order, beginning with identification of distinctive characteristics in general structure, in morphology, and in brushwork behaviour. Having outlined the general characteristics, we proceed to the identification of particular themes that seem ‘new’.

The ‘Index’ to our left indicates the organization of this illustration-cum-text paper. There are eight ‘chapters’, most comprising sections, each to illustrate a particular observation. Thus under changes in morphology, for instance, we find two (among doubtless many more) changes illustrated, one being a more rational interrelationship of formal elements within a single composition, the other being the schematisation and reduction of forms, as well as their decorative proliferation. The chapter on new brushwork behaviour, for instance, shows how Qing brushwork has become linear, uniform and unchanging, as well as decorative in its execution and in its dispersal. The second section shows how brushwork, and the larger units of brushwork in the form of minor motifs, are dispersed for a decorative effect. A third section presents the finding that the traditional ‘modelling stroke’ used for rough surfaces, the oblique axe stroke or fupicun 斧劈皴has disappeared entirely from view. Instead, they are replaced by an awkward application of L-shaped hooks and lines – all in the very same unswerving unified ‘line’.

Qing examples are used from the beginning to the end of the eighteenth century, their common features of newness identified. Together with these are the same manifestations from ‘ancient’ attributions illustrated. This helps us clear out a great deal of the erstwhile inexplicable gaps in stylistic continuity from Tang to Qing. It explains why we could not find anything from archaeological or more securely datable Song and Yuan examples from Japanese collections that correspond in style in structure or in brushwork. This is I believe because the Tang, Song, Yuan, and even Ming attributions introduced in these ‘pages’ are all products of the eighteenth century Qing, as we identify their Qing characteristics. Such is the advantage of approaching the history of Chinese painting without resorting first to labels, but depending first to last on the eye, and using texts and sources only in the second stage.

Such a presentation may seem unfriendly to those new to Chinese painting. I hope that to the seasoned student it may open another dimension to seeing. The hyper-linked names or terms need not be clicked during your first reading. Rather, click it only if you are curious, and click ‘close’ to return to the discussion. I hope you enjoy this experience, and since this is an experimental website with an open forum, don’t forget to visit the discussion area and make your contribution. It is only with corrections and additions and re-corrections that we can eventually be delivered from the seemingly everlasting ‘middle ages’ of Chinese painting studies where scholars are evidently hard put to date a painting within a thousand years.

徐小虎 謹識 Joan Stanley-Baker, Tainan, October 2003


乾隆朝的歐式銅版畫 圓明園西洋樓系列之一
Qianlong Court Engraving Yuanmingyuan Western Complex

This is one in the series of twenty copper engravings by European and Chinese Court artists depicting the various buildings, gardens and mansions built in the European compounds northwest of the Imperial Palace, begun by Kangxi era (r.1662-1723) completed under Qianlong (r.1723-1796). They testify not only to the original appearance of these complexes, but to the thoroughly hybrid fruit of this period of intense artistic exchange between East and West. In this example of the Yuanmingyuan 圓明園 Court for instance, artists trained in European architecture and painting techniques incorporate certain Chinese elements into their modern creations, including the curved bridge and gate either side of the mote-stream, and the earthen hillocks beyond the compound wall with their Chinese-style open pavillion. In painting the master for this copper engraving, they have created layered hills with rounded outline and gentle ‘shading’ interspersed with trees. These ‘hills’ are rendered with a ‘Chinese’ feel in shape and modeling – but executed in largely identical fashion, as everything else in the print, without individuation, contributing to the sense of overall unity that Wolfflin had observed in Baroque painting in Europe.

Striking is the Baroque expression of visual values in an amazing number of features that must have seemed new to the Chinese eye but yet have been almost instantly and masterfully absorbed into eighteenth century Chinese arts. In motifs these include wisteria (here organized into four European trellis clumps), the ornamental shrubs shaped like poodles, the flat-surfaced stone facade or wall, and in following images the Roman pine, the sculpture-like oblong rocks built in angular upward thrusts, the thickened, ornate and expressive clouds that thread their way horizontally through woods and mountains, as well shading of the underside of objects in European fashion seen in other Court works below, etc. Morphological novelties include the almost compulsive parallelism of lines (even without labyrinth), the regimented, equidistant disposition of linear elements, the half-realistic half-abstract depiction of natural forms arranged with decorative intention.

Most remarkable is the curious ‘brushwork behavior’ seen here in a new, Baroque linearity that dominates painting, where lines of all elements are largely reduced to equal value (inspired perhaps by the novelty of engraving, where linear uniformity is of course a direct result of the hard engraving tool or stylus?). The following segments explore these new features that, by the eighteenth century, are richly and deeply incorporated into Chinese Court and literati painting alike. And because of their common Baroque quality, it is easy to recognize these features as they appear also in the many forgeries evidently produced at this time.

This space on this Website is dedicated to a preliminary exploration of features that characterise this fascinating period. Readers are asked to realise that statements here are not final, but result of observations and comparisons that await refinement with your help. Please do not hesitate to query what you see, or to add your own observations and comments to what is hoped to become an open FORUM which hopefully will help turn a new leaf in our common pursuit.





結構特徵分析 New Features in Structure
Wang Hui (1632-1717) and Baroque Tendencies in the Yongzheng Era.


The various Baroque manifestations we shall examine in works the mid-eighteenth century by Tangdai 唐岱(1673-1752+), Huang Ding黃鼎 (1650~60–1730), Sun Hu孫祜 (active mid 18 c), or Wu Hong吳宏 (active 1750s), or indeed the Court commissioned paintings of consorts at leisure, copper engravings of Qianlong’s constructions or military campaigns, are mostly foreshadowed here in the later works of Wang Hui. These works by Wang Hui illustrate the encroaching parallelism of contour lines in the rounded ‘Southern school’ mountain forms that were already evident in the Yongzheng era. Most of the ‘European Baroque’ elements seen in the Qianlong–period paintings and engravings are already in formative process here. Wang’s own dynamic gathering and folding of concentric mountain forms rise and writhe as the proverbial “Dragon Arteries” advocated by Dong Qichang (1555-1636). Now adding opaque, ornamental ‘designer’ clouds to silhouette decorative tree foliage, increases rhythmic abstraction. This hallmark Qing feature becomes formulaic, regimented and decorative through the Yongzheng and Qianlong eras.

Here, in this first decade of the eighteenth century bracketed by Wang Hui’s three works, of 1702, 1706 and 1708 we see landscape evolving toward this new textural homogeneity. Now smoothly repeated mountain folds are whipped up like heavy cream, resembling the skin of the sharpei dog 沙皮狗. The overall linear parallelism, the surface or textural smoothness and uniformity anticipate the same characteristics in Europe-derived copper engravings, and may explain why Qing Court painters were so ready to embrace their introduction to Chinese painting with such ready acceptance.



在這十年間,我們看到王翬的山水畫逐步向一種新的、質感上的和諧發展,他重覆的柔滑山肌摺疊、像被攪打得發泡的奶油,或者像沙皮狗的皮膚。 王翬畫中線條的全面平行趨向,、其表面與質感上的柔膩感、皴筆線條化和一致性…等現象都和歐洲銅版畫懷著相同的美感趨勢,這或許可以解釋為什麼清代宮廷畫家好像早己為新形式的到來臨作好了準備,能充份地去擁抱和透入地吸收消化、運用、甚至於「漢化」歐洲神父們介紹給宮廷的個種巴洛克形式。


北宋之崇高元朝之深曠 Northern Song Magnitude, Yuan Clarity

Qing landscape paintings often evoke Northern Song painting in their grandeur, in the stunning height of their mountain forms, and actually surpassing the Northern Song in depth – because Qing painters have mastered Yuan recession into deep space as well. In spatial recessional consistency they also surpass the Yuan, for more than in Yuan painting they hint at incidents ‘beyond’ the clearly visible horizons. Thus ghost-like peaks or flat marshlands may loom pale in mists barely discernable, wafting up in the upper half of hanging scrolls, sighing from impossible distances. All the while, Qing monumental landscapes witness a sharp increase in human and structural incidents. Painters following Wang Hui ( 1632-1717), like Tangdai (1673-1752+), Sun Hu (Sun You, fl. 1750s) and Huang Ding (1650~60 – 1730) among others, all developed their own distinctive personal styles. In structure however they share common period characteristics.

At the same time, there is marked decrease in both motif variation and brushwork typology as well as in geological credibility. On the other hand, this reductionist development in Qing painting is amply compensated by stunning skills in draftsmanship and in its often hair-raising spatial aerobatics that lead the eye to soar and tumble from breathtaking heights and with dramatic ‘speed’.

Each of these painters has his individual stylistic preferences, but they collectively maintain the basic unitary principles outlined above. Walled compounds in dense woods are rendered skillfully to be seen clearly ‘from above’ as tucked hidden within dense woods or hills. The practice in and production of such rich and high-angled perspective like the Yuanmingyuan series depicting the ‘owner’s favourite retreat’ facilitated the creation of eremitic mountain villa-type compositions ascribed to beloved literati titans like Wang Wei, Lu Hong of the Tang, Guo Zhongshu and Li Gonglin of the Song plus their alleged imitations, as well as countless hand scrolls with close-up observations of human activity within pavilions or garden settings ascribed to Wen Zhengming and Qiu Ying (omitted in this discussion). Painters of the time perfected the bird’s eye view of mountain hideouts amidst dense foliage, with wall-enclosed complexes with manor houses and courtyards, all spied from above.

This fashion is seen in scrolls depicting mountain manors, courtyards bounded by moat and walls or fence, under the names of Li Sixun, Wang Wei or Li Gonglin. Mountain villa scenes and other hermitages all affording perfect visibility into the shenyuan 深遠deep- space interiors. This bird’s eye perspective also afforded many scenes of scholars or monks socializing or contemplating in outdoor settings that require the viewer to search through masses of woodland foliage before these are ‘discovered’, increasing the pleasure of viewing in this anecdotal ambience. This penchant echoes the Baroque fascination with skillfully crafted tiny drawers within drawers, all carved like gorgeous hollow ivory spheres within each other so highly prized at the time.



王翬之後的典型畫家如唐岱(1673-1752+) 仿范寬山水, 孫祜 (或祐, 約1750年代) 關山行旅圖,黃鼎 (1650~60-1730)群峰雪霽軸(1729)都有個別的風格偏好,但仍保有著上述基本的統一原則。在描繪密林中被牆垣包圍的住宅時,常相當技巧性地將視點提高以便清晰地看到藏在林木、山岳間的景物。這種隱居的意象和透視技巧的普遍化,由類似主人公之別墅如同「圓明園」圖等系列的繪畫及銅版圖畫之興起,促進了古人隱居之山莊畫類─如唐人王維的「輞川圖」,盧鴻的「草堂」,宋人李公麟的「山莊」─等主題的發展及作偽的能力和意圖。我們也可以在數不清以明朝大畫家文徵明或仇英命名的手卷中,像近距離觀察般,看見美麗典雅的人物在遠方涼亭、庭園或屋內活動的清晰景象(在本文略)。當時畫家都能完美地表現鳥瞰的視角,俯瞰隱蔽於繁密簇葉間,有籬笆、土牆環繞的莊園宅第與庭院。


形態特徵分析 New Features in Morphology: Interrelationships Rationalised

For the art historian, motifs and morphology are different aspects of investigation. Similar motifs appear in Chinese painting throughout its history: mountains, streams, trees, people and buildings. How these forms or motifs relate to each other – constitutes the morphological study that has proven unrivalled in dating art works, especially Chinese paintings that more than any other society tend to ‘follow the ancients’ and, as we see here, have in each age encouraged the major industry of forgery-production. Here we line up four sections of horizontal prints comprising landscape and figures.

For Song period landscape composition. structure and morphology, the Korean Mizangquan carved in the late tenth century (高麗成宗十年 991 CE) sutra Bizangquan 祕藏詮 – Secondc row left) together with the Liao dynasty sutra illustration 《遼藏/契丹藏》遼重熙七年(北宋景佑五年1038 CE, right, second row) provide ideally illustrate mediaeval perception that characterise structure and morphology of the early late10th-11th-century on the one hand, and those of the eighteenth century (below) on the other. The Korean and Liao works show a subjective approach to spatial extension into the background that has continued from Tang practice, where mountains even when rather tall, are depicted as viewer from the foreground, and especially in the Liao work, emphasis on ‘principal subjects’ makes them ‘larger than life’ – as here in the foreground worshippers standing, rather outsized, in the ‘rough’ waters.

In contrast, the woodcut from the Sackler Collection from the Bizangquan allegedly from a block dated to 1108 ( far right) 傳1108年木刻佛經插圖《秘藏詮》 , shows eighteenth century perception in its largely rational scale, where recession into depth is logical and consistent, and where mountains as they recede toward the farthest background are seen from a high vantage point and gradually diminishing in size along the way – but always pellucid even in the farthest distance, like the two copper engravings of the 1760s depicting Hongli’s martial exploits. In Qing rendering, although man-made structures are emphasised, as the thatched huts in the Bizangquan illustration, or the fortified stone structures in Hongli’s battlegrounds, the relationship of buildings to their contexts are clearly far more ‘rational’.

Unlike Song morphology, motifs become decorative in the eighteenth, and are distributed throughout the painting surface with the artistic intention to increase visual pleasure with carpet-like decorative spacing, regardless of subject matter. This is true of Buddhist as well as martial images, it would seem, and characterise this age.

In brushwork, major changes characterise the eighteenth century. Outlines become refined, and modelling of rocky surfaces with their hard, jagged texture is done in equally ‘refined’ and uniform linearity.

In contrast to the three Qing works, ‘brushwork’ even in the carved block of the Liao reflects painting of the time and the carved ‘strokes’ are more ‘realistically’ rendered, much as such rough surfaces were done in the eighth-century. Note the changing width of the strokes in the foreground wave curls, the mixed angular protrusions that model the central rocky mountain both along its vertical plane, and built up in front of it and to its right to suggest craggy ledges. These have entirely disappeared in the Qing Sutra example where instead a series of L- or 4-shaped lines represent the stony ledge beneath the three-story building between the two other thatched structures. (In other examples of craggy rocks we shall see elsewhere, they are ‘refined’ to become meaningless L-shaped gestures. The disappearance of the axe stroke, the avoidance(?) of visual references to rough surfaces suggest that perhaps Qing Court aesthetics found them harsh or ‘unsightly’ remnants from the downgraded ‘Northern School’ Tradition?)

形態特徵分析: 形式減化、係組化、繁複化
New Features in Morphology: Reduction, Schematisation and Proliferation



In eighteenth century painting, forms are reduced in type and simplified in structure. Rather than empirically-based texture modelling cunfa [皴法」for volume and surface roughage, artists now assume viewer-familiarity with subtleties of Chinese landscape painting. Tis can be seen (moving right from top left) in a mid-Qing handscroll for the Qianlong emperor describing aboriginal life in Taiwan, in a Hongli (Qianlong) battle copper engraving, in a snow landscape ascribed to Ming dynasty Master Wen Zhengming, and (below) in a Festivities scroll ascribed to 17th century painter Wu Bin, to Yuan master Qian Xuan, (further down), to Sui dynasty master Zhen Ziqian, yet another Qian Xuan handscroll, and Northern Song master Li Gonglin. In a dramatic move toward the decorative and evocative, and in keeping with Baroque tendencies prevailing in Palace objects like Europe-introduced clocks, Chinese painted ceramics, metals, lacquerware and textiles as well as painting also moves toward dramatic reduction and symmetrical arrangement of motif-types achieving in all a pleasing, harmonious, balanced and decorative effect. Not surprisingly, this is accompanied with a dramatic reduction in brushwork types, affecting the rendering of motifs which as a result become ‘cloned’.

A good example of this development are the symmetrical triangles that now appear as mountain forms. They indicate a new tendency toward brushwork linearity, here displayed in repeated echelons, as in the eighteenth-century anonymous work depicting Aboriginal life in Taiwan and the copper engraving of one of Hongli’s battles. The device is deployed with special effectiveness in coloured decorative painting – affecting most of all the ‘ancient’ works in the ‘Tang’ or fugu 復古 mode. And this is most apparent in forgeries done in blue-and-green paintings with fine-lined contours bearing ancient authorships like Qian Xuan ( b.1235, jinshi 進士1260-64) here seen in two spurious but attractive examples: Wang Xizhi Admiring Geese, and Homecoming from Office 傳錢選 歸去來圖卷). We see this practiced also in a landscape scroll ascribed to Wang Shen (ca. 1048 – ca. 1103) Yingshantu 傳王詵 瀛山圖, and in a lovely work ascribed to Zhan Ziqian (c.591-618), Spring Outing 傳展子虔 春遊圖 , and in an attractive album ascribed to Ming master Wu Bin 吳彬 (fl. 1568-1627) called Annual Festivities: Escaping Summer Heat 傳吳彬 歲華紀勝圖冊- 避暑. All the spurious works, like genuine works of the Qing, are founded on easily repeated simple formulae that when grouped in echelons produce a pleasing harmonious effect, without structural complications to tire the weary imperial eye.

Another hallmark is the high-angled grand perspective that takes in whole temple compounds, hermitages or villas, spread wide amidst mountains. The brushwork of the contour outlines, although on the whole even and unchanging in width, do repeat themselves in a sensuous manner displaying elegant ‘gestures’ 「姿態」in the execution of a single attenuated draw. This subtle tendency reveals a self-conscious self-display that had resulted perhaps from the overwhelming adoration of Yuan literati brushwork by Ming painters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We see this even in the engravings and prints, where the loss of descriptive function of contour lines are clearly evident. A good contrast of this shift in artistic intention is seen in the two Buddhist illustrations, one found in a Liao (980-1012) site, the other in the Fogg Museum purporting an improbable Song date that we have just seen.

Structure and morphology of the new ‘antiques’ tally with Court productions of the time. In effect we may consider the possibility that the blue-and-green style we have regarded as the artistic pinnacle of the Sui-Tang period, may in fact not have emerged till a millennium later. That is, we may posit that the Qing painting industry literally ‘invented’ this Sui-Tang style, based on glimpses of that style as it had been ‘refined’ over the centuries, in particular the in the late-Ming echoes of Wen Zhengming attributions in myriad elegant garden settings and courtly gatherings.

Highlighted in this selection is the regularised, virtually even spacing of the outlines. Morphological significance is given, not to the volume of each mountain, but to the elegant parallel brushwork in attenuated, languid lines that echo each other across gentle stretches of pale colours. That is, a subtly expressive, almost emotive quality in decorative brushwork has become the artistic intention. In such outlines they are further adorned with over-sized black ‘moss dots’ 苔點 that, in the eighteenth century, are often even further embellished with a bright mineral green centre.

Now blue-green mountain ranges are pacified, submissive, decorous like handmaidens. They are not distant, impenetrable, offering difficulties as did their Tang and Song forebears, as in this eighth-century Dunhuang image. The rolling hills do not form regimented symmetrical echelons, the artistic intention is to indicate distances between mountains by means of the ochre shading beneath each, separating it from the one in front. Trees, ornamental as they are for an expression of springtime, are not disposed at equidistant points as in the Yuanmingyuan engraving or the forged antique paintings. Technical stress is not on linear brushwork, but on the shading that differs from range to range for a sense of volume, and distance. The same general function and purpose continue in Japan into the thirteenth century, in a handscroll depicting the life of Monk Honen where the layers, albeit decorative, are built up of repeated applications of wash, graduating in tonal intensity for descriptive purposes. Not until the Qing do outlines become so obvious, so self-conscious and ‘alluring’.

The same brushwork-and-surface relation prevails on silk or paper. Except for monochrome works, colours in general are softly brushed onto clean surfaces that permit a characteristic transparency. Tonal shifts are typically gradual and colouring covers the entire surface, as in oil painting. Brushwork is notable for its elegant and elegiac movements that repeat themselves as do the motifs, in characteristic linear series or motif clusters. This elegant courtly manner was transferred to antique green-and-blue style painting that, on the one hand evolved from (genuine) narrative painting of the late Ming where compositions increasingly resembled ‘book illustrations’, expertly showing interior details, in concert with the rising popular genre of the novel and romance. On the other hand, however, it developed an ‘antique’ style then much in demand, and perfectly suited the ambience of the times as we see in the forged antiques selected here ascribed to legendary Masters of the Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. For the more ancient works, the choice and disposition of motifs necessarily underwent modification for an effect of distance and mystery to eighteenth-century eyes, albeit leaving telltale residues of current fashion.

梧桐雨 2007.11.04

Always intrigued by innovative cooperative new productions this reviewer eagerly accepts invitations from friends to see new productions like 梧桐雨, 快雪時晴, 王心心’s-霓裳羽衣. But first of all, is 梧桐雨 worth it? Absolutely YES!


Can 梧桐雨 be improved? Well, also YES! in several ways.

First though, top marks for the staging, the costumes and the lighting! A!

The innovative orchestration incorporating Oriental instruments was SUPERB! It is successful and marvellous. Double A! (One might add that the reedy 笙and嗩吶 – especially for the Hu- ethnic dancing passage – was very spicy!)

Second, the acting (that is, the directing) for the singers (under the condition of singing in Western opera style) B – B+

The story, including a visit to the Moon and a sort of cathartic ending – makes TOP opera material – A+

The lyrics: slightly mixed and forced, lacking in consistency – B

The singing was thankless: singers with excellent voices and training, singing difficult passages… But as it was they could not realize what they can do with their skills – because the opportunity for dramatic, moving, heart-rending expression was not in the music! And that is due, methinks, to the lack of harmonic foundations. Relying merely on modern serial music does not make for aural drama.

I may have heard a wisp of kunqu 崑曲 here and there – but don’t remember where. Thus, one could say its inclusion failed to elicit the desired effect of surprise or nostalgia.

I do remember being delighted – and relieved (sic) – upon hearing beiguan 北管in the gezaixi 歌仔戲passages. I was not alone. Each time the poet Li Bo came on stage the theatre was charged with excitement and the audience came back to life.

Unfortunately even here, the beautiful orchestration was not in support of the beiguan drift but rather was forcing its own modern mode through it – This was harmful to the overall effect.

This music has proven that it is eminently possible – and marvelous – to interweave non-western passages into “modern classical” music. After all, modern music, especially this one being often atonal – has no roots and no gravity. This is at the same time a defect in the overall concept. And here I feel strongly that: Love or other passion – of a romantic kind as in the Song of Everlasting Sorrow 長恨歌 variety – if not delivered in traditional Chinese operatic strains (or ban 板) which have long been already identified with certain emotions, – should be written in some sort of tonal, music with a harmonic foundation – music with the potential of having dramatic dissonances and clearly harmonic resolutions (Arvo Pärt is a great example.) Only this way can an audience feel the dramatic tensions one expects to experience in a passion of such magnitude as that between the emperor Tang Minghuang and his ill-fated consort Yang guifei. Setting the music in a cold, intellectual modern music that in itself has no built-in consonance and dissonance will lack root and base; and the listener does not feel departures and returns to tranquility in the music material itself. And that was a basic flaw in the new opera, the Firmiana Tree, to my mind.

How wonderful to have had real kunqu 崑曲(anachronistic it would be, though), even real Peking opera as well as Taiwanese (perfectly wonderful to bring out Tang rhyme schemes) beiguan 北管and go’ahi 歌仔戲in modern music!! And how very rich! But one needn’t virtually cancel them out with grating modernistic dissonances that run counter to the Li Bo singing, as if to be insisting “don’t forget ladies and gents we are doing 21st century modern music here!”

The Central Asian passages for the dance was marvelous and pure. I had been several times in Tashkent, and once at a local wedding heard them perform traditional music from ancient sites: Ferghana (where Zhang Qian 張騫found horses for Han Wudi漢武帝), Khorasmia and other parts, still enticing, playing instruments like(ly the progenitors of) the erhu, the clapper, as well as a hollow reeded instrument.

The Firmiana Tree program notes tell us that sections from Japanese Gagaku 雅樂and from Dunhuang music had been incorporated : I wish these could have been more obvious. I was so very keen to hear strains from these ancient times but left the theatre rather disappointed.

Is this the first time such daring combinations had been attempted? It is the first time I am going to theatres in Taipei with such frequency now that I have moved up here. As you know all these past years I’ve been in Xinzhu and Tainan and have remained not at all au courant with the Taipei cultural scene.

I am deeply impressed by the possibility such innovative work offers, and terribly excited it has started. (BTW There is no need for a barbarian – An Lushan – to sing in German, full of such difficult, closed sounds. If anything foreign, he might sing in east-Persian – from Sogdiana – the modern Uzbekistan – or, even Korean, Mongolian or Japanese – one of the Altaic languages related to the ancient Turkic family of An Lushan’s tribe?)

Sunlight After Quick Snow 快雪時晴

This production to my mind was much more successful in music and as a stage event. Although the music was not so innovative – it served perfectly to support the dramatic story! Here is where composer and dramatists should cooperate.

Here the dramaturgy wins high marks. Travelling through time can dramatically highlight certain aspects – and here in this work we see the feminine hand behind it – the Mother Eternal and her (so far still futile) opposition to wars and killings, epoch after epoch.

The scenery with the revolving stage, and calligraphy specimens so marvelously enlarged, were all plusses.

My greatest complaint comes again to the music – where the composer for some reason closes certain phrases on what in diatonic scale harmony would be a tonic triad, turning an otherwise Chinese polyphonic phrase into a Western do-mi-sol harmony block. This is like throwing a lump of vanilla ice cream into a cup of fresh hot jasmine tea. Incongruous and somewhat shocking, such a change in basic aural structure or musical modes serves only to stop the original flow and to take the audience out into the cold.

This same syndrome surfaced the last two nights at the “Mulian Saves His Mother (from Hell)” 泉州打城戲《木連救母》 performed by the visiting folk opera troupe from Quanzhou, where a silly ‘cello line emerged beneath the Chinese erhu and sanxian and cymbal music, making curious, unfitting do- mi- sols- in an accompaniment reminiscent of Renaissance or Baroque cembalo-and-continuo plucking the dominant and tonic up and down, sometimes running an arpeggio. This is a terrible mistake, and often caused the ending of lilting, melodic Chinese phrases to come bang up against a chunky “chord”, (with often the baseline resting on the lower third!!)

It is patently clear that Chinese opera phrases (of any style, Nanguan to Peking Opera) all end as “trailing, floating energy” that continue into the silences, whereas a triad chord is an abrupt cesura to that subtle movement, a STOP sign that blocks further breathing.

That baseline truly was irritating throughout, and to me proved conclusively that Chinese theatre music does not need the base support that has been the solid foundation to Western music. (The reason I think, is that Western music since becoming harmonic with the Renaissance, used in their melodies notes that are overtones to their given base strings. Thus the base line fortifies the tonality and the modality. But this is not the case in Chinese music and composers or musicians should not make this basic confusion!!)

But for Chinese Peking opera music to be supported with a Western symphonic orchestra, I think, can be quite acceptable and, as long as the music “behaves,” in not going contrary to the style, the orchestra may help Western audiences to get used to the relative naïveté and simplicity (i.e. the lack of harmonic substance) of Chinese music, as well as its high-pitched gut- and guttural vocal environment.

The addition of the Chinese cymbals and wooden clappers used traditionally to indicate and/or start off certain gestures, movements or emotions, turned out in this orchestra to be simply marvelous! They added so much richness and historic content to this modern blend!

The Story Line of Sunlight After Quick Snow: the pointed stress on the fugitive from civil warfare fleeing to “the south” was moving, and especially poignant to all the Chinese in the audience who are not native to Taiwan. Although here for already fifty years, they and their children are still called waishengren 外省人 and many have in recent years suffered sometimes brutal slings and arrows of DPP provincialism and parochialism. The dramatic import and the music combined in this work struck home, and many in the audience wept.

Lastly, 霓裳羽衣 proved a strange disappointment in the first part. The music and the musicianship of Wang Xinxin 王心心 were, as usual, unique and superlative. But like the disruptive ‘cello accompaniment in the Quanzhou folk opera “Mulian Saves His Mother (from Hell)”, the vocal centerpiece of Wang’s performance was disturbed and disrupted by the addition of a dumb-play where Tang Minghuang’s consort Yang guifei sits at her boudoir primping herself, attended by slow-motion ladies-in-waiting. To be sure, Wang’s lyrics describe the Lady Yang getting ready for her meeting with the emperor, the details of her garments etc. – but there was no need for the stage to be set in motion with that sort of meaningless pantomiming of the lyrics.

Wang Xinxin herself has a huge presence. She alone can fill the whole stage and far beyond, and her singing is enough to keep the audience entranced throughout. The superfluous mime-passages proved to serve as competition to the music, and caused the audience much distraction as they sought to get a better view of the actors, to see the details of their dress and hairdo – and thus lose the whole-hearted concentration on the music that should have been the sole object of attention. Wang’s music and her musicianship are both subtle and yet penetrating, and should be absorbed with one’s whole being down to one’s breathing.

The second part involved singing on the part of both Tang Minghuang and Yang guifei, in a lovely sequence where the couple wrote music and instructed court musicians in the performance of this their collaborative opus, and culminated in a very charming rendition of the new instrumental piece that ended the evening on a very positive note.

It looks from these exciting experimentations that our traditional arts have every chance of surviving into the future. The above examples of Taiwan’s musicians and dramatists today will go far in bridging the gulf from our forebears to our space-age descendants. Care must be taken however, when integrating traditional music with Western music, to preserve the basic aspects, or essential qualities of Chinese music whenever it may be invoked, and never to make the mistake of dressing it in a harmonic frame. Then we have the blessing of the ancient Chinese language (usually displayed with flash-cards on both sides of the stage). This is full of nuances and virtually any phrase can evoke even more ancient references and so, with this multi-layered linguistic base, Chinese musical theatre will certainly have a most brilliant future.