Friday, April 01, 2005

Oded Shenkar - The Chinese Century

Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with professor Oded Shenkar, Ford Motor Company Chair, Global Business Management, Ohio State University, and the author of, "The Chinese Century -- The Rising Chinese Economy and its Impact on the Global Economy, The Balance of Power and Your Job." (Streaming in MP3 and Windows Media.)

Shenkar points out that before the US surpassed England to become the world's largest economy (150 years ago), the British regarded Americans as cheap labor, and felt confident about their superior ability to innovate :-) He also mentions that the number of science and technology PhDs produced in Asia now surpasses the number produced here. (Furthermore, half of US PhD recipients are foreign nationals.)


Anonymous said...

The Met's Magnifying Glass on a Single Chinese Emperor's Court

When it comes to Chinese art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art can think big or small with equal effectiveness. Over the last two decades, in particular, it has alternated between encompassing horizon-broadening endeavors, like last fall's imposing survey of Chinese art from 200 to 750, and highly focused shows that spotlight a particular medium or period while demonstrating the extraordinary richness of the Met's holdings.

In its own high-powered way, "Defining Yongle: Imperial Art in Early 15th-Century China" exemplifies the Met's thinking small. With about 50 objects from the museum's collection and a few outside lenders, the show trains a magnifying glass on the court art of a single Ming emperor, the great Yongle, who ruled China from 1403 to 1424.

The first show at the Met to focus on one Chinese ruler, it includes a dozen new and newish acquisitions, and ranges through paintings, sculpture, lacquer ware, metalwork, textiles, cloisonné and ivory. It has been organized by Denise Patry Leidy, associate curator in the museum's department of Asian art, and James C. Y. Watt, the department's chairman.

Zhu Di (1360-1424), who would be called Yongle (Perpetual Happiness), is often compared to Peter the Great; the analogy fits in terms of brilliance, ambition, historical importance and brutality. Yongle's father, Zhu Yuanzhang, was the first Ming emperor, and a commoner who seized the throne after playing a leading role in the rebellion against the Mongol emperors of the Yuan Dynasty. Yongle (pronounced YOONG-LUH), his fourth son, was not supposed to succeed him, and he didn't. The son of an older brother was named emperor when Yongle's father died in 1398, but after three years of civil war, Yongle drove him from the throne. He then set about laying the cultural, political and physical foundations that would sustain China for centuries to come. During his relatively brief reign, he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing and vastly expanded the Forbidden City that 22 successive emperors would call home. He completed the Grand Canal connecting the Yangtze River to northern China and sent out six large armadas for trade and exploration.

At home, he commissioned scholars to write an encyclopedia of classical and contemporary knowledge, which eventually numbered more than 11,000 volumes. His centralization of power and money was a particular spur to the decorative arts. Yongle's reign is considered the classic period for white porcelains and brought a revival of excellence in carved cinnabar lacquer.

Like Peter the Great, Yongle was a study in contradictions. A devout Tibetan Buddhist to the point of fanaticism, he ruthlessly executed not only his enemies but also their families and friends, sometimes in great numbers. And like Peter, he encouraged cultural openness, maintaining diplomatic ties with the Mamluk Empire based in Egypt and Syria, the Timurid Empire of Iran and Afghanistan and the Ashikaga shogunate in Japan. He also took full advantage of the accomplished workshops, populated by craftsmen from all of Asia, that the Yuan emperors had built.

This show is a kind of tasting menu of those workshops' extraordinary capabilities and includes examples of all the imperial and Buddhist art forms produced during Yongle's reign. On its own, nearly every object here is a kind of exquisite morsel, and the prevailing perfection is echoed by the setting, the sanctumlike Chinese Decorative Arts Galleries upstairs from the main Asian art galleries.

But together the objects illuminate the messy cultural openness of Yongle's court, reminding us that any culture is always an amalgam of many. In this case the amalgam included elements from India, Nepal and especially Tibet, as well as the Mamluk and Timurid cultures.

One vitrine displays a 15th-century Yongle period Ming porcelain blue and white basin beside a 14th-century Mamluk dynasty enameled glass basin. They are all but identical in shape and size, but the Mamluk basin is decorated with willowy Arabic script, while the Yongle basin is a controlled riot of scrolling vines of lotuses, chrysanthemums and peonies. A blue-and-white porcelain flask reflects the adaptation of an Islamic eight-pointed medallion, but the eight leaf-tip shapes nudging into its central circle introduce naturalistic (and painterly) inconsistencies that enliven the entire design.

Much of the power of this show resides in the details, and in the psychological intensity that exquisite craftsmanship and its tolerance for subtle variations can exude. This intensity legislates a kind of equality between different mediums and stylistic modes, especially the decorative and the representational. It is also reflected in the way certain motifs and devices migrate from object to object, and from art to life....


Anonymous said...

Asia Week Is Here, There, Everywhere

TIME was that Asia Week in New York meant one-stop shopping. You went to the International Asian Art Fair, and the who's and what's that mattered were there: dealers, collectors, curators, scholars and, of course, art. Sure, there was the odd outside show. Giuseppe Eskenazi flew in from London with Chinese sculpture that made everyone faint. But the fair, at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue, was Asian Art Central, at least for that week.

Much has changed. Now Asia Week is a complicated package deal. The fair, 10 years old, is in place, seasoned and attractive, if thinner and less than electrifying than of yore. And gallery shows are all over the place. Some are put together by art fair dropouts who set up shop in rented spaces; others by Manhattan galleries that also have booths at the armory; and still others by dealers who never signed on with the fair.

The point is that to fully experience Asia Week now, you have to leave the armory and hit the streets. And this is healthy. It gets the blood going, brings in new players, spreads the energy. Besides, with China cracking down hard on "cultural property" exports, who can predict how the art business will go? Best to diversify, though so far, business this Asia Week seems to be going fine.

Naturally, it would have been great if the Asian Art Fair's 1996 start-up team of dealers had stayed intact. But in fact some of the team is intact, which is why the fair continues to bring surprises, and why people come back.

You walk into the show this year and the first thing you see is a nearly life-size stucco sculpture of a smiling young woman, full-breasted and nude to the waist. She looks familiar, but you can't quite place her. An uncharacteristically cheerful Venus? An unusually demure nature goddess? She's the Buddha's mother, Maya, carved in the third century B.C. in the area known as Gandhara - now in Pakistan and Afghanistan - where India and the Mediterranean met.

She's one of several marvelous Gandharan pieces brought by John Eskenazi, cousin of Giuseppe, another being a grave, bearded, bare-chested male who looks like Zeus but is probably the bodhisattva Vajrapani. All biceps and soul, he's pure proto-Michelangelo. But he's upstaged by two South Indian temple bronzes, absolute classics, and another rarity: a carved terracotta column from Chandraketugarh, dated to the first or second century B.C. and covered with loving couples, animals, demons and flowers.

Mr. Eskenazi's booth is itself an art fair classic: you drop by every year wondering if it'll blow you away again, and it does. The same goes for Doris and Nancy Wiener's display. It's particularly rich in Khmer sculptures this time, among them a small bronze statue of the goddess Prajnaparamita, the symbolic mother of us all, whose dozens of raised protective arms look like unfolding wings....


Anonymous said...

We can be so darned foolish.


Anonymous said...

A Cultural Ambassador Bred in Cultural Revolution

BERLIN - Wang Jin, the chief guest conductor of the Komische Oper, or Comic Opera, here remembers how he started violin lessons in his Beijing roughly 30 years ago.

"We had to put a mute on the violin," he said, "and we drew heavy curtains over the windows, so nobody could see or hear from outside. My mother was a pianist at the Central Philharmonic Orchestra and we lived in the orchestra's dormitory, so it wasn't hard to find somebody to teach me.

"But even practicing scales was forbidden," he said, recalling that at that moment in China there was a major propaganda campaign against Western classical music. "There was hardly any sheet music. It had all been confiscated by the Red Guards." When a friend furnished a clandestinely preserved book of violin scores for two days, Mr. Wang's mother spent an entire night copying it by hand.

Mr. Wang is now one of a handful of Chinese conductors working in European opera houses and symphony halls, proving, along with Chinese singers and instrumentalists, that China can export Western goods other than children's Christmas toys.

Still, Mr. Wang represents something pretty new - a Chinese conductor telling Europeans how to play European music - and like most things new, there is some fairly rough adjusting taking place. Mr. Wang, who has won nine major European conducting competitions and conducted some 500 concerts in the past decade or so, is clearly having a real career here.

And yet, he has the conviction that he is being held back by a certain doubt: the sense that, because he is Chinese, he can't really, fully, deeply get it.

He said: "When I tell an orchestra, 'With Mozart, you should use a certain kind of bow,' they say: 'We are Austrians; you are Chinese. How can you tell us how to play Mozart?' "

These days, Mr. Wang is conducting a new Comic Opera production, Benjamin Britten's "Albert Herring," a strange kind of hybrid. It began as a story by Guy de Maupassant, was converted by Britten into a parody of small-town English manners, and is being presented in German in Berlin with a Chinese conductor.

"Many people wanted me to give up, even my friends," Mr. Wang said in a recent conversation. "They never really thought I could become a conductor here, but I always believed I could do it."

Mr. Wang was born in 1960 into a rare family of Western musicians, his father a famous voice teacher (some of whose students now sing in Europe), his mother a pianist. When the ban on Western music was lifted in the early 1980's in China, he got conducting experience with several orchestras, including the Shanghai Philharmonic.


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