mjj (flemmings) wrote,

First pedantry, then reflection

The Night Revels of Minister Han Xizai was painted in the 10th century by Gu Hongzhong (another representation with linked closeups is here.) 'Painted in five panels' doesn't mean 'reproduced in five panels.' Good, that's cleared up.

Wandering about NY on Monday, trying to locate Kinokuniya while passing Saks 5th Avenue here or observing the mouth-watering sales on denki seihin there, I realized that many people come to NY to shop for, well, other things than I come to shop for, certainly. But these days, with cheap bk1 shipping and increasing numbers of- feh- translated manga not only at Kino but at Bookoff itself, I don't really come to buy manga anymore. (Though I'm sorry to have missed Kino while I had US money during loonie-daka-- Saiyuki Reload and Onmyouji and Ravages of Time would have been mine without waiting for shipping. OTOH I'd probably have bought a new Wordtank for heart-stopping prices, just for the ability to see what it looks like and does, and there goes my VISA. Sai Weng's horse and all.)

I go to see what wonders paleaswater will introduce me to this time. paleaswater has an enviable track record in that respect. The short list goes something like- Saiyuki, 100 Demons, Hatsu Akiko and all her works (and my but there are a lot of works), Yasha Kisouden, Konron no Tama, Yumemakura's Onmyouji, Okano's Onmyouji (I saw it in Japan; I sneered at it, in Japan), and Okano's Youmihenjou Yawa. (I stole borrowed vol.2, M. Suggestive dialogue with the dragon king's brother needs to be parsed more closely than I could on Monday night.) I believe kickinpants sent me the Onmyouji movies first, but paleaswater was the one with the Nomura Mansai fixation. And that's only the Japanese stuff; the Chinese is another list entirely, with Woxin most pre-eminent, and Yue opera now coming up behind.

So we recall The Book Collectors? How different it looks on a large flatscreen TV (plasma or VCD, I wonder?) than on one's chronically too-dark monitor. (I also covet M's laptop.) How easy it is to read the subtitles. How beautifully the music comes across. How heartbreakingly lovely the whole thing is.

Then there was Luo Ping's paintings at the Met. This always happens when I go to the Met with paleaswater. Paintings, ne? You should be looking at the art, right? Not trying to read the poems, right? But there we always are, trying to read the poems, which Luo Ping has written in obligingly large, clear, simplified characters in order to look--- what was it, M? ancient? rustic? After all, there are only so many pictures of plum blossoms one can look at with satisfaction, but Chinese poems-- if they are poems, which is not at once obvious in these scrolls and such-- are infinite in their variety.

I don't remember when the idea first occurred to me that maybe possibly I might learn to read Chinese, but I suspect it was six years ago in '03 when I first went to the Met with paleaswater and first actually *looked* at the writing. Facile decensus Averno-- and all downhill after that.

There were lovely cakes in the dramatic blue and black autumn city. There was the mild golden sunshine on the remains of the elevated train tracks whose transformation into a tidy promenade so disappointed nojojojo. There was Jung's painfully hand-printed medieval MS-type Red Book which of course I'd never heard of until paleaswater mentioned it. There was that recreation of The Night Banquet of Han Xizai that she mentions in her own entry, so that now I have an aesthetic idea of what Tang costuming actually looked like, which oddly the historicals never gave me.

Aesthetics is necessary because I want to do an aesthetically more pleasing Judge Dee than van Gulik does, and van Gulik's illustrations occupy my head to the exclusion of everything else. If I can start with a figure who more resembles a real Chinese guy with a beard than Gulik's Chinese Opera-looking oyaji ('looking' to my eye, though I'm sure it's quite an accurate reproduction of whatever it's supposed to be) then I may have an idea of where to go with this. (No, as a true corrective, what I need is to write Judge Dee/ Chiao Tai slash, and then I'll no longer be in van Gulik territory for sure.)

The night banquet gave me all sorts of ideas. As, I'd never realized how sensuous an instrument a pipa is just in its shape. Gives me ideas about Seimei's Hiromasa and his biwa. The scene changers were costumed as Chinese eunuchs (most apparently were westerners and one had a beard, but hey- union rules are union rules.) Which made me think. What gets left out of modern consciousness entirely is the chronic presence of mhhh what's sort of seen as not-people: underservants, eunuchs, faceless human furniture that can be ignored or disregarded. We had it up to the last century, even, though only just; for instance, the dictum that a well-trained servant never knocks on a closed door, just walks in and announces whatever it is to you as you use the chamberpot or change your menstrual rags or whatever. Very possibly, helps you use the pot or change your rags-- I mean, someone has to hold your voluminous skirts and take away the nasty things after. Um, yeah. They do things differently there. So, food for thought, and possibly in time fics.
Tags: art, chinese, history, music, onmyouji, place, rl_09, writing
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