“Yao”: the Illusion of Land from Homeland
Source:Artintern Author:Wu Hong Date: 2014-10-24 Size:
Following last exhibition themed as “淼(miǎo)”, this exhibition is called “垚(yáo)” which is as splendid as last one. What’s interesting is that “土(tǔ)” and “水(shuǐ)” are mutual overcoming...

The Posteria of “Yao”: The Imagination From Land To Homeland

It’s quite an intellective way of nomination for the exhibition.

In traditional Chinese philosophy, Wu Hang (five elements) is the fundamental one, which is based on five natural materials but also transcend them, forming Chinese traditional thinking mode and logic diagram. Therefore, Wu Hang is both specific and abstract. Meanwhile, Wu Hang is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, based on which the “mutual generation” and “mutual overcoming” have been constructed covering Chinese traditional knowledge system and thinking mode. Hence, the five elements, Metal (金 jīn), Wood (木 mù), Water (水 shuǐ), Fire (火 huǒ), and Earth (土 tǔ), are transcending into abstract concepts.

In light of the background, the “Recreation” series exhibition proposed by Suzhou Yucun Art Museum adopts the Wu Hang as a basis, providing the exhibition an extensive space. Embraced by the specific traditional culture of Suzhou, the “Recreation” exhibition aims at surpassing the tradition and reconstructing a new Suzhou culture. In order to achieve this goal, the theme is using the Chinese way of word-formation, trebling Metal (金 jīn),Wood (木 mù), Water (水 shuǐ), Fire (火 huǒ), and Earth (土 tǔ) into “鑫、森、淼、焱、垚”. Set in this way, the whole exhibition is given the semantic attributes and spiritual space. The final artwork named as “众(zhòng)” highlights the entire exhibition to a meaningful level. In a broad way, not only the theme of the exhibition is based on traditional culture of Suzhou, but also it expresses the expectation of constructing multi-culture.

Following last exhibition themed as “淼(miǎo)”, this exhibition is called “垚(yáo)” which is as splendid as last one. What’s interesting is that “土(tǔ)” and “水(shuǐ)” are mutual overcoming. Would the theme of next exhibition be “森(sēn)”? Personally, I think Xiaodong Wang, the director of Yucun Art Museum, wishes each exhibition excels the last one.

As the planner of this session of exhibition, my expectation of “淼(miǎo)” is to reach a level that concerns about social issues and culture. As a matter of fact, it literally resembles the changes of “土 (tǔ)” into “垚(yáo)”.

Physically, “土 (tǔ)” is a changeable concept, which means the soil. Once upon a time, there was no soil in this planet. It’s the weathering and accumulation of rocks that contributes to the existence of the soil; meanwhile, in the forming process of soil, diverse living beings and microorganism came out. Therefore, the concept of soil contains the implication of change and accumulation. Semantically, different meanings can be extended from “soil”, such as “land” and “mainland”. That’s why I do not want to limit “土 (tǔ)” within certain specific materials, but into a broad concept contains the meanings of change and accumulation.

In the book Shuōwén Jiězì (literally: "Explaining and Analyzing Characters"), the soil is the origin of all living beings. What’s more, in the “Oracle”, soil is written as , which combines an underscore (representing the land) and the symbol of ◇ (representing female genitalia). This kind of expression is a result of the worship to the reproduction. In ancient China, most of the characters are hieroglyphic tagged with simple meaning and subjective. But in the “Oracle”, the concept of “土 (tǔ)”(the soil) has surpassed its natural attributes, given complicated social features, and is a symbol of breeding, growth and maturity.

Community origins from the accumulation of Soil, the original meaning of which is a platform piled up by soil. In ancient time, people thought that the soil could breed all the living beings, and was also thought as the basis of human existence and the precondition of social existence. Therefore, the land became more important and is gifted with holiness. In order to show respect to the holiness, people piled up platforms to offer sacrifice. Hence the place people made sacrifice became a place for public gathering. Thus the meaning of community is extended into basic organization and non-governmental organization. The later generations made soil and grain together to symbolize the land and crops, which reflects China as a country based on agriculture. Soil and grain together, which means land and food, become the symbol of a country.

Together with the changes concept from soil to land even to the country, “土 (tǔ)” is more than a specific material but an abstract social concept. Meanwhile, along with the development of social culture, the land is endowed with literal and cultural connotations.

“Local customs” and practices are formed by the physic-geographical environment; when highlight the unique cultural feature, we can bring out the concept of “local culture”; in the population migration, “homeland” is established on the land and culture, giving people a sense of belonging.

In history, in terms of geographical range, we are used to call Wu and Yue dynasties together. Personally, the Wu and Yue dynasties feature aboriginal culture with less connection to central China, forming transitional feelings of “homeland”.

In the Wu Taibo Shijia of Records of the Grand Historian, Wu Taibo (Tai Bo) and his Brother (Zhong Yong) were sons of King Tai Zhou, and brothers of Ji Li. Ji Li was prominent and he had a brilliant son named Ji Chang whom King Tai wanted to make the prince and then gave the thrown to. Then Tai Bo and Zhong Yong both escaped to the south belonging to the barbarians, where they did in Rome as Rome did, swearing to god that they would never want to be the king. Ji Li then was made the king, and Ji chang became the King Wen of Zhou. The barbarians in the south admired the merits of Tai Bo and then made Tai Bo their King named after Wu Taibo. When his descendant Ji Fa (King Wu of Zhou) established Zhou Dynasty, Wu Taibo was officially named as “King Tai of Zhou”.

So as one of the forefathers of Wu culture, Tai Bo migrated to the south because of political struggle (though in the Wu Taibo Shijia of Records of the Grand Historian, Wu Taibo was described as a person of high morality, I would rather regard his behavior as inner political struggle). To some degree, it contributed to the diversification of Southern culture. Since the Northern and Southern Dynasties, lots of rich and powerful families migrated to the southern part due to wars or political struggle. What’s more, many retired officers preferred the south as a place for retirement. Until Ming and Qing Dynasties, the South of China played an important role in economy. We may still hold the wonders of classic gardens and carry on the feelings of those away from home.

Nowadays, because of the economic development model, a large amount of new residents have gradually changed the culture of Suzhou, which also means a lot to the construction of new culture.

Manufacturing industry, as the pillar industry of Suzhou, features in export-oriented economic model, which is an epitome of the social development since the reform and opening-up policies. Such kind of economic model can be seen from the large amount of population immigration and dynamic social structure. The visual modality has been unprecedentedly and thoroughly changed. No more appearance of imagination about a small bridge over the flowing stream, but the wide roads and parks.

The homelands that we were familiar with no longer exist, not to mention the culture land. Under the background of globalization, Suzhou, in the process of resources allocation, aiming at manufacturing industry, has destroyed the traditional structure, which also brings the lost sense of homeland and belongings. In such situation, the diffusion of “homesickness” is an expectation of traditional culture’s return. In the Spring Silkworms written by Mao Dun, the narration of the social structure transformation shocked us in the destruction of traditional homelands:”the sounds of machines and smelly “foreign oil” are treading on the peaceful and green fields……”

Here, as Svcmala Boym (the American sociologist) says that: “homesickness maybe just for those non-exist homelands. But it’s still filled with romantic feelings. Actually, homesickness is a cherishment for different ages and slow paces existing in childhood and dreams.”

Therefore, the cultural imagination of homeland has been put into our exhibition, which can show the comparative thinking of the old and new Suzhou. The social and cultural problems generated from globalization will also be our theme.

In view of the above knowledge, “土 (tǔ)” is not only a matter of nature material, but also a cultural deduction. “Object” combined with “meaning” can be a good presentation of the theme.

Written in Tongzhou, Beijing March 24, 2014

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[Editor] 孙雯