After the International Falun Dafa Experience Sharing Conference in Washington, DC, I went to Philadelphia to serve as one of the Chinese- and English-speaking docents for two excellent art exhibits: "Uncompromising Spirit" and "Famous Artists' Original Works Collected by the Dai Family." Falun Dafa practitioners in Philadelphia spent several months preparing for these art exhibits.
Philadelphia was only one stop in these exhibits' tour around the world, which has included Australia, Taiwan, New York, and San Francisco.
Being a docent was a new challenge for me, because I knew nothing about traditional Chinese painting and I was going to have to talk about the ideas, the spirit, and the painting skills of these traditional Chinese paintings to Americans. But in order to allow more people to learn about Falun Dafa and the persecution, this challenge was no reason to feel intimidated or to walk away. Moreover, I believed that the wisdom gained from Falun Dafa would allow me to fulfil this responsibility.
This was the first time in my life that I had ever seen original paintings by renowned painters from China. As an ordinary Chinese person, it is actually very difficult for us to have the opportunity to see these original works by well-known painters. Even though I have visited a Chinese museum in Taipei, I did not have the good fortune to see such works.
Why do Tony Dai and his mother travel all over the world to show this exhibition of original works in city after city, and, with hearts of great compassion, not seek any return for sharing their invaluable and precious collections with the public?
It is because Tony Dai's mother regained her life after practising Falun Dafa. Falun Dafa also completely changed her values. She said, "Our Teacher teaches us to be a good person with 'Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.' I think that the only thing I can do is to take out these works, collected by several generations of our family, and share them with the public to spread and promote Chinese traditional culture spanning over five thousand years. While promoting this exchange between Eastern and Western cultures through this painting exhibition, I also hope to appeal to all the kind-hearted people around the world to pay attention to Qi Bingshu, the granddaughter of renowned painter Qi Baishi. Ms. Qi Bingshu continues to be persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party because of her persistence in practising Falun Gong."
This was what I said in my introduction to each group of visitors I guided. I wanted each visitor to understand that this precious opportunity came from a selfless offer by Falun Dafa practitioners, who have a sincere wish to appeal to the world to help end the brutal persecution against Falun Gong practitioners.
During the first day of the art exhibit, I carefully listened to the explanations given by Falun Dafa practitioners who were once professional docents. One of them told me that, during the art exhibition in Taiwan, her unique, original and profound analysis and explanation of the paintings easily convinced the visitors. She was very surprised at how smoothly and fluently her thoughts were translated into the most effective words and at how the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" manifested themselves in her explanation. She said to me with conviction, "I knew that I was not the source of the narration, rather, it was Teacher's wisdom that helped me do the narration." Her words really affected me! It is indeed the case that whatever practitioners do, we cannot deviate from the guidance of the principles taught in Falun Dafa. I read Teacher's lecture "Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art" again and again during the week-long art exhibit. Because I was also viewing these paintings by renowned painters over and over very closely, I gradually developed some knowledge of traditional Chinese paintings with regard to painting skill, angles and composition, use of materials, and so on. I also had a much deeper understanding of the characteristics of Chinese painting such as "the resemblance of a godly nature instead of the resemblance of physical forms" and the idea that "another painting exists beyond the painting and that poems are embedded in the paintings."
It is exactly as Teacher has said,
"From the very beginning of its inheriting process, the Chinese arts were established from a semi-divine culture. In other words, half of the emphasis was not on the human surface but on the spirit of the subject, its allure, and the inner meanings. That's why the manifestations of all aspects of the Chinese culture had that characteristic, especially in fine art, where they don't really pay attention to depicting the details on the surface, they focus on expressing the ideas, or the spirit of it, and the inner meanings." ("Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art")
These principles cleared up my confusion and lack of clarity. In the scenery, flowers, birds and characters presented on each painting, I could point out the profound thinking, sentiments, and rich connotations within these renowned artists' paintings.
The main theme of China's traditional culture and art has been the level and states of cultivation practice that focused on showing respect and awe to Buddhas and Taos, worshipping nature, and yearning for the holistic integration of the universe and humanity. These characteristics have been realised and presented in the paintings of these modern artists. At the same time, the noble and moral characters of these renowned artists deeply touched me. It is precisely because they valued their virtue so greatly and cultivated their minds so earnestly that their artistic works were able to manifest such high level states. Many artists were tortured and persecuted by the Chinese Communists during the Cultural Revolution, yet they still did not change their original character or attitudes. Li Keran was jailed in a cowshed during the Cultural Revolution, but he playfully referred to that cowshed as Shi Niutang, a place to learn from the cow, in his painting of a shepherd boy to encourage himself to learn the cow's ability to endure humiliation and undertake heavy assignments.
The brushwork on the hawk in Pan Tianshou's painting is strong and powerful. By portraying the unruly character of the hawk, the painter suggested his disdain for authority as well as his unyielding character and integrity. This really impressed the spectators. I told them that, during the more than 50 years of oppressive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, the CCP has destroyed the Chinese characters that depicted awe of heaven and earth and respect for living beings, both of which originated in Buddhist and Taoist cultures in ancient China. I told them how the CCP has abused the spirits and bodies of intellectuals, how it ruthlessly killed a large number of well-educated intellectuals, and how it has enslaved the Chinese people for several decades. All of these connotations are directly and indirectly reflected in the painter's work.
Respecting and worshipping Buddhas and Taos has been the main theme of Chinese culture, and it was also an important part of this art exhibition. The first painting depicted the dignified and compassionate Buddha image of Boddhidarma, who stood on a reed stalk and drifted across the river. I told viewers that what makes this painting different from the others is the material used in the painting. The material was made by mixing gold powder with pure rubber from the rubber plant. The techniques of spot drawing and line drawing from traditional Chinese painting were used to create Boddhidarma's vivid and lifelike facial expression.
Another painting portraying Buddha's image was Zhang Daqian's "Bodhisattva Guanyin with Fish Basket." The girl selling fish is in fact the incarnation of Bodhisattva Guanyin. The source of this painting comes from a well-known folktale.
Oftentimes, characterising the mountains, water, rivers and scenery in nature is a major theme in traditional Chinese paintings. This theme also reveals the inherently serious nature of traditional Chinese paintings. Namely, it is built upon the respect for nature and the pursuit of the integration of heaven and the human in Chinese traditional culture. In addition, artists also often expressed in their paintings their levels and attitudes towards life, that is, for practising cultivation and returning to one's true self. I mentioned that the value and level of a painting is a reflection of the moral standard of the painter, and that the painters expressed in their works their lighthearted attitude towards both fame and fortune in the mundane world. Isn't this the level and attitude toward life of a practitioner? Both Tao Yuanming's ease of "Picking Chrysanthemums under the Eastern Fence, Calmly and Quietly Watching the Southern Mountains" and his liberation and freedom that "he did not bend and bow to trade five buckets of rice" are a prototype of a practitioner influenced by Chinese traditional culture.
From these original paintings we see that they are, in fact, telling us that China's traditional culture is a culture of cultivation practice. Through explaining and analysing these original paintings, I have delivered this explicit information to each viewer.
As to the second part of the "Uncompromising Spirit" art exhibition, I applied and blended into the explanation my own understanding of "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" as a practitioner. So when attendees enjoyed viewing the paintings, they could feel and appreciate Falun Dafa's wonder and auspiciousness, and thus the strong contrast between the practice and the brutality and irrationality of the persecution could be revealed.
There were many touching events and moments every day. An elegantly dressed Chinese lady very attentively listened to my nearly one hour explanation. Before she left, she bought a Qi Baishi notebook to give to me. An American couple came to learn more about the mysterious curative and healthy effects of Falun Dafa. The wife had just come out of the hospital, and she had read about the art exhibition. She was hoping to speak with Ms. Dai. After the explanation, she listened to my suggestion and bought a copy of the Falun Dafa book, Zhuan Falun to read at home.
Through my participation in this art exhibit, I also enlightened to more in-depth and deeper principles of the practice and realised that all cultures in history came here for Falun Dafa.
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