In the Eyes of the Culturati
Miss Annie Wu is not only a businesswoman with strong leadership style, she also promotes culture with a critical and sharp mind. She was the first to set up her business in China when
China started to allow foreign investment. She is the Managing Director of Hong Kong Beijing
Air Catering Ltd - the first Chinese-Foreign joint venture enterprise. Hong Kong's return to China
has a great impact on China's cultural development. It didn't take her any time to realize this. Last year Miss Wu had already organized cultural exchange programs for youth and students, sowing
the seeds of cultural development.
"I am not a culturati, but one who helps in promoting culture. By Miss Annie Wu"
Miss Annie Wu is not only promoting Chinese culture with her own heart, she is the boss of Hong Kong Beijing Air Catering Ltd, the first Chinese-foreign enterprise in China. Being a well known politician and be successful in every aspects is not easy. How can she manage all of her affairs?" Business is my career, promoting culture is my interest," she said. Although she regards it as her interest, one can still sense her enthusiasm, seriousness and devotion.
Miss Wu often travels between Hong Kong and the mainland and is familiar with Hong Kong and China. On the two region's appreciation of traditional culture, she said Hong Kong had been going after the West, and in recent years going after Japanese popular culture. The young people are too busy to develop an understanding on Chinese culture and arts. But she is confident that since Hong Kong has returned to China and China has now a higher international status, the tide will change. Hong Kong has recognized the importance of understanding China and Chinese culture. People in the mainland, on the other hand, have very high art achievements and potentials. Having grown up among traditional Chinese arts, they will be able to grasp the essence of Western culture and extend their potentials once given the chance.
Promoting culture in Hong Kong is a difficult task. Miss Wu agreed. She said most young people in Hong Kong are shortsighted and go after enjoyments in life. Although this is inevitable in a society driven by its economy, she still believes there are youth who care for the motherland, who have studied and understand Chinese culture. Miss Wu is not scorning the young people but her expression shows her real concern for the younger generation. She advised them to seize Hong Kong's edge in being in touch with the world and at the same time the bridge of China and the world. As China opens up, Hong Kong people should learn more from traditional Chinese culture so as to equip themselves.
Promoting culture is not something that happens just now. There must be a vision with concrete proposals. Miss Wu has been paying real efforts all along, and is recently involved in establishing the Chinese History & Culture Educational Foundation For Youth. The Foundation is planning to recruit members from secondary schools and sponsor them cultural exchange trips to the mainland to meet calligraphers, painters and artists. The aims is to increase their understanding
of China and promote Chinese culture. This summer, The Foundation will sponsor several hundreds secondary students for a trip to the Silk Road to encourage them to experience Chinese history and culture. This will certainly be more interesting than the books. They will have the chance to experience the diversity and richness of Chinese culture. This is exactly what our Silk Road development projects are trying to do.
Lastly, Miss Wu shares with us her sweets and sours in promoting culture: chance to visit the mainland and widen her horizon; experiencing the culture and custom of different tribes, like folk dance, costumes and folk arts; and the chance to make friends. These are the sweets. What disappointed her is the fact that mainland people do not appreciate the importance of preserving cultural heritage, and the government has done little to educate people on that. It is regrettable that valuable cultural heritage are being intentionally or unintentionally destroyed.
Miss Wu impresses me deeply just in this short interview-matter-of-fact and low key, logical and organized, daring and resolute, and most importantly, I appreciate her concern and enthusiasms towards young people and culture. We really need more people like Miss Wu to promote Chinese culture with heart and soul.
Dunhuang - Pearl of the Silk Road
"We had Dunhuang, now we have Hong Kong". The two cities being far apart bear the same historical significance at different eras - the centre of cultural and economic exchange between the East and the West. Ironically they are of two extremes. Dunhuang lies on the edge of deserts but its rich culture and art heritage shines through the ages. On the other hand Hong Kong having outstanding economic achievements is known as a cultural desert.
Dunhaung is situated at the far West of the Hexi Corridor at Gansu Province, to the west is Xinjiang and to the south is Qinghai. Since the Han Dynasty it has been an important gateway to the West, and as the crossroad of Eastern and Western culture. In the past merchants from inland China to the west must get their supplies at Dunhuang before they went on to the Gobi Desert. Similarly merchants, after a long way from the desert, would also stop here, the first oasis they strode at in the Hexi Corridor. One can imagine the picture of a prosperous town with merchants and monks going here and there.
Having gone through a history of more than two thousand years, Dunhuang has accumulated a rich treasure-trove, not only Buddhist art and folks crafts dated from the Han Dynasty, but also material with extremely high research and academic value. It has rich collection materials about government structure, literature, paintings and calligraphy, music, technology, medicine and martial art. Leading institutes of the world regard the Dunhuang collection as an important source of studying Chinese culture, with a stream called "Dunhuangology".
Dunhuang has a world renowned tourist sight, the Mogao Caves. It is the largest and richest ancient art treasure in the world. Mingsha Hill's sea of sand imprints on your mind the melandcholy beauty of the western territory. The Crescent Lake, while shapes like a new moon and never dries up, is the wonder in the desert. To the west of Dunhuang, there are Yangguan and Yumenguan, one at the south and the other at the north. Both were important gates to the west. Out there one enters the desert, the part of Silk Road outside China. There are famous verses in poems depicting the melandcholic mood of these two gates - "Stepping out of Yangguan to the west you meet no friends" and "Spring winds never blow at Yumenguan".
Colored Sculptures and Murals - Rare Arts with two different glory
Art creates out of life. The evolution of styles of colored sculptures and murals at Mogao Caves reflect the spirit and art styles at different eras.
The uniqueness of the Dunhuang colored sculptures lies in its detachment from the traditional art form of Buddhist portraits into portraits imaged on real life beings. The result is portraits with real character, lively facial expressions and movements. In addition to Buddha, Bodhisattva, disciples, guardians and monks, there are sculptures featuring life beings such as beautiful ladies, imperial concubines, merchant and military generals, reflecting the aestheticism of the time. The colored sculptures in Mogao Caves at its height, are particularly unique and splendid, with unbeatable scale, quantities, varieties of themes and art achievements.
The Murals at Mogao Caves
The murals at Mogao Caves are as rich and as colourful as sculptures. Their beauty is also breathtaking. They are roughly of seven kinds:
1. Paintings of Buddha - Portraits of Buddha for worshipping, as a supplement to sculptures.
2. Illustrations of Buddhist scriptures - To illustrate conceptual Buddhist scriptures through paintings and images for easy understanding.
3. Illustrations of Fables - Cartoon illustrations of the story of Siddhata Gotama and how his followers devoted their life to the religion.
4. Myth - some are taken from literature such as "Shanhaijing", "Zhong Zhi" and "The Songs of Chu", reflecting ancient people's belief of supernatural.
5. Portraits of Donors - Donors are those who donate, cut caves, build temples and sculptures. Usually as memorials they will ask painters to include the portrait of themselves and of their families in murals.
6. Decorative Patterns - decorative patterns decorate the halls of cave temples. Pattern like ceiling and lotus-shaped plinth are fine and delicate. They are carefully structured, remarkably skillful and unique.
7. Landscape and Portrait Paintings - They are splendid art as well as valuable materials for examining history of the community, architecture and the development of landscape and portrait paintings.
Mogao Caves - Fascinating Art Treasures
Dunhuang has the richest treasures of Religious Art, especially with focus on Buddhist Art. From the vast amount of Dunhuang art treasures, we can take a peep at the lifestyle of different classes of people at different dynasties, embodying traditional Chinese culture, philosophies and aesthetics. Mogao Caves mark the height of Dunhuang art. On all aspects, including art achievements amount of works and the condition of preservation, it is the best.
The world renowned Mogao Caves lies at the river valley of Sanwei Hill and Mingsha Hill, more than a hundred feet up on the western cliffs. Four to five layers of honeycomb caves were cut out of the cliffs between the 4th and 14th centuries. Starting from the dynasty of Eastern Jin, the Sixteen Countries, Northern Wei, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Song to Yuan, numerous sculptors worked heart and soul on its art treasure that comprise of architecture, colored sculptures and murals, creating a great art gallery in the desert.
It is believed the version in Li Wei Yan's "Refurbishing Mogao Caves" written in 698 AD is the most probable. It was said in 336 AD a monk called Lie Zun came upon Mingsha Hill and had a vision of a thousand golden rays of light shining upon him like thousands Buddha. Lie Zun was called to cut a cave upon the cliff and practise his religion there. Others began to follow suit and eventually it developed into the "Caves of the Thousand Buddha".
After Ming Dynasty, the Mogao Caves declined with the Silk Road. It was not until 6th May 1990 when a Taoist priest accidentally found a crack on the wall while cleaning the sand, and learned it was not hard rock that a hidden cave was discovered. It contained more than fifty thousand valuable Sutras, paintings and Taoist mess. Academics in the world took a profound interest in this discovery and began a scramble for these treasures. Regrettably large amount of such valuable treasures were smuggled out of China by academics such as the British scholar Sir Aurel Stein and Professor Paul Pelliot of France.
Due to wind erosion and human destruction, only 492caves hosting 2,400 Buddhist sculptures and 4,500 square meters of murals remain today. But it is still the richest Buddhist art treasure in the world. The Mogao Caves were put into the "World Heritages" by the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in December 1987 and are treasured by academics and specialists. With years of research and study, the historical, artistic and religious significance of the Dunhuang Mogao Caves has now been affirmed.