Forbidden City

(Painting above: 'Paris Paris', 2006, by Mao Yan, teaching at the Nanjing Art Institute.)

What a strange, wild, scary, exciting, challenging world we live in. Postpostpostmodernism, it keeps on surprising me. Maybe it’s me who’s the nuthead (i’ll be the first to admit) – but let me tell you what almost blew my socks off yesterday.

It’s about China. I mean- what a strange, mysterious country this is. And what a big jump they’ve made, they too, the last couple of hundred years. Just have a look, for instance, to both these fascinating early 18thC paintings (pics 2 and 3). They are from a series of 12, called “Emperor Yongzheng’s concubines”. They were exhibited in the so-called ‘Forbidden City’, by Yongzheng’s father, Emperor Kangxi, in a pleasure garden annex to his favourite summer palace. The complex would later be known as the Garden of Perfect Brightness. It is known that the princely (yes, Yongzheng was still prince at the time) harem comprised at least 5 concubines. Well, let’s say times they have a-changed since then!

But look at these lines – the elegance, the grace. The disciplined, controlled splendour.

Back to modern times… Would the spirit of those Emperors still be alive in the ‘Forbidden Country’? Well… A couple of weeks ago i was waiting my turn for my teeth scaling treatment with my dentist, when an article in a magazine caught my eye. The Chinese, according to this magazine, nowadays are establishing a digital social platform: every Chinese will be on it, and will have ‘social points’, given by the government. In minus and in plus! Like in: minus 100? – then forget that well paid job. Plus 20: you’ve got fast lane when checking in at the airport. I’m not kidding! Btw cameras are being hung in villages.

My friends, what a wonderful system this is! It’s brilliant! Let’s apply this worldwide! I have some suggestions: devouring Crunchy Honey Pops while in the movies: -5. Vapers with a beard in front of cafés: -2. Women called Daisy: -10 (because of the Gatsby). Helping a blind man over the street: +15 (except when the blind is vaping). Being an apparatchik in a non-democratic government: -10.000. Let’s just do it!

Now, this is not what blew my socks off. It’s this: just when one starts to think China is full of Mandarins and Emperor’s footmen hopping through the streets, i bump into these modern pictures, dating from 2008, by a Beijing artist, He Sen (pics 4 and 5, at the bottom of this article). Yes, this guy is living in Beijing. And – as far as i know – not behind bars. He’s teaching photography at the Beijing art school. Or, stronger even, this other one, a painting, dating also from 2008, by Mao Yan, teaching in the Nanjing Art Institute (pic 1, at the top of this article).

Well, i’m confused now. I mean – those are pics you’d expect in Hongkong, not in Beijing, aren’t they? Can anybody explain things to the humble fool who’s writing this? Please use simple words. Otherwise: -5.

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