The World is Yours
The title of this piece is a bit idiomatic. You can understand it as "All the World is Yours". However, literally, it suggests that all the fertile soil in China is under your domain. I suppose the artist is suggesting the world is yours when you have a fine horse.
In additional to the title, the year painted (2008) and artist signature are included in the Chinese characters.
The story of this Asian art...
Ready to leave Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of China. I walk down the hall toward the exit of a building that is home for many antique dealers and artist's studios.
On my way out, I see some nice art in a studio, but keep walking several steps past the door. I feel that I'm finished buying art, and am almost dizzy from the array of art that I'd viewed over the past week in Chengdu City.
But I have to go back and look. I peer in the studio to see an unassuming man holding his paint brush nearly vertical as he slowly works on a landscape painting.
I wait until he is ready to dip his brush into more paint before saying, "hello".
As in most cases, he's a bit startled to see a foreigner, and he mumbles something about how he seldom sees "white people" in the building. Although I doubt the comment is meant for me, I reply, "I look more like a pink person than white don't you think?" He is even more surprised that he can understand me when I speak Chinese to him than the fact that I could reply to his comment.
We both have a good laugh, and exchange pleasantries that are typical in Chinese culture. He hands me his name card (they don't call them business cards in China because the relationship between people is more important - business comes later). I try to read his card back to him, "Chen Zheng-Long", but I am better at oral Chinese than reading, so he corrected me on the pronunciation of his name. (I got the tones wrong - there are 4 possible tones that can go with a sound in Mandarin Chinese - if you use the wrong tone, it completely changes the meaning).
Quick Mandarin Chinese Lesson:
Mandarin Chinese has 370 different sounds and an extended lexicon of over 30,000 characters. That's a lot compared to our 26 Roman letters used in English which have just a little over 26 sounds (in that some English letters can be pronounced with more than one sound - especially vowels).
But wait, there's more. Most of these 370 sounds have up to 4 different tones that can be associated with them, as well as a non-tone or zero-tone. These tones completely change the meaning of the sound just like vowels do in English.
The consonant sound of "n" and "t" can be:
"not, Nate, note, neat, net, gnat, knit or nut"
...just by changing the vowel sound.
When you change the tone in Chinese, the same thing happens (foreigners, like me, have a lot of trouble with these tones).
Here's an example using the "ma" sound with various tones:
horse eats hemp suffers mother's swearing
This sentence means
"The horse ate the hemp so it suffers mother's swearing"
...or a more proper translation and better English grammar,
"Mother is swearing at the horse because it ate the hemp".
If you heard this sentence in real life, you probably would not be able to figure out which "ma" is which, unless you'd studied a lot of Chinese. That's what makes this language one of the most difficult to learn on earth.
After he teaches me how to correctly say his name, he shows me several of his latest paintings.
They are all very good, and I know this art is just the kind that a lot of people are looking for from my customers around the world.
He tells me that he really likes to paint black ink horses, and koi fish, but everybody wants his landscape paintings more, so that is what he'd been painting lately.
I tell him that I would like to buy some koi fish and horses too, and he gets very excited, but apologizes that he has very few to show me now. After we talk about the price, I tell him that I'll just pay him in full for several more that he can mail to me in Beijing when he finishes them.
He looks at me with a puzzled face, and I can tell that he is wondering why I want to pay him in full rather than give him deposit. This is when I remind him of an old Chinese Idiom, "If you drain the water from the pond, you will get all the fish in one day, but if you leave the water in the pond, you can catch fish forever". He clearly understood that I was trying to build a long-term relationship with him in a short time that I had left in Chengdu, by extending some trust.
He wraps up the paintings I bought on the spot, and actually paints me a receipt on a piece of rice paper for the money that I hand to him.
Before I leave, he tells me a little about himself in that he was once trained in civil engineering, but wanted to express more of his creative side. So he left that career behind and became a full time artist after studying at an art academy for a few years. I see some parallels in our lives, as I'd left a similar engineering career behind in the states to come to China originally.
South China Village Travels
When I travel from place to place I see a lot of things, and sometimes there is a bit of that "glamorous adventure" that
you might expect. But there is another side, which is the daily necessities that we all need to live.
I always carry enough food for 2 days in my backpack. This food is intended for emergencies. However, sometimes this emergency food is eaten when the dining car is only serving pig's feet and fish-head soup during multi-day voyages
aboard one of China's many slow passenger trains.
Lucky for me, even in the smallest village, the people there need to eat too. Most of the time I find a wide variety of vegetables and at least a few kinds of fruit for sale at a curbside market.
Many small villages don't have restaurants, so it is important to be able to fend for yourself. I can usually get some boiling water from somewhere (There is always somebody nearby making tea in China, so there is never a shortage of hot water). Throw in some ramen noodles, a few cut vegetables, maybe some dried meat, and you have a soup of sorts.
A lot of the time, I ask for hot water from a villager (who is shocked to see a foreigner) and I am immediately invited to eat in their home with the whole family. Suddenly I am the "honored guest". In the village-culture of China, it is an honor to have a guest in your home. They would be insulted if I offered money for the food and hospitality.
If it gets late, they will offer me a place to sleep in their home (often you are given one of the best beds in the house, but I seldom take that offer as some family member ends up sleeping on the floor when this happens).
Sometimes a buzz starts in the village about the "visiting foreigner". I end up walking through the village with a dozen children following me down the street trying to practice English. In one case, I ended up teaching English in an elementary school for a day. The children had never seen a "white person" before, much less had a chance to talk to one - this fact seems to feed their curiosity and excitement.
By the way, there is no shortage of Children in minority villages of China. The "One-Child-Policy" does not apply to members of minority ethnicities. This allows for the small tribes and ethnic groups, as well as China's many minority nationalities to prosper and maintain their populations within China. It is the majority "Han-Chinese" people in the cities that must follow the "One-Child-Policy".
Another necessity is transportation. Sometimes things can get interesting in this department too. If there is not a "mini-bus" that comes near the village, I can often find a ride on a motorcycle, back of a truck, in
a rowboat down river, or just hike. When I arrive in the next village, the adventure starts all over again...
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