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Photo Wednesday: Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan

13 July, 2016 (10:48) | early modern, himalayas | By: xensen

Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan

Taktsang Monastery, Bhutan.

This spectacular photo from Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn)‘s photostream shows the “Tiger’s Nest” monastery of Taktsand. First constructed in 1692, the Buddhist monastery is located in the upper Paro valley in eastern Bhutan. Padmasambhava (“Lotus-Born”) is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours in a nearby cave.

Also known as Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava is considered by the Nyingma school of Buddhism to be a founder of their tradition. A Tshechu festival is held in his honor in March or April. The festival features masked dancers, similar to these photographed at the Wangdue Phodrang tshechu in central Bhutan by Pradiptaray:

Tsechu cham at the Wangdue Phodrang tshechu, photographed by Pradiptaray

Tsechu cham at the Wangdue Phodrang tshechu, photographed by Pradiptaray .

Photo Wednesday: Shravanabelagola

6 July, 2016 (12:27) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, south asia | By: xensen

Gommateshvara Bahubali, Shravanabelagola

Gommateshvara Bahubali , Shravanabelagola.

This image from the Indian city of Shravanabelagola (about 160 km km from Bangalore), is from cotaro70‘s photostream. The city is home to an enormous late 10th-century statue of statue of Gomma?e?vara Bahubali. Bahubali, who is said to have meditated motionless in a standing position for a year, is a revered figure in Jainism, and the site is an important Jain pilgrimage center.


Photo Wednesday: Flora of the Himalayas

29 June, 2016 (12:13) | himalayas, prints/photographs | By: xensen

Flora of the Cashmere - Gossypium herbaceum + G. arboreum

Flora of the Cashmere – Gossypium herbaceum + G. arboreum.

This image is taken from Illustrations of the Botany and other Branches of the Natural History of the Himalayan Mountains and of the Flora of Cashmere by J. Forbes Royle, 1839. The book was digitised by Missouri Botanical Gardens and is available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I picked it up from Paul K’s photostream. Paul K (“peacay”) runs one of my favite blogs, Bibliodyssey, from which the image source information above is taken.


To the Nines

18 June, 2016 (11:28) | china | By: xensen

Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei

Now on view at the Asian Art Museum

Nine goats bring peace to the New Year. Qing dynasty, reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736–1795). Tapestry (kesi) with embroidery. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Gusi 000096. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Nine goats bring peace to the New Year. Qing dynasty, reign of the Qianlong emperor (1736–1795). Tapestry (kesi) with embroidery. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Gusi 000096. Photograph © National Palace Museum, Taipei.

Emperors’ Treasures, which opened to the public at the Asian Art Museum yesterday and continues through September 18, is an exhibition of greatest hits from the Chinese imperial collections. Objects on display span nearly a millennium of imperial rule, from the time of the early Song-dynasty ruler the Huizong emperor, who reigned in the early twelfth century, through that of the formidable regent Cixi (pronounced something like “Tsuhshee”), the Qing-dynasty counterpoint to England’s Victoria, who ruled by proxy from 1861 through 1908. Objects are grouped around a set of nine Chinese rulers.

Museum exhibitions might be divided into those that are narrative-driven and those that are great objects driven (the latter might be termed “connoisseur shows”). I confess to a preference for narrative, but the objects on display in Emperors’ Treasures are of such high quality and have so rarely toured that this is a show not to be missed if you have any interest at all in imperial Chinese art. If you’re a selective museum-goer who is likely to attend only a couple of AAM exhibitions this year, this one and  the Ramayana show opening in October are the ones to see.

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12 March, 2013 (07:00) | medieval, sculpture, south asia | By: xensen

Nandi - Asian Art Museum - P3120420


Nandi the bull is the mount of the Hindu god Shiva. I took this photo at the Asian Art Museum, where, unfortunately, the bull is less prominently displayed than it was at the museum’s old location in Golden Gate Park.

A few garlands would help. The museum’s label informs us that

In southern India, a large sculpture of Nandi would usually be placed in front of the main sanctuary of a temple to Shiva. It would face toward the sanctuary, so that Nandi could gaze adoringly at the representation of his master enshrined there. Because of this orientation, worshippers entering the temple compound would approach the sculpture of Nandi from behind.

Here Shiva’s bull is decked with garlands, strings of bells, an elaborate blanket, and other decorations carved in the stone. In the temple, it would also have been wreathed in real flowers and fabrics.

Still, Nandi remains much beloved, and this massive statue 15th-century granite statue is readily accessible in the museum’s south court, where it is well worth a visit.


China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy

8 March, 2013 (10:03) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china, sculpture | By: xensen

That’s the title of the exhibition showing at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco through May 27. I received my new camera — an Olympus E-PL2 — a couple of days ago and took of few pictures of the warriors yesterday. The E-PL2 is a micro four thirds mirrorless camera that has a near-DSL-size sensor but a small body. It should be perfect for the travel photography that I like to do.

The AAM display features dark-colored walls and dark rooms with moody lighting. The warriors are not, of course, light sensitive — originally they were brightly painted, but they are never shown that way today — but the exhibition design makes an effective display. Low light situations are not really this camera’s strength, but it performed pretty capably.

terracotta warriors and horse

terracotta warrior (kneeling archer)

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Terracotta Warriors opening party at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

18 February, 2013 (20:19) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china, sculpture | By: xensen

Terraacotta Warriors opening party invite

The Asian Art Museum (200 Larkin Street in San Francisco’s Civic Center) is hosting a party to celebrate their opening of an exhibition featuring some of the First Emperor’s terra-cotta warriors. The party, beginning at 7:00 this Thursday, February 22, will feature  CHERYL, an artist collective that throws “the Big Apple’s most outrageous party” (Time Out London).

In other news, 7junipers has been inactive for some time dealing with nonvirtual projects. I hope to return to more active blogging. We shall see.

Ai Weiwei, 1983

15 August, 2011 (05:00) | ancient, china, contemporary, prints/photographs, sculpture, south asia | By: xensen

This fellow in a New York mood is Ai Weiwei, self-photographed in 1983. His show at Asia Society just completed, but there is still what looks like an excellent exhibition of Buddhist sculptures from Pakistan at the Asia Society Museum, including this handsome Gandharan bloke, on loan from the Lahore Museum:

The ten most confounding Pinyin pronunciations

30 July, 2010 (05:00) | china | By: xensen

English speakers have an uphill slog to make sense of Chinese pronunciation from its transliteration. The Wade-Giles transliteration system used a lot of diacritical marks, with all the annoyances that entails. But the Pinyin system, which now far predominates (and is used in the museum’s materials) has its own challenges. Such as:

  1. Q
    This one at least is easy to learn. Q is pronounced like “ch,” so “Qin” is pronounced “Chin.”
  2. Zh
    You would think this would represent the initial sound of the French word “jardin,” or the way some people pronounce the second gee in “garage.” Nope. It’s pronounced like a J. “Zhou” is “Joe.”
  3. Ang
    What could be simpler, right? Wrong. No really, wrong: it’s pronounced more like the “ong” in “wrong.”
  4. X
    Who knows how to pronounce X in any language? In the U.S. many people just give up and pronounce the Spanish name Xavier as “Ex-avier.” In Pinyin X represents a kind of “sh” or “hs” sound, sort of like in the word “sheer.”
  5. C
    If you know Western languages you would have three guesses about this one: the C in “cat,” the S in “sat,” or the CH in “chat.” But it’s actually pronounced more like the “ts” in “nets.”
  6. Iu
    When you get to the IU sound you know when Pinyin was constructed someone must really have been trying to be difficult. This is pronounced like the “yo” in “yoyo.”
  7. I
    After c, s, or z the “i” sound is pronounced like the “i” in “sir”: after ch, sh, zh, or r it’s like the whole”ir” sound in the same word, “sir.”
  8. Z
    This isn’t really too bad. Just add a little initial dee sound, like the “dz” in “adze.”
  9. Er
    Not the sound a hesitant speaker makes, this is a homonym for the English word “are.”
  10. Ong
    This is pronounced like the “ung” in the German “achtung.”

Got that? Now we’re ready to tackle any Chinese name. Can you say the name of the late Ming painter Dong Qichang? Sure you can. It’s something like “Dung Chi(r)chong.” Er, I think. Please correct me.

Daido Bunka enso

12 July, 2010 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

daido bunka enso

This unusual enso based on the character for heart/mind was made by Daido Bunka in the first half of the eighteenth century.


The Character for ”Heart/Mind” as an Ens?, 18th century, by Daido Bunka (Japan, 1680-1752). Hanging scroll, ink on paper, image 11 3/16 x 21 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Edwin Janss, M.84.211.1.


Photo Wednesday: Red house in Singapore

9 September, 2009 (06:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

Singapore has a tradition of vibrant colored buildings with shutters. This great geometric composition comes from swisscan’s photostream.

The Longest Way

7 September, 2009 (06:00) | china, contemporary, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

This fellow walked across China and made a spectacular time-lapse video about it.

Photo Wednesday: Omikuji

26 August, 2009 (06:00) | japan | By: xensen

This image of two women viewing omikuji, or rolled-up fortunes, comes from kalandrakas’ photostream. Kalandrakas writes:

Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.

The omikuji predicts the person’s chances of his or her hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree in the temple grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (? matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (?? matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer should keep it. Though nowadays, this custom seems more of a children’s amusement, omikuji are available at most shrines, and remain one of the traditional activities related to shrine-going . . .

The spirit of stones

17 August, 2009 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan | By: xensen

Stones in Japan are used for bridges, water containers, lanterns, and many other purposes. They are especially used as steps on paths.

In an echo of Japan’s animistic native beliefs, stones are chosen for the spirit they emanate. They form a link between people and the earth. Stones that are scored or pitted or covered with moss evoke the spirit of wabi-sabi — of harmonious simplicity and impermanence (more on this in a subsequent post).

This image of petal-covered stepping stone as Shokokuji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto, comes from EYLC’s photostream.

Photo Wednesday: Hongkong lights

12 August, 2009 (07:00) | china | By: xensen

This photo of Hongkong at twilight comes from Stuck in Customs’ photostream

Indra’s lute

6 August, 2009 (05:00) | modern, paintings, southeast asia | By: xensen

Indra, a major Hindu deity, also figures in the Thai Buddhist belief system, where he seen as powerful but limited and subservient to the Buddha (and sometimes as one of the four guardian kings of the cardinal directions). He is recognizable by his green skin.

The image shown is a detail from a large painting of the story of the life of the Buddha in the collection of the Asian Art Museum (Scenes from the life of the Buddha, 1800-1850. Thailand; paint and gold on cloth. Gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.122.15).  The painting will be displayed during the museum’s upcoming Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma exhibition

In an essay I wrote on the subject of translation, I talked about the “middle way” of the Chinese translator Xuanzang (who lived in the seventh century but may be most familiar from his role in the Ming dynasty “Monkey” stories). Xuanzang insisted that translation be both “truthful” and “intelligible to the populace.” In the essay I go on to discuss other advocates of the middle way, such as the Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

In this detail Indra makes a case for the middle way in a charming manner. The Buddha-to-be (shortly before his enlightenment) has been troubled about whether to give up the extreme austerities he has been practicing. Here Indra appears to him and plucks three strings of a lute-like instrument. One string is too slack, and it makes only a dull sound. One string is too tight, and it breaks when plucked. Only the properly tightened string makes a beautiful sound.

Photo Wednesday: Wat Rajabophit

29 July, 2009 (05:00) | architecture/public, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

This image of patterns and reflections at Wat Rajabophit, Bangkok, Thailand, comes from Taiger808’s photostream. The temple was constructed in 1869 under the command of King Rama V.

Photo Wednesday: Indonesian election officials

8 July, 2009 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

This photo of Indonesian officials at an election polling stations is by Andry Prasetyo of Reuters; it appeared in the New York Times. The officials are dressed as puppet theater characters.