Sunday, January 08, 2006
A Lifetime Encounter at Met
From yesterday's New York Times, I realized that today is the last day of the special exibition in Chinese art gallery, Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art.
What really drew my attention was the calligarphy work by Hua Ting Jian mentioned in the article. I know it is a rare chance to view any surviving works of this master.
So this afternoon I walked past the central park, sat on a bench for a while to enjoy my coffee and then got to Met by 4.
I headed to the second floor directly, passing the permentant works on display. There it is, Huang Ting Jian's Biography of Lin Po and Lin Xiang Ru is the first piece on the right.
I am not an expert in Chinese calligraphy, and his cursive strokes are hard to read without me first reading the text below that actual work, the text that we remember by heart.
A 60-feet long scroll and I was reading about 12 feet of it, the part containing the following text:
入秦。 秦王坐章台见相如，相如奉璧奏秦王。秦王大喜，传以示美人及左右，左右皆呼万岁。相如视秦王无意偿赵城，乃前曰：“璧有瑕，请指示王。”王授璧，相如因持璧却立，倚柱，怒发上冲冠，谓秦王曰：“大王欲得璧，使人发书至赵王，赵王悉召髃臣议，皆曰‘秦贪，负其强，以空言求璧，偿城恐不可得’。议不欲予秦璧。臣以为布衣之交尚不相欺，况大国乎！且以一璧之故逆强秦之驩，不可。于是赵王乃斋戒五日，使臣奉璧，拜送书于庭。何者？严大国之威以修敬也。今臣至，大王见臣列观，礼节甚倨；得璧，传之美人，以戏弄臣。臣观大王无意偿赵王城邑，故臣复取璧。大王必欲急臣，臣头今与璧俱碎于柱矣！” 相如持其璧睨柱，欲以击柱。秦王恐其破璧，乃辞谢固请，召有司案图，指从此以往十五都予赵。相如度秦王特以诈详为予赵城，实不可得，乃谓秦王曰：“和氏璧，天下所共传宝也，赵王恐，不敢不献。赵王送璧时，斋戒五日，今大王亦宜斋戒五日，设九宾于廷，①臣乃敢上璧。”秦王度之，终不可强夺，遂许斋五日，舍相如广成传。②相如度秦王虽斋，决负约不偿城，乃使其从者衣褐，怀其璧，从径道亡，归璧于赵。
I don't have enough English words to describe how I feel when I admired each of his stroke, but it is a tremendous experience. And I was reading it from right to left again and again, feeling so lucky. The foreigners in the museum would not be able to understand what I felt.
I feel lucky that this work has survived such a long time and I was able to meet with it for once in all the time it has went through and all the time it will be.
An American guy who stood besides me suddenly said: can you actually read those text? I said, yes, maybe 80% of it, since it was written in a special style, the crazy cursive style. But yes, this is my language.
I feel so proud, and I also feel so grateful for Met to have display this worked for millions of the people of the world to see it.
Great art is timeless and also borderless.
And a handsome guy, who saw me reading the script, walked up to talk to me. That is the side benefit of ancient art appreciation.