For most of us who have been living in New York for awhile, the names of the Empire State Building, Times Square, and others tend to invite some degree of antipathy; New Yorkers prefer to steer clear of these locations when they are not taking family and friends on a tour.
But there is one exception among these ‘tourist hotspots’ – three or four regular visits per year feels like the minimal passing criterion for calling yourself a ‘cultured person’.
(The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Google Image)
Besides the permanent displays that will take you through over five thousand years of human history, the Met regularly holds temporary exhibitions of the highest standard; for example, the 2015 phenomenon, ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’.
(I bet a lot of you foodies thought of this pancake dress right away… | Google Image)
Now after two years, the Met has put on yet another special exhibition around a Chinese cultural theme—‘Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin & Han Dynasties’. Reportedly, the exhibition was five years in the making. The exhibition also holds great significance as a memorial to the ’45th anniversary of the normalization of US-China relations’…It seems like the Met is putting in some real effort!
Political importance aside, let’s take a look at the relics on display —
In the exhibition, there are more than 160 objects of ancient Chinese art. The exhibition items span 400 years of the Qin/Han Dynasties, and are drawn exclusively from 31 museums and archaeological institutions in the People’s Republic of China in areas of ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and architectural models. You can find the Qinshihuang Mausoleum no.1 bronze chariot horse, the jade coat of the Han dynasty, Qin kneeling shooting fire clay, Chinese stone lion, bronze ware …… a majority of these works have never been seen in the West before.
In other words, attending this exhibition wins you the equivalent of taking a tour of the Qin/Han Dynasties areas of all the different museums all across China!
The Met is putting such an emphasis on this particular exhibition that they’ve set the home page of their official site to a high definition mug shot of a terracotta army warrior…straight to the point, yea?
(The Met’s homepage takes on a Qin-Han style | The Met)
Of course, music – a major contributor to culture – cannot by any means be left out of a cultural exhibition, even if it can’t be put on display like a physical relic.
And so, with the grand opening of ‘Qin & Han Civilization’, came a special guest to the Met: renowned classical music composer Tan Dun, in collaboration with the Juilliard School of Music – one of the most prestigious schools in the industry – to present Mr. Tan’s original multimedia concert ‘Symphony of Colors: Terracotta and Triple Concerto: Hero’.
(Mr. Tan Dun | National Cellar 1573)
‘Tan Dun’ may sound familiar to most Chinese (rarely listen to classical? Well, perhaps you heard the chime bell music of ‘Jasmine Flower’ at the Beijing Olympics victory ceremony, at least) at the same time, you might not be fully aware of just how much of a renowned and recognized character he is on the international scene…
Tan Dun-Chinese musician, composer, and conductor. In 1983, Tan Dun wrote Feng Ya Song, a composition that won the Weber prize in Dresden, Germany,—the first prize of international significance awarded to a Chinese musician since the founding of New China. In 2001, he was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Score for his composition for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In 2002, the original sound track to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture.
It would be no exaggeration to say that Mr. Tan Dun has been the ‘business card’ of Chinese classical music and its ‘ticket to the world’.
Following the successful performance, Mr. Tan Dun attended a gala dinner, one that came with a big mission – the hosting organization claimed that New York would be the very first stop of their global cultural journey which would ‘let the world savor China’.
So they’re trying to use Mr. Tan Dun to stand as representative for ‘traditional Chinese culture’? That’s a far reach…
Yet the moment I saw this photograph, all my complaints vanished.
(Liu Miao, Chairman of ‘National Cellar 1573’, hands over a gift to Tan Dun -’Customized No.1’ | National Cellar 1573)
I mean, who here doesn’t still hear the phrase ’National Cellar 1573’ still resonating through their mind, from the CCTV news feed?
First built in 1573 A.D., this treasured cellar of the nation has been in uninterrupted use for 444 years, enduring through natural disasters and man-made wars to become hailed as ‘living relic’. The traditional brewing technique of Luzhou Laojiao (Luzhou old cellar) has seen 23 generations of heritage and was among the first on the list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
This is beyond being a representative of Chinese liquor culture; It’s more like a national treasure.
As a leading enterprise within China, Luzhou Laojiao National Cellar 1573 has always carried on this mission: To walk beyond the country; to promote traditional Chinese culture; to be an advocate for Chinese culture around the world.
It was an instant click with what Mr. Tan Dun had in mind. Besides winning almost all kinds of musical awards, Mr. Tan Dun has also been active for the past few years, promoting international communication in his roles as a Shanghai World Expo Cultural Ambassador and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
Throughout the millennia in the history of Chinese civilization, from the Book of Songs (Zhou Dynasty) to Tang Poetry (Tang Dynasty), Song Jambic Verse (Song Dynasty) to Yuan Verse (Yuan Dynasty), art and liquor run right through it all. Likewise, there exists an inextricable link between the artist and his wine.
Mr. Tan Dun and National Cellar 1573: two ’business cards of the Oriental’; one rooted in traditional oriental culture, composing world class music, advocating with his every means for China to be heard; the otheran heir to a traditional Chinese craft, brewing the aromatic ‘national wine’ and striving to let the world savor China with its mysterious liquor culture. Today, the two serve as an exemplar of the idioms, ’bosom friends at the wine glass’ and ‘like-minded and like-hearted’.
Quality wine has been found in banquets and festivals throughout history. The unique gene of liquor culture has found root and infiltrated the life of the Chinese. We dedicate wine to heaven, to earth, and to our ancestors; we can’t go without it in socializing, gifting and gatherings. And so, it was according to these customs that the near-hundred guests of ’Qin & Han Civilization’ opening concert soon found themselves coming out of an audio-visual feast only to join this refreshing gala dinner, savoring the Baijiu culture that is so unique to China.
At the event, Feng Na, the 23rd generation inheritor of Luzhou Laojiao’s traditional brewing technique, presented the five-fold approach of ‘view, smell, savor, texture, sound’, taking the Chinese philosophies of tribute to heaven and earth, and of the subtle merging of nature and self, and blending them into the process of wine tasting. What’s more, the Luzhou Laojiao National Cellar introduced their Chinese style cocktails, inspired by the drinking and aesthetic patterns of the modern population. ‘Bashu Memories ’, ‘Drunk Love’’Rainout Fresh Bamboo’ and ’Fate of Half Life’…the name of each cocktail radiates with genuine classic culture.
Reportedly, New York is only the first stepping block on the National Cellar 1573’s global campaign. The plan is to expand to various cultural centers of the world, where they will pay tribute to all those great Chinese artists who create on the global territory and add to the splendor of the world’s civilization.. There, guests of these cultural centers will also be invited to witness the charm of traditional Chinese culture.
So take a guess: where do you think the next stop for ‘National Cellar 1573’ will be?
Writer/Editor: Yi Luan