Friday, February 25, 2011

Autumn Colors on the Ch'iao and Hua Mountains

An aesthetic interaction between tea and the above painting by Yan Dingsheng.
Last Saturday, in Chiayi, at the Tai Yu Beaux Arts Salon.

The name of the painting by Mr Yan is the same as Zhao Mengfu's classic. The original masterpiece dates from the early Yuan dynasty. Zhao Mengfu painted the peaceful Jinan scenery for his friend Chou Mi, who was feeling homesick because his official post was far away from his native region. The painting therefore captures the essence of Jinan, its quiet beauty and 2 biggest mountains.

Zhao Mengfu's technical innovations in this work would have a profound effect on how landscapes would be painted after him. The mountains became smaller and the painters would use calligraphy-like strokes. It was an evolution rather than a revolution. Zhao Mengfu combined his new style with the old. This is a very Chinese, a very Confucian, respectful attitude toward tradition.

While Yan Ding Sheng's technique is modern, his subject connects us to the past and conveys similar feelings. Let's see what kind of Cha Xi I can perform as an echo to this painting!

First, I chose the tea: my 1990 Hung Shui Oolong from San Hsia. As Teaparker suggested, a well preserved old Oolong captures well the idea that there is still freshness in things (leaves, paintings, tea accessories) from the past. Also, this tea is not just a masterpiece in itself, but its taste unfolds layer by layer, brew after brew. And, last but not least, it brings the same kind of nostalgia for days gone by as Chou Mi felt about his parents' region.

The accessories I use are a combination of old and new, like Zhao Mengfu's technique. What is important is that they should add to the taste of the tea and fit the the theme of autumn colors. The first is achieved with :
- a zhuni teapot. Its hard red clay handles temperature well and releases all the fine flavors of the leaves with minimum alteration while adding a lot of depth.
- water heated in an old tetsubin on top of traditional, charcoal fired nilu,
- an alternation of 5 modern 'ivory' porcelain cups (classic and flower). The ivory color of the cups adds a bright warm tone to the brew, while the small cups underline the finesse of the tea.
- a Japanese pewter tea caddy to well preserve the freshness of my old tea.

The autumn colors are come to life with these accessories:
- 2 long wooden benches are transformed into a tea table. The best fit for this long table is Japanese obi, kimono belt. The black and red lines and patterns of cherry flowers in various colors suggest the fleeting beauty of the fall season,
- My Cha Tuo (saucers) are made of copper (with a silver rim) as is my za fang (for waste water).

The various flowers make the aesthetic connection to the beauty of nature, at a time of harvest.

The 2 old qinghua plates are decorated with dark brush movements. They echo Zhao Mengfu's pioneer calligraphic brushwork.

The Earth and Fire vase is (a gift) from David Louveau. It's not completely black. There are variations of brown due to the wood kiln firing, as there are small colors variations in Yan's painting. And it's also a way to feel the presence of a friend I miss, like one misses his region.
And down to the wardrobe, I mix a peaceful, traditional shirt with a pair of blue jeans!

(Thanks to John for his pictures.)

6 comments:

Kim Christian said...

Beautiful setup !!

Sébastien said...

Très beau, merci !
Je louche depuis un petit moment sur ce nilu qui irait vraiment très bien avec ma tetsubin. Mais peut-on réellement utiliser ce type d'ustensile avec du charbon en intérieur sans finir enfumé ? C'est un charbon spécial ?

Stephane said...

Thanks, Kim!

Sébastien, il faut effectivement utiliser du charbon spécial, avec peu de fumée. Ici, je prends du charbon de bois de longan (ou longyan).
Sinon, il convient d'ouvrir les fenêtres chez soi pour avoir un renouvellement de l'oxygène dans l'air.

John-Paul said...

Great post, and really beautiful setup. I especially enjoyed how you justified the use of each of the objects with respect to the artwork. An interesting interpretation.

Stephane said...

Thanks for your comment John-Paul.
What makes the choice interesting of these objects interesting is that there are so many reasons to justify their use: aesthetic, function, symbolism.

John-Paul said...

I agree! The aesthetic and functional purposes are probably more immediately accessible to an observer. However, the symbolic justifications for the items that you chose are much more esoteric and subtle in nature. I like this approach. Just as your aged hung shui unfolds through successive infusions, so too does the meaning behind your setup. So simple, while altogether complex.