Wednesday, March 5, 2014

march - living with the spirits

      Calling upon one who answers. Here in the middle of the United States, in the state of Missouri, east of Kansas City, there was a winter advisory, with a possibility of freezing mist, sleet, and later heavy snowfall.
On Friday my computer forecast sleet would begin at 2 pm on Saturday and on through the afternoon, promising an dangerous drive home from the print society event, if we went. My wife and I live an hour and a half
from Kansas City.
It looked like we would have to pass. Before I went to bed Friday night, we asked Jesus Christ in prayer for a sign.
If God wanted us to go to this event, he would delay the sleet by several hours. The next morning when I checked the computer forecast, the sleet was DELAYED ---
---NOT ONE, NOT TWO,-- BUT THREE HOURS!!! We could travel in and return home before the sleet began. Jesus gave us an answer. He wanted us to go.

      How interesting it was then to hear Dr. Ling-en Lu talk about the exhibit, "Living With The Spirits." Deities from the late 19th century in China were inked woodblock impressions on paper.          (Double click on images to enlarge.)

The vibrant, electric inks were made of imported pigments from Europe.  

     Craftsmanship was downplayed. Yes, disciples were taught by masters to carve the woodblocks. Some people cut the blocks. Some people hand colored the hand pulled impressions.  And, yes, shops sold the prints. But their production was not about its "commercial value." These designs were ceremonial and spiritual. They empowered the gods to do their work. Certain prints were to be burned after the gods had answered the request. There were expectations towards and responses from a variety of gods.

Entities guarded the dwelling, fought and defeated demons, brought good fortune, and dwelt among human beings. 

The traditional Chinese home had its own worship center, with red banners, and a treasure urn. "The urn multiplied whatever you put in it. It was comparable to our horn of plenty," said Dr. Lu, "symbolizing abundance."
    While other woodcuts were created to entertain, these deity images were neither a joke or hoax or parody. Not comic or slapstick, but heartfelt and wise. Not tasteless and vulgar, but principled and expectant. 

"When I put together this exhibition. I went back to Taiwan, China -- and got many of these prints from my friends. Some are very elaborate. And some are simple," said Dr. Lu,  Curator of Early Chinese Art at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Also featured in the exhibit were popular stories known as Chinese opera. "What first looks like a landscape is really a depiction of an historical event."

"The position of the figures and the martial art performers is something you will see quite often Chinese entertainment."
Double click on images to enlarge.
Pleasure boats were rented for self, with music or nice meal, on Sumida River. One of the biggest rivers in Tokyo today. Yayoi Shinoda, Assistant in Asian department at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, spoke on four woodblock impressions by Hosoda Eishi. Images feature Geisha figures.
Video runs 4 minutes.

A Party on the Pleasure Boat Sumida River

(courtesy of Art Daily News,,
Ling-en Lu, assistant curator of Chinese art and curator of the exhibition,

More Information:
accessed March 3, 2014) 

photos and text by Karl Marxhausen