Kung Fu and Love Hotels…

January 26, 2012

Craig ReidLast week was this season’s third Active Cultures, our winter series where two experts give short lectures on two topics that don’t necessarily relate to one another and then share the stage for a dynamic conversation with the audience.

Our first guest speaker in January was Dr. Craig D. Reid, a stuntman, fight choreographer, and film historian, who spoke about The Power of 1970s Kung Fu Cinema. He shared personal anecdotes from his involvement in martial arts films, including how early on in his career he provided voiceovers for the versions of Chinese language films dubbed into English. He also gave us a broad history of these films and talked particularly about the accomplishments of Bruce Lee.

Misty KeaslerAfter a quick segue we heard from photographer Misty Keasler, who flew in from Dallas to discuss her study of Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan. In her quest to photograph these spaces intended for couples to meet in privacy, she found herself navigating aspects of these institutions not open to many, and needing to explain her interest in these extraordinarily lavishly themed rooms to hotel managers. We saw her photographs of rooms with carousel horses, Hello Kitty, and even one made to look like the inside of a subway car!

The conversation then opened up to everyone with Craig and Misty moderating and answering questions. After our formal program ended, participants stayed to have their books signed by Misty and Craig, and to continue the discussion with our speakers and friends over a glass of wine or beer. This was one of our most personal and engaging Active Cultures yet.

Missing out on the conversation? Come to our finale on February 17, 2012, at 7:30 pm, where artist Richard Jackson will speak on the development of the art scene in 1960s and 70s Pasadena and professor Andrew Liang will explore China’s rapid urbanization. Free for members, $10 general admission, and you can even reserve your tickets now on Eventbrite! See you there! ~KS


Puppets at Pacific Asia Museum

January 19, 2012

Wu Song fights the TigerOur Lunar New Year Festival was a smashing success, but the fun isn’t over yet! This year, we’re proud to be hosting a delegation of artists and performers from Jiangsu Province, China, who will be demonstrating their talents through Friday. Most engaging are the puppeteers, who have delighted several school groups this week and will have public performances this afternoon and tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. These puppeteers are from the Yangzhou Puppet Art Institute of China, a school with a thousand-year history. Chinese puppet shows have an even longer history that extends back over 3,000 years ago. During the Han Dynasty, a dancer puppet even helped resolve conflicts, according to the essays of Yue Fu.

The Yangzhou performers bring several traditional Chinese stories to life. One story is that of Wu Song and the Tiger (image above). Wu Song is a fictional character who appears in Shuihu Zhuan (Water Margin), one of the four great Chinese classic novels. In this vignette, Wu Song leaves a tavern noted for its strong wine and finds himself at a ridge where a legendary man-eating tiger lives. Awoken from his wine-induced sleep, Wu Song breaks his staff trying to fend off the tiger. The weaponless Wu Song then pins the tiger and beats him to death, and finds himself a hero to the communities nearby.

Sugar sculptureThe puppet performances are just one reason to visit these artists during their stay here. In the courtyard, the Jiangsu artists continue to demonstrate several traditional crafts, including sugar sculpture, paper cutting and more. The sugar sculpture might be the most unique demonstration, as the artist carefully drizzles and spreads melted sugar onto marble in beautiful, delicate designs. This traditional art form has been around for over 2,000 years, primarily in wheat-producing areas. The maltose from the wheat is commonly used in those areas, and the sugars are caramelized to a golden color before being spread onto the marble slab. This particular artist, Bolin Zhang (at right, click to enlarge) attaches a thin stick to his creations for display (and eating!).

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these artisans at work this week. They’ll be in the courtyard through Friday, and giving puppet show performances today and tomorrow at 3:30. Hope to see you here! ~CM

Lunar New Year Around the World

January 12, 2012
Visitors at the 2011 Lunar New Year Festival

Visitors at the 2011 Lunar New Year Festival

The Year of the Dragon is almost here! You might think that we finished celebrating the new year a couple weeks ago, but there’s one more party to go to: Lunar New Year!

While January 1 celebrates the new year by the Gregorian calendar, many cultures traditionally celebrate by the lunar calendar, including those of China, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Tibet. In Japan, the new year has been celebrated on January 1 since the Meiji Restoration when the country officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, though the associated traditions have remained.

Lion Dance at 2011 Festival

Lion Dance at 2011 Festival

While each culture has their own unique ways of celebrating Lunar New Year, it’s often celebrated as a family event with specific dishes; visits to a temple, shrine or other religious place; and gifts of money to children. But every culture has their own traditions as well, some of which even vary within the culture itself. Chinese celebrations are often accompanied by loud firecrackers traditionally used to scare away evil spirits. In Korea, some travel to the east coast to catch the first sunrays of the new year. And in Vietnam, sweeping is taboo during the celebration, as it symbolizes sweeping the year’s luck away.

A Korean dragon, now on view in "Auspicious Beauty"

A Korean dragon, now on view in "Auspicious Beauty"

January 23, 2012 marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. The dragon is one of twelve cycling zodiac signs that are assigned to each lunar year and is an auspicious sign, one of strength and good luck. Certain personality traits are popularly associated with each of the zodiac animals, and the typical “dragon” personality is no doubt related to the traditionally imperial use of the symbol: people born in the year of the dragon are thought to be noble, strong, intelligent, and passionate. This makes the year a popular one for parents– in China, more babies are born in the year of the dragon than any other year!

Every year, Los Angeles is treated to a wide variety of Lunar New Year celebrations. Last year, Pacific Asia Museum contributed our own unique event, designed to celebrate the breadth of cultures that observe the holiday. This Saturday, January 14, we’re excited to hold our second annual Lunar New Year Festival with performances, crafts, games, food trucks and more. The event is free and open to the public, and a full schedule is available on our website. Come ring in the year of the dragon at Pacific Asia Museum! ~CM