Sunday afternoon in Beijing

Hi, this is Father Linnane again. Tim has a post ready to go and should be up before too long. He had hoped to send his post from the looking internet coffee shop this morning but experienced a computer glitch. Ah, the joys of international travel!

After Mass we had lunch at a local noodle shop a few steps away from the church compound. They know their clientele because the reception area of the restaurant was filled with pictures and statues of the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart. Once fortified with noodles and broth and pigs’ ears and a few other things Chen ordered but refused to identify (all very tasty!) we headed to the “Dirt Market,” a huge flea market (note to my friends from ABAC, the Chinese claim that the Dirt Market is largest outdoor market in the world but I feel confident that the market we went to Bangkok is larger; nonetheless the Dirt Market is enormous!).

Here you can see something of this open-air market including the huge crowds, me with “Young Brother” Chen who proved—once again—to be an excellent guide and fierce bargainer!, and a local woman taking her purchases home.

Next stop was to the 798 district, an old industrial distinct in Beijing that is now a center of contemporary Chinese art. Father Ron and Chen were relieved of their tour guide duties for the day and Father Roberto took over for the art scene. We stopped in this Soho-like area and visited a few galleries before attending an exhibit at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) www.ucca.org.cn The show was called “Breaking Forecast: 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation of Artists.” I am not the biggest fan of contemporary art but I must admit that this exhibit gave me a great deal to think about. It was also fascinating visually. I had to return time and time again to a few arresting installations.

Take Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s smoke installation (Each person thinks of one thing, when putting them together, an expressive relationship will be built in between). An enormous black box produces this ring of smoke with a great rumbling sound (left) and it floats across a darkened room under spot lights only to activate a feather fan which then dissolves the smoke ring (right). Most of the artist seemed to be critiquing the materialism and attending spiritual aridity of contemporary China (I realize that such interpretations are above the pay grade of theologian/administrator!). In addition, there was a persistent critique of US foreign policy (a model of Git’mo made of rawhide, for example). This, too, seemed to be a way of criticizing China’s international ambitions and perceptions of repression within China. We had a lot to discuss over dinner that evening! (special thanks to Dr. Snyder for his great patience and artistry in getting the smoke machine photos) I encourage interested readers to check the web site and for Loyola students coming to Beijing for the spring semester, the show runs until February 28 and is free for students with a valid ID.

As you can imagine, Sunday was quite a mixture of the traditional and the (post) modern!

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