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    US culture institution completes Chinese garden in style

    Xinhua | Updated: 2021-09-02 10:11
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    The Huntington's Chinese Garden of Flowing Fragrance [Photo/Xinhua]

    Postponed for over a year due to COVID-19, the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in Los Angeles County marked the completion of its Chinese garden on Saturday, with the opening of an exhibition on contemporary Chinese calligraphy.

    Nicole Cavender, director of the Botanical Gardens who joined the Huntington in May, speaks about the experience that the new exhibition, A Garden of Words, the Calligraphy of Liu Fang Yuan, had to offer visitors. The exhibition "really transports people to another world", she says.

    It represented a celebration of words expressed in the time-honored art form of Chinese characters brushed onto paper, known as calligraphy.

    As an important part of Chinese history and culture, calligraphy was no less important to the Huntington's Chinese garden, say experts from the culture research institute in the United States.

    "Calligraphy is fundamental to a Chinese garden," says Phillip Bloom, curator of the Chinese Garden and director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies. "But it is a feature that often goes overlooked by visitors, especially those who do not read Chinese."

    But these elegantly written words are given pride of place in Liu Fang Yuan, the Huntington's Chinese Garden of Flowing Fragrance.

    Wherever visitors turn, evocative titles like "listening to the pines" and "jeweled blossoms slope" provide poetic names for the architectural features, lovely nooks and expansive views that make up the exquisite space.

    For the exhibition, the original scrolls commissioned by the Huntington as models for these inscriptions have been assembled and put on display in its recently completed art gallery, the Studio for Lodging the Mind.

    Bloom says the studio's rather whimsical name was derived from an 11th-century essay by a famous Chinese scholar, penned as a subtle warning that one must strive for balance by lodging one's mind only temporarily on a subject, never dwelling on it too long, lest it become an obsession.

    The exhibition features the work of 21 contemporary calligraphers who are from different countries. The selection of artists included "professional calligraphers and avid amateurs, scholars and physicians, a Chinese painter living in New York and a New York photographer residing in China", according to the Huntington.

    Each artist's work varies dramatically from the others, and the art form offers ample scope for self-expression, despite the simplicity of their shared materials of brush, ink and paper.

    Works often reflect the artist's own character and demonstrate the complex symbolism that lies at the heart of calligraphy, long considered a medium of "imaginative communion that links calligrapher and viewer, past and present", according to the exhibition's brochure.

    Michelle Bailey, assistant curator for the exhibition, says the Huntington dedicated the last 20 years to developing its Chinese garden, and "its purpose is to celebrate and teach the culture of China".

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