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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Of knees and art

The results from my x-rays came back today, and the news was good:

Three views of the left knee reveal no fracture, subluxation, dislocation or other significant bone, joint or soft tissue abnormality. Small osteophyte anterior superior patella at the attachment site of the quadriceps tendon. No acute injury.

I'm not sure what all of that means, except that I got off relatively lightly from what could've been a nasty accident on Old Rag Mountain. Still, seeing as I like to go hiking often, the doctor referred me to an orthopedist to have my knee examined in greater detail. I have an appointment to go in early next week, Mandarin be damned.

Speaking of things Sino, I had a free afternoon today, and so went off in search of some inspiration in the form of "The Arts of China" permanent exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, part of the National Museum of Asian Art. Alas, I came away feeling a little disappointed. Not with the artifacts themselves, mind you, which were quite impressive. It was just that the collection was smaller than I thought it would be, and it didn't take long to see what was on display. Here are a few examples:

Tomb Guardian; China, Tang Dynasty  唐朝, 8th century; earthenware with three-color lead glaze

Daoist stela; China, Northern Zhou Dynasty 北周朝, inscribed and dated 572; limestone

Ritual wine vessel; 方壺 Fang hu; Eastern Zhou Dynasty 东周, 8th century B.C. (this date seems suspiciously old, even by exaggerated Chinese standards); bronze

A disclaimer: Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of Chinese art. Like traditional Chinese furniture, I find much of it be oppressive and clinical in form and presentation, technically proficient (extremely so!) but lacking a certain warmth. The great exception is landscape painting, the kind done in ink on hanging scrolls, but there were only a couple of examples on display this afternoon at the museum, and both of them dated from the 20th century. So I came away from the Sackler Gallery feeling a little underwhelmed, especially in comparison to the small but interesting collection of Japanese art to be found in the adjacent Freer Gallery. I suppose if one really wants to be wowed by China's many centuries' worth of artistic achievements, the place to go is the National Palace Museum (Gù​gōng​ Bó​wù​yuàn) 故宮博物院  in Taipei (Tái​běi) 台北, though I hear the place is overrun these days by the tour group hordes coming over from the Chinese mainland.

One place that did live up to expectations at the Sackler Gallery was the gift shop. I walked away with a book on ukiyoe 浮世絵 woodblock prints, The Rough Guide to the music of Japan CD and, for my daughter, a children's book called Celebrating Chinese Festivals, the latter because my wife doesn't seem all that interested in keeping Amber in touch with the other side of her bicultural identity. I can only hope my bad knee can bear the extra burden :-)

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