Li River Cruiser Most Popular Destinations China
Last spring, New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was privileged to host a landmark exhibition of Chinese art entitled 'China: 5000 years'. The exhibition included a 20th-century section, thereby being the first systematic exploration of modern Chinese art by a major North American museum. This century has been a turbulent time for China, and the curators aimed to illustrate how the country's complex background urban industrialisation, conquest by foreign powers, civil wars, and changing governments and, more recently, its slow but steady opening up to the international community have affected the style of the artistic community.
The Li River Cruiser exhibition sought to illustrate how Chinese artists absorbed and accepted western conventions, and to what extent they rejected them. The exhibits, which represented a variety of media, were presented chronologically in four sections, thus enabling the viewer to follow the progression of thought and social influences throughout this period.
The 20th-century section commenced with 'Innovations of Chinese painting, 1850 to 1950', which featured works produced in the traditional scroll and album formats. Most of the artists had set up studios in the treaty ports; the patrons comprised of both the scholarly elite and the increasing nouvcau riche. The chief centre was Shanghai, and the so-called Shanghai school was renowned for its innovations within the traditional format. The newly found wealth of these diverse patrons were a significant catalyst. The art school's curricula favoured western techniques, but graduates soon reverted to traditional media, while approaching their works with new ideas and a different sense of perspective. The scholars longed to retain their Chinese identity, and thereby found a suitable compromise.
Transformations of tradition, 1980 to the present' proved to be wonderfully eclectic and reflected the diverse influences available to modern Chinese artists. This issue's cover illustration comes from this section of the exhibition. While Scenery on the Li River is a guohua work (ink and colour painting done in a traditional style), the artist, Li Keran, was the master in his generation at depicting effects of light. Li was aged almost 80 years when he painted this masterpiece, which truly represents his lifetime work. Note the strong contrast of black ink, pale wash, and the white paper, and how Li creates a light source on the left of the composition. Although the Li River, near Guilin, was always a popular subject, Li's painting does not depict a true image, but a reflective one from a past journey. The slightly rough brushwork is indicative of Li's age, but the whole is a forceful work. Note how he uses a receding background to give the painting much greater depth.
Li Keran was a true child of the revolution. He was born into a poor family in Xuzhou. Jiangsu in 1907; both his parents were illiterate. By the age of 5 years he was drawing in the earth and 2 years later, he was enrolled in a private school. A willing student, he soon impressed all who taught him and by 1917, he was learning under the painter Qian Shizhi. By 1923, Li was studying at the prestigious Shanghai Arts College. He did not ignore his origins, however, and returned after graduating to (each at the primary school in his home town. Li also taught at a private art school and in 1929, he furthered his artistic career by taking a postgraduate course in Hangzhou, before returning home once more in 1932 to teach. He toured the north of China and, as was necessary for all traditional artists to do, viewed the varied landscapes and sought inspiration from life's experiences.
But life changed in 1937 owing to the Japanese invasion, and Li went westwards to Wuhan, and then onto Xian; by 1940, he was in Chongqing, where he fell under the powerful spell of artists Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, Zhao Wuji, Ding Yanyong, Quan Liang, and Ni Yide. In 1946 he moved to Beijing to teach at the National Art Academy, and Xu Beihong introduced him to Qi Baishi. This encounter was the beginning of an extraordinary interchange between the two artists, and Li studied under Qi for 10 years. During the difficult years, he sought solace in calligraphy, but from the early 1970s, his works finally found favour with officialdom.
Li accepted various commissions for scenes of the River Li; the largest one measures some 6 m and can be found on the walls of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A patient, yet humorous man, and much loved by his fellow artists and all who came in contact with him, Li never let hardship distract him. His enduring patience and delight in daily scenes were reflected in paintings such as those of the gentle hardworking water-buffaloes of Sichuan. Li's ingenuity and skill found so many ways of expressing the simplicity of life.
• Rowing between Guilin and Yangdi is not permitted.
• Rowing between Yangdi and Yangshuo is permitted until 10 am only.
• There are no restrictions for rowing from Yangshuo downstream.
• Tourist ships have always the right of way.
• We are considerate of all other ships, boats and rafts.
• Instructions of the tour guides need to be observed immediately at any time.
• The coxes are responsible for a rowing without accidents.
Their commands need to be observed immediately at any times.
• Red poles are to pass on the starboard side, White poles on the port side on a downstream course.
• The life jackets must be wearied in the boat at any time.
• The tour guides reserve the right to remove fallible crews from the river.