(English) China – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

China - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow   [break ]China is one of the oldest and most developed civilizations, with more than 3200 years of recorded history. Many dynasties and cultural periods have alternated over several millennia and left an immeasurable historical, cultural, social and technological impact on the development of the entire world: gunpowder, printing, the compass, paper and seismograph are some of the inventions that China has left us as a legacy. Historically, until the early 19th century China was far ahead of the rest of the world not only by the level of development but also in quality of life. Europe didn't manage to reach China until the industrial revolution, and only then thanks to China's isolation, which started in the mid-15th century and slowed the further development of this highly advanced society for the next 400 years. This was followed by nearly 150 years of conflict, war, revolution and social change, which completely changed Chinese society, but in the early 1980s and the adoption of reform and opening up policy (改革 开放; Gǎigé Kaifang), China has once again become one of the centers of world events - as a new economic and political world power. Not only is China's ascent on the world stage irreversible process that will ensure the development of the multipolar world, but it is also the move of the world's attention towards Asia and a new focus – to which China greatly contributed since has already been the center of world development for centuries, and not just the current phenomenon. The importance of China's return predicted Napoleon by saying: "Leave the dragon sleeping. When it wakes up, it will shake up the world. " Chinese Literature The development of Chinese literature dates back to the period of the Shang Dynasty (16-11 BCE). Then the literature was closely linked to magical rites and beliefs, and a large number of cracked and carved animal bones found in the 19 century near the village of Xiaotun has oldest traces of Chinese script, which testifies to the early rituals of divination in the Shang Dynasty. Although prophetic records on the bones do not cover a wide range of topics and have no literary value, yet they are certain evidence of a very high development of the script and the richness of language, and the origin of the earliest works of ancient Chinese literature. After the invention of writing the development of written literature in China began, and the oldest written works have been preserved and enshrined as the Classics, which are supposed to be collected and recorded by the philosopher Confucius (551-479 BCE). The Book of Songs is a unique example of ancient Chinese literature, and it is also one of the fundamental works of civilization. It is believed that it was Confucius who made the choice of songs for the anthology using the abundant archival materials of the Court Library. It is estimated to have been compiled between the 10th and 6th BCE, and in its final edition contains 305 poetic compositions different in content, the form of songs and time in which they were made. Songs of the Chu Kingdom is yet another collection of poetry, and the oldest pearl of the ancient Chinese literature. The contents of the collection is divided into 17 separate poetic units making a total of 58 short and 6 long poetic composition predominantly melancholic in their tone. That's why they are also called laments or elegies. The authorship of this collection is attributed to poets Qu Yuan (339-278 BCE) and Song Yu (298 -? BCE), and the longest and certainly the most prominent song of the collection is named The Sadness of the Discarded. This song is central in the collection, written in the last years of Qu Yuan's life, and holds a specific autobiographical confession. In the era when the activity on creation of the first anthology of Chinese poetry took place, a significant progress in the development of Chinese fiction had also been done. Historical records and numerous philosophical works are included among the most important prose works of the period. They are characterized not only by the value of its historical and philosophical content, but also the literal value. Confucius ethical value system was the base for Chinese sovereignty and social thought until the late 19 century, and the most authoritative source of his teachings are The Conversations. The Conversations are a collection of aphorisms, and it is believed that Confucius's disciples did the editing after his death. The collection also contains elements of dialogue, and it is divided into 20 chapters on various topics through which Confucius offers his own new perspective and ideas on the ancient texts of the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BCE) on topics of politics and morality in contemporary China. Works of other early Chinese philosophers Mencius and Zhuangzija contain numerous examples of artistic prose that has a certain literary value. Just like The Conversations the other main ancient philosophical works are also written in the form of a dialogue, a technique they used to show the reader an authentic conversations between teachers and students. Besides that, the authors Mencius and Zhuangzija certainly contribute to the elegance of diction in a way that they very often use numerous means of expression, for example comparisons and allegories. As for the prose works of historical motives we can say that The Historical Records by Sima Qian (145 – 86? BCE) certainly draws from the rich tradition of the earliest fictional creation and contribute to the formation of new types of literary prose. The Historical Records are a monumental work divided in 5 parts which comprise a total of 130 yuan, or volumes, and represent the chef d'oeuvre of Chinese historian Sima Qian, written in the period 109-91 BCE. Sima Qian's work is a chronicle of political events, and a comprehensive general history of China from its earliest days, that is the rule of the mythical Yellow Emperor, to the times of the writer, that is the reign of Emperor Han Wu (156-87 BCE). As the first text that has systematically analyzed the history of China, The Historical Records surpasses all previous work in the field of history, not only in scope but also in literary value, and as such exerts strong influence on the later Chinese historiography and on the literature. In the history of China the Tang Dynasty period is usually regarded as the pinnacle of Chinese civilization, and literature of this period, which is primarily related to poetic creativity, it is considered the product of the golden age of Chinese poetry. And that poetry occupied a very important place shows us the fact that the compilation Quantangshi, from the year 1705, recorded almost 50 000 songs from more than 2 200 different authors. Two of the most important poets of this period were Li Bai (701-762 AD) and Du Fu (712-770 AD), and they are also being considered as the most important poets in the history of Chinese literature. While Du Fu described social injustice in his poems, the consequences of war and a general protest against the politics of that time, Li Bai found motives for his verses in nature and wanderings earning a place among the immortal and divine poets in the history of Chinese literature. The origins of drama and theater date back to the Zhou Dynasty existing as a ritual of magic, but the period of the rule of the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 AD) witnessed a drama that is formed as a serious literary form. During the Yuan Dynasty we can recognize two basic types of drama – drama of the North and of the South, and both synthesize elements of ceremonial heritage plays, songs, dance and storytelling, so the theatre of the 13th century China nurtures music, song, dance, gymnastics and juggling acts as basic performance techniques. The poet and playwright Guan Hanqing (1225 - 1302 AD), who lived and worked during the Yuan Dynasty, made a tremendous literary work, and arguably his greatest achievement is the drama Snow in Mid-Summer. It is the story of a young widow Dou E, which condemned to death after refusing to marry Zhang Lura, and before his execution he put a curse invoking snow in mid-summer. In the history of Chinese literature the novel stands out for being late in becoming one of the serious literary types, and as such not before the 14th century is that the writers used the novel as a form of creative expression. Novel was preceded by a various short narratives that were created during the Tang and Song Dynasties (960 - 1279 AD) such as legends, tales of ghosts and strange occurrences, etc. For them, it is characteristic that they derive from oral tradition and often appear as part of the performing repertoire of street entertainers. The novel will not appear before the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) in its final form and then it will become popular to readers. From the appearance of the first novel by Luo Guanzhong (1330 - 1400 AD) named The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, also numerous novels are published and they are all called the great Chinese novels. With popular novels like The Outcasts from the Marsh, Journey to the West, the Golden Lotus, etc., stands out The Red Room Dreams, written by Cao Xueqin (1715-1763). This comprehensive novel is considered the best pre-modern novel, and descriptions of the life of the wealthy family Jia definitely added Cao Xueqina's novel to the list of the world's finest literary achievements. At the beginning of the 20th century in Chinese literary circles new literary tendencies appear, and the cause is definitely the saturation with the previous literary tradition of classical orientation and the emergence of new ideological and philosophical currents, such as humanism and democracy. ) In the journal New youth Chen Duxiu (1879 - 1942 AD) and Hu Shi (1891 - 1962 AD) clearly emphasize the need for a new literary reform and require abandonment of the classical languages, and the denial of the spirit and conventions of the old literature. It is said for a writer Lu Xun (1881 - 1936 AD) to be the father and the holder of the modern Chinese literature. He is usually considered to be the most important writer of the 20th century and great literary reformer, who used the national spoken language as a literary language, instead of the classical language. His first short story The Diary of a Madman is a tale written in Chinese spoken language, and as a template uses Gogol's The Madman Notes. It uses the motif of cannibalism to sharply oppose the Confucianism and traditional family values, while criticizing at the same time the hypocrisy of the traditional morality. Chinese calligraphy Chinese calligraphy is the art of writing in East Asia. It is present in all cultures that use Chinese characters, therefore, is not limited to China, but it is also present in Japan and Korea. In the not so distant history every educated person was expected to write well and nicely. When we speak today about Chinese calligraphy we do not think just of means of communication, or letters (characters) of the Chinese language, or a motor exercise available to everyone and the ability to record the speech, but despite to all of the above we think also about the ultimate work of art. In Chinese calligraphy the material conditions the technique. The Chinese brush, so different from the European ones, is made of long soft animal hair, usually goat, a the line, a major component of expressive Chinese calligraphy, is obtained by using the tip of a brush. Brush is not controlled solely by the will, but the brush enters into partnership with a high degree of concentration and sense of dispensing pressure. A good result is achieved in conjunction with a brush, and not with its rough and forceful usage. Each brush has its own characteristics and its purpose. There is no absolutely good or absolutely bad brush, but the choice of the brush will depend on the substrate (porosity of the paper), the writing mode (weather we write kaishu, caoshu or something else) and type sizes of characters. Chinese paper, which for historical reasons is called the 'rice paper' (not made out of rice, it can be made of different materials, among other things, from rice straw), does not allow retrieval, subsequently adding or deleting. The line may be just the right one, because the subsequent attempts and interventions are noted. The fact that it cannot be improved and embellish gives Chinese calligraphy a dose of immediacy. Regardless of the fact that some of the Chinese calligraphy works are hundreds of years old they still look fresh, newly written, as if the author is speaking to us right now. It should be noted that in Chinese calligraphy where material conditions the technique, not every painting is a masterpiece. Much of the printed paper is thrown away, since it takes several attempts to retain only one the author was very pleased with, while others are destroyed. Selected works are preserved by adding another two layers of paper, and only then the area of the image becomes flat or calligraphy. This kind of work in Europe was not possible, among other things, because it could not be produced paper slim enough and of high quality. From our present perspective we can not ignore rationality and savings in the use of materials in this traditional Chinese technique. When we look at Chinese calligraphy, it is firstly perceived as a whole, and then we find the beginning of the first character, which is in the traditional calligraphies in the upper right corner. Next we follow the line of view, gliding down the paper. In this way we again 'write' calligraphy. With this experience, its duration in time, we share the author's genuine enjoyment of writing. In China at exhibitions we can see visitors who stand long time in front of some art. If this is the calligraphy, it means that they are re-writing it. If this is the landscape, it means they are wandering through it. When it comes to viewing Chinese calligraphy, Chinese advantage is that they know the meaning of the sequence of moves and characters, since it is the system of writing which they themselves use. Basically, they have the working knowledge of how the calligraphy originated. On the other hand, a strong focus on the meaning of signs often distracts attention from calligraphic composition and quality of the line, and this too needs a serious attention in the evaluation of Chinese calligraphy. It is said in China that the manner in which the characters are written reveals the degree of sincerity of writing the calligraphy, and it is impossible to 'cheat' because the line will 'reveal' the innermost corner of the true intentions of the writer. Foreigners, regardless of what they do not know how to read Chinese calligraphy, still may enjoy the dance of calligraphic lines. So, one does not need to be able to read the Chinese calligraphy in order to enjoy it. Transcending its semantic role it leaves a strong impression even on a completely unprofessional reader, impression of an abstract art – the visual element with a strong aesthetic character. Chinese painting When we talk about painting in the People's Republic of China we can start the historical review at the neolithic period, that is with the bowls of the neolithic Yangshao culture (5000-3000 BCE),as well as the Majiayao culture (3000-1900 BCE). Bowls found at the sites of these cultures are decorated with geometric patterns drawn with confident brushstrokes that tell us about the extraordinary art of painting of our neolithic craftsmen. In general, the history of painting in the People's Republic of China is extremely rich with testimonies about the master painters from the distant past. The murals found in tombs from the times of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 AD) testify on their confident brush strokes, but, unfortunately, a large part of the paintings from the early dynasties perished because the material on which they were made did not withstood the passing of time. Nevertheless, today we know a lot about the rich history of the early dynasty painting due to a vast written material which has survived: the oldest surviving treatises on painting and painters together with the anthology of painters' categorization and descriptions of their work date from the 4th century. From this material we can learn the names of several masters, where they lived and how some of their paintings looked. Plenty of paintings came to us in the form of copies. Copying the old masters had more than a didactic function, by copying them one approached not so much the aesthetic sample as did the moral ideal. The term guohua denotes the traditional Chinese painting. Two major subspecies of guohua painting refer to two techniques that were profiled during the Traditional China (221 BCE – 1911 AD) – gongbi and shue. Gongbi is the name of a painting technique used mainly at the imperial court's workshops, in which painters painted meticulous strokes of colours on silk, on paintings used to decorate the royal chambers. In this technique all members of the imperial family tried painting. Shue painting emerged from the practice of literati painting - educated people during the Traditional China who mainly worked in the administration from the 11th century onwards and took paintings of landscapes with no desire to sell or show their work to anyone other than their friends. Since being highly educated, and some of them are extremely talented, they founded one of the most beautiful painting genres shanshui or landscape painting of the literati. They painted using the material found in their daily administrative work – indian ink and a soft brush made of animal hair on porous paper, making this type of painting directly associated with Chinese calligraphy. Today when we say wenrenhua, we mean the painting of the literati. When complained that what they were doing was not real painting because they were not trained as painters, they would have just replied that they did not have to learn how to paint because they had already known how to use a brush because they had used it daily in their work. They tried to avoid the use of colour and a simple allure of the silk as a base, and they preferred the porous rice paper as a surface of their work. Their priority was not to create an authentic copy of a given geographical areas, but to see what kind of man was the one who had painted the work. They said they were just 'borrowing' natural forms to express their feelings. Over time the thematic elements and motives in paintings, based on individual stroke of the brush on a rice paper, became other than landscape. At first it was the motive of 'birds and flowers', but today when we talk about shuimo painting we think, in the first place, of the technique because the number of painterly motifs is practically unlimited. The most important figure among the literati painters was Su Shi, who lived in the formative period of the Song Dynasty (960 AD to 1279 AD). Su Shi was an imperial administrator, a poet, calligrapher and a painter. Unfortunately, today we have preserved only one painting that is assumed it could be his. The educated people (the literati) in the Traditional China sought to develop all of their talents. This way one and the same person tended to be a talented painter, writer and a calligrapher. For those who achieved this it would have been said to possess the "three perfections", or sanjue. Testimony to such talents was presented in the form of a landscape painting on which poetry would be calligraphically inscribed. All from the same author. The poetry has always had a connection with the motif of the painting and the mood of the author at the time it was made.The earliest such work known to us dates from the Yuan Dynasty (1279 AD -1368 AD), and the author of the work is Zhao Mengfu. Dong Qichang (1555 AD -1636 AD), a painter, calligrapher and an art theorist, concluded in the 17th century that the landscape painting could be divided into the North and the South School. He described the characteristics specified to both schools, and the differentiator being art, not a geographical or temporal element. When we talk about the traditional Chinese landscape painting we use these divisions even today. However, the most interesting among the traditional painters are the, so called, individualists. They have developed a unique and distinctive style and escape labeling. Once seen, their paintings are impossible to forget, and their characteristic 'handwriting' will be recognized even in the case of paintings that the viewer has not seen before. The most important among the individualistic painters were Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (about 1626 AD – l705 AD), the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD -1644 AD) and the early Qing Dynasty (1644 AD -1911 AD), together with Qi Baishi (1864 AD -1957 AD) from the early 20th century. There is so much we can say about the historical development of Chinese painting, but still escape the hidden essence of what the Chinese themselves value in their traditional paintings. Given that the most valued kind of the Chinese traditional painting developed from the Chinese calligraphy, what attracts the attention of an observer the most are the strokes. The strokes, or the moves, are, in fact, the main theme of the painting. Direct, unique, incorrigible 'touch' of which testifies the indian ink on porous surfaces, will give us the information (or maybe just an illusion) of what the artist's intention were, why a picture needed to be painted (or it might tell us more about ourselves). Such perception of a painting is significantly different than ours. In the European painting tradition the way the brush was used, with respect to the most common medium - oil painting - was usually not that important. In the foreground was the credibility of the presented forms taking into account the colour of light and the shadow. This is still used today by many professionals, mostly when it comes to research about the authenticity of a work. Artists in China are using all sorts of possible materials and art forms, and they are often more imaginative than their colleagues in Europe and America. Today art academies in China offer two different directions of study to its students: painting in the European tradition, where the program is not different from art academies we know, and the Chinese traditional painting where the techniques of the traditional Chinese painting and the Chinese calligraphy are taught. China: "Here and Now" In the last 30 years the growth of the Chinese economy was almost "miraculous". The gross domestic product grew at an average of 8% per year, and in the year 2010 reached the amazing $5,926,612,009,750. According to the most relevant indicators the Chinese economy is the second in the world, right behind the United States, and many financial analysts predict that during this century will take the lead position. In many articles, reports and scientific papers we could read that China is the land of the future, that its time is yet to come and that we need to prepare ourselves for its growth and penetration into foreign markets. Let's briefly examine this thesis and mention few facts. China is, as most people already know, the most populous country in the world. It has 3600 billion US dollars in foreign exchange reserves and it is the largest creditor to the United States with about 1100 billion US dollars. China is a country with the largest number of billionaires, about 700 of them. In the year 2010 around 70 million Chinese tourists travelled to other countries around the world. In September 2010 China has had an unemployment rate of 4.1 per cent, and in comparison to 2009 the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. In 2010, China directly invested 68.81 billion US dollars in foreign economies, what is an increase of 21.7 percent compared to the year 2009. By the end of 2010 China had 16,000 registered companies in 178 countries worldwide, with total assets of over 1.5 trillion US dollars at its foreign branches of companies. The question is: "Are Japan, France, the Great Britain and Germany those countires whose time is yet to come?" China has already exceeded all those countires. It is clear that China has not yet reached its full potential and we can only speculate when this will be accomplish. But one thing is certain: China is not the future, China is already here and plays an extremely important role in all major world markets. And we can all already feel the influence. Advice to all companies: Get ready, because soon it will be too late!