The Yangtze River Exhibition: A Painted Corridor Through China

The Yangtze River, the longest in China, rises from the Qinghai Highlands at a height of over 10,000 ft. It skirts Mt. Wu covered with fog, and travels 4000 miles across the heartland of China, absorbing thousands of rivers along the way, until it finally reaches the Pacific. The river is revered as a mother to China's people and culture. Before trucks and trains, the waterway and its boatmen provided the means to transport people and goods. Along its banks agriculture and manufacture flourished; over the 5000 years of Chinese civilization untold millions of Huaxia (Chinese people) have been nourished byits waters. There is an old Huaxia proverb, "The water that bears the boat is the same
that swallows it." The Yangtze that brings its benefits to human beings also brings floods. Many inundations are recorded from ancient times. These repeated disasters

Map taken from Microsoft Corporation

have infused the Yangtze people with a strong
determination never to give up - a will that has entered
the national character. Opposite the floods have been droughts, and the famines that followed. Invading aggressors, too, have followed the river's route, leaving a path of ruin behind. But side by side with these scenes of desolation,
runs a peaceful history, palaces and tombs of emperors standing for centuries beside its banks, bountiful vistas of irrigated rice paddies extending for hundreds of miles.

Today, along the river from its birthplace in Qinghai to its exodus at Shanghai, scores of large- and medium-size cities are among the most vigorously developing areas in China. These modern metropolises sit shoulder to shoulder with peasant farms with their water wheels and buffalo. The new and the old are poised in an awkward juxtaposition. Many have taken the river as a symbol of China's modernization: its rapid economic growth is like the rippling waters flowing forward.

Laozi and Zhuangchou, who were citizens of the ancient Chu in the South (and the originators of Neo-Confucianism and Taoism respectively), were both drawnto mountains and rivers as a source of tranquility and enlightenment. The Yangtze, especially, lies in a temperate zone, and all four of its seasons are memorable. Along its route an endless, changing, geography of mountains, gorges, hills and plains unfolds -- scenes that have inspired countless literary works, poems, and songs.

Above all, the Yangtze has inspired painters. Regions like the Three Gorges of the Yangtze have accumulated an artistic heritage unique in China and perhaps the world. From ancient times to the present, painters and poets have traveled to these regions and have been moved to create masterpieces of art.

In the year 2003, the great Shanxia Dam, the first stage of the gigantic Three Gorges Hydroelectric and Flood Control Project is scheduled to be completed. The dam will stop the flow of the Yangtze, and alter its character forever. The downstream volume will be drastically reduced, and the upstream will be permanently flooded. Many historical sites including the Zhang Fei Temple in Yunyang county will be inundated, while the Shibaozhai in Zhongxian county and Baidichen in Fengji county where is at Chongqing will become lonely islets in the river center. The traditional scenes that so excited poets and artists will be transformed in so many ways, sometimes beyond recognition. They will live only in memory, and in the art they once inspired. In the following pages, we have assembled a collection of works by contemporary artists portraying these scenes before they are wiped from the face of the land. We hope these pages will be like the river itself, a place of magic, with their changing seasons, their simple or majestic rivers capes; a painted corridor lined with the history and beauty of China.

Andrew Zhao
Curator, The Painted Corridor
Chongqing, China

P.S. These works have been done by our artists to save the memory of the Yangtze river. But they are nowhere near a complete archive of the beauties of the Yangtze. Our artists need financial support to complete their goal for posterity. Your earliest donation for our proposal will be very much appreciated. For more information about our proposal, please contact the Curator, Andrew Zhao via the email:

Copyright by China Portrayer Service Co., Ltd., China, 2001-2005



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