Smiling (Non-)Buddha

Lue Mnjun's enigmantic grins are everywhere.

The smiling work of leading Chinese contemporary artist Yue Minjun is everywhere–huge, grinning self-portraits, often in bubblegum colors. Taking Kenny to an all-day football (soccer) tournament yesterday, passed this. Ethan felt the smiles were genuine, goofy happiness. The Times piece linked above suggests the smiles may be the “illusion of happiness headed toward extinction.” Lue is part of what some call China’s Cynical Realism school, which meets the despair of contemporary urban China sardonically, with a sense of the absurd. Take it straight or metaphorically–Yue’s famous smiles are referencing Buddha’s smile. I don’t pretend to get Beijing life today. But I often think of a student, native of the city whose home was razed as part of the rezoning of low-rise alleys so high-rise towers could rise, who said, “I’m homesick every day.” And of an Edison, NJ dad born here and now back several years, for a hedge fund, who gets lost driving his own hometown.
My students’ latest sets of writing have wrestled the inexplicable delays in banning waste (“sewer”) oil from returning to the food stream; the wrongness of not letting a good candidate who wasn’t hand-picked run for office, and the anger on campus when hundreds of students were forced to “volunteer” for the administration, with work sometimes lasting until midnight, under penalty of disciplinary action. And there’s this. The smog (using the Embassy’s Air Quality Index, or AQI) has been above 400 this week & today, a multiple of emergency health conditions almost impossible to express. I didn’t put Ethan in his mask yesterday because our Chinese playdate didn’t have them. My friend said it was just fog, rolling in before the rain.

Forest Park, beside the Olympic stadia

3 comments on “Smiling (Non-)Buddha

  1. Adam says:

    Related to this blog post, I think you will find this interesting guys;
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203476804576613050373696270.html

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  2. Adam as usual totally spot-on, thanks so much. Just a couple weeks ago, too, realy fresh. The slide show section is particularly interesting as a complement to the description of the multi-million-dollar price tags this work (including Jue’s) is going for. Wow. Also the whole part about the brush and ink pots being suddenly treasured because of the iconic role of the scholar. It’s truly a different and fascinating culture.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203476804576613050373696270.html#project%3DSLIDESHOW08%26s%3DSB10001424052970203476804576615351065389790%26articleTabs%3Dslideshow

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  3. […] Smiling (Non-)Buddha (coplansinchina.wordpress.com) […]

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