During the war with Japan and the subsequent civil war Zhou devoted himself to diplomacy. When the People’s Republic was founded in 1949 Zhou became prime minister, an office he held until
Marco Polo in Tartar uniform his death. Between 1949 and 1958 he also served as foreign minister. He was a popular figure among the Chinese people on account of his balanced, sincere and always discreet personality.
Of all the Chinese political leadership he alone came through the-purges and political campaigns untarnished and not once did he become a target for public criticism or accusations. He died of a tumour on January 6th 1976. Three months after Zhou’s death on the occasion of Qingming, a festival to honour the dead, the Beijing people gathered on Tiananmen Square to show their respect for their deceased leader-the first sign of the simmering dissatisfaction which was to lead to unrest later on.
The significance According to legend a certain Che Huang who lived c. 2500 b.c. in of the paintbrush vented the Chinese paintbrush. It consists of a tuft of soft animal hairs attached to the end of a bamboo cane. Unlike the Western version with its stiff bristles which follow the delicate movements of the finger, responding as it were consciously to a rational force, the Chinese paintbrush is so soft that it cannot be controlled quite so easily and thus reacts like a seismograph to the spiritual and physical impulses of the artist. The paintbrush records not just his rational will but also his moods and state of mind. “The brush stroke is the man” is an old Chinese saying. Throughout the history of Chinese art, the quality of the brushwork has been a central feature – its power, its lightness, its capacity to transform the world into fantasy.
Set against this background certain differences between Chinese and Western painting become easier to understand, e.g. little stress is laid on the study of the human body or the portrait. The Chinese painter is not concerned with rendering a likeness of a body or a face; much more important are the body’s movements and its relationship with nature. In most Chinese painting the human figure is but a small detail within a much larger, all-embracing whole. Chinese painters also have little interest in perspective, often a starting-point for Western students of art. Chinese art tends more towards a psychological solution to this problem with vague distance and close-up effects which can create a thoroughly modern interpretation of landscapes.
A Chinese painter therefore will never paint a natural scene and never use a model and yet his relationship with nature is probably closer than his Western counterpart. When an artist has studied his theme for long enough and has absorbed the inherent qualities, he will reproduce it on rice paper or silk with a symbol that expresses his innermost feelings, his soul. The prominent features of his subject simply disappear into the background.
“Four Treasures” The materials that a Chinese painter uses – the “Four Treasures” as they are traditionally known, i.e. brush, ink, rubbing stone and rice paper – do not permit any alterations or any time for contemplation. Quite the opposite, they demand spontaneous flowing expression, precise thought, a first-class technique and a spiritual and physical self-discipline which is to some extent comparable with religious meditation and the martial arts.
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