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  • Oct23

    A Gift Worth Remembering

    October 23, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Yesterday afternoon in our hotel I met a worker named Gracie Yuan. I sensed that she wanted to practice her English, and I certainly needed to practice my Chinese. I told her a story I heard from one of my teachers, Mr. Richard Chen. His father was a landlord expelled from China in 1948. He had a friend who was an artist in Beijing who had painted pictures of bamboo, only bamboo, for his entire life.

    Mr. Chen asked the old artist, “When are you going to paint a picture of something other than bamboo?”

    The artist answered, “Once I have painted the perfect painting of bamboo, then I might try something else. So far, though, I have not yet painted the perfect picture of bamboo.”

    Using my best baby Chinese I told Gracie this story. This morning after breakfast she met us in the lobby.

    “I have a present for you,” she said. “Wait here.”

    In a few minutes she brought me a painting by an artist friend of hers, a painting of bamboo. The artist, whose name is Xie (pronounced Sheh), placed his personal chop on the painting. It is a rendition of bamboo made on rice paper using ink and a traditional Chinese mao bi, the brush used for writing Chinese characters. Many Chinese works of art contain a poem as well as a painting. I have delayed in purchasing art because I did not want to buy a work unless I understood the translation of the accompanying poem. Gracie gave me a rough translation of the poem.

    “The bamboo attempts to grow straight and tall,
    But many winds blow from many directions trying to bend it,
    Yet despite the winds, the bamboo continues to grow straight and tall.”

    Johnny Liu, our concierge, graciously agreed to carry the painting by taxi to have it mounted by an oriental framing shop here. I am grateful beyond words for this gracious gift.
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