Asian Art Museum new exhibition Tomb Treasures #2 : Dancer Figurine and Comment by Yuan Yuan Tan, #TombPleasures

Dancer Figurine


This is my second post on the Asian Art Museum new exhibition.  This exhibition includes a creative approach which I personally appreciate very much.  It is the “Tomb Pleasures” self-guided tour with contemporary experts.

Ten contemporary experts commented on ten highlights of the exhibits.  I particularly like the comment on the Dancer Figurine by Yuan Yuan Tan, Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet.  She is my favorite ballerina in San Francisco Ballet.  I am very impressed not only by her performance in SF Ballet but also her comments on this exhibit.   Below is the picture I took in the gallery.  It includes the comments from Yuan Yuan Tan on the Dancer Figurine.  She said: “Certainly as long as any other form of human expression, dance is in our very nature to express ourselves and our desire to be understood.  It is a window into another’s soul.  Through the movements and expressions of dancers, we catch a glimpse of their inner monologue:  the joys, agonies, triumphs, and failures that are part of the universal human experience.”



The female dancer figurine shows a very dynamic posture of the “flying swallow” dance.  It is very bold in its design 2200 years ago!  My reader Adelaide commented on my previous post that she found the dancer figurine very modern.  It is really eye-opening for us.   Apart from this figurine there is an ensemble of dancers in the gallery.  I took a few of these photos and created a short video on Magisto.  I am posting these photos and the video here which is also posted on YouTube.  Enjoy!



Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure The SFMOMA has just reopened after three years of renovation. As a member of SFMOMA for many years, I am very excited of its new look and expansion. Due to work, I was only able to visit the museum twice on Thursday nights. Both visits were […]

via Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

How David Hockney, sees the world, with the use of technology

My Notebook

David Hockney: A Bigger Exibition

San Franciscans are indeed blessed with many opportunities of appreciating interesting art shows.  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco  (de Young Museum) ‘s “David Hockney, a Bigger Exhibition” is closing today, January 21, 2014. I finally had the chance to see it yesterday.  David Hockney is one of the best known living artists, renowned for his mastery of drawing, oil painting, printmaking, art design, photo collage, and the use of camera and video-making, with the help of technology.

I had seen a PBS interview of David Hockney back in October, 2013 when the show just began. I would like to share with you this video from PBS to get an overview of this exhibition and then two articles of art review…

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China’s First Emperor’s Warriors are going home! Last week to visit them at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Part IV – the Waterbirds

As I mentioned in my last post, I am taking a few of my colleagues at lunchtime to see the Terracotta Warriors as it is the last week of the exhibition at the Asian Art Museum.  After the visit today, one of them told me that her favorites are the waterbirds.  If you have read Part II or the second post about this exhibition, you may notice I also said that I found the waterbirds most interesting.  To satisfy my curiosity, I searched and looked around, and found some interesting remarks from scholars and curators.  The following information is extracted from the Asian Art Museum Docent Website


In 2001 a pit containing fifteen terracotta musicians and forty-six life-size bronze waterbirds was found about three kilometers northeast of the First Emperor’s tomb. The birds, which retain some of their original pinkish paint, were discovered on the banks of an artificial waterway. Some archaeologists believe the pit represents a royal park or sacred water garden. Water was the Qin dynasty‘s chosen symbol because it extinguishes fire, the element associated with the preceding Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–256 BCE).

I also searched for information at  iTunes U.  Press 5 and 6, and you will hear an audio recording about the waterbirds.

Scholars or curators are all amazed at these waterbirds,  not only of their life-size scale,  but also of the different charming poses.  None of them is identical.   Some have leisurely poses as if they are gliding gracefully on the pond,  while some are stretching their long neck looking for food.  There are 6 cranes flanked by 20 swans and 20 geese with 15 warriors surrounding them. 

Apart from the sacred water garden theory, there is another interpretation:  the whole set of waterbirds signifies heaven and earth, which is part of the design of the underground palace.  What is buried on the ground is not really underground,  but represents a replica of the celestial world.  What about the 15 warriors surrounding the birds?  Some scholars think that they may be musicians, and some think they are archers.   It looks like that the music theory does not quite hold because no musical instrument was found.   The archers’ theory is more receptive by many scholars, because bow and arrows were found nearby.  Also, in the ancient days, capturing  birds may represent the arrival of spring, which means the rejuvenation of life.

No matter which theory holds, I think these waterbirds have characters and are attractive to many viewers.  Do you want to see them again?  Only a few more days are left!

Coming Soon

Apart from the waterbirds, I am actually very interested in studying the warriors.  None is identical.  Please stay tuned for the next few posts!

China’s First Emperor’s Warriors are going home! Last two weeks to visit them at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Part II

In my last post on the same subject, I did not include the artifacts being exhibited.  On this post, I have included some of the artifacts excavated from the tomb.  To make it more interesting for you, I have created a movie from the pictures of the Warriors and the artifacts.  The music I used is Birds Singing in Spring by the Shanghai Folk Orchestra.  Scroll down to see the birds among the artifacts!  I hope you will enjoy it.

Here’s a gallery of the artifacts only, since I have already posted the Warriors on my last post.

Reminder: If you click any picture, you will see the gallery open up with the photos in large size.

Of these artifacts, I found the four water-birds most interesting.  It is the first time I saw water-birds excavated from tombs.  The First Emperor wanted to keep these birds in a pond surrounding his underground palace.  This shows how he would enjoy life if he were alive!

Reminder: If you click any of these four pictures, you will see the gallery open up with the photos in large size.

I also like these two tiles which have very special patterns.  The tile on the left is a rectangular paving tile with a sun design framed by a S-shaped cloud.  The First Emperor might have imagined himself ascended to heaven by walking on symbolic floors like this everyday.

The paving tile on the right is a hollow brick fragment with a dragon design.  It is believed that the First Emperor ‘s palaces were meant to mirror the celestial realm.  Therefore the dragon and phoenix designs are often found in these paving tiles.

(References: from the labels of the artifacts in the exhibition.)

Reminder: If you click any of these two pictures, you will see the gallery open up with the photos in large size.

China’s First Emperor’s Warriors are going home! Last two weeks to visit them at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Part I

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I mentioned several times on my blogs about Asian Art Museum (AAM) in San Francisco.  I have been a Chartered member for many years, but due to workload, I did not visit the AAM as often as I like to.  The current Terracotta Warriors Exhibition has started in February but I did not have the chance to visit till today.  As I had visited Xian some years ago, and seen the life-size Warriors, I thought it was no big deal to see them again at AAM.  I was wrong.  Although I did see a big group of Warriors in Xian, we were not allowed to go near to them.  We could only see them from a higher level and take pictures from there.  I still remember seeing some pictures of President Clinton and his family being allowed to go down to take photos with the Warriors.  I admired him for that opportunity which I would never have!

Yet today, we all had the chance to take our own pictures with the Warriors which were  just a foot away.  I did not choose to do so, but I took a bunch of pictures of the Warriors.  The museum allows visitors to take pictures as long as there is no flash.  The result is so good that I cannot help posting them immediately tonight.  I would say that the curator did a fantastic job in the lighting arrangement.  I am posting them on a slide-show and a gallery.  Please see for yourself.  The iPhone pictures are not bad even in a dark environment.  I think the effect is better if you see them via the gallery.  Please click on any photo below, and the gallery will open up.  Then you can see them in full size.  If you want to download them to your computer to see them, please go ahead and do so.  The effect to see them in full screen on your computer is the best.

I also met my friend Margaret who is a docent at AAM.  I think she is one of the finest docents at AAM.  I have learned a lot from her in Asian Art as well as her travel experience.  Her guided tour was excellent.  The only problem was the big crowd. I chose the wrong day (it is Mother’s Day).  I think I would take some of my colleagues during the weekdays.  Some of them did not have the chance to see the Warriors in Xian.

Although I  intend to write something about the Terracotta Warriors and the other objects excavated from the tomb, I won’t have time tonight.  Here’s the information on the Asian Art Museum website:

About the Exhibition

“The First Emperor, Qin Shihuang (259-210 BCE) conquered much in this life, but his driving purpose was even greater: He sought to conquer death. In order to achieve immortality, he built himself a tomb—a vast underground city guarded by a life-size terracotta army including warriors, infantrymen, horses, chariots and all their attendant armor and weaponry.

First unearthed in 1974, the underground burial complex of the First Emperor is a revelation for the ages, an astonishing discovery on par with Egypt’s mummies and elaborate tombs. Contemporary observers continue to be enthralled by his legacy, and it is through this ongoing interest that the First Emperor did indeed achieve immortality. This exhibition includes ten figures—a representative sample of the actual army, which is estimated to include more than 7,000 life-sized figures and over 10,000 weapons.”

I hope this post will stimulate the interests of some of you to visit the Exhibition before it ends on May 27, 2013.

Weekly Travel Theme – Dance – Cinderella, San Francisco Ballet – Wonderful Opening Night!


This is in response to the Weekly Travel Theme – Dance

I like this theme very much because I do have lots to share.  I have many dance pictures or videos which I took from my travels.    I may have already posted some of them, but  I may re-post them for some of my new readers.  What I want to share today is the new Cinderella ballet performed in San Francisco last Friday.

This year’s run of Cinderella is all sold out.  We are lucky to have secured our seats for Cinderella as  San Francisco Ballet subscribers.  We saw the Cinderella on Opening Night, May 3.   I think it is a  must-see dance event of the season: the U.S. premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s magical new production of Cinderella!

I found the costumes particularly beautiful. To give you an overview of the design of Cinderella’s costumes, here’s a video posted on

” Inspired by the Brothers Grimm and Perrault fairy tales, this wildly imaginative co-production with Dutch National Ballet features something for everyone: dramatic music by Prokofiev, spectacular sets and costumes by Julian Crouch (renowned for his designs for Metropolitan Opera and the Broadway musical The Addams Family), and ingenious puppetry by Obie Award winner Basil Twist.”

The performers of Cinderella are on rotation.  On the Opening Night, the Principal dancers who played Cinderella was Maria Kochetkova, and the Prince was played by Joan Boada.

Here are two short videos about them.

I found everything beautiful and fantastic, from the choreography to the performance of all the dancers, and  from the set to the costumes.  The critics in general gave it a very good rating although they often offered a few things that they would like to improve.  To me, it was a perfect performance….except that I could not get another ticket to see it again this Season.

For the readers who would like to read the review from art critics,  here’s  an excerpt from  San Francisco Chronicle :

SF Ballet review: ‘Cinderella’ charming

S.F. Ballet weaves an imaginative odyssey with Dutch troupe
Allan Ulrich
Published 4:51 pm, Sunday, May 5, 2013

“The project, San Francisco’s first “Cinderella” in more than three decades, is a co-production with the Dutch National Ballet. Given the verve and wit on display in this American premiere, you’d think it had been custom-made for the local team of all-stars, most of whom seemed to be dancing somewhere in this performance.

All “Cinderella”s should look and dance as well as this one. But they would require a choreographer like Wheeldon, who sees the comic possibilities in even the most dire of situations and possesses both a feeling for the fantastic and a penchant for self-mockery. Friday’s performance may have stalled early in details of the back story in Craig Lucas‘ libretto (the choreography doesn’t really suit Prokofiev’s score, at this point), but once we are introduced to the mature Cinderella, her father, stepmother and hideously funny stepsisters, this ballet floats on a cloud of invention through a stunning Act 1 closer and beyond, to a breathtaking ballroom act.”

Read more:

I am sorry if you don’t  have the chance to see Cinderella this season.  I am waiting for the second round too!