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July 25, 2007

Princeton Art Museum and its Collection “Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest”

Filed under: Toast Master — Tags: — Fei @ 8:32 pm

Disclaimer: This speech is solely for the fun of toast master international speech. The stories may not be historically accurate, nor is impartial. Please listen with discretion.

Thanks Mr. Toast Master. Fellow Toast Masters, and honored guests. Do you know if you have a bank of America card, you could go to any museum for free last May? Heh? Sorry, it’s too late now… I, actually took advantage of that and went to San Francisco MOMA and de Young…Want to know how I felt? Disappointment. Don’t make me wrong. It has nothing to do with the museums. Those museums are fine museums. They have fairly good art works. The problem is, of course, always me. I visited museums in the wrong order. You know I came from greater New York City area and they have the finest museums in the world: Metropolitan, natural history, NY MOMA. Basically I need to reverse the sequence of museums to visit. I should visit San Francisco museums first, and NY museums later.
But today I’m not going to talk about NY museums. I want to talk about Princeton art museum. It is a nice little museum, even in the middle of all NY museums. Of course its collections cannot be compared with Metropolitan, but to me, they are at least at the same level as de Young. Princeton art museum resides in the middle of Princeton campus. It has no admission fee, very important. The museum is free to the students, to the faculty, and to the public… it is much better than the small museum in Cambridge, where you have to pay like five dollars to get in… and I don’t even know what’s inside…

Because I’m Chinese, I’m especially interested in Chinese collections. Today, I want to describe to you my favourite collection. It is the calligraphy from Wang Xizhi. Wang lived in Dong Jin dynasty, which is about 300 AD, 1700 years ago. Wang is considered the greatest calligrapher of all times in China. He transformed writing from merely a means of recording words to a piece of art. From the way he wrote the characters, you can feel his emotions, feel his personality. The specific collection, as you can see at your hand, is the first half of a personal letter, only fifteen characters. It is called “Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest”. What do you feel from the characters? exciting? happy? sorrow? or bitter? well, if you are like me, an ordinary person… you don’t really know… I don’t know a thing about calligraphy… I don’t even know whether it’s good or not… hmm… that’s not exactly true, I can tell if it’s really really bad… but I cannot tell better from good… However, if everyone else says it’s good, it’s got to be good. That is actually how Wang Xizhi became the greatest calligrapher.

Ritual in Goog Harvest

Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest

I… have to confess, I actually just lied to you. Have you noticed that? The Princeton collection is not a real letter by Wang Xizhi. It’s a fake one, but it’s a very early fake one. It was faked in the 7th century, only three hundred years after Wang’s era. The way they fake it, is to put a piece of paper on the supposedly authentic Wang’s letter, and trace the exact way Wang wrote the characters. We call it, a tracing copy. I assure you, even though it is fake, it is very precious. That is only because no authentic Wang’s calligraphy exists in the world today. And there’s a story behind it. Remember I told you that Wang is the greatest calligrapher because everyone else says so? right? From 4th century to 7th century, lots of people did see Wang’s authentic calligraphy, and they highly value that. They would spend a lot of money just to get a real piece of Wang’s handwriting. At the end of 7th century, the emperor of China became so interested in Wang’s calligraphy, that he ordered everyone in the country to hand in Wang’s work, otherwise he would be beheaded. So, he became the only person that had the entire collection. When he died, he did one step further. He put every single piece in his tomb, so he could enjoy it in the underworld. After that… nobody … has ever seen a real piece of Wang’s calligraphy. But everybody heard from their predecessors that Wang was the greatest calligrapher, so he is… As a side effect, the fake ones became precious.

So, you see.. when you see a museum collection, if you don’t know the history, don’t know the stories behind it.. it is just an ordinary collection. You will get a lot more, if you spend a little bit of time, do some research. And your museum visiting experience will be much more exciting.

My first Princeton art museum visit was in an activity hosted by the art museum. Its central theme was this letter by Wang Xizhi. A guide described all the background information about this letter, pretty much like what I just told you. After that, we had a reception INSIDE the museum. A small Chinese musical group played some ancient Chinese instruments inside the main room. Think about it, you can listen to the beautiful music, enjoy the wonderful collections around you, and taste the high quality finger food. And remember, everything… is… absolutely… FREE…. Can you find any other museum in the world do the same thing?

Trust me, Princeton art museum is very unique. If you go to Princeton, don’t forget to go to the art museum. And don’t forget to see this calligraphy: “Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest”.

Mr. Toast Master…

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Time: 6 minutes 27 seconds
Date: 07/25/2007

July 23, 2007

Is it edible?

Filed under: Freestyle — Fei @ 11:09 pm

Just read a news from mercury news… giant squid invading monterey bay… wow… that’s quite something…. it’s definitely global warming effect… the giant squid… usually found around equator… appear here? in the freezing (or used to be freezing) water from Alaska? well, the bad news is… can’t really dive in the sea…. those 7-foot, 100 pound squids are waiting for their dinner… :(… but the water is still too cold for me… so I don’t really care… the question now is… is it edible? I love seafood… I always dream of having a grilled whole something from the sea… just like the grilled whole lamb in the inner Mongolia…. and now.. we can have grilled whole squid? sounds really tasty… 😉

In another sense, putting aside the dirty politics… global warming is not a totally bad thing… we only need to change our diet… squid is really tasty… so… we can reduce the food chain… eat less pork, beef, lamb… those stupid mammals will soon be extinct anyway… we just need to eat more primitive stuff… like squid..? or even blue-green algae… heard astronauts need to eat them in the space… and we do find a lot more of them these days… it overwhelmed all major lakes in China… hmm.. it is actually a lot more humane… coz we don’t feel like killing something… if we can live with that… global warming is a piece of cake… or not a problem at all…

haha… can’t wait to jump into the warm… body temperature… water from Alaska… in a few years… and BBQ grilled giant squid… having blue-green algae as salad soup…;) those poor people in the east coast have to be away from the boiling water from the south… who said west coast is not good? thank God I’m in the best place… in a few years…

//grin…

July 5, 2007

Speech Topics

Filed under: Toast Master — Fei @ 9:08 pm

I was quite worried about my toast master speeches… worrying about the speech topics… but today, I suddenly realized I could easily find a lot to talk about… and they could form a series… the topic is… Princeton…

I have a lot to say about Princeton.. originally I only thought about three speeches:
Princeton, a historical perspective…
Princeton University, a historical perspective…
and Princeton University, my perspective…

soon I realized I could not stuff soo many things in the three speeches… so I will add two more…
Princeton University, residentional colleges and eating clubs….
Princeton Unversity, reunion and commencement…

And… if I still have more to say… which I don’t think likely… I could always add one more
Princeton University, some less known facts…

These… however, does not include my next speech… which is…
Princeton University Art Museum…

Okay.. I guess I will soon be done with my first 10 speeches…

write this to remind me the unfinished tasks… hope I will have the mood to finish them….

btw, read some materials about the university… didn’t know JFK was originally admitted at Princeton… only later he became sick and dropped out and then went to Harvard… hmm… sometimes history is determined by a small incident… butterfly effect…

AND… "House" was shot at Princeton! I watched it quite a bit but didn’t realize it a bit… and the hospital is Frist campus center? well… need to take a second look in the new season…

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