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Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 13 September 2010
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 00:00

Happy 10th anniversary, Yangjuan!

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Yangjuan is a village of the Yi minority, located in the mountains of southwestern Sichuan. In Fall 2000, the Yangjuan Primary School, built with the support of Chinese and foreign friends and dedicated to comprehensive education for the children of Yangjuan opened its doors. Thus, Yangjuan is the site of an innovative arts education program directed by Benoit Vermander of the Taipei Ricci Institute and Li Jinyuan of Sichuan Normal University and of a multidiciplinary anthropological-ecological research project carried on by the Sichuan Provincial Institute for Minority Studies, Sichuan University, and the University of Washington.

The 10th anniversary of Yangjuan took place in August 2010 and was a real success, with even more people in attendance than at the opening in 2000. To me the highlight was Aku Vyvy, the foremost Yi poet, getting the children to recite his famous poem yyr ggut (calling the soul) along with him. There was also a lot of very nice singing and dancing. It rained before and after, but not during the ceremony, just as HiesseVuga had predicted from his astrological knowledge. Three yaks were butchered, constituting the largest pile of meat I've ever seen as it sat in the courtyard. He Laoban donated 10,000 kuai for the top-ten students in the graduating class. Unfortunately the Principal literally put the money in his pocket, so we don't know how much of it the students will eventually see. We can ask them next time we go back.

Foreigners in attendance were very few, consisting of Eddie Schmitt, Geoff Morgan, Abby Lunstrum, Prof Chen Mei-ying of Chiayi (all current or former University of Washington students) and me. Zhang Wei presented a very nice set of posters that I think he and Li Jinyuan had made up (I was not there to ask when they arrived), and Li Xingxing and I put together a slide show of 200 pictures or so, using a projector borrowed from Chuan Da.

The dearest thing was that Fagen found out that it was my birthday on the 15th, and went all the way to Yanyuan to purchase a cake, watermelon, and bananas, and someone else had a bottle of vin rouge français (vraiment!), so it was a very endearing gesture and a welcome break from the succession of more carnivorous parties.

The next day we gave out 160 scholarships, including 15 for students in their last year of high school, which means we need to think about college next year. I'm applying for some funds from a Seattle foundation for this purpose.

Li Xingxing wants to start an online discussion group about the present and future of the school. The primary proximate problem is the lack of state-credentialed teachers; of course the ultimate problem is the management skills of the principal, everyone including the teachers (except for Ma Erzi's close relatives) seems to agree.

Geoff made some further repairs to the 6 water system, after Amanda Henck and her husband had made some earlier this summer. But it's clear that that system is a stop-gap measure. But none of us outsiders needs to do much, we think, because the ¥310,000 that was given by the Provincial Assembly (省民委) to the Prefecture Poverty Alleviation Office (州扶贫办) is apparently actually physically in Xichang, so that work on the larger system is to start soon.

In connection with water, Geoff and I went to see both the 3rd system given by a Chinese entrepreneur, and the revived version of the 4th system from Hydroliques sans Frontières. The #3 system, using Laizigou water, seems to work very well, and people say it provides water year-round, unlike any of the others built so far. The big surprise to me is the 4th system, which was revitalized last year. They have given up on the communal taps that were part of the original system, and every household paid a small amount to bring water inside where children won't mess with the taps. Only four households are still using a communal tap, which is, predictably, broken. Two households near the well are still using the well. Geoff and I talked to several families, all of whom are quite satisfied with the new system, except that it still runs dry in the winter. They pay the manager 20 jin of corn per year for his services. Anyway, it's in the best shape I've seen it since just after it was built.

The people depending of the 6th system are almost sure to "sell" its forest to a company in Xichang. The deal is being kept quite secret, and Ma Ningjun claimed not even to know the name of the company. The final papers have not been signed yet, but everyone seems to think they will be. The remaining rights of members to the resources are ambiguous at present. All the members of the other 3 systems have agreed not to sell theirs for the time being.

{gallery}stories/yangjuan_10_anniversary{/gallery}

(Photos provided by S. Harrell)

 

 

 

Monday, 13 September 2010 11:29

An ear for Chopin

Among all the versions of Chopin's first ballade I have listened to, Rubinstein's interpretation sounds to me the most convincing one. There are other pianists who play this ballade with more passion or elegance... But only in Rubinstein's rendition do I hear something that must be very difficult for an instrumentalist to express - effort.

This is best exhibited in the middle of the piece when the climax is reached. Most pianists play this part with the intention to show liberation or success, thus notes are often hit with ease, smoothly, sometimes even elegantly or joyfully. But in Rubinstein's, the peak is not reached without effort, hesitation, and even fear. Rubinstein gives one the impression that this climbing is supported by great courage and firm belief, and it really radiates once it's unfolded. But one also hears discernible efforts, great strength being poured into it - and the fear behind this calls for such strength.

Out of fear and hesitation, courage and strength are born - yes, this is what I hear. It is amazing that the expression of such state of mind actually can be achieved. And, in less than one minute, it tells more than one thousand words can say.

Rubinstein surely can play it with ease, like many others do, but he plays it this way. At the highest, most exalting point he shows how difficult it really is. So difficult that it can even be noticed! This reminds me of Maria Callas - she once talked about how hard it was for her to "appear to be as tired" as she does when performing La Traviata. How do you sing with a voice that sounds as being on the verge of breaking away at any second while making the entire opera house hear you clearly? Callas describes it as "a dangerous work."

Both Rubinstein and Callas did such a treat beautifully. The intended imperfection in no case damages the musicality. On the contrary it gives it a real human touch. And this is exactly what moves me so much.

Photo: C.P.

 

 

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