Art history

Jade’s Secret of Immortality

In the ancient realms of China, jade held a powerful secret—immortality. Our ancestors conducted rituals with a clear goal: to understand and harness the forces of nature. One of their remarkable discoveries was the jade cicada, a small yet mighty symbol used in burials. Placed on the tongue, it had a profound purpose: to prevent the body from decaying and to safeguard the life force, known as qi.   The cicada, with its intriguing life cycle, living underground for up to seventeen years before emerging as a mature insect, became a symbol of transformation and rebirth. Its unique shape, marked by a slightly enlarged head and gracefully pointed wings, held an abstract charm. Placing these figurines in the mouth or near the body was believed to grant the departed the gifts of everlasting purity, transforming them into immortals.   Jade, the stone of choice, took subtle forms in Neolithic cultures, from the Yangtze’s mouth to southeastern Mongolia. It was crafted into clean geometric shapes adorned with harmonious patterns and polished to perfection. This was no easy feat; working with jade required friction, abrasion, and relentless polishing. Jade was chosen not just for its beauty but for its symbolic purity and strength, values deeply cherished in Chinese culture. As time passed, it also became a guardian, protecting the body on its journey to the world of ancestors, ultimately leading to immortality.   In this ancient tale, we discover the unyielding quest for immortality in Chinese culture, where jade held the key to resurrection. With the transformative magic of the jade cicada and the enduring allure of jade, we unveil a culture’s relentless pursuit of life beyond the mortal coil, where immortality reigned supreme.  

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The world of “fairy tales”

The world of “fairy tales” and similar stories reflects the timeless art of storytelling, a universal method of sharing cultural wisdom and life lessons. As we explore the different terms and traditions, we discover some captivating insights: In Japan, the magic of storytelling takes on various forms, like “mukashibanashi” (legends from the past), “namidabanashi” (touching and sad stories), and “obakebanashi” (tales of supernatural beings). The stories traveled with itinerant storytellers, including monks known as “Biwa-hoshi,” who used the enchanting sounds of a Japanese lute to weave their tales. China uses the word “gushi” to embrace the idea of a fairy tale, capturing the essence of “an ancient matter” or “a timeless story.” The storytelling tradition evolved with the creation of “huaben,” a genre of written prose that began as records of spoken performances and transformed into unique, authored works between the 10th and 13th centuries.   In the English-speaking world, a “fairy tale” is often simply called a “tale,” a term that beautifully captures the essence of a story. Other phrases like “legend,” “nursery tale,” and “nursery rhyme” are used, especially when these tales are meant for children, reflecting the nurturing role of caregivers in passing down these timeless stories.   In Old Russia, the word “fable” or “bakhars” was used to describe the enchanting genre of fairy tales. The term “kazat” eventually came to be associated with “fairy tale,” although it didn’t appear in written records until the 17th century.   In these diverse cultures, storytelling often began as an oral tradition. Itinerant poets, storytellers, and even monks journeyed from place to place, sharing their captivating tales. The addition of musical instruments, like lyres or lutes, in cultures like Ancient Greece and Japan, added a magical touch to these stories, making them a vivid and enchanting experience.  

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A Tale of Transformation

Since the Middle Ages, we’ve come a long way from trembling at the mere mention of dragons. In European civilization, we found solace in stories of our triumphs over these mythical beasts. Meanwhile, in Asia, dragons have always been revered, blessing civilization with their strength and wisdom.  But here’s the magic of change: over the last 100 years, a remarkable transformation has taken place. We’ve bid farewell to the age-old narratives of slaying dragons, and instead, we’ve opened our hearts to befriend these magnificent creatures.  No longer are dragons our foes; they’ve become our comrades-in-arms, helping us shape our shared destiny. Our children now revel in playful adventures with these lovable beings, much like the enchanting tale of “The Reluctant Dragon” by Kenneth Grahame.  In this shift, we’ve even embraced the Ouroboros, a dragon snake that consumes itself, symbolizing the eternal cycle of life, death, and creation from destruction.  The truth is, we no longer need to depict dragons as adversaries in our stories. Our centuries-long battle has concluded, but we’re still here, alive and vibrant, igniting the flames of curiosity and courage within us.  In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “A man who fights dragons for too long becomes a dragon himself.” 

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Magic of swan stories

From the classic fairy tales that kindled our childhood dreams to the timeless myths that unveil the mysteries of the gods, stories have a way of captivating our hearts and minds.   Fairy Tales: These whimsical literary creations whisk us away to distant lands filled with talking animals, benevolent fairies, and daring adventures. The main purpose? Pure, unadulterated entertainment.  Mythology: Ancient tales of gods and heroes, once whispered by bards, have become an integral part of our cultural tapestry. Their stories weren’t sacred texts but were meant to entertain, making the myths of yore a captivating blend of the divine and the imaginative. Folk Tales: Like seasoned travelers, folk tales have journeyed through generations, evolving as they cross borders. Their power lies in their ability to transcend cultural boundaries, uniting us in shared experiences. Swan Stories: Just like the swan, a single species of bird, tales like “Swan-Zeus,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Wild swans” showcase the diversity of storytelling, where the same subject gives rise to different and captivating plots. Moral Lessons: While Greek myths might not have modern morals, stories like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The 12 Swans” clearly convey lessons of acceptance, friendship, and humility.  Universal Desires: Regardless of nationality, people worldwide share common desires and values. These recurring themes in our stories reveal the unifying power of the human experience. Hope and Progress: Despite life’s complexities, we hold on to the belief that the world is becoming a better place. Stories serve as our guides, illuminating the path of hope and progress.

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Fairytale. My thoughts on this matter are still raw

In the early 17th century, Charles Perrault emerged as one of the first chroniclers of these captivating tales. His collection, “Mother Goose” stories, featured classics like Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood, totaling eight enchanting fairy tales. Originally penned for adults in salons, these stories were far from mere children’s bedtime tales. Perrault’s work added a unique twist, interpreting Giambattista Basile’s earlier, eerier fairy-tale plots from a century before.Giambattista Basile’s tales were characterized by their eerie and graphic nature, hardly suitable for children.The Brothers Grimm, German folklore collectors of the 18th century, contributed their own interpretations of folk stories, initially not intended for young readers. So, why were these fairy tales told? In my perspective, they served multiple purposes: sheer enjoyment, education, and reflections of the cultural and societal values of their times. Fairy tales, whether through Perrault’s salon tales, Basile’s dark narratives, or the Grimms’ folklore collection, have always been a versatile and enduring form of storytelling. They’ve provided entertainment, moral lessons, and glimpses into the human condition, enriching our literary heritage.  

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The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence” by Carl Sagan

Reptiles have been part of our world for over 500 million years, long before humans arrived. We coexisted with hissing, crawling, and aquatic reptiles, sharing our planet with these incredible creatures.  As Carl Sagan wisely noted, it’s no surprise that reptiles have left their mark in the stories and symbols of civilizations and religions worldwide. From the serpent in Eden to snake worship in ancient Egypt and the enduring snake symbolism in modern India, reptiles have a special place in our hearts.  And here’s a thought: Have you ever wondered if the hissing sound we make to express silence or disapproval might be connected to our ancient reptilian companions? This questions that spark my curiosity.

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Earliest depictions of dragons

Ever wondered why we, as humans, must eventually face mortality? It’s a question that’s fascinated us for ages, dating back to our distant ancestors who emerged from Africa 70,000 years ago.   In countless legends, snakes hold the secret to eternal life through their mesmerizing ability to shed their skin.  Take the tale of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories known to humanity. Gilgamesh, in his quest for immortality, encounters a serpent that foils his chance to taste the flower of eternal youth.    Even the earliest depictions of dragons resemble serpents, emphasizing the profound connection between these creatures and the enduring myths of snakes.    Around the world, this age-old symbol takes on different forms. Sometimes it’s not just snakes but also lizards, shrimps, or even trees, symbolizing rejuvenation and everlasting life.    Consider the Atayal people’s myth in Taiwan, where humans were offered the gift of shedding skin like myrtle changing its bark, promising eternal youth. They declined, and mortality became our shared fate.    The ouroboros, a serpent devouring its own tail, embodies timeless concepts like eternity and the cyclical nature of life. It’s woven into our history through religion, magic, alchemy, mythology, and psychology.    In essence, the image of the snake biting its tail transcends cultures and eras, evolving from a protective emblem to a profound representation of eternity and interconnectedness.  

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Story of Change

 I find myself drawn into the intricate dance of transformation. It’s like watching a canvas come alive, with each brushstroke carrying the whispers of history and culture.  One of the most captivating tales is the evolution of the Buddha’s image in the ancient Gandhara region, where the influence of Greek art gave birth to stunningly lifelike depictions.  But what truly captures my heart is the enchanting journey of the male Buddha transforming into the beloved goddess of mercy, Guanyin.  From compassion to diversity, her story reflects the ever-changing tapestry of human beliefs. It reminds me that myths, like clay in the hands of a skilled sculptor, mold and adapt to serve our deepest needs and desires.

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