The founder and lead curator of the Hongwenboya Art Museum in China gave a presentation about Chinese culture, philosophy and furniture on Tuesday. Already, Pan Haiying has plans to bring more of China’s tradition and artistry to Ohio State’s campus next year.
Pan Haiying founded the Hongwenboya Art Museum to preserve and promote the traditions of China in a rapidly advancing world. Her two-part lecture, entitled “Mahogany Furniture and Thang-ga Paintings: An Evening with Mrs. Pan Haiying,” discussed how ancient Chinese philosophies played an important role in traditional design and how Buddhist paintings preserve the scripture with provoking symbolism.
The event was organized thanks to Yvette Shen, an assistant professor in the Department of Design at Ohio State. She met Pan during a 2015 visit to China and has wanted to bring her work preserving Chinese culture to the university since.
The symbolism packed into traditional Chinese furniture draws from the teachings of Taoism, Confucianism and Yin-yang, which is the philosophy that fascinates Pan.
“Every single thing has a meaning to it,” Pan said through a translator. “It relates to the tradition, it relates to the philosophy and it relates to the Chinese culture in general. And I think that is the most important thing that I want to preserve.”
Much of traditional Chinese furniture and architecture uses exclusively mortise and tenon joints in its construction. This system employs interlocking wooden pieces without the use of nails or glue. Entire buildings, hundreds of feet tall, were erected this way. It is emblematic of Chinese philosophical teachings about fluidity, harmony and balance that date back to the first century B.C.
The second half of the lecture was delivered by Hao Ming, the vice curator of the museum. Ming discussed Thang-ga and Mandala paintings. Both forms are used by Tibetan Buddhist monks as a form of visual scripture. While Thang-ga are permanent, Mandala paintings are constructed by placing individual grains of colored sand and are wiped away soon after being finished. In spite of this, the Hongwenboya museum has three of them on display.
Ming said the goal is to make everyone understand the religion of Tibetan Buddhism, and gain spirit from it.
“If you want to promote it, you have to get people to actually see it,” Taqing Cheng, general manager of business development for the museum, said.
Shen said it is important for Ohio State students, including those from China, to be exposed to the ancient culture and artwork.
Shen is hoping to work on bigger events with Pan and the Hongwenboya Art Museum in the future. Next year, she said she would like to bring Tibetan monks to campus to create a mandala for the students.
“The whole [process] of building something, spending so much time and effort and energy paying attention to all these details, and then at the end destroy them … It’s a meditation process,” she said. “Sometimes you need to come down, you need not to think about the result, you need to focus on the process. It’s a way of life.”