Tang Dynasty Woman Playing Polo
If you are curious, an ancient Chinese version of polo was a common game of nobles during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). It was not just for nobles, as various Emperors would often enlist maids, servants, traveling soldiers, concubines, and even diplomats from Tibet to play the game.
The Tang Dynasty was really the "dynasty of the horse", as more than any other time, horses were an important part of society. In fact, one's wealth was strictly determined by the number of horses one owned. Good horsemanship was also a revered trait. Horses were also an important element of the Tang army, with officers and Chinese knights riding horses into battle.
About this artwork
This was painted using watercolors on xuan paper (often referred to as "rice paper" in the west). The raw artwork was then taken to our mounting workshop in Beijing. At the workshop it was laminated to several more sheets of xuan paper to thicken up the artwork. Also, a silk brocade border was added which can be used in lieu of matting when you frame this artwork.
About the amazing artist behind this great artwork:
If you have navigated much of our website, you already know this is a great all-around artist that does wonderful work in many categories. But of course, there is a story...
I was supposed to be on vacation, and I just wanted to see the karst mountain landscapes of the Li River near Guilin. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a very inspiring artist.
In fact, this man is probably the most courageous person that I have ever met. He certainly has my respect and admiration.
While he is a wonderful and talented artist, that is only part of his story
His full name is Ou-Yang Guo-De. He and his sister now live in Guilin. He keeps himself busy painting, while his sister sells his art at a small gallery not far from the center of the city.
When they were very young, their mother died. Their father didn't make much money, and with their mother gone, he had to remarry quickly for financial reasons (very common in Chinese culture under those circumstances and that time in history). Their father found a new wife in a village, and they all moved into the woman's family home.
Part of young Ou-Yang Guo-De's chores included collecting corn cobs that fell from the passing train cars at nearby railroad tracks. The corncobs are burned and used as fuel for cooking, and even heating homes in poorer villages where people cannot afford coal.
One day, when he was about 11 years old, Ou-Yang Guo-De came upon a train that had stopped on the tracks. Under the train he saw a bounty of corncobs. He climbed under the train to get the precious cobs when tragedy stuck. The train began to move, and literally cut him in half...
The details he told me about this event were so vivid that they are a bit too graphic for a happy art listing. He still remembers everything that happened until he lost consciousness, expecting to die.
Though pieces of his story are missing from when he was unconscious, there must have been a miracle involved because somehow he survived. The nearest hospital was far away, and while he has no idea how he got there before bleeding to death, that's were he woke up. But both of his legs and his left arm were gone forever.
In China, the most likely occupation for a disabled person like him would be to become a beggar on the street, but not Ou-Yang Guo-De!
He continued to study and go to school, and went to work at an umbrella and parasol factory. He showed a lot of natural artistic talent, so the factory owner sent young Mr. Ou-Yang to art school for two years. After graduation, he went to work hand painting beautiful scenes on rice paper and silk parasols.
After many years at the factory, working for low wages, he decided to make a change. He took a leap of faith and went out on his own as an artist. It was a little rough at first, but it turned out to be a good decision.
He has done well, and has quite a following. Also, he is a little famous for more than his art. You see, a few years ago, he was given an award by the government of China for being an example of what disabled people should aspire to.
But there is something about him that is different. This guy totally loves life. He is truly happy and good-natured. He laughs and tells jokes and is the life of the party. He is not a social outcast, but rather a social phenomenon. He is surrounded by a lot of friends because I think his friends feed off of his enthusiasm for life - I certainly felt it myself.
I spent several days with the artist, and I may be forever changed. Whenever I think I am in a tough spot, or difficult circumstance, all I have to do is think about Mr. Ou-Yang. If he can overcome what he did, then I can overcome my petty problems.
Where did I get this art?
Chronicles of an art-buying adventure in Asia...
Here's a typical art-buying trip that extended through thousands of miles of China (You can look at the bright green line on the map to the left). After a quick trip to South Korea, my real travel begins in Beijing with a train ride through Inner Mongolia, only to find that art is not abundant there, but ice and cold weather certainly are.
Heading south, though Ningxia Province, I stop in a little town called Zhongwei, where I meet one of the top Chinese calligraphers in the world. Meaning to only spend a day or two in this town, I spend the better part of a week with this talented calligrapher with lots of meals, tea, beer.
My next stop finds me tooling around a dune-filled desert on a camel. I think the jeep option would have been better.
Heading further south, I stop in Baoji in the Shaanxi Province, only to find an industrial city, devoid of art, although I am able to pick up a few traditional "wood rubbings" from an artist in a village outside of town.
Time to go again, and with the purchase of another train ticket, I make my way to Sichuan Province. The home of the spiciest Chinese food on the planet. The kind of food that will burn holes in your stomach. If you come to Sichuan with ulcers, the food here will either weld your ulcers shut, or kill you.
My first stop in Sichuan is another dead end, but my second stop is Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. I find that artists are multiplying in Chengdu, and perhaps there are twice as many artists to meet here now than there were just 9 months ago on my last trip.
With a belly full of spicy food, and a backpack full of thousands of dollars of Chinese art, I head east via long-distance bus to Chongqing (you might know it as Chung King). A huge metropolitan area that has collided with the villages around it. Again a dead end, but interesting to see old clash with new, as skyscrapers rise in the shadow of shacks and homes that are hundreds of years old.
I am torn in Chongqing as to where I should go next. I think about flying to Guilin, but am suddenly struck with an idea to grab a riverboat and head down the Long River (or "Chang Jiang" which means "Long River" in Chinese - often known as the "Yangtze" in the west, though the "Yangtze" or "Yangzi" is just one section of the Long River), and see the Three Gorges before the largest dam project in the world seals them under water forever.
The load on my back is getting heavy, and that is no way to travel on small boats and ships as you journey by the seat of your pants down river. So, I send two heavy boxes of Chinese art back to my partner Sandy in Beijing via "rail freight".
Hopping from boat to boat for 4 days, I make my way down the river. Even bribing my way onto a very small ship that was apparently operated by the Chinese Navy.
Past what will be the largest dam in the world when fully operational in 2009, I arrive in Yichang, which is not far from Wuhan, in Hubei Province.
The train and air travel from Yichang is limited, and I can not go directly to my next destination, I head to Shanghai, a wild city, and one of the most expensive places in all of China.
Shanghai is like no place on earth. Walk down one street and you will be greeted with the sight of 100 pair of underwear hanging from an apartment building to dry. Cross the river to Pudong, and only the glass and steel of modern skyscrapers fill your eyes.
I have a few friends in Shanghai who treat me like family, and take me for a night on the town. Great little rock bands complete with go-go dancers occupy almost every bar and club. It is enough to feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz... ...I don't think I'm in China anymore...
With the crazy lifestyle of Shanghai behind me, I head to Jinan, in Shandong Province where I meet many artists. Of more than 30 artist's studios that I visit, I pick only 5 artists whose work is of the quality and style that I am looking for.
After several days in Jinan, and with a backpack heavy with art, I head home to Beijing, where all of the art that I have purchased during my trip will be mounted to create wonderful portraits and scrolls.
Click here to learn more about us and the origin of this art