They gaze at you, the fashionably-attired youths of Esfahan, from a distance of 300 years. Swaying like cypress trees, their tresses floating in the air like clouds, their faces surrounded by peach fuzz, they smile like the Gioconda and with more mystery. Who are these young men and what do they say to the viewers? After the lucidity of the great 16th-century Persian and Mughal painters like Behzad and Sultan Mohammad, who painted kingly battles and hunts, the 17th century brings us the works of Reza Abbasi and Mohammad Qasem, and their ambivalent but sexually-charged portraits of young men and occasionally young women.
The repercussions of Western imperialism have impacted modern society in countless ways. From politics to language to art, is it clear that people are still grappling with how to address the conflicts stemming from increased globalization and colonialism (primarily that of Europeans and Americans) from the 16th century onwards.
Well before ping-pong diplomacy in the early 1970s, there was acrobat diplomacy. As a result, many people around the world became familiar with Chinese acrobats, performers that did more than just walk a trapeze or juggle on stilts. Chinese acrobats brought circus performing to a new level, for instance by balancing multiple stacks of cups and saucers on the top of long sticks—often from two hands and a foot. In Jingjing Xue’s memoir, Shanghai Acrobat, the author not only tells of training with the Shanghai acrobats from a young age, but also shows how these troupes became the face of China, starting in developing countries and eventually reaching the west.
Few nations can boast eras of peace and prosperity as long as the Tokugawa period in Japan, which lasted almost 300 years from the 17th through 19th centuries. Pax Tokugawana: The Cultural Flowering of Japan, 1603-1853 by renowned Japanese studies professor Toru Haga offers a detailed and nuanced portrayal of life under the strict rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and how the peace established by the stringent policies of the ruling warrior class defined the zeitgeist of the era.
Chinese Film Classics, 1922–1949 is an essential guide to the first golden age of Chinese cinema. Offering detailed introductions to fourteen films, this study highlights the creative achievements of Chinese filmmakers in the decades leading up to 1949, when the Communists won the civil war and began nationalizing cultural industries.
Many years ago a Parisian dance act from Pigalle received an invitation to play at a nightclub on Cairo’s Pyramid Road. Like “costumes” at the Crazy Horse today, the dancers’ body stockings left nothing to the imagination. The audience of worldly Cairiotes, the tarbouche-wearing musicians with their lutes and durabukas, the indefatigable army of busboys, gazed on this spectacle of female nubility with a mix of indifference and condescension.
“Do androids dream of electric sheep?” famously asked science fiction writer Philip K Dick, obliquely hinting at a universal—and longstanding—human obsession with dreams and our relationship with them. Robert Ford Campany, in his The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE-800 CE, approaches the subject of dreams—as do many other people—in terms of personal psychology. It is difficult to overstate how influential Freud and Jung have been in framing our modern understanding of dreams as expressions of our anxieties, fixations and unconscious drives.