Imperial Chinese Court Regency

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Palace of Soong (or rather Soong House) will be restored – Updated: 2012-12-31 03:45 – by CANG WEI and SONG WENWEI in Nanjing ( China Daily) – reposted by T.E. Yu

The Palace of Soong Mei-ling, a classical building in Nanjing where the former first lady of Republic of China and her husband used to reside, is expected to reopen in October after its first major renovation in about 60 years.

Issue of semantics. Palaces are not 'Houses'.

Issue of semantics. Palaces are not ‘Houses’.

Before the work began, the three-story building — used by Soong and her husband, former Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek, in the 1930s and 1940s — had fallen into disrepair, according to a cultural heritage management bureau.

Palace of Soong will be restored

The Palace of Soong Mei-ling stands on a hill in a suburban area in the eastern part of Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [PHOTO BY SONG QIAO / FOR CHINA DAILY]

Large pieces of the colorful paintings on its ceilings and walls have peeled off.

Some of its windows are broken, pillars unstable and railings cracked.

To restore the building, which was later used as a resting place for senior officials on their way to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) will be spent on the 300-day renovation project, said Liu Dong-hua, director of the cultural heritage department under the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum management bureau.

The original appearance of the palace will be retained to the greatest possible extent, Liu said.

The renovation will first reinforce the structure and then replace or repair all the wood flooring.

The major part of the work will be the colorful paintings, according to Liu.

A panel of experts from Beijing’s Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, who are recognized as being exceptionally skilled in restoring painting on old buildings, will be invited to restore the paintings.

Natural mineral pigments designed for the repair of ancient buildings will also be purchased for painters to achieve the best results.

The glazed green tiles on the roof of the palace may be totally replaced with new tiles of the same color and shape, and orders for these special tiles will be placed with professional factories in Beijing or Yixing, in Jiangsu province.

The renovation work also includes removing the air conditioners on the outside walls and termite prevention.

The work will be carried out strictly in accordance with the building’s blueprint.

“The blueprint was found by chance when we collected materials for the maintenance work,” said Zhou Zhongxing, general manager of a service company of the palace.

The design drawing, which contains five pieces of paper, detailed the structure and function of each story, he said.

The renovation team is soliciting old photos and decorations that used to be in the palace.

A 200-square-meter basement in the palace, which contained some functional rooms, such as a kitchen, boiler room and laundry, will be restored and opened to the public for the first time.

The palace, built from 1931 to 1934, was later named after Soong for her frequent visits when she was in Nanjing, then capital of the Republic of China.

Soong was the youngest of the famous three Soong sisters. Their husbands, including Sun Yat-sen, founding father of Republic of China, and Chiang Kai-shek, played large roles in China’s history in the early 20th century.

Since 1950, the palace has been handed over to several management departments, including the city’s health bureau and a large hotel company.

In March, 2012, it was put under the management bureau of Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, which also manages other historical buildings from the time when Kuomintang ruled China.

Architect with plans.

Architect eyes skewed plans.

Contact the writers at cangwei@chinadaily.com.cn and songwenwei@chinadaily.com.cn

ICCR Notes :

One of our ICCR members who happens to be an architect has this to annonymously say.

“While the efforts at heritage conservation are laudable and critical to the re-Imperialisation of China, this so-called ‘palace’ is but an upper middle class family’s  large house, not even the size of a 1 Jin Siheyuan (House), aristocrat’s 2 to 3 Jin Siheyuan (Mansion), OR a low ranked nobleman or retired high ranked bureaucrat’s 4 or 5 Jin Siheyuan (Manor – 20 sq ft minimum manor level building). A series of 5 Jin Siheyuans within single walled compound no smaller than 2 acres qualifies as a Villa (Village) equivalent suitable for the nobility, which is still not a palace.

A “Palace” proper would feature a large central square, finely carved balustrade lined avenues, at least 1 liveable sized pagoda (typically most Pagodas are ornamental), a hanful of high-Chinese style gazebos, at least 1 olympic sized pool, similar sized rockeries and/or ornamental fish pond(s), and highly manicured-exotic tree featuring (not mainly shrub as in the Siheyuan) gardens covering at least 16 acres (as per Prince Gong’s Palace Residence) in totality. The term palace is entirely unsuitable to describe this rather large upper class sized but not even Siheyuan sized building. I have seen tea houses and residences larger and more ornate than this structure who’s owners would not dare claim the word ‘palace’ in their naming”.

An Aristiocrat relaxes at his private concubinary equipped with an ornate pool.

An Aristocrat relaxes at his private concubinary equipped with an ornate pool. Note that retired PRC soldiers require permission from the military to work in their uniforms for selected/screened persons or associations with weapons permits (for inside the residence) only. The soldiers in the background do not indicate that the unamed Chinese aristocrat is a PRC official or is linked with the government of the PRC, though registered via ICCR in informative consultation with the PRC until formal recognition of the Imperial Chinese Court.

ICCR concurs with the somewhat harsh but necessary comment above. Please do not term small buildings with such superlatives as ‘palace’ if the size and form are unsuitable. ICCR suggests that ALL buildings (residential, commercial or even restaurants) using the term ‘Palace’ be contacted by the local council departments regulating naming to rename themselves appropriately as per the above suggestions. This so-called “Soong Palace” should be renamed “Soong House” but not so much as “Soong Cottage” (not bucolic enough, also finely crafted and mostly stone so more a House than a Cottage) at most.

Incidentally, such superlative naming alludes Chinese lack of sense of proportion, and has negative (flashy and unrealistic, harlequin like) connotations about the way the Chinese are as a people. Will all appropriate parties (Architect associations and Building naming approval committees etc..) please pay attention to this exchange about size and appropriate naming of buildings and act accordingly.

Some Architecture and Religion – reposted by T.E. Yu – 1st October 2012

Ancient villages in China in danger of losing their souls (People’s Daily Online) 08:10, September 25, 2012

Taierzhuang Fortified Village

China is carrying out protection on its intangible cultural heritages in recent years. As an important part of traditional cultural resources, ancient villages are attracting wide attention. However, in the course of the integration of urban and rural areas, ancient villages are being impacted by urban culture, external culture and mainstream culture and their integrity and cultural elements are facing unprecedented challenges.

According to surveys and records by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of China, the Chinese Folk Literature and Art Society and the Rural Architecture Research Office under the School of Architecture at Tsinghua University, China had about 5,000 ancient villages reflecting its farming culture, including villages of folk houses, folk cultures and intangible cultural heritages in 2005. By June 2012, the number had decreased to less than 3,000.

Currently, China’s protection of ancient villages tends to emphasize tangible cultural heritages including the appearance, scenic spots and architecture. However, we should realize that an ancient village is an integrated entity with its external appearance, internal core and soul. Every ancient village is an inseparable combination of tangible and intangible cultural heritages depending on each other. If we protect only the material part and ignore the spiritual one, then we are just protecting specimens without souls and lives. We must fully realize the value of intangible cultural heritages of ancient villages.

Ancient villages present intangible cultural heritages in an integrated, systematic, comprehensive, practical, ecological and vivid manner. Feng Jicai, director of the Committee of Experts for Protecting Intangible Cultural Heritages, said, “The deepest root of the Chinese nation is in the villages and the brightness, diversity, originality and creativity of the Chinese culture are also there.”

Ancient villages are museums of folk cultural ecosystems and a living cultural heritage that is still being passed down. However, many intangible cultural heritages are disappearing in these villages. Taking folk language as an example, in most ancient villages of minorities in remote regions, there was no written language in the past so its collective wisdom was spread through an oral culture. There is no written record of these oral cultures and as society develops, many young people have left their villages and their interests turn to popular culture. As inheritors of these folk cultures pass away successively, these cultures are facing extinction. Currently, epics from many remote regions are not inherited and sung by local youths but by tourism developers. Since these outsiders do not deeply cherish and understand these cultures, it is hard for them to showcase the essence and core of these cultures, leading to “fake cultures” and “fast food cultures” in some areas. Therefore, Feng believes that these folk cultures accumulated in the past hundreds or thousands of years are shaking and collapsing.

People living in the villages are consciously or unconsciously creating cultures that have characteristics of the times, leading to the diversity of local cultures. It is an impetus and source of ceaseless human development. The tangible and intangible cultural heritages of ancient villages both contain abundant and profound historical and cultural information and these diversified village cultures reflect the richness and profundity of Chinese culture. Therefore, we must realize that besides protecting a silk handicraft, a story or an artist, the diversity of human cultures should also be protected in the future. In the long run, it will lay a solid foundation for the scientific, healthy and sustainable development of Chinese culture. (many thanks to Lord Xu’s Clan Association for recommendations for the article)

Ceremony held in Beijing to mark 2563rd birthday of Confucius – Beijing Chapter
(Xinhua)  09:59, September 29, 2012

Acolytes

Commemoration held to mark anniversary of birth of Confucius – Taipei Chapter (Xinhua/Yin Bogu) 10:52, September 28, 2012

A traditional memorial ceremony is held to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, in Beijing and Taipei, southeast China’s Taiwan, Sept. 28, 2012. More than 500 people visited the ceremony on Friday.  Throughout China, High Priests of Confucian Orders and and Directors of NGOs Make the Annual Pilgrimage of Confucius to the Grand Gōng Què (Cathedral of Abstinence and College of Arch-Deacons) to Congregate for the Taoist Conclave. The Hexa-Decadual ‘Beginning of 60 year Cycle’ version on a grander scale are held in succession, at each of the 5 Eternal Taoist Cities.

The formation of the Holy Taoist See as a sovereign state within the PRC will be discussed at this years conclave of Grand Celestial Patriarchs in the Vault of Heaven.

Basic Terminology for Chinese Religious Architecture (not necessarily complete – will be updated) – Pater H

Buddhist architecture includes :

廟 /庙         miào         shrine
寺廟 /寺庙     sì miào         temple
寺院        miào yuàn        monastery

塔         tǎ         Pagoda; height recommended is in relation to area – 1 acre (5 storey), 3 acre (7 storey), 5 acre (11 storey), 7 acre (13 storey), 9 acre 17 storey
all pagodas above 11 storeys are termed SPIRES. An 81 storey spire is being proposed for the birthplace of Buddhism.
短尖塔        dǐngdiǎntǎ    Stupa or Chorten (there are 8 of these Apice-form buildings, typically to commerorate Buddha or various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas)
遺跡社        yíjīshè        Relinquary ;relinquaries are not absolute necessities or typify monasteries, and house relics typically of a well loved and particularly virtuous abbot and abbess (See note 1)

Taoist architecture includes :

龕 /龛         kān         taoist shrine (these are local fengshui or unique terrain worship areas barely the size of a gazebo, unique terrain can be anything from old trees, large boulders, small distinct ravines etc..)
祠         cí         ancestral hall; these are family run and can be interchangeable with ān
ancestral hall tablets for ancestor worship in confucian fillial piety, or to pray certain ‘demi-gods’, ‘godlings’ like powerful spirits, powerful nature spirits, kings/generals of animal species, etc) or great Sages and Saints like Confucius, & Qu Yuan, etc.
菴         ān         taoist temple hall (housing an typically family based order; this is in a geomantically viable area not large enough for an order but large enough to support a handful of priests)
館/馆         guǎn         taoist temple keep; taoist novitiate (any place where taoist acolytes are initiated);the equivalent of a cathedral; (housing an order; this is only in a geomantically viable area, many congregating priests require ‘energy’ for meditation)
宮闕 /宫阙     gōng què         temple complex with a ‘palace of abstenance ‘;

Interchangable or neutral terms referring to any large unspecified building of worship :

石(顧 /顾)         shí gù         Rockerie (Shelter of Rock/Stone); gù means to look after; take into consideration; to attend to

Featuring One Type of Rock (Larger Variable Rockeries also Possible)

聖殿/圣殿         shèng diàn     holy palace

;all of the above’s ‘cathedral’ level buildings and if large enough tend to have :

i) soup kitchens and shelters (indeed soup kitchens can also turn into places of faith)
ii) meditation cells (typically a low pallet without cushions or pillows where lay followers retreat to for days on end) for meditation and fasting on preparation for death undisturbed away from the noise of societry
iii) a collumbarium or ‘pit of acloves’ for ashes to be interred (this is a free service, be very wary the spiritual nature of commercialised versions posing as ‘faithful’)
iv) independent and viable reservoirs of water, at very least a well
v) a martial arts hall (new forms are extremely rare though not impossible, typically Tajiquan or Taichi is taught to acolytes for self defense with Taji Jian, Taiji Sword being learnt by those taking the path of physical and lower placed but equally important Temple Guardians rather than the Celestial Taoist Ecclesiarchy, a few do manage to be both and are highly regarded, though specialisation in either tend to reach the levels of Patriarchy)
vi)  art and relic museum
vii) a rockerie (much like a Scholar’s half Acre Garden but with deep occult and religious symbols instead of Literary symbolism);which are called Shigu in Chinese respectively.
viii) a “spacious” grotto (this is typically embedded with random statuary or sculpture, or murals and relief with occult symbolism related to the faith in question
ix) a “cavernous” ‘underground grotto’ (anything smaller than half an acre should be avoided as potentially cult culture)
iix) a labyrinth in which ‘fell’ spirits of the local geomantic region may comfortably seek refuge at in the day, Buddhism and in general Taosim disallows killing, EVEN of evil beings, because evil is part of good’s evolutionary path and good cannot be seen without the dichotomy of evil’s presence. Such areas are off limits to the living unless somehow ‘related’ with all interopers uninvited spiritual sinners who’s divinity will be forfeit etc..

I have studied many religious texts in religion for years and have decided that China only has 2 faiths, the main being China’s native Taoism and the periphery being out little brother neighbour India’s Buddhism. Confucianism is a notable philosopher that perhaps gained a spiritual exemplar’s place but cannot be considered a faith per se. Buddho-Taoism minor sects of course will not be included due to the contrary and less savoury practices which can and do confuse and even harm practicioners.

Note 1 :

Not all Abbots/Abbesses or High Priests get relinquaries, and in neighbourhoods where cult of personality or just crass plain funding, overshadows Buddhism is likely to form, a wise council of Elder Monks will refuse to set up a relinquary to any abbot as well; abbots’ influences are not always positive, especially in an order that bases the ‘right to abbotship’ to seniority (old age does not mean talent or spirituality) or ability in politics and manipulation of order elders (or heaven forbid, crass wealth and donations) rather than talent or virtue. Any flaws are said to be magnified througout the community and thus a relinquary ends up becoming a symbol of a minor Buddhist sect rather than the original mainstream sect of Theravada Buddhism as opposed to the lax and order-continuity favouring, instead of enlightenment favouring Mahayana.

For a Abbot (actually any leader of any sort as well) to mention ‘relinquary’ or ‘funeral’ and honoring themselves in the same breath with material benefits or memorials results in ‘Religious Suicide’ and instant refusal for consideration for any special interments. In areas where the Buddhist community is poorly networked or self serving and inward looking, there tend to be no Relinquaries for fear of spiritual retaliation by the spirit masses and greater forces in the afterlife (no assent from the living and existing Abbots!), which is the case these days. As per religious exceptionalism, 90% assent is required and those who build temples on wealth to become Abbots and Abbesses are considered ‘tourist project’ cultural tricksters. State level ‘Grand Abbots’ with the support of a majority of all private and public temples for a State relinquary, get a simple aye or nay upon their death.

There is a joke about Buddhism (and indeed all faiths) that goes : ‘What is similar between corruption and religion? . . . The Answer? – Money and Politics. The general advice is to always be wary of worldly religious persons.

Dalai Lama tells his Facebook friends that religion “is no longer adequate” –  by George Dvorsky – 13 Sep 2012   

This past Monday, people who have the Dalai Lama as a Facebook friend found this little gem in their newsfeed.

All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.

Dalai Lama tells his Facebook friends that religion “is no longer adequate” The Dalai Lama’s advice sounds startling familiar — one that echos the sentiment put forth by outspoken atheist Sam Harris who argues that science can answer moral questions. The Dalai Lama is no stranger to scientific discourse, and has developed a great fascination with neuroscience in particular. It’s very possible, therefore, that his thinking has aligned with Harris.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Harris had this to say about science and how it should be used to inform our moral and ethical sensibilities:

The moment we admit that questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, are actually questions about human and animal well-being, we see that science can, in principle, answer such questions. Human experience depends on everything that can influence states of the human brain, ranging from changes in our genome to changes in the global economy. The relevant details of genetics, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economics etc. are fantastically complicated, but these are domains of facts, and they fall squarely within the purview of science.

We should reserve the notion of “morality” for the ways in which we can affect one another’s experience for better or worse. Some people use the term “morality” differently, of course, but I think we have a scientific responsibility to focus the conversation so as to make it most useful. We define terms like “medicine,” “causation,” “law” and “theory” very much to the detriment of homeopathy, astrology, voodoo, Christian Science and other branches of human ignorance, and there is no question that we enjoy the same freedom when speaking about concepts like “right” and “wrong,” and “good” and “evil.” Once we acknowledge that “morality” relates to questions of human and animal well-being, then there is no reason to doubt that a prescriptive (rather than merely descriptive) science of morality is possible. After all, there are principles of biology, psychology, sociology and economics that will allow us to flourish in this world, and it is clearly possible for us not to flourish due to ignorance of these principles.

It’s important to remember that Tibetan Buddhists, while rejecting belief in God and the soul, still cling to various metaphysical beliefs, including karma, infinite rebirths, and reincarnation. But interestingly, the Dalai Lama once had this to say on the subject:

My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

Other Buddhists, however, such as Stephen Batchelor, argue that Buddhism should be stripped of all its metaphysical baggage and simplified down to its basic philosophical and existential tenets — a suggestion that has given rise to secular Buddhism.

ICCR Notes :

Much like Confucianism is philosophy rather than a religion, perhaps Buddhism should be given the status of a philosophy rather than a religion. In either case, the Llama should return to Potala Palace and not fear the PRC Politburo while leaving Tibetans to self immolate in order to get their Grand Llama theocrat back home to Tibet.

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