Asia Blog: China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam

Ai Weiwei’s “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads”

Posted in Art, China by Elliott Back on May 15th, 2011.

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissent artist who has been detained for over two months now, premiered a new public exhibition at the Pulitzer Fountain outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. The Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads consists of twelve bronzes representing the traditional Chinese birth-year animals, arranged on poles in a semi-circle. The menagerie includes: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, boar.

There is a backstory to the art; Ai Weiwei’s heads are larger versions of a piece designed in the 18th century by European Jesuits for the Manchu emperor Qianlong. They were parts of a famous fountain clock in the Summer Palace. However, the heads were all looted by the British and French during the Second Opium War in 1860. To date, the Chinese government has retrieved five of them (ox, tiger, horse, monkey and boar), two more (rat and rabbit) were auctioned recently at Christies to an unsympathetic patriot who refused to pay. The other five remain lost, and may never be recovered.

Here is a video of NYC city mayor Bloomberg giving opening remarks to the exhibit:

NYC opens Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. –

You can check out all of my photographs in this Flickr gallery. There is also some good secondary coverage of the exhibit:

Painting with Vegetables

Posted in Art, China by Elliott Back on February 26th, 2011.

Check out 用蔬菜作画的中国超级牛人: 桔多淇 (JuDuoqi) – (Chinese vegetable paintings) which uses some chinese cabbages and tons of other vegetables to recreate famous paintings and art, such as this Marilyn Monroe as Salad:

This is the Last Supper, as veggies:

Chinese artist JuDuoqi produced a range of art pieces with those food we eat everyday such as tofu, lettuce, ginger, cucumber etc. She even reproduced those worldwide famous paintings “The Last Super” and “Mona Lisa”. just incredible!! @.@

NYC’s Chinatown Fair: Video Games Arcade

Posted in China, Culture, Technology by Elliott Back on February 21st, 2011.

I suggest checking out this great post The Last Arcade in Chinatown from Scouting NY. It tells the story of the last arcade still operating in New York’s Chinatown district:


004 from Flickr user nycscout

At #8 Mott street, Chinatown Fair has only two reviews, but a respectable 4-star rating. The place has been there since the 50’s, and once featured a “World Famous Dancing & Tic-Tac-Toe Playing Chicken.” Go read the post to find out what that means!

2011 Chinese 1oz Silver Panda Coins

Posted in China by Elliott Back on February 4th, 2011.

The People’s Bank of China (中国人民银行) has released their 2011 1oz .999 fine silver coins at a whopping issuance of 3,000,000 units, due to high demand. The coins have a face value of 10RMB (~$1) and feature enormously cute adult/child pandas on the front, and a famous Beijing temple–Tian tan, the Temple of Heaven (天坛)–on the reverse.

I bought two sheets of 30 each of them, and they are as gorgeous as the dealer’s photos. If you wonder why I’m buying a small amount of silver in coin form, I find that they are much more attractive than bullion. So even though you pay a relatively large premium over silver spot, you’re buying art. Here’s a few pictures I took with my macro lens:


Front side of the coins


Obverse side of the coins


They come in big sheets of 30


Which are vacuum sealed against the air


The People’s Bank guarantees their authenticity

If you are looking to purchase, I highly recommend buying from Gainesville Coins, currently offering 2011 China 10 Yuan, 1 oz. Silver Panda. (Brilliant Uncirculated) Condition at $36.41 / ea with bank wire payment.

Sina Twitter Blocking “Egypt” Searches

Posted in China, Human Rights by Elliott Back on January 30th, 2011.

My sister wasn’t sure that China was blocking searches for Egypt and news on the ongoing revolution, so I quickly headed over to Sina’s twitter clone to verify. A quick search for tag term Egypt (埃及) shows a message “根据相关法律法规和政策,搜索结果未予显示” or “According to relevant laws, these search results have not been shown.”


(Click for larger version)

BoingBoing has a story up called How China censors Egypt news, and why the story is so sensitive in China which speculates that the current ban is to avoid memories of the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989:

The filtering of search result and the blocking of search term “Egypt” in social media websites is to prevent certain interpretation of the political situation in Egypt. The scenes of Tanks moving into the city center, the confrontation between the people and the soldiers are very likely to recall Chinese people’s memory of the June 4 incident back in 1989 and the criticism of the authoritarian government in Egypt can easily turn into a political allegory in China.

For the best news on Egypt and the middle east, we recommend Aljazeera’s ongoing coverage.

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