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Dong Art


liuzhou
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I add my thanks to you for sharing this glimpse into the Dong culture. I love the way the sense of communal cooperation in work, eating and celebration comes through in the art.

On the exhibition poster that you have pictured on your blog, many people are engaged in carrying and perhaps processing and selling (?) something yellowish. Is this rice, corn or another grain or something else entirely?

Also, can you give us a rough idea of the size of these artworks? Nothing exact, I was just imagining a visit to this exhibit and wondering if they were small miniatures to examine up close, large mural sized pieces to admire at a distance or something in between. Or maybe they span the gamut and vary greatly in size.

Again, thank you for sharing

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Potatoes are available; they just aren't a major or even really a minor part of the Dong diet. In fact, they aren't in China generally. Most people, if they eat them at all, use them just as yet another accompanying vegetable rather than as a staple as we do in the west. The most common dish is stir fried shredded potato with chili and vinegar. Recipe here. I like it.

Thanks for the link. Madhur Jaffrey has a similar recipe in her book World Vegetarian, I used to make it a lot. Her recipe has less heat, and I don't remember soaking the matchstick potatoes, just tossing them in a bit of rice vinegar and letting them sit a while before cooking. I haven't made them in a while. Now I'm looking forward to trying out this version. 

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Thanks for the link. Madhur Jaffrey has a similar recipe in her book World Vegetarian, I used to make it a lot. Her recipe has less heat, and I don't remember soaking the matchstick potatoes, just tossing them in a bit of rice vinegar and letting them sit a while before cooking. I haven't made them in a while. Now I'm looking forward to trying out this version.

I agree. When I have cooked them, I haven't soaked either.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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  • 1 month later...

I don't know how available it is where people are, but anyone interested in this culture and its cuisine could check out the Sino-French made movie "La Rizière" aka "The Rice Paddy".

 

There is a brief excerpt with English subtitles on my blog here.  (The movie is in the Dong language.) Filmed in northern Guangxi. Worth trying to track it down. The excerpt shows cooking and rice planting among the Dong people.

Here is the official trailer for the movie.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-L2oZGj-24

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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  • 5 months later...

I'm not 100% sure that this is Dong art. It may be Zhuang. The Zhuang people are the dominant ethnic minority here.

 

Anyway, I came across this frieze this morning in the museum. The temporary exhibit is about local customs but this was the only food related exhibit apart from an empty rice wine bottle from 1953!

I have to apologise for the lack of clarity, but it was behind glass with terrible lighting. The local museum can't do lighting.

 

It is about 24 feet long and features images of rural/traditional cooking.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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There's a fascinating amount of activity and detail in that mural.  I wish I could read the labels: are they telling what the people are doing?

 

Are they working with more than one grain?  I figure rice is one, but what else?

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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5 minutes ago, Smithy said:

There's a fascinating amount of activity and detail in that mural.  I wish I could read the labels: are they telling what the people are doing?

 

Are they working with more than one grain?  I figure rice is one, but what else?

 

The labels are the names of the dishes people are working on.

 

They are mainly using glutinous rice. I'd need to go back to be sure.

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I went past the museum again this morning and managed to get some better shots of the frieze. (I sweet-talked the attendant into turning off some of the harsher lights.)

 

Here are a few close-ups.

 

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And finally, here is that 1953 rice "wine" bottle. Actually it contained 53º proof rice alcohol.

 

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Edited by liuzhou (log)
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On 17/05/2016 at 8:55 PM, liuzhou said:

 

The labels are the names of the dishes people are working on.

 

 

I must apologise, especially to @Smithy. On closer inspection I see that the labels are, as she surmised, indicating the processes being undertaken rather than the names of any dishes or preparations. Sorry about that.

 

I think it's pretty obvious what people are doing in most of the pictures, but if anyone isn't sure and is interested, please let me know.

 

One image shows people carving molds for sticky rice cakes. Here are a couple of the real things (also on display at the same exhibition).

 

18.jpg

 

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@liuzhou

 

 I am probably being completely dense but what are they making in the baskets that appears milky and floating in a lake or river of milk?  The 6 th photo I believe. 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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38 minutes ago, Anna N said:

@liuzhou

 

 I am probably being completely dense but what are they making in the baskets that appears milky and floating in a lake or river of milk?  The 6 th photo I believe. 

 

Not dense at all. I wouldn't have known if I couldn't read the label. It says "soaking beans". Presumably soy beans. I often soak beans but never in rivers!

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In the seventh photo

 

5 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 


7.jpg

 

 

Do you understand why there are a couple of holes/drainplugs? in the side of the vat of what I assume to be food stuff that are leaking onto the ground?

 

Beautiful and interesting contributions, as usual, @liuzhou. Thank you for your efforts at sweet-talking the curator. Many of us are enjoying them.

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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The level of detail is amazing!  It looks like several artists' hands were involved.  What are they milling in the second image from the bottom?  The little (water buffalo?) looks a bit put out about the load. :-) Interesting that the grinding wheels need to be brushed off, but I suppose it makes sense.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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2 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

In the seventh photo

 

 

Do you understand why there are a couple of holes/drainplugs? in the side of the vat of what I assume to be food stuff that are leaking onto the ground?

 


According to the Chinese caption they are washing something in a sieve. I'm guessing rice or another grain. The holes are allowing the dirty water to drain off.

 

1 hour ago, Smithy said:

The level of detail is amazing!  It looks like several artists' hands were involved.  What are they milling in the second image from the bottom?  The little (water buffalo?) looks a bit put out about the load. :-) Interesting that the grinding wheels need to be brushed off, but I suppose it makes sense.

 

The caption just indicates grain. I think it's probably millet.

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  • 3 weeks later...

As many here have already said, these paintings are quite beautiful.  While each of them depict a lot activity just looking at this art made me feel happy and peaceful. I hope you have the chance to convey to the curators or just the Dong people you know how much their art is enjoyed and admired by people so many thousands of miles away.  If it's this lovely on a tablet screen I can only imagine how stunning they must be in person.

 

With what you have posted about their diet it seems that they have naturally incorporated many of the food related adjectives being tossed about here so frequently: local, sustainable, natural, organic, etc.  Having said that, would I be right in assuming that the Dong are a very healthy and hardy long-lived people?

 

Lastly, I was surprised that one of the foods they don't eat are onions.  Do you know why that is?  They are such an integral part of so many cuisines around the world so I'd be interested in knowing why they don't use them.

 

Thank you liuzhou for sharing your experiences with this art and the Dong people.

 

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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Glad you enjoyed the paintings.

 

Re onions: There are large parts of China which don't have what we think of as regular onions. Green onions/scallions, yes, but not the large bulbous onions. Many years ago I lived in Hunan province. Onions were a rare feature in the local markets. Here in Guangxi, only red onions are easily available, but not particularly popular.

Also, many people avoid onions for religious / belief reasons. Many Buddhists, for example, avoid onions or garlic as they are considered to be "stimulating", though why that is a bad thing escapes me.

Not that the Dong are particularly Buddhist; more pantheist.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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  • 6 months later...

The local museum lies half way between my farmers' market of choice and the supermarket. I usually like or need  to visit both. My journey between the two usually involves going into the museum through the back door and passing out the front door - it saves me quite a trip round the building.

 

Today I did just that and spotted that they were once again having a Dong Art exhibition. More and different pictures from the last time. As more people than I expected seemed to like the last series, I thought I'd post some. Again, I have gone for the ones with culinary content. There were many more on non-food related aspects of daily life.

 

I was told that these are watercolours, but I'm not so sure. The colours are very vivid for watercolour, I think. Although many of the themes are very similar to those I posted earlier, these were brighter and larger. Here goes. I haven't captioned them, but if there are any questions, I will try to answer.
 

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I wanted to take them all home with me!

 

Here are the artists in their traditional costumes

 

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And a corner of the exhibition hall, giving an indication of the pictures' size.

 

20170102_120513.jpg

 

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20170102_120414.jpg

 

This one is a wedding picture. The women in the centre is obviously the bride-to-be. The other people are preparing for the wedding feast. The Chinese character on the pig signifies "double happiness - 囍" and is always used at weddings, but also in other situations. There is even a brand of "Double Happiness" cigarettes.

I have been to a wedding in the village depicted. Long time ago, pre-digital cameras, so no pictures.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Oh Thank You, thank you, thank you.  I can't tell you how happy these make me. Every single picture has at least one element that lifts my heart and makes me smile.  I see what reminds me of Dong versions of gingerbread houses, multicolored ducks, fat piggies and people everywhere finding joy in everyday life.  I'm still hoping for a book!

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On 17/05/2016 at 9:23 AM, IowaDee said:

Love those.  Almost as if there is a Chinese version of Grandma Moses only better.  

Being a Nova Scotian I thought of Maud Lewis, but yes...very much a folk-art feel to these. 

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@liuzhou,

 

can I ask you to comment on the 3rd photograph in the series. It has me stumped.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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5 minutes ago, IowaDee said:

Now I'm curious,  I just assumed it was snowing and those were flakes.  

 Probably right and I am just complicating things.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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19 hours ago, Anna N said:

@liuzhou,

 

can I ask you to comment on the 3rd photograph in the series. It has me stumped.

 

Of course you can ask! Will I answer?

That depicts a very typical Dong village. There is usually a square with a communal meeting room. Most, if not all festivals (and they seem to have one every other week) are celebrated by huge communal meals in the village square. I think that is what we are seeing here. People are preparing for the meal or arriving to partake. I've been to a few of those meals, so it all looks pretty familiar.

Also it is snowing. The Dong area is north of here and although snow is unusual, in bad winters those villages are snowed in. But the festival goes on. By the way, there is no heating in any of the houses!

It's probably depicting a Chinese Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) meal.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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