Theme: Authority P: The Mongol Art of War

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The Tribe of Quraish on the Eve of Islam

●    The tribe of Quraish, has settled at Mecca, an ancient sanctuary and halting place in the middle of the trade route between Syria and Yemen, since about a century and half before the rise of Islam around 610 A.D. Not only the people of Quraish have assumed the role of the custodians of the sanctuary of Ka'bah after ousting its earlier keepers Banu Khuza'ah, from Mecca, but have contributed much to the popularity and traffic to this shrine by introducing many improvements in its organization under their famous leader Qusai bin Kilab around the middle of the 5th century of the Christian era.

●    Mecca, the name itself probably derived from a word meaning sanctuary, being situated in a totally barren surroundings, was unable to support its inhabitants from any produce of its soil, making them to rely for their livelihood on the visitors to the shrine of Ka'bah or their situation of lying on the North-South trade route, which very soon induced Quraish to assume a direct role in its benefits.

●    This trade route which eventually became a source of considerable significance for Quraish, so as it has been pointedly referred in a chapter of the Qur'an as an special favor of God upon the tribe of Quraish, was in fact a link in a long and major trade highway, connecting eastern and western parts of the globe from ancient times. It was through this route based on the seas and oceans in the south of Asia, that the products of China, South-East Asia and India, mainly, found their way in the markets of West-Asia and Europe in a considerably safe and highly cheaper way. As it happened,  a spurt in the long drawn wars between the Empires of Rome and Iran at the beginning of the 6th century, turned the Iraqian link of this trade route as impractical transferring the whole commercial traffic through Red Sea via Egypt to the Mediterranean, or through the North-South land trade-link running along the western coast of Arabia. This land-link, passing through Mecca and increasingly being monopolized by Quraish with the advance of the 6th century, was more preferable, when sound and safe, because of the navigational hazards of the Red Sea.

●    The increasing prosperity of Quraish and the inclination to corner the spoils of the above mentioned trade-link by it, in comparison to other affiliated tribes, and by selected families within Quraish, in comparison to other sections of the tribe, in the decades before the rise of Islam, was resulting in a conflict of interests which, if, on the one hand can be seen in the inter-tribal wars of the like of Fijjar, could also be observed in the tension prevailing between the strong and weaker sections within the tribe of Quraish itself.    The rise of Islam in this scenario, with an emphasis on economic and social justice, had a strong appeal for those being deprived in the economic system of the Quraish while it augured danger to the profiteers, hence, their strong opposition to it.   




To Rebel is to Justify

Three months after the official launch of the Cultural Revolution in May 1966, one million youths gathered at Tiananmen Square to attend Mao’s first meeting with Red Guards. The Red Guards were a mass movement of civilians, initially radical high school and university students. Their manifesto stated that they wanted to turn the old world upside down, smash it to pieces, pulverize it, create chaos and make a tremendous mess, the bigger the better! Red Guards were encouraged to be revolutionary through the destruction of the four olds: the old ideas, old cultures, old customs, and old habits of the exploiting classes. Across the country, art schools and universities were closed down and cultural heritage and antiquities were destroyed. One estimate cites that 4,922 of the 6,843 officially designated places of cultural and historical interest in Beijing were destroyed, mostly in 1966. The following year, Red Guards began to stage large-scale public art exhibitions. The drawings, paintings, posters, and woodblock prints in this section convey the fervor of what could be considered one of the largest and most destructive youth movements of the twentieth century, concurrent with those in Paris and Berkeley.

Rent Collection Courtyard
Dimensions Variable
Art Museum of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute


Rent Collection Courtyard is a tableau of 114 sculptures originally created in 1965 by teachers and students from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. The sculptures illustrate the payment of grain by farmers in Sichuan province to their landlord. The obvious exploitation of the peasants here is designed to remind viewers of the unfairness of feudal China, thereby providing justification for revolution. The original sculptures toured extensively throughout China and reproductions were made. It is said that the work was seen by two million visitors. In a testament to the work’s iconic status, contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang staged his own recreation entitled Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard at the 1999 Venice Biennale, where it won the Golden Lion Prize.

Jiang Tiefeng 蔣铁峰 (born 1938)

Using Mao’s Thought to Fight with the Storm
Woodblock print
57 1/16 x 63 in. (145 x 160 cm)
Collection of Yao Zhonghua


This woodblock print was based on a news report about a group of students caught in a storm at sea. As the story was related, the students held fast to Mao’s Little Red Book to survive the rough waters and regain control of their boat.

Jiang Tiefeng graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and taught at the Yunnan Art Academy. Today, he is one of China’s most well-known children’s book illustrators and lives in San Diego.

Ma Zhensheng 马振声 (born 1939)

Standing Firm on Production Work Post
Woodblock print mounted on rice paper
41 3/8 x 29 9/16 in. (105 x 75 cm)
Collection of Yao Zhonghua


This woodblock print was made in the early years of the Cultural Revolution to encourage workers to fulfill their revolutionary responsibilities by remaining at their jobs instead of leaving them to participate in the Cultural Revolution.

Ma Zhensheng graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1964 and studied under renowned painter Jiang Zhaohe (1904–1986).

Zhang Songnan 張頌南 (born 1942)

Four panels, charcoal on panel
30 5/16 x 13 13/16 in. (77 x 35 cm)
Collection of Xue Song


This four-panel drawing depicts some of the Red Guard activities at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

Zhang Songnan graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and later worked there as a professor in the Mural Department and as Assistant to the President. He immigrated to Canada in 1988 and currently lives in Montreal. Tang Xiaohe graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1965 and currently lives in Wuhan.

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