China's culture edges toward US mainstream

Updated: 2016-08-26 11:58

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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China's culture edges toward US mainstream

Visitors experience one of the three full-size replica caves, part of the exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang, which runs through Sept 4 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The replica caves, created by artists from the Dunhuang Academy's fine arts institute, were constructed through a painstaking, multiyear process. Lia Zhu / China Daily

China's growing prominence on the world stage is leading to an avid interest in Chinese culture in the United States, particularly on the West Coast, said prominent figures from the cultural community.

This year, several special exhibitions focused on China have been displayed in San Francisco and Los Angeles, including two ancient maps crafted by Western missionaries and Chinese cartographers, on display at the Asian Art Museum from March to May, and two ongoing shows - Dunhuang cave art at the Getty Center and Chinese emperors' treasures at the Asian Art Museum.

The shows are popular with audiences, including those with no Chinese background, according to the organizers.

"We got wonderful feedback from both shows," said Jay Xu, director of the museum.

For the show on ancient maps, the visitors appreciated the interactive technologies that enabled the visitors to enlarge the map and view the translated details; the Chinese emperors' treasures show allows the audience to have an intimate visual conversation with the emperors through the art works they created or collected, he said.

Xu said the growing interest in Asian culture was a natural occurrence because Asia's economies, particularly the Chinese economy, have become part of American life.

"China becomes such a big topic in the world, and of course people will be interested in Chinese art and culture," he said.

"It's so obvious with the cultures," said Marcia Reed, chief curator of the Getty Research Institute. "I'm hoping this (the Dunhuang exhibition) is going to be a push and gives a direction."

She said the Getty Center had presented a couple of shows on China from its own collections, but she hoped the collecting of Chinese art could raise its profile on the West Coast after the Dunhuang exhibition, which will conclude next month.

"There needs to be much more of a presence, exhibitions and collections on Asian art in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other places," said Reed. "The Chinese communities are old here, since the 19th century, and we should have museums for people."

Museums could play a stronger role in improving relations, as cultural exchange is often a good way for people to communicate, said Ted Lipman, CEO of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, which sponsored both the Chinese emperors' show and the Dunhuang exhibition.

"We are often bombarded by the media with information about the economic and political relations with China, but there's not really sufficient information about cultural relations," he said. "Only through understanding culture can you better understand the country, the society."

He said it was helpful for Western audiences to be more knowledgeable about China's history and culture, because the world has become more interdependent, and China's role has become more important.

"China's culture isn't just in China - Chinese culture exists in San Francisco, Canada and Europe. The influence of Chinese culture is now very global," he added.

"I can say there's a great deal of interest in Chinese culture, which is encouraging," Lipman said. "I certainly got very good feedback from many people who have been to many of the exhibitions we supported. They are very impressed and inspired and moved by what they see."

But to Xu, the interest in Asian culture is stronger, but not strong enough yet.

"Asian art and culture has not become part of the US mainstream culture. There's more to do," he said, adding that his museum has a 10-year plan to continually present major exhibitions from China.