Chen Shi-Zheng

Chen Shi-Zheng is a director. He most recently directed Purcell's Dido and Aeneas for the Spoleto Festival USA. Other recent productions are Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at Aix-en-Provence Festival and Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. Chen's acclaimed production of The Peony Pavilion, a 20-hour, 55-act Ming dynasty opera, commissioned by Lincoln Center Festival, premiered in New York in 1999, and toured to Caen, Paris, Milan, Perth, Aarhus, Vienna, and Berlin. Among his other directing credits are Euripides' Bacchae, performed by China National Beijing Opera Company in international festivals in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Athens; Alley, a contemporary opera, for New Zealand International Festival; and Forgiveness, a ghost revenge story about Japan, China, and Korea, co-commissioned and toured in the United States by the Asia Society and Walker Art Center. He is currently working on The Night Banquet, a contemporary opera to be premiered this fall at festival d'Autumne á Paris, and The Dark Matter Problem, a feature film. Chen was honored with the title of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Cultural Ministry in 2000.

Selected Objects

  Wine Vessel: You
North China
Western Zhou period, about late 11th-early 10th century B.C.E.
H. 14 7/8 in. (37.8 cm) including handle, W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm) across flanges; 1979.100a,b
I love this bronze. It's like a mask in triplicate. It is full of the mystery that in the early stage of human life is incorporated into everything. Everything humans created, they had a need to put mythology into. It was important to them to put myths even on the accessory objects, wine vessels, food vessels. Gods, humans, animals are intertwined-it's how they saw this world. Yet they were simultaneously fascinated with this vision. Their inner imagination was what they saw around them-it is mythical; it is reality; there isn't a distinction between them. It was never separated in daily life. Eating a bowl of rice is as sacred as going to church. Everything is a ritual. It's like a container in three parts. You can put anything in it-soup, rice, yam. Only if you think eating a meal is a mysterious experience, then life is fascinating.

  Attributed to Lou Guan (active mid-to late 13th century)
Xie An at East Mountain

Southern Song to Yuan period, late 13th century
Hanging scroll; ink and slight color on silk
69 x 34 3/4 in. (175.3 x 88.3 cm); 1979.123

It's like an etching, extremely sharp, like metal scratched on a firm base, the mountain, rock, are as if metallic. It's almost like it has this 3D mentality, the objects-painted-trees, rocks emerge from the paper. Look at those trees. Look at those dots. It's almost like embroidery, a textile, not brush strokes-because its intricacy is so strong and precise that it seems almost impossible to be a painting. You see the tension in this period, the late Song to Yuan period-like no fat painter's work, it's boney, strong, vital, composed with a definite edge. And in its layers of transparency, small in the vastness and monumentality of nature are six ethereal people.



China, Jiangxi Province
Ming period, mid-to late 15th century (probably Chenghua era, 1465-1487)
Porcelain with glaze (Jingdezhan ware)
H. 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm), D. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm); 1979.177

Simplicity. One simple white line. The drama. That red. A burgundy red. I don't know what to say about it right now, just something very special about it.