Ping Chong

Ping Chong is a theater director. He was born in 1946 and raised in New York City's Chinatown. He studied filmmaking and graphic design at the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute before deciding on a theatrical career. In 1975 Chong founded Ping Chong and Company, originally The Fiji Theatre Company. His works have been presented throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, in such prestigious venues as the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival and the Spoleto Festival USA. Chong has received numerous awards and honors including the Bessie Award (1990 and 1998) and the Obie Award (1977 and 2000). His most recent production, Edda: Viking Tales of Lust, Revenge and Family was presented at the Lincoln Center Festival in July 2001.

Selected Objects

  Saint Sambandar
India, Tamil Nadu
Chola period, 12th century
Copper alloy
H. 18 7/8 in. (47.9 cm); 1979.24

Few cultures in the world can rival the complexity, richness, and sophistication of India's dance and music. This image of the child Saint Sambandar seems to single-handedly embody this fact. It is a masterful distillation of two art forms, music and dance, into another, sculpture. Saint Sambandar fairly ignites the space around him in a celebratorial whirl of visual sound and motion. The plenitude of gesture in both Indian dance and music must surely account for the frequency of lithe hand gestures and poses, as well as intricate, visual detail consistently present in Indian sculpture as exemplified by this work. As such, Indian sculpture always seems musical to the senses, unabashedly expressive of the innate ripeness and sensuality of life itself.


Female Figure
Angkor period, Baphuon style, early 11th century
H. 38 in. (96.5 cm); 1979.65

The quiet curves of this female figure, from the gentle slope of her shoulders, breasts rounding still, waist gliding through ample hips cascading down an elongated skirt, conspires to create an effect of chaste, insistent simplicity. The absence of a head, arms, and feet, the delicately etched lines of her skirts, demure and pale, reinforce this effect. At the same time, the lines return our eyes to the fullness of her torso in an emblematic embrace between a twenty-first century gaze and an expression in sandstone across the divide of culture and time.

  Female Attendant
North China
Western Han period, 2nd century B.C.E.
Earthenware with slip and traces of pigment
H. 21 1/2 in. (54.6cm); 1979.110

How many centuries did she stand at attention accompanying her lord to the netherworld in the blackness of royal tomb? Under what circumstances did the light of day blind her and then reveal to her the sights and smells of a China irrevocably changed? When did she, a humble personage, never intended as an objet d'art become an objet d'art? Why does the visible evidence of time wrought on her being, the discoloration, the chips and cracks move us so? Is it because she reminds us of the endless suffering of the Chinese poor and by extension the poor of the world who continue to be exploited by the rich and powerful? In her erect quietude we feel her stoicism, her forbearance, her eternal dignity in an essentially unjust world.



Zen'en (active first half 13th century)
Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (Jizo Bosatu)
Kamakura period, 1223-1226
Cypress wood with cut gold leaf and traces of pigment; Staff with metal attachments
H. 22 3/4 in. (57.8 cm); 1979.202a-e

When I first made the acquaintance of this personage, it was through a large format, color photograph in a glossy, coffee table book. Later, I would meet him again in a climate controlled storage room at Asia Society's temporary quarters on Park Avenue. In that cool, indifferent room, he was lying in state housed in a metal cabinet detached into four separate pieces: Head, body, base, and staff. Now he stands before you protected in a display case lit in a tasteful manner, an antiquity of immense value. Once he stood in a Buddhist temple imbued with a spiritual purpose, a member of a spiritual whole. And as extraordinarily beautiful as this personage is, it is his spiritual substance that above all holds me still.
Calligraphy by Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637)
Painting by a follower of Tawaraya Sotatsu
Poem Scroll with Selections from the Anthology of Chinese and Japanese Poems for Recitation (Wakan Roei Shu)

Edo period, dated to 1626
Handscroll; ink and gold on silk
12 5/8 x 206 1/2 in. (32.1 x 524.5 cm); 1979.214

Viewing this scroll, I am denied the music of the Chinese and Japanese language configured as poetry since I cannot read either language. I can also only imagine the original context in which this scroll was meant to be viewed, intimately, in the seventeenth century, aristocratic world of Japan. All that said, one can still take ample if not complete pleasure in the loveliness of this work, in the complex interplay of light and space, form and structure. It is an elegant, visual dance between calligraphic gesture and bamboo shimmering with gold seen through an elongated window, slowly unfolding.