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Beijingers Dedicate Careers to Art of Tibet

It was in 1973 when Han Shuli first set foot on Tibetan soil. Seven years later, Han's long-time friend, Yu Youxin, joined him and they have since remained, relishing in the exotic land as a driving artistic force.

Both natives of Beijing, Han and Yu met in 1964, when Yu graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Beijing Art College and became a teacher at the middle school where Han studied. Thanks in large part to Yu's expert instruction, Han entered the high school affiliated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and began his career in the arts.

It was Han who at Yu's prodding would first embark on the Tibetan venture. As Han consulted with Yu about a future career path, Yu thought for a while, then proposed, "How about going to Tibet?" After listening to his teacher's advice, Han set out from Beijing.

When he was in his 40s, Yu took his own advice and followed his most favorite student and good friend to settle in Lhasa.

Deeply impressed by the plateau's imposing landscapes and hardy local people, the
artists also relished in the passionate folk songs, exotic dances, primitive and unique engraved masks, magnificent monasteries, majestic and imposing statues of Buddha, splendid murals and elegant and delicate thangka paintings.

Further intrigued by the mysterious and traditional lifestyles of today's Tibetans, Han and Yu dedicated much time to the careful collection of artistic relics and folk art scattered around the vast plateau. Based on the written and pictorial materials they collected, the partners commenced trekking along the literal and figurative roads of Tibetan art. During their career journey, they displayed the essence of Tibetan classical and folk art masterpieces, preserving these treasures of local history.

In 1985, when Han served as General Secretary of the Tibetan Artists' Association, he held the Exhibition of Tibetan Sculptures in Beijing, unveiling time-honored Tibetan arts to visitors. In 1991, they published the three-volume Tibetan Arts jointly compiled by Han and Yu. For this Han compiled the sculpture volume, and Yu assembled the painting volume and folk arts volume. Four years later, Han published A Treasury of Tibetan Arts.

They two also completed a series of fieldwork and theoretical works. With instinctive aesthetical judgment and sensitive hearts, the painters dedicated themselves to representing Tibetan arts as realistically as possible. In order to understand and absorb the essence of Tibet's traditional arts, they have also conducted comparative research in the history of Buddhism and culture.

Their research results provide sufficient cultural elements composing their own artistic styles, as well as a possibility of further expansion of Tibetan arts. An unprecedented art genre that represents contemporary Tibetan arts was created, and paintings rich in color were put to canvas. Bridging traditional and modern, local flavors and exotic styles, the genre has helped to stimulate a painting renaissance in Tibet.

Their work has also served as text material and as a model for cultivating young Tibetan artists. Inspired by these works, young artists inheriting and carrying on the gene of folk art receive a full introduction to the world of art theory. Students are thus directed to correct paths of aesthetical orientation and a stronger artistic psychology.

In May 2004, Han and Yu took a dozen young Tibetan painters and their work to the China Art Gallery in Beijing. At this high-ranking art exhibition hall, they unveiled the exhibition Colorful Belt on the Snow-Covered Plateau, drawing great attention from around the nation and across the globe.

Rich-color painting pushes modern Tibetan painting to the zenith and spreads it beyond the snow-covered plateau. Colorful Belt on the Snow-Covered Land has consecutively been exhibited in such cities as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as cites abroad. At all stops, the exhibition won high praise. The exhibition has generated great fame for Han and Yu, and the two have been invited to give lectures at many fine arts colleges both in China and abroad.

With the passage of time, Yu and Han, once teacher and student, have become workmates and the best of friends. Han is today chairman of the Tibetan Artists' Association, while Yu acts as the association's vice chairman. Their relationship of 41 years and their art-seeking journey through the unique, natural and cultural environment of Tibet are like a euphonic sonata tugging at heartstrings, in which every musical note has the charm of Tibet as the theme. Their love for Tibet comes from the bottom of their hearts. They have devoted almost all of their lives to Tibetan art, with no regrets.

Background Information:

Han Shuli now serves as a member of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, a member of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a council member of the China Artists' Association and as chairman of the Tibetan Artists' Association. His work has won the Golden Prize at the 6th National Fine Arts Exhibition.

Yu Youxin is now vice chairman of the Tibetan Artists' Association and a consultant at the Tibet Painting Academy.

(China Pictorial July 8, 2005)

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