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Carved Windows Viewed Anew
I come from the mountain and bring with me an orchid. I plant it in my garden, hoping it will bloom soon."

This song, written by renowned 20th-century poet Hu Shi (1891-1962), is known throughout the Chinese diasporas. Yet few are aware that the poet's inspiration came from the ancient carved windows of his childhood home in Anhui Province.

Ancient Chinese windows and doors like Hu's had meaning beyond their architectural function and were important symbols in and of themselves. Today, they offer a remarkable insight into the Chinese culture and history.

The geometrical, floral or wildlife patterns reflected the owner's social status.

These days, the ornamental doors and windows are replaced with prefabricated aluminum frames and theft-proof iron doors.

But there are those who are moved by the creativity and intricacy of the carved ancient windows, and comb the country in search of them.

Zhou Qin is one of them. What makes Zhou a standout among collectors is the fact that he persuaded Thomas Chen, president of New York-based Crystal Window & Door Systems, Ltd., to establish an art center for ancient Chinese windows and doors in Flushing, New York this March, as well as the establishment of a museum dedicated to preserving the ornaments in the same location.

Zhou is now seeking the cooperation and support of architectural departments of universities like Tsinghua, Tongji and Southeast University in China.

"This is the first dedicated research center for ancient windows and doors of China," says Zhou. "I am hoping that the center will become a focal point for research on these treasures."

A former painter, Zhou discovered the ancient windows and doors when he traveled through towns seeking spots to paint landscapes.

"Once, when I was traveling through the East Mountain near Suzhou, I saw a beautiful carved windows lying on the ground. I thought, 'What a pity that it doesn't get respect,'" Zhou says.

Zhou moved to the U.S. and began working for Chen, who agreed to finance his collection. Zhou acquired more than 200 windows and doors in China.

Zhou's collection displayed in the museum covers primitive simplicity, philosophy, influence of "feng shui," wood quality and painting, schools of wood-carved doors and Dunhuang murals on ancient windows and doors.

(eastday.com June 24, 2002)

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