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Blood and Tears in Ink and Brush

"A naked officer with a sword and in military boots


National Guardsmen with broken arms and legs


Sick soldiers rushing out of their beds


Covering themselves in blankets


Dead silence on the earth


Suddenly a crazy soldier shouted


"Listen, the B-29! The airplane!"


And wounded and maddened horses ran amuck


On a bridge near the Dome, also dead were


A black and a white American


In steel handcuffs


They had come to bombard this land


Then were captive in the army barracks


And the atomic bomb killed them as well


A mushroom cloud blown up from hell


Several thousand feet high up into the heavens


The spreading cloud made black rain and swept


In torrents through the clear sky


And darkened was the sky


But lo! A rainbow soon appeared


Brightly shining in the seven colors."


These lines were penned in February 1950, five years after the US air force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.


Japanese artists Iri Maruki (1901-95) and Toshi Maruki (1912-2000), who witnessed the bombing, wrote these lines when they created the first of their 15-part paintwork "Hiroshima Panels," which took another 32 years to complete.


For each panel of the paintings, the anti-war couple posted paragraphs like the one above called "Rainbow."


From today, visitors to the National Art Museum of China in downtown Beijing can see six of the "Hiroshima Panels" on display. They are included in an ongoing international art exhibition organized by the museum to commemorate the 60th anniversary of victory in China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the end of World War Two (1939-1945).


"For the past 12 months, we have been preparing for the grand exhibition which occupies all nine exhibition halls on the ground floor of the museum," said Feng Yuan, director of the museum.


"Why are we opening the exhibition on September 2? Because it is a date of historic significance, a date we Chinese shall never forget, a date peace-loving people from all over the world shall never forget."


On September 2, 1945, General Hsu Yung-chang, on behalf of China, signed Japan's two Instruments of Surrender on board USS Missouri in the Tokyo Bay.


The same day, the Japanese troops were also forced to surrender to the Eighth Route Army at Zaozhuang, east China's Shandong Province.


The hard-earned victory over fascism and Japanese aggression in 1945 was the first victory ever, in a real sense, for the Chinese people since the Opium War, Feng said. "By exhibiting their works, the participating Chinese and foreign artists will give viewers a chance to ponder a tragic period in Chinese history and in human history."


Six sections


Running until September 18, the exhibition is divided into six sections.


The first section, titled "Sound of the Century," displays about 100 selected works by contemporary Chinese artists and by a group of foreign artists from Japan, Russia, South Korea, Germany, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and the US, in various genres. Some of these works will be collected by the museum, Feng said.


"Although I was born after the war against fascism ended, I learned a lot about the sufferings during wartime from older generations. I understand from the depth of my heart that it is a great happiness for one to be able to live in peaceful times," said Xie Zhigao, a veteran artist of Chinese ink figure paintings. His imposing mixed media work titled "Chinese People are Unconquerable" is included in the first section of the exhibition.


The second section, titled "Blade of the Time," features 155 selected woodblock prints created by senior Chinese artists in the liberated areas, in the areas ruled by the Kuomintang, and in the areas occupied by Japanese invaders, during the anti-Japan war.


"The black-and-white woodblock prints embody the adversity and cruelty of that war. They are also a testament to the role art serves during times of national misfortune and grieving," said Feng Yuan.


"The woodblock print is a simple but powerful art form. It is a direct media, a democratic media that is easy to use and easy to comprehend," said Edward Bernstein, a professor with Indiana University, the US, who has been invited to participate in the exhibition.


The third section, titled "Heroic Eulogy," offers viewers some of the best-known and most powerful artistic works from the collection of the museum.


These works were created by senior Chinese artists 60 years ago to express their yearning for peace.


Most eye-catching among the exhibits are "Refugees (1943)" by master painter Jiang Zhaohe, or Chiang Chao-Ho (1904-86), and "Bombing of Chongking (1940)" by another great artist Wu Zuoren (1909-89).


Invading Japanese airplanes bombed Southwest China's Chongking (Chongqing) repeatedly between February 1938 and August 1943.


At the end of 1939, Wu's first wife Li Na died while giving birth amid the Japanese air raids. Days later, the baby also died.


In June 1940, Wu's apartment in Chongqing was destroyed by Japanese air bombs and many of his paintings were burnt in the ensuing fire.


Wu made sketches of what he saw in bombed Chongqing and in the late 1940 created his anti-Japanese aggression trilogy "Mother Under the Air Raid," "Life Cannot Be Destroyed," and "Bombing of Chongking."


The fourth section features six episodes from the "Hiroshima Panels."


The two Japanese artists of the panels went to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, immediately after the atomic bomb exploded. They witnessed the devastation with their own eyes.


Their art works have previously been shown to Chinese viewers in 1956 and 1981.


"Some Japanese people are trying to erase their memories of history 60 years ago. We hope the exhibition of 'Hiroshima Panels' worldwide will remind people of a tragic page in human history and make them embrace peace and harmony," said Okamura Yukinori, a curator with the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels in Saitama, Japan.


For quite some time there have been few Japanese artists like the Maruki couple who have dared to recognize their social responsibility in calling for peace and remind people of a shameful history, he said.


After the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, however, more and more Japanese artists have come forward with anti-war, anti-terror works. Exhibitions of this kind are not rare in today's Japan, he said.


The fifth section of the exhibition, titled "Blood and Tears of a Nation," offers viewers a rare chance to see a series called "The Miners" by the well-known Chinese woman artist Zhou Sicong (1939-96).


Done using innovative ink skills, the paintings depict the horrifying life of Chinese miners in northeast China, which was occupied by Japanese invaders between 1931 and 1945. Zhou's paintings were partly inspired by the "Hiroshima Panels," said Feng Yuan.


The last section of the exhibition, titled "Calling for Peace," displays the draft models for 60 prize-winning sculptures by contemporary Chinese artists in recent years. The sculptures have been touring Chinese cities since June 18, when an exhibition of anti-war sculptures was held in Changchun, Jilin Province.


(China Daily September 2, 2005)


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