Archive for 'Education'

China in the 21st Century–discussion on KPFA this morning

Jeffrey Wasserstrom gave a really interesting interview on KPFA this morning about China. (He comes on at 34 minutes into the morning show).

The Morning Show – June 1, 2010 at 7:00am

Click to listen (or download)

It made me think anew about the rapid changes China has undergone over the past 40 years. When asked for his predictions for the future of China, Jeffrey said he expects China to keep surprising us since all predictions have been off base for a long time. Jeffrey, who is professor of History at UC Irvine, will be at the Asian introducing some films about contemporary China on September 5 at 11am and 2pm, and at 12pm will be signing copies of his books, including his latest Global Shanghai, 1850–2010.

150 Years of Immigration Issues

Every clear morning I tuck in my right pant leg and pedal my way over to the museum. After setting my silver wheels up on the bike rack in the loading dock, I take the stairs up to the Education offices on the second floor. The dimly lit entry to the Education office space is located behind the tea room in the second floor Japan galleries. Because I pass through these galleries everyday, I always look forward to new rotations of Japanese art.

friendship dollThe latest additions to the Japan galleries include a pair of near-life-sized Japanese dolls in kimono complete with miniature accessories in a striking installation. Their innocent smiling white faces reflect in the gallery cases behind my own reflection. I know my sister would absolutely shudder at that description because she is one of those people that are just irrationally creeped out by dolls but I find them to be quite cherub-like. They are a part of the thematic exhibition Japan’s Early Ambassadors to San Francisco 1860-1927, currently on display.

This exhibition begins with the arrival of the ship Kanrin Maru and the first Japanese embassy in San Francisco, this year being the 150th anniversary of their arrival. It examines the experiences of some of the first Japanese diplomats and cultural emissaries to the United States. The exhibition also includes artwork and objects relating to Japanese artists active in San Francisco in the late 19th and early 20th century.

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Field Trip to the Asian Art Museum

“Hey so you know Mr. C, the history teacher? He is actually pretty cool for a teacher I guess. He set up this field trip to go to the Asian Art Museum next month.”

“Yeah? That place is hecka cool man. I went there a couple times in elementary school and we did some Chinese painting class and another time had a samurai thing.”

“Neat! You know my cousin, she’s really into art, she is doing a program there where they’re talking to a high school in China.

“That’s cool. Yo, I heard that this one time, they even had some kung-fu guys breaking bricks and stuff!”

“No way! That’s awesome. This will actually be kinda fun. Go Mr. C!”

Shanghai film clips

My homework this week is scanning old Chinese movies for interesting clips of Shanghai for possible screening in the exhibition. The exhibition curator Michael Knight was given a stack of DVDs from a Chinese contact with permission to use. (I think they are all in the public domain).

乌鸦与麻雀 / Crows and Sparrows poster (1949)

乌鸦与麻雀 / Crows and Sparrows poster (1949)

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“Tory Rory” Stewart is still walking

During the Afghanistan exhibition last year, we hosted a lecture by Rory Stewart (available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube and iTunesU), who is perhaps best known around the museum for his book about his walk across Afghanistan called The Places in Between.

Rory Stewart views the Afghan exhibition at the Asian Art Museum

Rory Stewart views the Afghan exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in 2008

I was surprised to learn he is running as a Tory to serve as Member of Parliament to represent the English district of Penrith and The Border, a beautiful, remote, and recently flood-plagued region along the England/Scotland border. He has written an amusing yet thoughtful account of his campagning, done, you guessed it, by walking the district and meeting people along the route, including “a lurcher called Prospero.” Those of you who read The Places in Between may be reminded of another great dog, Babur. If elected he hopes to narrow the “gap between government rhetoric and reality from Britain to Baghdad. . . . and help change the culture of government.” Good luck Rory. 

Shanghai audiotour with Joan Chen

Jay Xu (center) with his wife Jennifer (left) actress Joan Chen (right)

Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu (center) with his wife Jennifer (left) actress Joan Chen (right). Photo by Catherine Bigelow

It’s one of those pinch-me-is-this-for-real? moments: today I was sending an email to Joan Chen, yes THAT Joan Chen–the super talented and gorgeous film star and director. I think the first movie I saw her in was The Last Emperor and the most recent was Lust, Caution, much of which was set in Shanghai. Those two mega movies bookend an incredibly interesting career that still has lots of surprises in store. Checking out her filmography on Wikipedia I was delighted to note she starred in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street, set in the lovely (no sarcasm intended) city of Baltimore (“Ball-more” for many natives), near where I grew up. Homicide used to be my favorite TV show so now I will be hunting this episode down. Did you know she also played Josie Packard in David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks?

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Art Making Hour with the Whole Family

One of my favorite memories from childhood is about a clay project my family and I did after a memorable visit to a local museum’s Picasso ceramics exhibition (this was when I had no idea who PICASSO was). We (mostly my mom) carefully extracted whole skeleton from a fish and made impression on a slab of clay and made it into a shallow dish. My mother’s colleague fired it in a kiln for us, and she inaugurated it by having a fish dish in it that night. I soon graduated to making ashtrays by myself, and those simple art projects with my mother set me on the path of enjoying making art (and now I know who Picasso was).

Here are some of the samples of art activities from the museum’s awesome Education team. My current favorites are Japanese Teahouse and Thai Spirit House making, since they appeal to my sense of accomplishment. For more fun activities, please see the museum’s family program page.




Frothy or no? Last tea of 2009

Urasenke style bowl of tea

One of the challenges in planning and implementing public programs is making sure we have appropriate images to represent our programs, sometimes a frustrating and time-consuming process. The image being used to promote our upcoming tea program is not correct.

What’s wrong with this picture? The tea programs on Nov. 14 feature presentations by members of the Omotesenke tradition of tea. In the Omotesenke tradition, tea is prepared using many of the same utensils as any other Japanese tea lineage, but the tea is not whisked quite so vigorously as others might (for example the image above, which shows an Urasenke-style bowl of tea). Rather, Omotesenke style tea is blended more gently and has less froth on the top. I searched Google images for a more appropriate picture and I found only a few, such as this one in ceramic artist Cory Lum’s Flickr stream. I will need to be sure to take our own picture of an Omotesenke bowl of tea next week so we can have one readily available for future programs. Or if there are any Omotesenke practitioners out there who have rights to a good image you are willing to let us use, please let me know.

Want to know how to prepare a bowl of tea at home? Come to our workshop on November 14. On that same day you may also attend a tea gathering where you will be served a sweet and bowl of tea at the museum’s tearoom. This is our last tea of 2009 and thus is special in the annual tea calendar. It is a time to reflect on the past year and consider all the things you might like to complete before the new year, people you want to see, and make preparations to ensure that the coming year is  a good one.


Tea bowl by Nonomura Ninsei (1615-1700) Stoneware with polychrome enamel decoration. Gift of the Connoisseurs' Council and Bruce and Betty Alberts, 1991.230.

It is also a time when people use utensils with images of the twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac, such as this bowl with a dragon image. We are in the year of the Ox and are coming up to the year of the Tiger on February 14, 2010. People will have lots of fun bringing out their utensils with tiger motifs in particular since that is the year ahead. Although Japan has adopted the Western calendar and celebrates New Year’s Day on January 1, there are still many traditions that are linked to the Chinese calendar system which is based on the lunar cycle. Here is an article about the tea calendar.

School Programs for Everyone

School Tours main image

School Programs are a large and crucial part of the museum’s Education department’s work that may be less visible to the general visitor than other types of programming. School Programs staff have varied backgrounds, often as classroom teachers and artists, in museum studies, education, fine arts, art history, and Asian studies. We work closely with volunteer docents and storytellers, Education department colleagues, other museum departments, and teachers, administrators, artists, and arts providers in the community.

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We’re on iTunes U!

iTunes U is a portal in Apple’s iTunes Store wherein educational institutions can provide FREE, high-quality downloadable content for you to enjoy on your Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone. Important! You will need Apple’s iTunes application to access iTunes U.  To download a free version of iTunes for Mac or PC,  please visit: .

The Asian Art Museum’s exciting new site on iTunes U enables the museum to extend its educational mission by reaching further beyond the museums’ walls. The content featured on the site includes a diverse range of multimedia resources on Asian art and culture such as audio guides and videos on the museum’s acclaimed collection and special exhibitions; public lectures by renowned scholars; educator resource packets and art activities; footage from museum performances, events and  demonstrations; short documentaries; and much more!

To begin exploring the Asian Art Museum’s new iTunes U site, please visit:

For an excellent tutorial on how to use iTunes U, see: