Archive for 'Asia Alive'

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day

The term janchi (feast or celebration) is very familiar to Koreans. We hold janchi for a baby’s first birthday and invite families, friends and neighbors. Getting a good grade on a university entrance exam is also for a cause for janchi. For graduations, weddings and housewarmings, we would host janchi. There would be plenty of food, music, colorful dresses and good cheer. Neighbors would come early and help prepare the food. Children would be corralled together to play games, eat, and just be kids.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day

When I first pictured the 5th annual KF Korean Culture Day program about a year ago, I imagined the chaotic and hectic janchi of activities I was used to seeing when I was young, with many different things to do for young as well as not so young. For a museum of art and culture, this was also an opportunity to highlight traditions while focusing on the next generation of artists and cultural leaders.

This year, we hosted 2,915 visitors to the museum thanks to the generous support from the Korea Foundation. That’s up 20% from the last year’s attendance (I had my wish of a hectic, crowded day)! A long line snaked through the 1st floor for a tasting of the goldongmyum, a delicious cold noodle dish that used to be a staple of royal palace celebrations in the Joseon dynasty.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day performances

There was a standing room only performance of traditional music and dance by students and teachers from Korea’s prestigious art school, Korean National University of Arts.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day crafts

Art activities and art demonstrations were popular all day. Families bustled around the AsiaAlive Korean paper making demonstrations with Aimee Lee, and lantern making activities staffed by our amazing volunteers and Art Speak teen interns.

A special lecture by UCLA Professor of History and Director of the Center for Korean Studies, John Duncan, explained impact of Confucian social structures on contemporary Korean life.

Korean Foundation Korean Culture Day tours

Storytellers and docents guided groups through to museum’s collection and the In Grand Style exhibition. They even had to add extra tours in the afternoon due to high demand.

My favorite part of the day was speaking to many visitors about their experience at the museum. My day was made when a visitor stopped me on the way out of the performance and asked “Do you know who worked on this program? Please tell them thank you for providing this incredible chance to see and learn about Korea! Now I have to come back to see it all over again.”

Here’s a video with more highlights:

The Year of the Dragons

One of the cool things about working at the Asian Art Museum is that I get to meet artists from all over the world who are creating some fascinating works, big and small.

A few days ago, I received a holiday card from an AsiaAlive alumnus, Japanese bamboo artist Tanaka Kyokusho. He also sent me a photo of his latest work, a fifty-foot-long dragon made entirely from bamboo.

Tanaka's bamboo dragon display in Tokyo.

Another Japanese artist, Paris-based artist Natsusaka Shinichiro, recently sent us the new year’s netsuke he created specially for the museum. This is his third year designing netsukes for our education programs; he previously created netsukes for the year of the tiger and the year of the rabbit.

Natsusaka's dragon netsuke is about an inch tall.


Unlike Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese communities, Japanese people celebrate the new year on January 1. This change from the lunar calendar was made during the Meiji Restoration Period, in 1873. Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese new year starts on January 23, 2012 (it changes every year according to the lunar calendar), so you will have three extra weeks to make new year’s resolutions.

Next Saturday, December 31, museum visitors can ring the new year in with our annual Japanese bell ringing ceremony, make their own netsukes at our family art activity, and welcome the Year of the Dragon in style.

Burmese Puppets

Here is something to get you in the mood for the Burmese puppets that will grace our museum later this week. I found a wonderful video on the creation of these amazing puppets on YouTube by director Khi Phu Shin.
At the museum, there will be demonstrations by the Mandalay Marionette Theater Thursday night at our MATCHA event and also during AsiaAlive October 27th through the 31st. Hope to see you there.

Kendo Crazy

This morning Nick Smith from ABC7’s View from the Bay interviewed Deb Clearwaters, Director of Education about upcoming Samurai-related programs. One of the programs highlighted was the Asia Alive Martial Arts Series which begins August 7. Kendo is the first of the martial arts highlighted in the series and Richard Hill from the Northern California Kendo Association and his associate Atsu were on-hand to demonstrate. My 10-yr old son Patrick who was observing the kendo demonstration loved it. His comment: “Wow! You can scream as loud as you want inside the museum and hit other guys with sticks?! I want to do that!” We will definitely be back for the program. Elvin McDonald is the guy filming the demo. The segment airs on View from the Bay next Tuesday. Footage of the footage courtesy of Nick Smith’s iphone.

600 years of tradition at HustleMania

Kyogen is a form of traditional Japanese theater and performance art. Kyogen can be literally translated as “mad words” or “wild speech”. This art form grew out of folk and Imperial court song and dance. Later the art form gradually divided into two branches. The more serious forms and elements further evolved into the masked no drama, the more comic forms and elements evolving into kyogen. Eventually lineages or schools of kyogen came into prominence and codified many of the traditions. I could go on and on about the history of kyogen and the intricacies of the art form, but that type of discourse is best left to my far more eloquent and expert colleagues.
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our wonderful guests

The scene:

May Target Sunday (our monthly free day) at the museum, around 4pm or so. Our very special guests, Lopen Netem and Lopen Gyem, are monks from Bhutan who have been here since February to protect the sacred artworks in The Dragon’s Gift. Throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors have been privy to their daily purification rituals for the objects, as part of our artists-in-residency program, AsiaAlive.

Here, the charming monks have attracted quite an inquisitive crowd of diverse folks, demonstrating the stirring sounds of an instrument (sorry, I don’t know its name!). The infectious energy, folks’ curiosity, and monks’ sweet smiles of sharing and pride all make for a somewhat poignant moment.

And some photos:

May / APA Target Sunday

May / APA Target Sunday

May / APA Target Sunday

If you’re around, come by and say “Kuzu zampo” (hello!) to our special guests. The show closes on May 10.