Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Voluntary Test

I have already written that out of an abundance of caution (perhaps an over abundance) I planned to take a COVID test a week before my departure for Mexico, and then voluntarily quarantine myself at home for the last seven days.  It's not that any of this is required in order to enter Mexico.  All I need to do is fill out a form with a series of questions and present it when I pass through immigration at Mexico City airport.  It has been two weeks now since my second shot, so the vaccine should by now be at maximum effectiveness.  I am doing this to simply be very sure that I am protecting the health of Alejandro and his family.  And since I have no reason to believe that I am infected, the test costs a hefty $139.

I made the appointment on-line for my test a couple days ahead of time.  I was to show up at the drive-through window yesterday afternoon at a pharmacy just a mile from my house.  I did not realize that I was going to administer the test myself.  The pharmacist at the window gave me a plastic package containing the long swab and a vial in which to place the swab.  She led me through the process step by step.  The most difficult part of the process was opening the package.  I then placed the swab up one nostril and then up the other until it met resistance.  I broke the swab in half, unscrewed the vial, put the shortened swab inside, put the vial back in the plastic bag, and deposited it in a drop-box by the window.  That was it.

I have heard that some people find the test very painful.  Others report that it simply feels strange, that it feels as if your brain is being tickled or that it makes your eyes water.  I felt no discomfort whatsoever.

Now I must wait five to seven days for the results.  Hopefully it will be not take the maximum amount of time because then I would receive the results the day before my departure.  My only worry would be if I receive a false positive, because that would throw a monkey wrench into my plans.  But from what I understand, it is the "quick test" that is less accurate and has more false results.

Now I have a week to stay at home, and complete my checklist of things to do before I leave on my trip.   

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Buddhism in China

 During our exploration of the Cleveland Museum of Art's Asian galleries, we have seen Buddhist art from a number of countries.  Now comes China.  Buddhism was brought to China during the Han Dynasty in the 1st century A.D. by missionaries from India.  The new faith was welcomed enthusiastically by the people, and it became mingled with the existing Confucian and Taoist beliefs.

One gallery is filled with Buddhist images from China.

This marble sculpture of a seated Buddha comes from around 570 during the Tang Dynasty.

From the same time period is this piece, also sculpted from marble.  It shows Buddha flanked by two "bodhisattvas" and two disciples.  (You may recall from before that a "bodhisattva" is a being who helps others attain enlightenment.)


This sculpture from around 550 is of a disciple of Buddha holding a reliquary for Buddha's ashes.  

This limestone head of Buddha was found in a cave-temple.  It is about 1500 years old.

This is a portion of a temple pillar which was commissioned by a group of Buddhist believers to pay tribute to the dead.  Above the figures there are inscriptions honoring deceased members of their families.

This gilt bronze figure depict Buddha during the time he spent as an ascetic in his quest for enlightenment.  It dates from the early 1300s.

This "bodhisattva" is carved from wood and his traces of the original paint and gilt.  It is from the 1300s during the Jin Dynasty.

In China, the most revered "bodhisattva" is Guanyin, the "bodhisattva" of compassion.  He is worshipped as a deity.  The museum has several large, impressive, wooden statues of Guanyin, dating from, the 12th to the 14th centuries.

There will be more from China, but if you have had your fill of images of Buddha and his "bodhisattvas", take heart.  We will be looking at decorative arts, chinaware and painted wall hangings. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Spring Flowers

 A few days ago I looked out the window and saw that some of my daffodils were blooming.

However, this is the only clump that has flowers or even buds.  I think that later in the year I will have to dig up the bulbs, separate them, and replant them.

I used to have a lot a crocus, but the last couple of years I have had none.  I assumed that squirrels or some other critter had dug up and eaten the bulbs.  This year, a few crocus flowers unexpectedly appeared.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Ancient China

 The Cleveland Museum of Art has several galleries devoted to China.  The country has a long history which goes back millennia.  We will begin with works from China's ancient past.

These two pieces of pottery are more than 4000 years old.  They are from the Neolithic Age, but they show considerable artistic talent and imagination.

This drum stand from perhaps 400 B.C. looks like a piece of modern sculpture.  It is made of lacquered wood and depicts two large cranes standing atop two serpents.  The drum would have been suspended by ropes between the cranes' necks.

The bronze cauldron with three legs dates from around 1000 B.C.  Food was placed inside of it for ancestral spirits.

These expertly crafted bronze items... a square wine container and a rectangular food vessel... were made around 1200 B.C. during the late Shang Dynasty.

This bronze bell from between 800 and 700 B.C. is inscribed with an early example of Chinese caligraphy.

This bronze food container from between 600 and 500 B.C. features beautiful openwork and sculptural designs such as the dragon handles.

This jar of glazed stoneware comes from between 100 B.C. and A.D. 100 during the Han Dynasty.  The glaze gives it the appearance of bronze.

This earthenware jug, also from the Han Dynasty, has a dragon amid scrolling forms that represent clouds or waves.

This heavy, solid bear of gilt bronze from the Han Dynasty was probably used as a weight to hold down floor mats.  The bear was a popular symbol of heroic strength.

This cylindrical container of gilt bronze was probably used as a cosmetics box.  It too is from the era of the Han Dynasty.

There is more to come from China.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Christmas in March

 For several years I have had a Christmas cactus in my dining room.  Although it has never bloomed spectacularly, each year it has produced a few blossoms.  

The flowers usually come closer to Thanksgiving than to Christmas.  There is a variety of the plant that is called a Thanksgiving cactus, and I read that most of the "Christmas cacti" that are sold in stores are actually "Thanksgiving cacti".

Last year it had a couple of blossoms around Thanksgiving, and then it had a couple more just after Christmas.  Last weekend when I was watering my houseplants, I noticed that my cactus had a couple of buds. I started looking more carefully and saw another and then another.  There were a total of six buds!


So I guess I should either start calling my plant an "Easter cactus", or I should be wishing all of you a "Merry Christmas"!

Friday, March 26, 2021

An Amalgam of Cultures

 In the Cleveland Museum of Art's Asian collection there are a number of objects that come from a little known but fascinating time and place in history.  Gandhara was located in the present day countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  In 326 B.C. the region was conquered by Alexander the Great.  He left Greek officers behind to govern the area.  For nearly 300 Gandhara remained an eastern outpost of Greek culture.  In 50 B.C. the invading Parthians from present-day Iran put an end to Greek rule, but Hellenistic cultural traditions continued.  Even after the Kushans, a tribe from central Asia, conquered the region in A.D. 75, and Buddhism was introduced in A.D. 150, Greek influence in art survived.  Gandhara flourished as a major trading center on the Silk Road, and Roman merchants who came there added to the cultural mix.  Thus the museum's works from Gandhara definitely have a different look.  Images of Greek and Roman gods mingle with images of Buddha... and even the Buddhist sculptures  look a bit like Greek statuary.

This carving from the 3rd century shows the drunken revelry of a Bacchanalia, and the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, is probably the third figure from the left.

 Another Bacchanalian scene from the 1st century A.D.

Atlas, from Greek mythology, makes an appearance as a winged figure in this statue from the 3rd century.

This Bodhisattva (in Buddhism, a being who helps others achieve enlightenment) from the late 1st century, may be wearing Indian attire, but his muscular torso is reminiscent of Greek sculpture.

This standing Buddha from between A.D. 150 and 200 comes from the monastery of Takhi-i-Bahi which was one of the largest in Gandhara.  (Its ruins still stand in Pakistan and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)  The statue combines Indian and Greek elements, and the folds of his robe are similar to a Roman toga.

The next stop on our tour of the museum's Asian galleries will be China.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Another Disc for my Travel Library

 Earlier this month I wrote that I was finally getting around to sorting the photos from my last trip to Mexico, back in January and February of last year.  Using a video program, I took the best pictures to create a slide show complete with background music and burned it onto a DVD. 

To give you an idea of what my slides shows are like I took a short video with my camera while the DVD was playing on the TV.  (I tried hard to keep my hands steady.)  These photos were taken when Alejandro and I visited Parque La Mexicana, a park in the glitzy Santa Fe neighborhood of Mexico City.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

From Southeast Asia

Our tour of the Cleveland Art Museum's Asian collection continues with sculptures from Southeast Asia.  The region was strongly influenced by the art of India, as well as India's religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.  Around 250 BC the Indian Emperor Asoka sent monks out to spread Buddhism.  

One country which embraced Buddhism wholeheartedly, and which still is overwhelmingly Buddhist, is Thailand. 

This large statue of Buddha dates back tp the 600s.  It shows Indian influences, but the facial features resemble those of the local population.

This carving from 8th or 9th century Thailand shows Buddha and two attendants flying through the air on a winged lion-like creature.

A limestone bust of Buddha from the 8th century

The Champa KIngdom once extended across what is today the country of Vietnam.  In the 4th century they adopted Hinduism.  In the 9th and 10th centuries the ruling dynasty adopted Buddhism, but later the kingdom reverted to Hinduism.  Even today there is a segment of the Champa people who are the only ones to practice Hinduism in Vietnam.

This naturalistic 10th century carving of an elephant shows strong Indian influence.

This enthroned planetary deity would have stood at the entrance to a Buddhist temple.

This carving of a celestial being was a decoration projecting from a temple.

The most powerful and famous of the kingdoms of Southeast Asia was the Khmer Empire, centered in present day Cambodia.  It flourished from 9th to the 14th centuries.  Its capital, Angkor, may have been at one time the largest city in the world, and its temple carvings represent the pinnacle of Southeast Asian art.  The official religion was Hinduism, although Buddhism also had many followers.

A 10th century sculpture of a deity or a king

A statue of the Hindu god Shiva, done in the early 1100s and found in Angkor.

This carving of celestial dancers done in the late 1100s was part of a frieze decorating a temple in Angkor.

A standing female deity dating from the 900s from a temple to Shiva in Angkor

This figure of a kneeling man is from the 11th century.  His "third eye" on his forehead identifies him as a worshipper of Shiva.  The eyes, eyebrows, mustache and beard of this figure were originally inlaid with silver.

There is yet more to come from the Cleveland Museum of Art.