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Contemplation about “Yi (Change)”

Author: Liang Shaoji Translator: Lu Jiang Jul,1989

Laozi once said, “The form of things is in the blurry sight.”

Chinese aesthetics is restrained, obscure and mysterious. Apart from paying attention to the imagery, the structure of Chinese culture aims at coordinating the confrontation between man and nature to pursue the unity between the two.

“Yi” (Change) is an ancient mystery of such, the Sphinx in the East. Translated as “The Book of Changes Series”in English, “Yi Jing” contains not only the latent mythological metaphor but also rigorous mathematical logic. It is a book of divination, as well as history, philosophy, literature and science. “Yi” is everywhere - “even the sun and the moon change” - and is based on the Tao (the universal law) of Yin and Yang, the connection between man and nature, and the participation in the natural order. “Yi Jing” records everything, wars, agriculture, rituals, marriage, etc. It further sublimates into a semiotic system of abstract numbers and geometric patterns, as if constructing an overwhelming Magic Cube. For instance, it divides the space and time into four directions (south, north, east, and west) and four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) respectively, and the universal substances into five elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth). Jiuchou, nine manners of government, are small squares on the cube, inside which the numbers on the same vertical and horizontal lines add up to 15. The number of nine can also be interpreted as “Jiuzhou” (literally meaning nine states, also the poetic name of China), or the symbol of nine prisons. Ancient Chinese palaces and cities were planned according to the theory of nine roads connecting north and south and nine connecting east and west. Additionally, Chinese characters are structured on nine-square grids.

During Kangxi reign, Gottfried Leibniz solved the key issue in binary code arrangement by drawing inspiration from the “Yi” diagrams brought by Jesuit missionaries who had been to China. Hence, he contended, “Yijing is the world’s greatest cosmology.” As the present-day Goldbach Conjecture, the explanation of “Yi” has been interesting to many.

Nevertheless, nowadays, people focus more on the psychological rather than the scientific aspect of “Yi”. Western mechanistic view describes the mental split of human nature, caused by the sense of compression in modern environment. In contrast, “Yi” emphasizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, thus filling up the psychological “emptiness”. Since “Yi” is relevant to human production and life experience, it is different from the theory of concepts. Therefore, inevitably, “Yi” may be a bit far-fetched if we try to apply it to new experience in life, which is beyond its coverage.

“Yi” Series is my first attempt to explore the study of “Yi” and to find the link between Eastern mysteries and Western science.

The natural blending of architecture, symbolism and mystery in tapestry is what I have been seeking for.

Architecture in Chinese garden is immersed in an ethereal, mysterious atmosphere. Unlike the majestic proportions in Greek architecture and the dramatic extension in Byzantine architecture, Chinese architecture demonstrates its structure clearly in midair, as if creating a winding path that never leads to a definite goal. There are pairs of contradictions - the eternal paradise versus the earthly word, the rationality versus the irrationality that is beyond words. Likewise, Post-modern architecture is also keen to pursue a sense of duality and incorporates creative spirits in metaphors.

I found that the framework made by silk can be easily put together and unfold continuously in all directions with magical changing patterns. In addition, when the diffuse sunlight penetrates the half-translucent fabric, it demonstrates the mysterious beauty and the spatial fluidity, where emptiness and fullness, movement and stillness, hardness and softness, and rationality and irrationality are fused into one in confrontation. Its space-time perception is infinite, whereas its abstract is limited by rationality. Hence, the framework is very likely to become a metaphoric decoding and to replace modern constructiveness. It can harmonize with the building body both graphically and spiritually. When the audience walk through this symbolic framework, can’t they realize that the realm of “Yi” (Change) is an architectural poem?

Emerged as a form of environmental design, contemporary tapestry is the art medium connecting man, environment and material. Therefore, being one of the first to attract attention from traditions, it should be more monumental than architectural art, more emotional than construction and more extensive than planning.

The task of tapestry is not only to seek solutions in history and culture but also to explore potential new structural relationship. There is no doubt about the liveliness and potential of temporary environmental art, the dynamic form of environmental art. It is closely related to the changing, fast-paced contemporary life style.

Temporary moveable installations expand the art field. The relationships between artists and audience, and between man and the environment are harmonized when the audience participate in the creation and design process, share similar conceptions with the artists, and realize the ideal kingdom together. Thus, only when the viewers actively participate in the creation of “Yi” series will the connotations of tapestry art achieve a new sublimation and approach the moment of “Tao”.

Zhejiang Academy of Art, China (Present-day China Academy of Art)
Varbanov Institute of Tapestry
Liang Shaoji
July, 1989

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