oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


















oil on canvas

280 x 180 cm


Since 2001, Meng Huang has been painting a series of human landscapes titled International Face. In these works, once again, the artist topples the concept of the common aesthetical and perceptual sense. In most of his ca. 280 x 180 cm canvasses, Meng portrays the ever-transforming facial expressions of his favourite model, Jiang Zhenyu, thus revealing the emotional and psychological complexity of his old friend and neighbour who is afflicted by Down’s  Syndrome. Based on  a  Chinese popular  saying, people suffering from


this disease are called „international faces“ (guoji lian), and this in relation to the similarity of their features independent of their nationality or ethnic group. In the current historical phase in which China is coursing at a hectic speed toward globalization, Meng Huang’s International Face becomes an emblematic warning against the increasingly superficial standardisation of knowledge and the loss of cultural identity. Questioning the idea of so-called „normality“…

Nataline Colonello


Meng Huang (hereinafter ‘Meng’): Zhenyu, what do you think of taking pictures?

Jiang Zhenyu (hereinafter ‘Jiang’): Whatever; sometimes you have things that you should study. When you have learned them, go and try and find one. If you’re going to use a camera independently, you can photograph as much as you wish, so shoot away as you please.

Meng: Why do you like photography?

Jiang: [Doesn’t answer the question]

Meng: Zhenyu, let me buy you a coffee in a bit and invite you to eat some meat.

Jiang: OK! I have an odd disposition, and I’m just dying to bump into some meat.

Meng: But there’s a condition.

Jiang: Just name it.

Meng: You grant me an interview.

Jiang: Alright.

Meng: Just tell a bit about yourself. Where were you born?

Jiang: Hey, hey, my place of birth is rather far: Wuxi City in Jiangsu Province; that’s my old ancestral homeland. I grew up in Shanghai. But actually, we weren’t born in Shanghai; we came from the banks of the Yangze, in the south, very far away. Do you know Chiang Kai-shek? [TN: English employs the Cantonese phonetic (Wade-Giles Pinyin Romanisation) version of his name; in Mandarin, it is Jiang Jieshi (Hanyu Pinyin Romanisation). The characters in both cases are of course the same: 蒋介石]

Meng: Yes, indeed.

Jiang: I am from the second village of Jiangs-between the first and second village of Jiangs-and Chiang Kai-shek is from a cadet branch of the family, but it’s not really a part of mine.

Meng: What would it be like if you were close relations?

Jiang: If we were, it might have occasioned unnecessary trouble. As we are both surnamed Jiang, I might have been Chiang Kai-shek and he might’ve been me.

Meng: Oh.

Jiang: Because we are both named Jiang, same sound, same character.

Meng: What about your home scene, your Mum and Dad?

Jiang: In addition to my parents and sister, I have two brothers and sisters. One is my natural sister, Jiang Yiqun [EN: this is a homophonic transcription {TN: i.e., the editors are unaware of the actual characters forming her name}], you also know her. She finished primary school in the fifth grade. Me, I finished in the first grade; class one. You both know this. That was the situation in those days. Then, my health was not up to it so I had to withdraw, withdraw from school.

Meng: Was that teacher nice to you then?

Jiang: The teacher with which surname? Not too nice to me. At that time, my spelling test [TN: Hanyu Pinyin as a vehicle to learn the sounds of characters using Latin script] and Chinese language tests had already taken place; from the entire class, I came in sixth from the bottom.

Meng: Your coffee should be up soon.

Jiang: Well.

He Shi: Let me take some photos in the meantime.

Jiang: Shoot away; shoot away; whatever.

Meng: Your Mum and Dad, where did they graduate from?

Jiang: One was a graduate of Beijing University, Physical Education Department. My mother gave birth to me during the Cultural Revolution, then sent me to my grandmother’s house in Shanghai; her surname is Rong, Mr. Jiang’s wife. Because of the social changes taking place then – the Cultural Revolution was rather chaotic – she was afraid something would happen to me, so I was sent to the big city.

Meng: Did you like go to school?

Jiang: You could say I liked it and you could say I didn’t, and vice-versa. I had certain gripes against my school.

Meng: Why?

Jiang: Because my teacher was not terribly nice to me; I was under great psychological pressure, or to put it another way, it had a negative effect on my psyche.

Meng: It is said that you are a bit of a bookworm.

Jiang: Yes, I do like to read; I often went to the library. There was a set in six volumes I particularly liked.

Meng: Which work?

Jiang: Popular science books, technological kinds.

Meng: Have you read the classics?

Jiang: Classics, I’ve read the Chinese ones; of the four famous ones, I’ve read three.

Meng: Which three?

Jiang: Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh.

Meng: Do you know what the fourth one is?

Jiang: A Dream of Red Mansions.

Meng: Why didn’t you read it?

Jiang: I couldn’t understand it, I just couldn’t understand it. Because it uses classical Chinese illusions, vernacular language and lots of traditional Chinese characters [TN: as opposed to the simplified Chinese script used on the Mainland (introduced by the Communist authorities in the 1950s as a vehicle to promote literacy); traditional characters are still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao and by Overseas Chinese], that kind of thing. I certainly couldn’t understand.

Meng: What is your understanding of these three classics?

Jiang: They well deserve the designation ‘ancient’; in today’s military affairs and political affairs, one may not go beyond this nation’s interests. What do you think? Like Zhu Geliang, Sima Yi [TN: Sima is an ancient title of rank denoting the military governor of a province or territory], Sun Quan and Zhou Yu [TN: these actual historical figures who are also characters in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms loom large in Chinese historical lore: warriors, sages, statesmen, military geniuses, adventurers, heroes, rascals and famed beauties (the Qiao sisters), like Helen of Troy, ravishing enough to goad men to war; if the reader imagines Socrates and Von Clausewitz both present at and participating in the Siege of Troy that will convey some indication of the sweep of the novel and the turbulent era (The Period of the Three Kingdoms – Shu-Han, Wei and Wu – ca. AD 190 – 263) it describes. See generally], they were all renowned statesmen, also scientists; they were all like that. According to the current mode of expression, among these four generations of leaders, there were four prime ministers, four chairmen; apart from this, there was no difference between them.

Meng: Would you like for me to draw you?

Jiang: I’d like to be drawn or photographed; either is OK. I am willing to serve as a human ladder; you guys just come and I hold you up.

Meng: Why are you willing to serve as a human ladder?

Jiang: Because I am clear in my mind that behind every successful person, there is always a silent, unheard person supporting your work. Because if you lose a friend [TN: i.e., through death], there is definitely an uncomfortable feeling in your heart, isn’t that right? If you lose a friend, your eyeballs will redden a bit inside; I know that one can never unburden one’s heart of this lost friend. Therefore, at that time, I was trying to persuade you, in the midst of work and study, one must exert oneself in redoubled, diligent efforts, finish along the road whose course one’s friend could not complete; tread along in his footsteps, going to his last living milestone, conferring benefits upon the public, exerting oneself with hundred-fold effort, using diligent study and forging something to fill in the void in one’s heart. I have no other intention, so you guys just straighten up and go, go your own way, come out from under your friend’s shadow, steer your own fair course, mind your own inner affairs and external affairs; in this way, one needn’t feel ‘widowed’ because one has lost a friend. This is my intention. What do you think, bro’ ? [TN: he is actually calling him ‘second older brother’, contracted to ‘bro’’ herein for the sake of simplicity and vernacular verisimilitude]

Meng: I have nothing to beat that view.

Jiang: So, we’re having an interview. What have you got out of this?

Meng: I’ve still got lots, let me think. I also don’t know what I want to say, you are so eloquent.

Jiang: It’s not that I can say something, just because I’ve read a few books. It’s possible I haven’t read any interview books, but I certainly know this, to journalists it is a career that is constraining; he may not leave this professional work. Regardless of whether he has lost this friend or that, the work must be continued; the road must still be traveled. One can’t rely on a friend’s support. One day you lose that friend, what then? It’s like a general, helping a child mount a horse; what should the child do afterwards – repay the general? Or repay the field marshal? This is something to consider. He is after all a helper onto the horse, a helper onto the road, but does not go along to the destination, does not propel him forward; that’s no good – rely only on yourself. It takes time for a child to grow up.

(Aside to a waitress bearing coffee:) Thank you.

Meng: This is chocolate. How’s it taste?

Jiang: Mmmm, not bad.

Meng: What books are you reading now?

Jiang: I watch TV now; I’m not reading any books.

Meng: Watching TV; do you understand much about significant national events?

Jiang: Significant national events? Lots, like combating floods. When Hu Jintao first took office, it was in the midst of the battle against SARS. Yet once a leader assumes office there must be a significant event, like Mao Zedong: once he assumed office, he stopped eating meat, why? One reason was fighting floods and conducting rescue operations in stricken areas; one was Xingtai and the great earthquake in Xingtai and Tangshan area. The second-generation leaders are the same – go south – grab a pen and write and draw, and the nation will immediately reform; so travel around the south twice giving speeches. What about the third-generation leaders, like Jiang Zemin; he got back Hong Kong and Macao. What about the present Hu Jintao, battling SARS, flood crests, blizzards, all of these are significant national events, without exception. If you’re talking about significant foreign events, I know nothing whatsoever.

Meng: Why?

Jiang: Because I’m Chinese; significant national events are significant national events of the People’s Republic of China. As a citizen of the republic, understanding the republic is something I must do. Hey, bro’, if I won’t let you take pictures; you’re psyche is disturbed. They say you must have your own professional ethics; as a citizen of this nation, I want to serve this country, and may not go beyond this country to give service abroad. What country are you from?

Meng: But other people are talking about globalisation these days.

Jiang: Globalisation, what’s that then? This is because China is in the globe, not just because of globalisation.

Meng: How do you view globalisation? The idea of globalisation is that . . . because there are aeroplanes and the Internet . . .

Jiang: Yes, the Internet . . .

Meng: . . . they’re all closely connected . . .

Jiang: Any network, China is not outside of it. As a nation, as a leader, one is to resist the ravages of nature; one is to resist the ravages of people, combat criminal activities. It makes no difference whether it’s this nation or that, what is the grounds for fear – social turmoil, the country unstable? Combating floods and disasters – no country whatsoever may be exempted from this. This is assuredly the issue. If you’re going to conduct this interview like a journalist, you’ll have to go; why? Because this is a matter of professional ethics, being a journalist, this is a profession, a cautious and conscientious profession; how can one smarting from the pain of losing a friend . . . work, study, live, eat and drink, all stand in the first line of necessity; you can’t say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to beat myself because I’m trapped in the pain of losing a friend. What do you do? Do you still want work? Where are professional ethics? What do you think, bro’?

Meng: Mmmm. If you had the opportunity of going abroad for travel, would you be willing?

Jiang: Foreign travel? Yeah, great. But I don’t think I could engage in the foreign method of study.

Meng: Why?

Jiang: My father went abroad; when he returned, he had changed. Changed into what? Abusive, humiliating and insulting me; I really don’t understand. Towards his sons’ and daughters’ psychology and physiology, this caused very great harm. But I don’t view my parents with enmity. People’s educational styles are not the same. They have foreign education abroad and domestic education in China; education should not be nationalised. We Chinese have Chinese culture, civilisation, education; abroad, they have foreign education. We can have exchanges as between civilisations, but not as between education systems. Educational systems cannot be exchanged; this is because educational systems are not the same; educational categories have no limits. Sons and daughters should be treated nicely; the interests of one’s own people should serve as a starting point, the interests of one’s own family should serve as a starting point; preserving two generations together in one family should serve as a starting point. Are the feelings of one person important, or the feelings of two family members? Are all important then? Education should also pay regard to China’s education market and the international education market; the two are mutually-exclusive; the levels of civilization are different.

Meng: How can they be brought together?

Jiang: Cultures can be exchanged, cultures can be brought together; languages can be brought together, but something which just can’t be brought together is educational systems.

Meng: What is the difference between culture and education, then?

Jiang: Culture has material culture and immaterial culture, and also . . . how to put it? Just these two then, otherwise nothing. It’s just like that, a great distance. So categories of education may not just be viewed from the standpoint of one person’s needs.

Meng: You just said languages could be brought together; what do you mean?

Jiang: Look, there’s a taxi driver, he happens to have foreign business, foreign customers, but cannot communicate with them in their language, well?

Meng: Hmmm, he should learn a little foreign language.

Jiang: Right, he should learn a little foreign language. That is language exchange.

Meng: Did you?

Jiang: [TN: in broken English] Hello! Bye-bye! Here go! Bye-bye! [TN: in Chinese] I can do oral language, but usually don’t use it, since in China, it doesn’t matter whether you do or not, since at best we are each our own person, and so whichever language you use is OK. But with foreign languages, we could say they are Greek to me, but should not say I can’t speak them at all. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: Hmmm. What view do you hold with respect to China’s future?

Jiang: China’s future definitely has one purpose – good national administration and legitimisation of the educational market; children must not be beaten or scolded in a humiliating way; you may not employ inflammatory language to attack an opponent; this would be illegal conduct. Regardless of whether you are a parent, as a parent, you may not act in this way. Your house rules may be strict, but not stricter than the national law! National law is not established by some one leader. Our nation’s first emperor – Qinshihuang – his rules, laws, were the Qin royal decrees, the Qin royal edicts; if you violated these precepts, you were a traitor and had to flee abroad; if you sought to flee, there was an order for your arrest, national law would not put up with this. Whatever your age, beating your children, or beating yourself to death would be banned; if caught, you’d be punished to the limit of the law. Now, with regard to education, one must start with civilised education, with children’s education; if you can’t, oh, well, you want to educate, then educate; you want to hit, then hit. Not okay in China; you can abroad, but not in China.

Meng: Very well said. Eat a bit first . . . how does it taste?

Jiang: Not bad.

Meng: Zhenyu, I’m going to ask you a new question.

Jiang: Ask away.

Meng: Do you like art?

Jiang: Art? I can’t talk about that.

Meng: Why?

Jiang: Because I should say that I don’t know the first thing about art, because at the level of art there is very much . . . very much knowledge; I should also say . . . there is artifact art, cultural art, philatelic art, fine art and photography in art. With respect to photography, I do have some understanding, but I don’t know the first thing about fine art.

Meng: Do you like fine art?

Jiang: Back to like again; but that’s your business, it’s not my field. Although I do like it, it’s not the same as with you, going to engage in fine arts work. I couldn’t do that.

Meng: What do you think of the pictures created by those professors at university?

Jiang: Because their pictures were all professional . . . just think, ordinary depiction, simple pen drawings, sketches, coloured drawings, coloured sketches, things like that. They’re all pretty messy, pretty disordered. If one wants to draw professionally, coloured ink, not colour paintings, or coloured ink and pastels. Thus they have an essential difference between them; this essence is a quantum leap. Just like you, bro’; before, you couldn’t do anything, now, fine art, photography, you can do it all; it’s all professional, isn’t that right? This is a quantum leap; in essence a quantum leap that starts to uplift one. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: Mmmm. Go on eating.

Did you or did you not utter the phrase ‘contemporary art’?

Jiang: Contemporary art? There’s so much. There’s photographic art – photography, this kind of thing was around early: there was photography in the Qing dynasty. You, my bro’, if you didn’t understand art, didn’t understand photography, you could just go and look at history; history has no lack of examples, isn’t that right? You look at fine art; there is no lack of capable people in history, like the Eight Masters of Yangzhou [TN: master painters of the Qing dynasty (AD 1644-1911) centred in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province. Art historians differ as to the precise number included under this rubric, but they are generally held to include: Zheng Xie, Luo Pin, Li Fangying, Huang Shen, Gao Xiang, Li Shan, Jin Nong and Wang Shishen. Their style consisted in simple, yet compellingly depicted monochrome-toned, still life, portrait and landscape works, with the lattermost often being oversized representations of bamboo leaves, grasses, flowers, etc., done in a manner reminiscent of, e.g., Albrecht Dürrer’s Monumental Turf, but with an element of the abstract imparting an air of dreamy surrealism]. In many provinces, cities, autonomous regions, independent cities under the central government, areas, counties, villages, towns, communes and rural areas, if you just dig a little, you’ll find lots of human talent. Look at architectural art, history, geographical features, fine art, and art; isn’t it all culture? Culture can be exchanged abroad; a few oral expressions suffice; you don’t have to exclusively and thoroughly study a foreign language: you can use simple dialogue to communicate with abroad, and this is cultural exchange. Civilisation you may not exchange, because there are essential differences between civilisations. You may not, based on any kind of need, set off abroad; who will understand what you say? Even the many foreigners living in China don’t understand what one says. [TN: mimicking Shanghai dialect] ‘Ho’ are ‘oo? Hev ‘oo eating?’ Abroad, they don’t understand what you say. That’s it! You don’t dare open your mouth! They won’t understand. You’re a Beijinger, bro’, speaking northern dialect: [TN: mimicking the dialect, and an outsider’s lack of comprehension thereof] ‘Hoy, whar you goin’ a-r-r-r? Let’s tark when you get bark!’ ‘Wha’?!’ Both speak without communicating. Therefore, language culture is difficult because of language divergence, and culturally, there are a lot of places where you cannot communicate with people, particularly with language culture, since language culture is too burdened with details. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: Drink, drink a bit. Is it good?

Jiang: Okay! See, I used a foreign-language expression? Okay! Very good! I would normally say: Not bad, quite good to drink. These ways of talking are all very good. This is all because of the divergence of language.

Meng: What do you feel is your greatest happiness in life?

Jiang: My greatest happiness in life? Only one – serve the people (collective service), service to the greater whole, service for the common good of the second generation, not for any one generation of people, not for one person, old people, one generation people; this is not harmonious – inharmonious musical notes are not legal. You can’t only benefit any one generation of people at the expense of another. Because your father beat you and scolded you, what does this do to your psyche? Are you guilty of an error? No. Based on what grounds are you hitting me? A mistake? Point it out to me, alright? Let me correct it myself. Beat, scold, use force; you, Second Dragon [EN: points at Meng {TN: meaning ‘second-born son’ and thus here ‘elder brother’}], you’re also in this; you’re no exception, are you? That is to say, education is very messy; so at the level of education, you cannot exchange with Western nations; when it comes to exchange, there comes repugnance. Western civilisation: it’s best if we don’t use it, because this civilisation, Chinese, is a community, serving a very large family. Western nations are not like this: they love to do whatever they like; this is not okay in China. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: I would like to consult with you on one issue.

Jiang: Go ahead.

Meng: What do you think about “being alive” ; does it have any meaning or not?

Jiang: That depends on what you do.

Meng: Go on.

Jiang: Just think, if you subordinate your own interests to the the interests of public and community. That’s my maxim in life, and thus my culture; you can communicate with abroad, because this immaterial culture, this immaterial civilisation can be exchanged abroad. But, education cannot be, because from the standpoint of education, in China, education is domestic education, and you cannot unite the two into one.

Meng: It sounds as if you harbour comparatively positive sentiments towards the communality?

Jiang: Yes, indeed. Not only do I harbour positive sentiments toward it, it is the lodestone of my heart.

Meng: The lodestone of your heart?

Jiang: Because we are Chinese, because we are one community, because we all serve for the Yellow River. The Yellow River, it is the mother river of the People’s Republic of China, not the Yangze. Like America: its mother river is the Mississippi River. We can’t ever abandon this river; therefore, I want to serve the interests of this nation.

Meng: And what if you do depart from this river?

Jiang: Then you have a culture devoid of value; you’re not any kind of person at all. Thus, regardless of what you do, you must indeed have an understanding that proceeds from the basis of the common weal. That is Chinese education.

Meng: Do you have a girlfriend at present?

Jiang: What are you saying; it’s making me blush.

Meng: I’m saying, if you do, you do; if you don’t, you don’t.

Jiang: [Says nothing]

Meng: You’re not willing to discuss this matter, are you?

Jiang: What matter?

Meng: The question of a girlfriend.

Jiang: Marriage?

Meng: Yes.

Jiang: [Clears his throat] We’ll talk about this later, because I haven’t reached the point of talking about marriage yet. Look, you recently had a kid, whereas I have not yet married. (Smiles) So there’s no way to talk about this.

Meng: Okay, we won’t talk about it. Look, people today like money more and more; what is your view?

Jiang: Money’s okay, as long as you don’t want too much; that can easily lead to crime. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: How do you control it?

Here’s your tea.

Jiang: Oh, this tea is quite good. What kind of tea is it?

Meng: This is cinnamon tea, this is crag tea [TN: a type of Oolong tea grown in the mountains of northern Fujian Province].

Jiang: Not bad; quite tasty, quite good.

Meng: When you finish the tea, do you want to eat something?

Jiang: They also have food here?

Meng: We can go somewhere else.

Jiang: It doesn’t matter.

Meng: This place may well have an abundance of beverages, but not food. What do you like to eat best in Kaifeng?

Jiang: I like the steamed stuffed buns at the First Mansion.

Meng: Okay, we’ll go to the First Mansion later. Which is the most traditional? Tell us, neither of us is very clear.

Jiang: I’m no clearer than you are.

Meng: I know, is it in that old store?

Jiang: Yes, it is.

Meng: Do you eat the pure meat filling buns, or the pure vegetable filling buns, or the . . . ?

Jiang: Whatever. I really want to study photography. Can you teach me, bro’?

Meng: I can’t, either; I’m not a photographer – he is (points at He Shi, hereinafter ‘’He’).

He: Can you talk about what you know about photography?

Jiang: There are many types of photography: art photography, professional photography, unprofessional, impromptu snapshots; these are all different areas.

He: What type do you like?

Jiang: I like impromptu snapshots.

He: Why?

Jiang: With impromptu snaps, I have many choices, inside or out.

He: Why would you want to take these kinds of indoor and outdoor pictures?

Jiang: Because they are unprofessional. I like to be independent: when I see whatever is good, then I take a picture. For example I like being in a pretty city covered with a riot of flowers, or having a scenic view or a distant vista, that’s what I really like. This thus develops in accordance with one’s own interests; you don’t have to apply yourself to taking shots, which is not very good, since this kind of thing is purely professional, like bro’ here, purely professional, not too good, since he wants to observe the standards of his profession.

Meng: You are not willing to observe professional standards?

Jiang: I am currently out of work, so I just engage in independent photography; how should I observe professional standards? Like bro’s professional standards; if you had independence, could you do it, bro’? You couldn’t. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: Why? Why do you say I couldn’t do it?

Jiang: Because journalists take professional photos, isn’t that right? Journalists’ activities are so various, why? Because they have to conduct interviews and take photos on the spot; catch a news focus, a photographic focus, illegal/not illegal, legal/not legal, national reform, combating floods and conducting disaster relief, these all have photography as their focus. When you bring along a news focus, this is of a newspaper or magazine kind, which is all pure professionalism, and one must observe the corresponding standards. This is professional journalism. I am unprofessional; since I take independent photos, I am an independent person. Like a fish that can’t leave the water, people also can’t leave their water. A fish out of water can’t live; people need forests, just the same as a fish needs water. I’m alive, I’m in the woods: I can choose independently. If you are crammed into a corner, this is not good for people, or even fish: its space is restricted, what do you think? And if this corner is blocked, then the space is quite limited, right? I can only snap people, or these sofas. So between these two choices of shooting there is an essential difference. Why? This is indoor photography, outdoor photography – so between these two there is a different angle, a different culture, a different perspective from which to go and take photos. Just like the one photo I took of you wearing glasses, I was unprofessional so that it would enable me to take photos from any angle. From right in the middle, from the side, looking up, bending over: just like a fish, I am very independent, like an independent person, like a female volleyball player.

Meng: Why? Why are female volleyball independent people?

Jiang: One o’clock, five o’clock, six o’clock, running around the clock, then she’s just like a fish, that goes back to its swimming [TN: An impression presumably gained from watching beach volleyball on TV (which often has a decidedly voyeuristic ‘slant’ in China)]. People are the same. You choose this thing, then within this thing there is a different space. So, why do I want to study photography? Study ordinary photography, independent photography? Because I can choose many types, I can shoot from every level, every angle. Unlike you: have to respect your profession, observing professionalism, since you have to grasp hold of this focus, you can’t move. What do you think, bro’? Just like He Shi: he’s a professional journalist, so what will he shoot? He’ll shoot that focus, news focus, to inform those at home and abroad, Overseas Chinese – that is pure professionalism, the desire to respect one’s profession. So they are different. What do you think, bro’? Just like some photos I took outside; it wasted a lot of my time. I had many choices. I shot this building; why did I shoot this particular building? Because I was clear in my mind. Because these buildings are quite famous in history. I am independent, and can make many choices, go anywhere and shoot, unrestricted by space constraints. What do you think, bro’? That is lack of professionalism.

Jiang: Do you still have any questions?

Meng: Let me think some more.

Jiang: Asked by me, eh? Hey, hey!

Meng: Right.

He: Do you like to shoot scenic views?

Jiang: Yes, scenery.

He: Anything else? What about flowers?

Jiang: That’s also scenery; I shoot it all, regardless of whether it is inside or outside, I shoot it all.

He: Why do you like shooting scenery?

Jiang: Because scenery has a lot of culture, immaterial culture, material culture.

He: So you don’t like taking pictures of people?

Jiang: Because I am not a taker of photos of persons.

He: Why are you not a taker of photos of persons?

Jiang: Photos of people are constrained.

He: But scenery has no limits, is relatively independent; is that it?

Jiang: Right. Like I can also shoot inside, from any angle at all. I have so many choices!

He: People – you can take pictures of any people you want at all, inside or outside, you can shoot them all.

Jiang: Yes indeed. But people have limits; the focus is on the human form. You can’t add people in the midst of scenery. This way, shooting outside is great, as long as there is no one, right? I’m talking about independence; it is independent photography. There are vertical shots, horizontal shots, slanted shots, upward shots, downward shots; I’m just like a fish, living, I can make many choices. He Shi, what do you think? You’re professional, are you a fish-style photographer? You should know.

He: Do you like fish?

Jiang: I like fish very much. I like to eat fish, see fish, watch fish, wonder about fish, stroke fish, all of it, but this is not professional talk. I think fish are also alive; all can make choices.

He: You recognise that you like fish; is this because you feel that fish are very independent?

Jiang: Right. It is independent, independent in the ocean. The ocean is an unlimited space, so it is independent; if a cat wants to catch it, it can’t grab it; cats’ bodies can’t swim. None of the feline family can swim, apart from the three kinds that can.

Meng: Which three?

Jiang: Lions, tigers and leopards – those three can swim, cats can’t. Cats of the feline family can’t swim, because their bodies are not those of early aquatic animals, but rather of early land animals. Like a lion, which can swim, a tiger which can swim and a leopard that can swim, dolphins, whales, great white sharks, Chinese finless porpoises, crocodiles: all can swim; they’re all amphibians. Also, there are seals, sea lions, sea elephants; they all can. They are all like fish, but they are all not fish; actually they are all of the dinosaur family, so they evolved in reverse to be like fish, but they are all amphibious. Just imagine, after dinosaurs died out, they may well have evolved. Like you, Brother Meng; you are a master of fine arts, but are now transforming into a master photographer; this is a quantum leap in substance. Whoa, I made a new discovery . . .

Meng: Why does a master of fine arts becoming a master of photographer constitute a quantum leap?

Jiang: From the standpoint of fine art, you can choose coloured depiction or black and white depiction, or black and coloured depiction; this is a restriction imposed by fine art. It can’t be too independent, or the picture will not be aesthetically pleasing. So you can’t have too much independence, because when you set pen to paper you may draw a dragon or tiger [TN: apparently corrupted form of a Chinese saying: ‘When drawing a dragon or tiger it is easy to show its skin or scales, but not its bones’(画龙画虎难画骨) – connoting ‘have a superficial knowledge of someone or something’] or even dinosaurs, but eyes as they are rather hard to draw. It’s just like the world of martial arts, one has to abide its standard, right? Just like you are comparing between weapons, fitting in its standard. Like the world of martial arts, all the way up to now, right? You are like a weapon. And so it has limits, it may not say ‘Oh, I want to draw people, but I draw animals; I want to draw animals, but I draw people instead – that’s not okay, it’s also not independent. It’s just like an animal: an animal is evolving, and so has no independence. From dinosaurs to the human race, it has an evolutionary function. Evolve, develop, from monkeys to chimps; chimp-monkey, this is an evolutionary function, and in this way it loses its original limitations, bodily characteristics; you uplift yourself at the most basic level. From being a quadruped to becoming a biped; again, it’s not the same.

Meng: If I portray you, what form do you hope the image assumes?

Jiang: Anything’s fine.

Meng: Would you prefer just a head or a full-body portrait?

Jiang: Whatever, no problem.

Meng: Using what method?

Jiang: Anything at all, no limits.

Meng: Employing what kind of character?

Jiang: Anything at all, you choose. You shouldn’t rely on others to decide for you, or to control or limit you; these are all criminal activities, impermissible at the level of law. What do you think, eh?

Meng: If I have an exhibition – an art exhibition with your portraits- would you be willing to come and attend the opening ceremony?

Jiang: I’m willing, because I’m the starring role, I’m the model you’re portraying, so I will accept all responsibility, all responsibility vis-à-vis the art exhibition. Because you will portray me as tall and big, mighty and brave, produce a striking replica of me, vividly lifelike, with a true-to-life form; since I am your leading star, you will be performing a service for me, so that I will also perform a service for you, right? So I’ll entrust my body to you, so that you will perform this service for me. You’re a designer, a painter. I had better just shoot; it’s this way: it has a lot of focus. For instance, I shoot you, I could photograph your glasses, nose, mouth and ears; this would be very wide in scope, unlimitedly so. This is a bodily characteristic, because it marks a breakthrough in this framework’s remaining restrictions, an essential quantum leap. You portray me; I serve as a support, right? Just think, behind every great art master, there is his teacher, instructor, professor; just like a kind of flower petal, slowly, slowly supporting the execution of your portrait. Leaves will fall, right? After leaves fall, one lone bough shoots over the wall, I rapidly project out; it’s just like this, a quantum leap in substance, a plum bough projecting over the wall. Since I am your master, I am your client, and you have to serve a client, a customer, but not for your personal interests, – you yourself do not need my service. This is my credo, my principle.

Meng: A question just reoccurred to me.

Jiang: Go ahead and ask.

Meng: At the art opening, do you want to eat vegetarian food or meat? I’ll make preparations.

Jiang: Meat or veggie, no restrictions.

Meng: Do you want hot or cold food?

Jiang: Hot, cold – whatever – with regard to cold food, I can drink [TN: sic] it all, since I am not on a diet.

Meng: Okay. Drinks: do you want coffee or tea?

Jiang: Whatever, hot or cold; I can drink it all, but I can’t take it boiling hot.

Meng: Boiling hot; how’s that?

Jiang: It might peel off my skin; I burn easily. Why do you add water to fried dumplings at home? Because the water is liquid. With hot water, it tastes good, but hot water – burns! I eat, I eat well; eating makes you healthy; am I not entirely cultured? Aren’t you the same, bro’? Lots of kinds of choices, when eating, I have lots of choices. Look, I eat this, and drink tea or water; it’s not an essential difference, a quantum leap, is it? So many cultured people follow their own inclinations; one mayn’t, because of the needs of one’s own generation, not allow the next generation to live.

Meng: Who would act that way?

Jiang: Anyone could act that way.

Meng: What I’m saying is who did act that way?

Jiang: My parents did.

Meng: You don’t like it.

Jiang: I don’t like it. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s simply not symbolic of the law’s restraints.

Meng: For the benefit of which generation did they act?

Jiang: I’m not criticizing your parents; we all have parents, and they all consider only their own needs; your old pop, Meng Qingzhang [EN: Meng Huang’s father’s real name is Shang Xingfeng], my parents, they were both only serving their own interests; they gave food, clothing; at this level, they imposed restrictions: they told you how much to eat, ate theirs, and then wanted to eat yours too, which is not legal. Don’t forget: you’re a family elder. Afterwards, I could have married and had my own kids, in the way that one generation succeeds another, just look and consider: are we people who take over from one another or succeed one another? If you harm them [TN: i.e., the second generation], you harm that next generation, and harm your own grandchildren, harm three generations; if they let you do this, bro’, could you? Well? The crane and the clam fought and it only benefited the old fisherman [TN: old Chinese proverb: the crane seized the clam and the clam closed its shell over the crane’s beak leaving them both immobilized and thus easy prey to the old fisherman].

Meng: Who is the old fisherman?

Jiang: Illegal conduct. Like my parents, abusive, humiliating, and vituperative; I don’t understand! Over a chance affair, you reach out and thrash your children’s bodies; great shocks to their psyches. Attacking their bodies; it is illegal behaviour in law, and illegal upbringing.

Meng: Did you talk with them?

Jiang: I couldn’t; they said that they were doing this for the benefit of their kids! Talking or not was my own need: I didn’t talk because I was afraid they would get upset. I always had to think of them. This conduct of theirs was illegal; they only thought of their own adult needs; if it’s not okay for them, they started to beat and scold, confine, chide, coerce, seized one’s belongings, physically abused and humiliated you, just to control you, to control you from within your own heart.

Meng: You can’t talk about any happy matters, can you?

Jiang: Happy times were when they touched you, made cooing sounds, tickled you; unhappy times were when they kicked you.

Meng: Happy times were when? Reading, watching TV?

Jiang: Reading, watching TV, eating meat; all were okay. Just like you, bro’, you treat me just like a father. You’re older than me [EN: Meng Huang is actually younger than Jiang Zhenyu]; everywhere I rely on you, big brother from Beijing, you and Third Little Brother [TN: i.e., He], you love me just like a big brother. Don’t mind me, just love me; this is a cultured method; even if I do the wrong things: whatever the wrong, just forgive me in your heart; be lenient. What do you think, bro’?

Meng: We’ve talked so much, I’d like to tell you: we may have an exhibition, with many friends attending, both Chinese and foreign; would you like to say something to them?

Jiang: Okay. An exhibition! I’d like to say to them that at the level of education, a degree of decency is desirable, one that does not overstep the interests of this country. Just think, we Chinese have Chinese education, communal-style education. Abroad they have foreign education, individualized education. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and this is very good, but theirs does not suit China.

Meng: Why?

Jiang: Because China has communal-style education, with service as its focus, because China is centred on the Yellow River; America has Mississippi River education, Japan has Yamato [TN: designation for the ethnic majority in Japan constituting 99% of the population, as contrasted with the aboriginal Ainus, ethnic Koreans and others] education. Viewed from an overall perspective, China, the People’s Republic of China, East Asia, all of the island nations of the South Pacific, the Republic of Mongolia and Hungary – each is Chinese national territory, indivisible, all are ancillary states, so mighty! All have been severed, but even if you sever some more, that which you cannot ever sever is the heart of China; you can’t cut off the imprint of China: it is stamped on your back, engraved onto your heart. You can never forget that you’re Chinese.

Meng: What is your view of Taiwan?

Jiang: They’re overseas alright, but can’t be independent; they’re also Chinese, and thus cannot be on their own. They go against heaven; they’re renegade vassals opposing heaven. This kind of conduct is also illegal, violates international law; China will be the world’s policeman, directly intervening, dispatching an enforcement squad.

Meng: Do you want to take part in this?

Jiang: I can’t participate; I am a citizen, not a government official, nor a member of an enforcement squad, so I have no means of participating. I can’t participate, since this is a matter of Chinese politics, and I’m not a politician, but an independent person. It’s not that I’m not concerned: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; lacking this ability, because this matter is beyond regular citizens. There are also citizen, children and daughters-in-law in Taiwan. Pandas – yes pandas – Taiwanese all like them. The Olympic Games are being hosted in China; Taiwan will also take part, but the torch relay will not travel through Taiwan, something that was decided by the Taiwanese government, not their citizens. After all, the torch has to travel through Taiwan; therefore, opposing the Olympic Games by refusing to allow the torch in Taiwan is illegal conduct by the Taiwanese government. Borge (he meant Jacques Rogge) announced to Taiwan: ”You just can’t refuse to let the torch travel in Taiwan. It’s like If I go directly to Taiwan, will you refuse me entry? Can you refuse a fellow Chinese? A country’s Olympic chairman? I am from an international organization, and will not accept any country’s restrictions. I am a fish, I have my independence, I am an independent person; my independent body is entering your Taiwan, which is a province of China, a region, so you have no authority to bar my access. The Olympic torch must traverse Taiwan; this is a kind of culture; culture is a double-edged sword. I use it to hack at you, but also cut myself. While serving a country’s national interests, governmental interests, on behalf of its citizens, serving its culture, this is indeed a double-edged sword. This is thus law, which doesn’t permit you to violate the law; this is the hallmark of legitimacy. This is thus a divergence in essence, an essential difference.

Meng: Thank you. Now let’s go and eat.

Jiang: Okay!