Journey to the Peoples Republic of China 1981
Richard Ozanne c. 2010
I assisted my father Ozan Marsh on many tours of the world. In 1981 he was invited to perform and teach at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing China. This month-long journey began in Tucson Arizona.
We landed in Beijing and were greeted by cultural personnel from the Governmental Cultural Associations of China. The greetings were warm and welcoming as we were ushered to our residence at the Yang-Jing Hotel on Fuchengmen St in Beijing..about 1.5 miles from Tiananmen Square.
It had been a long trip with terrible jet-lag, yet the very next day both my father and I were operational.
In the days following I had an entre to visit the Central Academy in Beijing as well as met some very interesting associates who allowed me a very special view of Chinese culture, the way it was at this time behind the scenes.
As you may remember, China (PRC) was just emerging on the world stage as an open nation from the difficulties of the Cultural Revolution that polarized and suppressed the environment. China was not like it is today at all.
I remember that feeling of a supreme and significant Russian influence with the wide streets and polished extreme of concrete and communism. It seemed very much different than the USSR at that time. Somehow it seemed more gentle and open.
The hospitality was tremendous and people were very generous with their time and energy to make one point....China, (Perhaps as a prelude to the top Economic Giant of the 21st Century?)...I don't know, but at that time it was a warm environment that seemed very curious about the west, but not open to "certain influences" as we may expect.
China was about China.
There was a growing feeling that they wanted to reclaim the past of long ago and were promoting as much information about their history as could be displayed...as well as the current doctrine.
Foreign persons were forbidden to have contact with the native Chinese, this was the general rule. (at least during this time) It was not that a foreigner would be arrested or stopped, but the Chinese people themselves were well aware of the rules....and the imposition of punishment for having contact with foreigners.
See: Remarkable Friends... a True Story from Beijing)
During my stay I was given the opportunity to see most of the museums in Beijing with a first hand guide, and learn of the dynamic history of this country. This was an opportunity, in a setting, before the rapid growth of China during the late 1980's, to sense, visit and take part in the culture of a country that had just opened their doors to the West. During this period I met some of the key figures of the city and of the country, in part, because I was assisting my father during this time with some research. Of course I had my own projects, geared towards art/painting that I was working on. During this time I took advantage of meeting as many people as I could, from many levels especially the students at the University who met with me and referenced their friends who had been studying history or arts. Several times I met with the foreign students from Europe who came to the PRC and were studying in their selected fields. During the days and on weekends I was invited to numerous lunches and walks that would prove to be enlightening and even leading on to drawing and painting portraits of graduate students who became personal friends of mine at the Central Academy. I was invited by the Director of the Central Academy Wu Zourenfor advanced graduate degree-training in the PRC after graduation with my BFA from the University of Arizona in 1982. This was at that time a very fine opportunity given to me, and a scholarship was offered for this purpose.
What a consideration! Offers to Americans for study in the PRC during this time were almost nil, but the Central Academy from what I could see was a very fine art school with a very strict academic setting that would provide me with special insights into World Culture of Chinese Art as well as traditional painting.
During my time in Beijing I had the opportunity to do many plein-air paintings in the various parks and on location at the temples (all though it may not have been advised to do so...by religious authorities at that time) I remember working outdoors and looking in back of me to find 30 or more people gathered to watch me work, and this happened repeatedly. I worked every day producing at least three canvases in forms of studies. I made friends from my plein-air work, curious students and others that wanted to know more about me as well as my work. As always I assisted my father during his time in Beijing, but I also had the opportunity to view some of the most spectacular traditional Chinese arts as well as the people who made these through my friends (that I had met, who were somewhat restricted from seeing me)(Cont)