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TIME Magazine 《时代周刊》

Vol. 160 No.18

November 11 2002 二零零二年十一月十一日刊



The Birth of Cool

A new generation of trendsetters is laboring to turn 'Made in China' into a symbol of style that's part Western, part traditional and all original

By Hannah Beech | Shanghai

Nothing used to irk a Chinese yuppie more than hinting that his clothes looked like they were made in China. Even the proudest mainland nationalist knew that a homegrown brand signified ultracheap and tres tacky. High-flying Chinese wanted Italian suits, German cars and American M.B.A.s. Chinese was reserved only for food, and even then banquet menus proudly boasted Southeast Asian abalone, European pig trotters and African shark's fin.

No more. Just as "Made in Japan" went from being a mark of shoddy workmanship to a symbol of refined art and fashion, "Made in China" is also morphing into something with more panache and glamour. This goes beyond producing better-quality washing machines or televisions or computers. It's a revolution in taste led by style gurus who are redefining Chinese craftsmanship in everything from architecture and film to clothing and cuisine. Out are the oriental roofs plopped on cement-block buildings that constituted China's clumsy effort to create a homegrown architecture. Equally passé are the epic films with plum-cheeked peasant girls forever tilling the yellow earth. Gone, too, are the ill-fitting polyester cheongsams that only a karaoke hostess felt comfortable wearing.

Instead, these style mavens are fashioning a modern Chinese aesthetic inspired both by a Ming-era minimalism and a strenuous attention to detail-no tacky flourishes or cheap stitching. Their belief in Chinese materials and history has encouraged other mainlanders to eschew the West-is-best philosophy and embrace the East. "Finally, we've grown up as a nation," says Shanghai interior-design and clothing mogul Chen Yifei, wryly aware that the Chinese like to constantly tout their 5,000 years of history. "Now that we have confidence in ourselves, we can have confidence in our products."

Today, discerning Chinese dine on raspberry tea-smoked duck, wear Mandarin-inspired suits and buy contemporized calligraphy to decorate the Suzhou-silk walls of their weekend villas. The movies they watch-on pirated DVDs, of course-portray urban Chinese sipping green tea frappuccinos and perusing sex manuals written by slinky Shanghai girls. There isn't a brocaded young concubine in sight. "This isn't the kind of tacky chinoiserie you see in Chinatowns overseas," says property magnate Zhang Xin, who tries to cultivate chic, domestic designs.

The next step in this Great Aesthetic Leap Forward is to convince the rest of the world that China offers more than shoddy stuffed animals and flashlights that break whenever you need them. "China now has some really quality workmanship," says real estate developer Pan Shiyi. "Why do we always have to promote the stuff that's cheap?" To that end, fashion designer Chen has opened an office in Manhattan and is working on distributing his clothing at fancy retailers like Barney's. Chef Zhang Jinjie recently realized a similar dream by opening a restaurant in Singapore's sparkling new arts center, the Esplanade. Chinese painter Zhu Wei is selling his artwork to top galleries in London and New York City, and moviemaker Lu Chuan wants Western viewers to appreciate a Chinese film that doesn't take place in a long-bygone dynasty. "We Chinese are sometimes insecure about ourselves," says designer Chen. "The best way to fix that is to succeed on an international level with products that aren't copied from the West but show our real history and talents." Meet the trendsetters who realize that the real revolution will only come when "Made in China" stands for cultured elegance around the world.



Living Large

By Hannah Beech | Shanghai

HEAD MEN: Clockwise from left, paintings by Zhu, Zhao and Zeng reflect a passionate sentiment that, even in a country of 1.3 billion people, the individual deserves the space to breathe and flourish

Forget about the little people-China's new wave of modern art is all about portraying the big heads

Zhu wei is a diminutive man with a very large head. One of the progenitors of modern Chinese art's "big head movement," the Beijing-based artist paints portraits of bubble-headed people, their gargantuan proportions stretching the confines of both his giant canvases and, if we must get metaphorical, their worlds. Traditional Chinese art likes to shrink the human figure: in Qing dynasty scrolls, mere mortals were eclipsed by the ostentation of nature, with its towering cliffs and heaven-scraping mountains. Only by looking closely could you spot a tiny fisherman perched by the edge of a rushing river. Chairman Mao furthered this scaling down of the individual by boasting that China teemed with so many people that it could send human wave after human wave into war without weakening his fledgling nation.

The "big head" artists have turned this very notion on its head. The People's Republic may be crammed with 1.3 billion citizens-not to mention thousands of stratospheric skyscrapers-but each person, say the big heads, deserves the space to breathe and flourish, if only on canvas. Zeng Fanzhi, a native of Wuhan in Hubei province, central China, paints lost souls struggling for identity in China's thronging metropolises, their fashionable clothes juxtaposed with the cauterized expressions people adopt to survive in big cities. Such portraits are introspective, whimsical celebrations of a China in which the individual can triumph over the group. Perhaps that victory is not so surprising given that some of the self-absorbed offspring of the nation's one-child policy are just picking up their paintbrushes. But the big heads hope their art can accomplish something else. "It's only by focusing on the individual that we can find real talent in China," says Zhao Nengzhi, a big head who lives in Chengdu in central Sichuan province. Then, walking glumly down streets where wooden teahouses have been replaced by characterless, concrete boxes, he adds, "We live in a country that desperately needs a little genius."



美国《时代》周刊20021111日系列报道:中国文化新革命(4):“酷”之诞生(作者:汉纳·比奇/Hannah Beech  








生而巨大:忘了那些小个子的人们吧--中国的现代艺术新浪潮全是关于大脑袋(自大)的肖像(作者:汉纳·比奇/Hannah Beech