Thursday, November 29, 2018

David Norris shoots

Shanghai's Pearl Tower



  1. The Tonfon Mintsyta (Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower) in Shanghai was principally designed by Jiang Huanchen, Lin Benlin, and Zhang Xiulin. Construction began in 1991 and was completed in 1994. It was the tallest structure in China until 2007, when the Shanghai World Financial Center was erected. It incorporates 11 spheres; between the 2 large spheres, along the tower's length, is the 20-room Space Hotel. The building represents a pipa's pearl-like sounds falling upon a jade plate as in Bai Juyi's "Pipa Xing" (Pipa Song). As assistant secretary to the prince's tutor, his satirical poems and his breach of protocol by memorializing the empire ahead of higher-ranking officials led to his exile in 815. The following year he composed the following:

  2. One Autumn night on the Yangtze River side,
    I bade farewell to my friends on a boat.
    Soft wind rustles reeds and maple leaves,
    I, the host, dismounted and the guests went aboard.
    Cup in hands, but there was no music,
    We drank with depressed heart,
    Seeing my friends off while the moonlight bathing in the river.
    Suddenly the pipa sounds drifting to our ears from a neighboring boat,
    My guests forgot to leave and I knew not where we were.
    Tracing the sound, we looked for the wonder maker.
    The music stopped and there was no sound to hear.
    We moved our boat near the musician's to invite
    Her to drink at our feast replenished by lamplight.
    We urged her over and again until she appeared,
    With half her face hiding behind the pipa still.
    She turned the pegs and tuned each string a few times,
    Her music flew out even before playing a note.
    Each plug on the string gave a note of melancholy,
    Pouring out the resentment of her life.
    She knitted up her brows and carried on,
    Telling from her heart the life story long.
    Now playing softly, now playing swiftly,
    She performed first "Liuyiao" and then "Nishang."
    The bold strings rattled like splatters of sudden rain,
    The fine strings hummed like lovers' whispers.
    Chattering and pattering, pattering and chattering,
    As pearls, large and small, on a jade plate fall.
    The sweet melody recalls the oriole singing among flowers,
    The sobbing music brings the gushing spring out of the glacier,
    The spring frozen, the strings ceased vibration.
    The water stopped flowing and silence set in.
    In my heart, a spell of deep feeling,
    At this magical moment, silence tells more than sound.
    Suddenly a strain of notes burst out
    Like water splattering out of a fallen vase
    Or horsemen riding among a forest of spears.
    She struck the four strings all at once
    As if the silk curtains were ripped with great force.
    With her plectrum sweeping over the string,
    The music came to an end with a crystal snap.
    And tranquility overwhelmed the boats far and near,
    Only the Autumn moon shining in the river so pale.

  3. Sadly, she put the pick back under the strings
    And rose elegantly with her manner respectful,
    Saying that she originated from the capital,
    And lived in the famous district of Xiamoling [a famous area of prostitution].
    By thirteen she had mastered the pipa,
    And was first among equals at the Imperial Conservatory,
    Her art the admiration even of master Shancai,
    Her beauty the envy of all pretty girls.
    Suitors competed to reward her,
    For every song she received endless bolts of silk.
    She sang, she beat time, all through the day,
    She danced till her head gear fell to the floor.
    Wine spilled, skirts stained,
    Delicacies rivaled gaieties.
    Day after day, and joy upon joy,
    Her best years slipped away.
    Then her brother joined the army, and her aunt died.
    Times changed, and her beauty faded.
    Her patrons wandered off, went elsewhere,
    And the carriages at her door got fewer and fewer,
    Till finally she had to lower herself marry a tea dealer.
    All he thought of was money, parting never bothers him,
    So the month before he'd gone to Fuliang, to buy tea,
    And she had been left to tend the boat all alone,
    No company but the cold water and the moon.
    In the deep of night she would dream of the past,
    Awake from crying, her face wet with tears.
    I had sighed when I heard the music,
    But now, having heard her story, sadness doubled.
    "Both of us are strangers here, both of us stranded,
    Does it matter that we've just met, if our hearts understand?
    I left the capital a year ago,
    And now, a sick exile at Jiujiang, my sorrow grows.
    The city is far away, there is no music,
    No flute, no pipa, all the year long.
    I live, now near Pencheng, damp and low,
    Choked with reeds and bamboo.
    What do I hear, day and night?
    The sad songs of cuckoos, the sad cries of apes.
    On a spring day, at the river,
    Or on an autumn moonlit night,
    Often -- I sit up, alone, and sip wine.
    There are folk songs, of course, there are village flutes,
    But they are so crude and they grate on my ears.
    Tonight I heard you play the pipa.
    It brightens me like music from Heaven.
    Sit down once more, please play an ancore,
    And in turn I will write you a 'Pipa Song'."
    Moved by my words, she stood there, silent for a long while,
    Then she sat down and quickly tuned her strings again,
    Grief-filled and heart-felt she played a different tune.
    Tear-soaked, sorrow-laden, all sobbed out at once.
    And who was weeping the bitterest tears of all?
    The Deputy Chief of Jiujiang Prefecture,
    whose blue gown was soaked in tears.


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