Deng Mng-Dao, The living

Anselm Kiefer has been heralded for his examination of postwar Germany. Manga (Japanese comics) have made museum appearances. Gerhard Richter questions the meaning and appearances of photographs. Everywhere, “external” concerns have come back into art, where we once sought the purest art free from extraneous motivations. It’s clear we don’t currently have “art for art’s sake” in our culture. We allow art with all sorts of motivations. It would make sense, then, that there could be spiritual art.

There is a problem here, though. We feel ambivalent about spirituality, and therefore even more ambivalent about spiritual art. There are a number of reasons for this. We seem to accept art that is subversive, irreverent, witty, or outrageous. We want our art to be independent, and we avoid art that is part of the established society. For example, we don’t esteem art that is in the service of the government as highly as art that is independent. We don’t celebrate official portraits, for example, as high art. Likewise, civic commissions rarely take on the same gloss as high art celebrated in museums and the media. Even when the artist is well known, the subjugation to the bureaucratic process can become demeaning.

Perhaps Christo, with his enormous projects that require years of negotiation with government agencies for the sake of a piece of art that is quite temporary, is one of the few artists who has been able to rise above the problems of civic art. With all this ambivalence about art and its role in society as well as how we sequester most art in museums, it's not surprising that we don't consider spiritual art.

On Romanization

Is it Tao or Dao? Taoism or Daoism? Yijing or I Ching? Throughout this site, you will find both spellings.
Chinese is not an alphabetical language. Instead it is written using ideograms or characters. The spoken language is based on memorizing the sound that goes with a particular symbol. Writing Chinese using an alphabet depends on approximating those sounds through some selected way of spelling them.

The predominant romanization through most of the twentieth century was the Wade-Giles system. Thomas Francis Wade, a British ambassador in China and the first professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, published the first Chinese textbook in English in 1867. Read more