Chongqing – For 17 years, Fan Ping has never stopped her paintbrushes, bringing a myriad of ladies to life in the Tang Dynasty.
As the daughter of a craft man at a local theater in Chongqing, Fan spent most of her childhood watching a great variety of traditional Chinese dramas performed there and observing how her father drew posters and set stages before the shows.
“That’s when my love for traditional Chinese culture started to take root, and how I learned drawing and other traditional Chinese handicrafts,” Fan said. She was able to draw posters when she was only 12.
And she never stopped drawing since. At the age of 25, she read a poem by Bai Juyi, a prominent poet of the Tang Dynasty, and came up with an idea.
“The poem is about the aristocratic women, and there is a line goes In inner palace dwelt three thousand ladies fair; On her alone was lavished royal love and care. It strikes me that most ladies in the royal palace live a lonely and sad life. I want to tell their stories by painting their portraits, all 3,000 of them,” Fan said,
“Of all the figures from the dramas I watched, I find ladies in the Tang Dynasty stunningly beautiful. They always wear elaborate dresses with exquisite hairstyle, ornaments, and makeup, revealing the tenderness and elegance of a woman,” she added.
The Tang Dynasty represented an era in Chinese history when art, culture, and economy were highly developed and prosperous. During that time, a new fashion trend was invented, where women wear low-cut garments under a cape over the shoulder, exposing the beauty of their body as never before.
Fan did a lot of research for the paintings, each one of which presents a different lady and provides a glimpse into their life in the royal palace.
“They are figures of my imagination but grow on solid ground. Most ladies I paint come from a story or a poem. They are of different social backgrounds, ages, and experiences, which are vividly told in the details,”
“ I perused all the papers I could get my hands on to figure out how the garments, hairstyle, accessories, and makeup should look like before actually picking up my paintbrush,” she said.
At 42, Fan already completed 3,000 portraits of ladies in the Tang Dynasty as no one believed she could.
“Not even my father supported my idea, but I made it. It has already become an irreplaceable part of my life, a way to record what I went through and express how I feel. When I am going through tough, the lady I paint looks gloomy as well,” Fan said. She has painted over 3,100 portraits of ladies in the Tang Dynasty so far.
In 2005, her paintings were exhibited at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit and Mayors’ Forum. Three years later, 10 of her paintings were exhibited at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.
After retirement, Fan settled in the Liangjiang New Area and runs a paper-cut class for her community.
“Both painting and paper-cutting are forms of fascinating traditional Chinese art, which require peace of mind and enables one to find beauty in things,” Fan said, “I hope to find a person to pass on my skills of paper-cutting. As for painting, it is my special connection with the traditional Chinese culture, which I am not going to quit.”
(source: Guo Shuyu, Liangjiang New Area)
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