Culture

Celebrating Harmony and Virtue: The Dragon Boat Festival

Wrapped in bamboo leaves, the pyramid-shaped sticky rice dumpling, or the so-called Zongzi in Chinese, opens people’s imagination to Duanwu, commonly referred to as the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday marked as the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.  Having an intangible cultural heritage, Duanwu can chase some of its traditions back

The 24 Chinese Solar Terms: Rhythms of Heaven, Earth, and All Beings 

The four seasons tell us where we are in the story of our year, but did you know that within each one, there are six miniseasons that last 15 days each? At least as far back as 139 B.C., sages in China recorded a seasonal change each year beginning around February 4 and called it

The Many Meanings of Marriage: Centuries-Old Wisdom 

So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. —Matthew 19:6  Since biblical times, we’ve been searching for our other halves, wanting to ride into the sunset with our one true love, and marrying the love of our life. But marriage traditions through

An Introduction to Japanese Folding Screens

Among all the Japanese decorative arts, folding screens take the prize for adaptability. Their surfaces are as suitable for depicting episodes from the Japanese classic “The Tale of Genji” as they are for moonlit landscapes, sprawling street scenes, and abstract designs. Though in Japanese they are called byobu, which translates as “protection from the wind,”

Retired Professor Handcrafts Arabic Musical Instrument to Help Preserve Ancient Traditions

At the age of 66, a retired professor is keeping traditions alive by helping preserve a prominent Arabic musical instrument. Nazih Ghadban, who hails from a small village in North Bekaa, Lebanon, has been handcrafting the oud—a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument—for the last four decades.   (Courtesy of Nazih Ghadban) In an email interview with

An American Renaissance Gem: ‘Mr. Morgan’s Jewel Case’

Ancient Greek, Roman, and Renaissance art and architecture gloriously unite in the McKim Building that houses the late financier John Pierpont Morgan’s library. In 1902, Morgan hired Charles F. McKim, of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, to build a library next to Morgan’s brownstone on 36th Street and Madison Avenue, in New York. 

A Maritime Masterpiece: Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich

Greenwich Palace—the birthplace of the Tudor monarch King Henry VIII—once stood on the site where the Old Royal Naval College now stands in Greenwich, London.  Known as “the father of the royal navy,” Henry made substantial investments in his fleets. Located beside the River Thames, the palace site was ideal for Henry to be close

The Heart of the French Renaissance: Château de Fontainebleau

The art and architecture of the Château de Fontainebleau in France influenced the evolution of art not only in France but also across Europe.  From the 12th to the 19th century, the kings and queens of France lived at the Château de Fontainebleau. First, King Louis VII built a hunting lodge and chapel on the

The Sublime ‘Church of Gold’: St. Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, Italy

From dawn to dusk, the golden mosaics on the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice shimmer and shine to differing degrees. The constantly shifting sunlight seems to bring endless dramatic effects to the mosaic pictures that depict mainly religious life. The mosaics were first created in 1071, and developed over eight centuries to cover around

A Golden Byzantine Treasure: Greece’s Hosios Loukas Monastery

Since the 10th century, monks have lived at the Hosios Loukas Monastery in Distomo in central Greece, where they make a living by farming the land and selling souvenirs to pilgrims, who eagerly visit the crypt of St. Luke the Younger, the monastery’s founder. A hermit, Luke of Steiris founded the monastery in the mid-10th century.

Faith and Beauty Meet in Florence’s Cathedral Square

Italy’s Florence Cathedral, commonly known as the “Duomo,” dominates Florence’s skyline. Located in Cathedral Square, the cathedral complex also includes the Baptistery of St. John and Giotto’s Bell Tower—all are astounding examples of Renaissance art and architecture. The buildings were decorated inside and out by the finest artists of the time, such as the sculptor Donatello

Germany’s Luxurious Ludwigsburg Residential Palace

As vast as it is sublime, Germany’s pastel-yellow Ludwigsburg Residential Palace was once considered the “Versailles of Swabia.” The region of Swabia, in the southwest of the country, no longer exists, but Versailles-like grandeur can still be seen throughout Ludwigsburg Palace. The palace was commissioned in the early 18th century by the Duke of Württemberg,

St. Petersburg’s Sumptuous Winter Palace

Russia’s monumental pastel-green Winter Palace in St. Petersburg was once home to some of the country’s most notable emperors and empresses. The palace encompasses many types of art and architecture, including Baroque, Neoclassical, and Gothic styles, through to Rococo. In 1754, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna commissioned Italian architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli to build a Baroque winter palace

The Heart of the Last Austro-Hungarian Empire: Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

For nearly 350 years, Vienna’s elegant Schönbrunn Palace was home to the powerful Habsburg dynasty, Austria’s last monarchy. The Habsburgs ruled many kingdoms across Europe, such as Bohemia, Hungary, Portugal, and Spain. At the heart of the Habsburgs’ rule was a respect for the local heritage. They allowed local communities to continue speaking their own languages

A Unique Russian Icon: Moscow’s Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed

For centuries, people have marveled at the ornate brickwork and distinctive polychrome onion domes of the Church of Intercession of Most Holy Theotokos (Mary Mother of God) on the Moat, commonly known as the Cathedral of Basil the Blessed, in Moscow. Remarkably, the cathedral took just six years to complete, with the building work finished

Chinese Painting of the Week—Ma Yuan

In order to suggest the mist-filled, moonlit atmosphere of an early spring evening, Ma Yuan used brown and black ink in the trees and rocks, contrast with the light grayish ink on the cliff and mountain. The white-robed gentleman was framed by the dark angular forms of the landscape. It perfectly counterbalances the moon in

Chinese Painting of the Week—Fan Kuan

Fan Kuan (范寬 990-1030) is known to be one of the leading artists of the Northern Song landscape painting. He began by studying the work of another Song painter, Li Cheng. Later, he concluded that nature was the only true teacher. Fan Kuan spent the rest of his life as a recluse in the Shanxi

Chinese Painting of the Week

Gu Kaizhi (c. 345-405), was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu province and is believed to be the founder of traditional Chinese painting. By 366, he had become a government officer and was later promoted to royal official. Gu’s paintings significantly influenced later traditional Chinese paintings. Based on historical stories, Gu painted more than 70 paintings, including

Nearly 6 Centuries in the Making: The Duomo di Milano

The Cathedral of Milan—the Duomo di Milano—is easily the city’s most imposing sight. Its construction began in 1386, and though it was consecrated in 1418, at the time, only the nave had been completed. Initially, brick was used, but then the material of choice was switched to marble. The pink-streaked marble was brought from Piedmont

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