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Stopgates, levees and riverworks O&M in ancient China

Yesterday (Sunday, US time) we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim in New York – such a  treat.

In the special exhibition “The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City” (see http://www.metmuseum.org/special/index.asp for more about it) we saw amazing artworks from the 1700s collected for the 2-acre private retreat built inside the Forbidden City in 1771 as the retirement residence of the Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1736–95, presiding over China’s last dynasty. Of course the amazing landscapes painted in much Chinese art is tower karst, unreal-looking remnant landscapes of deeply eroded limestone.

Part of the exhibition included an extraordinarily detailed painting on a long scroll of the Emperor inspecting river works. These involved diverting part of a nearby river into the Yellow River to dilute its silt-laden waters, with enormous levees and stacks of materials laid by for repairs to the banks. Also shown were large numbers of coolies with their yokes and panniers, building these huge civil engineering works by hand.

We also strolled up the road to the Guggenheim (http://www.guggenheim.org/) which was far tinier than I’d imagined but delightful. Favourite picture? By far the best was in our opinion Egon Schiele’s Portrait of an Old Man – see it at http://www.egon-schiele.net/Portrait-Of-An-Old-Man-Aka-Johann-Harms.html – but then I adore Schiele.

A stroll along the lake in Central Part was a real treat – the ice is just breaking up and there were flocks of birds – and I adored the low-key Parisian-style buildings in this gorgeous part of the city. Just blocks away from some of the tallest buildings in America is this fascinatingly liveable area that is walkable, human and welcoming.