Chinese Classical Art in Ancient English Countryside

July 6, 2014 3:02 pm Last Updated: July 6, 2014 3:14 pm

The unique oil and Chinese paintings of The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition were on public view in an ancient church on the south east coast of England on May 24 and were viewed until May 31.

The small village of Alfriston (pronounced All-friston) in the Sussex district of Wealden, England, is a site near several Neolithic long barrows in the South Downs. The Old Chapel hosted 42 paintings by practitioners of the meditation practice Falun Gong whose Chinese roots are very ancient. 

Truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance are the core principles of Falun Gong and are a translation frequently used for the Chinese Zhen, Shan, and Ren, the three central tenets of the practice. 

Also known as Falun Dafa, it is “a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that is Buddhist in nature. It consists of moral teachings for daily life, a meditation, and four gentle exercises,” the Falun Dafa Information Centre says on its website.

“It is always taught free of charge and is practiced in over 70 countries,” the website says. However, “Today, in Falun Gong’s homeland of China, those who practice are subject to severe human rights violations at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. The scale and scope of abuses taking place make it possibly the largest religious persecution in the world.”

The beauty and uplifting quality of the art belies this persecution in China. Those who view the Exhibition’s seven themes in its various forms around the world are usually deeply moved.

“I felt that lovely sensation. It was sensational, very powerful, coming through the art.” “It’s lovely that you brought this to a lovely little village like this—something of this calibre and standard.”

“Why do they continue to be silenced?” “I haven’t seen art like this for so many years.” “I’ve ever seen something like this.”

“So enlightening! Well done!” “Spiritual. The artwork delivered what it needed to say. Very moving. Beautiful despite the terrible suffering.”

These are a few of the statements written in the The Art of Zhen Shan Ren Comment Book during the exhibition at Alfriston Old Church. 

“This non-conformist Church was constructed by the villagers themselves in 1801 and has an interesting history as an important hub of village life,” said Caroline Adcock, a member of the management committee.

The 14th Century Alfriston Clergy House close by was originally the vicarage. It was the first property brought by the National Trust after it was founded in 1895 with the aim of saving the nation’s heritage and open spaces. 

There will be a promotional presence of Art of Zhen Shan Ren prints and literature at the Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea Town Hall on July 25-27. 

To keep up-to-date for venues booked in the interim go to http://www.zsr-art.org.uk

And for more on Alfriston Old Church try  http://www.alfriston-village.co.uk/oldchapelcentre/index.html