Made it back in one piece! Managed not to fall off a cliff to bring you another chapter where Xiao Qiu gets a glimpse into Li Chuan’s world.
Holding onto Li Chuan’s arm, I walked towards the visitor sign in on the left side of the gallery. In bold cursive calligraphy, Li Chuan signed his name. I studied it carefully and couldn’t make out a single letter clearly. It was probably written in French. Then, I signed my name as small as an ant, sticking closely underneath his name.
He looked down at me, “Why did you sign your name so small?”
“You are the main character, I am a side character.”
“Sign it again, okay? For someone who doesn’t understand, they will think my name has a suffix.”
I signed a larger one on top of his name, “Is this alright now?”
He smiled, “Okay.”
“Mr. Wang, in the reception hall in the back, a lounge has been arranged especially for you.” The lady in charge said in a soft voice. Evidently someone had informed her, “It’s on the left side past these doors.”
“Thank you.” Li Chuan took the pen from my hand, put it down, and asked, “Where is the coat check?”
“Oh, it’s here.” The lady said with all smiles. She didn’t dare to look at Li Chuan, but her face was entirely red from blushing.
Li Chuan removed my jacket for me and handed it over along with his. The lady was touched by his gentlemanly manners, took the jackets and pretended to think about something, standing blankly there for a spell. After quite a while, she handed a card to Li Chuan, “Use this to get the jackets. Please hold on to it.”
The lighting in the gallery was neither bright nor dark, it spilled serenely down from the ceiling. There were oil paintings on all walls. There were several classical pieces that were separated by glass. The postmodern paintings were setup within the gallery in the Classical Chinese Garden style, making it quite unique.
“Do you like these paintings?” Li Chuan asked.
“Not too fond of it. I also can’t make sense of it.” I said, “But the design of this gallery is rather unique. I like it a lot.”
I saw his smiling pleased face.
“Did you design it?”
“Otherwise, why would they invite me?”
“Then Architect Wang, what style are you?”
“Naturalism, surpassing the limits of this era as much as possible.”
It made me recall a great person of the past, “Like Zhuang Zi?”
“Mmm, you know of Zhuang Zi?” He was shocked. “Zhuang Zi is my favorite Chinese philosopher.”
“Ge Ge you only know nine hundred and fifty Chinese characters.” I laughed, “Aren’t you overreaching trying to discuss Zhuang Zi wit h me?”
“I read a French version of a book before and even took a class on it in college. It was a pity the professor was Chinese and had a really thick accent. In the end I still only understood about half of it. But you aren’t of the Chinese department either. For knowledge of Zhuang Zi, we are probably even.”
“My father is a true practicer of Zhuang Zi’s philosophies. He yearned for nature, so he went to the rural area from the city. Our home didn’t have a telephone nor a TV setup. We didn’t even have bikes. Since I was young, my dad told me that walking is better than anything else. but my younger brother and I both betrayed him. We couldn’t get a bike, so we begged our grandfather to pay. Without a TV we saved up pocket money to visit the video theater.”
He was shocked, “Really? Your father rejected modern culture?”
“My father said, modern times and ancient times are not innately different.”
“That’s thought provoking.” Li Chuan looked at me with a smile on his face with a slight meaningful look.
The gallery filled with more and more people. However, all of them were eccentrically dressed modernist artists. The majority were young people. During moments of break, Ye Ji Lian rushed over to talk to us a couple times and even said that when she had time, she will invite me to go shopping with her. I thought all female painters were arrogant and didn’t expect her to be so amiable. I couldn’t help but like her a little.
I snuck a look at my watch, only ten minutes had passed. I asked Li Chuan, “You’ve stood for so long, are you tired?”
“Not tired.” Even though he had crutches, he actually didn’t really depend on them for a majority of the time he was standing.
“Hey, I think there are still a couple people in this gallery who don’t seem like painters.” I looked at one person in the crowd.
“Really?” He followed my gaze. Li Chuan saw a middle aged man wearing a grey suit with a square face and a pen in his suit pocket. He seemed like he was searching for someone. Then, it seemed like he found the person. He then proceeded to head towards us.
At the time we were standing in the middle of a group of China Central Academy of Fine Arts students, wanting to pass the time quickly. They were discussing Wassily Kandinsky and we were pretending to listen.
“May I ask, are you Chief Officer Wang?” The middle aged man asked.
Li Chuan startled and then asked, “Mister, who are you looking for?”
“CGP Architects‘ Mr. Wang Li Chuan.”
That person handed over his business card. “I am the factory director of Dong Fang Glass, Xu Jian Guo.”
I was puzzled. Why would a factory director of a glass factory come to a postmodern gallery?
“Mr. Xu, are you looking for me for something?”
“Chief Officer Wang, you are the architect of Xiang Xie high rise, the new Wan Ke structure and Long Gang Hotel, right?”
Li Chuan hesitated a bit, “Uh-huh.”
“Our factory is a state-run medium sized corporation with high qualifications. We can produce respiratory double-layered glass curtain walls for these three projects.”
“I am only in charge of the exterior appearance and the landscape design. You should contact the construction department.”
“We have researched your background, sir. You are A&E, which means you are the building designer and also the engineer. If you said you required certain building materials to achieve a design effect, the unit in charge of construction will not refused to purchase it.”
Li Chuan remained calm and collected, “This type of glass walls are new products, currently, there are only a few factories that can produce them domestically. But their skills are not up to par. We generally import from Europe.”
Chief Officer Wang, our factory is capable of producing curtain walls of such high standards. With our price and installation, you can save a lot of money for the property. In addition you can gain the reputation of being a supporter of local companies. What can you have against it.”
“Production of the glass for the outer shell might not be problematic, but the Low-E paint on the internal layer of the glass might be hard to pass the test. Furthermore, the technology for installing the curtain wall is extremely hard. The joints need to be put together with a heating system. We normally invite Switzerland specialists as consultants to come and take charge to the installation.”
“With effort, one can achieve anything. Our factory has first rate specialized curtain wall designers and curtain wall construction engineers to take on this job. Moreover, they have at least two years of experience in the field of respiratory glass curtain walls. In addition, we especially spent a lot of money for a installation consultant from Switzerland.”
“Which consultant?” Li Chuan asked.
“Mr. An Lu Si from Mi Lin Company.”
“Wait a moment, let me make a call.” Li Chuan took out his phone, punched in a number and then spoke for five minutes in French. He then hung up.
“An Lu Si told you to come find me?” Li Shi said, “How much money did you give him? Huh?”
“I have three thousand workers and have sufficient production capacity. I simply don’t have enough orders. The three thousand worker, making around ten thousand people with their families, are all crying piteously for food.”
Li Chuan didn’t understand the saying and looked at me. I used English to say, “He means you will be saving lives.”
“Mr. Xu, you are responsible for your workers, I am responsible for my projects. We each have our own duties, right? This is not a soap opera. Don’t put on an emotional show for me.”
I was stunned. Though I say this person doesn’t know Chinese, when it’s time to be challenging, he doesn’t hesitate at all.
“Chief Officer Wang, perhaps you don’t understand too much of Chinese culture. The biggest difference between Chinese and western culture is that our culture emphasizes feelings, human relationships, and friendships. Our country is neither servile nor overbearing.”
Li Chuan asked me in English, “Is this your culture?”
I said, “Yes, this factory director clearly has experience in fighting against capitalists.”
“Capitalists?” Li Chuan unconsciously lifted his eyebrows.
“That is your social class.” I supplemented. Though I was still using English, I unflinchingly took a clear-cut stand on the side of my fellow homeland citizen.
“Director Xu, what air conditioning system does your glass curtain walls pair with?”
“AVA system. Energy-saving, environmentally friendly, healthy and snug. Chief Officer Wang, I don’t wish for you to make a decision right now. I only hope that you can find some time to come to our factory to come and take a look at our manufacturing situations and samples.”
“Where is your factory?”
Li Chuan thought about it, and said, “How about his, come to my office tomorrow to go over this in detail. Okay? This is my number. Please first make an appointment with my secretary.” He wrote him a number.
The factory director took the slip of paper and earnestly shook his hands, “Chief Officer Wang, thank you for giving our factory this opportunity.”
The factory director quickly took his leave as if he was really busy.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, I made a trip to the bathroom. When I got back, I saw Li Chuan conversing with Mrs. Jiang Heng Xi. I didn’t go over to disturb them. I stood by myself looking at the paintings in the gallery.
Tomorrow, I had a listening and speaking exam. I was silently reciting vocab in my mind.
After awhile, someone came and stood next to me, and asked, “Miss do you really like this painting?” He said, “I saw you standing in front of it for quite awhile.”
I turned. It was a refined young man speaking. He had a classical scholarly appearance. Sharp and graceful looking. Only his hairstyle was a little odd, a little wild.
“Song Qing. The ‘Song’ of Song Jiang, ‘Qing’ of clear. Of Xi’an Art Academy.” He introduced himself.
I raised my head and looked around for Li Chuan, hoping he would come and save me. He was close to me, but his back was towards me, having a cheerful conversation with Mrs. Jiang Heng Xi.
“That’s right.” I pretended to be profound, “I quite like it.”
“Then, according to this young lady, what is the theme of this painting.” He continued to ask, appearing quite interested as if he really wanted to hear me speak about it.
I promptly took a careful look at the painting. It was a painting of a face, but the five sensual organs of the face were the genitals of a woman. (Five sensual organs: Nose, eyes, lips, tongue, ears.)
I swallowed and was silent for a moment, “This is a person’s face.” No kidding!
Song Qing looked at me in confusion, waiting for me to continue. I could only proceed:
— “A person’s face is public. Everyone can see it.”
— “A person’s body is hidden, is craved for, and cannot be seen.”
— “So this face with a body signifies the desire for the hidden to be made public. The mouth and vagina match up, indicating the innate difference between postmodern sexuality and ancient times sexuality.”
“What innate difference?” Song Qing asked, full of interest.
“The change in the medium, right? The desire of postmodernism is to use the mouth and not the sexual organ to express things.”
Damn it! I went for it, “What is a mouth? What does a mouth stand for? What do you say?”
I threw the question out back at him.
“Language?” He attempted to answer.
I enlightened him, “Language, sound, symbol, text, verbal, informal dissemination…”
“Postmodern sexuality requires language to obtain satisfaction, not through sensual organs. In this painting, I think that you should actually add something in this corner.”
“What thing?” He was a bit frightened.
“A stone has no desire.” I arrived at my conclusion. “Desire growing out of something that has never had desire. Only the imagination of an artist of postmodernism can achieve this.”
I glanced at Li Chuan again. His back was towards me, his shoulders shaking in laughter.
Song Qing was flurried, but said in comprehension, “What a brilliant idea, Miss. I am the author of this painting. Your comprehension has enlightened me a lot. I haven’t heard such profound analysis in a long time. Can I ask you for you number? If you have time, I would like go for coffee with you.”
A hand was placed on my shoulder. Li Chuan had squeezed over, “No, she is a college student, she doesn’t have a number.”
“Oh.” Song Qing gave Li Chuan a resentful glance, feeling that he roughly interrupted our conversation. He ignored Li Chuan and continued to point to a painting next to it, “Miss, I also painted that painting. Can I listen to your wise opinion on it?”
I shifted my gaze over and caught sight of a dazzling bright red oil painting.
It was red like blood, there were several strips of scarlet red threads in the middle, like veins expanding out.
I quickly lowered my head and couldn’t help but grab onto Li Chuan.
I wanted to remain calm, but my mind was a complete blank. I heard myself say, “Li Chuan, take me away from here!”
And then I became completely unaware.
When I woke up, I saw I was lying on a very comfortable couch. My mouth was sweet as if I had drank syrup.
Li Chuan sat to the side, holding onto my hand.
“Do you want some water?” He asked.
I shook my head.
“Why didn’t you tell me,” his face was stiff, “that you had blood phobia?”
“It’s not very severe.” I breathed slowly.
“But you still watch horror movies…”
“I believe that it can cure me.”
“You will still faint if it’s not your own blood?” He asked curiously.
“I only faint at other people’s blood. I won’t faint if I see my blood.”
I wanted to sit up, he restrained me. “Lie down for a bit longer.””
“Were you born with this or is it a psychological thing?”
“When my mom gave birth to my brother, she bled to death.” I said, “At the time, I was at her side.”
“Really? Why did the hospital allow children to be present during childbirth?”
“My mom had my brother at home. She refused to go to the hospital.”
“She was very self-confident. However, something bad happened. The medical treatments in the countryside is very poor, there was not enough time to save her. My mom didn’t know that something was wrong herself. Right before she died, she was asking me if I liked my brother.”
Li Chuan didn’t say anything, continuously stroking my face and my hair, “I don’t have a mom either. My mom passed away early. Car accident.”
“What did your mom do?”
“Let me put it this way for you.” He took a drink of water. “I am an architect, right?”
“You’re going to find it more annoying as I continue.” He said, “My older brother is also. My father is also. My mother is also. My uncle is also. My grandfather is also.”
“Your grandmother is also?”
“She is also. Do you want to continue hearing about the profession of my family?”
“Is your older female cousin also? Do you have an older female cousin?”
“She is also.”
“Li Chuan, you family’s history is too tedious.”
“That’s how it is. Hehe.”