An artist of the floating world

Tianjin has a famous ‘water park’, just south of the TV tower. I was intrigued by the concept of a ‘water park’. What would it be like? I had a bit of a (warm) laugh when I first entered, seeing garish smurf-like plastic houses. Another one of these Chinese gimmicky parks, magical world of speaking mushrooms for kids and adults alike.

I didn’t follow that trail. On my left, I found a long red portico, in traditional architecture, which I walked under for a while. People were eating, dancing or singing traditional music together. It was pretty, but nothing exceptional – I had seenall that before in China. Plus how did water play a role there?

But then, getting further into the park, I started seeing the beauty of its understated, grey Japanese aesthetics. Some scenes reminded me of hokusai’s drawings: people sitting under a pergola, on a stone path, in the middle of a lotus pond.

Towers reflected in the water, on either side of a stone bridge.

Or a boat crossing the lake, with a temple and a stone bridge in the distance.

These images were very much like the ones I had seen at the Museum, the previous days. Empty spaces giving room for imagination. Little people, and the simple dailiness of their activity, punctuating a vast landscape, full of nooks and chambers for them to inhabit.

Water was crucial here. Water, connecting and separating peninsulas, islands and bridges. Water, reflecting the sky, towers and trees. Water, the mother of dream, the playground of images. Water, a pathway to the other world.


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