Ordering chaos.

Accumulation creates a beauty of its own. I already blogged about this, when talking about the aesthetics of abundance in Chinese shops.

But beauty does not only come from the sheer volume of stuff piled up. Order plays a role here. We could even give an economic interpretation of that specific beauty: when things are properly arranged, according to their size and function, the eye immediately perceives that a given space has reached its maximum potential, and things are inviting future action, promising minimal effort.

I became sensitive to that specific appeal of order on a trip to the rural county of JiXian, North of Tianjin, when I started observing the accumulated construction material that lay around in the village: stones, bricks, tiles.

I started seeing these piles as potential walls and roofs – and perceiving walls and roofs as nothing but orderly layers of bricks, tiles and stones, protecting from rain, sun and wind.

When I went up to the Great Wall, the following day, I was thinking about this still. The Great Wall, that ultimate symbol of China, was nothing but stones, piled up in orderly fashion. The visible result of human effort, guarding humans against chaos.

Homes were similar, on a small scale: a stable place for the family, protected by constructed order from the chaotic force of weather outside.

Chinese home aesthetics, then, was all about order; at least this is how I interpreted the symetrical rows of ‘HuLus‘, dry gourds of irregular shapes and size, in Aaron’s parents’ living room.

These lines of ood-luck vegetables had been arranged on the far wall as another expression of order; civilised humanity fencing off natural chaos.


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