Museums are perpetually on my “to-do when I have time” list, so today I decided to MAKE time for the 28 Chinese exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. I’ve been to this museum only a handful of times, but it’s been a couple of years, and it is full of beautiful and mostly-ancient things—perfect to get in some quiet inspiration and perspective…

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Beautiful day in Civic Center Plaza:

panorama of Civic Center Plaza

(click me to expand and zoom and scroll)

City Hall dome

(If you haven’t guessed yet, I have an affinity for the City Hall building…)

City Hall and Civic Center Plaza

On the other side of the Civic Center Plaza is the Asian Art Museum, guarded, of course, by Imperial lionslion outside of Asian Art Museum

Most of the statues and stone pieces in the cool, quiet, peaceful halls upstairs are hundreds or even thousands of years old; I like to think of the person who made a piece when I look at it, and what their life might have been like so long ago.

I really love the individuality and naturalism in so many of facial expressions, and the careful attention to detail in how hands are positioned…

statue in Asian Art Museum

statue in Asian Art Museum

Even her jewelry has jewelry!

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This statue, below, commands my attention each time I visit the museum. It is of the Buddhist deity Simhavaktra Dakini, and is from about 1700. I’m sure I’ve read the statue’s card before, but, like reading my fortune in the Jack Kerouac alley, today (these days) it especially resonated:

Simhavaktra Dakini … clears obstacles from the paths of those who seek enlightenment and provides inspiration and knowledge. … Her lion head indicates fearlessness in confronting all obstacles to liberation. Her cape is made of freshly flayed human skin, signifying her transcendence of the limitations of the human condition…

statue in Asian Art Museum

She is terrifying and amazing, and I love all of the fiery power she represents. I’ve made a lot of huge life changes in the past six months, and then getting hurt brought more changes… it’s all felt like smashing old routines and pushing forward into new places I haven’t been before. It “should” be exciting, but of course the unknown is sometimes frightening; so visiting this creature again today felt like a good sign.

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I brought my “real camera” also… I like to take portraits of the statues as if they were people—I’m so charmed by some of them… Here are some iPhone captures, for now (gallery of museum photos to come):

statues in Asian Art Museum

statues in Asian Art Museum

Beautiful collection…

statues in Asian Art Museum

Jade room…

Jade Room in Asian Art Museum

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Most of my images are of the traditional artworks, but this piece in the 28 Chinese exhibition is breathtaking and impossible to ignore. It is called, simply, Boat (Zhu Jinshi, b. 1954). I happen to make paper by hand, so this massive object made of thousands of sheets of artisan paper held extra interest for me. Like the Martin Luther King fountains, you can walk through the piece and be part of the art. Where the fountains are thunderous, Boat feels like being inside a delicate cocoon; you can still hear the museum around you, but the quality of the sound is softened and changed. Must-see-in-person. Neat info on the piece and it’s installation is here.

Boat, part of 28 Chinese exhibit

Boat, part of 28 Chinese exhibit

I witnessed an interaction between two older men, who were each visiting the museum solo (like me!) and carrying professional cameras… one approached the other, and asked if he would use his camera to take a photo of him walking through the piece. Then they traded roles, so each guy had a professionally-taken photo of himself to take home with him. You could tell neither was used to being on the front end of a camera, but seeing something like this in person and being able to be a part of it is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, so…  you gotta ask…  They both seemed happy about their photo souvenirs, and stopped to talk shop for a bit. They inspired me to ask a guard to take my photo a bit later. He was happy to help, and seemed like a pro—like he had taken dozens of portraits of museum-goers with Boat. 🙂 Thanks, guard!

Boat, part of 28 Chinese exhibit


Where should I go tomorrow?


  • MILES WALKED: about 3
  • NEIGHBORHOODS: Civic Center, Mission District

(For map, see: 10 June 2015)