Pigs, Health and Novel Viruses

It’s been two months since I posted. I guess what is known as ‘the holidays’ got in the way. Plus, I’ve been writing other material, mostly on Steemit. I seem to get involved in a research topic and don’t come up for air until I’m satisfied with the result. It’s called perseverance, and it’s a good trait because quality results. But it does preclude other engagements.

So, in the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my most significant posts from the last two months. One of these, Radioactive Pigs, Wild Pigs, Sick Pigs: The Trouble with Pigs Today published in November, looked at pigs.

Common Warthog, Phacochoerus africanus – adult and juvenile, cousin of domestic pig

I happen to like pigs. As a matter of fact, no bacon, or pork of any kind, has been on my plate for many years. But even if you don’t like pigs, these animals warrant your attention.

As I wrote in that blog: It is estimated that there are two billion domesticated pigs in the world. They are not only a source of nutrition for billions of people. They are also a reservoir for disease. Today, with the novel corona virus spreading across the globe, this is worthy of note. Pigs are not blamed for the current disease outbreak. This one may have originated in bats (although the jury is still out on that). However, pathogens from pigs have leapt across the species barrier in the past, and we should be mindful of the risk.

One way to be mindful, is to insure the health of animals in our care. If animals are sick and harboring pathogens, those pathogens are just a small step away from us. Entry may be through the food chain or through contact.

Today, pork prices are kept low because of factory farming. This involves pumping the pigs with antibiotics to keep down a level of infection in quarters so crowded that pigs do not even have room to turn around. Pumping pigs full of antibiotics increases antibiotic resistant pathogens. These antibiotics will not work any longer for the pigs. They will also not work for humans.

Not only that, but the antibiotics pool in the large waste lagoons that balloon out from the pig habitats. The lagoons are a kind of microbial soup, in which antibiotics and microbes coexist. In that coexistence, microbes ‘learn’ to recognize antibiotics and evolve to defend against them. This evolution strengthens the microbe and weakens our ability to fight them when they invade our bodies.

There is so much more in my blog that might be of interest. How, for example, radioactive pigs manage to wander around Eastern Europe and Japan. Why many areas in the world are troubled by what seems to be an invasion of feral hogs.

It’s probably unseemly to recommend my own blog, but this one was really chock full of information. If you’ve got a few moments to spare (alright, it will take a little longer than a few moments) check out the blog.

Thanks for reading. I’m going to look at my reading feed here and see what I’ve been missing.

A very late, Happy New Year to all 🙂

Literati Painting: A Synthesis of Art and Meditation

This is a digitally constructed collage. I put together pieces from different classic Chinese paintings and tried to mimic the style of a fourteen-century literati artist.

I’ve done research on China in the past, especially Chinese traditional art, and have written about it here and here. This week I decided to start writing a new book about China. I will use art as a reference point and bracket that reference between two centuries–the fourteenth and twentieth. And I will focus my attention on one city that just happens to straddle the Yangzte River: Chongqing.


Credit

It was Chongqing that became the last stronghold of the free Chinese in WWII (Second Sino-Japanese War). And it was there that fierce resistance by the Southern Song Dynasty held invading Mongols off for years.

Why art? Because in China, art has been a vessel for culture and tradition. Through conquest and revolution, art has endured. I find that to be especially true in the literati tradition.


A Word About the Picture at the Top of the Page

The picture was prompted by a contest on Steemit, which I enter every time it’s open. In the contest we are challenged by a fellow Steemian, @shaka, to make a collage from one of his photos. Rank amateurs (like me) and graphic artists participate. Sometimes a good idea prevails over skill…that gives me hope. However, I don’t enter to win. I enter to have fun.

Here’s @shaka’s photo, as it appeared before I made the collage:

Here are the elements that went into my collage:

[By the way, emulating, or even copying an artist is considered to be an homage, in the literati tradition]

The tree was extracted from this picture:

Wu Zhen Fishermen section.steemit 2,5x562,2cm._ca._1340._Freer.public.jpg

Fishermen, by Wu Zhen. China, fourteenth century. Public domain.


The meditating gentleman was extracted from this picture:

Ni_Zan_Portrait_Yuan2.jpg

Ni_Zan_Portrai_Yuan, unknown author. China, Yuan Dynasty (approximately fourteenth century). Public domain


The lotus flowers were extracted from this picture:

lotus.jpg


Pink and White Lotus, unknown artist. China, Yuan Dynasty. Public domain.


The birds were taken from this picture:

Loquats steemit and_Mountain_Bird anonymous public.jpg

Loquats and Mountain Bird, by anonymous. China, fourteenth century. Public domain.


The ducks, reeds and characters were taken from this picture:

Ducks_steemit and_Reeds_MET_47_18_19.jpg

Ducks and Reeds, by Lin Liang. China, fifteenth century. Public domain.


The hint of chrysanthemum was extracted from this picture:

chrysanthemum steemit public Xian'e_Changchun_Album_08.jpg

Xian’e Changchun Album 08, by Guiseppe Castilione. Between 1722-1725. Public domain.


If you’d like to see the blog that accompanied this collage, you can find it on Steemit. It’s called The Brain: Meditation, Flow and Literati Art.

I’ll try to post a new chapter for my book once a week. That’s going to be a challenge, but I might as well aim high 🙂

Art and Life

plum website Lu Zhi
Plum Blossoms, by Lu Zhi,  Public Domain

Increasingly, I see no distinction between art and life, although there is a sense of the word “art” that suggests fabrication.  As a writer, or someone who loves to write (sometimes it feels pompous to call myself a writer), I have found art to be simply another form of expression, one that flows naturally as a complement to my words.  This is a view that traditional Chinese artists embrace, particularly those artists known as literati.

In literati painting, inscriptions on the work are intrinsic to the art.  The literati derive their inspiration from nature, tradition and philosophy.  In literati painting, art is an expression of character.  Technical skill, or “artifice”, is less important than the genuine inspiration evident in the work.

Traditional Chinese art often features one of four themes known as the Four Noble Ones or, the Four Gentlemen.  These themes are the plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum.  The essay below is adapted from my book, Four Masters of Yuan and Literati Art: Tradition in China from Mongol Rule to Modern Times.

The Four Gentlemen in Chinese Art

 

Literati artists have an affinity for nature. In their response to nature they believe they are revealing essential qualities about their own character. The qualities they hope to cultivate in themselves, they believe, are innate to certain plants. Four of these, called The Four Gentlemen in Chinese Art–the bamboo, chrysanthemum, plum and orchid–are said to embody different aspects of a noble character.  In fact, the plants are also called The Four Noble Ones.  Each of these plants has been featured across the centuries in exquisitely expressive art.

 

china bamboo elegant stone ni zan website public
Wood, Bamboo, and Elegant Stone, Ni Zan Public Domain

Wood, Bamboo and Elegant Stone, a painting by Yuan Dynasty artist Ni Zan (above), is part of a long tradition that reveres this plant.  Bamboo is seen as a natural embodiment of longevity, humility and endurance.

chrysanthemum website ong
Chrysanthemum, by Ong Schan Tchow, with an inscription by Lin Sen, President of the Republic of China.  Public Domain

Ong Schan Tchow, a twentieth-century painter, devoted a book to the study of chrysanthemums. This flower holds a special place in Chinese culture because the flower was first cultivated there. Chrysanthemums blossom in autumn, when winter is looming and other flowers are fading. It is the flower’s ability to flourish when others perish that makes it a metaphor for withstanding adversity.

Lu Zhi, an artist from the Ming Dynasty, was also a calligrapher and poet. His painting, Plum Blossoms, is featured at the top of this page. The plum tree blossoms in winter. This winter bloom, in harsh circumstances, represents to the Chinese the qualities of endurance and prosperity.

orchid 96 smaller
Orchid, by Hu Zhengyan, Public Domain

Another Ming Dynasty artist, Hu Zhengyan, was also a printer and calligrapher. He was a traditionalist who featured a variety of simple, natural themes in his painting. The image presented here is “Orchid”.  In the orchid many see qualities of humility and grace. The orchid blossoms in remote locations and often exudes its fragrance in solitude. The nobility of quiet repose is much admired in classic Chinese art and poetry.