Astor Court- The Middle of Two Worlds Jacob Schorsch

The Astor Court is a perfect place to examine the legacy of ancient China and how it affects the modern country. It portrays many aspects of the Ancient culture, and in fact, compares and contrasts two major religions in China, Daoism and Confucianism. Because of this, the Astor Court is an ideal location to visit for the Living Color project.

The Astor Court is made up of two major rooms, a garden (representing Daoism) and a study (representing Confucianism). The purpose of the visit was to look inside and see both rooms, and get a sense of the contrasting aspects of both religions and their beliefs.

The garden is comprised of a small stream with fish, various rocks, and plants located throughout the room. It is meants as a place of relaxation, a place to calm down, and simply follow the Dao. This is the central belief in Daoism. Daoism is a religion based upon freedom and not forcing anything. For example, at Daoist schools, tests are not on a certain date, but the students decide when the want to, or will be ready to take it. The idea of relaxation is central to Daoist thought. Daoists believe that harmony and peace will be achieved by everyone being themselves, as humans are naturally good inside. They do not believe in forcing actions and behavior upon a person, and having an entire society act similarly. The garden is named "tanyou", or "in search of quietude". This captures the entire idea of Daoism, a religion based on quiet and peace. The garden would be used as a place to sample tea, write poetry, or enjoy a full moon with friends.

The study is comprised of various articles of furniture, dressers, windows, and lights throughout the room. It would be used as a place for work and entertainment, in view of the garden. The roofs seem to be designed from ancient Chinese styles, as well as the placement of the furniture, as they follow a building manual (the Yuan Ye) dating from 1634, during the Ming dynasty. The architecture is similar to that of the traditional Chinese, as the window design is similar to the pattern on the ceiling, a common tool used in ancient times. The Chinese believed that this would achieve symmetry. The room is also oriented to the south, a tradition that dates from the Ming dynasty, lasting from 1368-1644 A.D. Although furniture would be moved around depending on the season, the chair in the middle was considered the most important. In addition, closets, and spaces to put clothes do not exist in Chinese culture, as they use large dressers and cabinets. The bottom part would be used for bedding and clothes, while the top was for hats. This is yet another custom from the Ming dynasty.

One of the main aspects of Confucianism is "li" (proper conduct). It is the idea that people are supposed to act correctly and behave in a manner that is "right" and proper. Confucianism is all for education, and teaching children how to behave. The study is a perfect connection between that belief and modern life. A study is a place of work, focus, and thinking. One must force themselves to come up with the solution to a problem, or an idea for a business, or any thought that would progress them further in a work environment. Confucianism teaches people to learn proper behavior, thoughts, and ideas, as does a study.

The legacies of Daoism and Confucianism are shown profusely in both of the rooms, and the way in which they connect with each other brings up many other cultural beliefs and ideas. For example, the study and the garden represent the two complementary forces that make up yin and yang. The study is built from nature, and is focused on symetry, work, and productivity, whereas the garden represents relaxation, and becoming one with nature. From the garden, you can see the study, and vice versa, showing how they are not contradicting each other, yet being a complementary and balancing force. In addition, the rocks and the water complement each other in the garden, as the rocks are solid and hard, whereas the water is flowing and smooth. The water represents yin, a term often associated with dark, void, soft, yielding, wet, and cool. The rocks represents yang, often found with words such as bright, solid, hard, unyeliding, dry, and hot. This concept underlies much of Chinese thought and art, ancient or modern.

Numerous connections can be made to various religions, beliefs, cultures, and ways of life from ancient times to modern times through these two rooms. It is a place where one can identify the legacy and affect ancient Chinese culture has on the world today.

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