Cultural Heritage

Whistling Through the Vines

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Gongyi is home to the Kang Family Mansion – a Ming Dynasty mansion still preserved centuries later. Also called the KangBaiWan Mansion 河南巩义康百万庄园. It is #10 on China’s list of famous mansions!  A truly beautiful place filled with all sorts of ancient buildings and gardens. At one time, he was apparently the wealthiest businessman in China. The family was famous be being good and virtuous, so much so that the emperor wrote them a poem just for them after 8 generations of wise and honorable leaders in a row.  Wish I could have met them!

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Shaolin Temple’s Wushu Monks!

Henan is home to the Shaolin Temple – made famous in Jackie Chan’s films and the center of Chinese Kungfu or “Wushu.”  The monks did a performance for the Henan Tourism Festival!

 

Visiting Gongyi Grottos

Gongyi Grottos – one of 4 Famous grottos in China.  These are places where loyal monks have carefully carved out thousands and millions of buddhas and religious statues into the walls of nearby caves over CENTURIES! An amazing, awe-inspiring sight! Well worth the trip!  Thanks to the #Henan Provincial Government Tourism Bureau for sponsoring us. It was a great day!

This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room

“This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room”

by Craig Gilmore via “LA Times”

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Two agents from U.S. Homeland Security’s ICE unit arrived at my door in September looking for a Polish lady — not a person, but a painting: Melchior Geldorp’s “Portrait of a Lady.” She had, they informed me, been looted by the Nazis from the National Museum in Warsaw.

Unsure if these gentlemen were indeed who they claimed to be, I didn’t invite them in. But I knew exactly what they were seeking: My partner, David, and I had purchased this very portrait — ostensibly the work of a different artist — a decade earlier from a major auction house in New York. 

Upon their leaving, I stood dumbfounded, holding a packet of information about the alleged provenance of our painting. After calling David at work to drop this bombshell, I began a Googling frenzy, eventually bringing me to Poland’s Division for Looted Art website. Seconds later I was gawking at an old black-and-white photo of our beloved lady, a beautiful portrait painted on oak panel in 1628. Tears welled in my eyes with the realization that, without question, if this were true we needed to do our duty and get her safely home.

Being an opera singer, I was among a group of vocalists on a government-sponsored tour of Israel some years ago. During a visit to a community center for Holocaust survivors I was asked to sing. The emotion of being surrounded by people who had prevailed through such unimaginable horrors was overwhelming, and I found myself unable. Excusing myself, I attempted to make up for it by spinning several of the ladies around the dance floor — all the while trying not to look down at the numbers tattooed on their wrists. 

Now this memory flooded back to me, and I found myself once again in tears, hyper-aware of how Nazi atrocities affect us still to this day.

The toll of World War II in Poland — including the deaths of 6 million Poles, Jews, and other outcasts, including homosexuals — is unimaginable. Being gay men, David and I feel a personal connection with these losses and are conscious of how political shiftings can lead to vulnerability. This, added to the knowledge that Poland’s LGBTQ community is still in a struggle for its basic rights, has weighed heavily on our minds. 

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Steve McCurry Photography