Recently retired from Capital Blue Cross, Diana Meng teaches watercolor, calligraphy and Chinese language at the Chinese Cultural and Arts Institute in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is especially important for her to instill in her students the custom of respecting one’s teacher. She sees this is an essential part of their Chinese culture.
Photos by Amy E. Skillman, Institute for Cultural Partnerships
“I’ve been here almost 40 years, and sometimes I still need to think in Chinese and then translate to English. I enjoy sharing my art with young people. Most of my students have Chinese heritage, but do not speak the language. Some are from mixed families and it is necessary to teach them Chinese history and the Mandarin language so they understand more about their heritage.”
In Chinese painting, the four basic brush patterns are called The Four Gentlemen: bamboo, orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum. Students can spend five years learning one pattern. Diana Meng points out that “after learning all four, you can paint just about anything.” Even before they start their paintings, students must learn how to be patient and to become skilled at the single process of making their ink preparations.
“It’s not just for decoration. To me, painting is like the Chinese saying “shã shing yuň sen”, which enables you to maintain good health and inner peace by quieting your heart.”