Saturday, July 14, 2007

15,000 Years Old Egyptian Rock Carvings

I just love it when a story like this hits the press. I can just hear the gnashing of teeth and groaning of the "experts" who continue to discount diffusion or - Goddess dread the thought - a coherent, comprehensive and sophisticated trade network around the world that dates back to circa 13,000 BCE where ideas were transmitted as much as goods (and people, too). Oh National Geographic, say it ain't so! LOL! If nothing else, I guess the "experts" will now realize where the goddess Hathor (Hat-hert) came from, heh? Nah!

Egypt's Oldest Known Art Identified, Is 15,000 Years Old
Dan Morrison in Cairo, Egypt for National Geographic News
July 11, 2007

Rock face drawings and etchings recently rediscovered in southern Egypt are similar in age and style to the iconic Stone Age cave paintings in Lascaux, France, and Altamira, Spain, archaeologists say.

"It is not at all an exaggeration to call it 'Lascaux on the Nile,'" said expedition leader Dirk Huyge, curator of the Egyptian Collection at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, Belgium. "The style is riveting," added Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo, who was part of Huyge's team.

The art is "unlike anything seen elsewhere in Egypt," he said.

The engravings—estimated to be about 15,000 years old—were chiseled into several sandstone cliff faces at the village of Qurta, about 400 miles (640 kilometers) south of Cairo (Egypt map).

Of the more than 160 figures found so far, most depict wild bulls. The biggest is nearly six feet (two meters) wide.

The drawings "push Egyptian art, religion, and culture back to a much earlier time," Ikram said.

The team's findings will be published in the September issue of the British quarterly journal Antiquity.

Before Its Time

The Qurta art has now twice been uncovered by modern researchers.

Some of the engravings were first found in 1962 by a group from the University of Toronto, Canada.

The leader of that expedition, Philip Smith, made the then novel suggestion that the figures were from the Paleolithic age—the Stone Age period from about 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago—in a 1964 article in Archaeology magazine.

"The Paleolithic experts told them, It's absolutely crazy—Europe is the cradle of art," Huyge, the leader of the new expedition, said. "And they backed off the idea.

"They must have accepted the fact that that nobody wanted to believe them, but they were right."

Discoveries of Paleolithic art in southern Africa and Australia since then have paved the way for the scientific community to accept what Smith first diffidently suggested, Huyge said.

Neither Smith, who has retired, nor his assistant on that expedition, Morgan Tamplin, now a professor emeritus at Trent University in Canada, could be reached for comment.

Thinking Alike

Huyge's March 2007 expedition strengthened the findings that Smith had discarded. The team found several additional panels of artwork over a 1-mile-long (1.66-kilometer-long) stretch of 230-foot-tall (70-meter-tall) sandstone cliffs.

There is "little doubt" the engravings are 15,000-years-old, Huyge said. They depict a now extinct species of wild cow whose horns have been recovered from Paleolithic settlements nearby.

The drawings would be examined for lichens and organic grime called "varnish rind" that could be carbon dated or subjected to another process known as uranium series dating, Huyge added. Because the rocks are inorganic, they cannot be dated directly using these methods.

In the meantime, the finding has raised a big question: How were people in Western Europe and southern Egypt producing almost identical artwork at the same time?

While the caves at Lascaux are best known for their painted images of bulls and cows, that artwork is actually outnumbered by stone engravings. And the Lascaux engravings are virtually identical to those in Qurta, Huyge pointed out.

"I'm not suggesting that the art in the caves of Lascaux was made by Egyptians or that [European] people were in Egypt," he said.

"The art is so similar that it reflects a similar mentality, a similar stage of development," he added. "When people are confronted with similar conditions, this will automatically lead to a similar kind of thinking, a similar creativity."

Now the archaeologists are on the hunt for additional—and potentially older—artwork.

"The rock art must be part of an evolution," Huyge said. "There must be older art in Egypt, if we can find it. I think open-air sites like Qurta will be found all over North Africa."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Night and It's Allright, Darlings Miscellany!

A miscellany of news/articles and assorted what-not, for your reading pleasure. Chessboardart - interesting angle. Will they make money or will they go bankrupt in six months? GM Koneru Humpy is holding her own at the Kaupthing Open (Differdange, Luxembourg) with 5.0/6, sharing the lead with Czech GM Peter Velicka and Hungarian IM Viktor Erdos. Three more rounds to go. Humpy is on the march toward that 2600 marker and wants to surpass it. I suspect her goal during the next 12 months is to break into the top 100 players in the world, and then start the long hard climb from there into the elite ranks of players. Can she do it? I think she can - if she stays single. Well hell, the oh so hot Bollywood/Hollywood star Ash Rai stayed single until she was 32, and if Humpy can stay single that long she'll have a good chance to make it into the "elite" - no distractions to the constant grind of work and unrelenting study and training that a player must undertake these days to make it into and then stay in the top. Interim news reports on Humpy at the Hindu here and here. Of course, Harry Potter is all the news these days, with the release of the fifth big screen film epic "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," breaking box office records. Hooray! I came late to fandom of Harry Potter's magical world but am now firmly ensconced. I do hope that the vague hint J.K. Rowling gave in a recent interview about the possibility of future "Potter" books comes true - how about some more back-story (like Steven Spielberg did in the "Star Wars" series) - and some future story. For instance, I can foresee a whole new series of books about Harry's daughter Penelope going toe to toe with an heretofore unknown actual physical offspring of "He Who Must Not Be Named".... I can see it all now...Penelope (her friends call her "Lope" because she's six feet tall and walks like an antelope, has green eyes and red hair and freckles AND wears glasses) begins First Year at Hogwart's and absolutely does NOT fit in (literally - her feet hang over the end of her assigned bed). For the next four years she endures the slings and arrows of juvenile and toilet humor of boys who are six inches or more shorter than she and smug junior witches who all have waist-long Barbie style hair, obviously fake Maybelline eyelashes and 18 inch waists. Sigh. And then in Year Five the wannabe warlocks realize that this is one hot babe - and she's rich, too (or will be, once Harry and/or his wife shuffle off this mortal coil or the magical equivalent thereof). This is, of course, assuming that Harry survives at least long enough in Book 7, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" to father a child - or survives the ending of the book entirely and goes on to father a child from there. I'm wondering if Ginny will survive? She'd be an unsuspected candidate by most fans to be knocked off by J.K. Rowling and yet she is a "major" character at this point in the story's development. We know from what J.K. Rowling has said in prior interviews and at her website that two major characters will be killed in "Deathly Hallows." What a blow to Harry's heart and to the hearts of all the Weasley clan, as well to those in the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army, should the fearless, devil-may-care and I'm just as good a fighter as you Ginny be slain. This is just the sort of unexpected move and yet after it's done we all go "oh yes, now I see" move that J.K. Rowling excels in - that sort of "stake through your heart, now eat me, baby" move. I wonder - does she play chess??? I've got "Deathly Hallows" on pre-order from Amazon and with Don, Isis and Michelle due to visit for the Eighth Goddesschess Anniversary get-together a scant eight days from now, I expect we'll be visiting one of the local cinemas to see the latest film on LARGE SCREEN - it better be screening in the area after July 22nd or those movie moguls will be hearing from me, let me tell you! More on Harry Potter - I've seen in the news the past week or so at least two different "Harry Potter" chess sets - and both of them look beautiful. I don't collect chess sets, but if I did, I'd probably buy one or the other set just for the heck of it, although I already own three very special chess sets plus a little cheapy travelling magnetic set (my favorite) that I received for joining the USCF back in 1999. LOL! That little plastic magnetic set has gone with me all over the world, and even to my mother's house!

The Copper Scroll - Treasure Map Part 2

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) has announced that good ol' boy Hershel Shanks (the controversial editor of BAR) has written a book about the Copper Scroll and the hunt for the Temple Treasure. (I had written about the Copper Scroll back in June, totally unrelated to this development).
It's probably a rip-roaring good read. Shanks has never been one to step back from controversy :) And, really, you don't need to know a thing about bible history or even ancient history, I'm sure he'll walk the reader hrough it and give the particulars and background the reader needs to know to get a full sense for and appreciation of the story, rather like Graham Hancock is a grand story-teller in his books that are classified as "alternate history" or "alternative anthropology" or "alternative archaeology."
One doesn't need to be a believer in the Christian Bible or a believer at all in order to appreciate BAR, I've been a fan for years. In fact, some people think Shanks is the Devil Incarnate because he publishes alternative views and contradictory views and theories in issue after issue. I just love a man with an independent mind :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blast from the Past - Chess Chick's Poll About Women and Chess

Does anyone out there remember Susan Strahan's "1001 Knights" website? Goddess, I miss that site. It was my constant companion from about January, 1999 until it disappeared sometime in 2002 - never to return. Strahan's website was one of the inspirations behind Goddesschess (online since May, 1999 and - we think - better than ever) and Chess Goddesses (online between August, 2001 and August, 2004), and our zanier turn at The International Chessoid - I don't remember exactly when we took that off-line, I believe it was a few months after 9/11. We published this survey by Chess Chick at Goddesschess on June 29, 2001. I apologize for the formatting here - and to Susan Strahan and Chess Chick for my blatant plagerism, but we quickly learned the hard way that if you didn't capture really important stuff in full and saved it on your hard drive, you probably would never find it again - ala 1001 Knights. I tried several different searches tonight for that great old website - but I didn't try the "way back machine" maybe I'll try that tomorrow night, if I don't collapse first. It's been a long, hard, difficult week at the office, darlings, and by the time I get home in the evening I'm not fit for much other than drinking a few glasses of cheap wine out on the deck and then checking my email, weather permitting :) I also apologize for the formatting I can't seem to get a "table" to work here - drat! If you want to see a properly formatted article, click on the title below which will take you to the article at Goddesschess, which was reformatted by our brilliant Webmaster during the second or third re-do of Goddesschess. Otherwise, enjoy! Gender and Chess - The Ever-Changing, Never-Ending Question...ChessChick's Guide To Girl Stuff The Girl's Club Some months ago I began an informal survey of what my readers thought of women's tournaments and titles. I am not claiming that this survey is scientific or balanced. It's just an opinion poll of my readers---and only those readers who've chosen to participate. One of the interesting things I noted is that the totals for each question varies, indicating that some people only participated partially in the survey--answering only the questions they wanted to. This, too, affects the results. Before I tell you what I think, take a look at the results for yourself. 1 Gender? (Guy or Girl) RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT A guy (male) 61 84.72 % A chess chick (female) 11 15.28 % TOTAL 72 100.00 % 2 Have you ever played in a women-only tournament? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT Yes 6 9.68 % No 6 9.68 % No. I'm a guy. 50 80.65 % TOTAL 62 100.00 % 3 Do you think women should have separate titles (such as WIM, WGM) or do you think women's titles should be abolished? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT I think it's OK for women to have separate titles. 23 34.33 % I think it's a good idea for women to have separate titles. 6 8.96 % I think women's titles (WIM, WGM, etc) should be abolished. 36 53.73% No opinion. 2 2.99 % TOTAL 67 100.00 % 4 Do you think there should be a separate World Championship for women? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT Yes 41 63.08 % No 24 36.92 % No opinion. 0 0 % TOTAL 65 100.00 % 5 Do you think a woman will win an overall World Chess Championship (which includes both male and female players) within the next 20 years? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT Yes. 16 23.53 % No. 48 70.59 % No Opinion. 4 5.88 % TOTAL 68 100.00 % 6 Do you think women-only tournaments have a positive effect, negative effect, or no effect on women playing chess? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT Positive effect 31 46.27 % Negative effect 21 31.34 % No effect 15 22.39 % TOTAL 67 100.00 % 7 Which most closely reflects your opinion on women-only tournaments? RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT I think they are good for getting more females involved in playing chess. 30 46.88 % I think women-only tournaments have the effect of holding women back. 12 18.75 % I think women's tournaments are neither helpful nor harmful to women players. 12 18.75 % I think women-only tournaments are archaic; they belong in the previous century. 8 12.50 % I think women's tournaments are fun. 2 3.12 % TOTAL 64 100.00 % One of the things I found interesting was the way the numbers changed over time. In the initial flurry of votes the first couple of months the anti-women's tournament, anti-women's titles numbers were significantly better than the final result. The numbers supporting women's titles and tournament steadily crept up in the final months. I was not surprised to learn that most of my readers are male; most chess players are male. I was hoping, however, that I'd have a few more female participants than I did because the topics this survey deals with are women's issues. On one hand, it seems to me more relevant what women think of women's titles and tourneys than what men think. On the other hand, most of the positions of power in chess organizations are held by men, and the people in those positions are the ones who determine whether we have women's titles and tournaments. So. The opinions of male chess players are not totally irrelevant. Six of the eleven women participating have played in women's events. This reflects the ambivalence I have heard from women about women's tournaments. Some love 'em, some refuse to play in them, some give it little thought. The fact that nearly 50% of the women haven't played an all-women's event gives me pause. If chesschicks were enthusiastic about all-girl events, wouldn't the numbers be a bit better? Women are not of one mind on this matter. I have heard that one of the top female juniors in my state does not participate in the regional all-women championship precisely because it is an all-women event. Apparently, she doesn't want to settle for a "girls title". I also know a woman who speaks with such rapture and enthusiasm about women's tourneys that they sound like giant sisterhood love-ins, rather than brutal competitions. (Curiosity got the better of me and I played in one; there was little evidence of benevolent sisterhood.) Women's tournaments are a divisive issue among women, but the issue of women's titles and championships is far stickier. Why? Because there are women right now who hold those titles. They worked very hard for them, many of them gaining their titles during less-enlightened times, fighting against not only their opponents, but against the fear and hostility of males while they learned their craft, and the disapprobation of society at large. Some of these women are very much opposed to eliminating the WIM and WGM titles. They perhaps see it as a slap in the face. How can we eliminate women's titles without seeming to say, "What you did was worthless. Your title, which you are so proud of, is worthless." Pretty cold-blooded. I see no way to duck these implications. We can make pretty speeches about the value of their achievements, but because the ratings of women holding these titles tend to be considerably lower than people holding "male" titles of IM and GM, a lot of male players do consider women's titles to be worthless. Men who are USCF Experts or Masters could be WIMs if they were women. If you don't think this fosters resentment and derision, think again. Frankly, I think it would do male-female relations a bit of good to abolish the titles and let men and women of equal rating stand on equal footing. I don't think women's titles are necessary. They might have been at one time, but chess is probably the most egalitarian sport on the planet. There is no reason for women to have a separate tournament and title system---unless you think women's intelligence is inherently less than men. I've recently been told that the new (June 2000) Texas Women's Champion, Angela Alston, was ten years ago Tony Alston. None of the women participating in the tournament objected to her competing. How could they object? "Excuse me, but as someone who was born female I have a genetic inferiority to her so she shouldn't be allowed to compete against me; it would be unfair." Yeah, right. You might find a couple of misogynist males who'll buy that, but certainly no woman will. It would seem that even women competing for a women's title in a women's tournament think gender is a non-issue! The women's title system, which initially helped women break into the chess scene, now is more like a slum (complete with inadequate funding and slumlords---see "Pillowfight".) If you believe that women players have the intellectual potential to be as good as men, then then why support a system that encourages them to enter the women's chess ghetto and stay there? A clear majority of survey participants think women's titles should be abolished. In a strange twist, however, an even greater majority (63.08%) think that there should be a separate Championship held for women! What is going on here? Why vote against the smaller titles of WIM and WGM only to overwhelmingly support the biggest title of all: Women's World Champion? The answer, I think, can be found in the response to the next question. Do you think a woman will win an overall World Chess Championship (which includes both male and female players) within the next 20 years? 70.59% of the voters said NO! This seems to me to be saying that since we do not think a woman can win the World Championship in the foreseeable future, we should have a separate Championship for women, so at least they will get something. Coming from men, it's condescension, coming from women, it's self-defeat. This is Loser's Logic at it's best: I can't win playing in your tournament, so I'll just go and get some other people who can't win and we'll make up our own tournament so one of us can win. Isn't this the most demoralizing thing you've ever heard?! There is something insidiously self-defeating about the whole women's chess system. Obviously, not all women are affected by this type of thinking (probably not those at the top), but one can't help but think that girls much further down the ladder are. That nagging doubt whether you're good enough to be an IM or GM..."Well, if I wipe out in this tournament, maybe I'll just chunk it and go for a WIM instead." One of my fears about women's titles is that they can become a consolation prize. Instead of redoubling one's efforts, one can always cop out and join the Girl's Club. There are USCF Experts (2000-2200) who are WIMs. Are girls being encouraged to "reach for the stars" by this or are they being encouraged to "settle"? An aside: Those of you who read "Pillowfight" [dead link] probably wonder how I can reconcile a defense of Xie Jun, Susan Polgar, and Alisa Gallimova with my position on women's tournaments and titles. Why indeed should I care about the Women's World Championship fiasco? These women have chosen to compete in women's tournaments and to compete for the title of Women's World Champion. They have their own reasons why they are part of the women's title system. Though I personally am not very keen on women's tournaments and titles, I believe that those women who choose to remain within that system should be treated with respect. Take a good look at the numbers for the last two questions: Do you think women-only tournaments have a positive effect, negative effect, or no effect on women playing chess? Though 46.27% said "positive effect", nearly one-third (31.34%) of participants said "negative effect" and a significant percentage, 22.39%, said "no effect". Clearly opinion is closely divided (especially given the small size of my sample). I, personally, don't think all women's tourneys should be abolished. I think the idea of separate tournaments and championships is quaint and a bit archaic; it has a 19th century ring to it. Women's tournaments should be relegated to the status of novelty events, rather like thematics. Which most closely reflects your opinion on women-only tournaments? This question inadvertently provided a laugh for me early on as I tracked the results. At one point I noticed that although the number of women who voted had not changed, "I think women's tournaments are fun." had received a vote! I had included that response with the idea that women who had played in women's tournaments might think they were fun. I'm still trying to figure out in what way a women's tournament might be "fun" for a guy. Maybe it's better not to think about it. ;-) The numbers for this question don't track exactly with the previous question, but that's part of the reason I included it. I thought that a greater variety of possible answers might shed some light on the thinking behind the previous responses. RESPONSE VOTES PERCENT I think they are good for getting more females involved in playing chess. 30 46.88 % I think women-only tournaments have the effect of holding women back. 12 18.75 % I think women's tournaments are neither helpful nor harmful to women players. 12 18.75 % I think women-only tournaments are archaic; they belong in the previous century. 8 12.50 % I think women's tournaments are fun. 2 3.12 % TOTAL 64 100.00 % The first statement that they are good for getting more women involved in chess has always caused me to raise my eyebrow. There is an idea out there that girls don't like to play boys and that more girls (and therefore more women) would play chess if they didn't have to compete against those nasty boys. Typically, I hear this speculation from men, not women. What do they know about the motivation of a typical female?? I've not met a girl yet who shied away from shellacking a male opponent. What are all-girl competitions teaching our young players? All-girl tournaments certainly don't teach girls that they are as good as boys. The best they can do is teach them that they are as good as the girl who sits next to them in history class. It may even plant a seed which grows into a doubt about one's potential as a player. "I take home a trophy in the girl's tournament, but not in the big tourneys when I play boys, too." (Nevermind that the field is bigger, so it's mathematically tougher to place.) "Maybe I'm not as good as the guys..." That's one more for the Girl's Club. Tell me again how this is good for women?? What have you won if you've won a regional women's championship? Why did you enter? Is it a consolation prize? Do you play in women's tournaments because, "It's easier to beat girls"? Do you know how sexist that type of thinking is? How harmful it is to you, because you're woman, too? On a whole I think a system which encourages and rewards women for playing against each other works against improving women as chess players. People lament that women's ratings lag so far behind men's. Well, they certainly aren't going to rocket up if the women consistently play each other! To become a stronger player and to get more points you have to play stronger opponents. At this point in time, that means playing men, taking their points and earning their titles. This is a controversial issue; if you'd like to discuss it with other people who come to this site, post your thoughts on the 1001 Knights Webboard. [dead link]. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2007 World Open

World Open June 30 – July 4, 2007 Hola! So, nobody won the big “first prize” of $30,000 that was dangled for winning the Open outright. Instead, eight players who finished with 6.5/9 each received $5,102.12 for their efforts and Akobian, who was the winner against Stripunsky after an “Armegeddon play-off,” got a little extra - $5,468.12. Whoopdedoo, folks. The guys who won in the lower rated sections in some instances did better cash wise! My question is - is there something the matter with the top male players in the USA? Have they lost that fighting feeling? $30,000 isn't enough to fight for? Not ONE of them could manage to eek out 1/2 more point to break clear of the pack??? I guess not, given all the complaints I've read at various online sites about all those last-round shortish draws among the top boards :) For the record, here are the winners and the chess femmes who participated in Open and top sections. I also noted what the winner of these sections took home $$$ wise and whether any of the chess femmes won $$$. Five women who will be playing in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship (hooorah!) also played in this event – they are highlighted in bold. Open (92 registered players): (1) GM Varuzhan Akobian (USA 2651), 6.5/9 ($5,648.12); (33) WGM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (GEO 2458), 5.0/9; (35) WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs (USA 2275), 5.0/9; (53) WFM Alisa Melekhina (USA 2163), 4.0/9. Under 2400 (131 registered players): (1) Anton P. Del Mundo (PHI 2388), 7.0/9 ($5,922.80); (35) WGM Katerine Rohonyan (USA 2304), 5.0/9; (37) WIM Evgenia Hansen (DEN 2275), 5.0/9; (39) WFM Tatev Abrahamyan (USA 2265), 5.0/9; (67) WFM Iryna Zenyuk (USA 2204), 4.0/9. Under 2200 (170 registered players): (1) Chris J. Mabe (USA 2188), 8.0/9 ($14,624.00); (7) Tatiana Vayserberg (USA 2087), 7.0/9 ($1,462.33); (20) WFM Elizabeth Vicary (USA 2127), 6.0/9 ($195.11); (32) Anna Levina (USA 2063), 5.5/9; (55) Lilia Doiban (USA 2126), 4.5/9; (58) Hana Itkis (USA 2089), 4.5/8; (80) Jennie S. Liu (USA 1831), 4.0/9; (115) Vanessa West (USA 2062), 2.5/8. There were several other lower rated sections that I did not report on. I'd say the pattern of players is rather clear, though, judging by the upper sections. In the sections I reported on here, there were 393 total players, of which 15 were women. That's 3.82% women players in this event. Oh and gee, they sure did rake in a lot of cash in prizes too, didn't they?

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Battsetseg

WIM Tsagaan Battsetseg Here are the basics from the 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship website: Born: Mongolia Date of Birth: January 30, 1972 Home: Ellicott City, Maryland Ratings: USCF 2234, FIDE 2241 Wife, mother, chessplayer. She was awarded a full chess scholarship by UMBC and has done community outreach work on behalf of the Chess Club at UTD. From an interview Jim Perry did with Battsetseg during the 2003 U.S. Chess Championships. JFP: What about this format where the championship is mixed gender. Is that something you like? Tsagaan: It's definitely hard for us to even make a draw against the men, but that's going to benefit us, because by playing stronger players even though we lose, we learn a lot and eventually our skill will improve. JFP: Do you think there is going to come a time when the girls are going to beat the boys? Win this event perhaps? Tsagaan: Jennifer [Shahade] had a really big surprise last year. She proved we can play against the men, so I'm hoping it's not going to be much difference between men and women. But maybe a woman has more responsibilities in her life. We are taking care of kids, sometimes leaving not much time for studying chess. I don't think there is much difference as far as capability of playing chess. JFP: In this country, the vast majority of players at all levels are men. Why do you think that there are so few women who play chess? Tsagaan: I don't know. Maybe it's a culture difference. It is a good thing that the number of women who are playing chess is increasing. That's a good thing. Battsetseg learned to play chess when she was 5 or 6 years old. At the 2005 combined U.S. Chess Championships, she earned a WGM norm and a year later at the 2006 combined Championships she earned another WGM norm. This year it’s going to be tough making a WGM norm, she’ll need 6.5/9!

grains of corn - chess and "cereology"

Nice post there, Jan. The geometry of crop circles often hints at or makes direct reference to cosmographic templates that relate directly to the construction of game boards. As a collection, they also draw attention to a "naos" or "apex" - an omphalos or a zenith suggestive of a reward structure. Holography and holism are deeply implied as are Godelian ideas of a self-contained, self-referential, recombinating system of closed and open loops. References to octaves and octonion math - ie. "Clifford Algebra" - represent a foundational theme in chess as does the 8x8 astapada inference of lawful albeit randomized (dice chess) pursuits of an entirely sacred nature. Researches who see something closely resembling Vedic ideas in ancient Egyptian texts are not mistaken. An additional concept relating Egyptian music to geometry captures the lawful sense of ratio and proportion and redirects it from visual media to auditory parallelisms. Over at this site, the auditory phemonema that accompanies the formation of legitimate crop circles comes alive. If we are looking for modern parallelisms in science, the term "sonoluminescence" is a nice approximation. Otherwise, geometric sand patterns formed on the shaman's drum head suggest that recognition of a similar phenomena is very ancient and culturally stimulating. African drums and those of other native peoples speak directly to the combined harmonies and rythms of life, the cosmos and everything. Chess fits neatly into this matrix and replicates the basic "life rythms" of the seasons and their primordial passage, a concept that melds crop circles, chess, vegetative and agricultural cycles into a single seed. From the one - the many... an axiomatic view that allows us to see the chess-oriented "grains of corn" problem of geometrical increments in a mathematical context one might also refer to as "concentric hierarchy" or, more correctly, the eternal "process" of hierarchal "self accumulation". In their own write, the Ancient Egyptians understood the rythmic basis of social reconsolidation and the result furnished increasingly sophisticated views of "the self-created - self creating ONE". THe entire matter of self-generative insights and improvements flows directly into the personification of Ptah and the cavalcade of pharaohs who were the beneficiaries of Ptah's creationist paradigm. One would suppose that this venerable trail of facts has led the Dutch Crop Circle investigators to offer a Ptah Award for excellence in the field of crop circle research. As for Sopdet and Sothis, I think they make an excellent statement about female Brilliancy... ;-) So, the circle of this post completes itself and fits nicely inside or outside any square... proving once again that there is more to heaven, earth and chess than ever was dreamed of in H.J.R. Murray's reductionist, materialist, rationalist point of view.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chessly Crop Circle and the Magic of Chessly Numbers

Okay - I confess, I visited the Daily Grail a few days ago, much sooner than my scheduled bi-monthly visit. I found this beauty of a crop circle - I took it as a sign from the Chess Goddess that She approved my action:) Here is the article from Harold Sun (Australia):

July 03, 2007 12:00am
CROP circles have achieved a new level of sophistication – they've gone 3-D.

The latest one, created in a wheat field at Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, southern England, shows a floor of checkered tiles stretching down a long, high-ceilinged corridor with doors leading off each side.

The three-dimensional design, 60m in diameter, is just metres from the 5000-year-old West Kennet Long Barrow burial grounds, one of the largest and most impressive Neolithic graves in Britain.

The latest design was photographed by Steve Alexander who, with his wife Karen, has been researching crop circles for more than 15 years.

"It's one of the most architectural designs we have seen, rather than purely geometric," Karen said.

"In traditional geometry a square represents material reality and a circle the divine or heavenly realm."

In Chinese symbolism, the turtle/tortoise is one of the four sacred animals marking out the heavens (along with the dragon (or serpent), phoenix and chimera (or tiger)). The carpace (shell) of the turtle came to symbolize the "round" heavens (the top of the shell) and the "flat" plain of the earth created by the four cardinal directions, which was the bottom, flat part of the shell.

Chinese legend says that it was on the back of a turtle that the "mythical" Emperor Yu discovered the 3x3 Lo Shu magic square, perhaps the oldest magic square, in approximately 2100 BCE. From the markings on the back of the turtle the square was made consisting of the numbers 1 through 9 that totalled on the verticals, horizontals, and both diagonals to 15:

4 9 2

3 5 7

8 1 6

It was that perfect magic square that gave rise to the complicated system of divination called the I Ching, whose ba gua (eight trigrams) was based on the numbers of the Lo Shu magic square. The I Ching is based on a square of 64 (8x8).

Numerical relationships that were either independently discovered by Pythagoras many many centuries later or filtered down to him through much cross-cultural contact of learned Buddhist missionaries travelling along the Silk Road from China into India, etc. are 1, 4, 9, and 16 (see the graphic here under "page 117") - The Pythagorean "square numbers."

It's no accident that one gets an eight point star (the ancient symbol for the goddesses Inanna and Ishtar, among others, and the basis of a much later Islamic tile pattern) by rotating a square 45 degrees once upon itself. And it's no accident that the "palace" marked out on the xiang qi board is made up of 9 points - or four-four sided squares, two each stacked on top of each other. And it's no accident that in ancient Egypt, there were two sets of primieval gods and goddesses - the "Ogdoad," eight gods and goddesses led by Thoth in Hermopolis, and the "Ennead," eight gods and goddesses plus the creator god Atum originally centered in Heliopolis.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Eight - Quatre (Philidor's Tale Continued)

(Page 170) My work came to the attention of the German mathematician Euler. He’d read of my blindfold play in the French Dictionnaire published by Diderot, and he persuaded Frederick the Great to invite me to his court. The court of Frederick the Great was held at Potsdam in a large, stark hall, glittering with lamplight but barren of the artistic wonders one finds at other European courts. Indeed, Frederick was a warrior, preferring the company of other soldiers to courtiers, artists, and women. It was said he slept upon a hard wooden pallet and kept his dogs beside him at all times. The evening of my appearance, Kapellmeister Bach of Leipzig had arrived with his son Wilhelm, having journeyed there to visit another son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, harpsichordist to King Frederick. The king himself had written eight bars of a canon and had requested the elder Bach to improvise upon this theme. The old composer, I was told, had a knack for such things. He’d already developed canons with his own name and the name of Jesus Christ buried within the harmonies in mathematical notation. He’d invented inverse counterpoints of great complexity, where the harmony was a mirror image of the melody. Euler added the suggestion that the old kapellmeister invent a variation that reflected within its structure "the Infinite" – that is to say, God in all His manifestations. The king seemed pleased by this, but I felt certain Bach would demur. As a composer myself, I can tell you it’s no small chore to embroider upon another’s music. I once had to compose an opera upon themes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher with a tin ear. But to hide a secret puzzle of this nature within the music…well, it seemed impossible. To my surprise, the kapellmeister hobbled his short, square body to the keyboard. His massive head was covered in a fat, ill-fitting wig. His foreboding eyebrows, grizzled with gray, were like eagles’ wings. He had a severe nose, heavy jaw, and a perpetual scowl etched into his hard features that suggested a contentious nature. Euler whispered to me that the elder Bach did not care much for "command performances" and would doubtless make a joke at the king’s expense. Bending his shaggy head over the keys, he began to play a beautiful and haunting melody that seemed to rise endlessly like a graceful bird. It was a sort of fugue, and as I listened to the mysterious complexities, I realized at once what he’s accomplished. Through a means unclear to me, each stanza of the melody began in one harmonic key but ended one key higher, until at the end of six repetitions of the king’s initial theme, he’d ended in the key where he’d begun. Yet the transition or where it occurred, or how, was imperceptible to me. It was a work of magic, like the transmutation of base metals into gold. Through its clever construction, I could see that it would go endlessly higher into infinity until the notes, like the music of the spheres, could only be heard by angels. "Magnificent!" murmured the king when Bach slowly ended his play. He nodded to the few generals and soldiers who sat on wooden chairs in the sparsely furnished hall. "What is the structure called?" I asked Bach. "I call it Ricercar," the old man said, his dour expression unaltered by the beauty of the music he’d wrought. "In Italian, it means ‘to seek.’ It’s a very old form of music, no longer in fashion." As he said this he looked wryly at his son Carl Philipp, who was known for writing "popular" music. Picking up the king’s manuscript, Bach scrawled across the top the word Ricercar, the letters widely spaced. He turned each letter into a Latin word, so that it read "Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta." Roughly, this means a song issuing from the king, the remaining resolved through the air of the canon. A canon is a musical structure where each part comes in one measure after the last but repeats the entire melody in overlappin fashion. It gives the appearance of going on forever. Then Bach scribbled two Latin phrases in the margin of the music. When translated they read: As the Notes increase, the King’s Fortune increases. As the Modulation ascends, the King’s Glory ascends.

2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Rohonyan

WGM Katerina Rohonyan

Here are the basics from the 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship website:
Born: Nikolaev, Ukraine
Date of Birth: April 25, 1984
Home: Baltimore, MD
Ratings: USCF 2304, FIDE 2316

K.R. is a very recent émigré to the USA. Playing for Armenia, on January 30, 2006 Armenian Chess reported: Armenian chess player WGM Katerina Rohonyan (Ukraine) took the first prize in the FINEK-2006 women's international tournament held in St. Petersburg, Russia. She gained 6,5 points of 9, just as much as Julia Kochetkova (Russia) had, but was the first on tie break.

K.R. is playing chess for University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus, on scholarship, where she is majoring in computer science. In her own words:

The Kiev Killer [a nickname given to her at UMBC], it turns out, is not from Kiev. "When I came here, they gave me that name," Rohonyan says. "It was the only city in Ukraine anyone here has heard of." She comes from Nikolaev, a town on the shores of the Black Sea that she says is about the size of Baltimore . She says she found her chess legs a little late for a grandmaster--at age 7. She makes it sound as if, almost against her will, she found herself being sucked into Ukraine's gigantic chess apparatus. "In 1991, it was still like the Soviet Union--they would come to school to recruit chess players," she recalls. After a few rounds at the local chess clubs, her mother pressed her to develop her skills. "She told me that I could either stop playing or become very good," Rohonyan says. "She said she didn't want me to be an average chess player." By age 16, Rohonyan became the Ukranian women's chess champion.

Rohonyan says that the pressures placed on her as a young chess prodigy were certainly tough, but she marvels at the young players now being churned out of the internet chess world. "When Bobby Fischer won the grandmaster at 15," she says, "he was the first person in the world to do that." Fischer got his start by heading down the street to the Brooklyn Chess Club, where he began to play with--and eventually beat--local chess legends. Now, Rohonyan says, there are "dozens" of teenage grandmasters who spend eight to 10 hours a day logged into vast online chess databases.

You can find some chess games of K.R. here.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

How Thinking Can Change the Brain

I photocopied this article on January 19th and discovered it on my desk (at home) today! I don't remember exactly why I copied it, except it was for "future research". I do remember that when I read this article, I was totally blown away because - if the research is confirmed by further studies - it means that a person is able to reconfigure his or her brain simply by thinking certain thoughts with intent and purpose. Literally, a person can remake himself or herself by the thoughts he/she thinks and physically change the structure of his or her brain. Oh my! Perhaps all those dreams I've been having about becoming the first woman world chess champion could be put to use... Here is the article: January 19, 2007 SCIENCE JOURNAL By SHARON BEGLEY How Thinking Can Change the Brain Dalai Lama Helps Scientists Show the Power of the Mind To Sculpt Our Gray MatterJanuary 19, 2007; Page B1 Although science and religion are often in conflict, the Dalai Lama takes a different approach. Every year or so the head of Tibetan Buddhism invites a group of scientists to his home in Dharamsala, in Northern India, to discuss their work and how Buddhism might contribute to it. In 2004 the subject was neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience. The following are vignettes adapted from "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain," which describes this emerging area of science: The Dalai Lama, who had watched a brain operation during a visit to an American medical school over a decade earlier, asked the surgeons a startling question: Can the mind shape brain matter? Over the years, he said, neuroscientists had explained to him that mental experiences reflect chemical and electrical changes in the brain. When electrical impulses zip through our visual cortex, for instance, we see; when neurochemicals course through the limbic system we feel. But something had always bothered him about this explanation, the Dalai Lama said. Could it work the other way around? That is, in addition to the brain giving rise to thoughts and hopes and beliefs and emotions that add up to this thing we call the mind, maybe the mind also acts back on the brain to cause physical changes in the very matter that created it. If so, then pure thought would change the brain's activity, its circuits or even its structure. One brain surgeon hardly paused. Physical states give rise to mental states, he asserted; "downward" causation from the mental to the physical is not possible. The Dalai Lama let the matter drop. This wasn't the first time a man of science had dismissed the possibility that the mind can change the brain. But "I thought then and still think that there is yet no scientific basis for such a categorical claim," he later explained. "I am interested in the extent to which the mind itself, and specific subtle thoughts, may have an influence upon the brain." The Dalai Lama had put his finger on an emerging revolution in brain research. In the last decade of the 20th century, neuroscientists overthrew the dogma that the adult brain can't change. To the contrary, its structure and activity can morph in response to experience, an ability called neuroplasticity. The discovery has led to promising new treatments for children with dyslexia and for stroke patients, among others. But the brain changes that were discovered in the first rounds of the neuroplasticity revolution reflected input from the outside world. For instance, certain synthesized speech can alter the auditory cortex of dyslexic kids in a way that lets their brains hear previously garbled syllables; intensely practiced movements can alter the motor cortex of stroke patients and allow them to move once paralyzed arms or legs. The kind of change the Dalai Lama asked about was different. It would come from inside. Something as intangible and insubstantial as a thought would rewire the brain. To the mandarins of neuroscience, the very idea seemed as likely as the wings of a butterfly leaving a dent on an armored tank.
* * * Neuroscientist Helen Mayberg had not endeared herself to the pharmaceutical industry by discovering, in 2002, that inert pills -- placebos -- work the same way on the brains of depressed people as antidepressants do. Activity in the frontal cortex, the seat of higher thought, increased; activity in limbic regions, which specialize in emotions, fell. She figured that cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which patients learn to think about their thoughts differently, would act by the same mechanism.
At the University of Toronto, Dr. Mayberg, Zindel Segal and their colleagues first used brain imaging to measure activity in the brains of depressed adults. Some of these volunteers then received paroxetine (the generic name of the antidepressant Paxil), while others underwent 15 to 20 sessions of cognitive-behavior therapy, learning not to catastrophize. That is, they were taught to break their habit of interpreting every little setback as a calamity, as when they conclude from a lousy date that no one will ever love them.
All the patients' depression lifted, regardless of whether their brains were infused with a powerful drug or with a different way of thinking. Yet the only "drugs" that the cognitive-therapy group received were their own thoughts.
The scientists scanned their patients' brains again, expecting that the changes would be the same no matter which treatment they received, as Dr. Mayberg had found in her placebo study. But no. "We were totally dead wrong," she says. Cognitive-behavior therapy muted overactivity in the frontal cortex, the seat of reasoning, logic, analysis and higher thought. The antidepressant raised activity there. Cognitive-behavior therapy raised activity in the limbic system, the brain's emotion center. The drug lowered activity there.
With cognitive therapy, says Dr. Mayberg, the brain is rewired "to adopt different thinking circuits."
* * *
Such discoveries of how the mind can change the brain have a spooky quality that makes you want to cue the "Twilight Zone" theme, but they rest on a solid foundation of animal studies. Attention, for instance, seems like one of those ephemeral things that comes and goes in the mind but has no real physical presence. Yet attention can alter the layout of the brain as powerfully as a sculptor's knife can alter a slab of stone.
That was shown dramatically in an experiment with monkeys in 1993. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, rigged up a device that tapped monkeys' fingers 100 minutes a day every day. As this bizarre dance was playing on their fingers, the monkeys heard sounds through headphones. Some of the monkeys were taught: Ignore the sounds and pay attention to what you feel on your fingers, because when you tell us it changes we'll reward you with a sip of juice. Other monkeys were taught: Pay attention to the sound, and if you indicate when it changes you'll get juice.
After six weeks, the scientists compared the monkeys' brains. Usually, when a spot on the skin receives unusual amounts of stimulation, the amount of cortex that processes touch expands. That was what the scientists found in the monkeys that paid attention to the taps: The somatosensory region that processes information from the fingers doubled or tripled. But when the monkeys paid attention to the sounds, there was no such expansion. Instead, the region of their auditory cortex that processes the frequency they heard increased.
Through attention, UCSF's Michael Merzenich and a colleague wrote, "We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves."
The discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without attention has important implications. If a skill becomes so routine you can do it on autopilot, practicing it will no longer change the brain. And if you take up mental exercises to keep your brain young, they will not be as effective if you become able to do them without paying much attention.
* * *
Since the 1990s, the Dalai Lama had been lending monks and lamas to neuroscientists for studies of how meditation alters activity in the brain. The idea was not to document brain changes during meditation but to see whether such mental training produces enduring changes in the brain.
All the Buddhist "adepts" -- experienced meditators -- who lent their brains to science had practiced meditation for at least 10,000 hours. One by one, they made their way to the basement lab of Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He and his colleagues wired them up like latter-day Medusas, a tangle of wires snaking from their scalps to the electroencephalograph that would record their brain waves.
Eight Buddhist adepts and 10 volunteers who had had a crash course in meditation engaged in the form of meditation called nonreferential compassion. In this state, the meditator focuses on unlimited compassion and loving kindness toward all living beings.
As the volunteers began meditating, one kind of brain wave grew exceptionally strong: gamma waves. These, scientists believe, are a signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung circuits -- consciousness, in a sense. Gamma waves appear when the brain brings together different features of an object, such as look, feel, sound and other attributes that lead the brain to its aha moment of, yup, that's an armadillo.
Some of the novices "showed a slight but significant increase in the gamma signal," Prof. Davidson explained to the Dalai Lama. But at the moment the monks switched on compassion meditation, the gamma signal began rising and kept rising. On its own, that is hardly astounding: Everything the mind does has a physical correlate, so the gamma waves (much more intense than in the novice meditators) might just have been the mark of compassion meditation.
Except for one thing. In between meditations, the gamma signal in the monks never died down. Even when they were not meditating, their brains were different from the novices' brains, marked by waves associated with perception, problem solving and consciousness. Moreover, the more hours of meditation training a monk had had, the stronger and more enduring the gamma signal.
It was something Prof. Davidson had been seeking since he trekked into the hills above Dharamsala to study lamas and monks: evidence that mental training can create an enduring brain trait.
Prof. Davidson then used fMRI imaging to detect which regions of the monks' and novices' brains became active during compassion meditation. The brains of all the subjects showed activity in regions that monitor one's emotions, plan movements, and generate positive feelings such as happiness. Regions that keep track of what is self and what is other became quieter, as if during compassion meditation the subjects opened their minds and hearts to others.
More interesting were the differences between the monks and the novices. The monks had much greater activation in brain regions called the right insula and caudate, a network that underlies empathy and maternal love. They also had stronger connections from the frontal regions to the emotion regions, which is the pathway by which higher thought can control emotions.
In each case, monks with the most hours of meditation showed the most dramatic brain changes. That was a strong hint that mental training makes it easier for the brain to turn on circuits that underlie compassion and empathy.
"This positive state is a skill that can be trained," Prof. Davidson says. "Our findings clearly indicate that meditation can change the function of the brain in an enduring way."
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Origins of Chess - Essay by Ricardo Calvo

Dondelion has been busy at Goddesschess.

He's been working on this article by IM Ricardo Calvo for some time. We received it from Carmen ("The Chief's" widow, whom he lovingly called "The Librarian") months ago, but it was in PDF format and needed to be "translated" into html so that it could be edited, etc. Part 1 has now been published at Goddesschess, Part 2 will follow in due course:


Is Chess Life?

(Photo: Fischer's triumphant welcome home parade, New York City, after winning the World Chess Championship against Spassky)

Errol Tiwari has written an absolute masterpiece this week, pondering the question "Is Chess Life?"

'Chess is life' - Bobby Fischer
With Errol Tiwari
Sunday, July 8th 2007

Is chess life? The question is haunting. An attempt to give a definitive answer, however, is a formula for frustration. For someone who is lonely or emotionally unstable, the therapeutic impact of the game could be enormous. On the chess board we play people, for the most part, and move them around to secure certain crucial positions.

There is the King, whom we have pledged to protect, because we know that if we don't we ourselves are lost. And then there is the Queen, whom we love and value greatly. Without her, we enter into situations from which we have difficulty extricating ourselves. Religion is with us too in the context of the Bishops. The church's influence on the game and our lives is tremendous.

The Pawns are the common people whose indirect importance should never be underestimated. Some may rise from the masses to be the masters of other peoples' destiny. The Rook or Castle is where we seek refuge in extreme situations when we are compelled to dart for cover. With the Knight, we can be in motion and oversee our empire at the same time, still calculating, still manoeuvering, still planning.

We can find emotional security to an extraordinary degree in a game. The inanimate wooden or plastic pieces can come to life if we want them to, and become our friends upon whom we can depend. As many gifted and solitary children turn away from reality into a world of books, we can do the same by burying ourselves in chess.

The world at large considers chess an ancient sport of kings. Some say it is an eminent struggle, and perhaps a noble pastime, but hardly an art. Others contend it is a mere game, perhaps nice and abstruse, but an idle amusement, no more, no less. A former world champion, Emmanuel Lasker, described chess as "a fight." There are others who argue it is a science. The fact is, of course, that all these elements are present. There are some aspects of the game which reach deep into the psyche. We know for certain it is a confrontation of two minds, one trying to dominate, and if necessary, crush the other. Some players achieve psychic gratification this way. Over the chess board they can triumph and live out their fantasy life.

Fortunately, the brutal side of the game is counteracted by an opposing ideal for truth and beauty. For chess has its own morality, its own integrity. Chess players are quite familiar with Lasker's famous quotation in his Manual of Chess: "On the chessboard, lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite."

What I believe Lasker is saying is that all creative chess players aim only for truth over the board - truth as manifested in the integrity of a combination to which there is no answer; truth as manifested in the creation of an elegant sequence of moves; truth as manifested in such a high order of creation that sheer beauty is the result. And truth is life itself; a determining factor in the manner in which we live.

In chess, your body has to be in good condition. Your chess deteriorates if your body does. You cannot separate mind from body. If chess is not life itself, the two are nevertheless related to each other because one learns from the other.

The trait of taking anything for granted relates to both chess and life. Trusting nothing or no one, sometimes not even oneself, remains the key for being ready for any eventuality. The final outcome of a project, whether on the chess board or in life itself, is measured by paying attention to every minuscule detail. This is chess. This is life.

If history teaches anything, it teaches us that careful planning, and not wishful thinking, is what separates the corn from the chaff. History, it is said, teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.

Chess games which have been played and documented, are replete with history. As we replay them, we see where the masters went wrong and we strive not to make similar mistakes. After a while, this attitude of being careful and learning from previous experiences and other peoples' mistakes, is translated to other aspects of our existence.

And this is why we have to instil the game of chess into the minds of our young people.What the young think is what counts, because what they think is what the future knows.

Numbers are important. The success of a nation in reaching the highest level in the structural edifice of chess lies in numbers. The vast number of people playing chess in Russia and other European countries guarantees that champions would eventually emerge from the serious chess-playing nations of the continent. Among the many, lie the few who would ascend upward to meet the clouds.

Playing an international game of chess is like taking a five-hour final examination. When we apply a similar approach to crucial situations in our lives, we can conclude realistically, that chess is life.

For me, chess is more than just a sport. It has a direct relationship to intellectual development and to art. For me, chess is art. For me, chess is life.

China's "Mona Lisa" on Display in Hong Kong

It's Sunday, time for a little "culture" :) I found this an interesting article, particularly the mention about the last emperor of China being captured by the Soviets at the end of WWII.

New York Times
Art and Design

Published: July 3, 2007

HONG KONG, July 2 — Politics and art don’t always mix well, but the combination has yielded a rare chance for Hong Kong residents and visitors to see what is arguably China’s most famous painting.

Trying to foster nationalistic pride in China’s heritage among Hong Kong residents, the Chinese government has sent 32 artworks here for an exhibition to mark the 10th anniversary of Britain’s return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. Among them is Zhang Zeduan’s “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” a scroll painted in the early 12th century.

“Qingming Festival” is famous partly for its involvement over centuries in palace intrigues, theft and wars, and partly for its detailed, geometrically accurate images of bridges, wine shops, sedan chairs and boats beautifully juxtaposed with flowing lines for the depiction of mountains and other natural scenery. It is routinely covered in courses on Chinese history, art and culture, across China and in the West.

“The ‘Qingming Festival’ is probably the single most widely known work in China,” said Marc F. Wilson, a Chinese specialist and the director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.

He added that the painting was “like China’s Mona Lisa. ”

Because of its fragility, the scroll is seldom displayed, even in Beijing, and has never been lent for an overseas exhibition.

It was briefly exhibited in Shanghai in 2003, where it drew lines that snaked for a quarter-mile outside the museum, and in Shenyang, China, in 2005.

“Qingming Festival” and 15 other paintings and examples of calligraphy dating from the 6th to the 14th centuries are to remain on display through July 22. Another 16 works, dating from the 4th to the 16th centuries, will be on view from July 23 to Aug. 11.

Zheng Xinmiao, China’s vice minister of culture and the director of the Palace Museum in Beijing, described the works as “the highest grade of art ever shown” outside of China proper.

“Through all the turmoil of different dynasties, it is remarkable for these pieces to survive,” he said.

The purpose of the exhibition is clear from its title: “The Pride of China.” The Beijing government has sponsored a series of Chinese cultural events here this summer to foster Chinese identity in a population where many have seen themselves as citizens of Hong Kong first, and only secondarily as Chinese.

Yet one visitor, Ringo Lau, a 47-year-old consultant who attended the exhibition on Friday, the opening day, remarked: “I have no question I am Chinese. I don’t need this to enrich it.”

He said he had studied “Qingming Festival” and recalled that a bank branch near his boyhood home in Hong Kong displayed a large reproduction of part of the painting. Although only allowed to look at the painting itself for five minutes on Friday — guards enforce time limits for each group of visitors — he said he was satisfied.

“It’s detailed, it’s marvelous, it’s very colorful,” he said.

Like the Mona Lisa, “Qingming Festival” is to some extent famous for being famous.

The Mona Lisa became a household word partly because it was stolen from the Louvre in August 1911. The theft and subsequent sale of forgeries passed off as the real painting set off a frenzy of news coverage, as well as songs and even cabaret acts, until the original was recovered in Italy in December 1913.

“Qingming Festival” has been famous since the 14th century, when forgeries began to circulate, said Tang Hing-sun, an assistant curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art who helped organize the exhibition here.
Forgers could pass off their copies as the original partly because the original was repeatedly stolen or misappropriated from the imperial collection, starting as early as the 1340s. It kept showing up in the hands of wealthy, influential families, from whom emperors repeatedly recovered it when they confiscated estates during disputes.

Qiu Ying, a 16th-century artist, established a reputation for painting beautiful copies of “Qingming Festival,” prompting forgers even to begin producing forgeries of his copies.

The Nationalists moved the cream of the imperial collection to Taiwan shortly before losing the civil war to the Communists in 1949. But through a quirk of history, “Qingming Festival” had been separated from the rest of the collection and stayed on the mainland.

The last emperor, Pu Yi, quietly took the painting with him when forced to leave the Forbidden City in 1924. The Japanese military later installed him as the puppet ruler of Manchuria; caught by the Soviet Army at the end of World War II, he still had the painting.

The Soviets handed over the painting to a bank in northeastern China for safekeeping. It stayed there until 1950, when it was transferred to a nearby museum and later to Beijing.

With such a convoluted history, there is the theoretical possibility that a forgery was substituted at some point. The National Palace Museum in Taipei takes pride in holding 10 ancient copies of the original “Qingming Festival” in its collection.

But art scholars agree that the Palace Museum in Beijing does indeed own the original. The style and materials of the scroll — ink on silk — are consistent with work from the 12th century, and the many chops, or seals, of its owners over the years are accurate.

“There’s no question of what it is,” said Mr. Wilson, who was not involved in producing the current exhibition.

For art lovers, the question may be whether “Qingming Festival” is being shown too frequently: this is its third exhibition in five years. The National Palace Museum in Taipei restricts the showing of comparably old paintings to 40 days at a time, followed by at least three years in storage.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art has tried to manage the crowds and protect the art by having visitors pass through a series of galleries adorned with large reproductions and texts on “Qingming Festival” before they reach the scroll itself. The heavily guarded painting is exhibited in a long, thick-sided display case in a gallery with the lights kept fairly low.

Visitors are admitted in groups and are shooed along after the five-minute viewing. Tickets must be bought in advance for specific times.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art is trying to err on the side of caution in handling the crowds, as any mishap would be a national incident in China.
“From an historic and artistic perspective, these are treasures,” said Tang Hoi-chiu, the chief curator.

"Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is at the Hong Kong Museum of Art through July 22. Information: .hk/hkma. Other loans run through Aug. 11.
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