Sunday, July 1, 2007

About Art - Da Tung Sculpture

North Blocks in Portland, Oregon, USA is a stretch of green space dedicated by Captain John Couch to the City in 1869. The original design concept for the North Park Blocks was for a continuation of the South Park Blocks promenade but was impeded early on by a prominent resident's reluctance to give the city the two blocks between Ankeny and Stark. The six blocks between Salmon and Stark donated by Daniel Lownsdale became part of a legal battle with his second wife's heirs. The court ruled in their favor and the property was eventually sold and developed. On the remaining blocks, trees were planted in rows like those in the South Park Blocks, which was constructed earlier in the city's history, using big leaf maples and black locusts with American elms at the street edge.

By the 1880s, the area was predominantly residential, but not fashionable like the South Park Blocks. Modest one- and two-story houses were built. From the turn of the century, more commercial and light industrial businesses and residential hotels were developed in the area. The railroad purchased the land north of Park to Front and expanded its rail yards.

In 1992, a series of improvements was completed in the North Parks Blocks. Pains were taken to protect and preserve the remaining historic trees there since the park's inception, and different colored paving stones were used on the pathways to create bright, winding lanes. In 1993, a new playground was built and its popularity brought some vitality back to the park.

One of the most beautiful features was added in October 2002, when a 12-foot bronze sculpture titled Da Tung (Universal Peace), a replica of a Chinese antique dating from the late Shang Dynasty (1200-1100 BC), was installed in the park between Burnside and Couch streets. The elephant is embellished with figures from ancient Chinese mythology, and carries a baby elephant, Xiang bao bao (Baby Elephant), symbolizing that offspring shall be safe and prosperous.

The statue was a gift to the city from Chinese businessman Huo Baozhu, whose foundry in Xi’an, China, is licensed by the national government to reproduce Chinese antiquities. Huo, who visited Portland a number of times, said he was motivated by a love of Chinese history and admiration for Portland. I have the great luck of living just 4 blocks from what has to be one of the most unusual pieces of outdoor art in Ameirca. Unfortunately, this photo does it little justice. So, come to Portland and see it for yourself.

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