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Take two art lessons and call me in the morning


Chinese educator who says the four arts are key to true health speaks in Forest Grove tonight

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Dr. Jiyu Yang will speak on the four great Chinese arts -- poetry, calligraphy, music and painting -- and their influence on peoples mental, physical and spiritual  health.Poetry, calligraphy, music, painting — and the interplay between them — are the key to a better life. So says Dr. Jiyu Yang, as well as millenia of Chinese philosophy.

“In modern times, so many people are stressful. People push people to work very hard lives,” but the arts can teach people to relax, said Yang, who will speak in Forest Grove tonight, April 10. “Rich or poor, they can still enjoy their life.”

Dean of Portland's Wisdom Arts Academy — an all-ages school that offers weekend lessons in Chinese music, dance, tai chi, martial arts and fine arts — Yang teaches calligraphy and Erhu, China's equivalent to the violin.

The academy contends that true health comes from a balance of physical, mental and spiritual well-being, which can be achieved through the arts.

With a doctorate in education from the University of Northern Iowa, Yang spent years researching music education and children's intellectual development for an institute in Guangxi, China.

Born in a traditional intellectual Chinese family, Yang began studying calligraphy with his uncle at age six, and later studied music and art at the Guangdong People's Art College.

Many Chinese scholars believe practicing calligraphy is like medication which can better your mental health and make you live longer, said Yang. It requires complete concentration as one learns to control the ink and brush.

In the Chinese language, each letter or word is painted with precision as its own little picture, he said. Linking each picture together into a whole piece is like making music.

“You can almost see the chi energy on the paper,” he said. It has rhythm, dynamic, tone color — all the concepts of music. A melody appears, singing humanity: “You can see the paintbrush dancing on the paper.”

Yang, who has lived in Portland for 10 years, also plays violin with the Hillsboro Symphony Orchestra and leads Portland's Orchids and Bamboo Ensemble, which specializes in classical Chinese music.

Business between the U.S. and China has more and more intertwined the two people, said Yang. “If kids can learn something about that, they tend to be more interested in Chinese culture and language to help in the future.”