Chaji Exhibition 2019

CHAJI / 茶寂 - Beauty Within Silence

Chaji Exhibition / Garden Tea House
September 13, 2019 to January 10, 2020
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Curated by Lam Wong


In 2010, during the making of my documentary film Tea Zen, I went to China and interviewed Mr. Cai Rong Zhang (蔡榮章), the founder of Sans Self Tea Gathering, ‘Wu-wo’ (無我茶會), at his Tea Philosophy Department office. In that meeting, we discussed much about the history and the spirit of tea, especially the influence of Taoism and Zen Buddhism in tea practice. From the dialogue, it is this idea that lingers and echoes still strongly in my consciousness after all these years: If there is a religion in tea making, it is Beauty.

To launch the journey of my year-long artist-in-residency at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, we are delighted to announce two new projects: Chaji (茶寂), a group exhibition and Garden Tea House, the installation of a year-long tea house in the garden’s Scholar Study.

The tea philosophy tradition that the legendary Japanese grand tea master Sen no Rikyū left behind and practiced diligently relates to four elements: Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility (和敬清寂). I like to think that the first pillar of tea philosophy starts with Respect (敬). Respect towards Tea, to the tea makers, the guests, and to nature. With great respect in mind, I invited four established artists–Arthur Cheng, Bryan Mulvihill, Chick Rice, and my father Don Wong–to join me in the Chaji exhibition. They are tea friends with whom I have the good fortune to have a tea affinity. In addition, we are pleased to feature the works of John Cage, an influential and illuminating American artist/composer. The artists are all masterful in their art practice. They have all in various ways been inspired by Tea or Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism and Zen.

Cha (茶) in Chinese is Tea. Ji (寂) is a more complex word to translate: solitude; a deep appreciation for beauty, subjected to impermanence or the empty nature of time; tranquility with its hints of sadness, presence and awareness. Ji is an integral part of Rikyu’s tea philosophy. This is the final stage, the Nirvana of a tea life. With the acute awareness of the present moment and understanding the true nature of time, Ji is the mind state of appreciating beauty in solitude, a kind of joy-sadness tranquility. Within Tea, it carries this beauty and spirit, and it seems to be amplified in silence. In essence, Tea is the appreciation of beauty in simple things. A kind of preparation for the aesthetic of silence. Tea is deep peace - and when the deep inner peace arrives, the world can be very beautiful.

In the city of Vancouver one can hardly imagine a better place of cultural significance to have a Chinese tea ceremony other than Chinatown’s Chinese garden. It is with tremendous gratitude and honour that I am given the opportunity to work with all the respected artists in the Chaji exhibition. It is my hope that with the installation of the Garden Tea House in the Scholar’s Study, many artists and cultural builders will come and continue to inspire, share their stories, and create new projects collaboratively over a cup of tea. As the tea sages would often say: 一期一會 (One tea gathering, once a life time). We are looking forward to hosting you in our beautiful tea art space.


Lam Wong
Curator and Artist, Chaji
Artist-in-Residence (2019-2020), Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden




Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Fri. Sept 13th 2019, 5:30 pm




John Cage (1912 – 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.

Arthur (Shu-Ren) Cheng was born in 1942, Nanjing, China. He graduated from the Department of Sculpture, National Central of Art, Beijing, China. He specializes in making sculpture, pencil drawing, water-colour and oil painting. His sculptures are award winning in both China and Canada. He has served as the vice-president of the Chinese Canadian Artists Federation of Vancouver.

In 1990, he moved to Vancouver from China. Shortly after he started lecturing at Emily Carr College. He is a member of the Shanghai Artist Association, Sculptural Artist Association in China and Shanghai Graphic Arts Association. His name was listed in “Who’s Who in Australasia and The Far East, International Who’s Who.”

Bryan Mulvihill's 'Calligraffiti' pay homage to the 'cut-up' and 'permutation' processes passed on by Brion Gysin, who, along with William Burroughs, explored these techniques as a method to free the word, into an open state of visual association. With Brion's encouragement, bryan applied permutations to Zen Koan, expressions of enlightened states of mind. Offering an open-ended visual system, rather than a specific idea or reference point, it is intended to inspire creative participation of the viewer. These 'Calligraffiti' employ numerous languages and writing systems. Through a process of repetitive patterning, they stimulate the visual cortex, while at the same time remaining free of specific naming. The goals of permutation and Zen art are similar: to free the mind from preconceived ideas into a state of open awareness. Calligraffiti may look abstract but is in fact loaded with meaning and context.

Chick Rice. Artist, photographer, educator.
Born in Macau, raised and educated in Canada.
University of British Columbia, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Asian Studies minor. Emily Carr College of Art + Design photography graduate. Banff School of Fine Arts Photography Master Class and National Film Board Film Studio D Directors’ Workshop.
Taught a quarter century at Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Exhibited in North America and Europe, published worldwide.

Don Wong is a Master Chinese Calligrapher from Anxi, Fujian province of China. Born in a tea family that has been growing and making tea for many generations, Don has dedicated his life to practicing the art of tea and the art of calligraphy. Tea and the life of tea man are the main subjects of his calligraphy.

For over seven decades, his life is dedicated to creating unique calligraphy styles in Li (official), Cao (grass/cursive), Xing (running) and Kai (regular) Scripts. Don's cursive script is fluid with well controlled brush strength, a harmony of boldness and softness, full of drama and spirit. His work has been widely exhibited in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, and collected all over the world.

Lam Wong is a visual artist, designer and curator based in Vancouver BC. His interest is primarily rooted in regional West Coast art history, with an emphasis on the development of painting and its avant-garde narrative. Lam’s creative approach is often concerning with bending Eastern philosophies and challenging the notion of painting. An immigrant from Hong Kong during the 1980s, Lam studied design, art history and painting, both in Alberta and British Columbia. He is currently practicing painting and tea related artwork as his main media. Lam sees art making as an on-going spiritual practice. His main subjects are the perception of reality, the meaning of art, and the relationships between time, memory and space. Lam lives and works in Vancouver, Canada since 1998.