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Mr. Dang Sheng and the Museum of Design by Hu Jianbo

Some people might know what a casual conversation with Mr. Dang Sheng means. With a small cup of espresso on the table and a cigarette, Mr. Dang talked about history, art, poetry, and design slowly and carefully. He spoke in an elegant Xi'an dialect. If there had been Western cuisine, foreign wine, or sake, Mr. Dang would have enjoyed it and things would have been more interesting. Suddenly, I realized that Mr. Dang was already at an age where he could do whatever he wanted with good manners. I am also getting older. I'll turn 60 soon. I finally knew that the highest level of cultural enjoyment in Xi'an was to have a meal with Mr. Dang. He always said that he shared the same feeling as Confucius: the most pleasurable experience of life is to not dislike to have his rice finely cleaned, nor to have his minced meat cut quite small.

Mr. Dang Sheng(third from the left), communicating with visitors in the exhibition area of the China Pavilion of the Museum of Design

The reason for the foundation of "the Museum of Design" dated back to about five years ago when I had a casual conversation with Mr. Dang, Mr. Song Qun , and Mr. Su Zhongqiu. I was talking about an old folk street I had visited in Canada. There were vehicle repair stores, grocery stores, barber shops, dessert houses, a small bank, and a post and telegraph office in close proximity to each other. I stepped inside the post and telegraph office and saw a high counter, a shifting board beside the counter, and linen mailbags beyond the counter. It was exactly the same office I had been to when I was 5 or 6 years old. In the evening, I used to roll and play on the counter of the post and telegraph office, while my mother helped collect and deliver the day's parcels. Finally, she registered parcels, closed and locked the door, and went back home with me, who behaved mischievously.

Song Qun noticed that I was emotional and said, "I have visited this street too. I felt the same. In the past years, I also collected a lot of old local objects. Maybe we will have the opportunity to make an open exhibition block showcasing local culture in the future." I said, "Good idea! When I am not on a tight budget someday in the future, we can build an open exhibition block on campus. I believe we can restore the scenes of the old Xi'an with Mr. Song's design." Mr. Dang listened to us quietly and said slowly, " Though Exhibition block has sociological and folklore meanings, its historical and artistic values are not significant. It costs a lot of money but visitors do not necessarily share the same feelings as everyone present here today. So, how about building a Museum of Design on campus?" Zhongqiu agreed with Mr. dang and Song Qun whose job was design also expressed great interest in participating in it.

I am still immersed in the memories of the post and telegraph office and the old street. I still thought an exhibition block was a good idea. But I knew it was just a dream while I was tipsy. Moreover, I knew Mr. Dang had a point, so I said, "Since everyone agrees, let's build a museum." Though I said yes to Mr. Dang's idea, deep in my heart I complained about it. Well, he must be aware of my difficult situation.

Mr. Dang knew what was on my mind so he said, "A museum, like a library, is a symbol of the university's spirit and a center of academic activities. Sooner or later, it will be built. "As far as I know, the China Academy of Art has a very influential museum on the theme of "design". "A museum of design is different from an art museum in that it costs little and has no less significance. In the beginning, there doesn't need to be extravagant exhibitions. But the planning for the future must be the focus. You can slowly enrich its content and collections."

At this point, there was no way back and it had always been my wish to contribute to art led by Mr. Dang. But I wanted to give Mr. Dang a little hard time. So, I said, "Mr. Dang, you refused to be dean of EAaD school a lot of times so it is still vacant. Now we decide to build a museum of design, and you must be the curator of it. What do you say?" Mr. Dang, uncharacteristically, raised his glass and said, "It is my idea and I will be dedicated to it. I feel honored to be invited to be the curator. I will strive to fulfill my mission."

Without further ado, let's move on to Mr. Dang Sheng's speech at the opening ceremony of the Museum of Design of Xi'an Eurasia University on December 16, 2018, and enjoy his authoritative presence.

December 4, 2022, at Xi'an Eurasia University on Qingliang Mountain Road

What is "design"?

Dang Sheng

Mr. Dang Sheng's speech at the opening ceremony of the Museum of Design of Xi'an Eurasia University on December 16, 2018

ladies and gentlemen, good evening!

After a year of preparation, the Museum of Design of Xi'an Eurasia University opens today. Thank you all for having me here to witness this significant event worth celebrating. The Museum of Design is based on the founding philosophy of Xi'an Eurasia University and the need for the development of the discipline.

What is "design"? In Marx's terms, it is the result of labor that "exists in the form of ideas" after the beginning of labor. If the fruits of labor can "exist in the form of ideas", they must be purposeful, prescient, selective, and planned. In this sense, it is the behavior model with design thinking as the core that has given "cultural" value to the utilitarian activities of survival and reproduction of human beings, thus creating a great human civilization that has lasted for thousands of years.

From the late 19th century, due to the establishment of mechanized mass production and the advent of mass communication and mass consumption, design was inevitably separated from the production process and became a decisive part ahead of the production process, thus gradually developing into an independent social function and a discipline taught, studied and researched in universities.

Design is not only the decoration and beautification of products or a marketing tool to sell products. Design is a creative work that integrates social, economic, engineering, and aesthetic elements to provide people with a more reasonable, convenient, healthy, and enjoyable way of life. From chairs made of steel tubes to skyscrapers, from posters printed in color to tablet computers, the technological progress of the 20th century has taken on a new physical form through "design".

With the founding philosophy of "Being International, Valuing Application and Offering New Experiences", Xi'an Eurasia University takes the lead in business education. And EAaD school is a dynamic and progressive part of it. To fulfill this vision, our basic aim is to make the museum a showcase for classic works and the development history of modern design and a venue to discuss the development direction of design and related disciplines under the new technology revolution, especially the social responsibility and ethical guidelines that designers and educators should take when faced with serious challenges of resources and environmental issues.

The exhibition area of the Modern Art Section. Click this image to read more about it.

Now, this museum is still in its infancy and its collection is far from adequate to exhibit the development of modern design and the outstanding achievements of different design fields. But I'm very excited to tell you that Mr. Hu Jianbo, chairman of the university, has promised to invest continuously in the construction of the museum, so we're confident that in three to five years, we can fill the gaps and make significant improvement, making this newborn academic institution the second influential genuine museum of design in China which collects, exhibits and researches.

China was once one of the greatest ancient civilizations. It not only contributed to human beings with the four great inventions but also gave birth to modular and large-scale production methods. There is solid historical evidence that the assembly line system built by large craft workshops in the Ming and Qing dynasties obviously inspired the industrial revolution in Europe. It is our next goal to create a China Pavilion in the museum to showcase China's design culture from the Pre-Qin Period to modern times, highlighting the evolution of Chinese characters and the development of printing and replication technology.

The exhibition area of the China Pavilion. Click this image to read more about it.

At the meeting about the preparations for the museum, I stressed several times that it is not only natural but also incumbent for a university to build a museum. Museums and libraries should be symbols of the university's spirit and centers of academic activities, and rightly so. I am totally convinced that today, 16th of December, 2018, will become a milestone in the history of Xi'an Eurasia University whose remarkable and far-reaching significance will be proven in the years to come.

The establishment of the Museum of Design of Xi'an Eurasia University is due to the visionary decisions of and financial support from Hu Jianbo, Chairman of the university, Liu Jin, the principal, and other senior leaders of the university. The efficient and in-depth work done by the related departments, especially the Brand Communication Department, undertakes most of the tasks of developing the museum.

Ken Awazu, my mentor and son of the late Kiyoshi Awazu, Masaki Hisatani, another mentor of mine, as well as internationally acclaimed American designer Mr. Sagmeister and Swiss designer Mr. Troxler, have donated or provided their valuable works to the museum.

Works in the Kiyoshi Awazu memorial room of the museum

Mr. Ren Hua has made a lot of effort to collect valuable works and has done a brilliant job; Mr. Weng Anhua completed the amazing VI design; Mr. Su Zhongqiu, Mr. Song Qun, Mr. Sun Mingyuan, Mr. Gong Chen, and Mr. Yu Hai participated in the planning of the museum; Mr. Liu Juntao and his team undertake the design and construction of the exhibitions of the museum. Every one of them has made important contributions to the establishment of the museum.

As curator of the museum, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the above-mentioned individuals, departments as well as all the colleagues and friends who I did not have the opportunity to mention, which is a great honor for me. In addition, I am grateful to one of my good friends and a famous designer, Mr. Chen Shaohua who came all the way here, to Mr. Tony Brown, a tenured professor of L'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts de Paris and famous artist, to all the guests present and people who could not be here, and to all the students and the faculty of Xi'an Eurasia University for your attention and support. Together, let's start and then complete a mission that goes back to the past and looks to the future!

Thank you all!

(Transcribed from the recording of the speech)