This week U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Estate Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California. The estate was the winter home of Ambassador Walter and Leonore Annenberg and has recently been re-established as a retreat for high-level meetings such as this one.
What will the two leaders talk about? The press suggests that cyber security will be high on the list of topics, as well as global international hot spots. But before the two men get to those subjects, they will no doubt spend time admiring the beauty of the estate, its gardens, and the numerous works of art that the Annenbergs had collected over the years.
They might admire the Annenbergs’ collection of Chinese porcelain. See an example here. View a museum quality porcelain plate from the Tang dynasty and learn how the Chinese artisans made porcelain that was copied worldwide but never equaled in our online resource Art Through Time: A Global View.
No doubt Presidents Obama and Xi will discuss global as well as domestic economic matters. In discussions of this sort it is helpful to have a grasp of similar issues both countries face. The Power of Place: Geography for the 21st Century provides a case study of two Chinese cities on the physical and cultural frontiers of the country: Lanzhou and Shenyang. This case study turns up familiar themes from cities in transition — an influx of foreigners, urbanization, and industrialization.
When it is time to relax, the leaders might enjoy watching the antics of a classic and beloved Chinese cultural figure: the Monkey King, depicted in the tale Journey to the West, which was regarded in China as one of the great masterpieces of its era, according to Harvard Professor of Comparative Literature David Damrosch. They can watch a video on the work that is part of the series Invitation to World Literature and hear from some of the foremost scholars and artists on the story’s longevity and influence through the ages.
Since security will be tight at the meeting, you can visit Learner.org and immerse yourself in Chinese art, literature, and geography and savor the parts of the historic meeting that didn’t make the headlines.