The Road from Taiwan

Maria Hsu Min Hui. Art and fraternity


A young Chinese artist, enrolled in the second year degree program in Culture of Unity, gives an evaluation of the first few months spent at Sophia.


Maria Hsu Min Hui, on the right, with a colleague during the annual Institute trip.


What road did you take from Taiwan to the IUS?


I had participated in a convention in Taipei and one of the professors invited to give a talk, was a teacher at Sophia: it was he who mentioned it to me for the first time. What he told me made me curious, as it was a moment in which I was meditating on future projects, both for work and for my artistic route. I was really looking for a place where, along with my studies, I could also go deeper into my religious experience. So, I readied the necessary papers to prepare for leaving, but, just prior to my departure, I was offered an unexpected job opportunity.  After a moment of uncertainty in which I searched myself deeply, I declined the offer and decided to risk taking a new road, a much more important one.


Here you are at Sophia, a thousand kilometers from your own country.


Italy is not such a strange place to me, not only because I studied in France for many years, but also because I had the experience of an eight month exchange at the Academy of Beautiful Arts in Turin. And then, before coming to Sophia, I studied ‘tuscan’ Italian in Siena.  I had also become accustomed to the food, seeing as in Taiwan they are an appreciated tendency...


Loppiano though, is an international place, and the challenge is that of coming to know not only the Italian culture but the others’ as well, getting used to exchanges and sharing.  It is a kind of capital that tries our ability to live in a multicultural environment.  And in this, there is nothing to be taken for granted.


For example, some concepts that in Europe represent fundamental principles and established values, in Taiwan and in the greater Chinese region they assume very diverse forms, the idea of  fraternity, which at Sophia is mentioned often as a founding reference, for me, it was almost unknown. Until, in time, I understood that living it is not like a style that you practice at, in the more restricted relationship of friendship, but rather, it calls us to a wider vision that makes us part of the search for a collective good, also among enemies; a rather easy concept to talk about, but not such an easy one to live.  Yet, through daily experience I understood what it means both factually, as well as culturally.


Another difficulty I found was in co-habitation: I had become accustomed to a certain indifference among people, with fast rhythms, and to a sort of ordinary situation of isolation with which I tended to identify myself. Upon arriving at Sophia, I had some difficulty in integrating: at a certain point I had gone into such crisis that I was thinking of returning home. I tried to speak about it with one of the students and with a teacher whom I felt was closer, who said to me: “When you will have found your bond with God in a more profound way, I think that your difficulties will vanish”. I started to seek God and thus made a few important discoveries; I found an authentic reciprocity, because I am not the only one seeking God, but God is waiting for me.


What were the consequences?


I can give you some examples. I have always been a perfectionist and, if I was not able to make my results meet my expectations, I had a tendency to complain and become saddened. But here I understood that through dialogue, before passing judgement, one can understand the others’ visions and learn to be humble in loving.  In China we have an expression, 越成熟的稻麥垂得越低, which means “the most mature laugh is lower down”.


Another observation: in Taiwan, the burden of study is generally very heavy for young people and we have very few possibilities to participate in religious activities and celebrations.  From this point of view as well, I appreciate life at Sophia also, where it is possible to reconcile spiritual experience with one’s daily living.


I think that my road to maturation owes much to Sophia. The meaning of gratuity I am learning about is something new, since until now I considered every relationship mostly as an exchange.  I have experienced it even when I went on vacation to visit my sister: I was surprised by how my own attitude had changed... I understood the importance of accepting my limits as also those of others, while up until yesterday I had breathed in mostly an exasperated competition.


How is your artistic experience proceeding?


My artistic formation has taught me that in order to realize anything one needs to feel passion and emotion, but today, I feel that this content is not enough for relationships.


I am collaborating with Centro Ave at the moment – one of the artistic centres in Loppiano – where I have edited a project along with other artists. I became aware that my opinion was often totally different from the others, but, for this very reason, it was a complementary one, because the diversity we experience among us is a gift to be used to open up other prospective.


It is certainly very demanding to abandon prejudices so as to welcome this new vision but there is an expression in the New Testament which, for me, is of constant support: «My power manifests itself fully in weakness» (2Cor 12,9).


It is clear that some of the study disciplines of the IUS, those I had not known about before, I do not find easy, but I often make use of my artistic sense to draw, gathering inspiration from the course’s contents and by what we are living, as recently happened on the occasion of Trinitarian theology lessons taken with  Piero Coda. This is one of the latest pieces of art:


"The Trinity": The figure of the Holy Spirit, as a dove, opens its wings to embrace the Father and the Son; the light of the Trinity, recalled by the triangular form, brings light and vital energy.


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