UCB Libraries

Library Exhibit

 

  • Introduction
  • Images (part1)
  • Images (part2)
  • References

Wandering in the World of Chinese Characters
through Spring 2012

 

Chinese characters, 漢字 (hanzi or kanji) have been used continuously in Chinese, Japanese and other Asian writing for more than 3000 years, and they have captured the world’s interest for their distinctive pictographic and expressive qualities as well as unique and formal beauty.  This exhibit traces the history of early writing in China and Japan. The characters were systemized in China and then introduced into the Japanese writing system and adapted. They evolved into well-developed styles of calligraphy in both China and Japan.

 

Wandering in the World of Chinese Characters

The earliest examples of ancient Chinese script are bone and bronze inscriptions created during the 14th century BCE. Since then, Chinese characters have been used continuously, although various writing styles have been practiced. The different styles developed in part given the kinds of writing materials available, including tortoise shell, bronze, steel, stone, bamboo, wood, silk and paper. Invented during the 2nd century, the use of paper became widespread during the following centuries.

 

Chinese characters, with their unique formal beauty, developed into a widely practiced and revered art form. Calligraphy was blended into landscape portraits and scrolls, paintings, poetic and religious texts, where the beauty of different writing styles has always been a virtue much appreciated.

 

Japan’s contacts and cultural connection to China date back to the Han Dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE). Objects such as bronze mirrors and iron swords, inscribed with Chinese characters, show that Japan had some acquaintance with Chinese writing during that time.  However, as the earliest Japanese historical chronicles record, it was not until the 5th century CE that the Chinese writing system,  introduced to Japan by a Korean scholar, was formally adopted in Japan. 


Initially, Japanese scribes wrote in a purely Chinese style, but in the Heian period (794-1185) Chinese characters were adapted in ways that made it possible to represent Japanese language patterns through the use of two syllabic systems, hiragana and katakana.  Some of the earliest masterpieces of Japanese literature were written in hiragana during this period, including The Tale of Genji.  As in China, nobles, scholars, priests, poets, and painters elevated Chinese characters to art in magnificent calligraphic works.  


The East Asian collection contains a wealth of sources for the study of Chinese and Japanese language, literature, history, religion and culture. This exhibit is but a sample of the kinds of materials and themes covered by the library’s collections. The topic of Chinese characters was selected not only because it illustrates well the depth, breadth, and richness of the library's East Asian collection, but also because of the significant and interesting interactions between the Chinese and Japanese cultures through Chinese characters.

 

This display, created with funding from the Center for Asian Studies and the University Librarys, is offered in conjunction with the Center for Humanities and the Arts 2011-2011 "China" theme.

 

exhibitlocation

The exhibit is located on the first level of Norlin library ajacent to the southeast study area.

Wandering in the World of Chinese Characters
through Spring 2012

 

china1achina1b

Oracle Bone Inscription about Sacrificial Hunting
engraving on both sides of an ox shoulder blade
Late Shang dynasty (ca. 17th to 11th centuries B.C.E.)
(Image from Zhongguo she hui ke xue yuan Li shi yan jiu suo and Guo, Jia gu wen he ji.)

China2aChina2bChina2c

King’s Instructions and Bestowal on Yu 大盂鼎铭
inscription on a bronze tripod
Early Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1064-771 B.C.E.)
(Images from Zhongguo qing tong qi juan ji bian ji wei yuan hui, Zhongguo qing tong qi quan ji.
Zhongguo she hui ke xue yuan Kao gu yan jiu suo , Yin zhou jin wen ji cheng.)

china3

Inscription on King Gou Jian’s Sword 越王勾践剑铭
inscription on a bronze sword
Late Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

China4aChina4b

Pact of Alliance at Houma 侯马盟书
written with brush on stone slabs
Late Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.)
(Image from Zhang, Tao, Zhang, and Shanxi Sheng wen wu gong zuo wei yuan hui, Houma meng shu.)

china5

Tax-Exempt Transport Permits for Lord Qi鄂君启节
gilded inscriptions on bronze
Middle Warring States period (475-221 B.C.E.)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

China6aChina6b

Script on Bamboo tablets from Guodian郭店竹简
ink on bamboo slips
Middle Warring States period (475-221 B.C.E.)
(Image from Jingmen Shi bo wu guan, Guodian chu mu zhu jian.)

china7

Tiger Tally for Commanders虎符
bronze inscription
Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.E.)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

china8

Classic of Way and Virtue—the second version《老子》乙本
writing in ink on silk
Western Han dynasty(206 B.C.E.-25 A.D.)
(Image from Chen, Mawangdui bo shu yi shu.)

China9

Inscriptions on Lacquered Paintings in Sima Jinlong’s Tomb司马金龙墓漆画题字
ink on lacquer-painted wooden boards
Southern dynasties (420-589)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

china10

Epitaph for Wang Ji 王基残碑
ink rubbing of a stele inscription
Three Kingdoms (220-265)
(Image from Beijing tu shu guan Jin shi zu, Beijing tu shu guan cang zhongguo li dai shi ke ta ben hui bian.)

Japan1Japan2

Gold seal and impression of seal

Given by Chinese Emperor Guang-wu to the Japanese envoy to China in 57 A.D.
(Image from Smith, Japan: A History in Art. )

China11

Li Longji 李隆基(Tang Emperor Xuanzong), Eulogy for Mount Tai纪泰山铭
engraving on cliff
Tang dynasty (618-907)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

Japan3

Scene from the E inga kyo (Sutra of cause and effect)
Nara period (710-794)
(Image from Kameda, E Ingakyō)

China13

Yan Zhenqing 颜真卿, Eulogy for a Nephew祭侄文稿
running script
Tang dynasty (618-907)
(Image from Gu gong bo wu yuan (China), Yang, Yang and Shan, Gu gong wen wu da dian.)

Wandering in the World of Chinese Characters
through Spring 2012

 

China12

Tang-era ink tracing on Wang Xizhi王羲之, Deploring the Death of My Aunt 姨母帖
running-standard script
Tang dynasty (618-907)
(Image from Jiangsu Sheng mei shu guan, ed., Liu chao yi shu.)

Japan9

Text from the Shinkokin wakashu, calligraphy by Hon’ami Koetsu
Momoyama period (1573-1603)
(Image from) Boudonnant and Kushizaki, Traces of the Brush: The Art of Japanese Calligraphy

china14a Zhao Ji 赵佶 (Song Emperor Huizong), Thousand-Character Essay千字文
standard script
North Song dynasty (960-1127)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)
china14b Zhao Mengfu赵孟頫, Thousand-Character Essay in Six Types of Script 六体千字文
from right to left: great-seal, small-seal, clerical, draft cursive, standard, and cursive
Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)
china14c
Yu He 俞和, Thousand-Character Essay千字文
from right to left: seal, clerical
Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)
(Image from Gu gong bo wu yuan (China), Yang, Yang and Shan, Gu gong wen wu da dian.)
china14d Zhang Bi 张弼,Thousand-Character Essay千字文
cursive script
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
(Image from Gu gong bo wu yuan (China), Yang, Yang and Shan, Gu gong wen wu da dian.)
china14e
Shen Can 沈粲, Thousand-Character Essay千字文
cursive script
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
(Image from Zhongguo mei shu quan ji bian ji wei yuan hui, Zhongguo mei shu quan ji.)

china14f

 


Xu Shuang 徐霜,Thousand-Character Essay千字文
clerical script
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
(Image from Zhongguo mei shu quan ji bian ji wei yuan hui, Zhongguo mei shu quan ji.)

Japan8

Visit to the Ise Shrine, Illustrations of the Tales of Ise

ink and color on painted poem sheet.
Edo period (1603-1868)
(Image from Shimizu, Masters of Japanese Calligraphy, 8th-19th century.)

Japan4

Section of the Lotus Sutra
Handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll, ink on paper.
Heian period (794-1185)
(Image from Murase, The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvia Barnet and William Burto Collection.)

Japan7

Section of a handscroll

ink and light colors on paper.
Muromachi period (1333-1568)
(Image from Murase, The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvia Barnet and William Burto collection.)

Japan6

Section of the Lotus Sutra
calligraphy on fan shaped leaves linked together in sections, ink, gold and silver on paper.
Heian period (794-1185)
(Image from) Murasaki, Le dit du Genji

china18

Zhao Ji 赵佶 (Song Emperor Huizong), Round Fan with a Couplet in Cursive Script 草书团扇
North Song dynasty (960-1127)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

china19

Wu Cheng’en吴承恩, poem on a folding fun 七言律诗
running script
Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
(Image from Zhongguo mei shu quan ji bian ji wei yuan hui, Zhongguo mei shu quan ji.)

china16

Ni Zan倪赞, Poem on a Painting of Pine Trees幽涧寒松图
standard script
Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)
(Image from Gu gong bo wu yuan (China), Yang, Yang and Shan, Gu gong wen wu da dian.)

china15

Wang Mian王冕, Poem for Dark Plum Flowers墨梅图题诗
standard script
Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)
(Image from Gu gong bo wu yuan (China), Yang, Yang and Shan, Gu gong wen wu da dian.)

Japan11

Seven Imperial poems

ink on paper, decorated with colored dyes.
Late Muromachi, Early Edo period (15th-17th centuries).
(Image from Hirabayashi, Twelve Centuries of Japanese Art from the Imperial Collections.)

Japan10

Daruma

hanging scroll, ink on paper.
Edo period (1603-1868)
(Image from) Murase, The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvia Barnet and William Burto Collection.

china17

Jin Nong 金农, Colophon for Painting of the Buddha beneath the Tree 龙巢树下佛像题记 clerical script
Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
(Image from Ouyang and Wang, Chinese Calligraphy.)

Wandering in the World of Chinese Characters
through Spring 2012

 

References to Chinese images

 

Beijing tu shu guan Jin shi zu 北京图书馆金石组, ed. Beijing tu shu guan cang zhongguo li dai shi ke ta ben hui bian 北京图书馆藏中国历代石刻拓本汇编. Zhengzhou Shi: Zhongzhou gu ji chu ban she: Zhong hua shu ju du zhe fu wu bu fa xing, 1989.


Chen, Songchang 陈松长, ed. Mawangdui bo shu yi shu 马王堆帛书艺术. Shanghai: Shanghai shu dian, 1996.


Gu gong bo wu yuan (China) 故宫博物院, Boda Yang杨伯达, Xin Yang杨新, and Guoqiang Shan单国强, ed. Gu gong wen wu da dian 故宫文物大典. Fuzhou: Fujian ren min chu ban she, 1994.


Jiangsu Sheng mei shu guan 江苏省美术馆, ed. Liu chao yi shu 六朝艺术. Nanjing: Jiangsu mei shu chu ban she, 1996.


Jingmen Shi bo wu guan 荊门市博物馆, ed. Guodian chu mu zhu jian 郭店楚墓竹简. Beijing: Wen wu chu ban she, 1998.


Ouyang, Zhongshi and Youfen Wang. Chinese calligraphy. New Haven; Beijing: Yale University Press; Foreign Languages Press, 2008.


Zhang, Han 张颔, Zhenggang Tao陶正刚, Shouzhong Zhang张守中, and Shanxi Sheng wen wu gong zuo wei yuan hui 山西省文物工作委员会, ed. Houma meng shu 侯马盟书. Taiyuan: Shanxi gu ji chu ban she, 2006.


Zhongguo mei shu quan ji bian ji wei yuan hui 中国美术全集编辑委员会, ed. Zhongguo mei shu quan ji 中国美术全集. Beijing: Ren min mei shu chu ban she, 2006.


Zhongguo qing tong qi juan ji bian ji wei yuan hui 中国青铜器全集编辑委员会, ed. Zhongguo qing tong qi quan ji 中国青铜器全集. Beijing: Wen wu chu ban she, 1900.


Zhongguo she hui ke xue yuan. Kao gu yan jiu suo 中国社会科学院考古研究所, ed. Yin zhou jin wen ji cheng 殷周金文集成. Peking: Zhong hua shu ju ying yin, 1984.


Zhongguo she hui ke xue yuan. Li shi yan jiu suo 中国社会科学院历史研究所 and Moruo Guo郭沫若, ed. Jia gu wen he ji 甲骨文合集. Shanghai 上海: Zhonghua shu ju 中华书局, 1978-1983.

 

References to Japanese images

 

Boudonnat, Louise and Kushizaki, Harumi . Traces of the brush: The art of Japanese calligraphy. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2003.


Hirabayashi, Moritoku. Twelve centuries of Japanese art from the Imperial Collections. Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.


Hempel, Rose. The golden age of Japan, 794-1192. New York: Rizzoli, 1983.


Kameda, Tsutomu. E ingakyō. Tōkyō: Kadokawa Shoten, 1969.


Murasaki Shikibu. Le dit du Genji. Contes et dits du Moyen Age. [Paris]: Publications orientalistes de France, 1978.


Murase, Miyeko. The written image: Japanese calligraphy and painting from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.


Shimizu, Yoshiaki. Masters of Japanese calligraphy: 8th-19th Century. New York: Asia Society Galleries, 1984.


Smith, Bradley. Japan: a history in art. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.