March 1, 2010

Book review: Symbols, Art, and Language from the Land of the Dragon: The Cultural History of 100 Chinese Characters (Ni Yibin)

This is one big (literally) beautiful book; one that belongs on a coffee table, not on a bookshelf.

In it, author and scholar Ni Yibin gives a brief history of Chinese calligraphy as a whole, in addition to a discussion of how the various characters in the language evolved and developed over time. Accompanied by lush illustrations and lavish photography, the book includes not only a textual and pictorial history of the various characters, but also axioms demonstrating its usage.

Covering four major topics (nature, mankind, objects and qualities), Symbols, Art, and Language from the Land of the Dragon spans a wide range of human and Chinese life. The text includes a chronology of dynasties and notable emperors, since various emperors influenced how a particular character evolved or remained as it was. Anyone interested in calligraphy or Chinese culture should add this to their collection.

From Duncan Baird Publishers and available from your local, independent bookseller. (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ’em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

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