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First I want to talk

about the Chinese writing system.
A writing system is not exactly
the same as calligraphy.

When we talk about
calligraphy, we are

talking about the art of
handwriting, the art of writing.

And what I want to do is first
introduce some basic aspects

about the Chinese writing system.
And then get into a little
bit of the discipline

of the practice of calligraphy.
And then that will, I think, get us
into my main theme, or main idea,

is that in Chinese
art-- and calligraphy

is the highest of the arts.
Well poetry, and then calligraphy.
But calligraphy.
And the visual arts is
the highest of the arts.

And then painting comes next.
Is that when we think
about art practice

now, or think about
art and image making,

we talk in terms of representations.
That the image is always
referring to something.

Referring to something
outside of it.

And the whole discourse
of art making-- certainly

teaching in an art school this is
the case-- a whole discourse of art

making assumes that
that's what art is about.

Whether we're talking
about abstraction,

or installation art,
performance art,

it's about referring
something to something

beyond what it is
you're seeing visually.

And I want to suggest that that's
not really necessarily the best way

to think about Chinese
calligraphy or Chinese painting.

That the real goal,
if there is a goal,

in the practice of
calligraphy traditionally

and the practice of
painting traditionally,

is that it's about participation.
The world is something
that we share.

The world is a
collaborative project.

Human being is a
collaborative project.

And that the real goal of
this discipline practice

of creating something
new is basically

the same sort of practice listed
out of the mundane world of say,

for example, farming.
One of the analogies
that I use in my classes,

the way that might
help us understand

the way I'm thinking about
the practice of calligraphy

and painting as fine arts
in China traditionally,

is it's like farming.
And what is the goal of farming?
Farming doesn't really
represent anything.

Farming's not directed to refer
to something outside of it.

Farming is about producing bounty.
And producing bounty
in the broadest sense.

Of fertility, of human
creativity, of having families,

of having nutrition,
of having bounty

so that families can
perpetuate themselves

and create the human
cycle in its relationship

with nature, in partnership
with nature anew.

So I'm thinking about
calligraphy and painting

as historically developing in
China as that kind of process.

So let's start out with
looking at a Chinese character.

This is the character xie, to write.
So this is the same
Chinese character,

but in several different forms.
And so in my new--
I'm getting better

at fancy PowerPoint presentations.
So you see these different
forms in the slide.

And they're all the
same Chinese character.

So the first one, at the top, our
sense is to try to go from the top

down in a kind of
chronological sequence.

And that's partially true here,
but it's not exactly true.

So some of these
characters, these styles

of writing the same character,
actually exist simultaneously.

And they certainly do so now.
So the first one, the oldest
one though, is at the top.

It comes to be called seal script.
And I'll give you the Chinese and
Mandarin pronunciation, zhuanshu.

And I'll show you some examples
of that and the sources for that.

It originates with Bronze Age China.
And Henry was talking about it this
morning and going back to 1600 BCE

and perhaps even earlier.
But a lot of the writing,
the earliest surviving

writing that we have in the
study of Chinese history,

dates from the Bronze Age.
These are inscriptions that were
carved in to bone fragments that

were used in divination ceremonies
by Shang dynasty royalty.

And some of them date to
1300 BCE and further back.

And also this style
of writing is also

used to write
inscriptions that are cast

into ceremonial bronze vessels.
Eventually I'll show
you why in a moment,

why it comes to be
called seal script.

So that's the earliest
form of Chinese writing.

In the Han Dynasty, a period roughly
about the same time as the Roman

republic and Roman Empire, 206
BCE to 220 in the common era.

The formal writing,
document writing,

is done in what comes to be
called lishu clerical script.

And so that's what you see here.
And this is close to what's down
here, which is the regular script.

Which is basically, you might
say, is a canonical standard form

for the writing of this character.
This is a kind of script that was
used early on for taking notes.

It's called cursive or draft script.
Sometimes you'll encounter it
in English sources translated

as grass script, because
the character [CHINESE]

sometimes also means grass.
But it also means
drafting or cursive.

So it's more appropriate to
call it a cursive script.

And so that's what you see here.
It also becomes a style of writing
that is picked up by calligraphers.

But it starts out as pretty much
a way of shorthand note taking.

And then something in between
called running script.

This is the standard
here, if you write

the standard in a slightly
more simplified form.

In a more fluid form, in a
little bit more shorthand form,

you get this running script.
And then finally down
here, a regular script,

kaishu, which is pretty much
the standard font or standard

form of writing of this character
that you'll see in publications.

Book fonts are based
upon this and so on.

The bottom, the last one here,
is a more modern concoction.

Aesthetically challenged
from my point of view.

It's called simplified
characters, jiantizi.

This is something that was
developed during the modern period,

driven by educational
reforms to help

some of these Chinese
characters, like this one has

a lot of brush strokes in it.
So it's a complicated thing
to learn how to write.

And so the idea is perhaps to
simplify the writing system.

To make it a little bit
easier for school children

to learn how to write.
So, the simplified characters.
Now the general cliche
about Chinese characters

is that they are pictographs.
And that's not really true.
I'm going to show you a couple
examples of pictographs,

or we call them pictographs.
That is to say, early
forms of writing that

are sort of a picture, simplified
pictures of the objects.

About 85% of Chinese
characters are not pictographs.

And I'll show you what the
bulk of Chinese characters, how

they're written and
what they look like.

But a number of them are
these kinds of pictures.

So this is a cart or
chariot wheeled vehicle.

Or as one person once said
to me, "wheeled conveyance."

And in Mandarin, pronounced che.
And so what you're looking
at here is, in this chart,

a series of different
versions of this character.

Which by the way,
are not necessarily

an evolutionary development
from an earlier form that

is more representational,
such as this one,

to something that's a
little bit more abstract.

Rather these are roughly
simultaneous during the Bronze Age.

So I give you this little
bit of dating here.

Bronze Age pictographs from
circa 13th century BCE.

So there's no
standardized written form.

This is actually one
of the contributions

of the first emperor of
China, Qin Shi Huang.

He is noted to have
standardized the writing system.

So you can see all
these variant forms.

And then down here is
the regular script form

that emerges out of
the early standard

and becomes later on the standard
form, an image of a chariot

or cart.
Many Chinese characters are
also graphs or visualization

of concepts.
And so here we have over
and under, shang and xia.

And from the Bronze
Age images, you see

this is a little form
with a short line above it

and the short line is below it.
To suggest graphically the
idea of above or underneath.

So sometimes those are called
ideographs, graphing out of ideas.

You can actually combine
characters to get

different characters by duplicating.
So we have two trees,
and you get forest.

We have three trees and
we get a thick forest.

And then also the meaning
is dark and serious.

Or combining two different
characters or two different,

in this particular
case, pictographs.

The sun, or some
entomologists identified this

as a window, but perhaps the sun.
And the crescent of
the moon, and they

get the Chinese character
for clear, brilliant, ming.

But the most common form
of Chinese characters

involves this sort of combination of
forms involving what linguists come

to call radical, radical
as in root meaning.

So this part that's
outlined here in pink

is basically the part, forms a
part of this column of characters

you see here.
And the radical gives you
some sense of the connotation.

It's a connotative part of
the character's meaning.

So we have this character
li, meaning strength.

Or this means hit,
[CHINESE], a cave, or silk.

Mu, tree.
And then shui, water.
So we can use that as a radical,
a root meaning of a form.

And we combine that with
what's called a phonetic, which

gives us a clue to
the pronunciation.

And during the course of the
history of the Chinese language,

the pronunciation of
these words has changed.

And so we'll see that in the
modern pronunciations following

what's called Mandarin Chinese.
The modern Mandarin
pronunciations have shifted.

So this is a character
in and of itself.

Gong, which means, one of
its meanings is to work.

But here in combination with the
radical to form a new character,

it's not really there completely
to have a connotative function.

But rather to give a clue
to the pronunciation.

So when we take this
phonetic, we put it here

in this particular
example on the left side.

We take the character
li for strength.

Put them together, and we have a new
character that's pronounced gong.

This is pronounced gong,
and so the character

is pronounced gung,
which means result.

It's gong as in kong fu.
Gong as in gong fu.
So the accomplishment in
martial arts through strength

and through discipline
practice and so on.

Now if we take the character
hit and combined it with gong,

we get gong, to attack.
Or if we take cave and we
put cave on top of gong,

we get empty or hollow.
For a couple of meanings.
But now it's pronounced in
Mandarin Chinese, kong or kung.

The pronunciation has shifted.
And then we have silk, perhaps
thinking of dyed red silk.

And so you get the
character meaning red, hong.

And now the pronunciation is
even further removed from gong.

Adding a tree, we get a
gung, which is a long pole

to carry goods on it,
hanging from the pole.

And then we have water,
which in this particular form

on the left side
turns into three dots.

And we have jiang.
And this means river.
So but this is basically 80%
to 85% of the Chinese writing

system, Chinese characters,
are of the sort.

So they're not really
in a sense pictographs.

The Chinese brush.
The way in which you
write is using this

implement that we call
in English the brush.

A student of mine, many years
ago, was studying calligraphy

with a very strict Chinese
calligraphy teacher who insisted,

he would get really angry if you
ever referred to these things

as a brush.
This is a brush, well what
do you do with a brush?

You brush your teeth.
You clean things with a brush.
This is a writing implement.
So we call it a pen.
So hence I put brush or pen.
These are different forms, different
sizes, different animal hair.

But basically a Chinese brush
is a bundle of animal hairs

that is glued in to a bamboo
tube which serves as a handle.

And actually I have
a diagram that will

show the different
parts of the brush tip.

You need ink.
So this is a typical ink stick.
Ink is basically carbon soot.
You can burn various kinds of resins
from trees and oils from trees,

and the smoke is
collected in a chimney.

And the soot is collected
from the chimney

and mixed with a glue binder.
And that turns the ink into a paste.
And the paste is
pressed into a mold.

And then the ink cake dries.
And then the ink comes in this
form, hard but light stick.

Or fancy 17th century ink cakes with
all sorts of imagery and designs

and auspicious signs on them for
the use of the Chinese emperor.

You need to reconstitute the ink,
so you have to grind the ink.

And this is an example
of an ink stone.

So you would put a
few drops of water,

perhaps in the deep
end of the ink stone.

And then you would
take your stick of ink

and then grind the ink stick
on the surface of the stone

in the water in a circular
fashion to reconstitute the ink,

to dissolve the ink into the water.
A calligraphy teacher
I had many years ago

said that you can
tell how patient you

are by how rich the
blacks are of your ink.

Of course a lot of
Chinese calligraphers

now use high quality ink
that comes in a bottle.

Or this is a really
fancy 18th century

imperial stone for
grinding your ink.

This is a modern one
that you can buy online.

Actually I stole this
picture from an online site.

Here's the brush tip.
All right.
So it consists of four parts.
Basically the hairs,
the animal hairs.

The various kinds of
animals hairs can be used.

It can be wolf hair,
horse hair, rabbit hair,

glued in to the open
end of a bamboo tube.

So the bamboo tube
becomes the handle.

The center part is called the core.
So that's the core.
And the core extends the
whole length of the tip.

And it can be of different
sorts of animal hairs.

Depending upon the
quality of the brush tip

you want, how flexible
you want it to be,

how pliable you want
it to be, you'll

choose different sorts of
hairs, combinations of hairs.

Also in some cases, you'll
actually wax the core

and get a little bit more
stiff kind of a resilience.

And then wrapped halfway
around the core is a mantle.

Another bundle of animal hairs.
It can be different
animal hairs or the same.

And then finally, the outer layer.
The outer layer goes the whole
length of the tip of the brush.

And there's a little space between
the mantle and the outer layer

which forms a kind of reservoir.
Now a really good
Chinese brush, when

it is loaded with
ink or pigment, will

come to a beautiful tip,
come to a nice point.

And when it's loaded, the
space between the mantle

and the outer layer will
serve as a kind of reservoir

so that the brush can
hold quite a bit of ink

and you can do quite a
bit of writing or painting

before you need to reload the brush.
And these brushes are not designed
in the Western oil painting

It involves a brush
that's fairly stiff

so that you can push around a paste.
Basically oil paints
are kind of paste-like.

And so the Western brush is
designed to be able to push paints.

You cannot push oil
paints with this.

You'll just mess things up.
This is a device that
is allowed to enable

you to control the flow of ink.
And that's really what
calligraphy and painting is about.

Controlling the flow of ink.
This is the proper Chinese
way of holding an ink brush.

The Japanese have a different
way of holding the brush.

This is the Chinese way
of holding the brush.

Many, many years ago when
I had the sort of fantasy

that I was going to
study calligraphy,

it's basically like studying
a musical instrument.

So if you decide
when you're an adult,

and you decide I'm going
to take up the violin .

Well at some point you realize that
might be a little too late for you.

Especially if you're planning
on a fine career as a soloist.

If you didn't start before
you're 12, forget it.

Well, I discovered calligraphy
is sort of working the same way.

And one of the teachers I had said,
well this is how she was taught.

Basically her teacher would put
a quail egg, a raw quail egg,

in the palm of my hand.
So you had to have enough tension
to hold this raw egg in your hand

while you're writing.
And at the same time not be so
tense that you crush the egg.

So then also, you
write horizontally.

So the paper is laid out on a table.
And the way you hold the brush is
you would sit, or you could stand,

but you don't rest your elbow
or your arm on the table.

Unless you're doing
really close fine work.

But basically you
have enough control

so that you can write like this.
So when you're
learning, you're seated.

She said her teacher
would put a book here.

So that you've got this quail
egg, she had this quail egg here

and she had this book here,
and she's trying to write.

And it sort of reminded me of
Catholic school experiences.

But then I had another
teacher who used

the method where
nothing was explained.

And I think this is
really important.

And it gets to a lot what
Henry is talking about,

about tradition, about learning,
about who you become, who you are.

About patterns of models
for your learning.

Say for example, a grandmother or
a parent or so on and so forth.

So this teacher, what he
did was, he took the brush.

There were three of us studying.
He took the brush, and he
didn't explain anything.

He took the brush and
he put it in your hand.

And then he formed your
fingers around the brush.

And then he held on to your hand,
dipped the brush tip in the ink,

and then on cheap paper we were just
doing the horizontal brush stroke.

And he would just
do several of them.

And he would go to the next student.
And he'd come back, grab you hand.
And he just kept going
around and around that way.

And then he'd sort of watch.
and he'd watch me do this,
you need more li, li, li.

Strength, strength, strength.
So this was a continuous
process of no explanation,

but direct hands-on transmission
of a whole rhythm of practice.

And that's really crucial to
understand what calligraphy

and what Chinese
painting are all about.

Is this extraordinary practice
in which you learn by modeling.

And then you habituate in yourself
this discipline and structure.

And then ultimately, as you
keep practicing over and over,

and you just get better
and better at it.

You might think of this in moral
terms, as a kind of moral practice.

Because actually what
does happen later

on in the history of
Chinese art is that there's

an almost ethical character,
an ethical imperative,

to the way in which you
practice and the appropriateness

about your practice as an artist.
OK so we have the implements, brush,
ink, ink stone, so on and so forth.

And then, when you're going
to write a Chinese character,

depending upon the style.
So we have seal script,
we have clerical script,

and we have regular script.
These are the eight
basic brush strokes

for writing the standard
form, kaishu, regular script.

If you're going to
learn how to write,

not talking about
calligraphy, just learning

how to write in the
regular script, kaishu,

these are the eight
brush strokes you use.

Use only these eight.
And use eight in these form.
You don't invent your
own, so to speak.

And each of the eight brush
strokes has its own rhythm,

it's own gesture, its own
performative practice.

So this is just one.
This is one of the
basic ones that you

learn when you're starting
to learn how to write.

It's a horizontal brush
stroke called a heng.

And this is an image I've
excerpted from another text, which

is excerpting a modern
Chinese calligraphy text.

Because this is not
a traditional way

of understanding the
practice of writing

or the practice of calligraphy.
They diagram it out to create a
grammar of the basic brush strokes.

That's kind of an appropriation
of a modern technique

of learning a kind of language.
You create a grammar, and the
grammar of these gestures.

So that's what all these-- within
the brush strokes, the circles,

the dots, and the arrows here
are this kind of grammar composed

by a modern Chinese calligrapher
who has published it in a textbook.

So how does this work?
So if we're going to do this
horizontal brush stroke,

it's not simply a matter of,
OK I've got ink in my brush,

I want to make this
brush stroke, It's

going to be this so I
just plop the brush down,

and then I just go across
and I lift the brush up.

When you watch somebody
writing, it looks like that.

But what actually goes into
that spontaneous gesture

is parsed out here in
a particular style.

This is also a particular style.
So we start off there.
That's where you begin.
And you notice there's
a little bit of a hook

there, because the initial movement
you make with the brush tip

is actually at an angle.
So you go up and you go down.
And that's what this is.
You're actually going up
and you're coming back down.

And in this particular style you're
coming down with a slight curve,

and so you get this
curved edge here.

And so you're making, as you come
down, a counterclockwise motion.

The double circle here means stop.
Come to a brief full stop.
And push downward pressure,
put downward pressure

on the tip of the brush, which
releases the flow of ink.

And so you get this nice bulge here.
But you pause because you
are making a transition.

The pause is a moment
of readjustment.

It's a nanosecond,
this instant, where

you are readjusting because you're
going from one direction, one

rhythm and tempo, to another one.
So after you make
your pause, you are

going to draw the tip
of the brush stroke.

And so the arrow there indicates
the pattern and the direction

of the tip of the brush
following the handle.

So the tip of the brush actually
moves up at a slight curving angle.

If you see this pattern.
And then when you get
to the middle, you'll

notice the middle a slightly thinner
than the ends of the brush strokes.

Because as you're moving the tip
of the brush towards the center,

you're also slowly lifting
up the tip of the brush,

releasing pressure, withdrawing
the flow of ink so it gets thinner.

And then when you get to
what should be the middle,

you start to put
downward pressure back

on it, increasing the flow of ink.
And then the brush stroke
starts to get thicker.

But then as we approach the end,
we have to prepare for the end,

so this circle means a hesitation.
Not necessarily a double circle
full stop, but a hesitation as you

prepare yourself for
another transition.

And the transitions
are really important.

So we're going to be changing
direction, changing rhythm,

changing our tempo.
So this is getting ready.
And then the black dot
here tells us stop.

Because we're going to make a
90, eventually 180 degree shift.

So it means stop.
It also means put downward
pressure on the tip of the brush,

allowing ink to flow so you get
this nice thick bulge again.

And now we are going to pull
down with the tip of the brush.

We're going to come to another
stop here at the circle.

We're also making a clockwise
change of direction.

So we start off at this
end, the beginning end,

and we are actually
moving counterclockwise.

When we come to the end here, we're
actually going to go clockwise.

A complementary reversal.
So this last white
circle means stop.

And it also means put downward
pressure on the tip of the brush.

And you allow the ink to flow
and we this nice bulge here.

And then to finish, you
slowly pull the brush tip

back in towards the center
and then you pull up,

so you lift the brush tip off of
the paper, or off of the silk.

That's how you do the heng
in this particular style.

And so you could practice that
over and over and over again.

And this teacher I had would
never explain anything.

He'd just hold your hand and you
keep doing it and keep doing it

until you master this whole pattern.
All right, now if that
isn't enough, you've

got the eight basic brush strokes.
Each brush stroke has its own
gesture, or world of gestures.

Then you're going to
write a character.

So each character has its own
order of the brush strokes.

So you can't write the character
in any particular fashion you want.

So this particular character
up here, yong, forever.

Start there.
One, two, three, four, five.
That's it.
Always that way.
And if you're learning this,
it becomes part of your rhythm.

And so, I'm not native to
this, having studied Chinese,

I can look at these instantly and
tell you how many brush strokes

and tell you where you start
and that sort of thing.

And sometimes you forget.
Somebody will say,
how do you write that?

And you can't quite remember.
The interesting thing
is, I've noticed

the Chinese do this, as
well as those of us who

are students of Chinese, you
start to move your hands.

Do you visualize it?
No, no, no.
You start moving your hands.
And you hope basically that the
muscle memory is going to kick in

and you remember the
rest of the strokes.

That's how it works.
And if you're lucky,
it works that way.

And I've had the
gratifying experience

of having well-educated
graduate school studied

Chinese who will forget.
They've been in this
country a little too long.

Well how do you write that?
And they'll start.
They can't remember, and
then I feel really good.

I don't feel like such a dummy.
All right.
So some of the different forms.
Let me quickly show you
some different examples

of different ways
of writing Chinese.

This is the Bronze Age inscription.
So this is actually an ink rubbing
with a modern transcription

of the Chinese characters.
And so we can actually date
this particular inscription

to the basically the week after the
Zhou dynasty conquest of the Shang.

That's basically pretty
much what it says here.

And so it's circa 11th
century BCE, in the middle

of the 11th century BCE.
And this is the vessel from
which this inscription was taken.

And it's a commemorative
kind of inscription.

And so that's what the Bronze
Age writing looked like.

That becomes seal script.
This is actually what's
called the Yishan tablet.

And if you're an art historian,
this is really typical.

Standardization of the
characters, the writing system

by the first emperor of
China, Qin Shi Huang Ti.

But it's an ink rubbing
of a 10th century stone

tablet, which is a copy of
a third century BC original.

But in any case,
this is thought to be

an example of what happens
to that Bronze Age writing.

Which you can see now
is very tidily done.

The character sit in
nice squares, they're

organized along tidy
columns and rows.

And this is thought to be
what the regularization,

the early standardization, of the
Chinese writing system looked like.

Here's an example of a 14th
century calligrapher and painter,

Zhao Mengfu, writing a
title page for a scroll.

It's a record of a temple.
And Zhao Mengfu is the
name of the artist.

And so this form of
writing continues

on as a particularly informal
writing for title pages,

for tablet inscriptions, the
names of tablets and so on.

The grid that you see here is
also an aspect of it's formality.

Then this sort of writing,
this style of writing,

is used for imperial documents.
And carved into seals
for imperial documents.

And so this, until
the modern period,

is still the style
of Chinese writing

that is used for official
government documents.

Artists will now
carve their own seals

using this particular
style of writing.

There are also now
computer programs.

If you want to have a seal made,
you just put in the characters

and the computer program
will generate the pattern.

Which is then plugged into a
machine that grinds it out.

This is an example of 14th
century Zhao Mengfu's seals.

These are excerpted from
pieces of calligraphy

and some paintings done by him.
And they're basically his name.
You'll see seals on
some of the paintings

and examples of calligraphy
that I show you.

These are marks of ownership.
They are basically the
signatures of artists.

Collectors in later
generations who own something

will oftentimes put their seals.
When a piece enters into
the Imperial collection,

the emperor will put seals on it.
So they do mark ownership.
But beyond marking ownership, I
see them as signs of participation.

A work of art is always
a living work of art.

That is to say, it is an
occasion, in a sense triggered

by the work of the
artist, that can carry on.

Occasionally can carry on for
generations in which others,

through the practice of viewing
and the practice of writing

inscriptions and adding
seals, they can add to it.

They can consider
themselves as participants

in the affirmation, reaffirmation,
and the creation anew

of something that is alive.
A living tradition.
The regular script.
So some examples of regular script.
Here's a 7th century
example in an ink rubbing

from the Tang Dynasty.
[CHINESE] dynasty.

So this is a little
bit more what one

would recognize as the typical
Chinese, standard Chinese writing.

And I just wanted to show
you this in comparison

with this example
from the 8th century.

And so we have really
different approaches.

And I'm showing you this to give
you a dramatic visual sense that,

well given that you have all
this mastery of patterns.

The eight brush strokes, the
individual brush strokes,

the stroke order and
number, that there

is plenty of room for variety.
If you look at people's
signatures, they are all different.

Just as different as ours are.
So if we go back.
Look at that very fine,
thing, elegant lines.

Different sense of proportions.
And then [CHINESE], really known
for his really blunt straightforward

unmannered kind of approach.
And then in later times,
in the Song dynasty,

they upheld [CHINESE] as a kind
of Confucian martyr and hero.

And they would say that that
shows up in his calligraphy.

Cursive script.
I'm showing you a particularly
dramatic form of cursive script.

Sometimes called
wild cursive script,

that is thought to be by an 8th
century monk, Buddhist monk.

Although the authenticity
is open to some debate.

But he's known to prefer to write
when he's a little inebriated.

And there's some idea of that here.
It is legible.
Not by me.
Just to give you an example.
One of the ways in which calligraphy
is preserved and transmitted

is through engraving on stones.
A lot of the famous pieces
that I showed, as you can see,

are preserved in stone
engravings and are

transmitted by making ink rubbings.
And this goes back for
centuries in Chinese history.

And so one wonders, how
accurate can a stone engraving

be of something that
is so fluently written?

Well here's an example.
This is actually from that eighth
century example by Huai Su.

And then here's an ink
rubbing from a stone

engraving after the original.
And that's pretty good.
We don't have time to
do this comparison,

but I just wanted to point out
that there are a lot of copies.

There are tracing copies
of original pieces.

The sort of outline tracing
and then you fill in.

There are also free hand copies.
Copies are not necessarily
intended to be forgeries or fakes.

Sometimes they are, but
oftentimes they're not.

Quite often they're
pedagogical exercises.

I'm often asked, in the context
of Chinese traditional painting,

isn't it the goal of the artist
to imitate the old masters

and you copy the old masters.
And I say, well no.
That's not really the goal.
In fact the Chinese
art writers would

say that's not what
you're supposed to do.

The whole point, if we want to
use the modern word traditional.

The whole point of being traditional
is you have to see something new.

That's what it means
to be traditional,

is you're always
seeing something new.

I'll talk about that
a little bit more.

So this is actually a rare
freehand copy of this.

So this is actually the original.
I do this in classes
and it's a lot of fun

because students, art students,
they go in to this debate.

And a lot of them, we do
a straw poll, most of them

go for this one as the original.
Because look at this
stroke, look at that stroke.

So it's a measure of quality
and so on and so forth.

But then there are usually,
almost always, no I'd say always.

Every time I've done
this comparison in class,

there are two or three students who
say, you know, that may well be.

But when I look at
the overall and I look

at the relationship
of the brush strokes.

This is better.
The rest of the class, is this
Huang Tingjian, 11th century?

Oh yes.
And then three students stick
to their guns and say that's it.

And then the three
students are vindicated.

Because they say, well
this is the original.

That's the original.
And this is a detail here.
When you actually see the
context, things start to change.

In fact when I show this
slide in relationship

to this one, then the rest of the
class, they can see the difference.

They say, oh now it
makes more sense.

When you abstract something
out, it doesn't make any sense.

Everything is alive in this context.
Everything is somehow
interdependently related

to each other.
And that's really the idea here.
First of all, it historically
involves 11th century

tastes and such, but it's really the
reason why this is Huang Tingjian

is, what's the difference?
This is flat, lifeless.
If you look at this
combination of three

brush strokes, one, two, three.
And this guy's no
slouch, by the way.

Freehand copy.
This is a really skillful hand.
But there is no real energy
between and among the strokes.

When you look here there
is something alive in them.

And also between the
characters, nice even spacing

that pretty much isolates them.
But the whole point is that
everything is connected together.

And the most important
part of the brush work

is what's in between the brush work.
The real life of brush work is the
relationship among the brush work.

The space in between
has to be full of life.

And so the goal that's often
stated in almost cliched fashion

is that, you want this
chi, you want this energy,

you want this vitality in your work.
But the vitality
ultimately is not some sort

of abstract, external,
spiritual, cosmic energy

that is informing this that
you're trying to refer to,

or you're trying to capture.
You live it out.
You're practicing it.
And so the idea is
that to get to this,

is that it happens
because you are living it.

And so that the rhythm
of the brush becomes

really crucial in your
practice because it

is the actual rhythm of
your momentary performance.

And in that momentary
performance, you

are actually living
yourself out as a human

being connected with
other human beings.

And you do that in the writing
system and in calligraphy

because you are
mastering a rhythm that

is shared by you, and your teachers,
and your teachers' teachers.

And by the way, it's not just
the genealogy of masters.

It's also the families and
the friends of those masters.

Their mastery is also part of their
life as human beings connected

with their own
families, their clans,

with members of their community.
That's their rhythm.
And so when you are studying with
a master, such as this teacher who

just held our hands,
that's what you're

getting on a very fundamental level.
That becomes part of who you are.
So if I had continued to study
with this man, who by the way

is a specialist in [CHINESE]
at Taiwan National University,

he would have become quite
literally part of me.

Because who I am is a performance.
As a human being, I'm an event
connected with all the other events

of the world, other
human beings as events.

And that's natural.
There's no-- as Henry
was talking about,

no autonomous free individuals.
Were all sort of interconnected.
And so there's no pure me that
is separable from the rhythms

of others.
So I become who I am
by virtue of inhabiting

the rhythm of my teacher.
Now proceeding on, let's move in
to the modern period a little bit.

Calligraphy and writing, in the
contemporary realm in China,

the Chinese are concerned--
and I have some other paintings

after I talk about landscape
painting-- the Chinese are

concerned with lots of issues.
The relationship of the present to
the past, the relationship of China

to the global world, what's going on
in China with the rapid commercial

acceleration and development
and all that sort of thing.

I just want to show you an artist
who, this is his name, Xu Bing.

He gained a great deal of notoriety
in the late '80's in China

as one of the experimental
avant Garde artists.

He eventually left China.
He works out of New York.
You see his pictures, he's got
long hair and he wears black.

He is the perfect sort of urbane
New York art culture and art scene.

And this is a work
that I'm going to show

you is, he's become
really famous for.

That was done in 1988 in
China, for a Chinese audience.

Not really thinking
about that this is

going to be an internationally
renowned piece.

And it has.
And it's still something
that is identified with him.

And it still has showings.
Which is unusual in the
realm of contemporary art.

I'm not sure that's a good thing.
There's a bit of a
double standard nowadays

in the realm of contemporary art.
If you are doing the same thing
you were doing five years ago,

you're not advancing, you're not
changing, you're not growing.

And so for the most part, you don't
show the same work over and over

Certainly not a work
that dates to 1988.

Well this installation
still gets shows.

That's another story altogether.
But anyway, Xu Bing,
working out of New York.

This is called Book From the Sky.
The name Tianshu has all
kinds of other meanings.

I'll get to that in a moment.
This is an installation
that I believe

is the Elvehjem Museum in the
University of Wisconsin Madison.

And it involves three
different kinds of text.

And he grew up with educated
parents, both of his parents

were struggled against during
the Cultural Revolution.

He tells a story about
standing on the street side

with a friend of his and
watching in the distance

some man being
struggled against, only

to discover that it was his father.
His parents were intellectuals.
He grew up in a world of books.
He learns calligraphy.
He read a great deal.
And his art training
was as a calligrapher,

ultimately printmaking.
He studied printmaking.
But from the time
he was young, he was

interested in books
and print culture.

So in this pieces he
is looking at writing

and he is looking at printed
media in three different forms.

On the bottom, as you
see in this installation.

And this is actually an example
of it, a smaller example of it,

that was set up in the Sackler
Museum in Washington, DC

a few years ago.
Let me go back to the large one.
We have books here,
which are hand sewn bound

books, following
traditional Chinese style.

And the printed font also follows
a Song Dynasty printed font style.

The cover of the books
you'll see are blue,

which actually refers
to texts primarily

that are philosophical texts.
Then we has several
of these in rows,

several rows, hundreds of them.
Hanging from the ceiling are
references to scroll texts.

Which generally have associations
with Buddhist texts and scriptures.

But he has them draped, extended
and draped from the ceiling.

And then on the wall, more
recent kind of reference to wall

mounted text.
Text, for example, like
newspapers that we posted on walls

so that the neighborhood
can read them

without subscribing
and buying a newspaper.

Many people couldn't afford to.
Perhaps even a reference
politically to the democracy wall.

Some have suggested that.
But anyway, a wall text.
So three different
forms of printed text.

The installation at the
Sackler in Washington, DC

did not include the wall texts.
It was a smaller space.
So he has the books on the
floor on a wooden platform.

And then the scroll texts
hanging from the ceiling.

Here's another view of it.
Here's a good view of what one
of the open books look like.

These are beautiful boxes.
I've always wanted one.
But if you've got $10,000 nowadays.
He's a big deal.
So at least $10,000 just to buy one.
So forget it.
It's probably more expensive now.
Anyway so it's in Chinese
style, so what would be for us

the back end is opened up, but
this is actually the title page.

They're beautifully done.
And this is a detail
from this kind of text.

But what's interesting about this is
to actually, for me, watch Chinese.

For, example, in the Sackler
Museum, the Chinese would go there

and they look at this thing
and they would puzzle over it.

Because the Chinese
can't read this either.

The context for this
piece really was China.

Because the moment of realization
happens if you can read Chinese.

Only to realize that you can't
read anything that he's published.

But if you don't read Chinese,
well you can't read it anyway.

And you don't know.
But what he does is, he takes
the whole, the sort of inherent,

the disciplined structure
of the practice of writing

and the making of
Chinese characters.

And he sort of empties them
of their standard meaning.

But there's some of them are funny.
This is three people
chasing a mouth.

And these are four selves.
And so he invented several thousand
non-existent Chinese characters.

Although somebody went through
the painstaking research

to find that there are actually two,
at least two inadvertent characters

that do sort of exist.
I thought why would
somebody want to go

through that painstaking
research to just discover that.

Anyway, so here he is at work,
inventing fake Chinese characters.

I heard him give a
talk on this piece.

What was it like?
You working all by
yourself in the late '80s.

Because actually when he redid
the piece in the early '90s

in Wisconsin, he had assistants.
And they redid the additions
and all that sort of thing.

But he was just by himself.
He said, I found it very relaxing.