a tour of Ja­pan.

An ex­hi­bi­tion of writ­ing that goes back 3,000 years will tour Ja­pan through next year, Wang Kai­hao re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Apanoramic his­tory of Chi­nese writ­ing is head­ing east­ward. On Oct 18, the ex­hi­bi­tion Chi­nese Char­ac­ters: A Legacy and Mar­vel Per­fected Over Three Mil­len­nia will be­gin its one-year tour of Ja­pan. The show in­cludes 118 sets of cul­tural relics on the de­vel­op­ment and aes­thet­ics of writ­ten Chi­nese.

Th­ese trea­sures — 20 per­cent are clas­si­fied among China’s top-level cul­tural relics — cover a wide spec­trum. They in­clude in­scrip­tions on or­a­cle bones dat­ing back to the Shang Dy­nasty (16th11th cen­tury BC), epigraphs on bronze wares, stone rub­bings and cal­lig­ra­phy mas­ter­pieces.

The ex­hibits are on loan from 17 Chi­nese mu­se­ums in six prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The dis­play is to be first shown at Tokyo Fuji Art Mu­seum, and will later move to Ky­oto, Ni­igata, Miyagi and Gunma in a tour that con­tin­ues through Septem­ber 2017.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is de­signed in three parts: ori­gins of Chi­nese char­ac­ters, cal­lig­ra­phy works by renowned artists and their us­age in peo­ple’s daily lives, and the in­flu­ence of Chi­nese char­ac­ters on neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

“Chi­nese char­ac­ters com­prise a unique writ­ing sys­tem in the world, whose de­vel­op­ment has re­mained un­in­ter­rupted for 3,000 years,” says Wang Jun, direc­tor of Art Ex­hi­bi­tion China, the na­tional ad­min­is­tra­tion in charge of ex­change ex­hi­bi­tions be­tween China and other coun­tries.

“That en­ables or­di­nary Chi­nese peo­ple, even with­out pro­fes­sional train­ing, to rec­og­nize many char­ac­ters from thou­sands years ago, which is a mir­a­cle.”

He says many mile­stones in the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese char­ac­ters are to be jux­ta­posed in the ex­hi­bi­tion. A 2,300-year-old bronze­ware in­scribed with the ear­li­est Chi­nese duty-free certificate ever found, Ter­ra­cotta War­riors carved with words and pieces by top 13th-cen­tury cal­lig­ra­phy artists such as Zhao Mengfu as well as by Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) em­per­ors are among the high­lights.

A 7th-cen­tury gold slip with 63 char­ac­ters is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant ex­hibits. It was used for wor­ship by Wu Ze­tian (AD 624-705), the only fe­male ruler in im­pe­rial China, and is the only cul­tural relic ever found that be­longs to the leg­endary queen. The slip was once ex­hib­ited in Ja­pan a decade ago.

Why kick off the dis­play in Ja­pan? Hu Sishe, deputy direc­tor of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries, a co-or­ga­nizer of the event, points out that Chi­nese char­ac­ters are wit­ness to the cross­bor­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween China and Ja­pan through­out his­tory.

“The Chi­nese char­ac­ter is a com­mon cul­tural foun­da­tion for East Asian coun­tries,” Hu says. “Chi­nese and Ja­panese are the only two lan­guages that still use the writ­ing sys­tem. Con­se­quently, de­vel­op­ing stud­ies of Chi­nese char­ac­ters is a way to im­prove bilateral cul­tural ex­changes.”

For Ja­panese Si­nol­o­gist Tet­suji At­suji, a pro­fes­sor at Ky­oto Uni­ver­sity, the ex­hi­bi­tion has sig­nif­i­cance in his coun­try.

“There are many cul­tural relic ex­hi­bi­tions in Ja­pan show­ing the essence of Chi­nese cul­ture,” he says. “But none has ever par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on Chi­nese char­ac­ters, which give great im­pe­tus to the de­vel­op­ment of lit­er­a­ture, sci­ence and the fine arts in Ja­pan.”

“After World War II, there was a wave among many Asian coun­tries to aban­don Chi­nese char­ac­ters — which were con­sid­ered to be im­ped­i­ments to cir­cu­lat­ing in­for­ma­tion in a com­puter era,” the pro­fes­sor con­tin­ues.

He says the sta­tus of Chi­nese char­ac­ters in Ja­pan will con­tinue to be en­dan­gered if peo­ple can­not rec­og­nize them with a his­tor­i­cal point of view. “De­vel­op­ment of our fu­ture needs to rely on in­her­i­tance of tra­di­tions.”

He notes that a mu­seum ded­i­cated to Chi­nese char­ac­ters opened in Ky­oto in June and at­tracted 1,000 daily vis­i­tors on av­er­age through the sum­mer.

“Ja­panese peo­ple use Chi­nese char­ac­ters ev­ery day, and thus have huge cu­rios­ity about them due to their abun­dant con­no­ta­tions and rel­e­vant in­ter­est­ing anec­dotes. Nev­er­the­less, the pub­lic’s ca­pac­ity for ap­prais­ing char­ac­ters on cul­tural relics is lack­ing,” At­suji says.

“It’s rare to com­bine so many precious items to­gether,” says Wang from Art Ex­hi­bi­tion China, “so we are also con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of hold­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion around China after it re­turns from Ja­pan.”


Staff mem­bers from Art Ex­hi­bi­tion China pack the trea­sures in Bei­jing for the up­com­ing show Chi­ne­seChar­ac­ters:ALe­ga­cyandMarvelPer­fect­edOverThree­Mil­len­nia in Ja­pan. The ex­hibits in­clude Ter­ra­cotta War­riors carved with words and a 7th-cen­tury gold slip with 63 char­ac­ters.

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