"Book From The Sky"


Reader David Stone emails:

Dear Tian,

Thank you for producing your wonderful blog "Hanzismatter". I check it daily.

As someone who reads modern (simplified) Chinese, I am also annoyed and puzzled by people who chose to tattoo Chinese characters on their body without a clear understanding of what the characters mean or what they should look like. Americans like to laugh at people in China and Japan for wearing silly "Engrish" t-shirts and the like, but at least people there aren't stupid enough to tattoo the crap on their own living skin.


In order to end the ugly trend of embarrassing Chinese tattoos, I suggest that we look to Xu Bing, a graphic/fine artist from China and creator of "Tianshu" ("A Book From Heaven/Sky"). "Tianshu" is a piece of art consisting of thousands of faux "characters" that are made up of various elements of Chinese characters, but don't actually exist as part of the written language. Xu apparently created wooden block type for the characters by hand, and printed them is a manner suggesting ancient religious texts.


My proposal is that someone ask Xu Bing to make a catalogue of his fake characters available to the general western public. That way, people can just chose meaningless "characters" at random for their tattoos, allowing themselves to indulge in their stupid trend while sparing the rest of us who can read Chinese from knowing just how bad their judgment is.

I am, of course, being facetious... But it's kind of funny how this work of art relates to what appears on your blog regularly.

Here's a description of "
Tianshu" from an art dealer. Forgive me if I seem pedantic for describing something you are already familiar with.


Thanks for the amusing and interesting blog. Keep up the good work!

-David Stone

Personally I think Xu Bing's pieces are in the same realm as glossolalia (speaking in tongues). They maybe artistic and interesting for some; but to others, they are completely meaningless gibberish.


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