Literature

An elderly woman wearing a face mask practises water calligraphy on a pavement in Beijing on 27 April 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Chiang Hsun: The freed poet in rainy spring, by the Yangtze

Chiang Hsun writes about the third-best semi-cursive script by Song dynasty poet Su Shi in this third part of his series of articles on Chinese calligraphy. He reconstructs the circumstances of the calligrapher, who had just been released from prison and was sent to Huangzhou along the Yangtze river in a rainy spring. He muses that calligraphy is as truthful an artform as it gets. Its aesthetic qualities dictate that outpouring of emotions are captured in every brushstroke; the artist’s state of mind and the milieu of the times he depicts are laid bare for all to see.
Imperial painter, Emperor Kangxi in his casual outfit at his writing desk (《康熙帝便装写字像》), partial, The Palace Museum. (Internet)

Beautiful or outdated? The journey of Chinese characters through the ages

Cheng Pei-kai reflects on what a blessing it is that Chinese characters have evolved yet stayed intact through the years and writers can still use them to create works of literature that stir the heart, mind and soul. The fact that Chinese characters work auditory and visual muscles all at once have more than a little to do with it.
Yan Zhenqing, Ji Zhi Wen Gao (《祭侄文稿》, Eulogy for a Nephew), National Palace Museum. (Internet)

A eulogy, intimate memories and a flawed piece of calligraphy

Father-son relationships in traditional Chinese culture tend to be distant. Perhaps that is why Chiang Hsun remembers calligraphy lessons with his father as one of the most intimate moments they have shared. He goes on to study revered calligraphic works which are part of Chinese history, and finds in them precious moments of humanity expressed through the ink brush.
People wearing face masks sit outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in hopes of taking one of the first trains leaving the city early on 8 April 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Would Fang Fang’s English-translated Wuhan diary become ammunition for anti-Chinese forces?

Yang Danxu notes that netizens are making mountains out of molehills and imposing their judgements on others. She points out the danger of politicising issues to the point that no one feels free to even make innocuous comments about the weather.
A man wearing a face mask walks along a road in Beijing on 11 March 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Powerless, helpless and downtrodden: The state of Chinese literature in this pandemic

In today’s age where it seems that all great literature has been written, Yan Lianke has a modest wish for aspiring writers in China. He hopes that they will have the space to create works, unfettered by thoughts of going against the grain. He believes that creating a culture that allows for dissenting voices in literature is far more important and desperately needed than creating a single or a few accidental great literary works.