Chapter 3: THE ASIAN CONTRIBUTION
Legend suggests that by the year 2000 B.C., a culture was
evolving in China in virtual isolation from the pockets of
civilization in the West. Three innovations developed by the ancient Chinese that changed the course of human events
are: gunpowder, paper, the compass
About 1800 B.C., Ts-ang Chieh was inspired to invent
Chinese writing by claw marks of birds and footprints of
Elementary pictographs of things in nature were highly
stylized and composed of a minimum number of lines.
There is no direct relationship between the spoken
and written Chinese languages. Written Chinese was
never broken down into syllabic or alphabetic signs for
elementary sounds. The Chinese calligraphic writing system
consists of logograms, graphic signs that represent an entire word.
The earliest known Chinese writing, called chiaku-wen
was in use from 1800 to 1200 B.C. and was closely
bound to the art of divination, an effort to foretell future events through communication with the gods or long-dead
ancestors. It was also called bone-and-shell script because it was incised on tortoise shells and the flat shoulder bones of large animals, called oracle bones.
Chinese Calligraphy was unified under Shi Huang Ti
In earlier times, the Chinese wrote on bamboo slats or
wooden strips using a bamboo pen and dense, durable
ink. After the invention of woven silk cloth, it, too, was
used as a writing substrate; however, it was very costly.
Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese high government official, is credited with the invention of paper in A.D. 105, and was deified
as the god of the papermakers. His process for making
paper from natural fibers continued almost unchanged
until papermaking was mechanized in nineteenth-century
One theory about the origins of relief printing in China
focuses on chops, seals made by carving calligraphic
characters into a flat surface of jade, silver, gold, or ivory.
Another theory focuses on the practice of making inked
rubbings from inscriptions carved in stone.
The oldest surviving printed manuscript is the Diamond
Sutra which was printed by one Wang Chieh to honor his
parents and widely distributed in A.D. 868. It consists of
seven sheets of paper pasted together to form a scroll. Six
sheets of the text convey Buddha’s revelations to his elderly follower Subhuti.
China became the first society in which ordinary people
were in daily contact with printed images. In addition to
block prints of religious images and texts, paper money
began to be designed and printed around A.D. 1000 due
to an iron shortage.
In China beginning in the ninth or tenth century A.D., the
scroll evolved into a paged format. Instead of rolling the
scroll, it was folded accordion-style. In the tenth or eleventh century, stitched books were developed: two pages of text
were printed from one block; the sheet was folded down the
middle, then the sheets were gathered and sewn to make a
When making a woodblock print in China, the wood
around each character is painstakingly cut away. Around
A.D. 1045, the Chinese alchemist Pi Sheng extended this
process by developing the concept of moveable type, an
innovative printing process that was never widely used in
Asia because the sheer number of characters made the
process too tedious.
The painting of bamboo from the Album of Eight Leaves
by Li Fangying shows how vividly descriptive strokes made
with a bamboo brush join calligraphy, painting, poem, and
illustration into a unified communication.
chin-wen : This phase in Chinese calligraphy is called
bronze script because it consisted of inscriptions on castbronze objects, such as food and water vessels, musical instruments, weapons, coins, and seals.
hsaio chuan : Small seal script was a new writing style
designed by Prime Minister LiSsu during the reign of
emperor Shih Huang Ti. This graceful, flowing style is much
more abstract than other...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document