Saturday, November 23, 2013

Poetry and Hsien

David Warren has an essay musing on Chinese calliography and poetry.

Classical Chinese is sung, and whispered, but also painted. The brush is the thing. “It grows from your hand.” Whereas, a pen is a crutch, held always at an angle. One must lean against the stalk of a pen. Step one: learn to feel the tip of the brush, as it dances on the paper; as the tip beyond your fingertips; as it stands, and kneels, and bows, and twirls, and leaps from one character to another. You are the mind and the brush is your body. But not in any Cartesian sense, since the mind and the body are one.
Perhaps it is only one of those falsely “recovered memories,” for I have just been looking at an old book containing translations from that Wang Wei, and it has suddenly reminded of the character, hsien. It is a visual portmanteau: framed with the character for a “gate,” with the character for “moon” inserted in the open space between the two “doors” and under the “bridge” of that “gate” character. It is one of several plausible words for “idle” in classical Chinese. The dictionary adds: “at ease, sauntering, leisurely, quiet, unoccupied.”

no, I'm too old to even learn Tagalog, even though it is an easier language than ChiKaranga, which I learned in Africa, and I am not subtle enough to start studying calliography.

But the Met has a pdf on Chinese calliagraphy if you are interested.

and the poem quoted is not about viewing nature, but has echoes of Buddhist philosophy. and iChing uses the word hsien also with a subtle meaning.

mainly bookmarked for later reading.

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