Tuesday, January 6, 2009

文:中国的形式美 Pattern: The Beauty of Form

易经说:‘....观鸟兽之文.... 文,错画也。象交文。’
The ancient Chinese used words like Shape (xing) and Pattern (wen) in their discussions of artistic form. Wen in Chinese means both beautiful/regular pattern/structure and literature. It is when the word is used to mean pattern that it is associated with the meaning of beauty.
In the first Chinese dictionary Shuo wen jie zi (說文解字) complied by Xu Shen 許慎 in around 100 AD, it said that when ‘the Chinese characters were first invented, it seems that the forms were copied according to their resemblances that they were called ‘patterns’.’
Yijing says that ‘…. observed the markings on birds and animals…. Wen consists of intersecting lines. Its graph is like an intersecting pattern.’
Wen is therefore representing the likeness of things through written ‘graphs’ or ‘pattern’. It is also means wen 纹, i.e. stripes, lines and figures.
As a pattern, it possesses a unique characteristic of transformation. This continuous transformation was noted by Ye Xie (1627-1703) who said that ‘within Heaven and Earth the greatest forms of pattern (wen) are the wind and clouds, rains and the thunder. Their mutations and transformations cannot be fathomed and have neither limit nor boundary; they are the highest manifestation of spirit (shen) in the universe and the perfection of wen.’

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