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Origins of Chinese Language Displayed in Valencia

Month-long exhibit is only one in U.S.

Posted: February 11, 2008 11:23 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2008 2:03 a.m.

Dong-li Yan, a renowned Chinese Oracle Bone Script calligrapher visiting the United States for the first time, is describing one of his 41 pieces of calligraphy works on display at the Valencia public library. It is the first - and potentially only - display of Yan's work in the United States.03

One of the greatest calligraphers of China is making a rare appearance in the United States. He is using the Valencia public library as his gallery.

Renowned Oracle Bone Script calligrapher Dong-li Yan, 67, has brought his personal collection of an ancient Chinese writing form to the Valencia Library, where one of the rarest exhibitions of calligraphy is currently on display through the end of February. It is the only time Yan's works will be on display in the United States.
"This is the earliest Chinese language," Yan said through his son. "People in China are fascinated by this. It's the ancestors of their language."
Practicing Chinese calligraphy for over 50 years, the newspaper-editor-turned-artist specializes in Oracle Bone Script and grass style script. Yan's approach is both traditional and conventional, incorporating traditional drawing into his calligraphy techniques.
Yan turned his hobby into an extensive exhibit that includes 41 pieces of Chinese calligraphy written on a special paper made of bamboo that measures approximately seven feet high and three feet wide. The characters, which symbolize a variety of objects and living things such as fishes and dragons, are painted on the bamboo paper with brush and black ink.
Speaking to The Signal through his son and interpreter, Wei, Yan described a drawing of a boat and fish, an example of the most basic of human actions: fishing. He described another art piece that had a drawing of a dragon, which symbolizes Chinese New Year.
"In Oracle Bone Script, every word and drawing has a special meaning," Wei said. "This is how Chinese characters originated."
For thousands of years, Chinese art and calligraphy have enchanted people around the world.
One of the original forms of Chinese calligraphy was Oracle Bone Script, also called shell bone writing, or "pinyin" in China.
It refers to incised or brush-written ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in ancient China.
A majority of bones used in the ancient art form include tortoise plastrons and ox scapulae.
The ancient writing is considered one of the earliest forms of Chinese writing, yet it is not necessarily the earliest use of Chinese characters.
Yan himself was fascinated by the ancient writing his whole life; he previously displayed his work in many cities in China, Singapore and Taiwan.
Many of his works are also owned by private collectors and public art galleries.
Yan's calligraphy will remain on display at the Valencia public library for the rest of February before he returns to Nanjing, China, where he lives with his wife.
Wei, a software engineer who moved to the United States at the age of 22, is currently a Valencia resident and helps his father coordinate the exhibit.


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