The Art which Is not for Sale - Gerogi Grozdev
The Art which Is not for Sale
Only decorators and artisans offered their works on the market. Men of letters’ art was not for sale, it stayed with its true aficionados.
The originality of the Chinese language lies not so much and only in hieroglyphs. Their writing was not created to convey the spoken language. The oldest signs were pictograms made by strongly heating turtle shells. It is since that ancient period of fortunetellers that the sense signs are not a human creation has existed. So, the very appearance of writing has been directly linked to divine powers, and only then to human deeds.
I find the perpetuity of the Chinese language astonishing; it is resistant to pronunciation. Writing is the only and most important factor of unity among different Chinese dialects, one of which is the Shanghai one.
The existence of a language which has not changed for dozens of centuries allows every individual from following generations access – to read and understand – the whole Chinese literature and culture from the very beginning. I witnessed this with my own eyes in the Shanghai Museum. Very young people, boys and girls, reading the hieroglyphs of two thousand years ago and having lively discussions about them.
In the beginning people wrote on tortoise underbelly shells, sheep and deer shoulder blades; then they inscribed bronze vessels, longer texts appeared on bamboo sticks. They broke them in two, along their length. They arranged them in columns, which is the reason for writing in columns to this day. This became a basic rule in calligraphy.
In the first two centuries AD, during the time of the Han dynasty, they invented paper and used brushes for writing. They discovered estampage, they stared printing fast and in big quantities. A piece of paper was laid on top of an inscribed stone, the surface was then treated with a wet brush so that the paper covered the matrix completely. Buddhist monks invented real printing in their search to find a way to distribute large quantities of translated Sanskrit texts. Xylography used engraved boards, covered in ink and laid over paper.
This was the method used to print the first paper money and the first official newspaper. An official edition of Confucius was published the same way as early as 932-953AD. European missionaries took this technique back to their home countries and credited Gutenberg with the invention.
Chinese writing is characterized by its attention to detail, precise wording and understandable symbols. Its thought, literature and culture did not come to be to convince anyone of anything, but to help people live. Philosophy does not have a unique language or vocabulary inaccessible to simple people. Thought, generally speaking, is in constant dialog with itself. It constantly renews and deepens the questions for contemplation, just as human generations renew and change themselves. Cosmological notions, philosophy and morality have been distinguished as the most important topics for contemplation since ancient times.
According to them the main characteristic of life is the constancy of change. The Chinese term for reason or logos is written with the character for jade and is pronounced li. This sign teaches us that before processing rough jade we have to inspect its grains so we don't break it. Unlike the Greek logos it does not suggest differentiating and appreciating things. Instead it points to observation and reaction according to the object's nature, not collision with it.
Li is often translated as the “profound sense of things”.
Craftsmanship and decorative art – especially ceramics have been highly appreciated and at times are traded at exorbitant prices. What they called the men of letters’ art was not for sale. Four noble activities kept company to the isolation of the man of letters – music, poetry, calligraphy and painting. Through music, he was able to listen closely to the rhythms of nature and contemplate the balance of sounds. Poetry was advanced matter and was regarded very seriously. It was practiced both by emperors and by monks. It was a court game for the educated. Calligraphy is listening to the physical and spiritual energies manifesting themselves when the Chinese man or woman writes. Painting gives the opportunity to express much more than words. Where the western painter puts background, his Chinese counterpart leaves vast empty spaces; there is also the philosophical expression the great emptiness so that the work of art can breathe.
(For the curious among you, I'll mention that there are other more detailed historical facts in La Chine Classique by Ivan Kamenarovic, 1999, translated into Bulgarian. I came across it in a pile of discounted books for just $3 at a prestigious bookstore before it was to be discarded. This reference book was deemed unnecessary for the pretentious Bulgarian reader. What do we need it for, if we follow a fashion of primitive idols – the ones from the civilization of spectacles and altered culture?)