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Chinese Calligraphy: From Pictograph to Ideogram: The History of 214 Essential Chinese/Japanese Characters [Hardcover]

Edoardo Fazzioli

RRP: £23.09
Price: £20.88 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 1986
Chinese is based on 214 symbols, or radicals. Centuries ago these symbols were adopted by the Japanese as well. Each symbol-which means the same thing to the Japanese even though it is called by different names-is delightfully explored in this unique book, providing an unusual way to penetrate a rich, mysterious world and learn how a written language can reflect the philosophy of an entire culture.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press Inc.,U.S.; 1st American Ed edition (1 Jan 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0896597741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0896597747
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17 x 3.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 450,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but fuzzy in present-day accuracy 6 Dec 1999
By Liralen Li - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's cool in concept. 214 characters, many of which are the basis of the characters used in Chinese and Japanese; however, some of the excusion is a bit off. It is well organized, by types of items and does capture the fact that each elementary element is used in combination with others in creating more complex words. It's also very good in showing that nearly all the pictographs are grounded in something real or combinations thereof. The main meanings are fairly clear in English.
The problems include a) the 'pronounciations' in 'Chinese' aren't standardized or explicitly stated as to which dialect they are and since Chinese dialects are pronounced entirely differently it's nigh on useless, b) there is no source for where the heck he got the 'evolutionary' pictographs or if they're anything other than what's in his own head, c) some of the meanings he attributes to some phrases are just right off and, finally, an aesthetic nit d) the characters are written square-on rather than with any graceful posture. If you copied these characters and showed them to a Chinese calligrapher, they'd state that you must have learned them from a Westerner.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind...but definitely not Japanese 4 Nov 2004
By Al G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have been inspired by this book to pursue the study of Chinese characters to a deeper level. On the other hand, the more I read and compare it to other resources on the same subject, the more critical I become.

This book has inspired me to a deeper study of Chinese radicals (for a better understanding of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean). The result - I've found it makes a great stepping stone, and can be used for comparative analysis of the surprising variety of information available to English speakers mostly through the internet, or through native language dictionaries for those with access, but it should NOT be relied upon as a single source for learning, teaching, or research. It is reasonably educational and artistic, but not authoritative.

Even though I love this book and go back to it occasionally, there is one huge glaring error, to the point of unethical advertising, starting on the cover of the book. The title misleadingly contains the word "Japanese." Although Chinese characters are an important part of the Japanese language, it contains NOTHING about Japanese. You would have to be aware of Japanese independently of this book in order to make the connection that is made ONLY in the title. It is an English language book explaining aspects of Chinese, with the use of simplified characters created by the Peoples Republic of China as examples - although the simplified PRC characters bear some resemblance to the traditional characters that are mostly used in Japan, they are not the same, therefore making this book less useful for dedicated students of Japanese.

Anyway, despite this beef with the title and the fact that it should not be used a sole source for academic pursuit, it has many more merits than demerits. Since it is one of the very few books dedicated to this specific subject as well, the uniqueness adds a little to its value.
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Childish Scripts 29 July 2002
By K K YAU - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am Chinese and I have practise the art. The scripts on the book look unbalanced, as if a child has written it. My advice to the author is:
read the masters, ... Honestly, the modern "standard" (Kai Su) style is the hardest to master, harder even than the "grass" or "walking" (cursive) styles, because the balance between stability and fluidity is very subtle.
The best way to start is from either "Sun Su" or "Dae Su", which are more stable and solid, where balance is easier to obtain, and whose strokes are also simpler.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairly good introduction to the Chinese writing system. 26 Dec 2002
By 漢慶 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a fairly good introduction to the Chinese writing system providing insight into its origins and current use. While the calligraphic representations of the modern forms of the characters may be somewhat off, much of the background information is fine. The romanisation system is the officially recognised pinyin romanisation scheme developed by Russian and Chinese linguists during the 1930s and updated in the 1950s; it is generally employed in the transliteration of Standard Chinese into Latin letters. There is no need to worry over what 'dialect' the transliterations belong to because the vast majority of any given publication concerning China and the Chinese language will be in Standard Chinese, the national normative based on Northern Chinese. There are seven to eight Chinese languages with a myriad of dialects each, and it would be illogical to favour the others over the national standard. With regards to the evolution of characters, the sources from which the author bases the evolution is explained in the background information towards the front. I would recommend this as a wonderful coffeetable book, art book, and general introduction to the Chinese writing system, but not as an ultimate foundation in learning the Chinese script. If one is seriously interested in learning good handwriting, I recommend Johan Bjorksten's 'Learn to write Chinese characters' from the Yale Language Series. It's inexpensive and perhaps even more useful than the volume on sale here. Both books use pinyin romanised Standard Chinese -- and usually with the tones noted, too! Most books, unfortunately, tend to leave them out. Bjorksten's work should be used as a supplement to a full on course in Standard Chinese (biaozhun hanyu, also known as putonghua); however, it can stand alone for those who are simply curious about the writing system itself and would like an appliable introduction.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... if you know what you're doing. 31 July 2002
By O.L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was ecstatic to find this book! It is more than just a dictionary reference with cut-and-dry Pin Yin to English translations. For each of the 214 radicals, you get a nice story explaining the history of the radical along with illustrations of the character's evolution from ancient pictographs to its current form. There is also a step-by-step demonstration on how the strokes are arranged including what order and what stroke (if they do not already come naturally to you). And if all that weren't enough, each page has short list of characters that use a particular radical so you can see the radicals in action. This book is definitely useful if you are fascinated by the cultural depictions in traditional Chinese writing. You will be learning things even literate Chinese folks don't know. However, this book probably won't help you much if you are an absolute beginner. For best results, you should at least have a working knowledge to build off of.
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