Chinese Calligraphy: Master Yue Le

In previous post in which I discussed chinese calligraphy, I talked a little bit about chinese calligraphy’s history, and my impressions of its influence in contemporary Chinese design. Since a lot of people have been asking me for more on the topic, I’ve decided to post on YouTube some videos of a trip my wife, a couple of friends and I took to Zhu Jia Jiao, one of the many river towns just outside Shanghai.

In Zhu Jia Jiao, we’ve met Master Yue Le, a local artist that makes his living on creating banners/posters for tourists that visit that town: with our little domain of Mandarin, we’ve asked him to create some banners to represent something he would consider typical.

He was very kind to explain to us that — in traditional Chinese culture — one would hang banners at the door of the house, wishing neighbors and visitors good omens; such tradition is still kept in most cities around China, but mostly during festivals and special occasions, like the Spring Festival.

In the first video, he tells us he is going to paint one of the most Chinese typical wishes, which is “Welcome Home” (I would say that is a pretty cross-cultural wish, right?). Like an artist, a poet, or a designer, he make some sketches on a little notebook before painting the banners, trying to figure out the most auspicious characters to use.

In the second video, he paints the message “Huan Ying Guang Lin Wo Men De Jia”, which roughly translate as “Welcome to Our Home”: note how master Yue tries to make the visual alignment mentally, as if he was hesitating to start before painting.

In the last part, he paints our names; obviously, our western names had to be “converted” to Chinese, which usually involves either one of two strategies: first, try to find words that sound like their original western names, like “John” would be translated into “Jiang”, or — second — find the equivalent words to our names in Chinese; like my name “Itamar” — which in Tupy-Guarani, an indigenous language in Brazil — means “Coral Reef” was translated into “Hai Yan”.

In China, calligraphy is much appreciated — note how many locals gather around master Yue — but is not widely practiced by the younger generations, and it is a risk of dying. So, it was really nice to see the interest of the young ones gathering around master Yue, ask him questions, and observe him at work.

Itamar Medeiros

Originally from Brazil, Itamar Medeiros currently lives in Germany, where he works as Lead Product Design Strategist at SAP and promotes User Experience Design as visiting lecturer at Köln International School of Design. Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, Itamar Medeiros has helped truly global companies in several countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, United Arab Emirates, United States) create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles. During his 7 years in China, he championed the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai

1 Response

  1. Steven Skaggs says:

    Nice to see calligraphy appreciated. I will be visiting and delivering research papers in Sao Paulo in 2011. I would enjoy meeting calligraphers or giving a calligraphy workshop while in Brazil. Are there Brazilian calligraphic societies like there are in the States? Could you suggest anyone to contact? Thanks for your interest in fine writing as art.

    Steven Skaggs
    Louisville, Kentucky

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