Celebrating characters - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dongba shaman He Guoyao demonstrates writing Dongba manuscripts at the Our Characteristics: Inheritance of Words in Intangible Cultural Heritage exhibition in Beijing. China’s traditional writing system can be better understood by visiting an ongoing exhibition at the National Museum of Classic Books. Wang Kaihao reports.China’s traditional writing system has always generated interest not just among scholars from around the world but also the general public back home and expats in the country.For those who are keen to have a glimpse of Chinese characters and their evolution, a newly opened exhibition at Beijing’s National Museum of Classic Books may just be the right avenue.Titled Our Characteristics: Inheritance of Words in Intangible Cultural Heritage, the exhibition will be held through Feb 1. The organizing museum is an affiliate of the National Library of China.More than 300 pieces of written works, including ancient manuscripts, historical records of the development of Chinese writing and calligraphy by some 24 inheritors of cultural heritage nationwide are among the exhibits.Calligraphers from the country’s different ethnic groups have sought to project the beauty of their scripts.”I learned manuscripts as a kid, but today, there are very few young people who are able to write them,” says He Guoyao, 42, an intangible cultural heritage inheritor. The Dongba shaman priest from the Naxi ethnic group that comes from Yunnan province, presents his calligraphy at the exhibition by drawing the characters.Ancient Dongba manuscripts are important references to perform traditional Naxi rituals, he says, adding that the characters are “crucial roots to prolong” their history.Visitors to the exhibition can also witness other nation-level inheritors of intangible heritage showcasing skills such as making traditional Chinese writing tools, including brushes, rice paper and ink.


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