Gu Wenda. Mythos of Lost Dynasties Series—I Evaluate Characters Written by Three Men and Three Women. China, 1985. Hanging scroll; ink on paper. Image: 9 ft. 4 1/4 in. × 70 1/16 in. (285.1 × 178 cm). Lent by a private collection, Hong Kong
Writing is China's most fundamental means of communication as well as its highest form of artistic expression. Valued for both its semantic content and aesthetic significance, the written word conveys both personal and public meaning. Authors have long exploited the multiple, even contradictory meanings of many ideographs to create veiled commentaries on political and personal issues, while calligraphers have adopted specific styles to reflect their mental state or point of view. Given the inherent power of this universal medium, the written word—particularly brush-written calligraphy—has been a rich terrain for artistic exploration in China. This section of the exhibition—which comprises three subsections—examines the many ways in which writing may exist as an aesthetic language independent of semantic content.