Exhibitions/ Art Object

An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy

Xu Bing (born 1955)
Handscroll; ink on paper
Image: 19 in. × 17 ft. (48.3 × 518.2 cm)
Overall with mounting: 19 in. × 18 ft. 6 in. (48.3 × 563.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by a private collection, New York
Rights and Reproduction:
© Xu Bing
Not on view
In the early 1990s, Xu began to develop a system for writing English called “square word calligraphy,” which organizes the letters of each English word into structures that resemble Chinese characters. One consequence of his project is that non-Chinese speakers can understand how Chinese characters are similarly composed of discrete phonetic and lexigraphic components. An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy expands on the didactic potential of the new script by offering directions for how to prepare ink, hold a brush, and execute individual brushstrokes. In the process of deciphering Xu’s text, viewers break down cultural barriers. Square word calligraphy helps demystify the Chinese written language, making the pleasures of calligraphy available to a wider audience.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Brush and Ink: The Chinese Art of Writing," September 2, 2006–January 21, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.