Pingyao

Wow what a pleasant little city, welcoming with friendly people. The ancient city is a time warp, surrounded by a 10 metre grey wall and the city itself seems perfectly preserved, yet very much a living city. Little Lloyd and lanes lined with lanterns, old people on bikes. Nice to hang out and wander. In spite of the preponderance of domestic tourists and souvenir shops, there is no tackiness.

This afternoon I found a calligraphy shop, and through broken Chinese and broken English, a 16 year old girl, and smart phone apps, we spent a jolly 30 minutes or so debating what he would write for me. Turns out that this gentleman is rather celebrated and it feels an honour to be in his presence. After agreeing on a slogan loosely translated as “life is heart” and negotiating a price, I watch him work. He carefully measures the paper then folds it into 4 to create folds delineating the space for each of the 4 characters, then folding these 4 sections diagonally to create squares with an x, in order to measure his brush strokes. He is precise, deft, firm, precise and has a harmony and strength in his brush strokes. It’s a magic moment watching him write for me.

It was then amusing watching him forming Chinese characters with finger swipes on a smart phone screen to translate into English “it’s amazing” when he was trying to explain how he liked the way the light fell on the textured paper he uses for mounting his work. I wished we had enough common language to discuss how the calligraphers art translates into finger swipes and what he thinks of that.

 

 

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