To the Chinese, the art of calligraphy represents the epitome of culture-indeed, a scholar's "four treasures" are paper, brushes, insksticks, and inkstone. Although the dark days of China's Cultural Revolution (1966-76) were marked by suppression of the arts and free expression, calligraphy continued to flourish as a propaganda tool (Mao Zedong himself was a calligrapher and promoted its use to create the politically charged "big character posters"). In the decades since Mao's death, calligraphy has continued to evolve, but it is now an instrument of expression of the avant-garde. Barrass, who served in the British Embassy in Beijing in the early 1970s and travels frequently to China, here documents the work of 25 of the art form's most prominent and innovative practitioners. Along with interviews and photographs, the book presents beautifully reproduced examples of their work. Other features include a discussion of the influences that have shaped calligraphy over the last 50 years, Chinese transcriptions of the poetry interspersed throughout the book, and a bilingual bibliography. Although this book will be of primary importance to scholars of Chinese culture, it would also be a valuable addition to most art libraries.
Margarete Gross, Chicago P.L.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.