Thursday, September 3, 2015

Beyond Paper: 3000 Years of Chinese Writing
纸张之外:汉字书写3000年

An exhibit in Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery
8 September 2015 to 17 January 2016
Free Entry

This exhibit at the British Library consists of four cases of material to show the different media used for Chinese writing and the different forms of script. The cases show oracle bones, woodslips, silk manuscripts and paper books respectively.

The manuscripts displayed here were all discovered in a Library Cave at the Buddhist cave temple site at Mogao, near Dunhuang. The entrance to the Library Cave can be seen on the right of the corridor of Cave 16, shown here.
Photo 392/59(1)

Silk

Silk, which has been cultivated in China for over 5,000 years, was used as a writing material in the first millennium BC. Like wood, its use continued even after the invention of paper. Because it was expensive, it was used for special texts, such as the fragment of the Buddhist sutra shown here. While paper became the most common writing material, silk continued to be used in book production, for scroll ties, scroll wrappers, and book covers.

丝绸

丝绸的生产和使用在中国已经有超过5000年的历史,在公元前第一个千年它们也被用作书写材料。类似简牍,丝绸的使用一直持续到纸张发明以后。因为丝绸价格昂贵,它们只被用于特殊文本的书写,如这里展示的一件佛经残片。当纸张成为最常用的书写材料,丝绸扔被用于书籍装帧,如用作卷轴绑带,封套,书籍封面等。

Buddhist Sutra on Silk. Ink on silk, 6th century
丝绸上的佛经。绢本,公元6世纪
Or.8210/S.5719

Silk has been used as a medium for writing from the first millennium BC in China, but it was largely replaced by paper from the first few centuries AD as paper was cheaper. However, silk continued to be used for some special and expensive texts: a second century book is described as written on white silk ruled with red columns and wrapped in blue silk with the title in red. The piece shown here is fragment of a Buddhist sutra and was originally part of a longer scroll, like the ones on paper.

丝绸自公元前第一个千年起即被作为书写材料,但由于纸张的廉价,从公元后的最初几个世纪开始,丝绸在很大程度上被纸张所取代。然而,丝绸仍继续被用于一些特殊而昂贵的书写:一部公元2世纪的卷轴被描述为写在白绢上,红色栏线,蓝绸封套,有红色标题。这里展出的是一件佛经长卷的残片,其形式与纸本长卷相同。


Buddhist sutra scrolls with silk ties. Ink on paper with silk and wood, 7th to 9th centuries
佛经卷轴与丝绸绑带。纸本,丝绸,木头,公元7至9世纪 Or.8210/S.5296, Or.8210/S.3621, Or.8210/S.4864

Silk continued to be used in book production in China even after the invention of paper, most especially for the braids used to tie the scrolls. These scrolls would have been expensive to produce. The paper was probably made in Central China, dyed with a yellow dye called huangbo containing berberine, which has insecticidal and water-repellant properties. A professional scribe would have copied the text, Buddhist sacred texts or sutras. The person sponsoring the production often had a note added to the end giving the date and the recipient of the merit gained from replicating the words of the Buddha.

纸张发明后丝绸仍被继续用于书籍装桢,尤其是作为捆绑卷轴的穗带。这些卷轴的制作在当时十分昂贵。这些纸张可能产自中原地区,并用称为“黄柏”的黄色染料染色,这种染料含有黄连素,有杀虫和防水的功效。佛教经卷等典籍通常由专业书隶进行抄写。经卷的资助者通常要求在结尾处加注一条注释说明日期及传颂佛祖真言的公德归于何人。

Calligraphic Model after Wang Xizhi. Ink on paper, 7th to 9th centuries
王羲之书法摹本。纸本,公元7至9世纪
Or.8210/S.3753

In addition to its practical use, writing in Chinese was considered as art with the most famous calligraphers valued more highly than other artists. This piece is a model or copy based on the cursive calligraphy of one such master, Wang Xizhi (303-361): none of his original work survives. Good copies were believed to capture the ‘spirit resonance’ of the master’s work and were highly valued in themselves. It is written on pink dyed paper.

除了其实用价值,汉字书写还被视为一种艺术,最著名的书法家受到高于其他艺术家的重视。这件展品就是这样一位书法家——王羲之(303-361)的草书摹本。没有一件王羲之的书法原作被保存下来,但是好的摹本被认为抓住了大师原作的“神韵”而使其自身拥有极高价值。这件作品写于被染成粉色的纸上。

Thanks to Gao Feichi for the Chinese translation.

感谢译者高菲池

The Chinese character used on the panels at the exhibit at the British Library is the character for silk . It is taken from a medical manuscript from Dunhuang, probably dating to the 10th century. The British Library, Or.8210/S.76.

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