Stories tagged Writing

The Divine Gift of Writing

by Cristian Violatti February 24, 2015 Education 0 Comments

The gods were responsible for teaching humans how to write. Without their divine involvement, it would have been impossible for us, imperfect mortals, to develop such a valuable and powerful skill. This, and other similar explanations, was the way that most ancient societies accounted for the existence of writing.

Itzamná,

Itzamná in the Maya Book of the Dead

Itzamná, the Mayan god and ruler of heaven, was the inventor of writing in Mesoamerica, just like Odin in Norse mythology was the god who invented the runes. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and scribe of the gods, was responsible for the invention of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury), related to the Egyptian Thoth by some Greeks, was the creator of the Greek alphabet. Even those Greeks who had a more rational explanation for the origin of the alphabet relied on a legendary figure who although was no god, was still mythical: Cadmus, the founder and first king of Thebes according to Greek folklore (Herodotus, 5.58).  Read more…

Master of Arts: Wang Xizhi in Japan and China

For centuries, Wang Xizhi (c. 303-361 CE) has been revered as the “Sage of Calligraphy” across East Asia. Born in the town of Linyi, in Shangdong, China, during the tumultuous years of the Jin dynasty (265-420 CE), Wang revolutionized and reinvigorated this traditional art through his mastery of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, including the notoriously difficult semi-cursive or “walking script.” A legend in his lifetime, Wang’s works were avidly copied by aspiring calligraphers across ancient China. Over the centuries, original pieces by Wang were lost and only exquisitely traced copies remain. Today, many of these copies are kept in Japan and revered as “national treasures.”

This winter, the Tokyo National Museum, in Tokyo, Japan, celebrates the life and legacy of China’s most admired calligrapher in Wang Xizhi: Master of Calligraphy. Reflecting on Wang’s style and artistic prowess, this exhibition seeks an authentic image of an elusive artist, reevaluating his artistic role and legacy through his influence on successive artists in China and Japan. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Tomita Jun–an expert on Chinese calligraphy and the show’s curator–with regard to Wang Xizhi’s enduring place in art history.

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