At first glance, you’d be forgiven for not recognising what an important book this is. Presented as a series of projects that can be completed by the amateur working at home, it has the outward appearance of a relatively superficial pictorial guide. There’s so much more to it than that, however.
Qu Lei Lei has written many books on the practice of Chinese art. Born in China, he came to the UK after the Cultural Revolution in 1981 and writes from both the Oriental and Western perspective, having both an understanding of the culture as well as the ability to describe it in a way that is immediately comprehensible to the general reader. As a result, this is a much more authoritative book than you might first think.
Oriental art forms have long held a fascination for us in the West, as witness the huge success of the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. Even coming to this book as a non-calligrapher, therefore, I find myself drawn to the history and culture behind the letterforms and Qu Lei Lei explains what the various scripts represent and how they were originally used, as well as demonstrating ways to write them. Yes, the book does indeed take the form of 16 projects, as well as a guide to materials and a series of technical exercises, and you will certainly be able to create a wide variety of artefacts as well as learning about the background to what you are doing. Qu features five major scripts and explains the background to each and their specific uses within this ancient and highly developed culture.
Between them, the author and the publisher have co-operated to produce a book that is both beautiful to look at and also remarkably comprehensive within the scope of its coverage as well as being clear and authoritative. It’s a considerable achievement.
CICO Books 2007