cover image The Nature of the Chinese Character

The Nature of the Chinese Character

Barbara Aria, Author, Lesley Ehlers, Illustrator, Russell Eng Gon, Photographer Simon & Schuster $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-72886-1

This compact, charming volume decodes the enigmatic, stylized dashes and shapes of several Chinese pictograms. Aria's ( The Art of Postage Stamps ) introduction is a blend of history, linguistics and legend revealing how organic forms inspired the first Chinese writing, how phonetic clues join literal meanings or ideas within single characters and how subtle, precisely rendered thick and thin strokes add to a symbol's definition. The remainder of the book is devoted to 40 pictograms portraying aspects of nature: calligrapher Gon breaks them down by stroke so that we see how they are drawn; captions explain their various interpretations and simple woodcuts accent each page. Understated colors and paper stock with a handmade appearance lend elegance to the book and effectively complement the complexity and logic of the pictograms themselves. (Aug.)