Tuesday, 9 February 2016


#hanzi #kanji #chinesecharacters #monkey yearofthemonkey

Here is the word for monkey ape and other primates in Modern Chinese.

Copyright Julie Vaux 2016

Have a CLOSE look at the structure of this #hanzi

Dog / animal plus human plus ... okay books that discuss the structure of chinese characters usually repeat the statement that monkeys are being described as noble animals and discuss whether the phonetic means archer prince noble etc

.... however ... I have a suspicion that this is another case of some ancient scribe trying to hide a joke ... consider a certain aspect of monkey behaviour  

Monkeys are know to throw things at humans fruit stones ... other things 

I'm seeing some frustrated "noble archer" or just a farmer with a bow and arrow trying to get monkeys out of his fruit orchard and the monkeys are busily being the animals who take aim at humans and throw things and some later scribe tidying up the reading into something more Confucian and proper.

I also see people translate gibbon as monkey and they shouldnt. 
Thats a different character.

The most common primate species in ancient China seems to have been the rhesus macaque and the gibbon which seems to  have had a much wider range.

Japan only has macaques - saru.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Monkey Year Monkey Art ONE

#chinesepainting #gibbons #yearofthemonkey

Its the Year of the Monkey so  lets look at some art featuring monkeys !

After some considerable searching and scrolling past dozens of copies of Mori Sosen works and weird sumi-e gibbons and monkeys clearly painted by people who need a trip to the zoo urgently ... I found this image.

Horses and gibbons seem an odd juxtaposition. 

Gibbons are creatures of the far south in modern China and while it may be the painter was indulging his imagination given this is a very old work its not impossible the painter might have seen such a scene. 

The habitat for gibbons was very more extensive in the Tang dynasty and there are many poems mentioning gibbons being seen in areas where they are never seen today. 

While Chinese has several words for monkey and gibbon they seem to have NOT distinguished between monkeys and apes with words used to describe species shifting over the centuries. In most Tang poems however its gibbons that are mentioned yuan not hou ...that however is a topic for another post ... 

Monday, 1 February 2016


I was surprised at how many differing definitions the dictionaries in my collection gave for this #hanzi #kanji

Copyright Julie Vaux 2016

Basically as an ideogram its something being pressed into a vessel to preserve or ferment

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Hokusai Surimono

#surimono #ukiyo-e #hokusai

Surimono is a kind of ... well art print with limited editions often given as new year gifts or created as mementos of special occasions.

Here's a selection of some by Hokusai

The lines of calligraphy are poems.

I have a special fondness for this one due to its depiction of the tools used for painting and calligraphy, an inkstone for grinding inksticks, one of which is shown resting on one edge of the inkstone, a water pot with a flower placed in it not just for painting but perhaps water for the ink too, and the brush pot in the background shows us Asian style brushes. The long slender rod in the foreground is probably for keeping sheets of paper flat and aligned.

A simple yet elegant image of a snake surrounding two gourds or melons showing once again Hokusai's gift for interesting compositions and eye for the details of nature.

This is part of a larger sheet that would have been folded into a pamphlet.
Note how Hokusai takes the horizontal format of a scroll and uses a prolonged S curve layout to show all the objects and lead our eye to the text.

Coming soon. 
The Year of  the Monkey 
so Monkeys and Apes as a theme!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Hokusai Manga

#Hokusai #Manga

Here's a couple of Hokusai's Manga.

Yes the word manga really did originally refer to plain drawings and prints with only one color!

Hokusai published many of his drawings in what was originally a multiple volume set of books. 

Hopefully your library has books showing some of his drawings but if not I've hunted for images to save you time googling.

Whether he's drawing people or objects you can see how Hokusai considers their interactions and placement within a larger setting and thinks as a designer about leaving blank spaces for  the final layout.

Hokusai was a designer and also draughtsman and yes  a diverse artist!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Hokusai Willow and Crows

#Hokusai #painting #jpaanese apinting #ukiyo-e

Yes I know I showed you a painting in an earlier post but here is another that shows his compositional skills were used for both painting and print design.

I rather suspect though these crows are mobbing an intruder from a different flock trying to drive him or her out of their range.

Hokusai  is usually  mentioned in text books as a printmaker but we need to remember he painted too!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Two of Hokusai's Bridge Prints

#hokusai #ukiyo-e #japaneseprints

Hokusai is well known for his series of views of Mt Fuji and he also created print series on topics like famous Bridges.

Note how he makes use of traditional S curve compositions in the context of a print rather than a scroll or screen painting.

Yet Hokusai could also create compositions full of angles like this one!
Notice how the verticals of the reeds the tree and pillar complement the bridge supports and counter balance the curved areas and the circular forms of the hats and umbrellas!

Truly a masterpiece!