Longevity In Hue

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Abstract
The tradition of inventing calligraphic characters is a Chinese art form that has its origans in shamanist beliefs and their influence upon early Taoist practices. Secret diagrams, talismans, and characters were believed to be mystical mediums containing spirits that could be called upon to aid or protect people from misfortunes such as evil forces, illnesses, natural disasters, and malicious acts. Because the configurations were secret, the artist/priest often strategically transgressed the rules governing Chinese brush technique, creating free, nonconformist ideograms that were sometimes performed by illiterate writers whose interpolations further modified their origins in conventional written form. Amongst artists and calligraphers during the Sung Period [960-1279] there was a flowering of this uniquely nonfigurative visual art discipline. Because of this development, which was augmented by the Taoist alchemic search for an elixir of life, the character that signifies longevity (shou, Chinese, or tho in Vietnamese) became the subject of prolific graphic improvisation. It was often paired with the character that signifies happiness, or felicity, (fu, Chinese, or phuoc in Vietnamese) in grids of ten by ten characters, equalling one hundred longevity, and one hundred happiness characters, positioned side by side. Common forms of the characters adorned artefacts and architecture, becoming mystical and secular talismans to promote a long, happy life.
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Ely, Bonita
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Publication Year
2001
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Journal Article
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