History has never been more exciting and appealing than now, at least for me. In school, it was a question of learning for the sake of passing tests and exams. Now, it is more a time of appreciation. How the years have gone by, and what we now see before us, the significance and the relevance!
In the ancient city of Xian, one of the oldest capital cities of China, we saw the best preserved city walls and also the famous tomb of the First Emperor Qing Shi Huangdi, and the terra cotta warriors with the horses.
Here we have the STELE Collection and from the above photo one sees texts on a 2.8 m limestone slab. It is the Nestorian Tablet or stele, excavated in Xian in 1625. The text is written in both Chinese and Syriac, and from them one gets some idea about the early history of Christianity in China.
Apparently it was in 635 when a Persian Nestorian monk named Alopen brought the Good News to China by way of the Silk Route. Alopen obtained permission from Emperor Taizong to proclaim the Christian faith and the first Christian texts were translated into Chinese. From there the Word of God was proclaimed in ten provinces of the Chinese empire and about a hundred churches and convents were also built. What happened after that? History!
I saw how original master pieces could be copied easily. One simply put the rice paper over it, rub it, fan it so that it would dry quickly and then remove it with great care. Of course, to talk about it is easy. The proper way demands both skill and patience.
This visit gave me a desire to learn to write in Chinese again. For one thing, I know that there is a possibility of my just starting to practise my Chinese and I am now doing that. For another, I have also started to read simple short passages and to try and find new words. I just pray that I don’t do it flippantly so that it is nothing but a flash in the pan. I know that such a visit would surely delight anyone who appreciates Chinese painting. Even though I had abandoned the little I had acquired over a period of a few years, I was also filled with amazement. How beautiful Chinese calligraphy is. I could not understand then the need to have to write Chinese characters when all I wanted to do was to learn how to paint using Chinese brushes and techniques. Then I was told that the good calligrapher is the one who will execute the correct strokes and paint well. The character in red means Happiness or even Prosperity. It was done in one single stroke! Yes, it is so much clearer to me now why the good calligrapher is more likely to be the better painter than one who does not know how to use jet black ink to write on rice paper. Enjoy!