Book covers drawn by artist Jian Guo.
Part of a competition held by the publisher of the new Chinese text, the beautiful, monochromatic illustrations draw on many of the design elements of Tolkien’s original paintings for the trilogy’s covers, elaborating on the iconic ring and towers with intricate Asian lines and flourishes.
The artist, an architectural student, describes his style as “glass painting style,” which he uses for its “sense of religious magnificence.” Interestingly, before seeing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation in 2002, he had never heard of the books. (Previous Chinese translations of the books feature rather unimaginative covers with images from Jackson’s movies.) The films converted him into an avid reader of Tolkien.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, and its literary influence in East Asia rivals that of Shakespeare in the English speaking world. “Written 600 years ago,” writes the BBC, “it is a historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history, the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Partly historical and partly legend, it recounts the fighting and scheming of the feudal lords and the three states which came to power as the Han Dynasty collapsed.”
And now the ancient meets the modern…
If you listen to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms podcast, you can hear John Zhu’s attempt to retell this epic tale and make it accessible to a Western audience. The first 110 episodes are available on YouTube, the web, and iTunes–with at least another 10 to come. Quite a feat. Have a listen.
To learn more about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, listen to this episode of the BBC’s In Our Time.
This is an ink painting by Chinese artist Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) showing a scholar artist in his studio. Fu Baoshi was a scholar painter and art historian. He studied Western and Japanese art in Tokyo where he developed his own style based on a fusion of Western realism and traditional brushwork. His work expressed a personal taste for subjects drawn from Chinese poets of the past.
Image © Fu Baoshi estate
Shanghai’s Wang 2Mu illustrates a Chinese idiom, nì liú ér shàng /逆流而上 , meaning “to go against the current” or willingness to break from conformity and to try different things. (via NEOCHA):