Liu Dan 劉丹

(Chinese, b. 1953)

Watercolor on paper

200 x 260 cm (78 3/4 x 102 3/8 in.)

The Xiling Collection 3.2020

Did you know?

Liu Dan was born in Nanjing and lived in Hawaii and New York before moving to Beijing in 2006.


Liu Dan, an artist trained in traditional brushwork, depicts a dictionary of monumental scale with traditional characters that have formed the basis of Chinese culture, language, and art for millennia.

This dictionary dates to the Republican period (1911–49), a time of dramatic change. Subsequent mainland China dictionaries printed after the 1949 Communist takeover contained simplified characters, designed to encourage literacy, but stripped the characters of their internal logic and elegance. The two pages revealed here define words with the “jade” and “water” radical (components of characters). While water and jade are essential to Chinese culture, they represent opposing dualities of yielding and unyielding, of yin and yang.

See also
Chinese Art
Chinese Art
Type of artwork: 
Credit line: 
The Xiling Collection

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