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'Dancing Beijing'
( 2003-08-08 09:42) (China Daily)

A panda, a dragon, the Monkey King, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, Peking Opera masks, Chinese calligraphy and seal.

Seal-carving requires artists as well as craftspeople to learn beyond their field of arts, from painting,calligraphy to peotry to stone-carving.

Each are familiar symbols that could very well denote China, the most populous country on earth with a continuous civilization of more than 5,000 years. o

When a team of young Chinese designers handed in their original design to bid for the logo of the 2008 Olympic Games, which was based on the traditional arts of calligraphy and seal, they faced competition from all of the other "symbols" of the country.

Called the "Chinese Seal - Dancing Beijing," the design was unveiled as the Game's logo on Sunday evening. It was praised as "young, dynamic - bringing together historical and cultural heritage, as well as the future of China" by Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.

Guo Chunning, the original designer of the logo and vice-president of the Beijing Armstrong International Corporate Identity (AICI) Co Ltd, said: "As it turned out, there was only one seal among the 1,985 entries contributed by designers from China and overseas.

"Those entries included dozens of Great Walls, pandas and dragons."

Fu Jingsheng, a veteran traditional Chinese arts researcher, added: "It's great they chose it. The logo has done well to apply traditional art forms to modern art and design."

Guo Chuning
Guo said the final logo was the result of the teamwork of designers from AICI, artists Han Meilin and Wang Yong, and officials from the Beijing Game's organizing committee.

Carved within a limited space on the end of a small stone, a Chinese seal blends the elements of engraving, calligraphy, painting and poetry.

"The traditional art form, which can be traced to the Shang (16th century - 11th century BC), has many features that can be applied in modern designs," said Wang, professor with the Central Academy of Fine Arts, who was invited to revise the design.

"Unlike the Great Wall, usually a concrete picture, a seal is itself a work of symbols. The kind of seal the design imitated, called a xiaoxing seal (which bears images of living creatures), has simple patterns. Without detailed carvings, the seal gives a clear, impressive visual effect."

In spite of the features, the logo is first of all "a design, not a pure traditional seal," stressed Wang.

It has not achieved the artistic level of ancient Chinese seals in many aspects. It has neither the strength of the seals of the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-AD 220) dynasties, nor the delicacy of seals of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, said Fu.

"It will be disappointing if anyone sees the logo and thinks, 'ah, that's all about a Chinese seal.' It's hard for a traditional art form to retain all its charm when applied in modern art and design," Fu said.

For instance, the detailed touches, which are important to the charm of a seal, are inevitably missed in the design of the logo.

"The logo is to be put both in tiny emblems and on giant advertising boards. Its lines must be very clear, without so many detailed touches," said Wang.

But experts did try to retain some touches of a seal when they were revising the original design.

"We made some adjustments to make the design more solemn without changing its overall structure. The strokes are thickened and made stronger, and an ancient simple beauty was added," said Jin Shangyi, a famous oil painter and chairman of the Chinese Artists' Association, who was on the logo selection panel.

"The cheerful, dynamic and friendly flavour of the original design was retained in the revised version."

Chen Hanmin, a professor and veteran designer from the College of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said: "From the point of view of designing instead of seal-carving, the revised logo is mature, professional and popular. It's good looking, convenient, easy to understand and memorize.

"It's a successful visualization of the combination of traditional culture and modern ideas."

The elements of traditional Chinese arts in the design remind viewers of the popular logo used when Beijing was bidding for the Olympics - although the two designs are totally different.

With a few strokes of Chinese cursive script, the calligraphic lines of the bid logo stood out because of its energy and enthusiasm, mirroring China's desire to host the Olympics.

"The courageous attempts themselves, which bring traditional arts into modern designs, have far outweighed any defects that may exist in seal-carving or calligraphic strokes," remarked Fu.

"We don't have to return to the tradition, but we do have to use it as a resource for today."

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