Characters are such


In my continuing effort to be the World’s Saddest Bastard, I went to Zhuhai with one dictionary and came back with several. I went to a bookshop in the subterranean plaza at Gongbei, and was nosing around the place when I stumbled across the 新华智力字典. It’s not a comprehensive character dictionary, but has a list of 3200 standard characters (I assume I’ve just read the blurb on the back correctly) along with words in which they are used, proverbs, homophones, and English gloss, and pronunciation advice (which most of the populace pays not the slightest amount of attention to). But in addition to this, the dictionary also includes the oracle bone version of the character. I thought it was worth having because I don’t have a dictionary of such characters. However, some of the English glosses and their phonemic transcriptions have errors. 

There’s a much bigger bookshop, also subterranean, on the corner of the intersection just before you reach Gongbei. I was having a look through the art books when I noticed that there were dictionaries at the back of the room. They turned out to be dictionaries of characters in different styles and from different times. The one which caught my eye was the 隶书字典. I like 隶书-style (lìshū) characters which are sort of the Chinese equivalent of Carolingian uncial. The dictionary has examples of lishu-style characters from various sources. I also bought the dictionary because seeing how the character was written in the past helps me write the modern character more fluently. 

I also bought the 常用字字帖, which is a copybook you can use as a model for different styles of writing – standard, lishu, running script (hard to read), grass script (impossible to read), and seal script (which is like oracle bone script). 

The weekend afterwards, I went back to the bookshop because I needed a break from drawing pictures, and I needed some source material for a couple of them. On this occasion, I found the shop extended even further than I realised and I found, among other things, grammars of Minnanhua, and Shanghaihua, which I’ve never seen in China before. Anyway, I was having a look at dictionaries again and found the 2007 edition of the 新编字典 which I bought in Fuzhou last year. This time they’ve included English glosses throughout, and there are a few pages in colour in the middle showing the evolution of a selection of characters. 

I went off to the bookshop near Wuhou temple yesterday evening to see whether I could track down some of the art books that I saw in Zhuhai. I happened to stray into the calligraphy section and ended up buying the 篆刻小字典, which is a companion volume to the 隶书字典, and the 篆刻常用字字典, which is a copybook like the 常用字字帖. The latter has different sorts of seal script characters as well as metal script and oracle bone characters.

As a consequence, I now have more dictionaries than sense.


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