IEAS Exhibit Series — Arts of Asia

Crystal of Collected Wisdom: The Arabic Chinese Calligraphy of Haji Noor Deen

Crystal of Collected Wisdom: The Arabic Chinese Calligraphy of Haji Noor Deen image

November 15, 2010 – March 4, 2011
Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm
IEAS Lobby, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor

With his energetic command of the sini ("Chinese" in Arabic) script, Master Calligrapher Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang is almost single-handedly responsible for revitalizing the centuries-old art of Chinese Muslim calligraphy, and bringing it to the attention of a contemporary international audience. Born in 1963 in Yucheng, Shandong Province, China, Haji Noor Deen, whose title indicates that he has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, has already been a practitioner of calligraphy for thirty years.

For Haji Noor Deen calligraphy is primarily a practice of faith and secondarily a profession. Schooled first in mosques in his homeland, and then for eight years in Egypt, Haji Noor Deen is both an artist and scholar who continues to study with the finest Islamic calligraphy masters world-wide; he is also a prominent teacher in his own right. He is versed in the traditions of both Chinese and Arabic calligraphy separately, as well as the specific heritage of sini calligraphy an art form developed by the Hui Chinese Muslims that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In his work Noor Deen honors this long lineage of Chinese Muslim calligraphers while presenting his own innovative style, a style that is startling contemporary in its power, beauty, and pluralism. In his own words, "Arabic Calligraphy in [the] Chinese style is the crystal of collected wisdom from countless ancestors. It is the Chinese Muslim's resplendent treasure house."

In 1997 Haji Noor Deen was awarded the Certificate of Arabic Calligrapher in Egypt, becoming the first Chinese person to be honored with this prestigious award. In 2000 Noor Deen initiated and taught the first regular and systemic Arabic Calligraphy course at the Zhengzhou Islamic College in China, where he continues to profess today. He exhibits and lectures around the world in both secular and religious settings and has his work is in such prestigious collections as the British Museum, the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Harvard University Art Museum. Here at the Institute of East Asian Studies we are pleased to be able to share Haji Noor Deen's work with the Berkeley community.

On Arabic Chinese Calligraphy:

Traditional Arabic calligraphy in China has been described as the most representative form of Islamic art in China. Calligraphy is part of the daily life of Chinese Muslims, used in homes and mosques. Sini calligraphy belongs to the Hui people, one of China's 56 officially-recognized ethnic groups. Unlike China's other Muslim minorities, Hui are Mandarin-speaking, though Arabic remains the language of the Koran. It is from the Hui calligraphy tradition that Haji Noor Deen descends.

The following is quoted from "East of East: The Art of Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang" by Dr. Hesham Alalusi: "In a country that almost reveres the art of the beautifully written word, it is not rare to find a calligrapher that possesses the talent and creativity inherent to the practice of Chinese calligraphy, an intuitive and freely flowing art form in which the way a word is written can convey as much meaning as the word itself. However, it is rare to find a calligrapher that marries the spontaneous, water-like quality of Chinese calligraphy to the measured cerebrality and refined restraint of Arabic calligraphy. The Chinese and Arabic calligraphic traditions have often been compared as the two of the world's finest manifestations of the written word, but never likened; indeed, they are at once opposites and complements. When combined, the stunning simplicity of Chinese calligraphy softens the artistic deliberateness of Arabic calligraphy, while the Arabic informs the Chinese counterpart with its increased structurality. In the end, the result is calligraphy that blends the two greatest calligraphy traditions in an artistic piece that is a work of incredibly unique beauty, and a testimony to man's synthesizing genius. Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang is such a calligrapher."

The Institute of East Asian Studies would like to thank Haji Noor Deen Mi Guang Jiang for the generous loan of his work. The work will be on view at the Institute of East Asian Studies through March 4, 2011. As part of the opening festivities, Haji Noor Deen will offer his thoughts about his work and the traditions of which he partakes, as well as a demonstration of his art.

The following day, November 16, the Center for Chinese Studies hosts a calligraphy workshop.

See other IEAS Exhibits.