A designer’s journey to where the writing is

Trailing the Written Word — The Art of Writing Among China’s Ethnic Minorities

It was the Dongba pictographic script pictured here that began a graphic designer’s quest to uncover the extensive ethnic and cultural diversity within the Chinese state.
THE TASK

After spending four months in the border regions of China looking for the scripts of the minority peoples and photographing specimens of these written languages as they were used in their original contexts, Cindy Ho asked us to help share the work with a wider audience.

By showcasing the aesthetic qualities of the written word, Ho wished to dispel the misconception about China as a cultural and ethnic monolith and to enforce a process of systematic and careful study essential to the kind of appreciation that is necessary to preserve Chinese minority cultures.

The photos which depict people writing are extremely powerful…the book opens very different horizons to readers and what they traditionally expect from China.

HONG YEE LEE KRAKAUER Director of Education, Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts

The forewords and the author’s introduction serve as an excellent introduction to the subject matter...the catalogue really shows the diversity of China! The glossary and bibliography are both good.

NORMA LIBMAN Writer, Teacher

The personal note of Cindy Ho’s writing is engaging. As a brief introduction to the subject, it is terrific. The catalog is beautiful graphically.

JUDY B. WYLIE Writer, Editor, Teacher

What a beautiful book — photographs, illustrations, and design. Congratulations on presenting the material in a way that makes it absolutely captivating.

SARAH BRADLEY Associate Director, Asian Cultural Council

The catalogue is beautifully produced, and the photographs and illustrations are excellent…I applaud your efforts to correct popular misconceptions about China. It is useful that you have chosen a medium that is so accessible, and I am particularly impressed that you present these peoples with such compassion and enthusiasm.

PROFESSOR S. ROBERY RAMSEY Author, The Languages of China
MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Our task was selecting the photographs and culling the massive printed material Ho collected on her journey. These included books, newspapers, and calligraphic artwork, etc., in the different scripts.

It became apparent that a more comprehensive catalogue documenting this body of work was needed to complement the various exhibitions we had lined up. The complexity and vastness of the material called for a more thorough exposition.

The resulting catalogue includes forewords by a prominent Sinologist and a professor of graphic design, maps, factual data and descriptions of encounters with the people who wrote the words. Though not intended to be a scholarly in-depth study in linguistics or ethnicities, we exceeded the goal to show that writing is not only a tool of communication and artistic expression, it is also a means to introduce the lives and cultures of these little-known minority groups — a segment of the world’s most populous country.

THE RESULT?

THE COLORFUL ETHNIC DIVERSITIES OF MINORITY PEOPLES IN CHINA

Will not go unremarked.