Cecilia Lindqvist and Johan Fresk at the lecture.

Cecilia Lindqvist, born 1932, first visited China when she was 28 with letters of recommendation including one from the King of Sweden. She has authored several books on China and won the August Prize for her book “Kingdom of Characters” which was also translated into Chinese and could be found on bestseller lists in China for three months in a row, together with “Harry Potter”.

As Johan Fresk, Director of Studies for Chinese at our Department, pointed out in his introduction, Cecilia Lindqvist has become a celebrity in China and was the first teacher who introduced and taught Chinese at a Swedish high school.

In her presentation Cecilia pointed out that the earliest evidence of the Chinese script is found on oracle bones of the late Shang dynasty (11th century BC). The Shang used a written script that evolved into the standard Chinese writing system still in use today.

Carapaces and ox scapulae with inscriptions scratched into them were discovered about 1900 in China.

Turtle carapaces and ox scapulae with inscriptions scratched into them were discovered about 1900 in China. Characters were first brushed on the bone in red or black ink and then incised with a sharp instrument. Heat was then applied to the bone or shell, which caused it to crack, and omens were divined from the resulting patterns. Cecilia had brought several images from the Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang which she had visited.

The art of Chinese calligraphy and ink painting, which still form an important part of Chinese aesthetics today, developed from the Chinese script. Cecilia showed, among others, a calligraphy by the famous author Lu Xun from 1918. She emphasized that - unlike in the European tradition - in Chinese painting, man was often portrayed only as a small part of the universe and all its beings, the so-called ‘10,000 beings’.

This encounter with the famous sinologist and expert on Chinese script was a truly impressive experience for the more than 50 assembled and enthralled listeners. The event ended with a book-signing by Cecilia.

Text by Monika Gänssbauer