Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2004. Item #70
Almost every early culture once had a system of symbols that was eventually replaced with a spoken and then written language. In Chinese culture, the evolution of symbols and their meanings took a slightly different and unique path. Rather than the visual symbols being replaced by the written language, in China, the symbols themselves evolved into the written language.
In SYMBOLS AND REBUSES IN CHINESE ART, author Fang Jing Pei catalogs the hundreds of symbols in Chinese artistry, and describes each of their meanings. (A rebus is a pictorial representation of a word or syllable.) He explains, for instance, why a depiction of a bat can mean happiness, and why some beautiful images, such as sparrows and pears, are rarely seen. Using myths, folklore, history, and religion to explore the significance of each symbol, Fang presents a comprehensive understanding of the important role symbolism has played, and continues to play, in Chinese culture.