Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beauty in Simplicity

There is beauty in simplicity (most of the time).

Take for example the powerful equation of E = mc2. It takes a genius like Einstein to present the world with an elegant and simple relationship between energy and mass.

I have never thought of equations are like poetry until I came across this book, ‘Five Equations That Changed The World’ by Michael Guillen. In the book he said, “In the language of mathematics, equations are like poetry. They state truths with unique precision, convey volumes of information in rather brief terms, and often are difficult for the uninitiated to comprehend.”

Another example of beauty in simplicity is Chinese ink painting. Just a few stroke of the brush, we have fishes coming ‘alive’ on the drawing paper. The black ground is usually blank unlike Western style of painting which normally goes for details and richness in colour.

However, where Chinese characters are concern, I find beauty lies not in the simplify form but the ‘original’ form, though complicated to write. This is especially so for Chinese calligraphy. For example, the beauty of the words ‘longevity’ and ‘stork’ is lost if written in simplified form. Besides the simplify form cannot capture the three essences of Chinese characters : thought, sound and form. These elements make Chinese words an artistic medium in calligraphy.

In my previous post I mentioned that my 6 years of foundation in Chinese at primary school level was in the 'traditional' form. When the government switched to the simplify form - I was lost. Some may think that it should be easier to learn the simplify form, after all the strokes are minimum. But we have to understand how the brain works. It difficult to unlearn ground work. Besides, after the age of 9, to pick up a language (in my case to relearn it) is very difficult for most people, unless they have a flair for it.

For me the traditional form of Chinese characters have meaning attached to them - pictorially and auditory through the 3 essences of thought, sound and form. Thus, in a way it is easier to learn because of this reason. Simplify characters often lack these and I find it difficult to remember due to the missing 'meaning' element express through form.

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