Book details


Empire of Living Symbols

By Cecilia Lindqvist

  • ISBN13: 9780306816093
  • Pub Date: 05/06/2008 | Price: $25.00 / $26.95 CAN
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Trim: 7.90 x 8.30 Inches | 448 Pages
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About the Book

The origins of Chinese ideographs were not known until 1899, when a scholar went to an apothecary for some medicine made of “dragon bone.” To his surprise, the bone, which had not yet been ground into powder, contained a number of carved inscriptions. Thus began the exploration of the 3000-year-old sources of the written characters still used in China today. In this unparalleled and deeply researched book, Cecilia Lindqvist tells the story of these characters and shows how their shapes and concepts have permeated all of Chinese thought, architecture, art, and culture.

About the Author

Cecilia Lindqvist lives in Stockholm and lectures widely. She has just published a book on Chinese music.


Guardian 7/5/08
“An evocative, compelling celebration of language as a carrier of culture.”

Toronto Globe & Mail 7/5/08
“[A] delightful cultural and linguistic history.”

Boston Globe
“Deserve[s] special mention…Lavishly illustrated.”

London Review of Books
, 2008
“A fascinating introduction to Chinese language and culture. Beautifully designed and illustrated with photographs, calligraphy and drawings.”

Shelf Awareness’s “Top Ten of 2009,” 12/15/2009
“For those of us fascinated by Chinese, this offers detailed histories of many basic characters, showing their earliest forms, which often were representational, and their stylized modern versions.”