Xu-Bing-A-book-from-the-sky.jpg (JPEG Image, 1189 × 570 pixels)

Xu-Bing-A-book-from-the-sky.jpg (JPEG Image, 1189 × 570 pixels).


First had the pleasure of seeing a Xu Bing installation at the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C. more than 10 years ago now…  That visit to D.C. towards the end of when I was in high school, maybe the winter of 2002.  Seeing this absurdly magnificent “Book from the Sky” on full display was a treat.  Even though Xu Bing’s “Book” is printed with invented nonsense characters, they are each imbued with a literally unique effort.  Each character is its own satire, its own criticism, its own act in defiance of (scriptographical, orthological?) authority.

矛盾 【むじゅん】 (n,vs,adj-no) contradiction; inconsistency

Here’s another recent favorite Japanese word.  It’s composed of two rather unusual Chinese characters.  One meaning spear and the other meaning shield.  And when they’re combined, you get ‘logical inconsistency.’

I wish I knew how to dig deeper into etymologies of Japanese words like this.  I suppose I may need to just ask someone.  I just imagine some Buddhist fighter/ philosophers sitting around shooting the breeze and trying to put a fine point on why their interlocutor’s argument is just plain wrong.  Let’s see… how can I spell this out for you?

All of the below is copied and pasted from the WWWJDIC.

矛 [JIS] 4C37 [Uni] 77db [部首] 110 [教育] 8 [画数] 5 [音] ム ボウ [訓] ほこ [英] halberd; arms; festival float

[Uni] 76fe [部首] 4 [部古] 109 [教育] 8 [画数] 9  [音] ジュン  [訓] たて  [英]  shield; escutcheon; pretext