This work evolved from the regular script in Chinese calligraphy. Xu reassembled Chinese radicals, designing and carving square-block characters that look very similar to traditional Chinese logographs but are entirely meaningless in terms of linguistic function. He patterned all his characters after the classical style used for printing. In addition, he hand-printed the vertical scrolls and presented them in the installation in traditional Chinese stitch-bound format. In A Book from the Sky, the space is overwhelmed by all these unreadable characters. As a result, it merges Chinese and Western art elements and shakes the tradition of Chinese writing at its core.


  • Title: A book from the sky
  • Creator: Xu Bing
  • Date Created: 1987-1991
  • Theme: Symbol, Text
  • Physical Dimensions: w850 x h400 x d1500 cm
  • Artist's Biography: An internationally acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist, Xu enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking in 1987. After settling in the United States in 1990, he won the esteemed Genius Award by the MacArthur Foundation in 1999, and the Artes Mundi (Arts of the World) Prize in 2004.
  • Type: Installation

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