A Study of Wave

A series of patterns were designed for characters according to their different meanings in Chinese, which all mean wave in English but have nuance differences in Chinese.

A5 link stitch binding publication about waves, experimented with different paper stocks.

We’ve been observing natural phenomenas since ancient times. The waves are one of them. Thousands and thousands years ago, we’ve already figured out some simple rules about the waves. The more we observe, the more we discover from this planet, and the more we know about the waves.

What draws my attention is a group of Chinese characters used to describe different kinds of waves. Each character was formed to describe one thing at first, then started to carry extentional meanings that we gave them intrigued me. The way characters have been built and the process of how their meanings changed are so similar to the way we observe and research about waves.

At the very beginning, with no help of former acknowlegements and high-tech equipments, there is nothing much we could do besides relating nearly everything with supernatural or simply recording the forms of the waves. This might be the stage where the character ‘水’(shui,means water) was invented. We then got the vague idea of the waves after that primitive observation, that they are related to the wind and the Moon, that there are different types of waves and they are related to our lifes closely. Therefore using one character to describe all different types of waves won’t be accurate enough. By compounding two or more radicals, new characters with more accurate meanings were invented.

All the words were invented to record and communicate. But through the course of civilization, the meanings of the characters got extended. Characters got more abstract meanings and been used to express some subtle emotions. Since modern times, the radical changes with us have also been resulting in changing of the meanings. The characters originally used to describe waves nowadays got more than one meaning. Some of them might seem to be irrelevant at first glance, though if we could rethink about it they will start to make sense. For example, character “浪”(lang,means wave)and“潮”(chao,means tides)now is used in pair to describe cultural movement. The character “淪”(lun, means wave) now can be used to descirbe a status of fallen and corruption.

From the physical waves, to the cultural movements, the meaning extension of characters will never end while there are people using them,  just as the endless observation of us.