About the Yu Characters
My name is Zhuowei Yu (or simply George Yu). I am the designer of the Yu Characters. I would be comfortable to be referred as a businessman turned amateur artist. Certainly it is always precisely correct to call me the designer of the Yu Characters.
Born and grew up in Beijing, China in 1957, I was fond of painting when I was about five years old. My painting hobby had gradually evolved to calligraphy upon entering middle school. During the Cultural Revolution, studying and practicing ancient Chinese calligraphy was almost taboo so I had a tough time accessing any of them. Fortunately, the Forbidden City (imperial palace for the Chinese emperors built 700 years ago) was reopened to the public after a few years’ shut down by the government. I had a good chance to see tremendous amount of royal treasures. What impressed me the most was tons of calligraphy artwork everywhere. I became so addicted to them that I spent the money my mom gave me for candies to visit the palace again and again to satisfy my desire for curiosity.
I quickly fell in love with calligraphy at around fourteen. As the normal practice, I aimed to obtain the writing characteristics of exemplary pieces of writing, mainly Yan Zhenqing, the most renowned ancient Chinese calligrapher. During the course of learning and practicing it, I would often imagine working out a calligraphy artwork and present it to the Chinese empress “Dowager Cixi” just like some of her cabinet ministers did (I saw those in the Forbidden City.) It would be such a fulfilling feeling.
While I kept on my passion on calligraphy, I additionally developed an intense interest in Russian taught at middle school as foreign language and was soon ranked the top student in Russian study among more than a thousand students. I also enjoyed very much writing the cursive Russian letters using the ink dipping pen. My Russian teacher reserved my homework of Russian writing as a role model for all students to follow.
A fuzzy concept flashed across my mind: wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Chinese calligraphic art be somehow combined with Russian and how would it look like? I would quickly shut myself down on this crazy thinking because at that time anything beyond following Mao Zedong’s thought (Chinese Marxism) was totally unacceptable and also punishable. My thinking was way too far beyond it. However, if you were wired by God to do something in your lifetime, sooner or later it would pop up even after decades, which proved to be true on myself.
In 1972, an unprecedented English learning program was launched over the radio. I got so excited at it as this was the only way I could learn English in the most professional way. After several months’ following up, I fell in love with English and attentively followed it up for quite a few years all the way through my enrollment to the Beijing University of International Studies in 1978.
My four years English study in the university had enabled me to perform international trade starting from 1982. Dozens of years of communing with countries of multiple cultures had led my teenager’s fuzzy concept to resurface time and again: To apply the Chinese characters to western cultures in a certain way. The Chinese calligraphy had been revered as the best form of Chinese art due to its unique feature of being capable, mysterious, careful, carefree, balanced, unrestrained, mature, virile, graceful, sober, well-knit, prolix, rich, exuberant, and classic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these unique features could also be reflected in calligraphy of western languages?
The harder it was, the more challenging and appealing it would become. Extremely ridiculous and impossible as it might appear, this hazy crazy idea kept popping up from time to time. There always seemed to be a hidden giant standing far away in the fog waving at me. Or I seemed to be following my instinct. In 2004, I went to the Beijing Bookstore and bought a big dictionary weighing about four kilos consisting of all scripts styles of all Chinese characters. Why did I buy it? No clear answers! Probably instinct or sixth sense. I would often grab it from my bookshelf and search for characters written by different calligraphers in variant script styles that may best match something somewhere sometimes in the West.
As the burning desire kept growing, I decided in 2008 that I may have to sacrifice the trading business in order to have more time on this exciting adventure.
It was of course easier said than done. Unlike a Chinese marrying a European, which would naturally give birth to a child resembling their parents by half, when you put a Chinese character of intricate strokes and complicated structures beside a Roman letter, none of them would give a damn what they are meant to be related to one another. On the contrary, you might be much more comfortable to see them separated as far apart as possible. Even today, you can still easily search online and see some rusty, harsh and primitive designs in trying to combine Chinese way of writing with that of the Roman alphabet.
As the Chinese saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. The Roman alphabet starts with A, so it was my first course of dish. This was a dish with Greek cheese on the left side and the Chinese bean curd on the other. You had to work wonders by delicately mixing them so that either fans would like it more than the original. Searching through thousands of Chinese characters, I picked up the Chinese character“爱”(pronounced like A) to be the ideal match with A by inserting it into A , sharing one stroke and filling its vacant areas evenly and aesthetically. More importantly, “爱”has an overwhelmingly positive meaning for love! In other words, the Yu Character A is beautiful from inside out!
You would need to “test write” the newly created character hundreds if not thousands of times to see if the sequence of the strokes would practically make sense, if the connections between each stroke were smooth, if the layout of the strokes was evenly balanced, if the whole structure of the character could stand on its own and looked nice just like a regular Chinese character. The test writing was done by traditional brush in the most popular official script style. After the protocol was finalized, I used the “shape” function of Microsoft word 2013 to record it and be saved in the computer for the convenience of future online promotion.
Well begun is half done. By following the same rules, I started to crack the nuts one by one for the rest of 25 Roman letters. Believe it or not, it took approximately 6 months to create the 26 Yu Characters plus a few additional months for further correction and perfection.
While it would have been impossible to present my calligraphy artwork to the Chinese empress Dowager Cixi (who would now be 155 years), it was feasible to submit it to Queen Elizabeth II. So I sent Her Majesty a birthday celebration in the Yu Characters in the spring of 2014. Amazingly enough, I got her thank you reply letter. See the link:
You may now visit www.yucharacters.com to see exactly how they look.
The creation of the Yu Characters had caught the eyes of ICN TV station who invited me for interview (in Chinese). See the following links.
I had also shown my artwork in a couple of local art exhibitions. One of them had named me artist of the day. See the following link:
The success in the creation of the Yu Characters did not stop me from moving on. I really did not want to ignore my buddy, the Russian. Starting from early 2015, I began cracking the Russian nuts. Surprisingly fast, I finished it up in a matter of a couple of months! See the following link:
To learn more about the Yu Characters, click the following for the manual: http://www.yucharacters.com/files/YU_CHARACTERS_INTRODUCTION_2015-4-14.pdf
Designer of the Yu Characters