We are very lucky to have a wonderful painting by Jane Dwight of two pigs in our sitting room. It may seem a strange subject to have up on the wall but we both loved the painting when we first saw it and bought it without a second thought. I often sit and look at it – there is something powerful in the strokes and the composition that is sublime.
In contrast, I found a painting from 13 years ago which I had forgotten about:
I have also recently been asked twice about pigs so thought I would put some thoughts down in a blog post to try and answer some of the queries.
I wanted to start by looking at the Calligraphy for Boar. So why is the Calligraphy for Boar on our Zodiac Animals page so different from what Google or other translation engines throw up?
First of all, I think it is worth reminding ourselves that like all languages, Chinese is in the process of evolving. This means that there will always be many ways of writing words and phrases especially when slang terms are involved. However, some of these will become the accepted way of doing things…
The characters in the Zodiac are pretty much set so when looking at the Boar, this is represented by the character shǐ:
However, if you look up Boar or Pig on Google you will get zhū:
What you will notice is the left part of the character which is the radical for four-legged animal, which is a very big part of the Zodiac character…
It is worth noting that if you write either character on your painting it is perfectly acceptable but should you write the former character it links more closely to the Zodiac and provides a better link to Chinese culture.
Having said that, should you wish to write piglet there are many ways of writing this. The most literal would probably be little pig i.e. xiǎo zhū and this would be fine. However, if you wrote the following this would be more what parents may affectionately say to their children in China:
Literally pig pig this is piglet (zhū zhū).
Having said all the above, please don’t assume that the Chinese characters are set throughout the Chinese world. If in doubt, and you are able to ask a Chinese person, ask. What is there to lose?
The best thing to say is that should you not have access to Chinese speakers and writers please write something. It is always best to have a go and Chinese readers will appreciate the effort. Some of the best conversations I have had about paintings have been because my Calligraphy was either completely incorrect or almost there. If it is almost there people want to find out what was meant and are usually happy to offer solutions or say how much they enjoy the contrast…
Here’s hoping this inspires you to take another look at pigs, or other animals in the Chinese Zodiac. If you do have pigs you have painted either previously with us, or because of this post, please get in touch as we would love to see them.
Have fun with your painting and Calligraphy,