Zhai Xin, a Calligraphy Master with Special IP Views

2011/09/22,By Tommy Zhang & Kevin Nie, China IP,[Copyright]

Zhai Xin, master of Chinese calligraphy, always gives people a down-to-earth atmosphere, which differentiates himself from the refine literati like Fan Zeng, whose distinct designation goes to Tang suit, or the idiosyncratic artists labeled with cocktails. He wears shirts and suit pants and speaks a pure northeastern accent. However, his simple appearance seems hard to cover his eminence.
The “Ordinary” Calligrapher
Different from any other calligraphers, Zhai Xin was born in a peasant household in Heilongjiang Province, rather than a scholarly family. The land of black soil has witnessed many of his early growing memories. When he was nine, an aged traditional Chinese medicine enlightened him with calligraphy. From then on, he devoted his all to the art. After years of industrious practice under the guidance of his calligraphy teacher, Zhang Zhenzhong, he has primarily shaped up his calligraphy style in Grade Five. At such a young age, Zhai Xin wrote all the slogans in his village, making himself a crackerjack in the nearing households. As a super fan of Chairman Mao, Zhai Xin had concentrated on imitating the Mao Characters.
Zhai Xin holds a unique point of view on the intellectual property of artworks. He welcomes all kinds of imitation, even though some people may sell these imitating copies under his name. His attitude towards artwork IPR seems a little inopportune when more and more artists emphasize on the subject. “Those copies are bread and butter for some people,” Zhai Xin said with a smile at the interview, “I was poor years ago. I should not cut off others’ livelihood.” He further expressed that he always regarded himself as the artist of the people.
As for copyright issues of artworks, Zhai Xin also has distinct views. He said, “There are many ways to achieve a considerable copyright value out of artworks. We may authorize our painting and calligraphy works to certain manufacturers, who will then print these works onto the packages of up-market goods, or produce artworks of other kinds. We can not only promote the tastes of the products, but also gain considerable rewards. So it seems a little elementary and inefficient to obtain economic payment solely on fighting against counterfeit goods.
In the age of information, how should artists see art creation? Zhai Xin answered, “The age of Internet requires transparency in everything. Artists must dare to put their works online to receive the judgment of the public. Of course, we artists must treat our work more seriously and more passionately.”
As an active promoter of the traditional Chinese culture, Zhai Xin always said that a small writing brush changed his whole life. He was qualified for Jilin University in the mid 1970s, majoring philosophy, and was assigned with a position in the newspaper Northeast Asia Economy and finally made his way to the executive president of the Man of the Day magazine (《风云人物》杂志) . No matter where he was, he has never stopped studying and improving his skills. Zhai Xin is especially good at the grass writing of “Mao Style” , which is granted with the name of “the King of Wild Grass Writing” by the calligraphy circle. Many of Zhai Xin’s works have been displayed in international exhibitions. In 2010, one of his calligraphy works was sent to the UN headquarters as the representation of Chinese calligraphy.
When it comes to the intellectual property of artwork, Zhai Xin welcomes others’ copy his works. He even finds it acceptable if people fake his name to sell copies of his works. It seems a little inappropriate under today’s circumstances where more and more artists see the artwork IP as a significant issue concerning their interests.
Zhai Xin has his logic. Artists’ reasonable rights on their works should be fully respected, while the public demand of artworks must be given consideration, too. “Therefore, we artists cannot invariably emphasize personal rights, but also keep in mind that we are artists of people.” Zhai Xin once said.
Zhai Xin sees the copyright issues differently, too. He once said, “There are many ways to realize the copyright value of artworks. It is of simplistic to obtain incomes solely by cracking down counterfeit goods. I would suggest that they authorize their works to manufacturers. Then their paintings and calligraphy can be printed on the package of upscale products or made into artworks of other kinds. In this way, artists can not only promote the tastes of their works, but acquire a considerable amount of rewards. Several of my works have been printed on folding fans and tea sets through authorization.”
Zhai Xin always suggests that people should be better to learn calligraphy. He said, “To inherit our culture, let’s take up our writing brushes and infect our family and friends.” As an art well reflects the essence of traditional Chinese culture, calligraphy condenses thousands of years of cultural evolution. Zhai Xin regards morality as a crucial factor out of calligraphy works. No noble morality, no good calligraphy, as he constantly emphasizes.
(Translated by Athena Hou)

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