This set of 3 monochroms showcases some of my uncle’s recent calligraphic work.
The first phrase from the initial picture is the proverb “海纳百川”, which literally means “water containing hundred lakes” and literarily describes something of epic proportions. More subtly, it is used to describe the personality of a great person, as the trait of being able to see other points of view is the sign of a leader – a democratic leader in times of war was particularly honoured.
The phrase itself came from “三國时代” – the period of the three kingdoms (220–280 AD) and the late Eastern Han dynasty (c. 184–220 AD). Below is its first recorded appearance, in an account by the 晋 Jin dynasty historian 袁宏 (yúan hóng, 328-376) written in memory of the famous warriors and generals of the 三國 period:
translation: Origin: Jin · yúan hóng notes in 《Three Kingdom notable general review》: A microscopic nature undisturbed by material, can rival even the most gargantuan of worlds. Addendum by 李周翰: for an inch of intent is like a sea containing hundred lakes, a saying of grandeur.
Like many old Chinese proverbs, it aims to condense a parable into 4 characters. Reading beneath the line, this particular one is saying that should an intent or idea be natural, however small it may be, has the capacity to explain or contain nature itself.
In some ways, this sentiment is also perfectly captured by the idea in set theory that there exists a one-to-one map between an infinite set A and the set A × A (A multiplied with itself). So does infinity equal infinity squared? I shall leave that as an exercise :)