Skip Navigation

Dictionary Series: Water

Qiu Zhijie

Asian Art

The Beijing-based artist Qiu Zhijie has deconstructed the traditional art form of calligraphy, assessing the shapes and impact of writing and the way that calligraphy informs Chinese cultural and political identity. In his Dictionary Series, he refers to a treatise from the second century C.E. that was one of the earliest attempts to explain the logic of the Chinese writing system. The dictionary introduced the idea of “radicals,” basic written forms that are building blocks for more complex characters and concepts. Here, the artist writes, rewrites, and combines the radical for “water,” using wet ink and a long, vertical format that suggests a waterfall so that the characters evoke and enact their meaning.
MEDIUM Ink on paper
DATES 2001
DIMENSIONS image: 70 7/8 x 11 in. (180 x 27.9 cm) mounted on silk: 80 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (205.1 x 29.8 cm), as it hangs (including rolls)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of David Solo
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Qiu Zhijie (Chinese). Dictionary Series: Water, 2001. Ink on paper, image: 70 7/8 x 11 in. (180 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of David Solo, 2014.62.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2014.62.2_PS9.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2014.62.2_PS9.jpg., 2019
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
The Brooklyn Museum holds a non-exclusive license to reproduce images of this work of art from the rights holder named here. The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act. For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact If you wish to contact the rights holder for this work, please email and we will assist if we can.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.
Qiu Zhijie (Chinese). <em>Dictionary Series: Water</em>, 2001. Ink on paper, image: 70 7/8 x 11 in. (180 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of David Solo, 2014.62.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2014.62.2_PS9.jpg)