Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

review by Maryom

Sea of Ink is the life story of one of China's most famous painters. Zhu Da, a prince of the Ming dynasty, was born into a family of painters and scholars where his talents were recognised at a early age. The Manchu invasion of China and overthrow of the Ming dynasty brought an end to this leisurely lifestyle. Following the further blow of his father's death, Zhu Da retreated to a monastery. In the silence and calmness there he put his princely world behind him and discovered his talent for painting, eventually adopting the name Bada Shanren.

Sea of Ink is a short, contemplative novel as much about the act of painting as the life of the artist. Weihe seeks to convey the feel of the brush as it sweeps across the paper, the movement and rhythm of the artist's hand and the thoughts and philosophy that lie behind art.
Sea of Ink is a book to be taken slowly and preferably without external disruptions. I found I needed peace and quiet to sink into the book and let it sink into me - at times taking a break at the end of a chapter instead of rushing madly on to the next. When I was interrupted I completely lost the mood that had been so carefully built.
There are reproductions of 11 of Bada Shanren's pictures throughout the book. At first glance the paintings seem slight and unimpressive - a mere squiggle on the page - but stop and look at them closely and their depth emerges. I felt Weihe's book was like this in many ways. The book may seem slight and unimpressive at first glance or at a quick read through but take time and its beauty will emerge.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

Buy direct from Peirene Press where various subscription offers are available

Other reviews: Iris on Books


  1. I haven't been able to get into this book and agree that I need to "sink into the book and let it sink into me". Having read your review, I feel inspired to give it another go when I am next travelling. Thank you!

  2. It is definitely a book that works best with a quiet environment and a chunk of time to devote to reading this one.