Thursday, August 25, 2011

赠书和赠画 Buying Books and Paintings from Friends or Asking for Free

Recently I read some comments online saying that amongst Chinese people, when one has a book published, many friends and acquaintances would ask for a free copy.  The comments saying that in the West, people recognize the time and energy authors put into the work and usually would not ask for such free copy.

The comment was, though a bit sweeping, more or less on the mark.  Indeed, recalling my life in China, I remembered that many people I know who had published something usually gave free copies.  It would be insulting to ask friends to buy one of the books.

This is the same as painters, mostly in Chinese style water color on rice paper, and calligraphers.  People would make great efforts to ask accomplished painters and calligraphers to give them something.  Considering the execution time in that style is rather short - they practice hours upon hours to perfect a stoke, usually they would oblige, after some deflection.  This kind of obligation is very hard not to comply.

In order not to devalue their commercial works, usually they would state explicitly on the painting or calligraphy that the work was given to such and such exalted person and that little statement usually greatly dent the price of this work if it ever reached market.

In the US, I did give something away to great friends but not often.  My family members and friends insist on paying me for my labor.  I have attended book-signing events when my friends had books published and we  buy a copy of the book at full price and have our published friends sign the books.  Nowadays, even have a book or two published doesn't improve one's financial standing.  It's also our humble way of supporting our friends. 

Originally posted on This Shore, That Shore ..., including Chinese translation.

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