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1 down, 3 to go as retiree sets his mind to copying classics

A SIMPLE wish to practice his calligraphy skills motivated a 75-year-old retiree to begin copying the Chinese classic literary work "A Dream of Red Mansions" three years ago.

Jin Yukui, a Jinshan District native, has now completed the task. The result is 59 volumes of 60 pages each, containing more than 900,000 characters. Piled on top of each other they are 50 centimeters high.

"Every day I write for two hours in the morning and one to two hours after lunch," said Jin. "It's a good way to practice my calligraphy and I feel my handwriting gets better and better."

Not wanting to quit learning after retiring from Shanghai Jinshan High School, Jin joined a calligraphy class and came up with the idea of hand copying the four traditional Chinese classics starting with his favorite.

At first, Jin copied the novel in large characters.

"I saw a copy of 'A Dream of Red Mansions' that was hand copied in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), in which the characters are too small to be recognized," said Jin.

"Later I found the font was too big and that there was much space wasted so I changed to a smaller one and the finished page looked just fine and clear. Also, copying in a smaller font size saves on paper."

But Jin had already completed three volumes of the novel and had to start again to ensure consistency.

Jin uses rice paper from Anhui Province, considered the best in the country, and changes his writing brush once or twice a month.

From copying to bookbinding, all the work is his. Besides practice, Jin says writing is a good way to stay tranquil and keep fit.

"I really enjoy copying books ... I can totally feel at peace and free from all the trivialities of life," Jin said.

He also believes practicing calligraphy helps old people stay calm and can prevent many diseases.

"It will be so wonderful for me to look back at all my work when I finish," Jin added.

He is now moving on to another classic - "Romance of the Three Kingdoms."

"I will keep copying until I finish all the four Chinese literary classics," he said. "It will probably take seven to eight years."

The two other classics are "Water Margin" and "Journey to the West."


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