The world may soon be greeted with a copy of the smallest handwritten copy of the Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢), with each Chinese character written in microscopic 2.2mm regular script.
Miaoli County Tongluo Township (銅鑼) resident Chang Hou-lun (章厚倫) has finished transcribing half of the book — nearly 300,000 characters — and estimates he will finish the transcription by May next year, after which he intends to enter it into Guinness World Records.
The 59-year-old Chang has been a calligrapher for 46 years and calls his style the “Chang print” (章體).
In 2004, he published a work titled Collection of Chang Hou-lun’s Regular Script (章厚倫楷書大觀).
Miaoli County Government’s International Culture and Tourism Bureau helped Chang to publish a script-copying book, and he has also completed the 400,000-word General History of Taiwan (台灣通史) by Lien Ya-tang (連雅堂).
Chang said he was inspired to start his current project by a call he received last year from lovers of calligraphy in Shanghang County in China’s Fujian Province, inviting him to participate in a fund-raising sale of calligraphy.
When they said the people participating in the fundraiser were all first-class calligraphy masters who had passed the national standard, and asked who in Taiwan had passed the test, Chang said he was unhappy and felt the Chinese were slighting Taiwanese calligraphers.
“I told them on the spot that I wouldn’t be participating and I would not sell any of my works to China,” he said.
Chang said the telephone call sparked a desire to transcribe the four books considered the classic Chinese novels — The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義), the Shuei Hu Chuan (水滸傳), Journey to the West (西遊記) and Dream of the Red Chamber — in microscopic text.
The plan is to complete transcribing all four books within the decade, Chang said, adding that he has chosen the 610,000-word Dream of the Red Chamber to start.
The project started last May, Chang said, adding that because he planned to write 1,000 words a day, it was also a test of his capabilities, endurance and stamina.
The slightest mistake would ruin an entire piece of paper, Chang said, adding that although the task is a difficult one, he would finish it.
Speaking on calligraphy print and style, Chang said that since the Tang Dynasty, regular print has not been perfected or seen innovation, and that it is the same as Tang-era text, adding that since both sides of the Taiwan Strait write with the same regular print, Taiwan’s calligraphy is in no way inferior to China’s.
The project’s goals are to create a work exemplifying the limits of regular print, and also to elevate the renown of Taiwanese calligraphers, Chang said.
It has been estimated that the completed micro-script copy of the Dream of the Red Chamber will cover 23m of paper.