New Bai Words

2017-2018

Bai’s written language has been lost, and the Bai language and culture are inherited orally. Young generations born in the 80s and 90s, including myself, do not even speak any Bai language because of the environment and our Mandarin-focused education. When I started to value my identity as a Bai and wanted to learn the Bai language and culture, I found that I could only learn them in a very fragmented way, as language is my biggest obstacle.

As an important way of cultural communication, the written language is an essential element for an ethnic group to pass down its own culture and to communicate. So I wanted to start from here to create a Bai writing system and promote it among Bai people. I referred to the texts on tiles unearthed in Nanzhao for written characters and divided words into consonants, vowels and tones to create a script from rules of pronunciation like Korean or Japanese.

Standard Characters Font Design

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Phonetic System - New Bai Words Initial Table

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Phonetic System - New Bai Words Syllable Table

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Phonetic System - New Bai Words Tone Table

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Structure:

Left - Initial

Right - Syllable

Bottom - Tone

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The Sample of New Bai Words

After making detailed rules on how to construct characters, I set up a website to introduce my rules for the "New Bai Words" writing system. While presenting my project on the website, I invited more Bai people to participate in it. Among them were elders who speak Bai language since their childhood, as well as some young people. I asked them to choose their own favorite words to create the text corresponding to the pronunciation according to my rules.

At the same time, I also tried to demonstrate these new "Bai texts" and the cultural implications behind them through photography and all sorts of materials in an attempt to promote my project in a variety of ways.

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Hat
书-方形
Oil
Fire
Snow
香-方形
World
Money
Grandduaghter
Red
乖-方形
Good
酒-方形
Cold
Grass
Fat
Tea
Fish
Salt
School
1/2

I used the traditional tie-dye material made from radix isatidis to write these newborn "Bai texts" on a piece of white cotton cloth and washed it repeatedly in the tie-dye process. After each writing, I would wash this piece of cloth with a washing machine, dry it, rewrite those words and write new words, until all the words are printed on the cloth after being shrank and overlaid many times through rounds of modern machine washing and hand-coloring.

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edition-1, 50*50cm

cotton cloth, dye ink made from radix isatidis

2018

collected by Advertising Museum of China

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edition-2, 70*70cm

cotton cloth, dye ink made from radix isatidis

2019