Illustrations for a Chinese Lord of the Rings in a Stunning “Glass Painting Style”


J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings tril­o­gy has had an enor­mous­ly wide, cross-cul­tur­al appeal. This despite the fact that its cre­ator was a uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor of a long-dead lan­guage, Anglo-Sax­on, who set his sto­ry in a world of cus­toms and mores—supernatural ele­ments aside—that bear a fair­ly close resem­blance to ancient and medieval Eng­land. But such sim­i­lar­ly provin­cial set­tings have raised no bar­ri­ers to the glob­al reach of the Ili­ad, say, or Shake­speare. West­ern epics, ancient and mod­ern, may on the one hand have trav­eled the globe on waves of cul­tur­al impe­ri­al­ism (and Hol­ly­wood film), and, on the oth­er, they have their own built-in glob­al reach because they tap into arche­typ­al sto­ry-types and human characteristics—because their use of myth and folk­lore reads as uni­ver­sal, though the par­tic­u­lars change from place to place and age to age.


The mul­ti­lin­gual among us have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see how well, or not, great sto­ries trans­late into dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­texts. Read­ers, for exam­ple, of both Chi­nese and Eng­lish will be able to com­pare Tolkien’s orig­i­nals with forth­com­ing edi­tions of the books from Wen­Jing Pub­lish­ing. The rest of us provin­cial mono­lin­guals can still make com­par­isons of visu­al inter­pre­ta­tions of the text, like these pos­si­ble book cov­ers drawn by artist Jian Guo. Part of a com­pe­ti­tion held by the pub­lish­er of the new Chi­nese text, the beau­ti­ful, mono­chro­mat­ic illus­tra­tions draw on many of the design ele­ments of Tolkien’s orig­i­nal paint­ings for the trilogy’s cov­ers, elab­o­rat­ing on the icon­ic ring and tow­ers with intri­cate Asian lines and flour­ish­es. At the top, see The Fel­low­ship of the Ring, above The Two Tow­ers, and below, The Return of the King.


The artist, an archi­tec­tur­al stu­dent, describes his style as “glass paint­ing style,” which he uses for its “sense of reli­gious mag­nif­i­cence.” Inter­est­ing­ly, before see­ing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adap­ta­tion in 2002, he had nev­er heard of the books. (Pre­vi­ous Chi­nese trans­la­tions of the books fea­ture rather unimag­i­na­tive cov­ers with images from Jackson’s movies.) The films con­vert­ed him into an avid read­er of Tolkien—see a Hob­bit illus­tra­tion at the bot­tom of the post. Jian is also a lover of J.K. Rowling’s pop­u­lar fan­ta­sy series and has designed some won­der­ful­ly styl­ized illus­tra­tions for Har­ry Pot­ter and the Cham­ber of Secrets and Har­ry Pot­ter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


via Tor

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

Illus­tra­tions of The Lord of the Rings in Russ­ian Iconog­ra­phy Style (1993)

Sovi­et-Era Illus­tra­tions Of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hob­bit (1976)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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