He prints "past and present" of Chinese Characters by 3D printing
CHONGQING (CQNEWS) -- On the morning of early autumn, in a studio on Xingguang Avenue, Yubei District, a lean middle-aged man sat on a low chair and carefully trimming the mold in his hand, without noticing the arrival of the reporter at all. "Sorry, sorry, I was trimming the new character molds that have just been designed and have not time to tidy up." It was not until the molds in his hand were completely formed that Niu Nan left aside his work and looked up and notice us. As he packed up the molds on the table, he greeted us apologetically to take seats. Before exchanging pleasantries, Niu Nan couldn't wait to introduce the new work he just designed. "This is a 3D font designed by the words' good' and 'evil'. Through the changes of position, light and shadow, the font can present two different characters." It is this ingenious design that looks different from different view points which makes Niu Nan's works popular with many netizens on the Internet and gained millions of internet traffic.
Assembling and dissembling, he “plays” with names of Chinese cities
Niu Nan's most known work is the series of 3D Chinese characters of city names, and the video on bilibili has garnered over one million views.
In October 2021, Niu Nan posted a video on his social media account "Che Yi Gongfang". In the video, two three-dimensional Chinese characters changed into the word "重庆 (Chongqing)" as they rotate and traverse, and the two characters “重 (Chong)” and “庆 (Qing)” was dissembled and divided into "千里 (Qianli) (a thousand of miles)" and "广大 (Guangda) (vast)", connoting "行千里，致广大" (traveling thousands of miles to the vast).
After the video was posted, many netizens were amazed, and expressed their homesickness in the comment section.
Xi'an, Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan, Jiangsu … In the following year, Niu Nan produced a series of 3D printed works of name of places, each of which also reflects the local culture of the region.
"For hometown, everyone has his unique feelings. I get a sense of fulfillment and honor seeing that netizens are finding their homes in and resonating with my videos," Niu Nan said.
How could one character, as it rotates, turn into another? After Niu Nan's video became popular on the Internet, many viewers raised this question.
"In fact, this is the use of visual illusion. Through computer design, two, three or more Chinese characters are combined into one, and then produced by 3D printing technology. With special effects such as rotation, light and shadow, you can see different characters from different angles," Niu Nan told the reporter.
In his 30s, he turns from engineering surveying and mapping to design, and makes his achievements
Niu Nan, 39, has started 3D printing within 5 years. He used to be an engineering student, majoring in surveying and mapping. After graduating from college, he became an engineering surveyor.
In 2018, Niu Nan came into contact with 3D printing technology, and realized that his talent might allow him to do "more interesting" things. Since then, he has decided to put his focus on 3D printing crafts and change his career.
"At that time, many friends were persuading me that it was a bit too late to change career in my thirties, but I don't think it matters." Niu Nan told the reporter that he always believed that it doesn't matter to spend more time in choosing the direction, but more importantly, whether the future road is correct.
Niu loves what he does. He tried to print, at the beginning, almost everything: portraits, cultural relics, numbers … Whatever he could think of, but almost empty-handed.
It was not until October 2021 that Niu began to create three-dimensional Chinese character handicrafts one after another that he received attention.
Making three-dimensional Chinese characters is not easy. Niu should first conceive, design and model, print in 3D after the details are perfected, and then trim, polish, solidify and color according to the space requirements until the final shooting and editing work is completed by himself alone.
In the studio, Niu always stayed for 7 or 8 hours. Although it was laborious and complicated, he enjoyed it.
From oracle bone scripts to modern Chinese characters, we see phantasmagoric "past and present " of Chinese characters
At the end of 2022, the studio, which was already on the right track, is once again facing great pressure to survive.
Adversity leads to prosperity. Niu settled the wages for and dismissed several assistants who had just been hired, and once again became a one-person team. During that time, Niu felt that he is confronted with a bottleneck, and he was listless all day and couldn't think of a good and creative idea.
Until in a casual exchange with friends, Niu's "universe of innovations" started to expand again.
"Many ancient characters are famous for their beauty. Since you have tried modern Chinese characters, why not try ancient Chinese characters? Maybe you can use your rotating table to make Chinese characters flow." It was friend’s words that suddenly enlightened Niu.
From that day on, Niu devoted himself to the study of ancient Chinese characters. He started from scratch and read books, from oracle bone scripts and small seal script to regular script and running script.
"Since began to study the evolution of Chinese characters, I have discovered that Chinese characters are so vivid." As Niu spoke, he picked up two 3D models made by himself and put them on the rotating table for reporters to observe.
Moreover, the word "车 (Che)" in oracle bones is a typical hieroglyphic, which is written as a combination of carriage, shaft and wheel. Niu used 3D printing technology to make "Che" in oracle bone, bronze inscription, seal script and Song, and made a video of glyph evolution.
As the character “Che” rotate, the evolution of its glyph in history is also presented intuitively and vividly. Rotating three-dimensional Chinese characters has demonstrated the evolution of Chinese characters and represent Chinese culture of 5,000 years.
These Chinese characters are simple, ordinary and thought-provoking.
In Niu's view, Chinese characters have infinite charm. Today, when the phenomenon of "forgetting Chinese characters while writing" is becoming more and more common, he wants to let more people appreciate the cultural heritage of Chinese characters through in this way.
"I am going to introduce Chinese character building blocks so that children can know more Chinese characters and appreciate their beauty." Talking about future plans, Niu's eyes were determined and hopeful. (Translated by Wang Zhong, Fathom Language Limited)