The Chinese Calligrapher who sought Knowledge in the Arab world!
Haji Noor AlDeen Mi Gwang

Arabic calligraphy is one of the most difficult arts that require high skills and taste in the application of rules. Many people flock to learn this art which is full of all beauty and authenticity. The passion for the art of calligraphy is not restricted to the Arabic calligraphy only, but much beyond that which reached to the continent of China.

The Muslim Chinese calligrapher Haji Noor AlDeen Mi Gwang Giang uses the Arabic calligraphy in a very professional surprising and impressive Chinese style that immobilize the beholder. Born in 1963 in Ujicang of Shandong Province in Eastern China, Noor AlDeen is a brilliant professor of Arabic calligraphy; he obtained a BA in good line in 1997 from Egypt, and became the first Chinese honored with a high award.

Haji Noor AlDeen not only did he learn calligraphy but returned to China as a lecturer at the University of Islamic Sciences in Zhengzhou. In 2008, he began classrooms free of charge on Sunday of each week so far for 5 hours to teach calligraphy at the mosque of Bai Xia Jay in his city, even the number of trainees reached more than three hundred students between the age of twelve to eighty years old.

He invented the style of Arabic writing in Chinese characters and was capable of merging the Arabic characters mixed with the spirit of Chinese writing to make paintings that tells his proficiency in creating these artifacts of which so many failed to do so. His work won wide reputation in various international artistic event, where the British Museum acquired the painting “Names of Allah” in 2005 to be displayed permanently. As the first Arabic Chinese artist, his works were exhibited in many galleries and museums like the Aslan Museum in San Francisco, the National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Art in Harvard University. As he was chosen from the year 2009 to 2016 for eight consecutive years from among the 500 most important Islamic figures that have an impact worldwide.


The Beginning

Haji Noor AlDeen told me about the beginning of his attachment to the Arabic since childhood, as at the age of ten, the Imam of the mosque has requested his father to help him to decorate the doors of the mosque with paintings on the occasion of marriage ceremony. He saw those paintings hanging in beauty with black lines painted on red paper. Red color is the favorite color in China, while the White Traditionally used to mourn and express grief. Noor AlDeen continued looking deeply into those picturesque paintings, when he asked his father for their content; he said that these are written in Arabic calligraphy which contained the “Basmallah” and other phrases and prayers for blessing the newlyweds.

Haji Noor AlDeen says: “Even though my father could not read or write in Arabic but he told me very simply to discern the correct form of the painting that the right direction for the reading depends on the shape of the knife (letter Alef in Arabic) if it is positioned to the top then the painting is in the proper position.”

Since then, the beauty of the Arabic calligraphy has never left his mind, at the age of 17 when he finished his secondary education in 1980, he went in a long journey by train to the inner Manjulaa province into the mosque of City Harar to meet with Sheikh Mohamed Saeed, who is also a calligrapher who taught him the knowledge of religion and Islamic Sharia Sciences for two years. . Noor AlDeen added: “I learned a lot from Sheikh Mohamed as he encouraged me to finish reading the Qur’an completely, as it was not easy to learn Arabic letters especially the letter “ra –equivalent to letter R” that took me to two consecutive months to master it.”

Afterwards, Haji Noor AlDeen learnt the Arabic language at the university in the Department of Foreign Languages of Arabic Language. This was the start after graduation to work as an Arabic Chinese translator in the State of Kuwait in 1989. Noor AlDeen says: “I worked in Kuwait as a translator for a governmental company and it was the first time I saw the traditional calligraphy in its various forms. I was reading the Kuwaiti newspaper continuously searching for those beautiful and distinguishable lines of the Arabic characters, which has long fascinated me and attracted me, but in 1990, I drove back to China because of the war between Kuwait and the Iraq”.

Professional Learning of Calligraphy

Noor AlDeen has learned the Arabic calligraphy and Islamic ornamentation in Egypt and obtained a license after eight years of effort, at the hands of the Egyptian Professors, where he says: “I am very happy that two of the main artistic people in my life were carrying the same name Mohammed Saeed, one in China and the other in Egypt. And I was also taught by the professors in the Egyptian calligraphy Assembly such Khudair Alborsaidy, Osman and Tony, Hamam, and Sabri, and I was given a lifetime honorary membership in the Assembly”.

Large number of Chinese do not know the Arabic language, but they taste the calligraphy and the Chinese-style of writing.

Science and Responsibility

Combining the talent, art and science is a blessing of God Almighty. Haji Noor AlDeen says: “After my return from Egypt, I began to teach Arabic calligraphy and sometimes Arabic language as a professor at the University of Islamic Sciences, and published several books titled (The Writings of the Basmallah in different shapes) and another book entitled (Calligraphy Correspondence Education) and this was a series of self-teaching Arabic with different lines. In addition to another book published in 2015 entitled (Anthology of Arabic Calligraphy in Chinese-style). He also gave many workshops and lectures in America, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and others.

Arabic Chinese Calligraphy

Noor AlDeen says: “In our modern world, we cannot let the unique treasures in history to be forgotten or to leave the wonderful diversity of traditional art of calligraphy as it is a form of detailed artistic expression”.

He added: “Arabic writing existed since 1,300 years in the ancient times in China, where mosques and houses and restaurants were decorated with paintings made by Quranic verses holy sayings. I combined the Arabic calligraphic in a Chinese style, it is not only a style of a painting, but a blending between the Arab and the Chinese culture, “noting that a large number of Chinese do not know the Arabic language, but they taste the calligraphy and the Chinese-style of writing.

In addition, he invented the Arabic writing in a Chinese style and developed it to the link between the beauties of the two lines to generate a very beautiful painting. The writing of the Chinese calligraphy is made in a vertical manner and the single word is a whole mass, while the Arabic calligraphy is written casually and that every word consists of several letters.

The Chinese calligrapher finishes the calligraphy in few minutes while the Arabic calligrapher takes longer time that sometimes last days to finish his manuscript. When I asked Noor AlDeen the difference in time of completion, he replied: “Paper quality varies as the Chinese writing uses the brush on the quality of paper that dries very quickly, so the Chinese calligrapher should be quick and careful in the corners and curves of the letters, while the Arab calligrapher uses a cane – Bamboo- on a type of papers that allows him the freedom of time.

Haji Noor AlDeen studies the Chinese calligraphy in seven basic ways, namely: Rihani style, which is the line used in the Quranic verses, also the Pen Line used to write the religious books, the broad line, and Alrasm to draw graphic formats, such as houses and flowers using the Arabic letters, in addition to Alreesha style which is like the canes in its sharp angles and another style of writing which is similar to the Kufi style. All of them in the Arabic language, but Chinese-style.

Noor AlDeen says: “All of my manuscripts stand for Quranic verses or religious prayers or sayings”

Arabic Logos and Calligraphy

Noor AlDeen says: “All of my manuscripts stand for Quranic verses or religious prayers or sayings, though, when asking me to work on a manuscript for a particular company and the company’s name affect the names of Allah, I decline it, because the brand logos are printed in all the visual elements which people throw away in the trash, but if they do not contain the names of Allah, I don’t mind at all as I’ve done once a logo for an American Company called “light – Noor”.

Haji Noor AlDeen believes that the logo is a symbol that indicates a particular company which does not have to be readable but it focuses in the mind of the recipient, for example, he wrote once to a restaurant in Sydney in Australia “Halal” in the form of a scale which is unreadable, noting that the people there don’t read Arabic but distinguishes the restaurant from that icon.

Free Form of Calligraphy

Haji Noor AlDeen prefers classic calligraphy for its amount of aesthetic and rich history as it represents the Islamic Arts, which owns a very high attractiveness of which others can taste this rich and valuable treasure. Haji Noor AlDeen says, “The calligraphy used in Qur’an and to decorate mosques, so it is difficult to use a free form of calligraphy in the Qur’an. I am not against it; however I see the beauty of the Quranic verses is shown in the use of the classic Arabic letters such as the Naskh style which shows readability and clarity.” However, it would be great to have a specific science specialized in the free-style of calligraphy. Haji Noor AlDeen adds that some people uses the free style of calligraphy in unreadable forms.

Future Projects

In addition to workshops and lectures provided by Haji Noor AlDeen, he is currently working on a new production of three books which: (A study in teaching Arabic calligraphy in Chinese style), (The Aesthetics of Arabic calligraphy- Chinese style) and (Basmallah Masterpieces in China). In addition, Haji Noor AlDeen is planning in the near future to use the technology in the creation of his manuscripts and paintings in order to comply with the modern era.

In conclusion, we would like to thank Haji Noor AlDeen for allowing us to meet with his honorable person, thanking him for his valuable time as he is a pride for the Arab world for his remarkable achievements.