More on Packaging (Excerpt) by Wu Guanzhong ~ 吴冠中 《再说包装》 with English Translations


吴冠中 《再说包装》







More on Packaging (Excerpt)
Wu Guanzhong

Basically, packaging means false embellishment.
Nevertheless, a little embellishment for the sake of nice appearance is not altogether inadvisable, and it is a bit harsh to denounce it as falsehood. Merchandise can never do without packaging, but going too far with it means something worse than falsehood—it is deliberate cheating. Japanese are very particular about packaging. Hidden inside one beautiful big box will be a number of gradually smaller delicate ones placed one inside another. You have to tear them off one by one until you finally hit on nothing but a tiny piece of candy.
We have entered the age of packaging, or rather the age of counterfeit and shoddy merchandise. Attractively-packaged gifts can be found everywhere. Aware of the complete absence of real friendship between sender and receiver of a gift, shrewd businessmen have been racking their brains trying to beautify the packing design rather than improve the commodity itself. People in foreign countries are also particular about packaging, and also bribe with gifts, but we have a longer tradition of hoodwinking customers by means of packaging, as witness the ancient Chinese saying, “Gold and jade without, rubbish within.”
Star singers, painters and calligraphers, authors… all go in for self-packaging overtly in disregard of public ridicule. Binding and layout, which provide clear insights into the content and quality of a book, call for profound artistic work. But, today, bookstores and bookstalls are a riot of loud glaring color, so much so that the book titles are overshadowed and become hardly recognizable. Why not have book covers printed just as black and white instead?
Packaging serves to satisfy social needs as well as personal ambition. Imperial officials and emperors used to wear black gauze hats and boa-design robes respectively to frighten common people into submission. After a court session or imperial court session was adjourned, they would respectively cease to dress up as such and become their usual selves. The Western-style suit with leather shoes and necktie to go with it is a kind of packaging that has taken shape in the West ever since several hundred years ago. It has long become universally accepted formal wear and even survived the vicissitudes of garment style intact. Nevertheless, nobody can tell if the tradition of wearing the stiff and formal Western-style suit will end up being broken by the upsurge of popular casual wear. In the final analysis, people prefer ease and comfort to any form of affectation and pretence.

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