Authors: Ke Jun, Wang Xiaoying
Designers: Qu Minmin, Jiang Qian
Published by: Jiangsu Phoenix Fine Arts Publishing House
Printed by: Artron Art Group
Have you ever seen a book that remains loosely bound?
“Talking about Theater” is the culmination of forty years of artistic dedication by Ke Jun, an inheritor of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. Through vivid illustrations and captivating text, it showcases the softness and delicacy of Kunqu Opera.
The book revolves around the communication between Ke Jun and a young fan named Lu Cheng, who has communication barriers. Each chapter tells a different story, connecting 11 classic scenes from Kunqu Opera, including “The Peony Pavilion: Sinking in the River,” “The Shepherd’s Tale: Yearning for Home,” “The Palace of Eternal Youth: The Tavern,” and more. It provides a comprehensive appreciation of the plot, character analysis, and techniques of Kunqu Opera, fully displaying the artistic beauty of Chinese traditional culture.
In terms of book design, it showcases ingenious creativity. Designers Qu Minmin and Jiang Qian incorporated the 11 scenes of the play into the book’s layout design. Each scene contains lyrics and musical notation written in Ke Jun’s own calligraphy. These lyrics are subtly revealed through the layers of book pages, while on the front, Ke Jun provides his own interpretations and annotations of the characters he portrays, showcasing his role as the protagonist of “talking about theater.” The cover, with white characters on white Xuan paper, exudes the reserved and implicit traditional temperament of Kunqu Opera.
The book pays great attention to detail . To maintain consistency in color and lighting, all the production stills in the book were re-photographed during post-production. The binding form echoes the concept of Kunqu Opera scenes and breaks away from the Eastern craft and paper tradition, instead using the all-wood fiber Coptic binding, commonly used in the West. This ultra-thin art paper binding allows each page to be loose and flexible.
In terms of the book’s concept, editorial approach, and presentation, “Talking about Theater” demonstrates extraordinary craftsmanship. As a result, it has received numerous industry honors, including the “Most Beautiful Book” award in 2017, the D&AD Pencil Award in 2018, the DFA Asia’s Most Influential Design Award Gold, and the Silver Award at the 9th National Book Design Art Exhibition.