Chinese Knotting Bibliography

Review of The Complete Book of Chinese Knotting: A Compendium of Techniques and Variations

In brief

This is the English translation of Chinese Knotting 3 as published by Tuttle who have published the translations of CK1 and CK2. This book takes the basic 11 knots and expands them to 14 (the constellation knot!) and then explores the possible variations of them. There are 56 new knots according to the promotional blurb on the back of the book. The translation is flawed. Get it anyways. The original Chinese version is out of print and this new version is a heck of a lot easier to get and the material contained within is still groundbreaking and completely inspiring if you've not seen it before.

Remember: outer loop is, in fact, inner loop, and compound looks like it should be complex instead

At length

The bad

As with the translations of Lydia Chen's previous books, the illustrations and the content are the same. The pictures may be resized or moved around slightly for better flow with the different language. In this instance, there are at least 3 cases where the wrong picture is matched incorrectly to the text, but not in a particularly fatal manner. It mostly seems to be a case of either rushing (this book did come out fairly quickly after the translation of the 2nd book) or the person doing the work being somewhat careless and not paying attention to what they were doing. Some of the process pictures are smaller, but not too dramatically so, so that a knot may fit on one page instead of 2. Some of the smaller pictures have been enlarged... and not from a better source file. The original 220 page book is now 155, although no content has been removed.

The text itself was never looked at by an editor (at least not an English speaking one) and more than one run-on sentence was very, very familiar.

I am reminded of when I was a kid and my dad got me to proofread his math papers. I read it for grammar and punctuation, bypassing most of the content since few 11 year-olds can understand post-graduate level math research. But I could help him with where the commas go and correct spelling here and there. That's the level of editing that has happened here. At no point did anyone try to read and understand the text. If they had (just look at the diagram, please!) they would have seen that "outer loop" is, in fact, "inner loop" and "compound knot" looks an awful lot like it should really be "complex knot" because there's no compound about it (but maybe that's my inner math geek talking).

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." -- Inigo Montoya, "The Princess Bride"

As you can't take a book and stuff it into babelfish (well, unless you want to OCR it first to introduce even more fun mangling of the text), a translation for Anglophones is very welcome. It is better than a machine translation, but even a brief going over by a native English speaker would no doubt have improved the proceedings tremendously. Editing by someone who was reading for comprehension would have removed some rather dramatic errors. Still, there are no mind-flaying squids involved, and it takes less effort to decode than Chinese characters for most English readers.

The Sauvastika knot as been retranslated as the Buddha knot. I don't think this is an improvement.

The good

56 new knots. 56 entirely new variations on the core 11 which had been expanded to 13 in the second book and to 14 in this book. Complete layout diagrams and process instructions for each (new) knot. A nice notation for the "pulled and wrapped knots" (eg. cloverleaf and pan chang). A funkier notation for mat knots (eg. double coin/carrick bend).

There is a history of Chinese knots that is an expansion of her article found in "History and Science of Knots" ed. Turner & Griend including many dates that the SCAers will no doubt find useful.

With the caveat that I am a person who has bought whole books for just one new knot or a new way to tie an "old" knot, I say get this book. You will not regret it. It may frustrate you from time to time, but you will not regret it.


Creation Date: Mon Feb 25 13:40:10 PST 2008
Last Modified: Tuesday, 26-Feb-2008 05:44:03 UTC
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