The Happy Little Man of TIAN - Why Do I Like this Symbol?

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This morning in opening the world map in search of a place for my next shoot, I come across the area south of Russia with Chinese characters and I wonder if without knowing the Chinese alphabet it was possible to identify common forms or signs between the various cities.

I begin to shrink the map by enlarging the area when I realize that the eye had rested on a symbol and could not turn away from it, so I zoomed in on the character that gave me the impression of a “happy little man” set out on his way. For once, the ubiquitous diabolical search engine that replaced the knowledge of ancestors and parents, shiting our life proved useful and copying the character into the search box returned me a series of results that somehow confirmed my “feeling of tranquility” emanating from this speaking figure or ideogram.


The name of the ideogram is TIAN, its generic meaning is Heaven and it is one of the oldest Chinese terms that often occurs in the key concepts of Chinese mythology and philosophy.

In fact, in my opinion TIAN alludes to the spiritual depth of the heavens, to that infinite and impalpable area that in the seclusion of each human being is that indescribable something that causes us emotions that are also indescribable but that fascinate us and over the millennia we have transformed it into everything we would like us to be or to be what surrounds us. We admired and feared her for her too much charm that at the same time attracts us, frees us and sometimes oppresses us and so to rebel we try to give her a vision or a reference to human features, only to remain without finding the right word to define her or call her. Do we struggle to hide this fascination that this immense infinite purity has on us and do we struggle not to admit that we have strayed from it or she, tangible or intangible, true or ephemeral?

TIAN, this beautiful ideogram of the little man who “walks happy” with all his purity and tranquility for me today was an immense discovery. A beautiful discovery that I want to dedicate to MY DAD. Today, which is his birthday and he would have turned 94, I want to think of him as “FREE AND HAPPY, JOYFUL WALKING IN THE IMMENSITY OF HEAVEN” just like I see TIAN’s little man.


copyright 2020 – Angelo Giammarresi