Bookends

Art historian Patricia Bjaaland Welch gave a Chinese New Year customs presentation recently.
Art historian Patricia Bjaaland Welch gave a Chinese New Year customs presentation recently. PHOTO: SHA YING

Who: Patricia Bjaaland Welch, 55, art historian

Born in Wisconsin, United States, Patricia Bjaaland Welch took an interest in Chinese culture after a course on Chinese religions as a pre-medical student.

She went on to pursue her love for Chinese history, art and religion in Boston University and became a university lecturer teaching the same subjects.

She has published five books, including Chinese Art: A Guide To Motifs And Visual Imagery.

A Singapore permanent resident since 1995, she is a popular speaker and tour leader who takes tourists along the Silk Road. Recently, she gave a presentation at the Asian Civilisations Museum on the origins of past and present Chinese New Year customs.

She is married and has two daughters who live in Norway.

What are you reading now?

I am reading The Way Of The Brush: Painting Techniques Of China And Japan by Fritz Van Briessen. It contains explanations of the foundation of Chinese and Japanese art in terms of the technical tools available such as brushes, paper, ink and basic conventions, motifs and styles. Had I read this book when I was starting out, I would have known a lot more a lot earlier.

Another book I'm reading is Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age From The Arab Conquest To Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr. It is a collection of essays on the great discoveries Central Asian scholars, scientists and doctors have given the world. It is fascinating and a page-turner.

I've travelled along the Silk Road extensively and am always interested in Central Asia's history, cultures and personalities, so this book piqued my interest.

I am also reading Ivory Vikings: The Mystery Of The Most Famous Chessmen In The World And The Woman Who Made Them by Nancy Marie Brown.

The National Museum of Singapore has two of these amazing figures on display now on loan from the British Museum as part of the Treasures of the World from The British Museum exhibition.

What books would you save from a burning house?

My original Chinese-English Dictionary from my student days. Its spine is broken, the first 13 pages are missing and torn pages are repaired by yellowed tape, but it has all my underlines, highlights and margin notes in different colours and styles. It is uniquely mine and irreplaceable.


• The Way Of The Brush: Painting Techniques Of China And Japan by Fritz Van Briessen (1999, Tuttle Publishing, $37.62), Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age From The Arab Conquest To Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr (2015, Princeton University Press, $26.90) and Ivory Vikings: The Mystery Of The Most Famous Chessmen In The World And The Woman Who Made Them by Nancy Marie Brown (2015, St. Martin's Press, $22.73) are available at amazon.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline '(No headline) - OABOOKENDS07'. Print Edition | Subscribe