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Happy National Day!


This month, LET'S LEARN ABOUT...Cross-cultural Art!


In his message “Celebrating the Majulah Spirit! at ACM”, director Kennie Ting shared that the treasures in our collection reflect Singapore’s many cultures and faiths.  Here's a cross-cultural object displayed in our Islamic Art Gallery: a bird calligram.


Bird Calligram image

Bird calligram
by Yusuf Chen Jinhui
China, 1996
Ink on rice paper, 90.1 x 47.7 cm
Gift of Yusuf Chen Jinhui



Yusuf Chen Jinhui (1938–2008) was a Chinese Muslim calligraphy artist. He created this picture of a bird from the words of the basmala (pronounced "bas-ma-lah"). In Arabic, it's written as basmala.The basmala is recited by Muslims to ask for God’s blessings, and also before reading any chapter of the Quran, the holy book of the religion of Islam. Chen creatively mixed Arabic phrases with Chinese calligraphic techniques to make this calligram, using ink on paper.


A calligram is an image formed from only letters or words. Look at the bird’s wings and legs, what do they resemble? Examine the eye and beak. they are formed from a single letter – meemmeem – in the Arabic language. What kind of bird do you think this might be? Perhaps a crane or a stork?


On the left just below the bird, the artist added his signature in Arabic script  – signature.– above a square, red Chinese seal. The traditional characters in the seal – 陳進惠 – spell the artist’s name, Chen Jinhui.




Calligram An image formed from only letters or words.
Calligraphy   The art of beautiful writing.
Basmala "In the name of God, the most gracious, the most compassionate."
Arabic The language used by people of the Arab world and the language of Islam.
Muslims People who follow the religion of Islam.
Blessings Wishes such as good fortune, protection and acceptance.
Quran The holy book of the religion of Islam.



Create your own calligram by forming an animal or a shape with the letters of your name. Tag us @ACM_SG for a chance to get your creation featured!

 Name calligram example

Here’s an example.



Can you find all the words related to the Bird Calligram? The words may be hidden in any direction. Try doing it together with your family members or friends, to see who can find them all first. 


Level 1: Suitable for ages 5 and up

Do you want to challenge yourself a little more? Try this one.

Level 2: Suitable for ages 8 and up






Discover more about the Bird Calligram

Listen to an audio description tour here.

Or head to NHB’s one-stop heritage portal Roots.sg to read more about this artwork.


There’s more!

Go on a self-guided trail to learn about other cross-cultural objects from our collection. Let's go!

Would you like more of these resources? Come back to learn about new things every month. 

Missed a monthly post? Not to worry, we will keep past topics here for you.

What else would you like to learn about? Tell us here.


Check out other videos, and download e-resources inspired by the objects in ACM’s collection.