Full of character: the Chinese language in Leiden


Chinese in the spotlight

There are all kinds of myths and misconceptions about ‘the Chinese language’, mostly relating to how different and complex the language is. Guest curator Jeroen Wiedenhof picked 15 objects that show how Chinese people use language. Those objects vary from sportswear with Mao’s handwriting on it to a Chinese toy tank, for sale at discount store in Leiden. Photographer Pim Top captured the objects in a hyperrealistic manner.

Sinologist and linguist Jeroen Wiedenhof is affiliated with Leiden University and has been studying Chinese languages and scripts for over 30 years. In the catalog accompanying the exhibition, Wiedenhof offers personal explanations for his choice and with that, offers an intriguing glimpse into one of the biggest languages in the world. He takes us on a trip along tradition, innovation, language games and foreign influences and shows that more and more Chinese can be found around us. Viewing Leiden and China through the eyes of Jeroen Wiedenhof opens up a whole new world.


The exhibition was on display from 29 October 2017 to 11 January 2018 at the Nieuwstraat library location of BplusC. Are you curious but did you miss the exhibition? Please check our Repeats below. And of course, the catalog is still on sale in our webshop.

After its initital exhibition, Full of character has been on tour. Here is a list of our ports of call:

• Visser ’t Hooft Lyceum, Leiden, May-July 2018

• Theresialyceum, Tilburg, April-May 2019

• Rijnlands Lyceum Wassenaar, May-June 2019

• Haagse Hogeschool, Den Haag, Chinees Nieuwjaar, January 27th 2020 - March 4th 2020

We are still displaying the exhibition on request. Interested? Drop a line (info@taalmuseum.nl).


To accompany the exhibition, a few videos (only available in Dutch) were made in which Jeroen Wiedenhof comments on the stories behind the objects.

Dubbele Duif (Double Dove).

Voeten in de aarde (A daunting task).

Weg met het imperialisme (Down with imperialism).