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This report is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.

Archive Corner 12: Li Yuan-chia Stella Halkyard

The World of Li Yuan-chia

According to Norman Nicholson, Lanercost Priory is 'the most beautiful of Cumberlands ruins'. Set in the valley of the River Irth, the peace of this spot is undisturbed except when, winding slowly over the lea, the lowing herd is wont to eat the wing mirrors of cars parked inside the Priory precincts. Amongst the ranks of head-stones in Lanercost's idyllic churchyard stands one that attracts the attention of the casual passer-by, being taller than its neighbours and elegant in design. Fashioned from Cumbrian sandstone and inscribed in finely carved English letters and Chinese characters, this grave 1 proclaims itself to be last resting place of Li Yuan-chia (1929- 94), Poet-artist-calligrapher-photographer, and founder and curator of the LYC Museum.

Li Yuan-chia was born in China but died close to where he had made his home for thirty years at Banks on Englands frontier on Hadrian's Wall. A comparative stone's throw away, enclosed in another type of edifice hewn from Cumbrian sandstone, in an interment of a different kind, his literary remains dwell in the Rylands Library, Manchester, a personal archive.2

Like the corpus of the work, the personal archive of an artist is in part a commemorative artefact whose purpose, on their death, is to stand in their place as part of what an anthropologist might call their 'monumental body'. As such the archive has an important role in the process of establishing future ...


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