A few questions for some literary debate.
1 Identity and personal growth are two major themes. How do Bada’s many names reflect this?
2 Bada’s story is set against the backdrop of massive political change. How much do we learn about Chinese society and how does it help us understand Bada’s character and actions?
3 “ ‘Do not, therefore, become enslaved by the perspective of absolute opposites.’ ” (p 34) The author draws heavily on the teachings of Buddhist philosophy to guide the narrative. How useful are these concepts in our secular society?
4 “ ‘You have learnt to see blackness not as an obstacle, but as a source.’ ” (p.31) How does the author use colour to change perception of the everyday in both the characters and reader?
5 The author uses 51 short chapters and 11 pictures to tell the story.
What effect does this have on the narrative and depiction of paintings, characters, landscape and historical accuracy?
6 Discuss the role of the landscape in Sea of Ink.
7 The paintings are described in great detail. Is this necessary given that the paintings are placed alongside the text?
8 Bada runs away to a monastery and abandons his family. Is this acceptable? How does it colour your view of his character?
9 “ ‘Originality!’ Bada laughed. ‘I am as I am, I paint as I paint. I have no method, I do not think about originality, I am just me.’ ” (p70) How relevant is this idea to us today?
10 Bada meets a friend he thought to be dead, “...as if somewhere a huge eye were looking out for people who belonged together, ensuring that their paths crossed.” (p84) Do you agree with this idea? Have you experienced something similar?