Chinese calligraphy dates back to around the time we believe language developed, which was 4,500 years ago. In 1992 archaeologists found what so far is the earliest example of Chinese calligraphy. It was a piece of pottery inscribed with part painting and part calligraphy. Early examples of Chinese calligraphy were made with sharp tools, but some historians believe the delicate symbols were probably applied by ink and brush and then carved.
Although Chinese symbols are used for writing, true Chinese calligraphy is an art form. One can become lost gazing at the graceful beauty. The fluid lines feed our imaginations when we look at them and we usually don’t stop to analyze the meaning as we do with many paintings. Chinese Calligraphy is one of the most important aspects of Chinese art.
If you want to learn Chinese calligraphy, one of the most essential components is holding the brush properly. This is important for two reasons: one is so that you can form the symbols correctly, and the other is to use good posture and not damage your body. Proper use of the brush involves the fingers, the wrist, and the elbow. Depending on the size of the characters, you may draw sitting or standing.
Using authentic ink is another essential ingredient. It comes in a slab and is ground to a fine powder then mixed with water. This method has been used in Chinese calligraphy for more than two thousand years. The beauty of mixing ink via this method is that you can create many different looks without changing from traditional black. The amount of water affects how the various aspects of the characters appear, from glossy black to light and lovely tones of soft blacks and greys.
The remaining tool in the art of Chinese calligraphy is the paper (it may also be done on silk). Two thousand years ago paper was made out of bark or old fishing nets or pulp. Today it may be machine-made and westerners call Chinese paper “rice paper”. It will react differently to the ink depending on how smooth or rough and absorbent it is.
Chinese painting is another beautiful art form dating back through the centuries. Traditionally they are done on silk or paper and most likely evolved from calligraphy. There were three subjects of classical Chinese painting: birds-and-flowers, figures, and landscapes. Peruse the Internet or books for incredible Chinese art dating back many centuries and through the numerous dynasties. The paintings are so beautiful with their delicate brushstrokes, finely drawn lines, and wonderful colours.
There is a major difference between Chinese calligraphy and western calligraphy. In China it is an art form and a discipline and is at the heart of Chinese culture. It is also a form of individual expression. A westerner may learn to draw the characters but a Chinese person is displaying his or her personality as well as creativity. Although the practice has spread across the globe, it is one of the four traditional arts of China.
Chinese calligraphy is equally loved and honoured by Korea and Japan. Many ceremonies revolve around it and famous past calligraphers are still honoured. In the past top government members were required to be skilled in calligraphy.
One thought on “Art of Chinese Calligraphy”
Attempting Chinese calligraphy is not for the faint of heart. I have tried it, but it could barely hold the brush right. I don’t have the posture or the patience for it. I would say that in addition to being an art, it is also a discipline, requiring great concentration, focus, and body and hand posture. If you buy materials in China be careful because a lot of the ink is fake and the brushes are poor quality and may fall apart while you use them. Thanks for this and your other articles on China.