Chinese calligraphy occupies a distinguished position in the field of traditional arts. Calligraphy is not only a means of communication, but also a means of expressing a person’s inner world in an aesthetic sense. Ancient people held calligraphy in high esteem. It has come to form an important part of Chinese culture and heritage.
At the imperial court, scholars were selected to become officials based on their calligraphy skills. Children of high officials had to become proficient in calligraphy, and even emperors themselves were greatly skilled in this art. Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a great patron of the arts, left many examples of his handwriting on steles in temples and palaces.
To practice calligraphy, one needs the “four treasures of study”: a writing brush, an ink stick, paper, and an ink slab. The artist also requires great concentration to guide the soft writing brush charged with fluid ink, as the ink diffuses quickly once it touches the paper.
Once the continuity of the brush movement is broken, a black mark is instantly created, marring the work. So speed, strength, and agility are the keys to fine artwork.
When writing, many calligraphers will forget about their day-to-day worries, and even themselves, focusing all their thoughts into the creation of their art. The art can be compared with Tai Chi and Qigong, which require a relaxed mind and focus, with the result of improving a person’s well-being.
Calligraphy, like a mirror, is a silent reflection of the soul. The masterpieces of calligraphers quietly reflect their life experiences, personality, level of refinement, and individuality.
In ancient China at the Imperial Examinations (a system to select the most talented scholars to become state officials), calligraphy gave examiners an important first impression of potential candidates.
Unlike other visual art techniques, all calligraphy strokes are permanent and bold, demanding careful planning and confident execution. Such are the skills required for an official or executive. While one has to conform to the defined structure of words, the expression can be extremely creative.
The ability to exercise imagination and personal touch, while adhering to the state’s laws and regulations, was a virtue well appreciated by the people.
Chinese calligraphy, like the script itself, began with hieroglyphs. Over the centuries of evolution, it has developed innumerable styles and schools. Forms of Chinese calligraphic scripts are typically separated into 5 separate types. The first is Zhuan, or the “seal character.”
The second is the official or clerical script known as “Li.” The thirds type is the regular script called “Kai.” Fourthly, there is the “running-hand” known as “Xing.” The fifth type is the cursive script called “Cao.”
Calligraphy is considered as an active way of keeping one fit and healthy, for the practice is both relaxing and self-entertaining. Historically, many calligraphy artists both in China and Japan were well known for their longevity.
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