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My love of Chinese calligraphy

Popularity 11Viewed 4156 times 2014-4-29 12:02 |Personal category:Chongqing life|System category:Life| Chinese, created, limited, written, beauty

My fascination with Chinese calligraphy (书法 - shu1fa3) is probably almost as old as my fascination with China itself. I have been drawn to its mystery and beauty and the fact that it is only created with the limited tools of brush, paper and black ink. My love of the Chinese language initially stems from its written form, I just think it's so cool to have a language written in characters. My early experiments with Chinese calligraphy were with a brush I found in an art shop in England, and I crudely copied out some characters I found on the internet. I was also exposed to calligraphy and Chinese painting during my cultural classes as part of the Prime Minister's Global Fellowship, the British Council programme that first brought me to China in 2009. But my first proper engagement with Chinese calligraphy came in my final year of university at Sheffield University's Confucius Institute.


I found out about some evening classes through a circular email and persuaded my friends Lizzy and Jo to join me. They in turn would persuade me to come along to the Sino-English Corner run nearby afterwards and this formed the start of my real (although totally informal) Chinese language learning. Calligraphy on Tuesday evenings became a fixed event in my week that I would look forward to. Our young teacher was helpful and always cheerful, and we got to write out some phrases on large pieces of paper to take home with us each week – I bet I would cringe at my brushwork if I saw them now. I find any sort of art very relaxing and calligraphy was a time I could forget about my work for a while and just concentrate on writing characters.


When I arrived in Chongqing in September 2012 I got straight into calligraphy again. I started practising with a colleague of mine, Miss Yu, who teaches Russian. She herself has only being doing calligraphy for a few years and we've only ever practised as friends, rather than her teaching me specific things. She's been incredibly sweet to me, my Chongqing auntie really.


I write calligraphy for projects that I set myself, usually making posters or decorating postcards to sent to family and friends. I set myself the task of producing some Chinese New Year calligraphy couplets (春联 - chun1lian2) for Spring Festival this year. I decorated my bedroom door with some and also gave some to my friends. Recently I've been working on writing some poems, thanks to a little book of Chinese poetry (actually a primary school textbook!) given to me as a birthday present by my friend Fan Qi. I want the satisfaction of producing a long scroll of calligraphy, but of course this takes practice. But practice makes perfect – 熟能生巧 (shu2neng2sheng1qiao3)!


My appreciation of calligraphy has also increased recently, this Spring Festival I was able to visit galleries in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Many of the works I saw took my breath away with their technical brilliance and beauty but I also became more critical in my appreciation, deciding which styles I preferred over others.


In the future I'd like to study calligraphy formally in a class, with a teacher observing my work and giving me tips on how to improve. I hope this will mean I make significant progress. I want to keep writing calligraphy throughout my life. I'm sure my calligraphy will only ever be hanging on my bedroom walls, and not those of any gallery, but I know I'll continue to get a sense of satisfaction and achievement from writing it.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)

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Reply Report 财神 2014-4-29 18:54
Chinese Calligraphy has become an important culture of china.
Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-30 09:43
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report llphxmhh 2014-4-30 10:03
Chinese calligraphy reflects the spirit of Chinese culture and the knowledge of life. And i am also a fan in calligraphy. i like zhuan shu and kai shu. Do you know Zhao Mengfu , a famous calligrapher in Yuan dynasty.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-30 12:06
There is an amazing street of Ancient Culture in Beijing where the examination students of more than a century ago went to buy brushes, paper and ink blocks. There are some fabulous examples there.
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-30 14:45
llphxmhh: Chinese calligraphy reflects the spirit of Chinese culture and the knowledge of life. And i am also a fan in calligraphy. i like zhuan shu and kai shu ...
I really like 楷书 (regular script), it's probably my favourite.  I don't really like 草书 (running script), I know it takes skill but I don't feel it has the clean lines and beauty of regular script.  I don't know any famous calligraphers (apart from Wang Xizhi), I had a look at some of Zhao Mengfu's calligraphy online, it's pretty impressive.
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-30 14:46
ColinSpeakman: There is an amazing street of Ancient Culture in Beijing where the examination students of more than a century ago went to buy brushes, paper and ink  ...
Sounds great.  When I was staying in a hostel in Beijing there were a lot of students studying there for university exams and interviews, so I guess they are the modern equivalent.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-30 15:01
I took a calligraphy class once, but unfortunately it was taught in Chinese so much of the instruction went over my head. You should post some picture of your work!
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-30 15:26
jiewei798: I took a calligraphy class once, but unfortunately it was taught in Chinese so much of the instruction went over my head. You should post some picture ...
When I finish the poem stroll I'll post a picture of that.
Reply Report monkey_warrior3 2014-5-1 12:34
I almost had to go out to China Town and buy some candles because there was no electricity in my neighborhood.  Yeah, China is the best, everyone I know thinks so.
Reply Report Gprincessdiary 2014-5-2 13:19
i like it ,too.but i am not good at it.
Reply Report tedbrent 2014-5-2 13:48
朕已阅
Reply Report bex 2014-5-3 23:51
i learned calligraphy in primary school also participated competation on behalf of my school, but I didn't practise it for long time, hopefully I can have time to slowly pick it up, i learn from" Liu Gong Quan's"script.

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