Introduction: What is Chinese Calligraphy?
In Chinese, Chinese Calligraphy (書法) literally means "method/law (法) of writing (書)". In Japanese, it is known as shodo (書道), which means "the path/way(道) of writing (書)". It is known that both Japanese and Korean Calligraphy originated from Chinese Calligraphy (1)(2).
Although a large part of Chinese Calligraphy focuses on methods (法), it is worth to note that the art places significant weight on personal character (人品) of the calligrapher. One famous calligrapher, Sun Guoting
(孫過庭 AD 646–691), commented that the quality of a calligrapher's work is directly dependent on his/her own personal character (3
). Indeed, legendary calligrapher Wang Xizhi
not only received praises for his aesthetics but also for his noble character. In Chinese Calligraphy, it is believed that your writing reflects who you are (人如其字), and therefore one must cultivate his/her own character (人品) in order to write good calligraphy. In light of this philosophy, I believe the Japanese term, shodo (書道), is a more appropriate term to describe the art than the curent Chinese term, Calligraphy (書法), which often refers to method or style of writing, while shodo implies a path to enlightenment through calligraphy. Note that the term shodo (書道) was used extensively in ancient China to describe the essence of Chinese calligraphy. For futher details on the relationship between these two terms, please visit here.
How it is written
Traditional Chinese Calligraphy is written on rice/mulberry paper (宣紙
) with a specialized brush made up of animal hair dipped in a carbon-based ink. For further details on each of these components, please click on the links on the left-hand menu at the top of this page
Note that traditional Chinese is written from right to left, top to bottom. A video demo of me writing a piece of calligraphy is shown here
for your reference.
The Five Main Styles
There are five commonly used script styles in Chinese calligraphy: