Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy for English Speakers - Vincent's Calligraphy

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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)(4)(5). Indeed, legendary calligrapher Wang Xizhi (王羲之 AD303–361) 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:
Each style has its own unique characteristics and origins. For details, click on the blue links under the respective styles above.  For sample calligraphic works of each of the styles above, please see:

Note that the traditional Chinese language is not alphabet-based; it is character-based.  Each individual character carries a distinct meaning and the characters are derived from different symbols (Pictograms), Phono-semantic compounds and other principles of formation. (6)


The most admired work in Chinese Calligraphy :
Wang Xizhi's Lantingji Xu  (王羲之 - 蘭亭序)

An introduction to traditional Chinese Calligraphy is not complete without mentioning Xizhi Wang's Lantingji Xu.  The legendary masterpiece was written in AD 353 by Wang Xizhi (王羲之) and is recognized throughout East Asia to be the best calligraphic work ever made in history.  Wang's original was lost, however, but copies were made by other calligraphers throughout different eras.  One of the best copies of it was done by Feng Chengsu (馮承素), commonly known as the Shennong edition "神龍本", in around AD 627-650 during the Tang Dynasty era.  This version of the copy is now stored in the Palace Museum in Beijing.  Shown below is a photo of it:

I also humbly modelled the masterpiece myself.  You can see that here in the Gallery section, where I will be providing more explanation on the work, including its original Chinese content, meaning and my translation of the work.

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