Basic Chinese Calligraphy Tools

  • July 12, 2018

calligraphy class at Chinese language school

This Wednesday’s culture class at Omeida Chinese Academy was about Chinese calligraphy.

Calligraphy (Chinese: 书法; pinyin: shūfǎ) is an important component of Chinese art. Its presentation format is an art that hinges on Chinese characters and Chinese characters are ideographic in nature. Combinations of strokes of characters are open to many possibilities. Chinese characters are more figurative compared to many other writing systems in the world.

Also, apart from possessing a complete set of rules of brush (dot, horizontal stroke, falling stroke, vertical stroke, hook, etc.), the calligraphy of Chinese characters has also established a developed aesthetic system. By following the rules of the combination of Chinese characters and varying the combinations can express versatility in the styles of the art of calligraphy, creating aesthetics of different appearances and tastes.


Teacher ZhuGe gave us an informative lesson about how to write calligraphy. Calligraphy is the stylized artistic writing of Chinese characters. It is the written form of Chinese that unites the languages (many mutually unintelligible) spoken in China. Because calligraphy is considered supreme among the visual arts in China, it sets the standard by which Chinese painting is judged. Indeed, the two arts are closely related.


Tools for Chinese Calligraphy

Paper: Paper is one of the four major Chinese inventions. Paper from Xuan County in Anhui Province, commonly known as Xuan paper (Chinese: 宣纸; pinyin: xuānzhı̌), is especially good for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. What’s so special about it is that it can convey and carry the elegance of ink. Paper used for calligraphic purposes varies in quality and their ability to absorb ink. Thus, the selection of paper is made according to what kind of image and idea the calligrapher would like to express.

Brush: Chinese brushes are made out of animal hair and that gives them an incredibly soft and flexible quality. One special feature is the pointed brush tip. The calligrapher can illustrate different strokes by controlling the pressure on the brush. The intricate movements of pressing and raising the brush repeatedly results in a dynamic piece of art.

Ink: Calligraphy ink is made from natural ingredients such as burned palm twigs or tar. Nowadays, more people are using chemically produced ink for their writing as it is more convenient because the process of ink grinding requires time and patience. However, the traditional process has a way of making people feel calm and enter a state of mind suitable for writing calligraphy. This is an important practice of self-cultivation and it is a step that one must go through if one wants to study and practice proper calligraphy.

Ink Slab: An Ink slab is an essential calligraphy tool for grinding ink. There are many different kinds of ink slabs, but the most common ones are made from stone-hitting. The better the stone, the better quality of the ink. Also, the longer they are preserved, the higher is their value.

foreign students doing Chinese calligraphy

Miriam (on the left) is writing her first calligraphy, and Fran (on the right) are telling people how beautiful her handwriting is. Calligraphy is all about patience and practice. The more you write the more you will settle your thoughts and easier to find inner peace.

Chinese language school culture class

The character “永” means forever and long lasting. The structure is simple, so it is a perfect choice to practice for their first lesson.

Chinese teacher and foreign students

Confucius regarded calligraphy as one of the six arts that any real gentlemen should possess. Every character in Chinese requires balance. In fact, a single unbalanced stroke can make an entire character look unstable, as if it would fall easily if you were to push it gently with your hand. Each character should stand upright so that it has poise.

Chinese culture class for international studentsIt is a sense of peace and of being alive that infuses me and travels through my brush. If you practice every day, you start to notice something else about your characters. They start to gain strength. Not just balance, but real strength. Now that you are better at taming your brush, you can channel your energy so that the soft tip of hair becomes like a sword and can carve sharp lines into the paper.

It is said that a great master can literally carve characters with his brush into a wood table. I think this is an exaggeration, but it also contains some truth.

Calligraphy is, in fact, a type of kung fu. It uses the same principles. Energy is channeled in the same way so that with practice and concentration, you can achieve balance, flexibility, focus, awareness, a sense of harmony and strength through simple actions.

Want to experience calligraphy writing? Join us at Omeida Chinese Academy!

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