Chinese Calligraphy

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Chinese Calligraphy is a native art, and it has a long and profound history in China. In ancient China, a lot of people studied Calligraphy, because it had a high collection value. The best traditional art pieces became the most precious collections of royalty, nobility, and literature.

王(wáng)羲(xī)之(zhī) is the most famous and best calligrapher, every calligrapher knows his name! Emperor Taizong of Tang was fascinated by Wangxizhi’s calligraphy and he paid a lot of money to get a hold of Wangxizhi’s art. He eventually got a lot of pieces and asked people to copy his work. Unfortunately all the original prints were buried when he died. So nowadays all his calligraphy work you see are in fact copies made by other people people. However, even these copies have been sold for 308 million RMB! Some people have claimed to posses original prints, but so far all of them have been debunked. No doubt he had the best Chinese calligraphy in the world. And no matter how much people try, no one has been able to take over his legacy, just imitate it!

In this culture lesson, Zhuge taught us how to write Chinese.

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Our Chinese students invited their partners to join our culture lesson on the lounge. Before we started writing, Zhuge gave us a brief calligraphy introduction.

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笔墨纸砚”(bǐ)(mò)(zhǐ)(yàn) were文房四宝”(wén)(fáng)(sì)(bǎo) the most important tools to write in ancient China. Every educated person owned those things at home. Zhuge explained what these tools are.

笔(bǐ) it is a tool for calligraphy. It’s special tool for a calligrapher that you use by holding the bamboo part, and using the hair to write. Calligraphy pens write with nibs that may be flat, round, or pointed.

墨 (mò) is an artificial ink developed a long time ago. These first writing inks were based on natural minerals like graphite and vermilion. Modern inksticks are generally made of soots from one of three different sources, including lacquer soot, pine soot, and oil soot. Soots are collected and mixed with glue. Higher quality inksticks also use powdered spices and herbs, adding aroma and providing some protection to the ink itself. The glue, soot, and spice mixture is then pressed into shape and allowed to dry. This process can take 6 weeks, depending on the inkstick dimensions.

纸(zhǐ) was first developed in China in the first decade of 100 AD. Previous to its invention, bamboo slips and silks were used for writing material. Several methods of paper production developed over the centuries in China. This particular form of paper, known as Xuānzhǐ (宣紙), is soft, fine-textured, moth resistant, has a high tensile strength, and remarkable longevity – so much so that it has a reputation for lasting “1,000 years”. The quality of the paper depends on the processing methods used to produce it. Paper may be unprocessed, half processed or processed. The processing determines how well ink or paint is absorbed into the fiber of the paper, as well as the stiffness of the paper itself. Unprocessed papers are very absorbent and quite malleable, whereas processed papers are far more resistant to absorption and are stiffer.

The inkstone 砚(yàn) is used to grind the inkstick into powder. This powder is then mixed with water in a well in the inkstone in order to produce usable ink for calligraphy. The ideal water to use in the ink is slightly salty. The ink was first prepared using a mortar and pestle, but with the advent of inksticks, this method slowly vanished. The stone used is generally of a relatively fine whetstone type.

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So far we have learned about the tools to write Chinese calligraphy. The next step is learning how to hold the calligrapher pen and the stroke. We call these strokes: 点(diǎn), 横(héng), 竖(shù), 撇(piě), 捺(nà), 钩(gōu), 挑(tiāo) and 折(zhé):

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There are many advantages to learn calligraphy. While you are doing something it can help you focus and considerate. Chinese calligraphy is being promoted in Chinese schools to counter character amnesia brought on by technology usage. In the recent study, Chinese calligraphy writing has been used as cognitive intervention strategy among older adults or people with mild cognitive impairment. For example, in a recent randomized control trial experiment, calligraphy writing enhanced both working memory and attention control compared to controlled groups. 

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