Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chinese Calligraphy Tradition

Chinese Calligraphy Tradition

Posted in Chinese Culture

Chinese Calligraphy Tradition

Chinese calligraphy is the least comprehensible art outside China, not only because of its 50,000 foreign characters, but also because of the culture with which it rooted.

The Chinese view of life evolved in different ways from that of the West. For the Chinese, man was not the greatest achievement of creation, made by God in His own likeness; on the contrary, he was part of nature, like all other creatures. Since he was counted for little, he should find a best way to live in accord with nature. This secular philosophy was closely connected to the direction in which Chinese calligraphy developed.

To capture the essence of nature, Chinese writing characters were created. When a personal expression was attempted, a second creation happened. In this recreation, he, a Chinese scholar, strove to make his characters the vehicle through which his experience of nature would be revealed. From leaking stains on a mud wall or stretching oars of a boat, his brushwork was shaped; from a path paved with cobbles or the cirrus in the autumn sky, his composition was derived. The grandeur and the beauties beside him, the ceaseless and random movement, the things that changes and grows - these called forth his respect, inspired his contemplation, and nourished the scholarliness in him. Moreover, to respond to unpredictable surroundings, a sensitive brush was attuned; to match nature's profundity, a difficult discipline was forged - it took a Chinese ten years to learn its essentials, another ten years to develop a certain style, and all his life to perfect his brush writing. From such immersion in the flow of life, the art of Chinese calligraphy was evolved, to which all other arts of China were indebted.

In feudal China calligraphy was the first criterion to judge the qualification for a learned man besides his literary attainment, and this practice brought forth the fact that the most achieved calligraphers were scholars. They wrote for mutual enjoyment, capturing elusive mood with their technical virtuosity, and displaying it for the enjoyment of those was able to understand it. Fine or bold, graceful or clumsy, fluid or compact, various styles were developed by imposing on the forms of the past an expression of their own personality. When the last Chinese empire Qing dynasty ended and Western writing medium replaced the traditional Chinese writing brush and rice paper in the beginning of last century, Chinese scholars were freed from the burden of calligraphy. And upon that time, imported to China via Japan was the Western notion of 'fine art', under which Chinese calligraphy has been categorized since.

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