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Chinese Writing and Calligraphy

Chinese Writing and Calligraphy

Wendan Li
Copyright Date: 2009
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Writing and Calligraphy
    Book Description:

    Suitable for college and high school students and those learning on their own, this fully illustrated coursebook provides comprehensive instruction in the history and practical techniques of Chinese calligraphy. No previous knowledge of the language is required to follow the text or complete the lessons. The work covers three major areas: 1) descriptions of Chinese characters and their components, including stroke types, layout patterns, and indications of sound and meaning; 2) basic brush techniques; and 3) the social, cultural, historical, and philosophical underpinnings of Chinese calligraphy—all of which are crucial to understanding and appreciating this art form. Students practice brush writing as they progress from tracing to copying to free-hand writing. Model characters are marked to indicate meaning and stroke order, and well-known model phrases are shown in various script types, allowing students to practice different calligraphic styles. Beginners will find the author’s advice on how to avoid common pitfalls in writing brush strokes invaluable. Chinese Writing and Calligraphy will be welcomed by both students and instructors in need of an accessible text on learning the fundamentals of the art of writing Chinese characters.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6069-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-X)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Chinese calligraphy, 書法shū fǎin Chinese, has been considered the quintessence of Chinese culture because it is an art that encompasses Chinese language, history, philosophy, and aesthetics. The term’s literal translation, “the way of writing” (shū, “writing,” and, “way” or “standard”), identifies the core of the art, which has close bonds with Chinese written signs, on the one hand, and painting, on the other. In China, adeptness in brush calligraphy is among the four traditional skills that cultivate the minds of the literati, along with the ability to playqín(a stringed musical instrument), skill at(a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Writing Instruments and Training Procedures
    (pp. 20-37)

    This chapter lays out the preliminaries for training in Chinese brush writing. It introduces writing instruments, their history, how they are made, as well as how they are used. Preparations for writing, such as your state of mind, your writing space, your posture, and how to hold your brush are also discussed. The three most important factors in writing are identified: moisture, pressure, and the speed of the brush are of critical importance at all times when writing is taking place.

    Chinese calligraphers throughout history have created countless works of art; many have gained permanent recognition. However, Chinese writing would...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Brush Techniques and Basic Strokes I
    (pp. 38-49)

    Knowledge of Chinese brushwork is a key to understanding not only Chinese calligraphy but also Chinese painting. In this and the next two chapters, we explore some basic brushwork techniques. We also go over the major stroke types in brush writing, their variant forms, and how they are used to compose Chinese characters. After reading about each technique and stroke type, you will be guided through hands-on practice first writing individual strokes step by step and then tracing the provided model characters.

    The most important feature of the Chinese writing brush is its soft, elastic bristles, which allow variation in...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Brush Techniques and Basic Strokes II
    (pp. 50-60)

    In the previous chapter, three basic stroke types were described. This chapter first illustrates two important brush techniques that affect the quality of strokes. After that, three more stroke types, the down-left slant, down-right slant, and right-up tick, will be introduced. The last section discusses Chinese names, including how Chinese names are chosen based on Western names.

    Tip,fēng鋒, refers to the brush tip formed by the long hairs in the brush. Writing with the tip of the brush either in the middle of the stroke or on one side of the stroke are two different ways to produce...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Basic Strokes III and Stroke Order
    (pp. 61-72)

    Chapters 3 and 4 have described six stroke types. All of these are considered simple strokes because each stroke is written with brush movement basically in a single direction (setting aside the concealed tips). This chapter first examines the remaining two stroke types, the turn and the hook. These are “combined strokes” because they contain a change in the direction of brush movement. Then writing at the beginning level is reviewed, with precautions concerning common pitfalls in writing and advice on how to avoid them. General rules of stroke order are laid out in the last section.

    Simply put, the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Formation of Chinese Characters
    (pp. 73-83)

    The distinct look of Chinese written signs has given rise to misconceptions, one being that Chinese is a pictographic script and that each symbol in Chinese writing is a picture of something. Even college students may fall into this trap. “How do you draw this character?” they ask, reluctant to use the word “write.”¹ Apparently, this misunderstanding arises because Chinese is not alphabetic. The written symbols do not directly relate to sounds. Rather, they are meaning symbols that sometimes have a connection with the shape of objects.

    In this chapter, we take a close look at Chinese written signs by...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Internal Structure of Characters and the Aesthetics of Writing
    (pp. 84-99)

    As we have seen in previous chapters, Chinese characters are constructed by assembling strokes in a two-dimensional square. Some characters consist of single signs; others combine multiple components to form complex characters. This chapter examines the shapes and structural configurations of characters, their internal layout patterns, and the proportions of components, all of which are of primary importance for writing Chinese characters. In addition, it also discusses and illustrates basic aesthetic principles together with rules for balance and techniques to increase stroke dynamics.

    Chinese characters are like buildings; they have to be built with good materials and a fine design....

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Development of Chinese Calligraphy I: The Seal Scripts
    (pp. 100-114)

    The wonder of the Chinese brush resides not only in its ability to write an infinite variety of dots and lines, but also in the diverse scripts it produces. Chinese written signs have evolved through thousands of years, producing many different scripts and styles along the way, each with its own unique qualities. These styles are still in use today, in daily life and in art. In China, the knowledge of different writing styles is taken for granted in everyday life as well as in appreciating calligraphic artwork. The interplay of writing style, content, and purpose adds even more dimensions....

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Development of Chinese Calligraphy II: The Clerical Script
    (pp. 115-128)

    In the previous chapter, we saw that Small Seal Script has a high degree of formality and strict rules for writing. It is not surprising that such a formal and difficult script was outlived by another script, called Clerical Script, as a popular way of writing. After examining the Clerical Script in this chapter, we will learn about the traditional Chinese dating method, which is still used to date calligraphy works today.

    As the story goes, in the late Qin, a minister of the First Emperor named Cheng Miao offended the First Emperor and was thrown into prison. However, he...

  13. CHAPTER TEN The Development of Chinese Calligraphy III: The Regular Script
    (pp. 129-139)

    Two periods in the history of Chinese calligraphy were most crucial to script development. One was the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), during which Clerical Script was developed. In the previous chapter, we saw that Clerical Script contributed crucial features to modern Chinese writing and that it allowed Chinese calligraphy to become a true art. The other period, the Tang dynasty (618–907), was another era of great cultural prosperity. During the Tang the Regular Script reached its maturity and produced a large number of calligraphy masters.

    In Chapters 3 to 7, you learned major features of the Regular...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Development of Chinese Calligraphy IV: The Running and Cursive Styles
    (pp. 140-154)

    The scripts described in the previous chapters are all written stroke by stroke. The Running and Cursive styles, in contrast, are executed with linking between strokes. They are faster ways of writing, with more fluidity and freedom of expression. Of the two, the Cursive Style has the higher degree of stroke continuity. For this reason, Running Style is often referred to as “semicursive.” Analysis shows that both the Running and Cursive styles developed on the basis of Clerical Script. In modern times, however, they are perceived and understood in relation to Regular Script. It is said that Regular, Running, and...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE The Art of Composition
    (pp. 155-174)

    Previous chapters have focused on the writing of individual strokes, characters, and scripts. In this chapter, we devote our discussion to the challenge of putting together the whole calligraphy piece. You will see that the art of calligraphy resides not only in composing characters, but also in composing with characters. Composition is a crucial part of the artistic creation and expression, in which micro-, meso-, and macroscopic visions are all balanced.

    There are many ways to put a calligraphy piece together. Considerations include dimensionality—such as the size and shape of a piece (horizontal, vertical, square, round, fan-shaped, and so...

  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Yin and Yang of Chinese Calligraphy
    (pp. 175-185)

    The fundamental philosophical principle of yin and yang is reflected in every aspect of Chinese calligraphy. This chapter introduces that principle. It also covers the appreciation of calligraphy works and the relationship of calligraphy and health.

    The study of Chinese calligraphy is not only a study of Chinese writing. In many ways, it is also a study of Chinese philosophy and the Chinese worldview. Aesthetic principles and standards are rooted in cultural and philosophical tenets, and Confucianism and Daoism form the basis of Chinese culture. Of the two Daoism has the stronger influence on art. It is no exaggeration to...

  17. CHAPTER FOURTEEN BY WA5Y OF CONCLUSION: Chinese Calligraphy in the Modern Era
    (pp. 186-198)

    The word “modern” in this chapter denotes approximately the past one hundred years. During this time, modernization and globalization have become increasingly greater factors in the ways people experience everyday life, carry on traditions, and practice art. Vast economic, social, technological, cultural, and political changes have led to increased interdependence, integration, and interaction among people in disparate locations. In this context, Chinese calligraphy, similarly to other aspects of Chinese tradition, has changed and adapted.

    In this chapter, we first look at the developments of Chinese calligraphy in modern China and its new life in the Western world. In the last...

  18. APPENDIX ONE: Brush Writing Exercises
    (pp. 199-242)
  19. APPENDIX TWO: Pinyin Pronunciation Guide
    (pp. 243-246)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 247-250)
    (pp. 251-254)
  22. References
    (pp. 255-258)
  23. Books in English for Further Study
    (pp. 259-260)
  24. Index
    (pp. 261-263)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-270)