Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy

Chinese Characters being the Medium for the Art of Calligraphy

Calligraphy 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. In comparison with other ethnicities’ phonographic writing system, Chinese characters are more figurative. 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. 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.


The Three Basic Components of Calligraphic Creation: Use of Brush, Structural Combination and Layout

Use of Brush – The use of brush covers the use of ink at the same time. Calligraphy is an art of lines, endowed with the aesthetic of abstraction. Together with the uniqueness of Chinese brushes and methods of use of brushes, various linear patterns can be put down.

Structural Combination (also known as combination of character) – Refers to the structural and composite relation between the strokes of each character. It is to be noted that setting out the components of each word requires considering aspects of prioritization, concession and coherence among the components. As such, structural symmetry and harmony of the character can be achieved.

Layout – Refers to the overall spatial arrangement for the whole piece of calligraphy through the organization of the space between characters, the distance between the lines, the allocation of characters, etc. To be particularly well-arranged there must be a relation between the black and white colors on the whole artwork which is instrumental to producing the effect of void and concretion.

Tools for Calligraphy: Paper, Brush, Ink and Ink Slab

Paper – Paper is one of the four major Chinese inventions. Paper produced in Xuan county of Anhui province is the most famous, known as “xuan paper.” Xuan paper can express the elegance of ink. Papers for the use of calligraphy differ in their strength of ink absorption. Thus, the selection of paper is made according to the ideas the calligrapher has to present.

Brush – Chinese brushes are made of animal hair being soft and flexible. One special feature is the point at the tip of the brush. By controlling the pressing or raising of the brush, the calligrapher delivers a feeling of brush thickness or fineness, of feather-weight or of heavy-strength.

Ink – Traditional ingredients for the making of ink originate from burned palm twigs or the smoke from tar. For the sake of convenience, modern people gradually turned to ink chemically produced for their writing. But the process of ink grinding requires time and patience, thus, this process is able to make people stay calm and enter a state of mind suitable for calligraphy. Such practice of cultivation is a stage that must be gone through for studying and practicing calligraphy.

Ink Slab – An Ink slab is an essential for ink grinding and writing. Ink slabs appear in many varieties but ordinary slabs are made from stone-hitting. Ink slabs made from stones of the highest quality can produce ink of the best kind. Furthermore, the longer they are preserved, the higher is their value.

All in all, differences in skills, habits, and the aesthetic tastes of calligraphers bring a difference in their dealings with strokes, structural combinations and layouts for the same character, even when identical papers, brushes, ink and ink slabs are used. Such a feature is unique to the calligraphy of Chinese characters.