Origin and Development of Categories of Calligraphy and Appreciation and Analysis of Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy consists of five categories of seal script,clerical script,cursive script,

running script and regular script.


Running Script

Running script had already been formed in the late Eastern Han dynasty, reaching its prime in the Eastern Jin dynasty. Its style moderates between regular script and cursive script: it is more free-flowing than the orderly regular script while more easily recognized than the spontaneous cursive script. It was thus widely used. Although running script runs in unrestrained manner, excelling in the writing of this script was not easy. Good practice of regular script is a pre-requisite for fine writing in running script. Wang Xizhi is the most representative personae for the prime age of running script. His Preface to the Orchid Pavilion has been commonly recognized as the prime running script among all. Running script was also common in the Tang dynasty. Yan’s Lament for a Nephew has been commented on as the piece of running second to the Preface to the Orchid Pavilion. For the calligraphy of the Song dynasty, running script made a great achievement. The four major masters of the Song dynasty: Su Shi (1037-1101), Huang Tingjian, Mi Fu and Cai Xiang (1012-1067) were experts at running script. Among calligraphers of the Yuan dynasty, Zhao Mengfu was expert at running script. Some people say that he embodies the essence of calligraphy of earlier generations, particularly benefiting from the father-and-son of Wang Xizhi, influencing the calligraphy circle of the time. Most calligraphers of Ming dynasty were good at running script, including Wen Zhengming and Dong Qichang. Running script of the Qing dynasty was strongly influenced by Zhao Mengfu and Dong Qichang, producing “pavilion form.” In post-Emperor Qianglong’s time, many steles were unearthed. Since then, calligraphy changed its course, for example, Zheng Xie (1693-1766) built in the component of a seal script in running script and modeled a new style. Liu Yong (1720-1804) modeled after Zhao Mengfu and Dong Qichang in an early stage and immersed himself in stele carving in a later stage.


*Selected Works

Clear Day after Brief Snow Model Calligraphy is one of the representative pieces of running script by Wang Xizhi. It is a short piece written in running-regular script. In terms of use of the brush, round and circular brush strokes dominate. Sharpness was not evident in the dots, strokes, ticks and hooks. The combination of structures stands firm and balanced. An introverted sense and simplicity is aired in delicate postures. A classical and noble air runs through the entire structure.


Emperor Qianglong of the Qing dynasty embraced this piece of art into his heart, and he stored it as a precious treasure together with Mid-Autumn Model Calligraphy by Wang Xianzhi (344-386) and Bo Yuan Tie by Wang Xun (350-401) at the western hall of the Hall of Mental Cultivation in the Forbidden City, namely the Hall of Three Rarities. By the 12 year reign of Qianglong (1747), these outstanding works of the three Wang’s, including the works from Zhong Yao (151-230) in the Three Kingdom Period, to Dong Qichang (1555-1636) in the Ming dynasty and those of another 135 calligraphers, were compiled into a large collectionof model calligraphy, which was called the Model Calligraphies of the Three Rarities.

Clear Day after Brief Snow Model Calligraphy. Wang Xizhi, Jin dynasty  




Lament for a Nephew. Yan Zhengqing, Tang dynasty

Yan Zhengqing realized that his brother and nephew were killed in the Anshi Riot. He thus wrote this obituary in opulent emotions for his nephew. Power runs through the whole piece and each word relates to one another for continuity. Dryness of the brush occurs at times, releasing pathetic emotion. At the same time, Yan’s running script runs in power and the structure remains solid. His art builds his unique style.



Cold Food Model Calligraphy. Su Shi, Northern Song dynasty

(Su Shi’s calligraphy inherits traditional art and strikes to revolutionalize from the basic. Cold Food Model Calligraphy includes the two poems Su Shi wrote during the cold food festival in the third year of him being reduced to Huang County. His strokes are strong and properly arranged, changing according to his poetic feelings. The layout changes show unrestrained ups-and-downs. It achieves the seamless merging of artistic form and content.



Chi Du (letter of correspondence). Cai Xiang, Northern Song dynasty

Cai Xiang drew reference from the calligraphy of the father-and-son of Wang Xizhi in his first approach to calligraphy; he later turned to studying Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy. His running script is the most amazing. The structural composition is elegant and graceful. Grace is interestingly entwined in the power and freedom. His calligraphy took a significant position in the calligraphy circle in the middle of the northern Song dynasty. The Power of the brushes is solid for this piece of Chi Du while the brushes are steeped in fluidity. Formality of the structure is observed. It is a representative piece of his running script.



Album of Chi Du (letter of correspondence). Zhao Mengfu, Yuan dynasty

Zhao Mengfu’s cursive script forms its own powerful and glamorous typicality based on the various works of Wang Xizhi including Preface to the Orchid Pavilion.



Dong Qicheng’s running script was one of the most influential styles of calligraphy in the circle of calligraphy. His running script is grounded on the calligraphy of the father-and-son of Wang Xizhi, and is also influenced by Yan Zhengqing and Mi Fu’s. Dong’s calligraphy is characterized by the acuteness in his use of the brush and the smooth and neat exercise of the brush; the use of ink shows a light and damp tint; in terms of layout, the spacing between the combination of characters and between the lines is a means to interrupt the order so that variations could be made. The Combination of characters follows Mi Fu’s practice of slightly inclining the character towards the right without upsetting the overall regularity. This piece of running script occasionally incorporates cursive script. The combination of characters includes irregularity in the formation of the regular form. Spirit circulates in a smooth flow and the power of his brush radiates outward to a certain extent. His method of brush is natural and subtle while the color of the ink is clear and pure. It is a representative work of Dong Qichang’s running script in bold typeface.

Running Script. Liu Yong, Qing dynasty  



The typeface of this piece uses portly brushes and the dots and lines are bulging, comparable to iron wrapped in cotton; the use of ink is strong; the centre of the combination of the structure is closely knit while the upper right angle is relaxing. The characters are spaced properly.

Running Script. Liu Yong, Qing dynasty