What is calligraphy?
Snap! Like the Western alphabet, the Chinese alphabet has 26 letters. But did you know that around 80,000 picture symbols, or characters represent the words of the Chinese language? In fact, if you look — many of the characters look a little like what they mean. These pictures unite all of the Chinese languages, although to read a Chinese book, you would still need to know a few thousand!
This type of picture writing is thought to be the oldest in the world — dating back 2000 years. In the beginning, people engraved the symbols onto animal bones and tortoise shells. As time went on, bamboo was used, whilst wealthy people painted on silk.
Chinese calligraphy turns this picture writing into painting. Artists use a paint brush to paint the symbols onto paper and this type of art has very special meaning in Chinese culture. Each stroke of the paint brush shows movement and to get it right, the painter must be feeling relaxed but in control. By using quick, slow, thick or thin brush strokes, different emotions can be painted into the artwork.
Who practices calligraphy?
Children everywhere are told to, ‘write neatly’ to create a good first impression. This is just the same for Chinese children practicing their handwriting! Although many people in China may practice calligraphy as a relaxing hobby, calligraphy artists take it very seriously and may take an entire lifetime to master their craft!
People in other countries also use calligraphy. Perhaps you have seen some fancy handwriting on a wedding invitation or special card? This Western type of calligraphy still takes a lot of practice! The letters are written using an ink pen with a pointed nib to do the fancy swirls and loops and make lines thick or thin.
What tools are needed?
To start practicing Chinese calligraphy, you will need what is known as, the ‘four reassures of study.’ These are a paint brush, paper, an ink stick and an ink slab, though you could use what you already have. Pick a few of the easier symbols to start with and take it from there!
By Deborah L. Caine (Whyzz writer)