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What is calligraphy?

Chinese calligraphy is an Oriental art. But what makes it an art?
It is very much like painting. It uses Chinese characters to communicate the spiritual world of the artist. Just as one thousand persons will have as many faces, one thousand persons will have as many differences in handwriting. Through the medium of form, way of handling the brush, presentation, and style, calligraphy as a work of art conveys the moral integrity, character, emotions, esthetic feelings and culture of the artist to readers affecting them by the power of appeal and the joy of beauty.

Calligraphy is not only a practical technique for writing Chinese characters, but also a unique Oriental art of expression and a branch of learning or discipline as well. As a branch of learning it is rich in content, including the evolution of writing styles, development and rules of technique, history of calligraphy, calligraphers and their inheritance in art, and evaluation of calligraphy as a work of art. This branch of learning is wide ranging and deep, forming an important part of Chinese culture.

Like chopsticks, this calligraphy used to be wholly Chinese. As Chinese culture spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore, calligraphy became a unique feature of Oriental art.

A Japanese friend once remarked with pride that Oriental culture has one more art than Western culture, by which he meant that language in the East is not mere symbol, but a lofty art-Oriental calligraphy.

Recently knowledgeable friends in the West have discovered the unique beauty of Chinese calligraphy. They say every character is written like a beautiful flower. Western scholars visiting China develop a keen interest in and love for Chinese calligraphy. They study Chinese characters, and from the construction of the characters .they seek to understand calligraphy. From calligraphy they seek to learn about Oriental culture. There are artists in the West who understand the abstract beauty of Chinese calligraphic art. They believe that Chinese calligraphy is the most ancient and most condensed of abstract arts. They praise this form of Chinese art as having the beauty of image in painting, the beauty of dynamism in dance and the beauty of rhythm in music. Thus abstract art-the ultramodern art of the West-takes cognizance of the most ancient art-calligraphy-of the East, establishing an intimate relationship between the two. Although calligraphy's home is China, it does not belong exclusively to China. It does not belong exclusively to the East, either. It's no exaggeration to say that calligraphy is a gem in the world's art treasury.

With a history of four to five thousand years, the art of calligraphy is rich and profound in content and has attracted the attention of artists the world over. The author of this booklet finds it difficult to treat the subject adequately or well in the limited space available, so he will confine himself to a brief discussion of the method and rules of regular script in Chinese calligraphy.

Book References Guo, Bonan 1995. Gate to Chinese Calligraphy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.