How to write Chinese calligraphy - The way to hold the brush
To practice calligraphy, you must learn the proper way to hold the brush. This has much to do with the body's posture. You must hold the brush properly and also learn how to use your wrist and elbow while writing.
posture while you write depends on the size
of the characters you intend to write and
your physical conditions. Proper posture will
affect the speed of your progress and also
your health. A contemporary calligrapher named
Tang used the wrong posture, and though he
became a calligrapher, he became a hunchback
as well. He is called Tang the Hunchback.
What is the correct posture for writing? When
sitting, the body should be erect, the shoulders
balanced and the back straight. The legs should
be apart, the feet evenly and firmly on the
ground. The paper is held down by the left
hand. The right hand holds the brush. The
head is slightly forward, but be careful not
to bow too low. Fix your eyes on the spot
where you intend to write. Your eyes and the
tip of your writing brush should be thirty
centimeters apart. Your whole body should
feel natural; do not pay undue attention to
posture, or your body will become stiff or
rigid. Correct posture simply prevents deformity
of your body and enables you to write well.
If you write characters larger than ten centimeters,
you have to stand up and write. You may use
any appropriate posture, depending on the
|Proper posture for writing
|Proper posture for writing
important thing about holding the brush is
the rational way of holding the five fingers
and the coordinated use of these fingers.
The functions of the five fingers are called
ye, ya, gou, ge and di in Chinese.
Ye means to press down and refers to the use
of the thumb. The thumb should press the brush
slantwise from inside to outside. Ya refers
to how the index finger holds the brush handle.
Move the finger slantwise and bend it slightly
from outside to inside. The index finger and
the thumb coordinate, so that one presses
and the other holds the brush handle.
Gou (hook) is the way the middle finger hooks
the outside of the brush. Move this finger
forcefully from left to right to hook the
brush. The middle finger must coordinate well
with the third finger to write characters.
Ge refers to the way the third finger press
the brush. The third finger is placed on the
inside of the brush handle pressing the handle
from the inside to the outside. It coordinates
with the middle finger, so that the two fingers
exert an even and balanced force.
Di refers to the work of the little finger,
which is placed under the third finger to
The important points in holding the brush
are: The fingers must exert substan tial force.
The palm does no actual work. Xu Chengyi,
a calligrapher, recommends the following:
The tiger's mouth is like a crescent moon.
The palm is shaped like hiding an egg.
If the five fingers coordinate with each other,
The movement of the brush will be agile.
|Holding the brush
|Supported wrist method.
the fingers, one must use the wrist and elbow
to write Chinese characters. The wrist is
crucial and must be used with agility. You
use the wrist to manipulate the tip of the
brush. The four positions of the wrist are:
rest, cushion, lift and suspend.
Rest the wrist of your right hand on
the table. This will enable you to use your
fingers well. Employ this method when you
are writing very small characters-as small
as the head of a fly, the Chinese say.
Cushion the wrist of your right hand. Usually
you cushion it with your left thumb or your
left wrist. This lifts your right wrist. This
method is very often used for writing ordinary
Lift your right wrist from the table. Some
people also call it suspending the wrist.
It is used to write medium-sized characters.
The last position is to suspend both the wrist
and the elbow. Neither touches the table.
This method is used to write big characters.
These four wrist positions are only relative.
If you intend to raise your calligraphy to
the level of art, you must practice the suspended-wrist
position from the very beginning. Would-be
calligraphers must not be afraid of difficulty.
They must acquire this basic skill.
|Raised wrist method.
|Suspended wrist method.
|Book References Guo, Bonan 1995. Gate to Chinese Calligraphy. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.