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Brush with history
Published:2008-07-28 Views:4435


Delegates from home and abroad at the opening of the exhibition

Ancient Chinese could not have known that their calligraphy - simple, yet refined and somehow mysterious - would thousands of years later continue to win devotees around the world through its elegant aesthetics.
Today as calligraphy crosses geographic and creative boundaries, artists and aficionados continue to wonder why it strikes such a chord.
Characters and words around the world evolved from prehistoric paintings. All major languages had pictographs in earlier times.
To explain the artistic features of Chinese characters, some researchers claim the beauty of Chinese calligraphy originates from the pictographic nature of its characters.
Beyond pictographs
Others disagree, noting that if pictographs explain its appeal, the golden age of Chinese calligraphy should be in ancient times during the Xia (2100 BC-1600 BC) and Shang (1600 BC-1100 BC) dynasties, when characters were more pictographic.

Domestic and foreign calligraphers complete works on site.

But the art of calligraphy began to prosper in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), with such styles as Lishu, Kaishu, Xingshu and Caoshu, all less pictographic.
The quality that makes Chinese characters an artistic expression is not their pictographic nature - but the gradual abstraction of it.
Such abstractions are reflected in the evolution of Chinese characters themselves. Today the pictographic character of Chinese writing has disappeared entirely.
The rich meaning of Chinese language results in a diversity of characters that in turn makes Chinese the most complicated in shape and form.
Such complexity enables expressions of beauty by changing the shape of characters in strokes, points and lines, though the changes do not alter the meaning of the text.
British art critic Herbert Read notes that "for the Chinese people, all the features of beauty lie in the shapes of Chinese characters with beautiful forms of writing ".
Writing tools
Laurence Binyon, another British art critic, notes that "the Chinese writing brush is a formidable tool".
An unmatched feature of the writing brush is that it can produce strokes to freely express a sense of beauty.
The use of a brush makes calligraphy works notably different from all the other writing of Chinese characters.
Xuan paper and ink are also essential materials for enhancing the expression of the writing brush.
Because of its unique features in absorbing ink, Xuan paper - best is produced in Xuanzhou in Anhui province - enables writing flourishes and rhythms of the brush to be vividly captured.
The ink can be heavy or light, enabling calligraphers to create a three-dimensional effect in their works.
The combination of the writing brush, Xuan paper and ink provides Chinese calligraphers with special tools and materials. Only those who can master them skillfully and freely become calligraphy artists in the real sense. But the skill of using such tools and materials, especially the writing brush, needs long practice. This is also the reason why calligraphic works with the writing brush are more precious than hard pen calligraphy.
Artistic emotion
The art of Chinese calligraphy reflects the writer's emotion during the process.
There is a special relationship between the form of calligraphy and the meaning of the text. In some calligraphic works, the content of the text and its form are similar to lyrics and tone in music.
The content of text and the form of calligraphy are different disciplines - language and shape. Of course, it is best if meaning agrees with form. Most famous calligraphy works have a perfect combination of form and meaning.
In the Preface to the Collection of Orchid Pavilion Poems, a masterpiece by famed Jin Dynasty (265-420) calligrapher Wang Xizhi, the beauty that the text describes finds a suitable expression in his smooth and elegant strokes.
Forceful strokes in Memorial for My Nephew by Yan Zhenqing in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) reflects the author's extreme grief of the death of his nephew who was killed in battle.
Indeed, a truly successful work of Chinese calligraphy is a combination of the art of shape and the art of literature.
Philosophic spirit
The charm of calligraphy is also related to values accumulated over thousands of years of Chinese history.
The development of Chinese calligraphy actually records developments in Chinese concepts of harmony of man with nature. In most cases, it displays that philosophic spirit not only by its artistic form but also by the meaning of characters.
For thousands of years, respect for nature and belief in harmony was at the core of Chinese beliefs, recognizing that ying and yang, life and death, emptiness and fullness are all harmonious in nature.
These values are also reflected in Chinese calligraphy. Many artists strive to create a harmonious form through use of light and heavy strokes while leaving emptiness among characters.
Contemporary calligraphy artists in China express their understanding about the spiritual and objective world with abstract forms, showing they have realized the common rules of Chinese calligraphic art, and of nature and humanity.

Delegates exchange ideas to promote calligraphy globally.

 

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