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China Calligraphy





China’s calligraphy is an ancient art and develops with the development of Chinese civilization. There are indeed few peoples in this world who own such a special art, besides China’s calligraphy owns the long history and colorfulness.


Calligraphy as an artistic creation owns the profound and deep magic and mysteries and it spreads and expands its uniqueness and attraction and many people are indulged into its charm from generation to generation. Generally speaking, it experiences inscriptions on bones and bronzes, big seal and small seal in the early period. In Wei and Jin dynasties the basic structures and diversities of calligraphy roughly formed and finalized, that is, cursive hand, regular script, free script etc.



Calligraphy forms the meaningful, intentional and poetic structure on the undefiled paper and leaves the impressive marks and remains by virtue of the agility, instability and levity of brush pen as well as the abundance and variety of water and Chinese ink. Therefore, calligraphy is an art of composing or structure. The brush of calligrapher is the extension of his fingers, and the celerity, slowness, motion, pause and transition are all mastered by calligrapher’s subjectiveness and his release and abreaction of emotions and sentiments, so the calligraphy is an art of expression. The masterpieces of calligraphers stealthily reflect their life experiences, acquirement, self-cultivation and individuality and there are some sayings “the calligraphy is equal to calligrapher’s personality and cultivation”, “the calligraphy is the expression of calligrapher’s inner self”, and the calligraphy could be treated as gifts which are very elegant and decent in traditional way.



The awesome calligraphic masterpieces handwrited by Wen Zhengming

The  calligraphic image above was one of the splendid calligraphic masterpieces hand-written by Wen Zhengming who was a highly-reputed scholar with all-around talents lived in Suzhou. Wen Zhengming was a hardworking calligrapher according to the record of history and he was said to be a loser when he firstly attended at the ancient Imperial Examination because of his clumsy handwriting. Learning lessons at this frustration, he learnt and practiced more and deeper and finally became one of the top-ranked calligraphy masters who remained their name in history.



In this way, the calligraphy is a pragmatic and useful art. In conclusion, the calligraphy is an integrative art style which is inclined to express the subjective spirit and feeling. The calligraphy relatively centralizes the fundamental characters of China’s art. Besides, calligraphy altogether with Chinese traditional painting leads the other styles of Chinese arts which is similar to architecture and sculpture leading the other art style in western arts. The calligraphy was acted as the first place in Chinese arts. Sometimes we often equalize the calligraphy and traditional painting but we always put the calligraphy in priority, and we also say the same origin that calligraphy and Chinese traditional painting derive from and equate the traditional music, Chinese chess, calligraphy and traditional painting. The calligraphy was closely connected with Chinese traditional paintings. Especially the appearance and development of literator’s paintings, the principles and regulations of the lines of paintings directly originate from calligraphy; the style of painting in strong and rich Chinese ink and the free lines is related to the interest and rules of cursive hand and free script. The veins of Chinese ancient sculptures are also the weave of the lines from calligraphy. The decoration and sculpline of sculptures keep in inherent touch with the principles of seal in calligraphy. What’s more, the layout and major girders of Chinese traditional architecture are both following the rules of symmetry, proportion, the relationship between principalship and subordination and so on, and all of these are directly coming from the calligraphy, additionally the connotation, scenery- borrowing and the pursuits of hollowness and motion are also connects closely with the structure, composition, rhythm and charm of calligraphy.



As for the industrial arts and folk arts, they are also influenced by Chinese calligraphy. So in this way the calligraphy could be thought of the essence and core of Chinese arts Chinese calligraphy owns a long and rich history and eternity of artistic bloom. The calligraphy forms its own characteristics as the change of time, social atmosphere and the taste of people’s appreciation and judgment; furthermore it is always perfecting itself as the development of culture   


We easily find a general summarization of characteristics of calligraphy in its history of evolution when we browse the ancient works of calligraphy from different dynasties, namely, upholding the rhythm and vacancy of calligraphy in Jin Dynasty, Emphasizing the regulations and preciseness of calligraphy in Tang Dynasty, focusing on elegance and artistic conception of calligraphy in Song Dynasty and attending to the layout of calligraphy in Yuan and Ming Dynasties. 


Searching for the three-thousand-year evolution and experiences of calligraphy, we easily find it synchronizes with China’s society and strongly mirrors the spiritual characters of each period. Its uniqueness and specialty in the world could be considered to be one reason for its authoritative level in Chinese culture, and typically and sufficiently shows the attraction and charm of oriental arts and perfection of oriental culture.


Generally speaking, the history of Chinese calligraphy could be divided into two parts by the life of noted calligrapher, Yan Zhenqing. The former could be called as the evolutional period of, chirography, and the latter could be called as the changing period of calligraphy style. And the former focuses on the evolution of calligraphy style, the expression of calligrapher’s artistic style usually interrelates with the style of calligraphy. In the changing period of calligraphy style, it did not need to coin a new character style, and then many a calligrapher bring forward the attitudes of attention on the meaning and elegance because of the stability and fastness of chirography but the flexibility of charm and attraction.   















The Origin of Calligraphy in the Period before Qin Dynasty


The calligraphy is the writing art of Chinese character .it is not only the cultural gem of Chinese but also the elite and essence of the worldwide culture. Chinese character in the history of long-term evolution acted as the social part of idea exchange and cultural heritage and also played a particular role in expression of plastic arts. After a cautious textual research, generally speaking Chinese was born 5000 or 6000 years ago in the middle reaches of the Huanghe River, roughly in the period of Yangshao culture named for its first discovery in Yangshao, Shenshan, Henan Province more than 40 years, when the character had been appeared. Chinese character is the ideogram springing from its structures in the early period that was similar to the specific objects and experienced the complicated process from the original picture to the simplicity and abstraction and finalized a symbol or sign of the exact things and represented a certain meaning and had definite pronunciation. It experienced the different stage including the picture, symbol, creation and finalization, the big seal and small seal and eventually formed 5 basic structures of calligraphy which acted as the base of the development and perfection of Chinese calligraphy in the later period.

In the period of unwritten history and Xia Dynasty, it is the time of birth of Chinese character. Because of diverse research and archaeology, variety of evidences testify the birth and existence of Chinese which was the foundation of Chinese culture and civilization and the existence of characters indeed did a great favor to the later appearance of the art of calligraphy.  In the period between Shang Dynasty and Western Han Dynasty, more than two-thousand-year history and development improve the development of art of calligraphy and many kinds of calligraphy styles continually appeared such as inscriptions on bronzes and bones, writings on bamboos and silks, and the seal character, cursive hand, regular script etc all were selected from hundreds of styles and finalized in the end. From then on, calligraphy started its orderly development.  



The brief introduction as follows:


Oracle Bone Scripts: The old-style character, one of chirography, is the oldest character existing in the world, and they are carved on Oracle Bones for noting the words of fortune-telling (People in Shang Dynasty used to auspicate the unexpected future and carved the date, name of fortune-teller and the contents of auspice onto tortoise shells, animal bones and so on). In the Shang Dynasty, the auspice was very popular because of the mystery and superpower of nature. The first oracle bone script was found in 1889 in Anyang, Henan Province, and its content mainly describes the records of household auspice in the late period of Shang Dynasty. Now it becomes a precious gem in Chinese calligraphy history due to its fundamental characters that calligraphy has. 

Inscriptions on bronze popularized in Shang Dynasty, Zhou Dynasty, Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States. It is a monument or landmark in Chinese calligraphy history and carved onto the bronzes for reminding people of the authority of gods, it is also called the writings on the bell and vessel. Its lines are stronger and clearer than oracle bone scripts and its golden period was Zhou Dynasty. The most typical and classical works in it are Simuwu Ancient Sacral Square Vessel and Mao Kung Ting.


Stone Inscriptions born in Zhou Dynasty and popularized in Qin Dynasty and its most typical and classical works are Shigunwen and Taishanshike. Bamboos Slips and Silks with Ink Marks. Calligraphy pays much attention to the authentic works; however the authentic works before Qin and Han Dynasties can only available in the bamboos and silks. The ancient bamboo-slip volumes are combined with silk threads and colts. The earliest Bamboos Slips and Silks with Ink Marks were found in Yunmeng in Hubei Province. It was produced in Qin Dynasty and silk books of Warring States inMaWangdui,Changsha.


Stone inscription


The Calligraphy of Qin Dynasty Initiating a New Tendency 


Because of the distinctions of characters among the different kingdoms, the development of economy and culture was disturbed and blocked. After the first unification of China governed by the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty, Lisi, the Prime Minister of Qin Dynasty, took measures to uniform the characters, which was truly a great deed. The character used in Qin Dynasty after the first unification of China was the seal character which was derived from inscriptions on bronze and stone inscriptions, and this project was operated by the famous calligrapher of the day, Lisi who also created the classical and representative works like Taishanshike and Langyashike. In the history of calligraphy, the development and gains of calligraphy in Qin Dynasty realize the succession of the heritage in the past and innovation for its improvement in the future. In Chinese old but classical dictionary of Shuowen Jiezi edited by Xushen, there is a saying”eight styles of characters existing in Qin calligraphy, namely, the large seal character, the small seal character, the characters carved on stones or bamboo slips, the characters looking like the worms, the Characters on stones and bronzes imprinted onto the silks, the characters written on the plaques or steles, the calligraphy and Li-style character” eight-style characters basically summarize the visage and expression of character style. The inconvenience and strict requirements of writing the seal characters directly did a great favor to the appearance of Li characters; and up to Western Han Dynasty ,this transition was over. The appearance of Li characters promoted tremendously the advancement of Chinese characters and could be thought of as a revolution in the history of calligraphy, additionally it lays a solid foundation for the later formation of other style characters.     



The Calligraphy Introduction of the Western Han Dynasty and the Eastern Han Dynasty


There are two major expressions of the Western Han Dynasty and the Eastern Han Dynasty. The former was the major systematic stone inscriptions of Han Dynasty. The latter is the subordinate system of seal print made in tiles and ink marks on the bamboo slips and silks. The most representative classics is Longmensong which is always considered as the “masterpieces created by god “. Besides Caisha’s Jiapingshijing met the demands of resuming the ancient Li characters and nurturing the regular scripts. The stone steles were part of it, and each stele inscription was totally different from another and owns its special characteristics. The style and feature of northern China are apt to grandness and integration, while southern China is inclined to plainness, simplification and ancientry. Both of them expressed the different aesthetic pursuits of high-level persons with well-educated backgrounds.


The blooming period of calligraphy as an art began from Eastern Han Dynasty. And many academic works on theory of calligraphy appeared. The first theoretician was Yangxiong who initially wrote the first academic passage on calligraphy Caoshushi in the history of calligraphy. The calligraphers in Han Dynasty could be classified into two kinds; the first was calligrapher represented by Caiyong who was expert in Li character, and the second represented by Dudu,Cuiyuan and Zhangzhi who were good at the cursive hand, even Zhangzhi was called as the greatest master of the cursive hand.


Calligraphy on stones, bamboos and silks was the best representative of the characteristics of calligraphy in Han Dynasty. There were many stone inscriptions carved in Li character in Han Dynasty. The cursive hand was also born in the same period and it played a great role in the development of calligraphy, moreover it also indicated the stage that calligraphy began to form an art with full and free expression of sentiments and emotions other than the abreaction of calligraphers’ personalities. Zhangzhi initially created the cursive hand in Eastern Han Dynasty.



bamboo-made book

Bamboo-made book was a special but widely-used book used in before Han Dynasty when the paper was un-invented or later paper was invented duiring late East Han Dynasty by a eunuch named Cai Lun(蔡伦), but unabled  to popularied suddenly due to the high cost of making paper at the time. Hence, for the sake of economy and practicality, bamboo-made books were still the mainstream at that time.


The Calligraphy of Wei Dynasty, Jin Dynasty and Northern and Southern Dynasty

In the period of Three Kingdoms, the mainstream of calligraphy style transferred to regular scripts from Li characters. The style of regular character first created by Zhongyao, and from then on the regular script was used in stone inscriptions. Zhongyao’s Xuanshibiao was taken as the curiosa in the history of Chinese calligraphy.


The Period of Eastern Jin Dynasty and Western Jin Dynasty


In the Jin Dynasty, the calligraphers came forth in great number and they sparkplug the elegance, magnanimity and high-grade tastes in life and pursued the beauty of juste-milieu and commonness in artistic cognition. The influential representatives were Two Wang (Wang Xizhi and his son Wang Xianzhi) who satisfied the requirements and tastes of the well-cultivated aristocrats and welcomed extensively by the learners and officials. People found the attraction, charm and aesthetic worthiness by way of writing characters. Wang Xizhi, the most qualified representative of the spiritual pursuits in Wei and Jin Dynasties, was the most influential calligrapher in the history of calligraphy and was called “the greatest master of calligraphy” by late generations.  His masterpiece of the Preface for Lanting is appraised as the top calligraphy of the free script under the sun; and the appreciators think it seems to be the wave like the floating clouds and trenchancy as the frightened dragon. His son also made a great contribution to the calligraphy thanks to his creation of writing at one stroke expressed in his works of Ode to Fairy of Luo River under the foil of deeds of Luji, Weijin,Wangdao, Xie’an to the development of calligraphy. The flourishing period of calligraphy in this period was flowered with free script which was a calligraphy style absorbing the characters of cursive hand and regular script and the classical representatives are Boyuantie, Kuaixueshiqingtie and Zhongqiutie.



Calligraphy of in the Period of Northern and Southern Dynasty


In this period, Chinese calligraphy was characterized of northern stele inscriptions and southern books containing models of handwriting or painting for learners to copy.


 The Calligraphy in the Period of Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties


1, the calligraphy of Sui Dynasty
Sui Dynasty unionized China and ended the disorderliness of Northern and Southern Dynasty. In this period, the unification and admixture of southern notes and northern steles formally completed the style of regular script. The calligraphy of Sui Dynasty inherited the achievements of the past and opened the new trend of Tang Dynasty


 2, the Splendid Calligraphy of Tang Dynasty

The culture of Tang Dynasty reached the peak of Chinese feudalistic culture via his resplendence and accomplishment in politics, economy, diplomacy and culture. The calligraphy of Tang Dynasty inherited and innovated the calligraphy of the former several dynasties. Regular script, free script and cursive hand all reached a new stage in this period with prominent characters and uniqueness of that time. At the early period of Tang Dynasty, the calligraphy inheriting the tradition of Six Dynasties was well characterized by the regular script, and the mainstream of this time was represented by Ouyang Xun, Yu Shinan, Chu Suiliang, Xue Ji. They were famous for their common ground of preciseness and orderliness. Afterward; Li Yong learned but altered the calligraphy style of Wang Xizhi and formed his own characteristics. Zhangxu and Huai Su improved the exhibition of cursive hand up to the perfection with mania and drunkenness. Sun Guoting’s cursive hand was greatly impressed with Confucian elegance. Huo Zhizhang and Li Longji created the style of straightforwardness and chubbiness. Yan Zhenqing opened a new world for further development of calligraphy in style and expression. He absorbed the age-old regulations to his own understanding on calligraphy but he also refined and perfected his personal understanding more reasonably than those traditional thought on calligraphy. Liu Gongquan in the late period of Tang Dynasty changed the style of regular script again. His handwriting was characterized of thinness and trenchancy and objectively further enriched the rules and characters of calligraphy in Tang Dynasty. As to the emphasis and recognition on calligraphy when the government selected the better talents as its officials by virtue of the imperial examination, many candidates and learners attached importance to the refinement of calligraphy. There are six kinds of tiptop institution of higher learning in the whole educational system, and they also took the calligraphy as one independent subject for bringing up calligraphers and calligraphy theoreticians. This was a pioneering work and fostered such numerous masters as Ouyang Xun, Yun Shinan, Chu Suiliang, Yan Zhenqing, Liu Gongquan, Wang Wenbing and Yang Lingshi etc. In Sui Dynasty, the culture and art of Northern and Southern Dynasty have been absorbed absolutely and the calligraphy was also disentangled from the old rules of Six Dynasties in a new look. The calligraphy of the prime time in Tang Dynasty, the romance was a spiritual pursuit in art expression, such as the exaggerative cursive hand written by Zhang Xu and Huai Su as well as the free script written by Li Yong, and up to the mid-period of Tang Dynasty, the impossibility of breakthrough in style-alteration of calligraphy directly established the importance of Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy style in the development of calligraphy, and then all the styles of Chinese calligraphy have been confirmed completely.



Calligraphic works of Su Dongpo of Song Dynasty

The calligraphic masterpiece created by Su Dongpo is well-known as Han Shi Tie(寒食帖), boasting the third running script in China. It is easily to see the value of this masterpiece. Su Shi's painting, calligraphy, literataure works, poems and proses were all highly adored at the time. Today, majority still think of Su Shi as the only fairly comprehensive man in ancient China.



The Calligraphy of Song Dynasty



People in Song Dynasty took more notice of the spiritual implication, significance and inner personalized characters which to some degree was derived from Zhu Xi’s Lixue aiming at expressing the connotation, and it includes 4 points: philosophic understanding, attention to bookishness and studiousness, stylization and expression of artistic conception, meanwhile it also focus on the individuality and originality in calligraphy productions. In the period of Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties, the emphasis was paid on the release of orderliness, but in the time of Song Dynasty, calligraphy began to show in a new look of expressing people’s emotions and adverting the intentions of calligraphy. Compared to the calligraphers of Tang Dynasty, they also met more requirements of knowledgeability and bookishness other than diligence, and the authoritative representatives of Northern Song Dynasty greatly changed the conventions from Tang Dynasty and directly learned from Jin Dynasty reputed for its handwriting notes. Talented Cai Xiang, versatile Su Dongpo, Huang Tingjian who laid high emphasis on the ancient, and Mi Fu who particularized his own understandings and personality differentiating from the mainstream, all expressed a rat-fuck and larruping impression on their contemporary and late generations for their talents shown at the tip of their brushes and left the descendants a new aesthetic enjoyment which further extended in late calligraphers like Zhao Jie,Fan Chengda, Zhu Xi and so on. But they could not compare with the Four Masters of Northern Song Dynasty in the aspect of understanding on calligraphy.



The Calligraphy of Yuan Dynasty



The calligraphy in Yuan Dynasty roughly emphasized on return to the ancient styles or regulations but ignored the innovation. The major character of its expression focused on the pursuits of orderliness in character arrangement. Zhao Mengfu,the greatest calligrapher of this time, advocated t the immutability of styles , and his style of regular script was famous as one of four perfect calligraphy styles(the others were Ouyang Xun’s style, Yan Zhenqing’s style and Liu Gongquan’s style).



The calligraphy thinking of Zhao Mengfu never surpassed that of Two Wangs (Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi), therefore, he truly had a particular understanding on the essence or characters of Wang’s’, and the style of elegance and delicacy was thoroughly shown in his masterpieces, and such a character in some way was connected with his conviction of Buddha. There was another noted one, Xian Yuxu in Yuan Dynasty, and he advocated the painters or calligraphers should employ the same lines or styles to treat painting and calligraphy and take notice of the structure of the last character in some calligraphy works. As a whole, the basic characters of Yuan Dynasty was emphasizing on the ancient experience and attending at the handwriting notes. Their achievements were mainly shown in the aspects of free script and cursive hand.




The Calligraphy of Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty



Three phases could be divided. In the early period, the whole society, the officials and many literators preferred to the cabinet style, and in the imperial examinations this style was commanded as a must. In the mid-period, Four Masters of the School began to grow up, the calligraphy started to develop towards the configuration and structure. Following Zhao Mengfu, four great masters in calligraphy and literature Zhu Yunming, Wen Zhengming, Tang Ying, Wang Chong directly learned from the tradition of Jin Dynasty for high-quality artistic conceptions, peerless enchantment and top selection of calligraphy style. All of these ideas realized were connected with the appeal of liberalization of thoughts and propositions, the calligraphy began to walk up to a higher level of individuation. Late period of Ming Dynasty, animadversion thoughts was raised in theoretical research, they were eager to disenthrall their personal thoughts and in the pursuits of the visual effects, they tried to realize the large size of the works so as to get the effect of impressiveness. The major representatives were Zhang Ruitu, Huang Daozhou and Ni Yuanduan.



The mainstream of aesthetics was apt to expressing emotion and publicizing reasons altogether with individuality and rationality. Both of orthodox classical aesthetics and new-style aesthetics for distinctiveness were popularized and welcomed, the calligraphy also took notice of the holistic quality and effect filled with rich and massive culture and art, meanwhile it also could be fractionized into two branches, that was, learning from the books containing models of handwriting or painting for learners to copy and stele inscriptions. In the Late period of Ming Dynasty and early period of Qing Dynasty, the calligraphy were inclined to laissez-aller and unconventionality. The cynical vogue further extended. For instance, Zhu Fushan’s handwritings still focused on the inner life of self and the expression of uncontrolled passions which subsequently reappeared in the works of Eight Eccentric Painters of Yangzhou, at the same time, the handwriting books people learned from was also further carried forward like Liu Yong, Wang Wenzhi, and Zhang Zhao and so on. They tried to express a new look when they cautiously honored the traditions, they wrote in light ink or changed the layout and structure of calligraphy works. Due to the long-term succession from the past and the insufficient management and understanding, the tendency of whole calligraphy learned from the handwriting books became backward. Because of the cultural policy and strict control of thoughts in literature and art, many a literators and officials turned their focus to the research on inscriptions on metals or stones. Many learners were wild about this; the noted characters included Bao Shicheng, Kang Youwei, Jin Nong, Deng Shiru, He Shaoji, Zhao Zhiqian and Wu Changshuo and so on, a large number of calligraphers did their best to improve this art all their lives and some are lived on it as a professional one.



calligraphic work of Zhao Mengfu

Zhao Mengfu's handwriting was considered as the top-rank aritistic masterpiece, and all the way learnt by many scholars and artists. However, due to its special background, Zhao Mengfu was belittled  and despised. Zhao Mengfu(赵孟頫)originally was  the descendant of Emperor of Song Dynasty, and later surrendered to Yuan Dynasty.




Calligraphy of Today



Nowadays, the calligraphy walked towards multi-orientedness. The reform and change have been sublimed up to the transform of thinking and theory, modern calligraphy is not only emphasizing the form, structure, line and others of the specific characters but its inner modernization of spirit. The representatives include Mao Zedong Qi Gong, Ouyang Zhongshi and so on. Nowadays as the time goes and the evolution and diversity of the tools, the variety of the calligraphy works are shown colorfully, the ball pens, pencils bring the convenience to our daily life and simplify our writing process. It is truly helpful for people’s conversation. But on the other hand, it does great harm to calligraphy itself. The art of calligraphy gifts the appreciators or readers the aesthetic enjoyment and the charming rhythm in the lightness and press of the brush to absolutely show the calligraphers’ personal tastes, self-education and self-cultivation and their gains and versatility in other fields such as Chinese literature, especially the classical or ancient language, poems, essays, music, painting, chess, philosophy, religious beliefs, morality and psychological and spiritual refinement and so on. But today it is totally misunderstood. Firstly the exotic pens are lack of flexibility and softness which lead the inconvenience and complications to expressions of calligraphers’ sentiments and subjectiveness. Secondly for the mistaken understanding on the calligraphy, most so-called “world-renowned calligraphers” unilaterally emphasize the calligraphy itself but neglect the importance and influence of elements concerned. Such an unscientific perception actually worsens the existence and development of calligraphy as an art. Frankly calligraphy in pens is not the true art but only the writing without any charm. Hence to be a true or professional calligrapher, the best fundamental tool is brush, ink, seal and rice paper. This is the real and true side of Chinese calligraphy the basis of other artistic forms. In deed, when we discuss the Chinese calligraphy, we unintentionally mean the works and theories of the period before 1949. The tradition is the classic the tradition is the charm.  Top^












Calligraphy is an ancient art which is a form and structure via lines to express people’s certain temperament, characters, morals and sentiments. Hence somebody said people could learn a person from his handwriting. The basic characters calligraphy owns as follows:



From the angle of calligraphers


1, the basic element for structure of calligraphy is line. Line as the movement track of points is expressed in a process of directional handwriting without repetition. Furthermore, for the synchronization of creation process and creation result, there is no possibility of repetition and reproduction

2, the certain handwriting rules of characters prescribe sequentially the beginning and end, the superiority and inferiority of orders of strokes. The process of handwriting has consistency in time from single character to entire chapter, besides it also emphasizes the harmonization.


3, handwriting and style represent all the connotation of time attribute in calligraphy, in other words, the process of motion drives the special process of visual sense.


From the angle of appreciators:



1, the masterpieces of calligraphy leave people an impression of time changing, because a character is read in a certain sentence or a passage, and then each character when people write characters one after another forms its own spacial structures and styles. Once is such a space combined with others undoubtedly created the rhythm of visual logics and rank of time persistence.


2, compared with other artistic masterpieces, calligraphy is more easily reminding people of the process of creation. The appreciators strive for tasting the calligraphers’ feelings when they are writing the characters from their finished works


3, as for how to judge the works, it depends on different styles of calligraphy, because different styles have different judge standards, if it is a regular one, we need to take notice of its overall layout, and the first character and the last character. Roughly speaking, in China’s aesthetic standard, we pay more attention to the symmetry. And free script and cursive hand, we need to pay much attention to each character which shows the calligraphers’ emotions and reactions to reality and society and totally shows their values and attitudes towards the world. As for the seal characters and Li character, we need to taste their long history and the experiences they noted which certainly add the interest and charm to themselves.  Top^



Lanting xu

This is the most famous calligraphic masterpiece created by Wang Xizhi that represented the highest-level of of Chinese calligraphic art. It is the most popular model for calligraphy learners. Whenever calligraphy is mentioned, this masterpiece will be surely highlighted as well. 







Roughly speaking, Chinese calligraphy could be divided into five types: seal script, clerical script, regular script, running script and cursive hand.





Seal script(篆书):  Chinese character was born before Qin Dynasty. Archeologist took the research on Chinese characters and ascertained the Oracle Bones scripts used for auspicating the unexpected future. But it has possessed the basic elements of China’s calligraphy has. During the time of Yin and Zhou, the bronze inscriptions were widely popularized. After the unification of Qin Dynasty, it was called to be the small seal script as the official character style used in the normalized documents. ,and generally used in recording a merit onto the stones , Tiger Tallies, a special two-piece object granted to officers, used for military authentification or authority. For instance, when a general wants to dispatch a troop from certain, he probably has to show one piece of the tiger tally to the camp officer. The camp officer will in turn show his own piece of tiger tally and both pieces must match each other in order for command of dispatching/processing to go through. Generally speaking, seal script could be fractionized into large-size seal script and small-size seal script. The major representative was Li Si



Clerical script(隶书):  clerical script was originated from Eastern Han Dynasty and one more great reform in Chinese characters and aided Chinese calligraphy came into a higher level. It was a turning point in the history of Chinese evolution and laid a solid foundation for the form and appearance of regular scripts. Its structure was flat, orderly, and delicate. The artistic beauty of calligraphy and diversity of its style are worthy of artistic appreciation. The clerical script of Han Dynasty was the most popular style of characters at that time. The strokes of clerical script own the merits of wave and fold. The wave means the strokes of left runs like the water wave and the fold means the strokes of right were open and broad ,and it also like the strokes of pressing-down of coattail. The reform from seal script to clerical script involved in strokes and frameworks. The way from seal script to clerical script was changing roundness for squareness, bendiness for straightness and altering the breakage and consistency of strokes. The most important was obtaining the effect from the horizontal strokes and preserving the natural conditions of writing in brushes. The delicacy of clerical script was also released in silk paintings, lacquerwork, figures and bronzed mirrors. The vigor and unique charm were also more easily seen in the stele inscriptions. The most typical representative was Cai Yong.



Regular Script(楷书): the regular script was evolved from the clerical script and simplified the clerical script. The grapheme was changed from flatness to squareness and also omitted the waves of strokes of clerical script in Han Dynasty. The regular script was born at the late period of Han Dynasty and always popularized up to today. The regular script began prevailing in Six Dynasties and flourished in Tang Dynasty. The masterpieces of regular script was apt to the orderliness and preciseness, from a character, complicated or simple, to a stroke were both express the cautiousness and power which indicates the calligraphers’ mildness and patience, so many a beginner learns how to write calligraphy  the calligraphy teachers would suggest they started their study from regular script. In fact, generally, the regular script is also easily learned if you own much time and sense of balance and wholeness. There is a famous tradition for beginner to exercise the regular script, roughly, an experienced tutor would advice his students practicing a Chinese character “永” which in professional calligraphers’ eyes was comprised of eight different writing styles, and this would diversify the beginners horizons. There is a saying in China: a good beginning is half done. If they could take much interest to calligraphy because of this character and the ways it owns, they will be make a splendid progress in the near future. The symbol of flower of the regular script was the prevailingness of calligraphy in Northern Dynasty which showed a rustic but powerful style. Objectively the golden time of regular script was during the time of Tang Dynasty, a large number of great masters improve tremendously the regular script Ouyang Xun, Liu Gongquan, Chu Suiliang and Yan Zhenqing, and all of they had their own special understanding and writing styles. Liu Gongquan was a noted one as the prime minister of Muzong of Tang Dynasty. He once gave the emperor the suggestions that the personal cultivation just like handwriting, if your heart and attitudes are just and decent and gesture of holding brushes is right, your handwriting will be delicate and perfect, and if an emperor did everything carefully and diligently in a good way, he also would be a judicious and extensively-welcomed king. Because of this, he was reputed as the advisor of brush.



Cursive hand(草书): it is a style born for convenience of writing, it was written in the early period of Han Dynasty. And the fundamental characters are having the basic structure of characters but obliterating the preciseness and exactness of clerical script. It is full of freedom and random without any limits or regulations fettered. Because of the fast-speediness in writing without any preparations in layout and structure, so we name it the cursive hand. Generally, the cursive hand could be divided into three kinds, namely, Li Cao, Zhang Cao and Jin Cao. Li Cao popularly included some characters of cursive hand in seal script, but it broke the preciseness and regulations of clerical script. Zhang Cao was the refined cursive hand mixed with clerical script of Han Dynasty. The characters are single and separated from each other but grapheme is apt to squareness. Zhang Cao was flourished in the period of Han and Wei Dynasties and regenerated in Yuan Dynasty but retrograded in Ming Dynasty. In the late period of Han Dynasty, Zhang Cao was more cursive and gradually got rid of the tracks of strokes from clerical script. Many different strokes are combined in a continuous writing and many parts of the exact characters were predigested or simplified, then we called it Jin Cao which in Tang Dynasty was more random and free, and the changeable and floating characters interlinked with one another. Up to today, the aesthetic worthiness naturally surpasses its practical values. The cursive hand is easily and straightforwardly expressing the calligraphers ‘reactions and sentiments at the time of creating the works. The great masters include Zhang Zhi, Zhang Xu, Huai Su.




Running script(行书): the running script was born in the late period of Eastern Han Dynasty, but from the appearance, formation and to evolution in the past dynasties, it was not an independent style of calligraphy. Running script has its own style except the exact writing methods and this is the biggest difference from other styles of calligraphy. Its obvious peculiarity is non-stop stroke used for finishing a character in one stroke and some strokes could be omitted or simplified but remains the recognizable structures of the characters so as to make the readers or appreciators understand the basic content and then eventually realized the aims of easily writing and straightaway understanding. What’s more, the running script is also closely connected with other handwriting styles. The running script was born in the period of Han Dynasty, formed in Wei and Jin Dynasties, and flourished at all times till today. In the period of Eastern Jin Dynasty, Wang Xizhi and  Wang Xianzhi‘s achievements in this aspect glorified the running script in their own way and via their own understanding to this style of calligraphy. And in the period of Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing Dynasties, the running script developed rapidly and dramatically, and a lot of great masters and literators spent much time in researching it on practice and theory. The chief characteristics include: firstly, the appearance of numerous calligraphers experting in running script and cursive hand and was characterized by their own peculiar individualism, hence their works are filled with high-level artistic values, humanity and personalization because of individualization. Secondly, they also focused on the combination between the running script and stele inscriptions, and the effect gained was beyond the conventional conception and comprehension. It is a further creation or innovation. The major representatives include Wang Xizhi, Su Dongpo, Mi Fu, Zhao Mengfu and Wen Zhengming etc.                                                  












1, Li Si (李斯 ?---208BC).  After the first unification of China by the first emperor. Li Si, as the national premier took charge of the standardization of characters. It is a significant deed in Chinese cultural history. Meanwhile he was also a noted calligrapher specializing in small-size seal script, and his major masterpieces are Taishanshike, Langyashike.  


2, Zhong Yao (钟繇 151-230). He was born in Wei Dynasty and acted as an official of Tai Fu. He was expert in handwriting and extensively learned from others, and he also did well in other styles of calligraphy, especially the clerical script and regular script. Appreciators or calligraphers in different dynasties thought his works were elegant but simple, orderly but artistic. This handwritings definitely improved the transition from clerical script to a new look, regular script, and he was the forerunner of Wang Xizhi’s style of regular script. However, there were few authentic works left, and most of his works were the counterdraws of later generations. He was very industrious to practice, besides in his childhood, he learned from Cai Yong and other celebrities. He also went out for visiting more respectable and talented people, and he never went back in the 16 years when he learned outside.


3,Zhang Zhi (张芝  ?—about 192) He was diligent and respected the ancient society but ignored the influence and importance as an official. When the central government wanted to employ some officials, some authorities introduced him to the government, but he refused. So people at that time respectfully called him “Zhang Youdao ” he reveled in calligraphy and did best in Zhang Cao. He exercised his calligraphy near to the pool; eventually blackened the pool water and he even practiced calligraphy on his clothes. The late generations appraised him as the greatest master of cursive hand for his uniqueness and perfection. Many later calligraphers learned a lot from his works. 



4, Wang Xizhi (王羲之  321—379), he was born in a well-known family for most of his family members were good at calligraphy. His uncle, Wang Dao, and brother-in-law, Wang Tian were both the great masters of calligraphy. He was the greatest master of calligraphy in Chinese history. At the age of 7, he learned calligraphy from female calligrapher, Wei Shuo, until he was 12 years old. But he never satisfied with his calligraphy. He always inspirited himself with many late calligraphers’ stories and experiences. He adored Zhang Zhi. He was perfectly diligent for practicing calligraphy. One day, he visited the beautiful landscape of Shao Xin with his son by boat; he found a flock of gooses’ dackering and dillydallying on the bank, he liked them very much and prepared to buy all of them. However, these gooses were raised by a Taoist, and he knew he was Wang Xizhi, the well-known calligrapher. He said: “if you could write Huangtingjing for me, I will present all of these gooses to you “. Wang Xizhi was eager to get these gooses, so he agreeably complied with his demands and conditions. This is the famous story---- creating f calligraphy works for those gooses. When he was 20 years old, a high official selected a son-in-law for his daughter in Wang Xizhi’s big family. At that time, people pay more attention to family status. The selected should be matched for marriage. Wang Xizhi’s cousins were did their best to refine and perfect themselves. But he, lying in couch made of bamboo, looked like a deaf without hearing anything and ate the baked cakes as he practiced calligraphy on his own body. The messenger watched his reactions and activities and reported all he got to that official when he came back. What surprised us more were this official’s views on Wang Xizhi. After heard the information, he said excitedly and joyfully: “this is the one qualified to be my son-in-law, I have searched for a long time”. At last, Wang Xizhi succeeded in marrying that official’s daughter. This is the literary story with universal praise. His typical masterpiece was Lantingxu


Lanting Xu(兰亭序), also known as "Lanting Xu banquets", "Gathering at Lanting, "Linhe sequence", "purification ceremony sequence". on March 3, 353,Wang Xizhi and She'an, Sun Chuo altogether with other 41 people got together in Lanting, Shanyin (now in Shaoxing, Zhejiang) in which each participator wrote one poem and Wang Xizhi wrote the preface for their poetry .This essay put down the beauty of the surrounding landscape and joyfulness of gathering to express the author signed emotionally for impermanence and unexpectedness of life and death. This masterworks done at his age of 33 includes 28 rows, 324 words, and the rules, structure and style are perfect. Exactly, there are 21 different “之” with diverse forms and styles in the content. Hence the appreciators: “Wang Xizhi’s style of calligraphy sharply changed the tradition. The elegance and magnificence are originated from the nature and disposition of calligraphers’ self –cultivation, so today a good many learners are learning from him.



5, Wang Xianzhi (王献之  344-386), he was the seventh son of Wang Xizhi. He learned calligraphy from his father and Zhang Zhi from his childhood, and mastered in all styles of calligraphy, particularly his clerical script and cursive script. Wang Xizhi had seven sons and one daughter. Seven sons were all good at calligraphy, by, Wang Xianzhi as his youngest son was the most prominent one among them. When he was young, he was ambitious to be a great calligrapher like his father, so he practiced daily and scrupulously watched the relics of calligraphy created by forefathers, but he never started to facsimile the authentic writings until he could recite or describe the specific form, structure and layout. One day, Wang Xianzhi went into his father’s room and asked his father for the shortcut of success in mastering calligraphy, and his father led him to the backyard and told him there were 18-vat water, and all the secrets of succeeding in mastering calligraphy were in these vats. If you could use out of all the water the vats held. The shortcut would be naturally available. After listened to his father’s indoctrination, Wang Xizhi never slacked off any more but did his best to practice night and day. Several months later, Wang Xizhi planed to check whether he made progress or not. He walked near to his son and suddenly pulled out of Wang Xianzhi’s brush in hand, but he failed, then Wang Xianzhi signed emotionally and said what a hopeful boy he was! Under the help of his father, Wang Xianzhi made a great progress in the field of calligraphy.



6, Zhi Yong(智永), a monk experting in calligraphy, lived in the period of Sui and Tang Dynasties, and he was the posterity of Wang Xizhi, the most noted calligrapher in Chinese cultural history. He was famed by his student, Yu Shinan(虞世南), a great calligrapher in Tang Dynasty. It was said that Tang Taizong wrapped up in Lantingxu witten by Wang Xizhi., but he could not get it because he did not know where the authentic one was. Someone wanted to make up to the emperor, and told him that Zhi Yong had the real one. Finally this honest and kind monk was befooled by these coony foxes, and the invaluable masterpiece was gained by Tang Taizong, besides this work was buried with him together.  







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