Chinese calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy . The calligraphy is the art of writing the signs of a language. Chinese calligraphy is characterized by the originality and richness of writing , Chinese calligraphy also allows a very wide field of artistic expression. The best known of Chinese calligraphy is to write the signs with a brush . Schoolchildren learn sinograms through Chinese calligraphy with a pen or pen pencil . This is called pen calligraphy (as the name implies). Experts in brush calligraphy are not usually skilled in pen calligraphy and vice versa, it is a matter of flexibility in the wrist. Chinese calligraphy was inscribed on the2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity .


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  • 1 Features
  • 2 Styles
  • 3 The Four Treasures of the Study Group
    • 1 Chinese calligraphy brushes
    • 2 The Paper
    • 3 The ink
    • 4 Stone ink
  • 4 Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • 5 External links
  • 6 Sources


In ancient times, Chinese characters were engraved on the bones of [Ox | oxen]] or tortoise shells , later in bronze . Then books were made from knotted bamboo slats . He was clearly using a bamboo pen and black soot ink . The bamboo pen is still used sometimes.

The calligraphy brush is made on rice or silk paper (more fragile). The hardware of a calligrapher called Four Treasures of the Study : the brush, the paper, the ink and the stone ink. The ink comes in the form of sticks that the ink is rubbed on the stone with water to obtain an ink liquid. Now, the ink is packaged in bottles, much more convenient and of good quality, although this method does not have the appropriate density.

Good calligraphy traditionally reflects the level of a written culture . A good doctor must be a good calligrapher (gloups!) And in the imperial exam to become an officer, more emphasis is placed on the handwriting of the candidates than on the content of the copy itself.

The history of Chinese writing (more than 3000 years). He has developed many styles of calligraphy. Also, Chinese characters have multiple spellings – about 3 per character. The characters in “happiness” have a hundred spellings. The calligrapher has a wide range of possibilities. You can also vary the stroke throughout the writing to express your feelings. A calligraphy can differentiate passages of a text to reinforce or change their meaning. The message that Chinese calligraphy can convey is very broad.

To learn Chinese calligraphy, it is better to know the fundamentals of Chinese writing, than you will learn on the job. We will start by studying the fundamental lines and then drawing the characters in the regular style. Then we will learn the cursive style and finally the grass style , very cursive. The Chinese say that the style is like representing the present time, since “the cursive style is like walking and the grass style is like running”.


The origin of Chinese characters dates back more than three thousand years, in the Shang (or Yin) dynasty. We know that the writing this time by divinatory inscriptions engraved on bones and turtle shells: it is the Jia Gu Wen. More than five thousand signs were indexed, but the meaning of many of them remains uncertain or totally unknown. However, they are the direct ancestors of the current Chinese characters. Discovered last century, they are not a traditional Chinese calligraphy style, but some painters like to use them as well.

On the other hand, the writing that we find in the bronze (jinwen) of the next dynasty, the Zhou, never disappeared. This style of calligraphy is called “seal style” (zhuanshu). We distinguish the great seal style (dazhuan) and the small seal style (xiaozhuan). The great script seal groups different writings (of which certain characters Jia Gu Wen that had been preserved), used before the empire was built by the first emperor in 221 BC (as the chujian calligraphic style). From this moment, the politics of unification also writing. A single style is preserved which is called the small dash stamp.

After the establishment of the empire a new style of calligraphy seems: the style of the scribes (lishu). Much easier than Character Command Stamp, can be typed faster, and is highly appreciated by admin. The characters are very similar to current Chinese writing and all Chinese are able to read which is not always the case for Seal Scripts, least of all for Jia Gu Wen.

Under the Han, a new, more elegant style, called the regular style (kaishu), appears in the third century AD. Compliant with strict standards characterized by a softer and great stability. This is the “normal” style, which young Chinese are learning to write.

Also in the framework of the Han, a slight deformation of the style gives birth to a new style of calligraphy: Ordinary style (xingshu). As the name implies, it is a version of the regular cursive style that allows faster writing while easy to read. This is a calligraphic style in its own right.

The grass style (chaoshu) is highly branched. It is distinguished by being written without lifting the brush from the paper at all, very free (which often exceeds the imaginary squares), and barely legible. Alternatives are widely available.

The six styles are references in the field of Chinese calligraphy. However, many artists have outgrown their own style that reflects their personality. The works of the great masters that makes us able to study a series of infinite variations.

The Four Treasures of the Study Group

The material for Chinese calligraphy is The Four Treasures of the Study Group. It is the brushe, the paper, the ink and the stone ink.

Chinese Calligraphy Brushes


Chinese Calligraphy Brushes

Chinese calligraphy uses a wide variety of brushes. Contrary to what some may think, the choice does not depend on a style of calligraphy that we want to practice, but on the mood of the calligrapher: taste, strength, flexibility or stiffness in the wrist and arm, and so on.

These are the three most commonly used models already in the Material of Chinese painting:

  1. Goat hair brush : Yang Hao.
  2. Wolf hair brush : Lang Hao.
  3. Goat hair brush and wolf: Jian Hao. Consisting of an external crown of flexible goat hair with a hard inner wolf hair end, which combines the quality of the two previous brushes.

The new brushes are rigid by an adhesive to protect the finish. It is then necessary to dissolve this adhesive with warm water to make the hairs find their flexibility. Before using the brush, it should be slightly damp before soaking with the ink. Then the brush strokes lightly on the saucers or inkwell to remove the excess. You should not load or empty the brush to turn it: it will warp the end.



Chinese calligraphy paper

To practice Chinese calligraphy we use a relatively thick paper called Maobianzhi. It is made with herbs. It is a yellowish color. Its low cost makes us able to practice a lot without spending a lot of money.

For a beautiful calligraphy we take the same paper used in Chinese painting: this is the rice paper called Zhi Xuan. There are two types:

  1. Absorbent paper (Shengxuan) is the most commonly used.
  2. Non-absorbent paper: Shuxuan, also known as Fanxuan is much less used.

The ink


Chinese calligraphy ink

Traditionally, ink comes in the form of molded sticks. Legend attributes its invention to Xing Yi 800 BC. It is made up of black smoke and a mixture of glue and plant substances. The black smoke produced by the combustion of different materials (fir wood or various types of oil) is used to produce various qualities of inks. This ink stick is rubbed on an ink stone with a little water. The more you rub the thicker the ink becomes. Then we can also add more water to get the different shades of density found in the calligraphy. Now we use the liquid ink contained in small cans. It is dense enough to be diluted and, therefore, obtain the different shades. We should not despise this type of ink for non-traditional.

Stone ink


Stone ink for Chinese calligraphy

A little rough, it is in him that the ink stick diluted with water. The most commonly used are carved in stone, but archaeological excavations have uncovered the ancient ink stone in jade, lacquer, metal (bronze, silver, or iron) or porcelain. By itself, the calligraphy inkstone is a very valuable object of art. But you don’t need to pay a fortune to buy good quality. However, it is preferable to be provided with a cap to prevent the ink from drying out. After each practice, the ink stone should be properly washed under running water only. We must also leave a little water in the tank to keep the moisture in the stone.

Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICP) inscribed Chinese calligraphy on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity , taking into account that the application met all the required criteria, namely:

ICP Definition: The art of Chinese calligraphy is recognized by those who practice it as a symbol of their identity and is passed down from generation to generation.

Contribution to the visibility of the ICH: The inscription of the element in the Representative List may contribute to the visibility of the intangible cultural heritage and promote respect for cultural diversity and creativity, which are expressed through the wealth of symbols used in the Chinese calligraphy.

Safeguard measures: A number of safeguard measures have already been taken and a whole series of other measures have been proposed, including education, advocacy and research activities.

Community participation: Calligraphers have participated in the preparation of the application through joint meetings of their two major associations.

Inventory: The element is inscribed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture.


by Abdullah Sam
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