Chinese calligraphy (中国书法; zhōngguóshūfǎ) is an unique form of aesthetically pleasing writing, or the artistic expression of human language in a tangible form. This type of expression has been widely practiced in China and has been generally highly esteemed in the Chinese cultural sphere. There is an inseparable relationship between the development of Chinese calligraphy and the entire evolution of Chinese characters. This might then make you wonder what exactly Chinese calligraphy is?
The existence of the big Master of calligraphy,Wáng Xī Zhī(王羲之;303-361), has made this traditional art started to be highly praised. His artistic achievements have been highly acclaimed inTang Dynasty (618-907), and this lead to rise of a bunch of calligrapher inTang Dynasty, for example, Yú Shì Nán(虞世南),Ou Yáng Xún (欧阳询),Chǔ Suì Liáng (楮遂良),Yán Zhēn Qīng (颜真卿),Liǔ Gōng Quán(柳公权), they are all the Master of calligraphy with different styles and forms.
History of Chinese Calligraphy
Because of the limited historical resources, we could only, at the earliest, traced the history of Chinese calligraphy back to late 2nd millennium BCE, with the earliest known form of Chinese writing, Oracle bone script (甲骨文; Jiǎgǔwén). As there are inseparable relationships between the application of Chinese characters, Shūfǎ and Chinese culture, Chinese calligraphy is developing along with the change in culture; at the same time, it also developed its own unique pattern. By considering these reasons, we can divide the development of Chinese calligraphy into the following stages:
1st Stage: The Ancient China, fromThe Shang dynasty (商朝; Shāngcháo)/The Yin dynasty (殷代; Yīndài) [1600 – 1046 BC] toThe Qin dynasty (秦朝; Qíncháo) [221 – 206 BC]
2nd Stage: The Lìshū style (隶书; clerical script), fromThe Han dynasty (漢朝; Hàncháo) [206 BC – 220 AD]
3rd Stage: From the late ofHan dynasty, throughThe Jin dynasty (晉朝; Jìncháo) [265 – 420 AD] andThe Northern and Southern dynasties (南北朝; Nán-běicháo) [420 – 589 AD], toThe Tang Dynasty (唐朝; Tángcháo) [618 – 907], it was the stage where Kǎishū (楷书) style (traditional regular script) starting to be used.
4th Stage:IncludingThe Song dynasty (宋朝; Sòngcháo) [960–1279],The Yuandynasty (元朝; Yuáncháo) [1271 – 1368] andThe Ming dynasty (明朝; Míngcháo) [1368 – 1644]. It was the stage where Chinese calligraphy was literate.
5th Stage: From the lateMing Dynasty toThe Qing dynasty (清朝; Qīngcháo) [1644 – 1912]. It is the stage where the old style of Chinese calligraphy was summarized and changed.
Most of the research of Chinese calligraphy in lateMing dynastyandQing dynasty were related to the fact that the calligraphers have gone out from their study studio, and faced the truth of the society. This has triggered the change in the styles of Chinese calligraphy, leading this tradition process into modernization.
Chinese calligraphy is one of the quintessence of Chinese culture, along withBeijing Opera (京剧; jīngjù),Chines Martial Arts (武术; wǔshù) andAcupuncture (针灸; zhēnjiǔ), which were all recognised internationally. In the development of Chinese cultural history, we can say that it is a miracle that a simple daily action - ‘writing’ has become a highly praised art, which is not always happen, for no doubt.
There is a saying in China,‘Chinese calligraphy is the reflection of one’s nature.’ Individually, every stroke the writer put on the paper, reflecting one’s internal emotions, an expression of one’s heart. For example, inThe Lantingji Xu (兰亭序; literally: "Preface to the Poems Collected from the Orchid Pavilion") byWáng Xī Zhī, we can sense Wang’s extraordinary calligraphy skill with the elegant and fluent strokes in a coherent spirit throughout the entire preface; InThe Draft of a Requiem to My Nephew(祭侄文稿;jìzhíwéngǎo) byYán Zhēn Qīng, we can sense his grief and indignation towards his nephew’s death. Collectively, Chinese calligraphy are representing the culture of China, reflecting the national spirit of Chinese people. We can still experience the Chinese national culture, even we are just looking at one word in Chinese calligraphy!
Chinese calligraphy presents well about Chinese culture - profound and precise. It also embodies to Chinese national spirit, representing the elegant and delicate side of Chinese people. From the research on Chinese calligraphy, we can feel the essences of Chinese culture, also with the endless life of Chinese national spirit.