The Art of Chinese Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy is an art with an illustrious tradition as old as the culture itself. For nearly two thousand years, the basic media, the major script variations, and the standards of excellence of the art have remained almost unchanged. Today, Chinese calligraphy is still considered an elegant art form.

The ethical beauty of Chinese calligraphy, like music and dance, transgresses language barriers. One may appreciate the visual impact of the composition in its entirety, or feel the continuous flow of "Qi" of the strokes in a balanced contrast of rhythmic movements.

In contrast to the Western calligraphy, diffusing ink blots and dry brush strokes are viewed as a natural and free impromptu expression. All the varieties of the operation depend on the mental exercise that coordinates the mind and the body to perform the proper sense to choose the proper way in expressing the content of the passage.

Chinese calligraphers have over the centuries developed uncounted different calligraphic styles. This plethora of diverse styles can, however, be grouped into five basic categories :

Stylepronunciationalso called
1. Chuan Shu, Shuan ShuSeal Script
2. Li ShuOfficial Script, Clerical Script
3. K'ai ShuRegular Script, Standard Script
4. Hsing Shu, Xing ShuRunning Script, Semi-cursive Script
5. Ts'ao Shu, Cao ShuGrass Script, Cursive Script


Chuan Shu
In the Seal Script style, both vertical and horizontal lines are fine, uniform, and forceful, and tend to be slightly pointed at the ends. The Seal Script reached the peak of its development in the Ch'in dynasty (221-207 B.C.). The Seal Script of the time was divided into two major subtypes:

Ta Chuan
Greater Seal Script
found on numerous inscribed drum-shaped stones (shih ku wen), and on engraved bronze vessels such as the Ch'in Kung Kuei.
Hsiao Chuan
Lesser Seal Script
The Lesser Seal Style is characterized by winding, wiry, carefully drawn lines, in contrast to the less refined Greater Seal Script. Li Szu, a high minister of the Ch'in dynasty, left for posterity a Tai Shan Stone Inscription, which has since become an unparalleled model of the Lesser Seal Script style of calligraphy.


Li Shu
The Official Script Style emerged in response to the need for a writing style that could be quickly executed, to deal with the burgeoning volume of official written documents. The prison warden Ch'eng Miao of the Ch'in dynasty designed this broad, square, calligraphic style by modifying the Seal Style. Its major features are stick-straight vertical and horizontal lines and a tight structure. The Official Script style was much more convenient to write than the Seal Style, and saved uncounted hours of precious time. It also contributed to the advancement of scholarship in China.


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