Calligraphy is a beautiful art. Many Chinese children are introduced to the practice when they are young. Some of my students spent hours a day to develop their skills; the practice helps build focus and discipline as well as attention to detail. Being able to master calligraphy as well as painting and poetry are requisite skills of a well-educated person.
Insights Guides: China says, “For the Chinese, the written word is the carrier of culture, and the difficulty of learning written Chinese [I knew there had to be a reason for why Chinese characters are so complex] ensured the high social status of the scholar-gentry class” (85). “Chinese characters,” notes Lonely Planet China, “express both meaning as a word and visual beauty as an image…[They] are possibly the most important link Chinese of any era have had with their ancient ancestors. As such, calligraphy (shūfǎ) has always been the highest art form inChina” (70). Although China has numerous spoken dialects, Mandarin writing has basically maintained its single standard and style and is thus considered more important than the spoken language.
Wherever we go, we see calligraphy: on cliff faces, on stones at the entrances of parks, on teapots, for businesses, at temples, on doorways.
If the script is stylized or ancient, even my students sometimes have trouble being able to read it. Communist leaders, including Mao and Hu, have been proud of their considerable calligraphy skills.
Just as we have seen tea presentations done as a performance so it is with calligraphy.
Although I can read very little Chinese and the calligraphy is even more complex, I try to figure out what I see. So when Barry and I had to move apartments earlier this semester, I was thrilled to rescue two framed calligraphy pieces from the communal storage area.
Yes, the painting is hung the correct way I needed to be told: the plants on the bank of a pond arch over the water.
The Chinese characters are written from the right to the left.
This piece was particularly dirty, but I was able to clean it up enough to make it look, I think, very historic.
Many of my students, male and female, know the art of calligraphy. One of my most valued gifts since arriving here is a poem by Tandy, a friendly gangling Chinese guy who unofficially audited one of my night classes to improve his spoken English. (Tandy chose his own English name. I thought it might be after one of the 1980 computers—like my first one, but no, he likes candy). He combined his poetic and calligraphy skills to present me this meaningful gift.
Hái nèi cún shī tĭ
Tiān yá ruò bī lín
Wherever you go, you will always have friends with you.
At the end of the world, we are like neighbors.
Tandy, ZAFU Oral English student, Dec. 22, 2010
I love these pieces.
Zài Jiàn and Aloha, Renée