Chinese calligraphy (Brush calligraphy) is an art unique to Asian cultures. Shu (calligraphy), Hua
(painting), Qin (a string musical instrument), and Qi (a strategic boardgame) are the four
basic skills and disciplines of the Chinese literati.
Regarded as the most abstract and sublime form of art in Chinese culture, "Shu
Fa" (calligraphy) is often thought to be most revealing of one's personality. During
the imperial era, calligraphy was used as an important criterion for selection of
executives to the Imperial court. Unlike other visual art techniques, all calligraphy
strokes are permanent and incorrigible, demanding careful planning and confident
execution. Such are the skills required for an administrator / executive. While one has to
conform to the defined structure of words, the expression can be extremely creative. To
exercise humanistic imagination and touch under the faceless laws and regulations is also
a virtue well appreciated.
By controlling the concentration of ink, the thickness and adsorptivity of the paper, and
the flexibility of the brush, the artist is free to produce an infinite variety of styles
and forms. In contrast to western calligraphy, diffusing ink blots and dry brush strokes
are viewed as a natural impromptu expression rather than a fault. While western
calligraphy often pursue font-like uniformity, homogeneity of characters in one size is
only a craft. To the artist, calligraphy is a mental exercise that coordinates the mind
and the body to choose the best styling in expressing the content of the passage. It is a
most relaxing yet highly disciplined exercise indeed for one's physical and spiritual well
being. Historically, many calligraphy artists were well-known for their longevity.
Brush calligraphy is not only loved and practiced by Chinese. Koreans and Japanese equally
adore calligraphy as an important treasure of their heritage. Many Japanese schools still
have the tradition of having a student contest of writing big characters during beginning
of a new school year. A biannual gathering commemorating the Lanting Xu by Wang Xi Zhi
(The most famous Chinese calligrapher in Jin dynasty, ) is said to be held ceremonially in
Japan. There is a national award of Wang Xi Zhi prize for the best calligraphy artist. Not
too long ago, Korean government officials were required to excel in calligraphy. The
office of Okinawa governor still displays a large screen of Chinese calligraphy as a
In the West, Picasso and Matisse are two artists who openly declared the influence by
Chinese calligraphy on their works. Picasso once said
tht if he was born a Chinese, he would have been a
calligraphy artist rather than a painter.
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Dr. Siu-Leung Lee, is listed among calligraphy artists in
a Tsinghua University website:
Dr. Siu-Leung Lee is author of all translation and calligraphy of
Nickelodeon's animated series "Avatar". He is also honored to write the
logo calligraphy of the entrance gate of a Chinese National Park.
edition (Apr 2002)
printings. Sold out
Second edition (Sep 2004)
Bestseller. Published by Shanghai Classics Publishing Co.