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William Tso

8 Jan. 1999
Edited for brevity, clarity, & currency by Mr. V.

Chinese Calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy is very important to me. It teaches me patience and increases my
concentration. It takes a good amount of time and concentration for each stroke of the character. It
takes about half an hour just to write one Chinese character in calligraphy form. Over time, my
calligraphy gets easier to write and becomes more and more beautiful. I have been practicing
Chinese calligraphy for five years and probably considered to be an intermediate.
Chinese Calligraphy is considered to be one of the highest forms of art in China. The Chinese
characters originated as pictures that stood for words. This created a sense of visual beauty when
expressing our thoughts in words. Chinese calligraphy displays a handsome variety of shapes and
strokes. Each stroke may contain a different variation of the form. English has only 26 letters in their
alphabet so they are limited in creativity. When writing calligraphy, Chinese characters are believed to
be in an imaginary square and can be drawn anyway the person wants to. Chinese calligraphy has an
infinite variety of stokes in their characters which gives the artist a great amount of freedom to do what
they want. This freedom is the thing that causes the creativity and beauty of the characters. English
mostly have lines, curves, thin or thick. Which makes English calligraphy neat, regular, and
symmetrical (which is very plain and unattractive). Printed characters are dead in symmetry, even the
Chinese characters. Although printed Chinese characters are dead in symmetry, most of them are in
a simple calligraphy form, unlike English characters.
In ancient china, all stores had some type of Chinese calligraphy hung outside. The
calligraphy was hand-written on a board and in large characters. If the calligraphy was nice, it showed
that the store was high in class because the Chinese calligraphers were very expensive to employ or
that someone in that family (most stores were own by the family back then) was very educated, which
in turn means that the family was very wealthy since only the rich could pay for an education. The
three uses of this calligraphy were to decorate, advertise, and to attract people. Although these
characters were very nice, they did not express the poetic feelings that a true calligrapher would

express.
In China, there is a Pagoda of Compassionating the Characters or Hsi-Tzu-Ta in every
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small village . This is where people burn waste paper that has writing on it, even if it is useless and
has no practical use. Chinese people believed that paper with words on it were almost sacred and
throwing it would cause bad luck. This belief has faded over time but you may still see old men in
China collecting paper with writing and burning it in their own homes. This shows the importance of
Chinese characters.
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Good calligraphers are known to have a good hand . This is a result of years of hard,
committed, and constant practice. Words written in the good hand are very noticeable and were what
most writing in ancient China is. Some people say that a true calligraphers writing will express their
feelings at the current time that they were writing it. It could also show their character, interests,
qualities, and even his fortune.
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In former times, the ability to write well was the passport to a successful official career . A
good handwriting was one of the most important qualities that was needed in passing the Civil Service
examinations. All through the long period from the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618 - 905) to the Ching (A.D.
1644 - 1911) the examination system for officials was arranged in three stages - District, Provincial,
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and Palace . At each exam, the handwriting of the candidates was inspected very carefully, and no
matter how brilliant the composition, if the characters were poorly formed, there was no chance to
pass the exam. Passing the Palace Examination meant that the person mustve been a master of the
art called calligraphy.
When calligraphy first began, it was a very notable skill. As time went on and new inventions
appeared, like the printing press and the computer, calligraphers werent needed as much. Although it
is still around, it has significantly decreased in value and also in its standards. With all the inventions
for entertainment, most people rather be entertained than to bother with such a hard skill to master,

and that is a shame.

Endnotes
1

Chiang Yee, Chinese Calligraphy: An introduction to its aesthetic and technique

(Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1973) 2.


2

Chiang Yee, Chinese Calligraphy: An introduction to its aesthetic and technique

(Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1973) 2.


3

William Willets, Chinese Calligraphy: Its History and Aesthetic Motivation (England: Oxford

UP, 1981) 2.
4

William Willets, Chinese Calligraphy: Its History and Aesthetic Motivation (England: Oxford

UP, 1981) 2.

Works Cited
Mote, Frederick W., and Hung-Lam Chu. Calligraphy and the East Asian Book. Boston: Shambhala
Publications

Inc, 1992.

Tso, Anthony F. S. Personal interview. 4 July 1999.


Willets, William. Chinese Calligraphy: Its History and Aesthetic Motivation. England: Oxford UP, 1981.
Yee, Chiang. Chinese Calligraphy: An introduction to its aesthetic and technique. Massachusetts:
Harvard UP, 1973.