Foundation of Calligraphy

This was the first sheet (below) I received from Professor Young many years ago (without change)!  It’s important to include the Chinese characters for the terms used in Chinese calligraphy, especially since we are going to learn to write Chinese with the brush.  I had one advantage over my fellow students since I already knew how to write Chinese and could use a Chinese dictionary.  I was told to find a teacher that could teach me Chinese Calligraphy.  While walking around during lunchtime I walked pass the China Institute on  East 65th Street near Lexington Avenue.   I stopped in and got a brochure, the rest is history.  I signed up for two classes:  Cantonese and Chinese Calligraphy.  This is where I met Professor Young.


Those who want to learn Chinese painting should learn calligraphy first.

The basic structure (or components) of Chinese calligraphy is based on six origins or six sources (), namely:

L.             Imitative Symbols, Hsiang-Hsing()

2.            Indicative Symbols, Chih-Shih  ()

3.            Phonetic Compounds, Hsing-Sheng (形聲)

4.            Logical Combinations, Hui-I ()

5.             Chuan-chu ()

6.            Chia-chieh  both ()  both of which must be mentioned though neither has ever gained the universal acceptance of the other four.

Chinese Calligraphy has been in existence for over four thousand years.

The styles have changed from time. to time. Generally, one can classify them into four styles, namely, Seal ( ) Official (), Grass (), and Standard ().  When learning one should start with the Standard style.

An important thing is to learn how to master the brushes.  There are many books about this.  To simplify this there are four points as follows:  Fingers closed (密), palm emptied ( ), wrist lifted (懸) and sit straight (身正).

The tools used in calligraphy are brushes, ink stick, paper and ink slab.  These are called “the four treasures of the studio” ().

l.  Brushes: ()   there are three kinds:  hard, soft,  and between (hard and soft mixed) Beginners should use hard or between.

2.  Ink Stick ()  good Chinese ink stick, made of  line lamp black soot, is very  hard to get in the market.  For convenience in practice ink fluid can be used but when writing formally the ink stick should be used and I would recommend the use of the round ink stick.

3.  Paper ()  there are so many kinds of paper.   The good one should be neither too rough nor too smooth.  When practicing a cheaper paper may be used.

4.   Ink Slab ()  The slab produced in Duan Chow (州), Kwang Tung (廣東) province is very famous but very expensive.  A beginner should buy a-very common slab with a cover for practical use.

To learn or to work at anything it should be done regularly.  In practicing calligraphy especially one should do it constantly.    In studying calligraphy not only do you attain the ability to make a nice character but you also enter the door of Chinese art- and culture.  Then one can practice painting.

When you practice calligraphy in quiet- surroundings and your mind is peaceful, it is conducive to good health.

2 thoughts on “Foundation of Calligraphy

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