Trip Review for China

Chinese Calligraphy Spreads Worldwide

In the second or third century, Chinese calligraphy was introduced to the Korean peninsula, and flourished during the seventh century. Many calligraphers emerged, and a variety of calligraphic scripts appeared. These scripts can be found on steles, pagodas, bronze bells and Buddhist scriptures.

In the eighth century, Kim Shaing became Korea’s first famous calligrapher. He learned Chinese calligraphy when he was a child, and still practiced it when he was in his 80s. He had a good command of both the running and official scripts. He could be compared with Wang Xizhi in running and running-cursive handwriting. None of his original works survive, but his characters were included in three kinds of copybooks of tablet inscriptions, the earliest intact calligraphic work found on the Korean peninsula today. On the following page is his tablet running-script handwriting of Poem on Lushan Waterfall, a poem by Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty.

In the seventh century, Chinese calligraphy also reached Japan. In 615, a Japanese prince made a copy of Explanation of the Lotus Sutra with a soft writing brush, the earliest handwriting in Japan extant today. The characters are smooth and harmonious, and represent a script of the Jin Dynasty.

In the eighth century, Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges developed, and Japan sent many envoys, students and monks to China, who lived in China for long periods of time. When they went back to their own country, they took with them many calligraphic works, especially works by Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi of the Jin Dynasty, and Ouyang Xun and Yan Zhenqing of the Tang Dynasty. Japanese Empress Mitsuaki studied the style of Wang Xizhi, and became a renowned calligrapher in her own right. In the ensuing centuries, works by Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, Zhang Jizhi, Zhao Mengfu, Zhu Yunming, Wen Zhengming, Dong Qichang, Zhang Ruitu, Wang Duo and Zhao Zhiqian of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties were introduced to Japan. In the late 19th century, Yang Shoujing, who was an envoy from the Qing Dynasty to Japan and an expert on bronze and stone inscriptions, took a number of copybooks of stone inscriptions of the Northern Wei Dynasty to Japan, which influenced the style of Japanese calligraphy.

Chinese calligraphy has also been warmly welcomed by and used in their creations of Western artists, especial painters and sculptors.

In the early 20th century, W. Kandinsky, a German painter and aesthetic theorist developed the abstract painting school. He and his counterparts sought abstract form, and used dots, lines, surfaces and colors to create beautiful pictures and express their feelings. They believed such art shared many similarities with Chinese calligraphy, and they borrowed many ideas from Chinese calligraphy. The Earliest Abstract Watercolor Painting, a famous work by Kandinsky, is composed of lumps and lines, without a center, like a mess of colors and memory of images. But he demonstrates his understanding of the things in his picture. The lumps and lines bring the viewer many associations, like a lot of people in a hurry or talking at a rural fair. Some lines are like mountains, and the colors seem to extend beyond the picture frame. The strokes and lines in the picture are powerful, loose, coordinated and moving, like a Chinese calligraphic work written in the wild cursive script.

Special classes on Chinese calligraphy have been opened in many European academies of fine arts. The design and shaping of new artistic trends worldwide, and the binding and illustration of books and periodicals have been influenced by Chinese calligraphy. Also, China has drawn upon the experiences of others, especially since it implemented the reform and opening-up policies. Inspired by Western abstract art and Japanese calligraphic scripts, Chinese calligraphers have developed a “modern calligraphic style,” which features a strong contrast between the thickness and thinness of strokes, heavy and light ink, closeness and looseness of characters or lines, and the dryness and wetness of ink. Also, this style uses different colors. The character patterns have changed and become exaggerated, too. Some pictographic characters are written in their real shapes. For instance in the calligraphic work Moon and Boat, the character 月 (moon) in the seal script is like a crescent, while the Self-Portrait by Spanish Joan Miró. character 舟 (boat) looks like a real boat in the water. The white dots around them look like stars in the sky. Both characters are written not according to the order of strokes and the traditional rules, but in a new style to attract the eye of the viewer.

Some modern Chinese calligraphers have boldly learnt from the Western and Japanese abstract schools, and make dots, lines and lumps in different colors on the paper, without forming them into characters.

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