As the standards for assessing calligraphic works are strict, people find calligraphy easy to learn but difficult to master. Beginners should practice following model books, which can be obtained in any bookstore. But you should select one according to your own interests. You should follow the models closely. This is an important first stage for learning calligraphy, and takes several months. Later, you can diverge from the models. If you want to become a famous calligrapher you have to copy several model books and finally write characters freely and establish your own style. Satisfaction comes from a comparison of your skill today with that of yesterday rather than a comparison of your skill with that of others.
While using the strength of your fingers, wrist and arm, you will use the strength of your waist and legs too in writing characters. If you stand when writing, you can exercise all the parts of your body. A deep breath will speed up the circulation of the blood, and thus massage your internal organs. As a result, you will feel physiologically well.
In addition, calligraphy imparts an aesthetic satisfaction which is better than physiological well-being, which comes from your free creative activities. People love creation. I remember the feelings I had when I began to learn to use the writing brush for the first time in my childhood.
As well as inspecting carved inscriptions and visiting calligraphy exhibitions, the calligrapher should also acquire other knowledge in order to improve his artistic level and creativity. Ancient calligraphers and painting masters urged artists to visit famous mountains and rivers, observe natural scenery and improve their social knowledge in order to increase their sensitivity as regards the beauty of the world and nature. Ancient calligraphy critics said that the characters are a reflection of the mentality of the calligrapher. They also said that calligraphic works by people with noble natures are more widely appreciated.
Through learning and practicing calligraphy, the calligrapher increases his knowledge and accomplishments. In this way, he may become an erudite, civilized, noble and progressive person who loves life. Sun Guoting, a calligraphy theorist of the Tang Dynasty, said that he hoped that calligraphers would achieve maturity in both moral character and calligraphic skill.
Following are positive and negative examples of people’s appreciation of calligraphic works according to the moral characters of the calligraphers. Yue Fei, a famous general of the Song Dynasty, was put to death after being unjustly charged with treason. He was a noted calligrapher. His calligraphy work Prayer for the Dead on an Ancient Battlefield in cursive hand reminds people of his lofty sentiments and heroic merits. Later, it was discovered that this work was not his. But it is still being reprinted and copied. Maybe somebody admired YueFei’ lofty moral character, and put his name to this piece of calligraphy in order to hand down his memory.
The negative example concerns Zhang Ruitu. His calligraphy is powerful and dynamic, especially his big calligraphic works in cursive script are impressive, with free strokes and inking, and tremendous momentum. But his character was held in contempt by the people of his time and later, and his calligraphic artistry was overshadowed by his bad character. Zhang was an adopted son of the powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian and was once a prime minister. The calligraphy critics of later generations detested him and ignored his works. People detest the calligraphic works of people of bad character, because it is very difficult for viewers to separate the work from the calligrapher.
The dynamics of calligraphy is another point of attraction. The beauty of the dynamics of a calligraphic work pulls the viewers closer to the calligrapher and lets them become cooperators or bosom friends of his by interpreting and recreating the work, no matter whether the calligrapher lived 1,000 years ago or 1,000 miles away.
Careful viewers with experience and strong imagination may have more than one interpretation of a calligraphic work. The aesthetic implications and value of a calligraphic work are variables. The viewer indulges in the appreciation of the beauty of the dynamics of the calligraphic work and, with rich aesthetic appreciation, cultural knowledge and life experiences, explores the implications and value of the calligraphic work, and tries to fathom the sentiment, thinking and artistic principles of the author and the spirit of the time behind the work. All these things the calligrapher finds difficult to explain, so it is up to the viewer to explore them. This exploration, over the centuries, has added more new contents which are beneficial to the creation and development of calligraphy.