Why Should We Love Calligraphy


My Introductory Remarks

Wang Ronghua


The Role of Calligraphy Today

    The practical function of writing with a brush pen is disappearing. It is no longer a way of communications, which has been done by phone messages, E-mailing, website, blogs and satellite communications.

    Today, man has discarded aesthetic significance of handwriting.

    Its role lies in cultural connotations.  Confucian calligraphy is usually upright and peaceful; that with Taoist seems elegant and unrestrained and those with Buddhist look detached and aloof from the secular world.


    Calligraphy has always be closely linked with military, philosophy, literature, music and painting. 

    If calligraphy is defined as an art, it would imply how to write; if it is defined as a culture, it would also imply what to write.

    With simple things as a brush pen and ink, Chinese people express their thoughts on things around them; with straight or cursive lines, with different weight of lines, dried or moistened lines, Chinese people express their spiritual personalities.




                                          The Wonder and Charm of Characters


    著名书法家于右任先生家门口有一些小男孩总是到处撒尿,十分不雅。于老先生很生气,就写了一张“不可随处小便”的广告贴在墙上。一个喜欢于右任先生字的人趁着纸没干,揭下来挂在自家堂屋里,并请很多朋友来一起欣赏。朋友们看了都觉得大不雅,一个正堂屋中挂了这样一张字颇不合适。但他太喜欢于右任字的形式,怎么办?一个文人说我帮你解决,用剪刀把这张字剪开,重新排列并装裱好——“小处不可随便”,就是一幅很好的作品。所以书法的内容,往往是大于它的形式。The story about “not to pump ship casually”, is changed into “the pump is not to be shipped casually.”  So, the content is bigger than form.

    A noted Japanese scientist Professor Masaru Emoto wrote a book--Water knows the answer, which reveals that after listening to nice music, the molecular structure of water is beautiful; yet, after water listens to the rock and roll music, the molecular structure of the water is that of a cancer. To go along this theory, if one is immersed in calligraphy, become appreciative of the characters in the calligraphy, he would gradually sense the charm of Chinese traditional culture.

    You may be intrigued by the characters themselves. Take two of them: , reads as “xin”, means a heart; 亡,reads as “wang”, means to pass away. If you put a vertical on the left and on the right, it would look like 忙, that reads “mang”, means to be busy; if you put on the top and at the bottom, it would look like 忘,which reads like “wàng”, and means to forget. Another example would be 火, it reads as “huǒ”means “fire”; if you put two of them together, one up one down, it looks like “炎”, that reads as “yán”, means blazing, burning hot or inflammation; it you put one up and two under, it looks like 焱,that reads “yán” as well, but means flame of fire; if you put four of them together like “ “, it reads “yì”, which means “the look of fire”.

    If you come across with a calligraphy  work with such lines on it: 前不见古人,后不见来者,念天地之悠悠,独怆然而涕下。This is a Tang poem written by Chen Ziang (661-702) that reads: qián bū jiàn gǔ rēn, hòu bū jiàn lái zhēniàn tiān dì zhī yōu yōu, dú chuàng rán ēr tì xiàLiterally, it means “I see no predecessors before and no successors ahead, in the vastness and limitless space, I lonely and sorrowfully wept my tears.” What does these lines mean? The poem has a title: Ascending the Youzhou Platform. Youzhou is today’s Beijing, during the Warring States period, it was where the State of Yan was. The platform was built by King Zhao of Yan to attract talents to work for him. Chen was an officer in the Tang Army in 696 when Qidan, a tribe took over a city of Tang, the army with Chen in was sent to fight the invaders. Yet, the general was an idiot, the army was beaten several times, Chen made a few good suggestions, but were all refused. Chen was so pent up, one day he climbed up the Youzhou Platform and thought of King Zhao of Yan who did everything possible in seeking talents, the King’s conduct was unprecedented and unlikely to be followed later, he was thus very sad and wept. These are the messages contained in the 22 characters in the poem. What’s more, you can feel the artistic appeal and hear the cry of the poet.

    So, when you are able to sense the beauty of calligraphy, the lines become rhymes and melodies for you. The inch long brush pen tip serves as a way to express your thoughts, your love, hared, happiness and sorrow. Wang Xizhi once said: generally speaking calligraphy carries thought. (大抵书须存思。) Su Shi said: calligraphy is composed of spirit, breath, bone, blood and flesh. It is not calligraphy if one of the five is missed. (书必有神、气、骨、血、肉,五者缺一,不为成书也。)


    Another thing to be noted is that calligraphy is subject to sentimental feelings, which are aroused by situational stimuli such as dripping rain on flower leaves in the night or lingering autumn rain, or storms, different state of mind gives different style of calligraphy.  

    Some scholars held that calligraphy is the electrocardiogram of our nation, the symbols on paper are not merely symbols, but traces of heart beating that was caused by cultural mood. Through such symbols one could decode the heart and soul of a nation, and by doing so one is able to read and understand calligraphy.


                                     Returning to Cultural Ecology



    Natural ecology has been undermined; we have to stick to cultural ecology. One way of doing it is to practice calligraphy.

    Calligraphy is cultural rather than an art, it surpasses art. Stories about Korean business leaders practicing Han “Zhang Qian Stele” in order to communicate with ancient generation.

    Chinese calligraphy should be shared by people from other civilizations.



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