Chinese calligraphy, or 书法 (shūfǎ), is an ancient art form dating back as early as around 200 BCE (2).\nSince some Chinese characters are based on pictographs, writing Chinese is almost like drawing, and calligraphy even more so!\nChinese calligraphy has a long and rich history.\n\n\nCalligraphy is beautiful\n\n\nThe earliest forms of Chinese writing were found carved on animal bones and bronze vessels during the Shang Dynasty (around 1600-1100 BCE).\nHowever, it was later, during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) when calligraphy, using a brush and ink, began to develop (2).\n\nYou’ll find Chinese calligraphy on scrolls, paintings, and inscribed on statues or temples. Some styles of calligraphy are more difficult to read than others, but all are beautiful and bring a certain element of grace to whatever medium they’re written on.\n\nCalligraphy masters have spent years and years perfecting their craft, but don’t be intimidated.\nYou don’t have to be good at it right away to practice it and have fun!\n\nChinese Calligraphy | Calligraphy Materials\nChinese Calligraphy | Learn the Basics\nChinese Calligraphy | Differences Between English and Chinese Calligraphy\nChinese Calligraphy | Styles of Calligraphy\nChinese Calligraphy | Simplified Vs. Traditional\nChinese Calligraphy | Calligraphy at LTL\n\n\nPlay\n\nChinese Calligraphy Materials\nTo write calligraphy, you need four materials\n\nA brush\nInk\nInkstone (this can be omitted if you use liquid ink)\nPaper\n\n\n\nCalligraphy brushes\n\n\nTogether, these are called 文房四宝 (wénfángsìbǎo), or the Four Treasures of Study (2).\nBrushes are traditionally made with white, black, or yellow animal hair (such as rabbit, goat, or weasel hair) bundled together and coming to a point.\nThe hair is pushed into a tube made of bamboo or wood, creating the handle.\nThe brush must be flexible in order to create the flowing strokes in calligraphy (2).\n\nInk is made from lampblack, created from burning pine resin or oil under a hood. Soot is collected and pressed into blocks that are often decorated.\n\nThe calligrapher can then use an inkstone to grind the block down to powder and mix it with water.\n\nChinese Calligraphy // Here you can see a decorated ink block and ink stone\n\nThis way, he or she can control the viscosity of the ink (2). Liquid ink can also be used, but is more difficult to transport and can be messier.\nLastly, paper was originally made from the fibers of plants such as mulberry, hemp, or bamboo.\nThis was much more affordable than silk (2).\n\n\n16 Chinese Idiom Stories – Speak like a Native\n16 of the Best Chinese Idioms – Our Favourites and the Stories behind them Learning Chinese idiom stories and proverbs is a brilliant way to get into higher level Chinese, and the great thing is, they aren’t that hard to…\n\nLearn the Basics of Chinese Calligraphy\nThere is a lot to learn about Chinese calligraphy, but if you’re just starting out, here are some of the most important things to pay attention to.\n\nThe first is stroke order. Stroke order is critical to calligraphy.\n\nIn general, characters are written top to bottom, left to right, and horizontal to vertical (3).\nFor more complicated characters, you can always look up the correct stroke order online.\nOnce you’ve practiced writing characters, the stroke order will come more naturally to you.\nThe second is the strokes. There are eight different types of strokes in Chinese calligraphy, and each have a specific way they should be drawn.\nOnce you’ve mastered these 8 strokes and you know the stroke order, you should (in theory!) be able to correctly write any Chinese character (4).\n\nChinese Calligraphy – Knowing these eight strokes should allow you to write any character\n\nAnother important part of calligraphy is how you hold the brush.\nUnlike normal writing, the calligraphy brush should be held vertically, grasped between the thumb and first two fingers, with the ring and fourth fingers behind the brush for stability.\nAt least for me, this type of grip felt very unnatural at first, but with a little practice, it should feel easier to control the brush! (4)\nYou’ll also want to pay attention to the pressure you put on the brush.\n\nCalligraphy requires you to master the thinness and thickness of each stroke.\n\nSome strokes require lighter pressure at the start of the stroke and heavier pressure at the end. Others require a slight flick of the brush. Controlling how much ink the brush soaks up is also important! (4)\n\nLast but not least, posture is also very important! Your posture should be straight and symmetrical. Keep your head straight, relax your shoulders, and keep your torso straight without leaning back into the chair. Pay attention to your writing! Keep both your feet on the ground without crossing your legs (5).\n\n\n\nLife Outside the Classroom in Beihai // Chris’ Story\nLife outside the classroom is special in Beihai. It’s not all about opening up a textbook. Beihai gives you the chance to truly immerse yourself into China.\n\nDifferences Between English and Chinese Calligraphy\nWriting English calligraphy is very different from Chinese calligraphy.\nAs someone who personally enjoys hand lettering, I know from experience that the style used for English calligraphy doesn’t carry over well into Chinese calligraphy.\nIn English calligraphy, one of the basic elements requires down strokes to be thicker than up strokes, creating a contrast that is pleasing to the eye.\nHowever, these rules don’t apply for Chinese calligraphy.\n\nTrue mastery of calligraphy requires knowledge of the different strokes used in writing characters. Each stroke is painted a certain way using the brush.\n\nHowever, one important point that does (somewhat) carry over from English to Chinese is stroke order.\n\n\nThis is a common style of calligraphy in English!\n\n\nNormally, writing words in English doesn’t require a certain stroke order.\nSure, maybe when you were learning to write back in elementary school, your teacher taught you to write letters a certain way.\nBut in every day life, using a pencil or pen to write, it’s not noticeable whether you write the letter “V” with two down strokes, one up and one down, or both up!\nHowever, when writing calligraphy in English, the order does become a bit more important because the down strokes should be thicker and the up strokes thinner.\nIn Chinese, stroke order is important, even in regular writing, but more so in calligraphy. In both cases, if your pen or pencil drags when writing quickly, these extra strokes can either be clues as to what the character should be, or misleading and confusing.\nEven when writing characters on my phone, I’ve noticed that I can write a really messy character, and my phone will still recognize it, as long as I’ve used the correct stroke order.\nAdditionally, the way the brush drags across the paper changes the look of the character, so the correct stroke order and even direction of the stroke is essential!\n\n\nShapes in Chinese 🔷 The Complete Go To Guide\nThe Definitive Guide to Shapes in Chinese Time for another useful vocabulary post – this time we talk about how to say Shapes in Chinese. Learning the shapes in Chinese is actually pretty easy. Many of the shapes follow a…\n\nStyles of Calligraphy\nThere are five basic styles of calligraphy.\nEach style is very distinct and has developed over the years.\nSeal Script\n\n\nSeal Script carved on stone tablets\n\n\nThe first style is Seal Style or Seal Script, also called 篆书 (zhuànshū).\nIts name comes from the fact that this script was often engraved on stones or seals.\nThis style was created during the Chin Dynasty.\n\nThese characters are taller than they are wide, often symmetric, with both smoothly curved and straight lines. Stroke thickness stays fairly constant. Because these characters are very structured and the stroke thickness is so steady, this style is often recommended for beginners (1).\n\nClerical Script\n\n\nClerical Script\n\n\nThe second style is Clerical Script, or 隶书 (lìshū).\nThis style was also using during the Chin Dynasty by government officials.\nThe word itself refers to servitude because this script was used by clerks working in prisons.\nThis style is more efficient, simplifying some of the more complex curves of the Seal Style in favor of sharp bends, squared instead of round.\n\nLater, during the Han Dynasty, this style became more popular.\n\nThis style is also a popular style for beginners to learn, as there aren’t as many strokes to learn (1).\nRunning Script\n\n\nRunning Script\n\n\nNext is Running Script, or 草书 (cǎoshū).\nIt was developed during the Han Dynasty.\nMany great calligraphers used this style. This style is the most abstract and doesn’t require precise strokes like the other styles do.\nAt the same time, it still has its own set of rules (1).\n\nIn this script, the calligrapher focuses more on the right side of the character while simplifying the radical on the left. Despite looking messy, this style of calligraphy is very advanced and usually requires mastery of other styles first before attempting it (1).\n\nWalking Script\n\n\nWalking Script\n\n\nThe fourth style is Walking Script, or 行书 (xíngshū).\nIt was formed during the Han Dynasty.\nThis style is a combination of the Running Script, and the last style listed here, the Standard Script.\nIn fact, it can lean closer to either one of the two styles, depending on how the calligrapher chooses to express himself.\nThe Walking Script is smooth and connected, but not as much as the Running Style script.\nIt’s also more simplified than Standard Script (1).\nStandard Script\n\n\nStandard Script\n\n\nLast, but not least is the Standard Script/Style, or 楷书 (kǎishū).\nThis style was invented toward the end of the Han Dynasty and developed more during the Wei Dynasty (1).\n\nThis standardized form of calligraphy is defined by its clear and separate strokes and square structure.\n\nThis script is widespread throughout China.\nIt is generally used in newspapers, textbooks, and government documents.\nThe other scripts are not commonly seen (1).\nChinese Calligraphy – Simplified vs. Traditional\nWhen writing Chinese, you can write either simplified or traditional characters.\n\n\nTraditional Chinese characters\n\n\nTraditional characters, aptly named, are more complicated, and their strokes portray more of the stories and history behind each character.\nOn the other hand, simplified characters are easier to remember and were developed to increase literacy rates.\n\nBut since some strokes are missing or removed, the characters are not as rich in history and culture.\n\nSimplified characters are used throughout mainland China, while traditional is used in areas such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.\nWhen formally writing characters, traditional is a better choice, because calligraphy as an art form should honor the history of the characters. The greater number of strokes better showcases the beauty of the art.\nChinese Calligraphy at LTL\nIf you’re interested in learning some calligraphy while you study Chinese, come to LTL!\n\nChinese Calligraphy – You can practice your calligraphy at LTL!\n\n\nI remember it was sometime during my first week of class at LTL, I noticed that one of the other classes had been practicing calligraphy. I immediately told my teacher, and he set it up for me the next day!