What are the different styles of Chinese calligraphy?

By Fei Gao on Nov 30, 2023

Chinese calligraphy, as a treasure of traditional Chinese culture, has a long history and has developed numerous distinctive calligraphic styles. These styles have evolved and been passed down through history, each possessing unique characteristics and charm. Here is an article about the different styles of Chinese calligraphy in English:

Chinese calligraphy, a treasure of traditional Chinese culture, has a long and rich history. It has given rise to numerous distinctive calligraphic styles, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal. The most representative styles include clerical script, regular script, cursive script, semi-cursive script, and seal script.

First, clerical script, originating from the Qin and Han dynasties, is the earliest style in the history of Chinese calligraphy. It is known for its dignified and robust appearance, with square and powerful strokes, as if each character were carved in stone. Wang Xizhi's "Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion" is one of the most renowned works in clerical script, showcasing the charm of this style with its dignified and orderly script.

Next is regular script, which embodies the orthodox beauty of Chinese calligraphy. It is characterized by its regular and structured characters, conveying a sense of dignity and grandeur. Regular script holds a high status in Chinese calligraphy, representing the cultural refinement of ancient scholars. Wang Xizhi's "Yan Qinli Stele Inscription" is one of the representative works of regular script, known for its well-structured and vigorous characters.

Cursive script, on the other hand, represents a bold and unrestrained style in calligraphy, with vigorous and free-flowing brushwork and intricately winding strokes that exude artistic tension. Zhang Xu and Huaisu are prominent figures in cursive script. Zhang Xu's "Letter to Boyuan" is renowned for its free and elegant style, demonstrating the unique charm of cursive script.

Then there is semi-cursive script, which combines the characteristics of regular and cursive scripts, featuring fluent and elegant strokes that encompass the best of both styles. It is considered a major innovation in the art of calligraphy. Representative works include Zhang Xu's "Commentary on the Book of Changes" and Huaisu's "Ode to the Goddess of the Luo River," known for their graceful brushwork and extraordinary calligraphic forms.

Lastly, seal script is one of the oldest script styles in Chinese calligraphy, characterized by its ancient and weighty character forms and mysterious historical origins. Representative works include Wang Xizhi's "Wang Xizhi Stele Inscription," cherished for its unique character forms and mysterious allure in the art of calligraphy.

In conclusion, the five styles of clerical, regular, cursive, semi-cursive, and seal scripts each have their unique characteristics, representing different stages of development and stylistic features in Chinese calligraphy. These script styles have influenced and merged with each other throughout the long history of calligraphy, enabling the vigorous development of Chinese calligraphy art and leaving behind valuable artistic heritage for future generations.

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