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  • Here in the western world, painting and writing are in general seen as distinct disciplines

  • of practice. Although both can be creative in nature, and there are definitely contemporary

  • artists who create text based art, in most of western history - the practice of writing

  • has never really been a major player in the visual arts. This is not so much the case

  • in other parts of the world. For millennia, as well as today, the art of Calligraphy is

  • a major artistic practice in many East Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea and

  • Vietnam. Today we're going to focus specifically on the history of Chinese calligraphy.

  • Historically, in China, many artists who painted picturesque scenes would have also been trained

  • in the art of calligraphy. And artists would often write lines of poetry or prose along

  • the sides of painted scenes. In fact, during some historical periods, painting was often

  • seen as a secondary practice compared to the prestigious practice of calligraphy.

  • The primary reason the visual arts and the practice of writing are so closely linked

  • in Chinese culture, is due to the fact that the written characters themselves are pictograph

  • based. When one writes a Chinese Character, they are essentially drawing an abstracted

  • picture. Thus, through the art of calligraphy, Chinese writers and poets were not only able

  • to express their creativity and personality through the meanings of the words they wrote,

  • but also in the forms and brushstrokes of the words themselves.

  • The Chinese form of writing, often referred to ascharactersorideograms”,

  • are composed of usually square shaped symbols, each representing a word or meaning. They

  • evolved from an ancient pictograph based language that was abstracted and simplified over time.

  • For example, during the Chinese Bronze Age, the Shang dynasty, roughly around 1400 BCE,

  • the character for horse pretty much looked like this, over time it was standardized to

  • fit into the square character ratio, then it was abstracted even further and the modern

  • symbol for horse looks like this.

  • The basic tools that are generally used by Chinese calligraphers are black ink or ink

  • sticks, ink stones, brush, traditional calligraphy paper, and sometimes also a paper weight,

  • seal and red seal paste. We will cover more of what the materials are used for as well

  • as their history in the next episode.

  • So there are a lot of formal rules regarding how to properly write a Chinese character

  • as well as how to used traditional calligraphy methods - such as how to properly grind the

  • ink you're using and how to properly hold a brush. Basically, for every single character,

  • the stroke has to be written in a particular sequence. So not only do you have to remember

  • how to write the thousands of commonly used Chinese characters, you also have to remember

  • the sequence the brush strokes go in, for every single character. Seriously, compared

  • to that, English class was a breeze.

  • When writing these words, the creativity and individual personalities comes from qualities

  • such as stroke thickness, light and dark contrast, the amount of ink used, the pressure of the

  • hand, speed, motion, and the texture of the brushstroke.

  • It is also takes a lot of practice to learn proper control of the brush and ink - since

  • Chinese black ink is a really tricky and medium to work with. For those of you who haven't

  • tried to paint with traditional black ink, you may think oh it shouldn't be that hard

  • to make a stroke on a piece of paper - but believe me when I say it's not easy. Most

  • people's first attempt in using it usually involves getting ink everywhere, not being

  • able to make straight lines at all and just having the ink basically bleed all over the

  • page. Or maybe it was just me.

  • So when an artist finishes a calligraphy work, they would seal it in red, this effectively

  • acts as a signature. Seals were not only used by artists, but they were also used by emperors,

  • courts, families and basically any organization or person that wanted to identify itself.

  • Over the years this art form has become more than just works done on paper. In the early

  • 1990s a small street phenomenon called "Di Shu", meaning ground calligraphy or street

  • calligraphy began in a park in Beijing, and eventually grew into this huge urban phenomenon

  • that swept through the entire country. It's where anonymous calligraphers would just show

  • up in city squares, streets and parks with these huge brushes and sometimes even mops,

  • using water as ink, and the pavement as paper, and would paint huge characters, words, poems

  • and other literary works right on the ground. Creating these beautiful and ephemeral performances

  • of linguistic and visual expression.

  • Some of you may ask - is it possible to appreciate Chinese calligraphy without knowing how to

  • read Chinese? I certainly think so. I think anyone can appreciate they beauty of the stunning

  • linework, the sharp and bold black strokes, contrasted with glistening red seals. Appreciating

  • the style, meticulousness and control of a calligraphic stroke is in a way very similar

  • to appreciating the brushstrokes of an impressionist painting. You may not read Chinese, but we

  • can all read picture.

  • So can you think of other examples of creative uses of words or languages in visual art?

  • Whether it's eastern art or western art. Let me know in the comments.

  • Subtitles by the Amara.org community

Here in the western world, painting and writing are in general seen as distinct disciplines

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What is Chinese Calligraphy? Pt 1: History | ARTiculations

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    Li Rose   に公開 2019 年 06 月 12 日
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