Philosophical Beauty Of Chinese Calligraphy Cultural Studies Essay

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I believe that everyone has a different perspective in the word of "beauty", because our feelings are unique. So, no one can discriminate an art especially when it comes to the artistic values between the arts of East and West. That is, a great work of art, particularly pictorial art, should remain great in all eyes, at all times, and in all places, regardless any matters of production. We cannot deny that there are differences when we come to talk about East and West arts, particularly in the ways of training of the each artist and their individual techniques achieved, as well as their separate artistic vision and cultural traditions. As a Chinese, I know that we value Chinese Calligraphy (Shufa) very much as it is very important to the development of pictograph of Chinese characters, therefore I picked Chinese calligraphy as the theme of this essay to discuss the philosophy of art.

In the West the art of painting is closely related to sculpture. Western painters aim to give realistic solid form to their subject-matters, portraying the physical likeness, emphasizing light and shade with the help of different colors to produce a realistic perspective as well as developing the tenique of chiaroscuro effect. Chinese calligraphy and painting are both derived from ancient Chinese scripts, known as pictorial which is made with abstract structures under finely modified shape of calligraphic strokes without any concern for light and shade. These calligraphic strokes were later employed in a similar manner to create paintings in which light and shade also played a small part. Both used the same type of brush and ink, on paper and silk. To be simple, painting is subdivided according to the tool or pigment used in the West - oils, water-colors, drawings, etc, while in China we have only one important medium - ink, and that is the medium of Chinese calligraphy.

Writing a Painting

Chinese characters evolved from pictographs, and pictographs were used as semantic symbols for long, they became ideograms with the original images transformed. Therefore, it is said that there is great interrelations of calligraphy and paintings because they use the same Chinese brush since Shang Dynasty, thus brushes is said to be the instrument unifying calligraphy and painting. Technically speaking, Chinese painter handles his brushes and manipulates the ink no differently from a calligrapher. There are two words used to describe what a painter does: Hua hua means "to paint a picture" and xie hua means "to write a picture." Many artists prefer the latter. So, it is quite common for a Chinese painter to say that he is "writing a painting" than what we usually said "drawing a painting". Therefore, the techniques of painting and calligraphy are mutual, ultimately, the Chinese verb of describing both painting and calligraphy is "寫".

Calligraphy and Tao

We all know that Chinese people are strongly influenced by the beliefs of Confucianism, Buddhism, and largely affected by Taoism. Tao, is the law of nature to the Chinese people, and is also a concept containing deep, recondite laws and principles that serve as our supreme guidance. In art, calligraphy is Tao's incarnate which serves as an embodiment of the divine law. Therefore, with this rooted thought which is influenced by Tao, calligraphy ties a close relationship with the nature, and it is greatly valued by the writers' inner thoughts and cultivation, which I will discuss in details in the following paragraphs.

Abstract of Beauty

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, it is hard to give a definition to the word "beauty". When it comes to Chinese calligraphy, there are two. First, it is the beauty in heart that is what you see in natural scenery or in some pictures, which you think one thing is beautiful immediately when you look at it. The second one is to look at the beauty behind, that means what is revealed to you is informed by the writers that are generated by thoughts.

First, to the beauty of line: any handwriting in any languages is produced by the combination of two linear movements. In Western languages, words are created by a large range of straight and curve lines, while Chinese characters are more numerous and complex than alphabets, and it is more beautiful because it has additional scope for individuality in variations which cannot be seen in alphabets. Second, Chinese words are created within its own square, so it varies a lot to the calligrapher with different structure and positions, therefore, by that, we can know if one is capable of drawing the mind away from the literal meaning of the characters. Thus, there is a saying of Chinese calligraphy is the fundamental artistic manifestation of the national mind, which rhythm and lines are perfectly structured in calligraphy.

The Power of Calligraphy - Uniqueness

A good work of art depends on a good hand. The mind of the people who created it, and the way to write the words within the frame of conventional ideas that count. Once Henry W.B. said that "Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures" What he suggests here is that the writer's skills, are too easy to determine just by how it looks. Perfect cooperation between mind and hand, this cooperation can only be achieved by years of practice, with emotional energy that are being vitalized at the moment of writing- is required for Chinese calligraphy, and it results in forms of unique individuality. It is believed that calligraphers injected great emotion into their work, as calligraphy is said to reflect the state of mind of the calligrapher. So, whether they are happy or sad, hateful or loving, worried or lonely, are all reflected in their writing. With the influence of Taoism, calligraphers usually are a careful observer of nature, sensitive to the changing seasons, the rhythms of night and day, and ever ready to learn from the movements of birds and other animals, swaying of grass in the wind, and the beauty of a flower blossom. Why? It is because the fundamental inspiration of calligraphy, is nature, just like many other art forms in China. Li Fu-Kwang (the one who found æ°¸å­-八法)said that, "Every trig of a living tree is alive, and so, every tiny stroke of a piece of fine calligraphy, inspired by some natural object, has the energy of a living thing." Which means, strokes of printed characters are then very different because they are inspired only by the word makers and can be copied by all people even are the most insensitive. As a result, each a good hand of calligraphy is very unique and no one can imitate it since the emotions everyone who feels are not identical.


The technique of Chinese calligraphy is fine, yet difficult. It has a very high value not only in China, but also is very interested by foreigners because it has big differences with the Western languages. In the past, calligraphy was the only writing method until the invention of ball-pen and other kinds of stationery, but I think it should be largely promoted so that it will not disappear. Nowadays, this precious cultural heritage is only served as an amateur endeavor, and many people who born after 1950s cannot write a good hand. I suggest that every Chinese should learn calligraphy because it requires a quiet mind to focus and concentrate, this can train up the patience of youngsters. And the beauty of calligraphy cannot be felt by only words expression; one should feel the external resemblance when writing calligraphy. Therefore, I think that this special and unique heritage should be kept by introducing in schools, and should encourage people to write more calligraphy.