Chinese calligraphy means good
handwriting and the study of rules and technique of writing art
with brush pen. It has a long history as Chinese character. With
rich contents, Chinese calligraphy uses Chinese characters as the
medium to embody the artists’ spiritual world and it conveys the
temperament, sentiment and culture of the artist. The calligraphy
in China was even considered to be the highest and purest art form
of painting. The implements were the brush pen, made of animal hair,
and black inks made from pine soot and animal glue. In ancient times,
writing, as well as painting, was done on silk. But after the invention
of paper in the first century A.D., paper gradually replaced silk.
Original writings by famous calligraphers have been greatly valued
throughout China's history and are mounted on scrolls and hung on
walls in the same way that paintings are.
With the evolution of script, rules and technique of calligraphy
also changed. Finally, calligraphy developed into a kind of art
with different styles and schools and formed an important part of
The development history of Chinese calligraphy can be roughly divided
into three periods. The Pre-Qin Period (before 221BC) is the first
period. The Mature Period from Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD)
to the Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD) is the second period. The Individualistic
Period from the Five Dynasties (907AD-960AD) to the end of the Qing
Dynasty (1644AD-1911AD) is the third period.
(Preface to Orchid Pavilion), the Most Renowned Calligraphy
Work by Wang Xi Zhi in the Jing Dynasty
If you have interest
in the high quality copy of Lantingxu calligraphy please contact
Jiaguwen (Oracle Bone Inscriptions) discovered
in Anyang in 1899AD was regarded as the most ancient characters
in China. Inscriptions on oracle bones were widely considered to
be one of the earliest forms of writing as early as 3,600 years
ago during the Shang Dynasty in ancient China. The Shang people
believed in ghosts and spirits and they always made divinations.
These inscriptions carved on tortoise shell and animal scapulae
were used to record the auspicious or inauspicious results of the
divinations. The contents of inscriptions on oracle bones concerned
the Shang Dynasty’s wars, agriculture, mythology, history, and so
on and revealed all aspects of their daily life. Probably it is
the origin of Chinese calligraphy.
Zhongdingwen also called jinwen (inscriptions on
bronze vessels), appeared in the late of Shang Dynasty (1600BC-1100BC)
were regarded as the development of jiaguwen. During the Shang and
Zhou Dynasties, bells, tripods and vessels became ritual objects
and symbols of power and social status of slave-owning aristocrats.
At the beginning only the names of the owners were cast or engraved
on the tripods. Later the tripods and other bronze vessels had longer
inscriptions stating the usage and date of being cast. The contents
might include wars, treaties, agriculture, and history. Thus the
inscriptions on bronze objects grew longer, from a few characters
to hundreds, from simple phrases or pictures to detailed statements
and treaties and the varieties of calligraphy styles increased.
At this time another form of writing called Kegouwen (tadpole script),
which was painted on bamboo slips.
Dazhuan (great seal script) also appeared In the
West Zhou Dynasty and it was the transitional type of jiaguwen and
xiaozhuan (small seal script). Shiguwen (Stone Drum Inscriptions)
appeared in the Autumn Spring and Warring State Period (770BC-221BC)
is the best representative of Dazhuan. Shiguwen was so named because
the characters were engraved onto the tops and sides of ten large
stones shaped like drums. These drums opened an important era of
Chinese calligraphy and are the first known examples of Chinese
calligraphy engraved onto stone.
Xiao Zhuan: In the year of 221BC, Emperor Qinshihuang
first time unified China. He ordered his minister Lisi to standardize
Chinese different scripts into Xiaozhuan (small seal script). Taishankeshi
(stone inscription on Mount Tai) was the best example of xiaozhuan
in that period of time. Lishu (official script) also appeared in
the short Qin Dynasty (221UC-206BC) but it was well developed in
the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).
The second period
The second period spanned over one millennium from the Western Han
Dynasty to the end of the Tang Dynasty. Calligraphy achieved great
accomplishments during this period of time and became mature.
Lishu was predominant script in the Han Dynasty.
The strokes of lishu are straight and angular, which was much easier
than xiaozhuan. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, bafenshu was invented
with the characteristic of right and left sides of a character turning
against each other. The most famous calligrapher was Cai Yong with
the representative work called xipingshijing (the stone classic
of Xiping Emperor). The structural design of Lishu is somewhat similar
to Zhuanshu. Their principles focus on the spacing between strokes.
The spacing and position of strokes are well designed to render
a sense of elegance and beauty. Basic features and rules of Lishu
If a character contains a horizontal stroke, its ending at the right
side resembles a wave. This is called the Bird Tail. However, only
one Bird Tail is usually allowed for one character even if that
character has more than one horizontal stroke. This rule is literally
translated as: “ No two bird tails will fly together.” However,
we may have two Bird Tails with one less obvious than the main one.
If a character has two or three horizontal strokes,
the bottom one rather than the upper one will usually be the Bird
Tail to support the upper part of the character. This will render
a sense of stability. Otherwise, the heavy head might collapse the
character’s structure. However, if the horizontal stroke is the
longer one and it happens to be in the top portion of a character,
it is the Bird Tail. The shorter ones in the lower part of the character
are not Bird Tails.
There are rare exceptions when a character will have two Bird Tails.
This should still make the character look stable and not double-weighted.
In a Lishu work, not all of the characters will be of the same height.
That is, the ratio of length of width to height may be different
among several characters in a work. Calligraphers usually justify
all characters to the top (“Qishang”). That means that the top strokes
of characters should be in the same height.
If the stroke is “Na ” (going in a southeast direction), it will
be the Bird Tail.
kaishu (regular script) became important and widely
use by governmental officials and scholars from the Wei and Jin
Dynasty (220AD-420AD). Zhong Yao was considered the inventor of
kaishu. The regular writing of kaishu is square in form, non-cursive
in style. The strokes of script consist of 8 kinds: the dot, the
horizontal, the vertical, the hook, the rising, the left falling
and the right falling. Later on Chinese calligraphers believed kaishu
was the foundation of practicing calligraphy work.
For Kaishu writing, the character has to be tall. The ratio of length
of height to width is about 3 to 2. Symmetric. Left and right sides
of a character are usually symmetric. Vertical strokes are straight.
Horizontal strokes are flat. Curves and circles are smooth, not
rugged. Spacing between strokes is adequately and delicately designed.
Strokes don’t usually vary in thickness and thinness.
Xingshu (walking hand) was a changing
form of lishu. The style was created by Liu Desheng in the late
of Estern Han Dynasty. A calligraphy work in Xingshu will look more
smooth, connecting and faster than Kaishu, but less than Caoshu.
This is why xingshu is known as Walking Style and Caoshu as Running
Hand. Xingshu usually simplifies the strokes and changes the sequences
of strokes from Kaishu writing. Sometimes a Xingshu calligrapher
will mix some Caoshu or Kaishu with Xingshu. Wang Xizhi in the Jin
Dynastry is a very brilliant Xingshu calligrapher. People called
him “Sage of Calligraphy”. The inscription on Lanting Pavillion
in the hand of Wnag Xizhi (321-379) was regarded as the best Xingshu
Caoshu (also known as Grass Style, Running
Script or Cursive Script) is the most simplified but abstract
and difficult form of writing in Chinese calligraphy. It was developed
almost at the same time with Li Shu. Since the Han Dynasty, Li Shu
and Tsao Shu were developed and established. From the Han Dynasty
to the JIN and Tang Dynasties, there were many famous Tsao Style
calligraphers. Tsao Shu reached one of its peaks during the Jin
Dynasty when Wang XIzhi and his son, Wang Xianzhi, were both good
at this style. The father and son are referred as "the Two
Wangs" in the Chinese calligraphy history. They influenced
later calligraphers in each dynasty, especially for Xing and Cao
Styles. Later in the Tang Dynasty, two great calligraphers Zhang
Xu and Huai Su, were both reaching another peak in Caoshu.
Cao Style is generally considered the most difficult style among
all five major Chinese calligraphy styles. Calligraphers specializing
in Cao Style decreased in number since the Tang Dynasty. For Caoshu,
especially Jincao style, the characters are executed swiftly with
strokes even connected. The last stroke of fist character is always
merged into the initial stroke of the second character. The characters
always vary in size when writing. CaoShu is to simplify the characters.
Thus a calligraphy work in Cao Style will look more smooth, connecting
and faster with abrupt turning and dramatic effects.
Caoshu was divided into Zhangcao, Jincao and Kuangcao
(creasy). Shiyou invented Zhangcao in the later Western Han Dynasty
and Zhangzhi developed Zhangcao into Jincao and who was called “Sage
of Cao Style”. In the Tang Dynasty, both Zhang Xu and Huai Su liked
to write Cao style calligraphy after getting drunk. They would yell,
stride, and show weird behaviors during their creation. They were
peered as “Crazy Zhang & Weird Monk”. They established a Cao
Style commonly referred as “Kongcao ” (“Kuang” means crazy and bold).
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese calligraphy flourished
and reached its summit. From the Emperor to the common scholars
almost everybody attached great importance and passion on calligraphy
art. Many great calligraphers appeared such as Ouyang Xun, Liu Gongquan,
Yu Shinan, YanZhenqing and so on. Their calligraphic works are still
used as calligraphy textbook up to know.
The third period
After the Tang Dynasty, it was realized that only calligraphic works
with unique personal style could be recognized so the calligraphy
works emphasized on individualistic development. In the Song Dynasty
(960-1279), Su Dongpo, Huang Tingjian, Mi Fu, Cai Xiang are noted
calligraphers. In the Yuan Dynasty, Zhao Ziang’s Kaishu had great
influence on the development of calligraphy. In the Ming (1368-1644)
and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) more influential and brilliant calligraphers
appeared like shining stars in the sky. Among them, Song Lian, Dong
Qichang, Wen Zhengming, Jin Nong, He Shaoji, Wu Changshuo, Zheng
Banqiao and Kang Youwei are very famous.
Here are a few Chinese
calligraphy work on sale. If you have interest you can contact me.
calligraphy A to calligraphy F, all these works are in the same
size. The scroll is 160cm high and 45cm wide. The center is 100cm
by 34cm. Each piece costs 60USD including shipping. These Chinese
characters are famous aphorism .Calligraphy A means “Excellence
in work is possible only with diligence”. Calligraphy B means “Business
profits depend on reputation”. Calligraphy C means “Hard work
brings good profits”. Calligraphy D means “Be quiet and think”.
Calligraphy E means “Great virtue carries the outer world”. Calligraphy
F means “Tao models itself after nature”. If you want the bigger
size we can also meet your demands.
calligraphy G to calligraphy J, all these works are in the same
size. The scroll is 160cm wide and 60 cm high. The center is 100cm
by 50cm. Each piece costs 70USD including shipping. These Chinese
characters are famous aphorism .Calligraphy G means “If family
lives in harmony, everything will prosper”. Calligraphy H means
“Great reputation will win the world”. Calligraphy I means “Excellence
in work is possible only with diligence”. Calligraphy J means “Accomplish
something lasting by leading a quiet life”. If you want the bigger
size we can also meet your demands.