For the Chinese, calligraphy is one of the highest forms of artistic creation. Children are trained at an early age to value calligraphy and it can determine the outcome of important examinations. The earliest known examples date back more than 3,000 years to the Emperor Shun who, it is said, devised the first writing brush. The basic tools of the calligraphier are the brush, ink, a stone (on which the ink is mixed) and paper. These are commonly known as the ‘four treasures of the scholar’s study’. The types of brush strokes are referred to in natural organic terms; for example, ‘rolling waves’, ‘sleeping dragon’, ‘a dewdrop about to fall’, ‘a startled snake slithering off into the grass’. The qualities of the brush strokes are described in terms of flesh, muscle, bone and blood — this last, for example, referring to the quality of the ink and varied ink tones. The Chinese alphabet has changed very little over the centuries and calligraphy has come to be known as a personal form of artistic self-expression by which the writer can be identified and understood.
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