Calligraphy is a greatly significant traditional art form in China. To experience the true Chinese culture on your China Tours, Chinese calligraphy allows you a deeper understanding of the beauty of China. It is not only a means of communication, but also a way of cultivating a person’s temperament  in an aesthetic sense. In ancient times it was essential a candidate could manifest his literary talent in the Imperial Examination, for it gave a first impression to the examiners. Children of high officials had to learn and try to write a good hand; even emperors themselves were good at calligraphy, for example, the versatile Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) has left us many examples of his handwriting on steles in temples and palaces if you Travel to Beijing.

To practise calligraphy requires the basic tools of “four treasures of study” (writing brush, ink stick, paper, and ink slab) as well as much concentration on guiding the soft writing brush charged with fluid ink, and writing on the paper where the ink will diffuse quickly. Once the brush movement hesitates, a black mark is created, so speed, strength and agility is the essence of fine artwork. When writing, many calligraphers will forget all worries and even themselves, combining all thoughts in the beauty of their art.

Practice Calligraphy
Calligraphy, like a mirror, is a silent reflection of the soul. It is believed to have verve, of optimism, moderateness, or pessimism. Su Dongpo, one of the four litterateurs in the Song Dynasty (960–1279), composed many bold and unconstrained ci (a form of poetry that flourished in the Song Dynasty), also could write handsome characters in good taste. Today, although various modern ways have been substituted for the original calligraphy, especially which created with a writing brush, people still love the ancient form and practise it untiringly. During the traditional festivals, propitious couplets are always indispensable decorations each written in a beautiful style.

Four Treasures of the Study

Writing Brushes
The earliest writing brush that has been found is a relic of the Warring States Period (476 BC–221 BC). From that time onwards, the brush has evolved into many forms. The nib can be made from rabbit’s hair, wool, horsehair, weasel’s hair, or bristles, and so on; while the shaft may be made from bamboo, ivory, jade, crystal, gold, silver, porcelain, sandal, ox horn, etc. It is important to see that there can be both soft and hard brushes each producing their own particular styles.

Ink Stick
A good ink stick should be ground so as to be refined black with luster. With the invention of paper, they were improved accordingly. Since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220), ink sticks have been made from pine soot, using other procedures that include mixing with glue, steaming and molding. In ancient times, emperors such Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) had paid great attention to the production of ink sticks and were expert in their appreciation of quality inks.

Paper
Paper making is among the “four great inventions” and one of the greatest contributions that ancient Chinese people made to the world. Before the existence of paper, our ancestors utilized knots in cords to record events. They then carved on bone, ivory, tortoise shell and bronzes. For very many years they wrote on pieces of bamboo. There is a story that tells how Confucius was such an avid and diligent reader that he would wear away the strips of ox-leather used to bind the pages of bamboo books together. During the early Han Dynasty wealthy people would write upon white silk but this was beyond the reach of the majority as the cloth was so precious. It was Cai Lun who made the valuable contribution and his research gave rise to paper. Afterwards, many varieties of paper were produced of different quality and usage. Today the Xuan paper originally made in Anhui Province still shines with its charm.

Ink Slab
The ink slab is the reputed head of the “four treasures”, for its sobriety and elegance has endured the passage of time. Through ink slabs, people can sample the artistic charm of sculpting and the ink stone’s natural tints. Nearly all Chinese calligraphy enthusiasts hold that the star of ink slab is the Duanyan, ink slab produced in Duanzhou of Guangdong Province. It was always a tribute to the royal families during the Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Jack Li
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