As part of CAS, I’ve recently begun a session Friday after school of Chinese calligraphy. One of the more interesting takeaways from my first session was that I think I can finally see why the “proper” versions of Chinese characters on a computer look the way they do with differing thickness across a line, tapered endings of lines etc. despite, of course, it being both insane and somewhat impossible to actually create that shape while writing with a pencil. Part of it is probably aesthetic of course, like how fonts in English typing also tend to be somewhat difficult to imitate on paper, but one thing I’ve realised while using a brush is that with the right technique, it’s actually possible to create those shapes when writing with a brush.
Now, as to the right technique part, it’s interesting how you really don’t know what you don’t know. I wouldn’t ever have thought before starting calligraphy that there was a proper way of drawing a line. It’s sort of that the way you rotate your brush can create, as I was saying earlier, differing line thicknesses, inflections on the end of a line, tapered ends etc. which are part of the “correct” form for a particular line, stroke, dot etc. It’s actually quite hard to do, and writing freehand, I can barely (or rather cannot) make the simplest characters look the way they are supposed to or “balanced” so to speak. Honestly, at the moment, it’s less art and more skills practice, tracing the same characters or strokes in our workbook? over and over again. Which is rather calming in its own way of course.
The next question then, would be why? Why calligraphy? Part of it is of course that I am a Chinese (B SL) student, and I was thinking that if I spend more time writing characters, then I will probably get better at it. A good way of ensuring efficiency of time I suppose. Furthermore, the natural answer to that question of course would be something along the usual, generic line of “aesthetics”. Which is true in a way, but then raises the question of aesthetics for whom? It is undoubtable that compared to the days of Imperial Civil Service examinations. “No one” writes with a brush on a daily basis anymore. Is it solely for the purpose of historical preservation that calligraphy has remained?
There is a certain feeling here akin to what I have already written about martial arts, as if though the modern practice has become divorced from the context in which it was started. I do have a certain attraction towards relics of the past it seems…