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Painting & Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy (Brush calligraphy) is an art unique to Asian cultures. Shu (calligraphy), Hua (painting), Qin (a string musical instrument), and Qi (a strategic boardgame) are the four basic skills and disciplines of the Chinese literati.

Regarded as the most abstract and sublime form of art in Chinese culture, "Shu Fa" (calligraphy) is often thought to be most revealing of one's personality. During the imperial era, calligraphy was used as an important criterion for selection of executives to the Imperial court. Unlike other visual art techniques, all calligraphy strokes are permanent and incorrigible, demanding careful planning and confident execution. Such are the skills required for an administrator / executive. While one has to conform to the defined structure of words, the expression can be extremely creative. To exercise humanistic imagination and touch under the faceless laws and regulations is also a virtue well appreciated.

By controlling the concentration of ink, the thickness and adsorptivity of the paper, and the flexibility of the brush, the artist is free to produce an infinite variety of styles and forms. In contrast to western calligraphy, diffusing ink blots and dry brush strokes are viewed as a natural impromptu expression rather than a fault. While western calligraphy often pursue font-like uniformity, homogeneity of characters in one size is only a craft. To the artist, calligraphy is a mental exercise that coordinates the mind and the body to choose the best styling in expressing the content of the passage. It is a most relaxing yet highly disciplined exercise indeed for one's physical and spiritual well being. Historically, many calligraphy artists were well-known for their longevity.

Brush calligraphy is not only loved and practiced by Chinese. Koreans and Japanese equally adore calligraphy as an important treasure of their heritage. Many Japanese schools still have the tradition of having a student contest of writing big characters during beginning of a new school year. A biannual gathering commemorating the Lanting Xu by Wang Xi Zhi (The most famous Chinese calligrapher in Jin dynasty, ) is said to be held ceremonially in Japan. There is a national award of Wang Xi Zhi prize for the best calligraphy artist. Not too long ago, Korean government officials were required to excel in calligraphy. The office of Okinawa governor still displays a large screen of Chinese calligraphy as a dominating decor.

In the West, Picasso and Matisse are two artists who openly declared the influence by Chinese calligraphy on their works.


Located at the western end of Liulichang Street, Beijing , Rongbaozhai (the "Studio of Glorious Treasures") is famous for both its collection of calligraphy and paintings that spans centuries, and its excellent array of the "four treasures of the study" (brushes, ink, paper and ink stones).

The studio deals in paintings, calligraphic works, carvings and seals by famous figures, especially the block prints found on watercolors. Today it has preserved a dozen valuable works including a Tianhuang seal and a piece of Tianhuang stone weighing 4,275 grams, the heaviest of its kind in the world.


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Essentials of Writing Technique
Writing technique in a broad sense includes the way to hold and use the brush to write characters. There are countless ways to wield the brush. I shall dwell only on the basic ways.
Visitors to China may be amazed at the number of souvenir shops where the service of "Seal-Engraving" is readily available. Very often, the engraver claims that a seal would be finished in 15 minutes - less than the time the visitors usually stay in a souvenir shop.
Process of Practicing Handwriting
The effective, traditional process of practicing handwriting consists of three steps: mo, Lin and xie. Mo means tracing. There are two ways to trace: Trace the calligraphy printed in red in the copybook, or use the model in the exercise book to trace the character on semitransparent or transparent paper.
Paper was invented by Cai Lun (7-121), according to legend. Archaeological discoveries reveal, however, that in the early Western Han Dynasty, or two hundred years earlier than the time of Cai Lun, a coarse paper made of hemp had already come into existence.
Ink Stick
Legend says that King Yi first invented ink stick about 2,800 years ago, yet archaeologists have detected ink marks on the back of inscribed bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty, 3,200 years ago.
How to Hold Brush
To practice calligraphy, you must learn the proper way to hold the brush. This has much to do with the body's posture. You must hold the brush properly and also learn how to use your wrist and elbow while writing.
Learn from Rubbings
In learning calligraphy it is necessary to copy rubbings from stone tablets. How do we choose these rubbings? As a nation of calligraphers China has thousands of rubbings from stone tablets.
Ink Slab Or Ink Stone
When the ink slab was invented is a rather controversial question. Ancient Chinese attributed the invention to the Yellow Emperor, yet the ink slab had been in use in primitive times, six to seven thousand years ago, two thousand years earlier than the era of the Yellow Emperor, to produce colors.
Calligraphy Set & Seal
What Chinese calligraphy supply do you need? To write Chinese characters, you need a brush, ink, paper and ink stone, commonly referred to as the four treasures of the study.
The brush was invented by Meng Dian (?-210 B.C.), according to legend, yet primitivepainted pottery had decorative designs painted by tools more or less like a brush.
Writting on Silk (Boshu)
From sometime in the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) and over a long period of time in ancient China, plain silk of various descriptions joined bamboo and wood slips as the material for writing or painting on.
History of Chinese Calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy has a long history dated to 4000 years ago. No one can tell exactly when Chinese written language appeared.
Yan Zhenqing
Yan Zhenqing (709-785), Zi : Qing Chen. Born in Lang Ye Lin Qin (today's Lin Qin county in Shan Dong province), he was the Tai Shou (chief officer in charge of a place) of Ping Yuan Jun. (Jun is equivalent to a state or province.) He noticed An Lushan would rebel.
Calligraphy Masters in Xianqin Dynasty

Calligraphers of Wei And Jin Dynasty

Wang Xizhi
Born in Lin Qin (Lin Qin county in Shan Dong provice) and lived in Hui Ji (Shao Xing of Zhe Jiang province), Wang Xizhi (321-379) was the most famous calligrapher in history. Almost all calligraphers after him more or less learned his calligraphy.
Calligraphy Mastrers in Sui,Tang Dynasty

Calligraphy Masters in South North Dynasty And Sui Dynasty

Calligraphy Masters in Qin,Han Dynasty

Calligraphy Masters in Qing Dynasty

Calligraphy Masters in Ming Dynasty
Famous Chinese calligraphers include Wen Zheng Ming, Dong Qichang, Wang Chong, Song Ke, Zhu Runming, Wang Shizhen, Tang Yin and so on. But none of them are great calligraphers.
Calligraphy Masters in Song Dynasty

Tools & Materials of Chinese Brush Painting
Traditional Chinese painting has its special materials and tools, consisting of brushes of different types, ink and pigments of different textures, xuan paper, silk and various kinds of ink slabs.
Technique Characteristics of Chinese Brush Painting
The technique of traditional Chinese painting is divided into two major styles: meticulous (gongbi) and freehand (xieyi). Meticulous style requires great care and grace; the strict composition has fine elaboration.
Instructions of Chinese Brush Painting
To paint well, you should, first of all, learn how to hold the brush.
History of Chinese Brush Painting
Art of the Far East has long fascinated the Western world. To appreciate the beauty of the art and culture, one should have a basic understanding of Chinese cultural traditions and history.
Form & Content of Chinese Brush Painting
The principal forms of traditional Chinese painting are hanging scroll, album of paintings, fan surface and long horizontal scroll.
Efforts to Develop Woodblock Printing
Woodblock printing techniques have been around for more than a thousand years, but letter paper decorated with woodblock-printed poems or pictures did not come into use until the late Qing Dynasty.
History of Rongbaozhai
Currently one of the most illustrious traditional art galleries in China, Rongbaozhai's birth was far humbler -- and some might even call it secretive.
One morning in 1964, a young man brought a package to Rongbaozhai and said that he wanted to sell it. When the shop assistant opened the package, his jaw dropped. Inside were more than 30 paintings and calligraphic works, many of them state-level cultural relics.
Painting in Han Dynasty (205 BC - 220 AD)
The son of Qin Shi Huang Di, Er Shi Huang Di was unable to hold on to his father's reign. Three years after the death of Qin Shi Huang, peasants revolted and overthrew the central government. A certain peasant, Liu Bang, who served as a minor official, managed to sway the peasants and neighbouring forces against the incumbent rulers.
Painting in Tang Dynasty (220 AD - 589 AD)
After three hundred years of turbulence and warfare, China was briefly reunited in one single state in 589 A.D. The short-lived Sui Dynasty lasted merely thirty years, when revolt broke out and the Sui was overthrown by a new dynasty, the Tang in 618 A.D.
Painting in Southern Song Dynasty (906 AD - 1279 AD)
The Jin state defeated the Song rulers in 1127, the descendants of Hui Zong fled south and established the new capital in Hangzhou.
Painting in Six Dynasties (220 AD - 589 AD)

Painting in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.)
The Ming Dynasty came to an end in 1644 and was replaced by the Manchurians from the north. The Qing, meaning pure, assimilated the Chinese culture and art and would rule over China for nearly three hundred years.
Painting in Shang, Zhou, Warring States and Qin Dynasty
During Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.), complex forms of writings were developed called ideograms, pictograms and phonograms.
Painting in Northern Song Dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD)
With the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the golden age of China was in decline. Once again, China was divided into five states. The Five Dynasties (906-960) produced undistinguished artists. However, the period of unrest laid foundation for the The Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), which reunited China in 906 A.D.
Painting in Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644AD)
Towards the end of the fourteenth century, unrest grew within China against the alien invaders, the Mongols. Coupled with famine, unrelenting droughts, general revolts were brewing in all areas of China.
Painting in The Neolithic Period (5000BC - 1700BC)
Evidence of the beginnings of art form in China could be traced back to the Neolithic period, 5000 years B.C., in the cradle of the Huang River (Yellow River).

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