A1: The Artists' Stain

“What is the virtuoso’s most indispensable attribute? It’s sincerity. If the artist is not sincere he is nothing more than a showman.” ~ Mark Hambourg

Nowadays not all artists practice and appreciate arts for the sake of art itself or personal spiritual growth. Many people won’t even respect artists without degrees, certificates, awards, titles, or political affiliations. Most arts, especially Chinese calligraphy and painting, have strived to be recognized in the political arena and art market.

During the “Golden Era of Piano” from the 1840s to the early 1930s, Europeans used to say “Pianists (or artists) are great souls.” Today we don’t hear that kind of expression very often. During that time, not all of the great instrumentalists including pianists and violinists had obtained degrees from schools. However, most of them were also great thinkers, philosophers or even inventors. They expressed the purest form of music deeply from the human soul. Their “inner voice or image”, quite in correspondence with Chinese calligraphy, painting, and most valuable arts throughout the world, revealed to us the level of their mind and physical strength at that time.


“The best gold is a little farther down the mine shaft.”


To be a good artist, we have to be mentally strong and secure and not to be allured with fame, recognition, or interests. The mind of the artist should always be a stronghold of free will. We have to communicate with our inner self and learn how to present our uniqueness in each of our individuality. This is easy to state but difficult to apply. Few years ago, my friends and family asked me why I spent a lot of time studying Chinese calligraphy. Why? I answered “no reason.” That answer was my personal expression of attaining a mindset of not worrying about any reason other than my loyal practice of Chinese calligraphy.


“The benevolent in his accomplishment does not surpass others. Accomplished yet not arrogant, accomplished yet not self important, accomplished yet not against others, accomplished yet feels unaccomplished, accomplished and there is no surpassing.” ~ Lao Tzu “Dao De Jing”  

Chinese calligraphy has traditionally been an emblem of the ruling class and its authority. After a century of political revolution in China, what is the fate of this elite art? Some scholars and artists have tried to explore the relationship between politics and the art of writing in China today to explicate the complex relationship between tradition and modernity in Chinese culture. For example, Mao Ze-Dong and other Communist leaders gave calligraphy a revolutionary role, believing that their beloved art reflected the luster of authoritative words and deeds. Calligraphy was joined with new propagandistic mass media to become less a heartfelt and inner art and more a public performance. 

A Chinese calligrapher is an artist rather than a politician while a politician can also be a Chinese calligrapher. If most Chinese calligraphers perform their art to cater the public, what would the fate of our cultures? 


When Anton Rubinstein came to the U.S. for concert tours, the audiences were shocked. A reporter asked him, “Maestro, can you play something for soul? We need some enlightenment...” “I played for mine, but not yours,” he said.

In the next topic, the readers can visualize the drastic deterioration of Chinese calligraphy from the very earliest time to the present time.


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