UT Dallas 2017 Confucius Institute Chinese Calligraphy Competition 

Demonstration by the Judges from the Dallas Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Association

including Dallas Chinese Calligrapher Joshua Hough

孔子學院書法比賽 裁判揮毫

September 30 , 2017 (2-4:20PM)



Selecting Winners

Award Ceremony

Calligraphy Demonstration


Menu 1: Judges Selecting Winners

On September 21, five judges spent one hour to select the winners out of 270 pieces received. 

This year the "community group" with native-Chinese and non-Chinese divisions was added.


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Menu 2: Awarding Ceremony




Joshua's Emphasis on Using a Paperweight:



Importance of Using a Chinese Calligraphy Paperweight 書法鎮紙的重要性 視頻

鎮紙的諸多妙用與執筆法的搭配, 只能口傳心授, 只示有緣人


As the chief judge, I was invited to the stage to present awards to the winners of the college group. A few of them did not show up - college students are busy for exams. I had a short speech about "the Fifth Treasure of a Study" - the paperweight. A paperweight is as important as a good brush and steady hands and fingers. Sadly, it is the most frequently neglected and forgotten tool for practicing Chinese calligraphy today. After my short words, Sharon and many others agreed with what I said. There are actually many finger, hand, and arm techniques that a person can develop his/her Chinese calligraphy techniques based on the usage of a paperweight. For those who do not want to use a paperweight, such techniques do not exist for them.

After the demonstration, Sharon also agreed that the basic tools I have brought today are completely necessary for writing beautiful Chinese calligraphy. Among those five judges, I am the only one who always insists on grinding ink on the inkstone, though I may mix with some bottled ink. Others simply use bottled ink. To me, bottled ink is not ready to use.

The award ceremony ended exactly on 4 PM. The judges were invited to the stage to demonstrate calligraphy. Most people did not know the demonstration or they had other places to go. To my surprise, an old friend came to the stage to say hello and tell me that her son Daniel was a winner. I first met Baya Kakouberi in 2006 where she played Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3 at the Elite Art Center where I started teaching calligraphy in 2005. Right after the concert, I told Baya that I had listened to virtually all pianists of the Golden Era of Piano by 1997 if those recordings were commercially available at that time. I told her that her piano playing is better than the majority of those pianists and I called her "the most beautiful pianist from Russia." Daniel was about 3 or 5 years old in 2006. His father said I have very good memory!

My pictures with Baya 2006-2008 to be added

Then I started to attend Baya's Blue Candlelight Music Series (www.bluecandlelight.org/) till I got busy with my own public demonstrations in late 2008. Surely I would go back and become her student. I told Baya that she is indeed worthy to be known worldwide. She was a student of Vladimir Krainev, a student of Heinrich Neuhaus' son. Unlike many commercialized concert pianists today, they all have the spiritual and academic heritage of the piano playing of the Russian school. Baya ranks as high as the pupils of Franz Liszt. I told Baya today that even without her permission I will call her "the female Franz Liszt" or the "female Anton Rubinstein." Ten years ago, I told Baya that piano is half of my soul among the arts I have learned (calligraphy is merely a minor part of less than 15%.) However, I did not tell her that there will be a pianist called "the Anton Rubinstein reconstructed."



Gary Levinson and Baya Kakouberi reading

"Baya does not play the piano. She simply breathes out the most natural beauty so easily on the keyboard."


My hands on the keyboard are relatively small. I spent more time on the piano than calligraphy. I have to measure with geometry, kinesiology, and even metaphysics to reach certian chords. Leopold Godowsky and Josef Hofmann also had smaller hands, yet they are forever admired in the history of piano. Baya exceeds them in certain aspects of techniques. Due to my hand size limitations, I pay more attention to gaps, curves, distances, forces, and tiny details on the keyboard which in turn benefit my Chinese calligraphy and painting brush techniques combined with the usage of paperweights and make my writing and painting skills look more effortlessly than others. I have practiced on microscopic levels.

Baya is a beautiful and humble person. She pays less attention to promote her piano performances and so is not frequently seen on YouTube. One of her concerto videos was removed from YouTube due to unknown reasons. That one is definitely better than the Artur Rubinstein version!

Only a few percentage of Chinese population here has had chances to listen to Baya's playing. I would tell my Chinese friends that if Lang Lang and Yundi Li had heard Baya playing they should have "washed their hands in the golden basin!" 

The conversation with Baya was why I started late to lay out my four treasures on the table. Jinki and Chan had already wrote two pieces each as I was just starting to write the first character. 



The first prize winner May Mingxia Qin. We met during the Qipao contest last month as she saw me write the winner's names.


May Qin with my calligraphy scroll: Truth, goodness, and beauty.

書法卷軸: 真善美



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Menu 3: Calligraphy Demonstration by the Judges & Others

The other two judges and I had been to Sony's promotion of Jackie Chan's movie Karate Kid in 2010.


Mr. Chan and/or Jinki Yan should have become the president of Dallas Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Association in our annual meeting on January 31, 2015. Jinki shunned away by not showing up; Chan strongly refused. Our previous president Ms. Shieh was facing internal conflict problems which were causing our Association to be on the verge of dissolution. Facing the dilemmas, they voted me as the new president which was never my cup of tea! If I refused as strongly as Chan did, our Association founded in 1997 could be dissolved right away in that meeting. Working as a public accountant and managing all my personal CalligraPainting activities had made me busy enough...Considering the outcomes of dissolution I did not oppose the position as strongly as Chan did... I have been wanting to open my own CPA firm... this really has pushed all of my agendas to be delayed... I did not touch a piano for about one year and eight months. At that critical moment, I believed that Heaven ("God") "had closed a window but would open another wider door in the near future!" (This is traditional thoughts and philosophy.) 

A week after I became the president of the Association, I met Dr. Qianyuan Zhang who was then the director of Confucius Institute. He is also a Chinese CalligraPainter and is the first Chinese painter to paint portaits for three U.S. Presidents! You can Google his pictures with the Bush families and President Jimmy Carter. He kindly accepted my invitation to demonstrate in my first event for the Association. It was a huge success! We became good friends and had cooperated for several CalligraPainting events until he returned to Nanjing in 2016. Yes, God had prepared another new path! 

Our Association has recruited more new members than ever and become more well known in the north Texas Chinese community. Various activities have taken my personal time away. From the last YouTube video I uploaded on October 1, 2015 to today, exactly two years had passed before I had time to compile and upload a new video.

Dr. Zhang organized a calligraphy competition two years ago. There were about 500 people in the building - the Chinese music performances were the highlight of the day! (Alexander Clark Center of UTD is now remodeling.)

Dr. Qianyuan Zhang is now an art professor in the Central University of Nanjing. He wishes to return to the U.S. and get married here and open his art gallery to sell his paintings as a full-time artist. In a joint seminar, he liked my American student Julie but she is married. Dr. Zhang is still looking for his soulmate. 





I only wrote two pieces today - eight characters.


I brought two scrolls I wrote weeks ago, wrote two pieces on white Xuan paper after the ceremony, and then announced I was not writing any more today. I borrowed the phrase 金盆洗手 (wash one's hands in a golden basin) to announce that I am not writing any more today but would like others to write using the table, and they laughed. So the winners of the community group, May Qin and David Zhang, started to write.

The phrase 金盆洗手 originally means that a master in the martial arts society of China announced that he quit fighting others and will live a peaceful life without participating in any martial arts combat again. He could still practice and teach students, but would be determined to be refrained from all challenges. In China, a Kung Fu master actually announced that in a formal ceremony by washing his hands inside the golden basin. Usually he would invite other martial artists (including friends, enemies, or friends of friends) as witnesses so he could keep his promise not to fight again after he "cleansed" his hands in the "golden basin." Once his enemies knew he had washed his hands, they usually would not come back to revenge. In many TV episodes and films, enemies came back to revenge just before the man started to wet his hands in the "golden basin washing hands" ceremony.




Joshua's Calligraphy for Confucius Institute:

萬世師表 = Model teacher of every age. 

儒家治學 = Be scholars with Confucianism.



孔子學院書法比賽裁判揮毫視頻: 萬世師表 儒家治學

Assistant director of UTD Confucius Institute, Sharon Xiaohong Yang, wanted to retain my calligraphy to be displayed in their office. 

Sharon looked puzzled as my hands postures suggested "being smoothed" for the paper. She wanted to frame those two pieces. I told her I had to take them back to my studio and make them perfectly smooth and flat before she can order two frames. In Chinese culture, we do not frame a wrinkled, folded, or unsmooth piece of Chinese CalligraPainting. Professionals regard framing a wrinkled, folded, or unsmooth piece of Chinese calligraphy or painting as unprofessional and even impolite. 





Demo by First Prize Winner, May Qin

孔子學院書法比賽 May Qin 揮毫 視頻




Joshua's Journal:

As the demonstration was ending, a Mandarin teacher Shelley at the Confucius Institute came to compliment the calligraphy. She said it is the best calligraphy she has seen in her life, even better than in China. When her husband arrives, they want to visit me for guidance. I told her there are mountains higher than the highest mountain you can see now.

Ms. Wu was deeply impressed by what I said on September 21 when we were selecting winners. One of the contestants in the kids group put a calligraphy model sheet underneath his paper and start tracing the calligraphy specimen on top of his own paper. His structures and strokes of each character looked great and even perfect, but his signature and dating revealed that he could not write up to that specimen's level. He cheated. He simply does not know this is cheating! Tracing others' Chinese calligraphy and painting specimens is a ligitimate way to practice, but you cannot tell others that you write or paint it. Any traced calligraphy or retouched strokes cannot be admitted in Chinese calligraphy competitions no matter where you are in China or the U.S., a native Chinese or non-Chinese, beginners or experienced learners. Chinese calligraphy is regarded as the Image of Heart by Chinese philosophers, scholars, and artists. Except for self practice or duplicating purposes, if it is traced from others' calligraphy or if your strokes are retouched by repetitions to make them look great, it is NOT from the heart - and it is painting, but NOT Chinese calligraphy! If everybody starts to use retouched strokes, even kids and laymen can make (paint) beautiful Chinese calligraphy strokes, but those are not true skills and they are not from the heart. 

As a chief judge, also the second youngest one, I mentioned a few times that this kid cannot be granted the first prize in his group, not even the second or third place. He should be kicked out or receive a kind notice. However, two judges wanted to grant him the first prize or the second. I did not want to argue with older people. Their points were based on that the other kids in that age group were not well trained in calligraphy - though he violated the rule, he did not intend it. This was why Shelley was overwhelmed by what I said though I did not use strong languages. As a Mandarin teacher and calligraphy lover, she knows Chinese calligraphy equals the image of one's mind and must be written, but not painted or traced.

The appearance of Baya and the Steinway piano in the Jonsson Performance Hall remind me of the concert hall days "The man who lived in the concert hall" and Natalie Portman's movie Where the Heart Is and her Wal-Mart baby.

Tonight there was a Mid-Autumn celebration party at Huayi Chinese School in Plano coordinated by Renee Zhang. I went there to watch their shows and relaxed. She called days ago. I knew she wanted to come. I told her I could not participate as a volunteer since it is sensitive with PRC's national birthday on October 1. I can visit as an audience but not as a volunteer. Renee's grandparents were members of the royal family as belonged to my teacher's teacher, Pu Xinyu (a.k.a. Pu Ru.) Pu Ru (sometimes spelled as Pu Ju) almost became the last emperor of China twice. Due to complex political and family background, he lost those chances. According to my teacher, Pu Ru was often daydreaming in the middle of the day... That's why I have been helping Renee for her events. Many people did not know our connection through the royal family and think I am supporting PRC instead of my native country ROC. Some of them already know I am supporting the royal family, not the other two.




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Percentage of progress: Photos = 95% (Need to duplicate the eight character if I can do better.)

Videos = 100% as updated on 10/05/2017

All selected videos and pictures have been uploaded on 2017.10.3.