Principles of Chinese Calligraphy
5.1 - Centralizing the Brush Tip “Zong Fong
Pinyin: Zhong Feng
Pinyin: Zhong Feng
Centralizing the brush tip refers to keeping the brush tip as closely as possible to the center of the brush hairs, thus forming a nearly round shape for the brush hairs. The common English translation for this technique is round strokes ( 中鋒 ). However, this translation may be confusing when we are talking about round (non-angular) strokes ( 圓筆 ) and angular strokes ( 方筆 ). To avoid confusions, I will adopt round strokes ( 中鋒 ) or the Center Tip Principle to refer to the "center-tip strokes" as explained here.
Prof. Tian Explains Centered Tip Theory & Principle
Round strokes are mostly used in Chinese calligraphy while side strokes are mostly used in Chinese brush painting. The combination of round strokes and side strokes are often used in Chinese painting. In Chinese calligraphy we use side strokes very sparingly and focus on the round strokes with combinations of very little side strokes and different percentages of round (non-angular) strokes ( 圓筆 ) and angular strokes ( 方筆 ).
With round strokes, the strokes will be full of strength and vigor. Ancient Chinese calligraphers tended to overstress round strokes (the Center Tip Principle) because it’s the core of all Chinese calligraphy theories as handed down from the Oracle Bone Inscriptions.
publish essays about round strokes but some
this Center Tip
to lack of technical control or self-awareness. The technical deficiency
arises from lack of knowledge or awareness that we should never bend the brush
handle or bristles as much as used in painting or pen writing. If we ever need to bend a little bit, it should be
less than five
(or fifteen) degrees or minimized.
Practicing Clerical Style with Round Strokes
reality, not all Chinese
calligraphers or calligraphy styles adopt
round strokes without combining
little side strokes or other techniques. But only with mastering
strokes will a Chinese
calligraphy practitioner achieve a higher
gain insights. A balanced blend of
round and side strokes and
such as round (non-angular) strokes ( 圓筆
) and angular strokes ( 方筆
) will create
beautiful and lively styles. A work consisting
stroke techniques will look powerful, masculine, strong, stable, solemn
and titanic with less elegance and gentle and
mostly it’s still highly regarded. Yet
a work without enough round
techniques will be
spineless, or even pathetic.
This is a video of incorrect operation of the brush. Notice that at the third horizontal stroke, the Goose Tail, the brush handle is tilted. This can be avoided by straightening the brush hair again on the inkstone before doing this stroke.
) stated how his teacher Zhang
Shui ( 張
) passed to him the secrets of using a
brush. He pointed out that Chinese calligraphy should look like drawing on sand
with awl “Zuei Hwa Sa. ( 錐
)” This is associated with the ideal
achievement called “Gi &
Se ( 疾
and can only be achieved by utilizing the Center Tip Principle. There have been
very few Chinese calligraphers who have reached Yen's or Zhang's levels throughout the entire Chinese history.
highly regarded work of Yen Jen-Ching. The brush tip and the internal force were kept inside of
the strokes all the time.
scholar of the Sung Dynasty wrote that Hsu Shian ( 徐
was good at Zuan Style. When his work was taken under sunshine for a closer
look, they found tiny but darker lines inside each stroke. The darker and
smaller lines inside the strokes are the traces of the brush tip. It’s the
highly condensed mind power and intention of the calligrapher. It’s also the
artist’s soul exemplifying the beauty within. It’s very, very thin and
usually not observable. What is observable is that each stroke and the whole
work are full of life and energy. If the Center Tip (round stroke) techniques
are done properly and deeply with the
focused mind, the
entire calligraphy work will look deep when looked nearby and will also look flowing out as
a multi-dimensional exhibition when viewed far away.
The Center Tip Principle requires keeping the brush handle and brush hairs (including the tip) as straight and vertical as possible. It’s different from painting, Western calligraphy, and pen writing. According to this principle, we should never bend the brush and the bristles too much. When it's necessary to change directions and angles of the brush handle and tip, we may rotate the brush handle with fingertips. Bending a brush handle or bristles outward or toward oneself is a very common habbit unnoticed by the practioners who have not read or understood the Center Tip Principle.
By strictly obeying the Center Tip Principle, the sharpness of the brush tip is hiding inside during brush operations rather than going scattered and collapsed. Hsu Shian’s method was also a supportive evidence that most Zuan Shu specialists were inheriting Lee Yang-Bing’s ( 李 陽 冰 ) Center Tip approach.
Answers for Most Typical Questions That I Receive Regarding
the Differences Between Chinese Calligraphy and Calligraphy in Other Cultures
you please explain the stylistic differences between Chinese and other
Asian calligraphy? I see that certain Asian calligraphy is bolder while
Chinese calligraphy has more of a sharp look to it. Is there a cultural
explanation as to why? I also notice that some non-Chinese calligraphers
sometimes hold the brush at a slight 45 degree angle while Chinese ones
hold it straight, is this acceptable with Chinese teachers? Because
usually, Chinese calligraphy teachers will tell me to hold the brush
only straight but non-Chinese teachers are a bit liberal on how the
brush is held. Why is this?
have only studied calligraphy in Chinese language. It would not be
objective for me to answer something I have not learned.
calligraphy in its original spirits is based on the Middle Way (later
pointed out by Confucianism) and harmony. Even the most basic methods
Centered Tip ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1mbw8yHzJA
) and Hidden Tip ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys0AWxiGgYY
) were observed in the earliest findings of Chinese writings.
Tip gives the viewers a sense of refinements and control and Centered
Tip guides the calligraphers with controlled temperaments and makes
strength stay within the strokes and not to be revealed to casual
tend to associate boldness with think and angular strokes or large
sizes, which is neither perfectly correct or wrong. When we look within
appearances, we can also find delicacy, wisdom, craftsmanship,
philosophy, mindset, intention and so on in the substances which usually
give different viewers different feelings. Only when one has practiced
calligraphy art for certain period can s/he figure out and decipher
for aesthetics, rules, beliefs, styles, and methodologies are involved,
one cannot say which one is absolutely better or which rule is absolute.
But you can try with your brush and find out which one is more difficult
– Hidden Tip or Exposed Tip, Centered Tip or Slanted Tip, Angular
Strokes or Round Strokes. Or try copying www.9610.com/qinhan/lisi/index.htm
find out which one requires the calligraphers with more power and
strength, or which one is more easy. Furthermore, you may try different
styles or experiment which way of holding the brush is more difficult to
achieve certain writing or painting: upright way or slanted way? My
personal motto is: practice the hard way and we can do the easier ways
with less efforts. (If you prefer to stay with the easier ways, your
progress will be limited. But that is one’s free choice.)
Also, as for Asian brush painting, if the painter does not realize the idea of Centered Tip then s/he will not realize Slanted Tip and will not possess Chinese or Asian flavors in the painting.
can search the basic terms from
(uploaded by Harvey)
§ 5.2 - All Hairs Coordinating For Strength & the Parable of "My Car Wheels"
we have learned and mastered the above-mentioned operating principles of a
brush, our goal is to make “all hairs coordinated to exhibit the strengths of
strokes in the writing. " The
Chinese phrase 萬毫齊力
literally means "the ten thousands hairs of a brush have coordinated (not
equal) strengh." The goal requires that we utilize every individual hair of a brush to generate
strength and power for each stroke. In reality, we cannot command every hair of
a brush with our awareness or hand muscles. But we can command ALL hairs of a
brush if we treat them as ONE. A
brush may consist of hundreds or thousands of hairs of different lengths in each
layer – the longest being the most inner or central part of the hairs which
are considered to be the brush tip.
When I drive my car, I know the positions of the four wheels. Since I have been driving my own car for a long time, I probably know the distances between the wheels. When I make a turn I won’t hit the sidewalk because I already know the length of my car and the positions of wheels in my mind. When I see an obstacle, I circumvent and my wheels are not running over it. The wheels have become like my legs because when I walk I don’t step on something. So I know my leg and wheel positions pretty well.
each hair of a brush is just like
an extension of my fingers except I have five
fingers on my right hand.
there are hundreds
thousands of hairs in a brush. How can I know each hair’s position as well as I know
of the wheels? If we truly understand and apply the Center Tip Principle, we can
imagine that there are only a few hairs of a brush – the
close to the center. If we never bent the brush and its hairs too
much and we neatly groom them,
we know where the approximate center is. There is no such existence of the
“most central” hair of a brush. But there are a few hairs in the core of the
bristles. So be aware of those clusters
of hairs near
the center and treat them like
the wheels, legs, or fingers, and
keep them straight, the other hairs
surrounding them in outer layers will stick and follow. Once we
control the central cluster
how to utilize every single
hair of a brush to generate
coordinated strength for
Last modified: 03/20/2013