Theories of Chinese Calligraphy
the Tang Dynasty, calligrapher Lee
Bei-Hai ( 李北海
) had a famous saying,
“If you learn my style, your art dies. If your style resembles mine, yours
looks vulgar.” Like most arts, Chinese calligraphy also emphasizes on creating
a unique personal style that doesn’t resemble or copy other's styles. Since
the Chinese calligraphy critics are very strict, there were only few
calligraphers recognized nationally in each dynasty. Only few calligraphers throughout the
entire history of China were highly regarded and remembered.
Lin Mo process is the best source in
creating a new Chinese calligraphy
style. All of the treasures from previous masterpieces can give us clues,
resources, references, hints, historical changes, enlightenments, metaphysics,
and inspirations to create new styles. All ancient Chinese calligraphy masters
went through very long Lin Mo processes and were quiet for a while before they
became known. Then they gained ability and insight to create their own styles
and were remembered. The longer we stay in the Lin Mo process the better our
styles will be in the future. There is absolutely no hurry in Chinese
every new style inventor inherited previous methodologies or masters, gained
inspiration and modified and enhanced their personal characteristics to invent a
new style. Below are some examples of calligraphers that had inherited previous
tablets or masterpieces and created their own styles. The examples show briefly
their possible resources and evidence of their creation processes.
Jing Nung (1687-1763) 金農
Yi Bin-So (1754-1815) 伊秉綬
Zhao Chih-Chian (1829-1884) 趙之謙
Sources from Wei Bei
New Styles in Kai & Zuan Shu with Wei Bei characteristics
Zhao borrowed the Tse Fong technique and slanted postures from Wei Bei to create a new look in his styles. However, he did not inherit the masculine strength and greatness of Wei Bei so his styles were criticized as being a little feminine.
Pu Hsin-Yu (1895-1963) 溥儒
Source from Kai Shu in Tang Dynasty
New Style in Hsin Shu
Most Chinese calligraphy teachers (including mine) used to tell the students it’s almost impossible to invent a new Chinese calligraphy style because almost all possibilities had been exhausted throughout the Chinese history. They mean a new style to be recognized and highly regarded. I agreed many years ago.
studying other arts, I realize there are endless possibilities and combinations
in the man-made concept of
“perfection.” Perfection as set by Zhong Yao, Wang Hsi-Chih and their
predecessors are not absolute. Perfection is just a phenomenon of human
perception. It relies on our basic five senses. If we can raise our well-being
to a higher level than we have now, more possibilities will be attainable.
hundreds of years after Wang Hsi-Chih passed away, people regarded him as the
“King of Calligraphy
The human beings have great abilities for invention. Say 100 years ago, who would have imagined making movies with computers and special effects? In Chinese martial arts or ordinary human concept, an offense or defense would use the shortest distance – a direct attack in a straight line. During the 19th century, Eight Trigram Palms ( 八卦掌 ) was introduced in China and avoided the linear attack norm that had dominated the martial arts field for thousands of years. All they did was to change from linear to circular motions and adopted philosophy from the Book of Changes.
Chinese proverb says, “Make a change if we are getting poor. If we change we
will find a new way.” I believe ancient calligraphy teachers definitely said
the same thing as my teacher did. And they keep repeating the statement over and
over. Only after we have learned enough will we gain enough experiences,
insights, and inspirations to create new styles of Chinese calligraphy.
Chinese calligraphy creation requires a high standard of refining one’s
personality and skill level intrapersonally (internally) and enriching life experiences
with care for humanity interpersonally (externally.) And often this is the most difficult part in creating a new style.
Theories Menu Home