Landing East teamed up with calligrapher Zhang Zhongxin for an introduction to Chinese calligraphy along with a nice long practice session of this ancient art on Saturday, May 6th, 2017. After everyone grabbed some soft drinks and nibbles and found their seats, Mr. Zhang gave a (very brief) overview of the history of calligraphy in China, along with glimpses of some famous calligraphies done in different styles. Participants got to discover how characters changed over time – from a picture to a very stylized version of the thing they depict. I am sure no one who was there will ever forget the pictogram for 牛 – cow – now that we all know that it actually represents a cow’s tush!
The teacher then introduced the manifold benefits of regularly practicing calligraphy: it is in fact good for the mind (it serves as a means for meditation and relaxation), the body (manipulating the brush helps improve fine motor skills) and the soul (as a creative outlet, it brings you joy). His students for the day listened attentively, especially when he explained his tools of the trade…
…and gave a demonstration of how he uses an ink stick rubbed on a drop of water to make nice-smelling ink.
Before the class could get started, all students needed to dampen their brand-new brushes, softening them up for the labor ahead.
This and a trial on how to correctly hold the brush made everyone ready for the next step: calligraphy!
The practice part of the afternoon kicked off with Mr. Zhang writing the character 永 (meaning eternity). 永 is a very good place to start practicing calligraphy, as all the strokes used in Chinese writing are present in that one character.
After Mr. Zhang put a beautifully written 永 onto everyone’s practice sheet to copy, the students got to work.
Being able to observe the master at work helped making sure all strokes were executed in the correct order – an important part of Chinese writing!
Not an easy task…
…but everyone persevered and soon, practice sheets began to fill…
…more and more.
Mr. Zhang’s helping hand demonstrating how to increase and decrease pressure on the brush was very much appreciated.
So much so, that some students even taped the process, to watch and replicate it later at home.
After practicing 永 with all its essential calligraphy strokes for a while, our calligraphy master showed the class different versions of another important character in Chinese culture: 福. This character with the meaning prosperity is omnipresent at all Chinese celebrations and counts among the most recognized characters outside of China. Mr. Zhang executed it in different styles for his students – in Oracle Cone Script, in Clerical Script, in Regular Script, Semi-Cursive and in the flowing Cursive Style.
The class then voted for which style they wanted to learn and practice. Daunted by the prospect of having to attempt one of the more advanced styles such as cursive, the majority voted for the more regular clerical script version.
So everyone got to work, again filling up their practice sheets:
I think they did a marvelous job!
Once wrists started aching from the unfamiliar hand movements, the students started packing up. But not before all got to show off the afternoon’s labor:
So much prosperity to spread around!
The Landing East Team sincerely hopes that all had as great a time trying their hand at calligraphy as we had watching you practice and also that many of the participants will make this a regular activity!
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by Julie Marx