Analytical Essay on the Art in China: Chinese Calligraphy

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The non-western society I chose to research about its art tradition is China because its art has one of the oldest traditions in the world and it comes in many forms. Chinese Calligraphy is one of the eight most elegant forms of art in China, in the same ranking as “Zheng (harp), chess, paintings, poems, tea, flowers, and liquor”. Calligraphy has been changing since the Chinese language developed because different dynasties use a different official font for Chinese.

China is one of the fastest developing countries in the world and the biggest country in Asia. China legally recognizes 56 ethnic groups, and over 91% of the population belongs to “Han” (Zhang 2007: 2). China is also famous for Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. However, China does not have a mainstream practiced religion because the government is anti-religious. China has its form of medical treatment practice mainly using herbs and pulse reading. Chinese usually adopt tall building designs as their population is booming. Chinese was blamed for sexism in its past, but it has been promoting gender equality. China has a patriarch society where men are in charge of generally higher positions.

Chinese Calligraphy played an important role in Chinese civilization. The styles of fonts and sizes of fonts evolve throughout history, and official fonts changed for different dynasties. Chinese calligraphy is an ancient Chinese writing art. It evolved from ancient scripts like Chia-Ku-Wen to Zhuan-Shu, Li-Shu, to more artistic Tsao-Shu, Hsing-Shu, and Kai-Shu, etc. Chinese calligraphy is a very unique visual art. Chinese characters are an important factor in Chinese calligraphy. Because Chinese calligraphy is produced and developed in Chinese culture, Chinese characters are one of the basic elements of Chinese culture. Relying on Chinese characters, it is the main symbol of Chinese calligraphy that is different from other types of calligraphy.


Chia-Ku-Wen is named for engraving and writing on tortoise shells and animal bones. Chia-Ku-Wen has been around for more than 3,000 years. It is not only the earliest and systematic data to study the origin of Chinese characters, but also an important asset in the study of bone calligraphy (Little 1987: 4). From the words on the Chia-Ku-Wen, they already have the three elements of Chinese calligraphy, pen, knot, and chapter. The characters are strictly structured and strong, and each stroke can have a different width. The strokes change directions sharply, which has an impact on the later use of the writing with a knife (Zeng 1993: xviii). From the perspective of structural fonts, the text has not only changed, but although it is of different sizes, it is more balanced and symmetrical, and it also shows a stable pattern. Therefore, from the perspective of the entire structure, although influenced by the size and shape of the bone, the characters still show the skill of engraving and the artistic features of writing. From the point of view of the writing utensil, Chia-Ku-Wen is engraved on the hard tortoise-shell or animal bone with a knife. Therefore, the straight line is used when engraving, and the curve is also formed by a short straight line. The thickness of the strokes is also uniform; since the starting point and the ending point of the knife are directly lifted, most of the lines show a slightly thicker middle and slightly thinner edges, which are straight and sturdy, and full of three-dimensionality. As far as the word is concerned, the shape of the Chia-Ku-Wen is mostly rectangular or a few squares, and it has the beauty of symmetry or multi-shape (Zeng 1993: xviii). Moreover, the number of words is large, the whole article is arranged compactly, giving people a sense of denseness, and the number of words is small and ethereal. In short, they all present a simple and fascinating taste.

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Zhuan-Shu and Li-Shu

Zhuan-Shu evolves from Chia-Ku-Wen. It appears narrower and longer, however, they are curvier when it comes to the stroke’s change of direction. It is used strictly for official documents or identification in the Qing dynasty (Barnhart 1972: 6). Li-Shu was also promoted in this period, but more for normal use. The philologists believe that while the emperor promoted Zhuan-Shu, Lishu was also promoted and applied. The Lishu is an evolution from the Zhuan. The folds of the script are gradually changed to square folds instead of curvy folds, and the writing speed is faster, because in bamboo slips and simple woods. It is difficult to draw a curve stroke with a lacquer (Zeng 1993: 120).


I chose this font for my art presentation. First, it is the most organized and neat form of Chinese Calligraphy. The overall sense of the script is sorted carefully. Strict equidistance is everywhere in the arrangement of words, between lines and lines, giving a stable and solemn visual effect (Zeng 1993: xviii). This form is most suitable for formal use. The wide and narrow shapes and different lengths of the characters will produce room for the writer to arrange his writing so that the neat scripts will not appear discordant or monotonous (Zeng 1993: 152).


Any font has a simple and easy to write requirement in use, and there is a trend of simple strokes and scribbles after the Han dynasty (Barnhart 1972: 8). This trend is the main reason for the evolution of the text. Whenever there is a period of social change and cultural development, the use of words becomes frequent, individuals tend to save time when they are writing, and the speed of the appearance of variant characters accelerated. In order to make the text more conducive to apply, it was necessary to correct it. This font does not have restrictions, therefore it was loved by those who have a “hip” personality. A lot of famous calligraphers of this font have their style of writing (Little 1987: 5).


This font is a mix between Kai-Shu and Ts’ao Shu. It is written in a more indulgent flow, which is close to Ts’ao Shu; it is written relatively flat and steady, close to the tidiness of Kai-Shu (Little 1987: 5). In the process of writing, the wrist turns more frequently. This kind of pen movement often leaves a thin ink trail between characters if the writer chooses to make it adapt to Ts’ao-Shu more. Hs’ing-Shu is the rushed version of Kai-Shu. The size is the same. That is, each word is presented in a similar size. Generally, the ink is dense on the paper. Despite the space between characters, the space between strokes is often small. However, the process of writing should be fairly quick as you want a youthful and joyful style to the font comparing to Kai-Shu. The speed of writing affects the thickness of each stroke (Zeng 1993: 289).

In conclusion, Calligraphy is an important part of Chinese art. Its expression is attached to the art of Chinese characters, while Chinese characters belong to ideograms, and the combination of strokes is varied. In ancient China, calligraphy had a very high degree of participation. The general intellectuals paid different degrees of hard work to learn calligraphy and produced a large number of calligraphers. The best of them have become the most precious collections of royalty and nobles. In addition, Chinese calligraphy has a rich, complete and consistent theoretical system, which shows that calligraphy is a very mature art in ancient China. Chinese calligraphy is valued by the ancient Chinese authorities and intellectuals. It is one of the basic qualities of Chinese ancient intellectuals to have a certain level of calligraphy (Ming 2010).

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