Chinese Calligraphy: The art of Chinese writing

Chinese calligraphy tools
文房四寶 The 4 treasure of the study

Every language is an art, especially the ancient Traditional Chinese. The art of Chinese calligraphy writing is the most unique. The Chinese calligraphy goes back to as old as the language and Chinese history, dating back 1300BC.

There are 4 elements that are must have for calligraphy. It is call the treasure of a study, in Chinese – 文房四寶 (Wén fáng sì bǎo). These tools are an art form on it own. Here’s a brief introduction to what they are.

  1. 筆 (Bǐ) the pen: The ancient Chinese people makes it using animal hairs. Such as goat, rabbit, dog, wolf, etc. together with bamboo, to make a brush pen. The animal hairs have resilience to stay in round and pointy shape, best for making the brush. As for the shaft of the pen. Bamboo’s quality of been hollow in the center, and it grows perfectly straight, makes it the ideal material.
  2. 墨 (Mò) the ink stick: The Chinese calligraphy ink have the unique characteristics of fine, silky and smooth texture. Alone with a lovely fragrance. The ink stick is made from the powder of the smoke. Extracted by burning cypress tree oil, or the charcoal of oak tree. This powder is then mixed with dry, plant base herbs, that have been pre-prepared in powder form for fragrance. Adding gold foils or pearls for the shine. And the resin of the cypress tree to bind together into a stick.
  3. 紙 (Zhǐ) paper: The most ancient paper made by tree bark discovered by archaeologist dates back to 200BC. This is the most traditional way of making paper. Prior that ancient Chinese people write on animal bones, metal, rock, and most commonly on sheets of bamboo. These bamboo sheets are bind with string into a roll, making the first form of a book. As for the nobles, they write on expensive fabrics, most often silk. The paper making technique was perfected in 60AC in China, allowing the ordinary students to have access to it too.
  4. 硯 (Yàn) ink stone: carved using stone. It is the base for making calligraphy ink. Simply add a bit of water, and grand with the ink stick mentioned above. This method makes the perfect silky smooth ink, but also known as the calming process. This process prepares one person to get into the calm and focused mind and body stage for calligraphy.

Here’s a video that I absolutely love by Liziqi, a youtuber who lives in rural China. She practices ancient technique in her daily life, and records it in camera. Share the piece of tranquility and respect to culture with the noisy modern world. In the video, where she spend over a year making. She demonstrates the ancient technique to hand make these 4 tools used in Chinese Calligraphy. You can follow her here.

Next week we’ll carry on this topic on different types of calligraphy, from writing, to drawing. See you next week for: Chinese Calligraphy: Writing technique and drawing.

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