Those who practice Chinese Calligraphy have a choice of scripts just as calligraphers of other languages do. China’s ancient civilisation, vast regions and huge population offer the budding calligrapher a range of scripts that would fall into the hundreds, if not thousands. The teacher of beginners must narrow the choice; in fact, eliminate it and focus her lessons on one script.
I have chosen to use the regular script of a Tang dynasty calligrapher, Ouyang Xun whose work has never been surpassed and is revered to this day. His work is elegant, disciplined and ‘regular’ in the best sense of the world. I believe that studying the Ou Style would help the students see the discipline and beauty of Chinese calligraphy.
Often students are distracted by the lure of the Running scripts and Cursive scripts. Attempting these before learning the basic strokes of the regular scripts is not impossible but to achieve a good result would be improbable, since these scripts are a more fluid expression of the regular compositions. Even an elephant can fling a brush around to achieve pleasing patterns but we are not animals. Fundamentally calligraphy is writing.
Whilst one can learn by copying, it is essential that one has a thorough understanding of the use of equipment and the practice of the basic skills.
This term is an extension to an eight weeks introductory course that I offered at the end of last year. Though I am glad that the students had pushed ahead with the project and achieved creditable results, I can see that the effort was made at the expense of perfecting their basic strokes. This I do not regret as they have the rest of their lives to do so and sometimes, it may take that long.
Below are samples of students’ work after twelve sessions of tuition.
Yes, Chinese Calligraphy is a discipline that one may practice his/her whole life long. Much like gardening. It’s something one cultivates, nourishes and learns to appreciate. We get better at it, in time, but new challenges will continue to present themselves. Like life itself.
I have agreed to offer a new introductory course for beginners next term. Some of the existing students have indicated that they would like to re-enrol. I believe that it is due to their experience with the poetry project that they have gained an appreciation of the importance of mastering the basics. And back to basics we will go.