My new course begins on May 3 so it’s time I prepare for Session One. The students were given a list of material to bring but I must gather my own for demonstration purposes. I have my right arm in a sleeve for lymphedema caused by an invasive and unnecessary surgery and a fracture on my left wrist, so it will be a challenge to carry too much to MOSAIC, a multicultural centre in Chatswood, 8 km or 30 minutes away by bus.
In the past I carry a huge load each time I go to class but now I make a list of the minimum amount of material I must bring: a brush, paper, ink and a felt mat to put under them. I will borrow a water container, paper towels and a saucer as ink dish from the kitchen. Course notes for the first session. Two books. That would have to be it.
MOSAIC allows me six sheets of ‘hand-outs’ for each student each week so I must select carefully the material that would help them in their practice as well as understand this art of beautiful writing . Today I printed out the six sheets I selected for session 1.
1. A brief biography of Ouyang Xun, the Tang Dynasty poet whose work we will study.
2. A sample from his work ‘Jiu Cheng Gong‘
3. An example of the variations possible in writing a Chinese character in calligraphy
4. A list of words including those in the project in order of strokes being learnt
5. A Tang Dynasty poem with translation and word for word meaning
6. An enlargement of the first six words of the poem for copying and study.
Chinese writing/calligraphy has such a long history that it is difficult to cover even an introduction of the subject in 8 sessions of 90 minutes each, including setting up and cleaning up. Students must be prepared to practice each week to make progress.
The focus of the first lessons is on the use and care of equipment. Chinese calligraphy brushes, ink and paper are like no other. Substitutes may be acceptable but none would provide the desirable result. To me, this is an essential investment if one is to practice Chinese calligraphy as an art form. However, I’m sure many people have seen it done on sidewalks with water and broom so it is not impossible if one insists. Somehow I do not see myself moving the class outdoors to the streets of Chatswood. Since I travel by bus, a bucket and broom may be difficult to negotiate.
Students will practice using the brush in class and attempt the long horizontal stroke as their homework. I have selected a poem as a long term project for the class, achievable in two terms. For those students who will leave after one term, I will suggest shorter projects.
Typical Studio of a Chinese Calligrapher
I have no idea why the paragraphs are being jammed together without the correct spacing.