Cultural Considerations of Chinese Calligraphy Using Characters as Visual Language

Cultural Considerations of Chinese Calligraphy Using Characters as Visual Language

Jingying Zhen (University of Northern Colorado, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5753-2.ch008
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Abstract

Chinese writing language originated from hieroglyphics. Chinese characters, changing with the development of writing instruments, became pure written symbols. The emergence of calligraphy, one of the highest quality art forms in China, caused the evolution of Chinese characters. Each style in calligraphy reflects the calligraphists' personality, emotion, and the intrinsic motivation behind a message in the script. The author created the characters based on her own style by studying the characteristics of calligraphy and personifying calligraphy as human. The charm of calligraphy was shown by expressing changes in ink thickness and opacity. The author intended to help people who cannot read Chinese to understand emotions expressed within the characters, and combine illustration, calligraphy, and painting characterized by fast-moving ink marks drawn with a writing brush, then imported into computer software for detailed drawing. The purpose of this document is to use case studies to seek optimal art form in illustration.
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The History Of Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy, 书法shū fǎ in Chinese, has been considered the quintessence of Chinese culture because it is an art that encompasses Chinese language, history, philosophy, and aesthetics (Li, 2009). For Chinese writing, Xu Shen (1981) in The Narration of Analytical Dictionary of Characters explained for the first time the six categories of characters: ‘pictographs,’ ‘associative compounds,’ ‘indicative component characters,’ ‘picto-phonetic compounds,’ ‘shared component characters,’ and ‘phonetic loan characters,’ which showed six different methods of character composition (Zhang & Hu, 2014). Pictographs, as the main method of composing Chinese characters can be divided into two kinds (Frank, 1906, p. 8):

  • 1.

    Those based on the form of object as 978-1-7998-5753-2.ch008.g01 (now 丁), picturing the head or side-view of a “nail”

  • 2.

    those suggested by some real or imaginary characteristic of the object, as 978-1-7998-5753-2.ch008.g02 (now “father,” composed of a vertical line attached to 978-1-7998-5753-2.ch008.g03 (“right hand”) and signifying a “rod in the hand” as a sign of authority, hence “father” who was the absolute ruler of the household or clan.

This way of Chinese writing has been used for a long time until the appearance of the brush. The modern style of Chinese calligraphy had its beginning in the reign of the founder of the Qin dynasty (240 B.C.), when the hair-brush replaced the metal stylus (see figure 1) for engraving hard surfaces. This wrought an important change in the shape of the symbols (Frank, 1906, p. 4).

Figure 1.

Evolution of chinese brush

978-1-7998-5753-2.ch008.f01
2019, Jingying Zhen)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Shang Dynasty: 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C., it was the second dynasty in Chinese history and the first dynasty in China to have a direct written record period.

Bronze Age: A period of human culture characterized by using the bronze tools. Europe began around 3500 BC, and earlier in West Asia and Egypt.

Qin Dynasty: 240 B.C. to 207B.C. Qin Dynasty in Chinese history is the first united centralized feudal state. And established the first centralized, unified, multi-national state in Chinese history.

Northern Song Dynasty: 960 to 1127. One of the most prosperous economic and cultural era in ancient Chinese history. Confucianism has been revitalized, technological development has advanced by leaps and bounds, and politics has become more liberal, economic and cultural has become more flourishing.

Calligraphy: Calligraphy is the art of producing beautiful handwriting using a brush or a special pen.

Hieroglyphics: Hieroglyphics are symbols in the form of pictures which are used in some writing systems.

Chinese Brush: A writing brush made by animal hair. It is a traditional writing tool that originated in China and has gradually become a traditional painting tool.

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