Calligraphy is the art of writing and Chinese calligraphy is the art of brush character calligraphy. Every civilization’s writing system aims to achieve beauty. The writing of the Chinese character, while addressing daily writing needs, also creates various valued works of art, hence elevating itself to an advanced art, vivid and abstract all at once. In this pictographic writing system, where “painting and calligraphy stem from the same roots”, the use of the unique Wen Fang Si Bao conveys contrasting moods of fast and slow, light and heavy, thick and thin, winding and circular, amounting to unpredictable changes.
Wen Fang Si Bao(the study’s four treasure) is the writing instruments for the Chinese character are made up principally of the brush, ink, paper and ink stone, which are a vital factor to the manifestation of the Chinese character in the art of calligraphy.
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Chinese calligraphy uses the Chinese writing brush made of hair. A brush can be of goat hair, wolf hair, rabbit hair, assorted hairs and so forth. The Hu Bi brush of Hubei Province and the Xuan Bi brush of Anhui Province’s Xuancheng and Jingxian are the most renowned. Ink sticks are usually made from pine soot. Nowadays prepared Chinese ink is more prevalent. The paper of Chinese calligraphy mainly uses Xuan paper or rice paper also known as Huixuan, produced primarily in Anhui Province’s Xuancheng and Jingxian area.Xuan paper’s texture is pure, fine and soft, highly water absorbent, stretchy, age resistant and moth resistant. The ink writes even, clean lines, styled with varying thickness and shades, allowing for a clear arrangement to achieve the desiredartistict effect. The top four ink stones are the Duanyan of Guangdong Province, the Sheyan of Jiangxi Province, the Taoyan of Gansu Province and the Chengniyan of Shanxi Province. There are also ceramic, porcelain and bronze ink stone. There are ink stones that have been exquisitely chiseled and polished, becoming artistic creations in their own right.
Once the brush, ink, paper and ink stone are in the hand, one must learn how to handle the brush before being able to start practicing Chinese calligraphy. “Firm fingers, loose palm” has been the calligrapher’s mantra since antiquity.
(Edited by Lydia Gunawan)