When it comes to starting your calligraphy practice, you will likely find it helpful to purchase one or two books for easy reference. The instructive guides discussed here should all help you get off to a good start, and many of them provide you with tools for copying your first characters. Kwo Da-Wei’s 1981 book entitled “Chinese Brushwork in Calligraphy and Painting” may appear somewhat dated in its format, but it is nevertheless an excellent addition to any calligrapher’s library. Kwo is a fine calligrapher and accomplished painter in his own right, and he carefully explains the methods of writing and painting. Moreover, his historical and aesthetic analysis is very thorough and engaging. For anyone interested in the Chinese art tradition, this book is an excellent purchase: despite its age it is still in print, and with good reason.
Confucius (孔子/Kong Zi/K’ung Tzu): Forming a Chinese Social Identity
Throughout the world, perhaps no single Chinese historical personage is as recognized as Confucius is. Indeed, the writings of Kong Zi (the correct transliteration of his name) are comparable in their effect on the Chinese, and Asian, world view as are the Classical philosophies of Plato and Aristotle are in the West.
What is China?: Foreign Rule and the Sinicization Paradigm
At various times throughout history, China has been conquered and subsequently rules by groups not usually considered ‘Chinese’. In the Yuan and Qing dynasties, for instance, China was governed by the Mongols and Manchu people respectively. Even at the time of Song dynasty, a time of great progress and advancement in Chinese history, the north of present-day China was ruled by the Jurchen who proclaimed their Liao Dynasty to be a direct descendant of the Tang dynasty. Nevertheless, each of these ‘foreign’ regimes in some way took up the mantle of dynastic rule, conforming to and propagating a very specific set of politico-social standards. That is, each of them eventually considered themselves, or at least claimed, to be governing according to standards of rule deeply rooted in the Chinese culture since at least the Warring States period. What, then, is China if it is not simply a region or an ethnicity? When we speak of Chinese culture, what is the status of these periods that, despite being ruled by non-ethnic Chinese, nevertheless took part in continuing the Chinese cultural outlook.
Rubbings of Chinese Calligraphy: Transmission and Preservation
Ever since Calligraphy has been a celebrated art form, ink rubbing has contributed to the tradition by providing a means of transmitting and preserving works far beyond the likely lifespan of an ink and paper work. Although paper and ink became the standard media for calligraphy, the origins of Chinese writing in inscriptions was never forgotten. Even after writing styles began to emphasize the fluidity and movement that ink could provide, works were inscribed on stone so that they would not fall prey to the vagaries of time. More than this, inscribed works could be reproduced quite easily in the form of rubbings.
Alongside Confucianism, Taoism forms the fundamental basis for much of Chinese Culture. Its origins lie in the philosophical works of Lao Zi, (老子/Lao Tse), in particular the Dao De Jing (道德經/Tao Te Ching), or Classic of the Virtuous Way. The name of the tradition itself comes from the central idea of ‘dao’, or ‘the way’.