Political Influence of Chinese Calligraphy – Communism and Modernism: Challenges to the Elite Aesthetic in Calligraphy and the Chinese Arts


How Revolution Redefined Chinese Writing and Calligraphy

With the fall of the Qing dynasty, and the emergence of Communism in China, the writing system of China fell under intense scrutiny. Lu Xun (魯迅/Lu Hsün), an influential author, intellectual and revolutionary advocate, placed writing, and calligraphy specifically, at the center of his criticism of an ailing and increasingly exploitative Chinese social structure. Lu was not remiss in his charge that writing was a tool that limited access to social discourse. The phenomenal difficulty of learning to write characters had long allowed the literate class to subjugate the illiterate masses in ways that the victims were totally unable to understand or challenge. In addition, the artistic tradition of calligraphy only aggravated this situation: Cursive script is often illegible even to the highly educated.

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Cultural Sources of Chinese Calligraphy – The Connection of Chinese Calligraphy and Brush Painting


Calligraphy and Painting – The Sister Arts of the Chinese Literati

In China, traditional painting and calligraphy may be taken together as the defining visual arts of the historical elites. These two art forms, sharing the very same materials, have for centuries defined the aesthetic sensibilities of the lettered classes. In the West, we often think of words and images to be entirely different modes of communication. In China, this stark separation has not been created. Here, we’ll attempt to decipher some of the ways in which Calligraphy and Painting influenced each other in the Chinese tradition so that we can understand each discipline a little more fully.

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Religion and Philosophy in Chinese Calligraphy – Buddhism and Chinese Calligraphy: Mad Monks


Chinese Buddhism: The Chan Tradition

Since its first arrival in China in the Han, Buddhism has put down deep roots in Chinese society. Although Buddhism did not originate in China, to say that it is a ‘foreign’ religion is to disregard the majority of Chinese history, in which Buddhism played a major role. Moreover, the Buddhism that evolved in China is different from any other iteration of the religion, and must be considered in its cultural and societal context, according to its own characteristics.  In general, Chinese Buddhism has emphasized meditation and monasticism above scripture and doctrine: the pursuit of enlightenment is achieved through casting aside the ‘illusions’ of text and even the physical sensations of the world.

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Cultural Sources of Chinese Calligraphy – The Interaction of Chinese Calligraphy and Poetry


The Role of Chinese Calligraphy as a Literary Art in Poetry

While most of the articles on this website focus on calligraphy as a visual art, it is also a literary art. The words chosen for a calligraphic work are just as important as the excellence of their realization. While short propitious phrases, tracts from philosophical or religious texts, essays, and even personal letters have all been cites of calligraphic work, poetry  is perhaps the most common focus of calligraphy.

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Religion and Philosophy in Chinese Calligraphy – The Impact of Neo-Confucianism on Calligraphy: Cultural Identity and Emulation


Neo-Confucianism – Updating the Classics, New Perspectives

By the Song Dynasty, the Confucian classics were almost a millennia old. As a result, especially when it came to enacting filial rituals, the standards of proper conduct were exceedingly difficult to follow adequately. Technologies, social customs and the cultural context in general that the Confucians were engaging with in their pursuit of moral refinement had all changed to such an extent that certain parts of the Confucian canon were either impossible to follow or had slipped into the obscurity of archaism.

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