Scripts Styles of Chinese Calligraphy: A Short History of the Script Styles in Chinese Calligraphy


The Influence of Calligraphy Script Styles on Chinese Society and Culture

For millennia, the structure of Chinese culture society has been deeply affected by the strength of the written word. From the emergence of writing in the Shang Dynasty to the emergence of the bureaucratic Confucian hierarchy of the medieval period and even into the Modern period, literacy has been central to ways of formulating political power in China.

As such, it should come as no real surprise that in China there are many different modes of writing. As the historical Chinese state was organized hierarchically, the need arose to discriminate not only between the literate and illiterate, but also between the different types of reader or author. The establishment and maintenance of elite literary culture and artistic production thus created a sphere of intellectual and aesthetic endeavor that was, for hundreds of years, almost entirely inaccessible to the vast majority of people.

How Chinese Calligraphy Script Styles Reflect upon the Intention of Writing

In China, it took a very long time for writing to dispose of regional variations. Indeed, this feat was achieved only through the direct authoritarian decrees of the First Emperor in the Qin Dynasty. Even once a ‘standard’ mode was provided, however, the Chinese were quick to develop alternate scripts. Over time, each script became associated with a certain area of literary production: official documents would look very little like an informal letter to a friend, which in turn would look quite different from a tract regarding Buddhist scripture. Still, even these loose classifications could change over time as different scripts were historicized and redefined based on current aesthetic standards and movements. What never changed is simply that the choice of script should reflect the intention of the writing; that sensitivity to how one writes upon the page is almost as important as sensitivity to what one writes.