The first thing to note about writing Calligraphy is that a Brush is not to be held like a pen. Unlike Western alphabetic writing, Chinese writing requires equally fluid movement in all directions, not just across the page. As such, the Brush should be held perfectly vertical to the page, using all fingers and a relaxed wrist.
It is very easy for the novice Calligrapher, especially if they are unfamiliar with Chinese Characters, to be daunted by the complexity of Characters. It is heartening to learn, however, that Chinese Characters all rely on a very limited set of strokes, or brush movements. In fact, there are only eight basic strokes from which the astounding variety of Characters is made up. Focusing on these strokes will give the beginner a good basic understanding of the building blocks of all characters. Once you are familiar with them, and with Stroke Order, you should be able to figure out how to correctly and beautifully write just about any character you can find.
What is the Right Body Movement in Chinese Calligraphy?
Chinese Calligraphy is not unlike other expressive art forms. Emphasizing as it does the movement of the Brush just as much as meaning of the Characters, the best Calligraphy embodies and exposes the natural movement of the body. Thus, just like other natural movements, contrary body movement can ensure the balanced, confident movement of your hand and by extension, the Brush. All of us make use of this principle every day without even thinking about it. Have you ever noticed that when we walk we naturally swing our arms contrary to the position of our legs? Each step forward is matched by a forward swing of the opposing arm. This is central to how we maintain easy balance while walking. Likewise, when focusing on our Calligraphy, we can use contrary body movement to keep our movements smooth and balanced. Remember: your writing hand is not a discrete entity. It is connected to your arm, shoulder and core. When you write, try to anticipate and lead your arm and hand starting at the shoulder. This will help you keep your movements fluid; you’ll encounter no resistance in executing the proper turns and the Brush will be much more free on the page.
What is the Standard Script Style (Kai Shu / 楷書) in Chinese Calligraphy?
What is today known as the Standard Script, or Kai Shu (楷書), entered the Chinese writing tradition as a well-defined and mature script only in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). It dispensed with the overt formality of Clerical (隸書/Li Shu) and Seal Scripts (篆書: Zhuan Shu). Likewise, it eschewed the liberation and near-illegibility of the Cursive Scripts. Fully embracing the tools of the Calligrapher, Kai Shu became the favored script for everyday writing, and remains so to this day. Although Seal and Clerical scripts may be chosen as the first to learn, choosing to start with Standard Script will best allow the novice to experiment with greater freedom or formality in later stages.
What is the Seal Script Style (Zhuan Shu / 篆書) in Chinese Calligraphy?
The Seal Script (篆書/Zhuan Shu/Chuan Shu) is the most archaic script of Chinese. Although this type of archaic writing can be subsumed under the general heading of Seal Script, it is in fact many numerous sub-scripts that were each used for different historical purposes. The oldest of these is the Jia Gu Wen (甲骨文/Chia Ku Wen), which was invented and used in the Shang Dynasty for prognostication ritual. This Script, although it is the oldest recorded coherent Chinese writing system, was not discovered in an archaeological context until the beginning of the last century. As a result, it has not had a large impact on the received Calligraphy tradition. Jin Wen (金文/Chin Wen), or Bronze Script, is far more well-known. This is the script that was used for inscribing ceremonial Bronze vessels in the Zhou Dynasty. The development of this script occurred in concert with Shi Gu Wen (石鼓文/Shih Ku Wen), the Stone and Drum Script. Shi Gu Wen was used for monumental stone inscriptions, and both it and Jin Wen were never standardized; the Zhou scribes were much more reliant on local custom and had to create new characters as they had need of them. Jin Wen and Shi Gu Wen are often simply called Da Zhuan (大篆/Da Chuan), or Large Seal Script.