Chinese Calligraphy Technique and Learning – What is the Right Posture when Writing Chinese Calligraphy?

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 Proper Stand (Horse Stand) when Writing Chinese Calligraphy?

Although we usually sit down when we write, there is a difference between sitting and slouching. It is best to keep your center of gravity well toward the table, about three or four inches from the edge. This will ensure that your core is engaged. Speaking of your core, you should try to keep your center of gravity firmly in your lower abdomen. This is the core that will mediate and compensate for the movements of your writing arm. Placing your legs apart with feet firmly on the ground, a position known as the horse stand, will keep your core engaged, your center of gravity forward, and your arms flexible and unencumbered.

Both arms should be kept resting on the table, away from your body. Avoid the temptation to rest your elbows on or below the edge of the table. This is not a formal dinner! Putting your elbows comfortably on the table will give you the best result.

Positioning and Movement of the Wrist in Chinese Calligraphy

The position of your wrist is also very important for writing Calligraphy. In general, the position of the wrist will reflect the size of the Characters being attempted. Writing small characters of only a couple square inches will usually require that the wrist rest lightly on the table. This gives one a maximum of stability: small characters can be executed well by moving only the fingers and the wrist itself. One may also rest the writing wrist on the opposing wrist, with the hand on the table palm down.

Lifting the wrist a couple of inches off the table, but maintaining the elbow on the table can be done for larger characters, or simply for greater freedom on the page. This is slightly more difficult, as the stability of the second point of contact with the table is lost. Nevertheless, this position can be used easily by relatively accomplished Calligraphers.

The final position sees the arm leave the table entirely. This is quite difficult to do properly, and is reserved usually for large characters