Having originated more than four thousand years ago, Chinese calligraphy is not only a method of writing Chinese characters, but has today become a form of art which has caught the interest of thousands of artists all over the world. Chinese calligraphy is regarded as an expression of one’s deep inner self and personality. In contrast to Western calligraphy, in Chinese calligraphy the thickness of the paper, line concentration and flexibility of the brush are all very important and any blotting of ink or other variations regarded as faults in its Western equivalent are instead seen as a division of the artist’s personality in Chinese calligraphy.
Materials required for a Chinese calligrapher include paint brushes, paper, ink and inkstick, inkstone- known frequently as the Four Treasures of the Study. Some Chinese Professional Calligraphy sets could also include a seal and seal paste.
The body of an ordinary paint brush used for Chinese calligraphy is usually made from bamboo although collectable brushes could use anything from glass and ivory to silver or gold. the hair used for the brush could come from a variety of sources including wolves, goats, pigs or even tigers; it could even be made from the hair of a newborn baby for use as a keepsake.
Chinese calligraphy requires special paper with a soft texture and the preferred type in China is one made of a material known as Tartar wingceltis. In addition, Chinese calligraphy paper could also be made from rice, bamboo, hemp or mulberry.
The ink used for Chinese calligraphy is made from soot (lampblack) and comes in the form of the inkstick. Traditionally, the only colour used for Chinese calligraphy is black, but modern artists use a variety of colours. The inkstick needs to be rubbed on a wet inkstone methodically, as this is what enables the calligrapher to vary the line thicknesses. Hence the art of rubbing the inkstick is a crucial part of Chinese calligraphy. The inkstone is made of stone mortar and serve the purpose of grinding the inkstick into powder and also holding the liquefied ink.
The seal and seal paste meanwhile is used as professionals to put their signature on the piece of art, and is often done in red ink.
Chinese calligraphy was once as unique to the Chinese as the chopsticks used to be, but slowly with the spread of Chinese culture to different parts of Asia including Japan and Vietnam, it has been taken up in most of the Asian world and is hence also referred to as Oriental Calligraphy today.