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Introduction into Chinese Calligraphy

Updated on July 1, 2013

What is calligraphy?

"The art of beautiful handwriting" is the definition of calligraphy. Once you try calligraphy, you have a better respect for the act and truely believe the act is an art. Almost everyone can write. However, it takes practice and an eye for beauty to write like an artist.

In China, Japan, and Korea; calligraphy is more respected than in America. Students is promoted and studied as an art in these areas. Some schools hold lessons once a week to keep students focused on the old art. Each student even has their own box of tools.

How to Read a Scroll

A scroll is usually a long piece of calligraphy paper with a poem or paragraph of words in calligraphy. There is no punctuation and the calligrapher's name can normally be fund at the end of the poem and the date. There is usually a "name seal" that is placed below his/her name. This "name seal" is not to be misunderstood as the red seals that are extremely common in calligraphy. These red seals can be any shape and are usually engraved with words of wisdom. The scrolls are read from top to bottom, from right to left. Start reading the page at the top right corner and end in the bottom left. These scrolls can be horizontal or vertical as well.

Four Treasures

  • Paper
  • Brush
  • Ink
  • Ink stone

These four are the main components of Chinese calligraphy. All of these are made in China out of natural resources and have been important in their art and culture.


One of the most important factors to admire of Chinese calligraphy consists of strokes. Are they alive in creating pictures? Do they have thickness and style, grace and poise? Can you sense the energy in the strokes? These are important in making calligraphy come alive. Then you must ask is there harmony within the characters. Each section is a piece of the puzzle, the final picture, in creating wonderful art work. Do they accent each other or do they clash?

Calligraphy is a combination of technique and personal emotions. You are expressing yourself in your calligraphy. The question is: what do you want to express? Are your emotions woven into the lines providing the audience a glance into your world?

Arrange Position

A blanket or cloth should be placed over your calligraphy table. This way any ink that was accidentally dropped or spilled will not stain the table for future use. Place your equipment to your right, if you are right handed, or left if left handed. Place the paper directly in front of you with what you are copying next to it.

Make sure you have enough light in your area. Sit comfortably in a chair that allows your feet to touch the floor. Attempt to have good posture so you can sit the entire time to finish your artwork. The brushes, brush rest, water pot, ink, and ink stone should be within easy reach of your hand if needed. You should consider paperweights to hold down and keep your paper in place if your hand moves across it.

Once the equipment is in place and you are ready, prepare the ink. You will need to grind the ink. Think of this as a calming time. Relax and unwind while grinding the ink and ready your mind to be patient and calm. When you are ready, pick up the brush, dip the tip into the prepared ink, scrape all excess ink to the side of the ink stone, and begin writing.


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    • morningglory24 profile image

      morningglory24 5 years ago

      I took a calligraphy class with my sister when we were younger. I always thought it was so beautiful and takes a steady hand!