Appreciation of
The Art of Chinese Calligraphy

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Calligraphy is an art dating back to the earliest day of history, and widely practiced throughout China to this day. Although it uses Chinese words as its vehicle of expression, one does not have to know Chinese to appreciate its beauty. Because in essence, Calligraphy is an abstract art. While viewing a Western abstract painting, one does not ask, "What is it?" When viewing Chinese calligraphy, one need not ask, "What is the Chinese word?"
In this page, we selected single words from the works of many master calligraphers from the past to illustrate the astounding beauty of the art. Like all art, it is best to simply look at them for enjoyment. Do not be sidetracked with questions of theory, technique, etc. Do not worry about "What is it?"
Beside each work, a very short comment is given to describe its "style", based on the classical book of Tu Meng.

Tu Meng of the Tang dynasty (618-905) developed 120 expressions to describe different styles of calligraphy and establish criteria for them. The first 15 from his list, with explanations and English interpretations by Chiang Yee:

    1. ability, mysterious, careful, carefree, balance
    2. unrestrained, mature, virile, grace, sober, well-knit, prolix, rich, exuberant, classic

For a flavor of these different styles, look at the calligraphy of single words, as written by the past masters. The idea here is not to learn how to write with a brush, or what the words are, but just to look at them as an abstract art.

A single word written in different styles

A gracefully executed work has no peer.

Full panel-(100k)

By Si-Ma Kuang, Song Dynasty (1019-1086)

Bold yet fluid -

Full panel. From Ode of Mulan by [Mi Fei] [Mei Fei] (aka Mi Fu)


Full panel

By [Yan Zhenqing] [Yen Chen-Ching]


Full panel

By [Wu Ju]{Wu Chu]


Full panel

By Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641)


By Li Juan (b. 1713)

A carefree style has no fixed directions

By [Wang Xizhi] [Wang Hsi-Chih]. The character is Sui (to follow), in cursive style.
The movement of the strokes suggests speed, by a dancing rather than a racing speed.

A gracefully executed work

An exuberant work full of feeling and vigor.
Full panel

By [Wang Xizhi][Wang Hsi-Chih]

Lighting quick
Full panel

By [Dong Qichang] [Tung Chi-Chang]

A virile work in which strength is paramount.

The character is "mountain".

By [Zhang Zhengyu][Chang Cheng-yu] (1903-1976)

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