Creating Chinese Calligraphy

A History and Resource Guide for the Art of Aesthetic Writing

Chinese calligraphy is the art of creating aesthetically pleasing writing or tangible representations of the Chinese languages. It can take years to learn the art because students not only have to learn to write Chinese characters, which is a daunting task in itself, they also have to write them beautifully and with an unforgiving tool: the brush.

The art of calligraphy in China can be traced to Ancient Chinese signs and symbols that appeared as early as 6,000 years ago according to W Lu and M Aiken's essay "Origins and evolution of Chinese writing systems and preliminary counting relationships." However, its modern form didn't emerge until a few thousand years later, between the 14th and 11th centuries B.C.

There are now seven main categories of traditional Chinese calligraphy — which include Hhsin (Xing), Sao (Cao), Zuan (Zhuan), Li, and Kai — each with their own slight variations in style and symbolism. As a result, the skill of writing beautiful calligraphy may be difficult for some learners to grasp, but fortunately, there are a variety of online resources for creating and editing the beautiful characters of Chinese calligraphy. 

A History of Chinese Calligraphy

Although the earliest-known calligraphy-like symbols were dated to around 4,000 B.C., the traditional style of calligraphy that's still practiced today first appeared in the ruins of Xiaoshuangqiao (dated 1400 to 1100 B.C.) in modern day Zhengzhou, China.

However, it wasn't until the reign of Qin Shi Huang in Imperial China around 220 B.C. that calligraphy and Chinese writing saw a unification and standardization of form. As the first conqueror of a majority of land in China, Huang created a series of reforms including a character unification that yielded 3300 standardized characters known as Xiǎozhuàn (Zhuan).

From that point forward, writing in China went through a series of reforms which each yielded a new set of standardized characters and lettering. Over the next two centuries, other styles developed: the Lìshū (Li) style was followed by the Kǎishū (Kai) style, which was in turn followed by the Xíngshū (Xing) and Cǎoshū (Cao) cursive styles.

Today, each of these forms is still used in traditional Chinese calligraphy practices, depending on the teacher and his or her preferences for style and aesthetics.

Online Resources for Creating and Editing Chinese Calligraphy

If you live in China, it's not hard to find calligraphers who sell their works or who can write custom calligraphy just for you. There is an easier way, though: tools that convert pasted text into calligraphy using various fonts. Below are some of the best resources available to both create and edit this unique style of written art.

This Chinese Calligraphy Editor allows you to enter or paste your Chinese characters ( simplified or traditional) and choose between 19 different styles in four different groups. You can also adjust the size of the generated picture, the orientation (horizontal or vertical) and direction (left-to-right or right-to-left) of the text.

When you click "calligraphy", a picture is generated that you can then save and use somewhere else. Some of the fonts also look great colored, which is something you need to do with your own image editing program.

Chinese CalligraphyModel of Chinese Calligraphy, and Chinese Text to Images Converter all offer different fonts for the same features of the editor above, though these only accept simplified characters and offer fewer features and customization.

Free Chinese Calligraphy Fonts, on the other hand, is not an online converter but a site where you can download fonts to use on your computer. There are a large number of fonts here, some which resemble handwriting.

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Linge, Olle. "Creating Chinese Calligraphy." ThoughtCo, Sep. 15, 2017, Linge, Olle. (2017, September 15). Creating Chinese Calligraphy. Retrieved from Linge, Olle. "Creating Chinese Calligraphy." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 25, 2018).