Creating Chinese Calligraphy

A History and Resource Guide

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 have to master writing Chinese characters, which is a daunting task in itself, and they have to write them beautifully and with an unforgiving tool: the brush.

History

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 Wei Lu and Max Aiken in their 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 seven main categories of traditional Chinese calligraphy—which include Hhsin (pronounced xing), Sao (cao), Zuan (zhuan), Li, and Kai—each with its 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 Chinese calligraphy. 

Although the earliest-known calligraphy-like symbols date to around 4000 B.C., the traditional style of calligraphy that's still practiced today first appeared in Xiaoshuangqiao between 1400 and 1100 B.C. in modern-day Zhengzhou, China.

Standardization

Around 220 B.C., during the reign of Qin Shi Huang in Imperial China, a standard Chinese calligraphy system was adopted. As the first conqueror of a majority of land in China, Huang created a series of reforms including a character unification that yielded 3,300 standardized characters known as Xiǎozhuàn (zhuan).

From that point forward, writing in China went through a series of reforms that 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), 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 preferences for style and aesthetics.

Online Resources

If you live in China, it's easy to find calligraphers who sell their work or who can create custom calligraphy just for you. There is an easier way, though: tools that convert pasted text into calligraphy using various fonts. Some of the best include: