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Painting without Images

People call calligraphy “a piece of painting without images, a piece of music without sounds, a stage without actors and actress and a building without components and materials.” Calligraphic works express essential elements of beauty — balance, proportion, variety, continuity, contrast, movement, change and harmony — through different shapes and forms of the lines, their combinations and ways of movement.

Calligraphy also inspires other arts, and vice versa.

Like music, having rhythm is a major element of calligraphy. The dots and strokes in thick and light ink or in round or square shapes show strong rhythms, like changing and moving musical rhythms, expressing the surging thoughts and emotions of the calligrapher and musician alike. No wonder that calligraphy theorists praise calligraphic works as “music in the air” or as “a wonderful piece of music played by an excellent musician.”

Also, calligraphic works display the beauty of the body and the movement, like the art of dance. They both have artistic features concerning the space and time.

Calligraphy is the art that Chinese people first learn. While teaching children to read characters, parents and teachers not only show them the strokes, they also try to arouse their aesthetic consciousness and develop their artistic judgement and creation.

(Excerpt from Chinese Calligraphy — the Art of Handwriting, Chen Tingyou, translated by Ren Lingjuan, published by China Intercontinental Press, 2010)