Thursday, June 11, 2009

Master the Chinese Brush 笔法重要

It is said that good calligraphy begins with the ability to control, manipulate and master the Chinese brush. Brushwork is therefore the soul of Chinese calligraphy. It emphasizes the strength of the strokes, the application of the brush, the lines and shapes; the strength or weakness of the brushwork contributes to the success or failure of a calligraphy work.
What makes for good brushwork? It is not an easy matter to convey the idea of good brushwork to people who have not been tutored in the Chinese cultural tradition and who have not learned how to handle the writing brush, to realise its remarkable qualities. Good brushwork must come from long and arduous training and practice.
The following passage is extracted from the Battle Formation of the Brushstroke (Bizhen Tu), a text attributed to Wei Furen (272-349), the most famous female calligrapher in China:
In recent years, people are not interested in learning from our ancient masters. They learn calligraphy by following their emotion and do not follow the proper techniques. They only remember the names. They are limited in knowledge, and poor in information. They are doomed to be fruitless in spite of their time and energy. Lacking in sensibility, they are simply beyond teaching. To set a yardstick for coming generations, I now listed here are seven strokes and their descriptions after the wonderful example of Li Si.
The first thing to learn in calligraphy is how to hold a brush. For regular script (kaishi), hold the brush at two inches from its tip; for semi-cursive and cursive script, hold it at three inches from its tip. To write a stroke, apply the strength of the whole body to the brush. Always begin with writing big characters, not small characters. Calligraphy by those good in brush strength has much bone; that by those not good in brush strength has much flesh. Calligraphy that has much bone but slight flesh is called sinew-writing; that with much flesh bone but slight bone is called ink-pig. Calligraphy with much strength and rich in sinew is of sage-like quality; that with neither strength nor sinew is sick. Every writer proceeds in accordance with the manifestation of their digestion and respiration of energy.
一[横] is like a cloud formation stretching a thousand miles, indistinct, but not without form.
丶[点] is like a stone falling from a high peak, bouncing and crashing, about to shatter.
丿[撇] is like the tusk of an elephant or horn of rhinoceros (thrust into and) broken by ground.
乙[折] is like fired from a three-thousand pound crossbow.
丨[竖] is like a ten thousand years old withered vine.
丶[捺] is like crashing waves or rolling thunder.
刁[横折弯钩,replaced by刁] is like the sinews and joints of a mighty bow.

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