Thursday, September 10, 2009

Chen Jen Hao 陈人浩

Chen Renhao (Chen Jen Hao 1908 - 1976) was an educator and Chinese calligrapher. He was also proficient in painting.
Chen was born into a wealthy family in Fuzhou, China. After completed his secondary school education in 1924, he went to Shanghai to receive art education. In 1928, he travelled to Paris for further study. After graduation in 1932, he returned to China and taught at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts from 1933 for 5 years. While in Shanghai, Chen met and became close friends with fellow artist Liu Kang (1911-2004), who married Chen's sister Jen-ping (Ren Bin) in 1937. In the same year of his sister’s marriage he was forced to flee to Muar, Malaya due to the Japanese invasion of China. At first, he taught at Chung Hwa Secondary and after the Second World War he became the principal of Chung Hwa High School in Muar, Johor.
He moved to Singapore in 1956 and became the principal of Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School, which is the predecessor of Dunman Government Chinese Middle School (now called Dunman High School). He was the principal of the school till 1969 when he retired.
Chen’s father was a scholar who practiced Chinese calligraphy regularly. Since young, Chen observed closely how his father practiced calligraphy. He was very much influenced and became interested in the art as well. His family had a good collection of calligraphic works of various periods by various calligraphers. Chen practiced all of them and later developed his own style of writing. He started with Yan and Ou style and followed by practising the works of Su Shi, Huang Ting Jian, Mi Fu and others.
As a principal, Chen liked to write school notices using the Chinese brush. The beautifully written notices had attracted many students to come to the notice board just to look at the writings. Some students from neighbouring schools were attracted by the writings too. One of them was calligrapher and painter Koh Mun Hong (Xu Mengfeng) who mentioned in one of his books how he was fascinated by Chen’s writings and decided to learn calligraphy after seeing them. There is no doubt that many more students were similarly influenced and had developed a keen interest in calligraphy.
Liu Kang, a famous painter, once commented Chen’s calligraphy, saying the structure of his calligraphy was decorous and solid, and his strokes were strong, smooth and simple. The calligraphy therefore revealed its gentle beauty and yet retained the dignity, its liveliness and yet maintained the manly mettle. His couplets, displaying the charm of vigour and strength, would pleasantly delight the viewers. His vertical banners, mostly written in walking cursive (xingcao) style, were spontaneous and free, like floating clouds and flowing water, and naturally they would charm the viewers.
It is a pity that Chen did not conduct calligraphy classes and therefore did not have students learning calligraphy from him during his life time. Probably this is a greatest loss to the Singapore calligraphy community.

No comments:

Post a Comment