Thursday, October 1, 2009

Writing Techniques: Use both Arm and Fingers 运笔:指腕并用

We noted that when applying the writing techniques, one must observe the principles of Centred Tip (Zhong Feng).
In writing Chinese calligraphy, a number of steps must be followed so that a stroke can be written properly. For example, in writing a vertical stroke with needle ending, one begins the stroke by moving the brush to the left. Turn the brush to the right. Pause a little. Pull the zhong feng, or central part of the brush, down and move the brush vertically downward. Before ending the stroke, lift the brush slowly so as to leave a sharp point on the paper.
Two concepts are involved in the process described above, moving the brush and turning the brush. The ability to move and turn the brush correctly is critically important.
One key principle of Zhong Feng is to maintain the brush in the perpendicular position all the time when moving the brush from point A to point B. It is generally agreed that the way to do this is to use one’s arm or wrist to move the brush. All other ways of moving the brush are not acceptable.
However, there is no generally accepted agreement on how the brush should be turned.
Suo Jing (239-303), the famous calligraphy in his essay ‘The Style of Caoshu’ said that in writing Caoshu (cursive scripts) ‘Dudu turns his fingers and Boying his wrists.’ One can interpret this to mean that both fingers and wrist can be used to turn the brush.
However, about a thousand years later, Jiang Kui of Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) made it very clear that ‘generally speaking, the brush must be held firmly and moved with high degree of flexibility. Do not use fingers to operate the brush, use wrist instead. The function of fingers is to hold the brush, not to operate it, and the function of wrist is to operate the brush, not to hold it.’ This is the first time in calligraphy history that the function of fingers and wrist was defined in clear terms.
Jiang Kui’s theory on writing techniques was accepted without question for almost a thousand years.
However, in the 80s of last century, a number of calligraphers started to challenge this theory. Sun Xiaoyun, a famous female calligrapher in China, is one of those who argue strongly that the only correct way of turning the brush is by using the fingers.
It would appear that one need take the extreme position of advocating either ‘use-wrist’ or ‘use-fingers’ method. Perhaps the best method is the traditional method of applying both fingers and wrist, based on the needs and writing conditions.

中锋的一个主要原理是,笔从A 点移到B 点,笔杆一定要维持垂直。要做到这一点,一般的共识是以腕或手臂来行笔。其他方法都不可接受。
可是,千年后,南宋 (1127–1279) 姜夔却明确指出:‘大抵要执之欲紧,运之欲活,不可以指运笔,当以腕运笔。执之在手,手不主运;运之在腕,腕不主执。’在书法史上,这是第一次对手指与腕肘的功能有明确的说明。


  1. 苏东坡其实曾说过:‘把笔无定法,要使虚而宽,欧阳文忠公谓余,当使指运而腕不知,此语最妙。’ 可是主张腕运的沈尹默却一口咬定‘当使指运而腕不知’是笔误,认为应该是‘当使腕运而指不知’。这就令人无所适从了。

  2. 当今,把以指转笔视为旁门左道,的确令人不解,古人谈到笔法曾言:‘大指与中三指捻管书之。’包世臣更有明言:‘管随笔转。’

  3. 要很小心看才能看到孙晓云以指转笔。她真的有以指转笔吗?可能是枕腕的关系,她看起来一直写小字。