Friday, October 22, 2010

Su Demao on Pre-requisites for Learning Running-Cursive Script 苏德茂:具备怎么的条件可以学行草

Generally speaking, a basic pre-requisite is that one must have learned the regular script (kaishu). The regular script here refers to more than the model calligraphic works by Ouyang Xun, Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan. It is used in a broader sense to refer to the rubbings made from the Northern Stone Inscriptions, such as Zhang Menglong Tablet, Zheng Wengong Tablet, Wei Lingcang Tablet and that from the Southern Stone Inscriptions such as Cuan Longyan Tablet, as well as rubbings of clerical script (lishu) of Han dynasty, such as Ritual Vessels, Mount Fenglong Tablet, Cao Quan Tablet and Stone Gate, etc. It will be better if one has learned the basics of writing the running-regular script and has practiced on Chu Suiliang’s Classic of Secret Revelation (Yinfu Jing) in large words and Ni Kuan Zan, or Preface to Buddha’s Teaching Made by Pasting Together Words from Wang Xizhi’s calligraphy.
When we talk about pre-requisite or basics, we do not refer to the highest level of skills in the writing of regular script. (There are many people in Singapore practice Cao Quan for more than 20 years with no desire to go into running-cursive script; I have also come across people who spend their life time in writing stately the styles of Ouyang Xun and Yan Zhengqing.) What is required is that one must have mastered the basic brush techniques. It should be sufficient to select two or three of the above mentioned model works and practice on them for about two years. (It is better to practice under guidance of a teacher. However, there are many calligraphy teachers in Singapore prefer to let their students copy their own calligraphic work rather than guide the learners to practice on suitable model calligraphic works.)
I have also seen many people go straight into learning the running-cursive script without first acquiring the basic calligraphic techniques. These people just follow their teachers: they just write the way their teachers write, just copy their teachers’ work. Without first going through systematic training on basic brush techniques, and master the basic skills in writing the running-cursive script, one not only takes longer time to learn, but one also will not be able to achieve the result effectively.
As a general principle, one can start learning to write running-cursive script after two to three years of copying skills training. (Those who have been trained in writing clerical script, i.e. lishu, will have clear advantage in learning running-cursive script, regardless which model works they choose to practice.) However, those who have learned the correct copying techniques will have great advantage over those who just practice writing aimlessly.


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