Friday, November 12, 2010

Su Demao: The Origin of Cursive Method Explained by Sim Kwang Hun 苏德茂:评介沈观汉著《草法释原》

Calligrapher Su Demao gives his commentary on ‘The Origin of Cursive Method Explained’, a book written by Singaporean calligrapher Sim Kwang Hun (Shen Guanhan). Below is the text of Su Demao’s article.

The way of writing Cursive script is so profound and subtle that only few people can grasp it; we need people like Sim Kwang Hun to explain to us its fine details.
Comments on ‘The Origin of Cursive Method Explained’ written by Sim Kwang Hun.

Due to fact that ‘the cursive script has been around for quite a long time; there are numerous error and misunderstanding in its writing. The people of later generations do not practice writing the official and clerical scripts, which leads to losing of the origin of cursive method. These people only show off their cursive script writing either based on their own way of interpretation or treat it as a kind of novelty; the way of interpreting cursive method becomes rather confusing.’ Mr Sim Guanhan therefore wrote the book ‘The Origin of Cursive Method Explained’, which is ‘based mainly on Zhang Cao (Zhang style of cursive writing), supplemented by Han style of clerical script, to explain the way of cursive script writing.’ (The book was published by the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, and the quotes cited here are from its preface.) This is ‘in order to allow those who are determined to learn the script to have some basis to rely on.’

In its preface, Mr Sim gives his personal views on the way that the cursive script is being symbolised, and certain shortcomings of a number of model calligraphic works of cursive script. Such views are indeed one of the achievements of his research on cursive method. The second achievement was the listing of 18 categories of cursive writing techniques, which include lingering lines, avoiding confusion by changed-form etc. The techniques are analysed from various angles such as brush techniques, structure and compositions of writing cursive script. Finally he listed out four major mistakes that are found commonly on the calligraphy of cursive script, namely hastily glossing over the strokes, believing in one-stroke writing, making no distinction between solid and hollow strokes, and having too many circles.

In ancient time, with the exceptions of Sun Guoting’s ‘Treatise on Calligraphy’ and Jiang Kui’s sequel to the ‘Treatise on Calligraphy’, there were few articles that systematically touched on calligraphic theories. Most articles are miscellaneous notes or on random thoughts, and they are therefore known as miscellaneous knowledge. During the late Qing dynasty, scholars such as Ruan Yuan, Bao Shichen, Liu Xizai, Kang Youwei started again writing professional monographs and treatise on calligraphy. Concerning the writing techniques of cursive script, other than the popular book ‘Rhythmic Poem Cursive Writing’, it can only be found in the appendix of Yu Youren’s book on ‘Standard Cursive Script’. Even today, there are very few people touch on the topic of cursive writing. Now Mr Sim had selected about 6 to 7 hundred commonly used characters, explained their origins systematically and brilliantly. Although the ‘Standard Cursive Script’ has systematically listed all radicals with some creative and new ideas in its appendix, it does not trace back to the original source of the cursive characters, and quite a number of the radicals are actually made up by the author.

沈观汉书法: 奉爵称寿 雅歌吹笙
Mr Sim is well versed in the Chinese palaeography and is good in writing various Chinese scripts, especially the cursive script. He has read widely calligraphy treatise and articles, written both by ancient and modern writers. He is especially familiar with Gao Ershi’s ‘The Newly Collated Jijiu Zhang and its Verification’. Therefore, explaining the origin of cursive script for him is as easy as getting things from his own back pocket, and having bread buttered on both sides. The book traces the origin and evolution of the cursive script, points out the correct ways for learners to follow. This book is not only useful for those who learn the cursive script, but also meaningful for those who learn other scripts. Our readers should treasure it, spend time to study it.

Note: Jijiu Zhang (Hurriedly Written Essay) is a famous calligraphy of early cursive script.

--- 评介《草法释原》(沈观汉著)

今鉴于“草法流转既久,纰缪讹误,所在多有。---- 后人不作篆隶,失其源头,不明草书作法,各呈己能,或故为新奇,草法於焉纷糺”的事实,沈观汉先生著《草法释原》,以“章草为主,汉隶为辅,阐明草书作法。”(此书已由好望角画廊出版,引文见《释原》前言。)“庶使有志于斯道者,有所依循焉。”

草法释原 Page 2o




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