Posted by: Brian | May 13, 2009

Chinese Calligraphy (And Why I’ll Never Be Good At It)

The beautiful top row: my instructor. The rest: me.

The beautiful top row: my instructor. The rest: me.

Once a week, on Tuesday afternoons, I have an elective calligraphy class that I take. I’m not entirely sure what specifics we’re learning, mostly because my teacher doesn’t speak an English and I don’t have a large enough Chinese vocabulary or enough experience to understand his rapid-fire delivery and curious accent. Mostly I sit there listening until it’s time to begin (writing? painting? drawing? I’m not sure of the proper verb). Anyway, I usually end up spending most of the class trying not to get frustrated or upset with myself. I’ve got the feeling that if I actually practiced calligraphy at a point in the day when I actually wanted to do so, it would be much more pleasant. Instead, I’m stuck trying to be calm and create smooth brush strokes at 5 in the afternoon, when I’d rather be anywhere but in a classroom.

I’ve been told that you can never really understand Chinese calligraphy unless you actually are Chinese. On the one hand, I find that to be a load of nationalist, ethnocentric bull. On the other hand, there’s probably some merit to it – I don’t possess the patience or diligence that most of the Chinese college students around me seem to come by so naturally. Maybe I’ll get it eventually, and maybe I never will. Regardless, for now I’m left clumsily trying to approximate an art form for which I don’t possess the skills. I’d much rather take cool pictures of my calligraphy set than actually use it, so here are a few of those:



  1. The reason why you’ll never get it is because you’re using too formal a toolset. Get a modern calligraphy pen, like I did for Japanese calligraphy. Lol.

  2. More like portable brush than pen.

  3. Nice suggestion, but using a brush is a requirement for my class.

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