Session 16 – Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy

This will be the last session of an eight weeks course that was extended to a second term.   Last week we had an examination and I was astonished to see that students were having difficulties getting past question 1.  “It’s really hard!” they said, referring to the first stroke that was taught in Session 1.

This week we will go over their difficulties and those who want holiday homework will be given some exercises to help them move on.


Spot the difference:  create more variations if possible.

After the holidays I will be offering an introductory course for new beginners.  All the existing students declared their intentions to re-enrol next term.  I have warned them that we are going back to square one and they seemed pleased about that.  I am pleased about it too.

Although I have repeated it endless times during the past 16 weeks, I will again try to impress upon the students that seeing is everything, or at least, the first and most important thing.  Tomorrow we will concentrate on ‘reading’ the strokes correctly to prepare for their execution.

It is simple:  one needs to see where a stroke begins and ends and note all the variations in between.  Of course one must learn how to master the brush to produce these effects and we did that in Session One.  The fact is only two of the students started in Session One and others had dropped in between Session Four and Session Nine.  The late comers all came with skills but it seems that those skills were of little help and at times, some hindrance.

It’s like learning a cursive script and expect that to be a help with a gothic script.  Yes, the discipline is the same but it requires students to let go of what they’d learnt previously and make room for new skills and information.  After two terms of struggling against it I think they have finally accepted that we must go back to basics.

The work they have produced thus far is commendable but I think they know that they are capable of much improvement.  As a teacher of beginners, I can only arm them with the tools and their proper use.  It will be up to them to make something of it:  I can teach them how to swing a hammer but I can’t help it if they end up hitting their thumbs.



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8 Responses to Session 16 – Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy

  1. taphian says:

    one learns by experience. For you these letters are normal but for the scholars they might be quite difficult. Even though I learned caligraphy in art school I was a complete flop learning Chinese letters once. Kind regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Tang says:

      It’s a different writing system; we use combination of strokes rather than alphabets so it seems more difficult to the uninitiated :)

      Liked by 2 people

      • setohj says:

        Chinese writing indeed is a completely different writing system from an alphabetic one used in Western languages. When I first took a course in reading Chinese characters, I erroneously thought that I had to memorize each and every character anew, but it turned out that each character consists of a combination of elements from a manageable number of building blocks. I now see Chinese characters as two dimensional “Lego” units built from a selection of more than 200+ kinds of elemental blocks. Reading Chinese is harder for me to learn than reading English but not insurmountable. It is interesting that the late Canadian English professor Marshall McLuhan, who knew no Chinese but was expert in communications media, concluded that usage of an alphabetic language like English tends to create a more schizophrenic society than a society that uses non-alphabetic writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie Graves says:

    Phew! And the seeing bit is a little like photography, learning to see what is there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are a good teacher, Mary

    Liked by 1 person

  4. zdunno03 says:

    And hitting their thumbs is part of the process of learning to swing that hammer.

    Liked by 1 person

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