A Self-Study Course in Li Script

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Chinese Calligraphy Teach-Yourself Series ( in English) -- A Self-Study Course in Running Script
Calligraphy is understood in China as the art of writing a good hand with the brush. Chinese calligraphy (Brush calligraphy) is an art unique to Asian cultures. In the history of Chinese art, calligraphy has always been held in equal importance to painting. Shu (calligraphy) and Hua (painting) are the basic skills and disciplines of the Chinese literati.
Chinese calligraphy, like the script itself, began with the hieroglyphs and, over the long ages of evolution, has developed various styles and schools, constituting an important part of the heritage of national culture. Chinese scripts are generally divided into five forms: the seal character (zhuan), the official or clerical script (li), the regular script (kai), the running hand (xing) and the cursive hand (cao).
1) The zhuan script or seal character was the earliest form of writing. This script, often used in seals, is translated into English as the seal character, or as the "curly script" after the shape of its strokes. When, in 221 B. C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified the whole of China under one central government, he ordered his Prime Minister Li Si to collect and sort out all the different systems of writing hitherto prevalent in different parts of the country in a great effort to unify the written language under one system. What Li did, in effect, was to simplify the ancient zhuan (small seal) script.
2) The lishu (official script) came in the wake of the xiaozhuan in the same short-lived Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 B. C.). This was because the xiaozhuan, though a simplified form of script, was still too complicated for the scribes in the various government offices who had to copy an increasing amount of documents. Cheng Miao, a prison warden, made a further simplification of the xiaozhuan, changing the curly strokes into straight and angular ones and thus making writing much easier.
3) The lishu was already very close to, and led to the adoption of, kaishu, regular script. The oldest existing example of this dates from the Wei (220-265), and the script developed under the Jin (265-420). The standard writing today is square in form, non-cursive and architectural in style. The characters are composed of a number of strokes out of a total of eight kinds-the dot, the horizontal, the vertical, the hook, the rising, the left-falling (short and long) and the right-falling strokes. Any aspirant for the status of calligrapher must start by learning to write a good hand in kaishu.
4) On the basis of lishu also evolved caoshu (grass writing or cursive hand), which is rapid and used for making quick but rough copies. It is the essence of the caoshu, especially jincao, that the characters are executed swiftly with the strokes running together. The characters are often joined up, with the last stroke of the first merging into the initial stroke of the next. They also vary in size in the same piece of writing, all seemingly dictated by the whims of the writer. A great master at caoshu was Zhang Xu (early 8th century) of the Tang Dynasty, noted for the complete abandon with which he applied the brush. It is said that he would not set about writing until he had got drunk. This he did, allowing the brush to "gallop" across the paper, curling, twisting or meandering in one unbroken stroke, thus creating an original style.
5) The best example and model for xingshu, all Chinese calligraphers will agree, is the Inscription on Lanting Pavilion in the hand of Wang Xizhi (321-379) of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. To learn to write a nice hand in Chinese calligraphy, assiduous and persevering practice is necessary. This has been borne out by the many great masters China has produced. Wang Xizhi, the great artist just mentioned, who has exerted a profound influence on, and has been held in high esteem by, calligraphers and scholars throughout history, is said to have blackened in his childhood all the water of a pond in front of his house by washing the writing implements in it after his daily exercises.
Regarded as the most abstract and sublime form of art in Chinese culture, "Shu Fa" (calligraphy) is often thought to be most revealing of one's personality. During the imperial era, calligraphy was used as an important criterion for selection of executives to the Imperial court. Unlike other visual art techniques, all calligraphy strokes are permanent and incorrigible, demanding careful planning and confident execution. Such are the skills required for an administrator / executive. While one has to conform to the defined structure of words, the expression can be extremely creative. To exercise humanistic imagination and touch under the faceless laws and regulations is also a virtue well appreciated. By controlling the concentration of ink, the thickness and absorptivity of the paper, and the flexibility of the brush, the artist is free to produce an infinite variety of styles and forms. To the artist, calligraphy is a mental exercise that coordinates the mind and the body to choose the best styling in expressing the content of the passage. It is a most relaxing yet highly disciplined exercise indeed for one's physical and spiritual well being. Historically, many calligraphy artists were well-known for their longevity.
A self-study course in Running script ( Introduction and Instruction in English)
Chinese calligraphy has a long history, ranging from the keeping of records by tying knots before Cang Jie invented writing, to the characters on earthenware discovered at Dawenkou and inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th-11th century BC).
Chinese characters fall into the following styles: regular, running, grass, official and seal scripts. Seal scripts may be divided into large and small characters; official scripts, into Qin and Han styles; grass characters, into Zhang (cursive official), Jin (modern) and Kuang (wild) scripts; and regular characters, into Wei and Tang scripts. Chinese calligraphy not only reflects the character of individual calligrapher, but also presents the style and flavors of different regions and eras.
China has always regarded calligraphy as the quintessence of Chinese culture and a national treasure as well. Calligraphy is a required course at school and every educated person must study calligraphy. Anyone who wishes to have a good command of Chinese calligraphy must have a good teacher and a good book. At the present time when it is hard to find a good teacher, good teaching materials are very important. Professor Huang Quanxin has compiled the Chinese Calligraphy Teach-Yourself Series in six books: A Self-Study Course in Regular Script, A Self-Study Course in Wei Stone Inscriptions, A Self-Study Course in Running Script, A Self-Study Course in Grass Script, A Self-Study Course in Official Script, and A Self-Study Course in Seal Script. Each book consists of the following chapters: A Brief Introduction, Techniques, Strokes, Radicals, Structure, The Art of Composition, Creation, Copying, and Appreciation, which should help beginners learn the rudiments, and other learners improve their calligraphy techniques. With standard model characters, systematic theories for self-study, illustration and texts, the Chinese Calligraphy Teach-Yourself Series is well formatted, informative and interesting. Student may appreciate Chinese calligraphy while practicing the models in the books to improve their accomplishments and techniques.
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A Self-Study Course in Li Script