The Chinese Love of Calligraphy

On each of my visits to China over the past year and a half I have been struck by the number and quality of calligraphy displays one finds in museums and galleries there.  Almost every museum contains at least a room or two of calligraphy, while many feature whole exhibitions devoted to it.

I took the photo at the head of this post at the China National Art Gallery during a visit to Beijing in June this year.  It was accompanied by a video of a fellow reading the content of the calligraphy.  An entire floor of the Gallery was given over to the display of calligraphy works by this particular artist.  Some of the works covered whole walls of the Gallery.

While I have learned a fair amount of Chinese over the past few years, I am not yet able to understand most of the fonts used for calligraphy.  Happily many pieces are accompanied by a ‘translation’ into the font now used for printing (like one shown below), which makes for easier reading, but this is not true for all.

While much calligraphy is very old, it remains a popular art form and many shops in China specialise in brushes, inks and other products used to create calligraphy.  Book shops like the Wangfujing Bookshop in Beijing devote large amounts of space to calligraphy supplies and instruction books.  It is clearly one of the most important art forms in China.

While calligraphy is still pretty much of a mystery to me, I hope to develop a better understanding of it in the future.

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