Chinese calligraphy has been appreciated as art since at least the reign of the early Han dynasty.
In it’s most basic form, it is essentially the writing of words with brush and ink.
Yet at the same time, it is much more than that.
It is an artistic expression of language in visual written form.
The phrase “a picture tells a thousand words” are commonly used in art. And in the case of Chinese calligraphy, it’s not far fetched to say that each character tells a thousand words.
If you feel that that is an exaggeration, consider that in the I-Ching, each hexagram can have infinite meaning behind it. Then you might be enlightened by this thought.
Characters in calligraphy are after all an evolution of pictograms. And each character communicate the ideas of ideograms and symbols.
This is why it is often suggested that only great minds would be able to truly appreciate a painting with Chinese calligraphy.
However, it does not mean that people would not be able put them to good use due to a lack of appreciation. Just like we don’t need to understand how electricity works in order to flip the switch for the lights to come on.
Together with the qin (琴) which is a musical instrument, qi (棋) which is the strategic board game of Go, hua (畫) which means paintings, shu (書) which means calligraphy, makes up the 4 arts (四藝) which ancient scholars need to master in order to be considered for elite status achievements.
Being recognized as an acclaimed scholar in those days was no small feat.
Chinese calligraphy scripts
There are 5 basic scripts that calligraphers commonly use today.
- Seal (篆書)
- Clerical (隸書)
- Cursive (草書)
- Semi-cursive (行書)
- Standard/Regular (楷書)
There are actually many more such as the oracle bone, running, bronze, etc. But they are seldom used in this day and age.
Each character is designed to fit into an imaginary square grid no matter how many strokes of the brush is required.
They are written from vertically from top to bottom and horizontally from right to left.
Considering that there was no “undo” feature or correction liquid in those days, creating a masterpiece of calligraphy take elegant skill and refined expertise.
This is why top quality calligraphy are still so highly valued these days.
Tools of calligraphy
While calligraphy have been found to be carved in materials like stone, wood, and bone, etc, the eloquent way to do it is with 4 essential tools.
- Paper, rice paper or silk
- Ink stick
- Ink stone
Each tool have specific requirements for it to be considered proper.
They are then used to produce glorious calligraphy in various format such as scrolls, fans, or the typical paper.
The mannerism with holding and using the brush is a skill itself. This adds to the gracious nature in which artwork is produced.
Calligraphy characters in itself is a piece of valued art. This is even more when they are used to write poetry.
But they are often part of paintings such as those of landscapes to add further expressions of the artists who painted them.
Yet even when paired with paintings of objects, it must not detract us from the notion that the value from calligraphy comes in the beauty of the characters and the meanings behind them.
On top of that, it is the nature of skilled artisans to transfer auspicious energy onto their writings.
This is one big reason why calligraphy have an undeniable place in the practice of feng shui.
Feng shui and calligraphy
While it is often mentioned that landscape paintings consisting of mountains and streams are the epitome of feng shui paintings, Chinese calligraphy art is not far behind.
In fact, many feng shui masters consider them as a level above landscape paintings.
And as what they mean would depend on the words that are depicted in calligraphy, placement of them in the house will be largely dependent on meanings behind them.
So one should not hang them thoughtlessly in any areas of the house.
Saying that, most Chinese calligraphy paintings convey blessings and general well-bring.
Many of them communicate inspiration, wisdom, and knowledge.
While words of longevity and good health are also often the main theme.
These are generally safe to hang on the walls of the house.
In many ways, these artwork can serve a dual purpose in feng shui of both enhancement of good luck and dissolving the bad.
For example, a piece of calligraphy art can take the place of a landscape painting that was supposed to be installed on a wall behind the sofa. However, it can also be placed somewhere to remedy a source of poison arrow.
If you have purchased one and unsure about it’s meanings and representations, then it might be helpful to hire a credible translator to decipher gist of it’s symbolism for you.
If it’s about good health, then placement in the health locations in the house would be ideal.
If’s it’s about wealth, then locate the wealth areas and decide on the most appropriate one to place the painting.
And if it’s about academics and knowledge, then find an academic sector of the house, such as where the flying star 4 resides for placement.
And those that talk about philosophy, great men and sages can be placed in the northwest where the Chien trigram resides.
Otherwise, most typographical art work can be placed in common areas like the living room. They can also be ideal on walls right in front of doors or at the hallway.
Finally, do be mindful that even though the mass majority of Chinese calligraphy have positive meanings and symbolism, some with negative connotations do circulate in the market.
Negative ones are often about depression, being victimized, suffering, etc.
You definitely don’t want these in your residence.