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On this page, you will learn about Chinese calligraphy and how important it was to the Chinese culture, how it effected other cultures, and its history. The reader can also learn how it impacted Chinese literature and the different Chinese languages. Calligraphy is an essential Chinese characteristic and has been part of the Chinese culture for thousands of years. Calligraphy is not only an art, but a Chinese way of life.

Different Chinese Languages
China, much like the United States, speaks a multitude of languages. In fact, even the official language, Mandarin, has about the same amount of speakers as any of the other Chinese Languages. Mandarin, Cantonese/Yue, and Hakka/Keijia are the most widely spoken languages, wiexternal image 9.jpgthe Wu, Gan/Kan, and Xiang falling close behind. In conversation, the differences between these languages are almost unintelligible. Often times the languages of China are compared to the "Romance Languages" of Europe, because both sets of languages were based off of another, the Romance Languages off of Latin and the Chinese languages off of Ancient Chinese. There are also hundreds of dialects spoken depending on the region of China.

The written languages of China are unlike the spoken ones. Before 1917, "wenyan" was the most common written language. Later, "baihua" became the accepted written language. In both of these writing styles, Chinese letters, called characters, were pronounced very separately depending on the language. To unify all of the myriad languages, Modern Standard Chinese was introduced to China. It read characters in a Beijing dialect, and rapidly spread throughout China. More recently, Pinyin became standard in businesses. Pinyin writes Chinese words in the Latin Alphabet, making is easy for documents to be translated. Pinyin is also called "Romanization" in English. The written languages of China are impossibly complex, and very separate from the daily spoken languages.

Chinese Literature

Chinese Literature developed in the early years of the empire. The characters stand for things or ideas. Unlike our language with an alphabet, the Chinese characters each are an equivalent of one word. Their literature was written in one language for more that 3,000 years. Most of the early stories came from philosophers and were based on biblical stories; they were often the works of Confucius and Lao-tzu. Early Chinese literature often reflects Confucianism, typically through anecdotes explaining how people should act and behave in society. This is because many classic Chinese novels were written around Confucius’s time. Most of the early Chinese novels were written about history, love, and adventure. Poetry was a very popular form of literature. One of the greatest Chinese poets was Li Po (701-762) who lived during the Tang dynasty. Drama was also a popular literary form. The combination of music and song with the Chinese language was an immediate favorite. Playwriting became an immediate craze, and opera was a favorite form of drama. However, not all Chinese leaders were in favor of the beautiful literature. During the short Ch'in dynasty (221-206 BC) book burning occurred. In 213BC, the emperor Shih Huang Ti had all literature burned that could be any "threat" to him. In the next dynasty, people reconstructed the literature that was lost through his insanity. Literature has left an important path through China. Without it, many historic events would never have been recorded if not for the excellent early writers of China.
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History of Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy has been around for more than four thousand years. Unlike our language that uses letters, calligraphy uses symbols or different
sample of Chinese calligraphy
sample of Chinese calligraphy
arrangements of brush strokes. Calligraphy is very beautiful to look at and requires certain skills to learn so it is considered to be a form of Oriental Art. Calligraphy was created by the Chinese and was at the beginning only found in the Chinese culture, but as China started to interact with different countries, its culture mixed with theirs. This is why you can find some forms of the art in countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore. There are seven strokes used in calligraphy. They are the Horizontal Line, Dot, Sweeping Downward Stroke, Vertical Line, Small Sharp Curve, Large Sharp Curve, Small Downward stroke, and Large Downward Stroke. These seven strokes are also known as the "Seven Mysteries". In ancient China, calligraphy was used not only as the written form of their languages, but also as a test of intelligence. To write calligraphy, it takes many years of practice, hard work, and patience; therefore Chinese intelligence were tested based on how well the person wrote. Most of the ancient Chinese emperors and government officials had the best calligraphy. This is because in many Chinese dynasties like the Tang and Song Dynasties, officials had to take an exam in order to work for the emperor.
Not only were civil exams based on calligraphy, but they even had schools for calligraphy. These schools taught students the skills and secrets to writing the perfect calligraphy. In the process of learning calligraphy a person would also gain the skills of patience and diligence because calligraphy takes time and determination. Not only were there schools just for calligraphy, the National Academy (a school), had calligraphy as one of the six major subjects that the students had to take. Thus, calligraphy has played a major role in Chinese history.

Calligraphy styles

Calligraphy is an art from the early days of history and people still use it to this very day. The earliest type of calligraphy was the Jai Gu Wen Style. This was used around 2000 B.C. and is a bone/shell script. That period was the known as the Pre-Qin period. The next type of calligraphy was Jin Wen which is bronze engraving used during the Chun Qui-ZhanGuo period in 770 B.C to 221 B.C. The third type of calligraphy is the Zhuan Shu or the Seal Style used in the Qin Han dynasty from 221 B.C. to 220 A.D. Also in 25 to 220 A.D during the East Han Dynasty people used the official style of calligraphy "Li Shu." There was also the Grass style or Gao Shu used during the Han Dynasty around 48 B.C. It was also known as the "Swift Style". Then there was the Zhen Shu, or the Kai Shu (the regular style) was used during the Han dynasty in 173 A.D. Lastly there was the Xing Shu 3hich was as well know as the Running Style in the Han Dynasty in 87A.D. Calligraphy is a very interesting art and there are many different styles. Calligraphy is well known throughout the world and is still used today.

This is an example of the Seal Style
This is an example of the Seal Style
external image cal3.jpgThis is an example of the Running Style.

Olivia - period B

Jacob - period C
Lydia- period F
Jaime- Period G


Guditus, Steven. Confucianism. Medfield Public Schools, 2009. chinese literature picture:
China Dialect Map