CHINA ARTS COUNCIL
Chuan Shu Chinese Calligraphy
Chuan Shu is ancient Chinese writing from the Shang and Chou Dynasties (1700-1100 BCE). Considered to be the first written language of China, pictorial forms as well as abstract symbols form the basis of a complete written language. Modern Chinese writing developed from this source. Chuan shu is still used today exclusively in name seals but is no longer used in modern writing.
Archealogical finds provide ancient calligraphic models in the form of engravings on ritual vessels or engraved into commemorative stones. As new objects are found, new models of this ancient style of writing becomes available for serious calligraphers all over the world. Each artist interprets the original calligraphs in their own unique way by deciding how to reconstruct missing or damaged images found in the rubbings made directly from the ancient artifacts. This constitutes the calligrapher’s art. Sometimes models of recognized master calligraphers of the past are also studied to develop refinement of craft, but only study of the original models will allow the artist to find his own "voice".
Calligraphy in China is considered to be the highest expression of art because one has to be educated to practice it. The writing requires a lifetime of refinement of physical skill, "Kung Fu", understanding of beauty, "Ji Mei", and the expression of life force, "Shen Qi". Like a living thing, the calligraphs must have "Bones", "Flesh", "Strength" and "Spirit". That is to say, in examining the calligraphs, the viewer must see the structure of the calligraphy; what strokes might have formed it; the natural flow of the ink, single deft strokes without corrections, and a determined aesthetic form - confident continuous strokes without a stop.
The art of calligraphy is practiced without regard to the meaning of the characters written. The images are chosen solely for their aesthetic considerations. Calligraphy artists are not sign makers, they are not trying to literally communicate with the calligraphs. They rather, are trying to express abstractly their visual art beyond language. With this in mind, the viewer does not have to understand the Chinese language at all. The Chinese art of calligraphy can be understood and appreciated in any culture throughout the world.