The Art of Calligraphy 奇妙的书法
A: Some critics suggest that different genres of Chinese calligraphy have different political implications. Take Wang Xizhi for example. His calligraphy was repudiated as unorthodox during his lifetime but, only a few decades after his death, was established as an orthodox genre.
B: That’s for sure! Historically, Chinese calligraphy and politics were closely intertwined. Over 2,000 years ago, Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor in Chinese history, established the official Chinese writing characters. The new, simplified characters made writing calligraphy less complicated. It allowed people to use characters with more straight strokes, thus making it easier to write with brushes. This created the Li genre. Over time, other variations were also developed, which eventuallly lead to the formation of the five genres in Chinese calligraphy. These were the Zhuan, Li, Kai, Xing and Cao genres.
A: I’ve heard that most emperors were good at calligraphy. The Tang Dynasty Emperor Li Shimin was an avid collector of Wang Xizhi’s writings.
B: That’s right. Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long played a key role in compiling an authoritative collection of calligraphy. To some extent, preferences of the Emperors had an influence on the rise and fall of certain calligraphy genres.
A: Ordinary Chinese people also seemed to like calligraohy a lot.
B: Part of the reason was the sponsorship by the Emperors. Another reason was the Imperial Civil Service examinations that started in the 7th century. Those examinations were focused on writing and provided a way for ordinary people to achieve a better life. As a result, calligraphy became widely accepted. Calligraphy also had its practical values because it was a good way to make friends and was more presentable as a gift rather than jewelry or money.
A: Does calligraphy still have these practical functions now?
B: Yes. Many people practice calligraphy as a way to raise their cultural accomplishment. Older people use calligraphic writing as a method to keep fit. They believe that when a person concentrates on writing calligraphy, his inner wellbeing is stimulated.
A: I had thought computers would lead to the disappearance of Chinese calligraphy. Now I understand that’s not likely to happen. How can you give your boss computer-printed calligraphy as a gift?
B: You don’t, unless you want him to fire you.