Past Programs & Events > The Education and Development of Chinese Calligraphy
9 November 2003

The Education and Development of Chinese Calligraphy

“Learning to write is not just about the aesthetic knowledge, it is also about the moral knowledge. Through Chinese calligraphy, we are learning the history and culture of the Chinese people.” – Liu Bingsen


The Education and Development of Contemporary Chinese Calligraphy

The Calligraphy Society of Malaysia and Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) jointly organised the Second Malaysia-China Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition 2003 at Wisma Kebudayaan SGM from November 9 to 16, 2003. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, the then Vice Chairman of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles and Chairman of The Chinese Society of Education – Calligraphy Education Research Centre, Mr Liu Bingsen, was invited to deliver an art talk titled “The Education and Development of Chinese Calligraphy.”

Liu Bingsen (1937–2005) was a researcher at The Palace Museum in Beijing, the third Vice-Chairman of the China Calligraphers Association, Vice-Chairman of China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Vice-Chairman of Buddhist Association of China, the Standing committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Chairman of Calligraphy Education Professional Commission of the Chinese Society of Education, Distinguished Professor at the China Calligraphy and Painting International University, Advisor of the Hakusen Shodokai, Japan and Committee member of the Japan-China Friendship Committee for the 21st Century. Mr Liu graduated from the Fine Arts Faculty of Beijing College of Fine Arts (College of Fine Arts, Capital Normal University) in 1962. He then worked at the Palace Museum in Beijing, carrying the mission in replication and research of ancient calligraphy and drawing.

Mr Liu’s creativity in Chinese calligraphy made his work stand out with his personal style, especially his works of calligraphy in traditional clerical script (lishu) that blended well in the contemporary aesthetics. His famous official script “Liu Ti Lishu” (Liu style clerical script) etching out his place in the history of modern Chinese calligraphy.

The Education of Chinese Calligraphy

The great advancement of the education of Chinese Calligraphy started after the Chinese reform and opening. Education for young students was conducted by private teachers during the feudal period in China. Mr Liu was the last batch of students during that period and attended private education for two years. He had been deeply influenced by his private teacher and loved to write. His parents told him, “Write well, and you will be respected wherever you go when you grow up as a person.”

After China’s reform and opening, China Calligraphers Association was established in the 1980s. The association then was established in all provinces around China. There was an education committee for every association in these provinces and places which held the responsibilities on the education of Chinese calligraphy and solving the challenges of its development.

The education of Chinese calligraphy is made available in universities such as the China Academy of Art, the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Normal University, high schools and elementary schools. There are Chinese calligraphy courses that foster highly capable Chinese calligraphers in tertiary institutions, “Chinese calligraphy practice” sessions in secondary schools and weekly Chinese calligraphy lessons in primary schools. The Chinese society puts strong emphasis on the activities related to Chinese calligraphy. The Chinese government has established many platforms to popularise the art form in society.

Next, Mr Liu shared the significant and mission of the Calligraphy Education Professional Committee of CSE (Chinese Society of Education). Its aim and mission are to unite all the educators of Chinese calligraphy to carry out research in the theory and practices in this field. Through the effort in promoting and popularising the tradition of Chinese calligraphy, the quality of culture of the nation has improved. Besides publishing Chinese calligraphy study material for people in China and overseas, the centre is actively proposing the balanced development of the cultural education of Chinese calligraphy. He emphasised that Chinese calligraphy is not just about gaining aesthetic knowledge, but about adapting moral knowledge. Through the practice of Chinese calligraphy, one may cultivate the aesthetic sentiment and nourish capable people in understanding the history and culture of the Chinese nation that helps to preserve this cultural heritage.

Contemporary Chinese Calligraphy – Inheritance and Creativity

Succession is not the objective of learning but a means.

Chinese calligraphers of the new generation should make the excellent works passed down by predecessors as basic references for advancement. It is essential to learn the great wisdom and unique ethnicity inherited from the outstanding predecessors and develop one’s unique artistic style. It requires many different types of elements in composing the contemporary art of Chinese calligraphy. It is significant to merge the basic techniques inherited from the predecessors with the advancement of creativity to showcase the contemporary art of Chinese calligraphy these days. He quoted Mr Pan Tianshou, the master of art, who once said, “Creativity without succession is a work out of nothing,” as a reminder for young Chinese calligraphy avant-gardes.

At the same time, Mr Liu shared about things to be noted when learning Chinese calligraphy.

Firstly, he emphasised that there is no short cut in learning Chinese calligraphy. It is essential to master solid basic skills. Then, it is important to study the structure of Chinese characters as the outcome of the work is based on this element, followed by strokes. The strokes determine the effect of each character. With such great combination of shape (structure) and strokes, good writing is formed. Finally, through point, line and plane, a beautiful Chinese calligraphy is created.

Apart from inheriting the basic from the predecessors, Mr Liu emphasised important of personal cultivation in literature, history and philosophy is essential too. Literature, history and philosophy are closely relevant with the creativity in the art of Chinese calligraphy since ancient time. This is because while expressing the beauty of art, the message and state of the art are directly conveyed through Chinese calligraphy.

The audience was engrossed in the two-hour art talk.

Liu Bingsen