THE SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY – Tai Chi Sword 22

calligraphy sword

SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY

In China calligraphy is as esteemed as painting. Calligraphers are recognized and venerated and their work receives critical acclaim or disdain. It is bought for prices rivalling that of paintings and is collected by connoisseurs.

Long ago when China was a meritocracy the emperors courted the favour of the royalty and cultural elite, encouraging mastery of the art and furthering it as one of the supreme excellences.

The more than 40,000 characters in the Mandarin ‘alphabet’ began with a few simple strokes, which are called ‘radicals’ to represent ‘things’, each one looking like the object it portrayed. These characters are depictions, not abstract symbols, as with most languages. As time passed the characters changed, resembling the original objects less and less. However, it is studied starting with the original style and going through all the steps of its evolution. In this manner the students retain the essence of the original ‘picture’.

calligraphy sword
THE SWORD AND CALLIGRAPHY – Tai Chi Sword

Calligraphy and fencing are considered companion arts in China, the skills of one enhancing the skills of the other. Frequently a calligrapher will illustrate the correct energy and movement for the brush by displaying a sword movement, and vice versa.

Occasionally, Cheng Man Ch’ing would lightly pull a student’s brush upward as they were executing a stroke. If they were holding the brush too tightly it would mess up the character they were making, and if it were too loose the brush would slip out of their grasp, leaving black stains on their fingers. If they were holding the brush correctly their hand would simply rise with the brush, again similar to sword principle.

Cheng Man Ch’ing said that one who learns and communicates through a language that depicts, develops a different kind of mind than one who learns a language that uses abstract figures.

Author and Images: Ken van Sickle

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