Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Art of Writing Chinese Calligraphy

This past weekend, my local shopping centre put on a wonderful community program to coincide with the Chinese New Year. The aim was to introduce the local non-Chinese community to Chinese culture and traditions. It ran over several days with the main activities being on Saturday.

I was keen to experience as much as I could and first stop was Chinese calligraphy.

Dipping the brush in the ink and brushing out the excess was the first lesson I learned.
Brush to paper: learning how much pressure to apply for each part of the stroke. With a master calligrapher to talk me through the strokes as I put brush to paper, the first few strokes were the easiest!Learning how to hold the brush was a task in itself - this was a really foreign concept for my westernized brain. I had to constantly remind myself to hold the brush upright instead of at an angle.A picture of concentration! I was completely engrossed in the task at hand and by this stage I'd been at it for about 30 minutes with my teacher watching over my shoulder and guiding my strokes. My patient husband stood and photographed without complaining!Here's my completed calligraphy practice sheet. And whilst I don't recognise any of the symbols, the Master tells me my characters are readable and that I have done very well for a first timer. I think he was being very kind, but I appreciate this art form so much more now that I know how tricky it is to manipulate the brush to create the strokes. Thank goodness for the grids on the practice paper!
I had a go at everything else that I could too. Here I'm learning how to make hand pulled noodles with Master Chef, Sam."Fold and twist", he tells me."Then fold and twist some more.""Swing it like a rope and then slap the rope down hard on the counter to soften it.""OK, your turn", he says.
So, step 1, fold and twist. I got this part.... this was easy!Step 2: Swing it like a rope to stretch it. Oooh, this is fun!Step 3: Anyone for jump rope?!! Watch out, it almost hits me in the face! Laughter breaks out around the counter.And then it snapped. Master Chef, Sam decides I've done enough damage and takes over! I truly looked like I'd never stepped into a kitchen before. But it was fun!

For a small donation to the Queensland Flood Relief Appeal you could have a master calligrapher personalise a painted Chinese fan with your name and special message. There was lots of discussion amongst the artists to work out how to write Myléne. In the end they decided it should be Mai Lin (I think!).
There were Chinese knot tying demonstrations to watch too. After experimenting with Kumihimo braiding last month, I was totally fascinated with this. How about this for beauty and simplicity: button knot flowers. We spent quite a bit of time watching a master fruit carver at work. The smell of sweet, ripe summer fruits was divine.Of course there was the traditional lion dance through the shopping mall but I managed to miss all photographic opportunities of this!

With all this Chinese art and culture surrounding us, we truly felt like we were on vacation somewhere in China. It was such a great day out.

And so to all the wonderful people who made this day such a pleasure, Gong Hey Fat Choy

'Til next time.....

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