My Chinese Calligraphy Homework

Last year, I provided an update in the “About” page  on my activities in retirement.

This is about time I should provide another update.

I have been learning Chinese Calligraphy for slightly over one year now, I am struggling with learning my Spanish grammar and I have also started learning a special form of TaiChi known as the “Water Flowing” form which does not emphasize on the mechanical external form of the exercise – it focuses on the internal work of the body (really hard to explain and learn!).CIMG3702

This week, I have spent over one hour writing the attached calligraphy. This is for handing over to my teacher for his comment coming Saturday. In the past year, I have learned writing in  four different fonts of the Chinese characters. The one posted is the simplified free-flowing form. Every week, my teacher will tell me what are the problems with my writing and how I should improve.

Have also attended some Chinese calligraphy exhibitions locally.DSCF2722

What I enjoyed most was visiting the BaiWangShan garden in Beijing where they have some calligraphy carved in black slate for appreciation.DSCF2735

The slates have poems written by scholars carved into them. It was not only the calligraphy but also the Autumn foliage in the gardens which added to the poetic mood.

With the different Chinese fonts now readily available from the computer / internet, less and less people are learning or practising Calligraphy now.

It is foreseeable that Chinese Calligraphy could become a dying art as well!

156 thoughts on “My Chinese Calligraphy Homework

    • I thought I was running out of things to show / say in my posts – and this morning I have the notion as to why I didn’t post anything on my calligraphy. it turns out this has attracted quite a few comments from my friends. Thank you 🙂

  1. Quite interesting, Michael. Had no idea there were variants of Chinese Calligraphy. Assume it is dis-similar enough to Spanish so there is no chance of mixing them. (Always my difficulty, especially between Spanish & Italian, not that I speak either! It’s reading, only, but still…)

    The TaiChi reminds me of trying to teach singing: one’s body is the instrument, with everything going on internally. “Really hard to explain” is absolutely right.

  2. Wow, this looks sooo nice. Honestly, I think it’s a great idea of you to take your time for that after retirement. Very arty! Don’t stop, no matter what your teacher will tell you coming Saturday 🙂

    • Thanks for the encouragement. In fact, when my teacher points out where I have not written correctly, I am thankful to him, as through this, my calligraphy may improve. Thank you ae.i 🙂

  3. State after state is ceasing to teach cursive writing here in the US for the same reason… the Internet. I find this disturbing because all of our original legal documents are hand written in cursive script, such as our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our Delcaration of Independence. One day future generations all over the world are going to be readily duped.

    Great post. Always a pleasure.


    • Hi Greg, I can see your reasons for worrying. People now are just so accustomed only to typed letters and not to cursive written letters. The use of Whats App etc only encourages typing very short messages, that’s also not very good. Thanks for the comment!

    • Agreed! The whole eliminate-cursive thing scares me. I hereby promise to teach my girls (not yet in kindergarten) cursive when they get older. Thanks for the inspiration, Michael!

  4. Just LOVE it, Michael! Being an ignorant Aussie, I think I believed that all Chinese people could o calligraphy! 😀 But the moment I stopped to think about it, I realised how stupid an idea that was.
    I am a wiser person. And those autumn trees are indeed lovely.
    You must let us know what your teacher said about your homework!

    • At school, we used to write in one of the common Chinese fonts – but few people nowadays write with ink and brushes and in the other fonts (including also the Oracle). My teacher will point out which of the characters have not been written correctly and what improvements to make. Thank you 🙂

  5. Hi Michael, I know about Chinese fonts. Two of my youngest grandchildren are fluent in Mandarin and write and read Mandarin. They have gone to an immersion school for a several years now and have even gone on 2 trips to China with their school mates to practice their Mandarin. Anyway, I saw the older child writing on the computer and texting a friend on her iPhone using Mandarin characters! Amazing! Good for you that you are learning languages and writing calligraphy! Only the immigrants mostly speak Mandarin; the rest are Cantonese speaking, though unlike your Hong Kong Cantonese. Being 3rd generation, I speak neither language.

    • Hi Liz, glad to learn that your grandchildren are using Mandarin in communication! I didn’t know Cantonese is still spoken by some people in Hawaii. Thanks for praying for my brother – he is diagnosed to have a benign lesion in the spinal nerve – that needs fixing. I am praying for him everyday! Many thanks for the help 🙂

    • Yeah, you will have the chance of practicing it in every day life. The sentence construction is quite different from those of English / Chinese and the sentences are too long. Thank you 🙂

  6. Best wishes in your study of Chinese Calligraphy. While in China, I visited the Forest of Stone Tablets in Xi’an. The evolution of the characters is amazing and I think they are very beautiful. Although I have never really studied them, they seem to make sense to me much more than the spoken language, which was very difficult for me to hear and reproduce correctly.

    • Hi, I have not yet visited the Forest of Stones – you are ahead of me! The Chinese fonts started with Oracle and progressed. The grammar is simple but recognizing the characters could be difficult. Thank you 🙂

  7. Calligraphy is an art form which has experienced a world wide decline. My father and his brothers had handwritings so beautiful that even their grocery lists were lovely to look at. It seems your calligraphy is feeding your TaiChi and vise versa, both are flowing and beautiful.

  8. It is wonderful that you are taking the time to learn Chinese Calligraphy Michael, your homework looks great…I hope you get a good mark :). Unfortunately a lot of wonderful traditions and skills are becoming a thing of the past due to modernization and technology, so I love that you are working on keeping some of it alive.

    • My teacher usually wouldn’t assign a mark – he just points out where the characters are not quite correct and hope that we will improve. Yes we should try to pass on arts that will be disappearing to the next generations. Thank you 🙂

  9. Good luck. I could not begin to learn such beautiful script. Katherine

    Stay strong, practice kindness, laugh and play, be with beauty, live in the now and always remember what matters,

    Katherine Gordy Levine

    Visit the EFTI Store or Emotional Fitness Training, Inc. to learn more about improving your Emotional Intelligence and finding your way to the good life.

    “There’s a crack in everything, that’s what lets the light in.” Thank you Leonard Cohen

    On Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 5:57 PM, retireediary

    • Very good advice : Stay strong, practice kindness, laugh and play, be with beauty, live in the now and always remember what matters. I will be pleased to follow this, Katherine.

  10. You are doing a lot of wonderful and fun things in your retirement. I’m very impressed with your calligraphy. I hope that Chinese Calligraphy does NOT become a dying art.

    • If people are not writing any more but only typing one type of font on the computer then there is a risk that calligraphy may disappear. I hope that this is not going to happen. regards, Michael

    • I’m interested to know what you teacher says about your calligraphy homework. I’m sure he or she will say, “Excellent work!” 🙂

    • Attended the calligraphy class today. My teacher said “Very good, a couple of words can be improved making them more free flowing”. Have a great weekend!

    • I’m glad you received a good comment from your teacher! I trust that you had a great weekend. Have a good new week!

    • I am happy that my teacher did like my homework – he has been practicing calligraphy for several decades; I know I still have a long way to go to improve my skills. Have a lovely week ahead!

  11. I love watching people write in calligraphy. I have very fond memories of watching this done with giant brushes in water on the ground in parks in Beijing. I also brought home some stones painstakingly carved with calligraphy from a very small village up north. Your work looks lovely!

    • Yeah, I like those very big characters too – I have been doing some of those with very large brushes – they are just fantastic. Many thanks for you interest in my work and in my blog. Thank you 🙂

    • Actually, I am not sure what names they give to the several Chinese fonts in English – they have the Clerical style etc, and also Oracle. The one I show is free flowing, with brushes – basically, you don’t need to write straight in q column, there should be a good mix of bigger / smaller characters, thick / thin characters etc. Very interesting, isn’t it. Thank you 🙂

    • Hi, this is one of the reasons for practicing calligraphy. After many years of multi-tasking at work, my attention span is reduced, I need something arty as well as assisting me to improve in this regard.

  12. Calligraphy isn’t the only dying art. With all of the type fonts available, most children can’t even write in cursive anymore. I don’t think they even teach penmanship in schools today. When you love what your are studying, learning is a joy in itself.

    • . . . and also they don’t know how to calculate, now they have the computers! Yes, it is very true that many things of the past are now disappearing. So, we should encourage passing on some of these skills, artistic or otherwise to the next generations. Thank you 🙂

  13. This so beautiful, photographs and what you are doing. A few years ago my husband brought me some Chinese Calligraphy sets, they are so beautiful and I always wish to learn. But in here still I couldn’t find a place for this. So what you are doind made me excited now. Thank you dear Micahel, Good Luck with your study. Love, nia

    • Hi Nia, many thanks for your kind words. It is quite common for Chinese to hang Calligraphy in the house, especially poems or words of encouragement or mottos to get by. Now that Chinese New Year is near, people would post some calligraphy on their doors or in the house – calligraphy with goodwill and good wishes. Have a great rest of the week 🙂

    • Hi Natjtan, many thanks for your kind words. Understand that the Spanish grammar has more than 10 types of tenses. In Chinese, although there is grammar, you can say that there are no tenses – you just say when something occur and there are no gender for the nouns – in that sense, it is a simpler language ( if you can remember the characters for all the pictorial words!). Regards, Michael

    • Spanish does get complex! Luckily for me people understand that for the past I only know 2 past tenses and can get by. The present and future tenses I’m okay with. Chinese definitely sounds easier bar the characters! Pronouncing Chinese when learning from a European language must be hard as there seems to be no way of relating them to how they sound in a European Language! I admire those who learn it!

    • Hi, the Chinese language is now Romanized, so you can actually pronounce them more easily, but the problem is that those Romanized characters do not relate to the actual Chinese characters. Regards, Michael

  14. I started learning Chinese calligraphy from a teacher because I always wanted to try it out, but had to stop after 3 months because I had to move. I am still learning the basic font but haven’t had much time to practise, yet I do love the elegance of the art. I am moving back home soon so I will have time to pick it up again!

  15. Ahh. There are so many things to learn and ways to express ourselves. Work does so get in the way. Your calligraphy is beautiful – I had no idea there were 4 fonts! The Tai Chi sounds intriguing. I have done Tai Chi a couple times in the past and am not familiar with that form. It sounds like it would be helpful for balancing internal energy. We have a trip planned to Costa Rica and am waiting for the Spanish CDs to show up in the mail so I can start practicing. Hoping some of the college Spanish from 32 years ago will come back to me!

    • In fact, if you count the Oracle, there are more than 4 fonts in Chinese. Some people learn the Oracle too – one day, I may be tempted to learn that as well. I learned some French 30+ years ago, I can still remember some of the words and phrases, hope that your Spanish will come back to you too!

  16. I am so impressed by all that you are learning and doing in your retirement, Michael — and not just each separate activity, but the range and the way that, taken together, they complement each other and enlarge your own personal world.

    • Yes, the separate activities should be viewed together to see if they are fulfilling and complementary. I hope I can learn more and enjoy my retirement. Many thanks for the kind comment 🙂

  17. Your beautiful Chinese calligraphy is exquisite, a beautiful art work, Michael! It could become a dying art… Love the the BaiWangShan garden with the carving poems.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Very beautiful and I like the BaiWangShan gardens and your description of them being poetic. It looks like a great place to rejuvenate the mind and spirit.

  19. I think it’s wonderful, Michael, that you are doing calligraphy and tai chi. The one must inform the other doesn’t it? I have practiced tai chi for many years (tho have lapsed lately). All the versions I have learned are very physical though – various Yang long and short forms. I like the sound of your internally flowing form.

    • Hi Tish, my Taichi teacher is teaching us how to open up the internal system for health reasons rather than practicing it as a kind of exercise or kung fu. Life is just flowing along . . . . together with my flwoing forms of Taichi and Calligraphy. Many thanks for the kind comment 🙂

  20. I’d love to tell you that your calligraphy is masterful, but the truth is, as you know, I can’t read a thing! I’m just proud of you for continuing your learning!!! Impressive! Best wishes for more success!

    • Hi Rusha, the font is not a commonly used font in Chinese characters. I am sure many Chinese are not able to read it word by word. As you say, the important thing is the continued learning. Many thanks for the kind comment 🙂

    • Chinese characters are not easy to recognize, less so for these simplified free-flowing characters. For me, some of these words are difficult to be memorized. Regards, Michael

    • I couldn’t afford the time and the patience when I was still at work. This is the golden moment of my life when I can do so. many thanks for the perusal and comment!

  21. I agree with Imelda!
    And I think you are using very well your time Michael..First, you worked hard and now, you are taking time to develop your inner soul…
    Sometimes we forget how important is to take care of body, mind and soul…
    You have been wise,…And you will become wiser…
    My congratulations!

    • In my retirement, I am more conscious on using my time. You have rightly pointed out, it is a time to develop one’s soul, mind and also the body holistically. I hope I am getting wiser and using this beneficially to others as well. Many thanks for the kind words 🙂

  22. Thank you for visiting my photoblog. I looked at quite a few posts in my first pass at your blog and the content and photos are very good. The calligraphy you are studying appears very daunting and quite challenging. I look forward to coming back.

    • I am keeping some of my homework. When my calligraphic skill is improved, I will write some poems which I would hang on my wall. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  23. Calligraphy of any kind, I find beautiful, though Chinese calligraphy seems the most artistic and beautiful to me. I think your calligraphy looks like a work of art. I attempted to learn to speak Chinese a few years ago and found it extremely difficult with the five intonations. I admire your goals and the richness of your photography and life. You have a most enjoyable blog.

    • Hi Jackie, thanks for the kind words. I have also done some large characters which really look like paintings. In a way, I found my retirement more rewarding than work. Look forward to hearing from you again; have a great weekend 🙂

  24. This is wonderful…Love Calligraphy..I started doing some when I was in China…I went to the Great wall at Yangquan and there was a maze garden where the calligraphers walked and created their thoughts and poems then wrote them down on the walls around the courtyard. I photographed almost every one there…must put them in a blog for you as sure you would love them too. Nice to read your blog…Maggi

    • We need more people learning about calligraphy and other dying arts so that they can be passed on, generations after generations – otherwise, you can only see them in museums!

    • Hi, I was a bit hesitant as to whether I should show my homework. The response to this post has been very good, I am glad that I have done that. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  25. Ni hao, Mr Lai! 🙂 very interesting post, indeed… My son speaks and writes (madarin) Chinese and Japanese, too – fluently… We’re very proud of him! He was in mainland China and Hong-Kong last month, on business trip… small world, indeed! 🙂 my very best and respectful regards, Mélanie – Toulouse, France

    • Glad to hear that your son can write and speak these languages. It must have been an interesting and useful experience for him to travel / work in China / Hong Kong. Very pleased to hear from you from Toulouse 🙂

    • The unseen part of the struggle is that my wife is also learning calligraphy with me and both my teacher and classmates would compare my writings with that of my wife – and for most of the time, they said my wife’s calligraphy is better!

    • Haha, I see, the ubiquitous competition that you can’t get away from even when you are retired. 🙂

      My personal opinion (although not solicited), any art form is up to very subjective opinion. If it’s a way for you to express yourself, it’s got a piece of you in it that makes it uniquely you. So as long as it does a good job of expressing yourself, who cares.

      Have a good night,


  26. Michael, I imagine the production of such calligraphy is very restful in its own way. Also thanks for the pictures of the garden. As a bonsai grower seeing pictures of Chinese /Japanese gardens is inspirational for me.
    PS there’s ALWAYS. Something to write about!

    • Hi, it needs a lot of concentration but one will be pleased when one produced something good and artistic. The gardens were full of fall foliage at the time we visited so we also enjoyed the views. When I can’t think of anything to write, maybe, I can talk about myself!

  27. It’s hard to believe you’ve only been studying calligraphy for a year. Is this your first time ever doing calligraphy, or did you take lessons as a child?

    I’ve been studying Japanese calligraphy for about a year, but my characters still look very childish! How often do you practice outside of class?

    • Hi, we need to do some calligraphy when I was 8 to 9 years old. However, that was limited to tracing off some templates – although brushes were used. After so many decades, it is now my first time to try out my calligraphy. But still, this involves imitation of the notes given by my teacher ( not tracing). We need to hand in our homework every week. being lazy, I only practice once every week – just good enough to come up with a piece of homework to be handed in!

  28. Wah! Very nice calligraphy ! It seems there are lots of interest in the community on this subject. I think it is the most difficult to master and excel. Good luck to your learning!

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