In China painting is inextricably linked with writing. The Chinese pain- Painting and ter is always a calligrapher as well and learns the two skills together, calligraphy Painting and calligraphy require a mastery of the brush and once a stroke has been executed it cannot be reconsidered or corrected. It is the “brush stroke which tells all about the personality of the artist and his technical ability”.
Chinese writing, which started out as a series of pictograms, was first practised at the beginning of the 2nd millennium b.c. Over the centuries it has undergone a process of stylistic change in which the pictogram developed into an abstract symbol, an ideogram.
The court astrologers of the Shang Dynasty (16th 11th c. B.C.) who scratched their oracular inscriptions on tortoise shells or ox bones were already using a stylised script. During the Zhou Dynasty (11th c-221 b.c.) inscriptions were usually marked on to bronze vessels. Towards the end of the 9th c. b.c. the symbols started to appear in parallel columns and also the lines became finer and rounder.
Various calligraphic Calligraphic styles have developed style from these ancient scripts. The “dazhuan” (large seal script) and the “xiaozhuan” (small seal script), the oldest styles were in common use during the Zhou Dynasty (11th c-221 b.c.) and at the beginning of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.). The pic-tographic origin of many of their symbols can still be recognised.
The sun, for example, is shown as a small ring, mountains by a series of peaks and a horse as a silhouette with four legs. These symbols are difficult to create but are aesthetically very pleasing – some are still used by the Chinese on seals (hence seal script), as signatures, in calligraphy or as commercial hallmarks.
“Lishu”, the style of officials and clerics, developed during the Qin era and is an angular, easily understood script. With its grand elegant lines it is often used on book titles, newspaper mastheads, signs and notices.
Gradually, around the time of Jesus Christ, “lishu” was transformed into “kaishu” or regular style which is now used throughout China as the standard script.