Book Review: The Art of Chinese Calligraphy, by Jean Long

I picked this book up from a shelftop display in the children’s section of the library. While older children (and maybe a few elementary school aged ones) might enjoy this book, it seems to be more for adults who are serious about learning Chinese calligraphy techniques.

I’m not a calligrapher myself, so I’m probably not the best source to report back about this book. But, it is captivating, even for a non-calligrapher. The book is slim, but is comprehensive, covering everything from the origins of  symbols to the intricacies of brush strokes and character composition. There is much Chinese history thrown in as well. Deceptively simple — maybe that’s how it found its way to the children’s shelf.

There are some great photos and illustrations of the materials. Most of what I know about Chinese inks and brushes comes from pictureless fiction, so these visual aids were helpful. While in black and white only, the photographs also show calligraphy on art — ceramics, paintings, tablets, porcelain, fans, metal, silk.

What’s the lesson here? That artists, like everyone else, need to study the past — not only the images, but also the methods, tools, materials, and origins. As a calligraphy bookmark “intended to encourage reading” (p. 38) puts it, “Studying old history helps in the learning of new ideas.”

 

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