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Chief Editor Pauline Ng shares her experiences


(Translated by Jaren K. Y.)


When I was little, my elders would always remind me: "you must have excellent handwriting; it will greatly benefit you in the future." However, as I grew up, typewriters and computers gradually became common, and opportunities to write Chinese characters became fewer. The funny thing is, however, my appreciation for calligraphy grew, and I realised that having good handwriting is a form of art and enjoyment.


Finally, at seventy years old, I became a student of calligraphy. As I picked up the brush, memories of my childhood resurfaced. During my primary school years, we had to write one to two articles in both big and small characters every week. That was way too much work, and I was quite mischievous back then. Needless to say, I was asked, rather firmly, to copy sentences given by my teacher, specifically using a brush. Initially, I found it boring and tedious, but over time, I grew to actually enjoy writing and gradually understood the wonders of using a calligraphy brush.


I formed a small class and invited calligraphy teacher, Lee Wan Tung, to give us a lesson a week. Each time, as we watched the teacher's demonstrations and listened to his discussions on the history of Chinese character writing, brushstroke combinations, and the structure of characters, we gained a deeper appreciation of the beauty and charm of different styles of calligraphy. In the initial stages of learning, we started with the strict strokes of regular script (kaishu). Although regular script may seem dull, once we mastered the basic strokes, we discovered the subtle nuances of certain ways to start or end strokes that often go unnoticed. It turns out there is much thought and deliberation behind it, akin to the mastery of martial arts. After that, I gained more confidence to explore other styles such as running script (xingshu), cursive script (caoshu), seal script (zhuanshu), and clerical script (lishu).


Learning calligraphy also introduced me to more friends. Every time I attended calligraphy exhibitions, I would encounter old acquaintances. Now that we have a common topic as a conversation starter, it feels like we have met each other too late. Some teachers even organise annual exhibitions for their students. Although it takes considerable effort to produce a piece worthy of public display, the satisfaction of having three generations of family members standing in front of an artwork you produced, taking photos with smiles on their faces… is indescribable.


Of course, my goal is simply to find joy in calligraphy, so I write as much or as little as I please. Whenever my day spares me one or two hours, I take out my brush, some paper, and ink and indulge in the pleasure of writing with the music on. It truly is one of the great joys in my life.


Chinese calligraphy is one of the "Six Arts”; our ancestors called it "poetry without words, dance without movement, painting without pictures, and music without sound." I wouldn’t disagree with this description. It seems my elders were right—if we want to tell the story of China and promote its artistic culture, there is nothing more encapsulating than having excellent handwriting.