During my study at the Beijing Language and Cultural University I decided to stay in touch with my creative side by taking classes in Chinese calligraphy. I had always wanted to try this art form and what better place to study than in Beijing! :) The first few classes were surprisingly difficult. I had watched people doing calligraphy before and was under the impression that it would be quite easy to do. I couldn't have been more wrong and my first few sheets of Hanzi (汉字 - Chinese characters) were blotchy, wonky and generally a bit ugly.
We practised by using books of calligraphy as reference and attempting to copy them on our large sheets of paper. These were all hand folded by our teacher to create the squares for our hanzi to fit in. The square shape is very important for neat Chinese writing and we used square-grid paper in our exercise books in class.
Over the weeks we tried different types and styles of calligraphy. A lot of the time I wasn't even sure of the meaning of what I was writing, as I was only familiar with a small selection of the 1000's of characters used. One week we did a large traditional version of the character 鸟 (niǎo - meaning bird). The Chinese characters have evolved over 1000's of years from quite detailed pictures to the simple characters they use today. You can read a bit more about the character 鸟 here or watch a video about it here.
As the classes progressed I attempted writing in a more scripty style as well as a stronger thicker style. I really liked the thick blocky characters the best, I also think at that point I was a lot more confident with my 毛笔 (Máobǐ - brush)。 ;)
I also learnt to write my name and towards the of the class I created some calligraphy pieces that I mounted and brought back to England with me.
My experience at BLCU was made even better by having these cultural classes on offer to all international students. I really enjoyed them and now I'm really keen to learn traditional Chinese painting. But that will have to wait until my next trip to China! :)
Classroom photographs courtesy of my dear classmate Su-ah.