Buying Guide: How to choose your Chinese calligraphy kit ?

Guide d’achat : comment choisir son kit de calligraphie chinoise ?

In China, the mastery of Chinese calligraphy is a sign of intelligence. It is an artistic discipline that manifests itself in the choice of signs and their layout. The practice of Chinese calligraphy is often compared to the learning of human walking. According to Chinese teachings, studying regular style is like learning to stand.

This art has evolved over the millennia, to become more and more democratized in the country and throughout the world.How to choose a Chinese calligraphy kitto preserve tradition while adapting to modernity ? It will be easier to make your choice once you understand the origins of this traditional Chinese culture that has endured over time.

Origin of Chinese calligraphy

The underside of Chinese culture reveals a very ancient wisdom. Writing is an art in its own right, imbued with philosophy and self-control. Indelible ink does not tolerate any errors, which implies foolproof assurance on the part of the calligrapher. Before choosing your Chinese calligraphy kit and embarking on this activity, here is a short summary of its history.

A very ancient writing

Sinograms have existed since ancient times. Also called Shu Fa, Chinese calligraphy is part of the traditional art of Asian writing. Specialists agree that the Chinese people have been transmitting their thoughts on paper for about four millennia, far ahead of the Romans who apply to it many centuries later.

The initiator of Chinese calligraphy

Opinions differ on its origin since some claim that it is the first Chinese emperor named after Fuxi who is the initiator. Other currents of ideas name Cang Jie like the one who drew the first sinograms. According to beliefs, the greatest Chinese calligrapher is Wang Xizhi who influenced a large number of calligraphers and academic in Asia.

The philosophy behind calligraphy

If you have chosen to purchase a calligraphy kit on the Internet or that you were interested in this article, you understood that you can get something out of it. Indeed, sinogram tracing is conceived as a way of connecting mind and body. The effects are similar to meditation. It promotes self-control and allowsraising one's soul into a higher spiritual dimension.

Mastery of calligraphy and social rank

There are tens of thousands of Chinese signs. The improvement of the mastery of this writing is therefore necessarily spread over a period that can go from a decade to a whole human life. To be introduced to this discipline is to take a long-term path. During the imperial era, calligraphy was used to select persons of responsibility at the imperial court. It reflects the emotions, the level of study, the moral integrity and the personality of the person.

Chinese calligraphy and its evolution

With different dynasties and currents of thought, it had trend variances in Chinese calligraphy. The basic design remained the same, but the styles evolved according to the needs of the leaders. Modern calligraphy is therefore slightly different from the traditional one. However, the four pillars also called "treasures of the calligrapher” from this writing are the same.

Choosing a traditional calligraphy kit

A traditional Chinese calligraphy kit is chosen for different reasons. Whether for the observance of custom or as an interior decoration. It is usually composed of an ink stick made from soot and Musk, an Inkstone, rice paper and brush neatly and harmoniously arranged in its wooden box. It is more prized by calligraphy experts.

Choosing a modern calligraphy kit

A modern calligraphy kit is especially useful to start practicing because the grip is much easier. Unlike the traditional kit, the modern kit does not require the rubbing of ink on the stone to achieve the ideal texture and achieve its calligraphy. The ink comes in a container in liquid form. For use, it is enough to pour it into the inkwell and dilute it slightly if necessary.

Brushes used in calligraphy

Chinese students of the third millennium are increasingly using the pen to write. The Chinese keyboard of a computer is even equipped with sinograms so that you no longer need to trace the characters. But without the brush, the calligraphy is not quite the same.

Why are brushes important in calligraphy ?

In thetraditional Chinese art, the brush is the extension of thought and the connection passes through the body. The tool for writing is an integral part of the resulting visual art. The choosing a calligraphy kit and the result you want to get, therefore, depends on the quality of the brushes and the variety of models presented.

The design and shape of the calligraphy brush

To choose your calligraphic material, know that the weight, the shape, the length of the hairs and the arrangement of the hairs are very varied... indeed, each calligrapher has its affinities and style. The strength of the wrist and its flexibility influence the type of brush to draw the sinograms.

4 qualities to consider :

  • Sen : choose a brush with a fine tip for accuracy
  • Sei : for the structure, opt for a brush with longer bristles and the same length once they are flattened
  • In : for strength i.e. the bristles of the brush must not be too soft or firm so that the brush can be turned and turned easily in water or ink
  • Ken : give preference to well-balanced hairs that perfectly match the movements given to them

For people at the more advanced level, other forms of calligraphy brushes exist on the market (round tip for rounded strokes, flat tip, etc.).

What raw materials to choose ?

Traditional calligraphy brushes are usually made with a wooden handle, especially bamboo, and animal hair.

  • goat hair : they are more flexible and usually white in color
  • wolf hair : from light brown to dark, they are more rigid
  • otter hair :light brown in color with a white tip for very precise lines
  • Marten hair :these brushes have more bushy bristles

Some brushes are composed of mixed bristles for example half goat hair half Hare hair or 70% Hare hair and 30% goat hair.

Some tips for caring for brushes

It is important to maintain your calligraphy brushes well so as not to wear them too quickly. Generally, the bristles of a new brush are stiff due to bristles covered with glue to protect them.

  • Before using your brushes, remember to remove the layer of glue on the bristles by rotating it in the palm of your hand under tap water, gently and without pressure.
  • After each use, rinse the brushes with water under the tap in the same way as before use. It is necessary to hold the brush straight and not to soak the handle.
  • Avoid leaving the brush in a bowl of water at the risk of damaging its tip.
  • To leave the ink in the bottom of the hairs, gently press them to give them a sharp shape.
  • To dry them, it is necessary to hang them so that the tips are facing down.

Chinese ink for good calligraphy

Indelible and always black, traditional Chinese ink is particular in its original manufacture and use. Currently, there are modern and easier to use substances especially for beginners. It's up to you to choose the one that suits you.

Obtaining traditional Chinese ink

When we do the choosing a traditional Chinese calligraphy kit, Chinese ink is supplied in raw form including a stick of black color. It is a rod obtained by burning wood and oils particular to obtain this Black color.

The peculiarity of Chinese ink

When rubbing the stick against the Inkstone with a little water, a liquid, flowing or slightly thick texture is obtained. It all depends on the inspiration of its user and the results that he expects. The style of the calligrapher is nuanced by the concentration of the ink and the way it leaves its imprint on the paper.

What about the Inkstone ?

One of the four essential treasures of the calligrapher is the Inkstone. It is an art object in itself. It is personal and must be maintained with care.

The usefulness of stone in Chinese calligraphy

This special tool is used to contain and dilute China ink. A black paste is obtained by rubbing the ink stick on the rough and previously moistened surface. This ritual must be done before starting writing in order to prepare his mind and body.

The nature of Inkstone

When choosing your calligraphy kit, be sure to check the quality of the stone. Ink stones are usually made from jade stone or porcelain. Opt for a stone with a smooth surface and satin to the touch. If the stone is of good quality, you will quickly get thin and thick ink and will not damage the brush bristles. As for the shape, you have the choice between a rounded shape or a rectangular shape depending on your taste.

Our tips for proper maintenance of the Inkstone

The Inkstone should be rinsed with water and a soft sponge after each use. It is important to have a clean surface before starting your calligraphy activity. In addition, ink can damage the stone if allowed to dry because it tends to adhere to the stone.

What about paper ?

As explained above, the paper used in traditional calligraphy is made from rice flour or rice straw. We call it Xuan Zhi and there are 2 different types :

  • The Shengxuan which is a paper towel and the most used in Asia
  • The Shu Xuan or Fan Xuan, much less absorbent and less used

Other alternatives appeared later. Here are some examples :

  • Maobianzhi : this paper is made on the basis of herbs, the color of which is yellowish. It is advisable to start because of its price which is much lower than traditional papers.
  • Yuanshu : thin and light, this paper is made mainly in Fuyang area from young bamboo pulp. White in color, this paper is soft and absorbent, recommended for beginners.

Now that you know everything about Chinese calligraphy and the tools needed to make your calligraphy successful, all you have to do is make the right choice. Know that at Artisan d'asie, we offer craft calligraphy kits for beginners, for intermediate levels and for expert levels.

2 Responses



August 20, 2020

J’ai une admiration particuliere pour la culture,la philosophie et la medecine chinoise!
L’article este tres interessant et tres explicite!

Roselyne Cur

Roselyne Cur

August 20, 2020

Très intéressant!
J’adore la calligraphie chinoise et sa délicatesse!

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