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  • DR. STANLEY MURASHIGE: First I want to talk

  • about the Chinese writing system.

  • A writing system is not exactly the same as calligraphy.

  • When we talk about calligraphy, we are

  • talking about the art of handwriting, the art of writing.

  • And what I want to do is first introduce some basic aspects

  • about the Chinese writing system.

  • And then get into a little bit of the discipline

  • of the practice of calligraphy.

  • And then that will, I think, get us into my main theme, or main idea,

  • is that in Chinese art-- and calligraphy

  • is the highest of the arts.

  • Well poetry, and then calligraphy.

  • But calligraphy.

  • And the visual arts is the highest of the arts.

  • And then painting comes next.

  • Is that when we think about art practice

  • now, or think about art and image making,

  • we talk in terms of representations.

  • That the image is always referring to something.

  • Referring to something outside of it.

  • And the whole discourse of art making-- certainly

  • teaching in an art school this is the case-- a whole discourse of art

  • making assumes that that's what art is about.

  • Whether we're talking about abstraction,

  • or installation art, performance art,

  • it's about referring something to something

  • beyond what it is you're seeing visually.

  • And I want to suggest that that's not really necessarily the best way

  • to think about Chinese calligraphy or Chinese painting.

  • That the real goal, if there is a goal,

  • in the practice of calligraphy traditionally

  • and the practice of painting traditionally,

  • is that it's about participation.

  • The world is something that we share.

  • The world is a collaborative project.

  • Human being is a collaborative project.

  • And that the real goal of this discipline practice

  • of creating something new is basically

  • the same sort of practice listed out of the mundane world of say,

  • for example, farming.

  • One of the analogies that I use in my classes,

  • the way that might help us understand

  • the way I'm thinking about the practice of calligraphy

  • and painting as fine arts in China traditionally,

  • is it's like farming.

  • And what is the goal of farming?

  • Farming doesn't really represent anything.

  • Farming's not directed to refer to something outside of it.

  • Farming is about producing bounty.

  • And producing bounty in the broadest sense.

  • Of fertility, of human creativity, of having families,

  • of having nutrition, of having bounty

  • so that families can perpetuate themselves

  • and create the human cycle in its relationship

  • with nature, in partnership with nature anew.

  • So I'm thinking about calligraphy and painting

  • as historically developing in China as that kind of process.

  • So let's start out with looking at a Chinese character.

  • This is the character xie, to write.

  • So this is the same Chinese character,

  • but in several different forms.

  • And so in my new-- I'm getting better

  • at fancy PowerPoint presentations.

  • So you see these different forms in the slide.

  • And they're all the same Chinese character.

  • So the first one, at the top, our sense is to try to go from the top

  • down in a kind of chronological sequence.

  • And that's partially true here, but it's not exactly true.

  • So some of these characters, these styles

  • of writing the same character, actually exist simultaneously.

  • And they certainly do so now.

  • So the first one, the oldest one though, is at the top.

  • It comes to be called seal script.

  • And I'll give you the Chinese and Mandarin pronunciation, zhuanshu.

  • And I'll show you some examples of that and the sources for that.

  • It originates with Bronze Age China.

  • And Henry was talking about it this morning and going back to 1600 BCE

  • and perhaps even earlier.

  • But a lot of the writing, the earliest surviving

  • writing that we have in the study of Chinese history,

  • dates from the Bronze Age.

  • These are inscriptions that were carved in to bone fragments that

  • were used in divination ceremonies by Shang dynasty royalty.

  • And some of them date to 1300 BCE and further back.

  • And also this style of writing is also

  • used to write inscriptions that are cast

  • into ceremonial bronze vessels.

  • Eventually I'll show you why in a moment,

  • why it comes to be called seal script.

  • So that's the earliest form of Chinese writing.

  • In the Han Dynasty, a period roughly about the same time as the Roman

  • republic and Roman Empire, 206 BCE to 220 in the common era.

  • The formal writing, document writing,

  • is done in what comes to be called lishu clerical script.

  • And so that's what you see here.

  • And this is close to what's down here, which is the regular script.

  • Which is basically, you might say, is a canonical standard form

  • for the writing of this character.

  • This is a kind of script that was used early on for taking notes.

  • It's called cursive or draft script.

  • Sometimes you'll encounter it in English sources translated

  • as grass script, because the character [CHINESE]

  • sometimes also means grass.

  • But it also means drafting or cursive.

  • So it's more appropriate to call it a cursive script.

  • And so that's what you see here.

  • It also becomes a style of writing that is picked up by calligraphers.

  • But it starts out as pretty much a way of shorthand note taking.

  • And then something in between called running script.

  • This is the standard here, if you write

  • the standard in a slightly more simplified form.

  • In a more fluid form, in a little bit more shorthand form,

  • you get this running script.

  • And then finally down here, a regular script,

  • kaishu, which is pretty much the standard font or standard

  • form of writing of this character that you'll see in publications.

  • Book fonts are based upon this and so on.

  • The bottom, the last one here, is a more modern concoction.

  • Aesthetically challenged from my point of view.

  • It's called simplified characters, jiantizi.

  • This is something that was developed during the modern period,

  • driven by educational reforms to help

  • some of these Chinese characters, like this one has

  • a lot of brush strokes in it.

  • So it's a complicated thing to learn how to write.

  • And so the idea is perhaps to simplify the writing system.

  • To make it a little bit easier for school children

  • to learn how to write.

  • So, the simplified characters.

  • Now the general cliche about Chinese characters

  • is that they are pictographs.

  • And that's not really true.

  • I'm going to show you a couple examples of pictographs,

  • or we call them pictographs.

  • That is to say, early forms of writing that

  • are sort of a picture, simplified pictures of the objects.

  • About 85% of Chinese characters are not pictographs.

  • And I'll show you what the bulk of Chinese characters, how

  • they're written and what they look like.

  • But a number of them are these kinds of pictures.

  • So this is a cart or chariot wheeled vehicle.

  • Or as one person once said to me, "wheeled conveyance."

  • And in Mandarin, pronounced che.

  • And so what you're looking at here is, in this chart,

  • a series of different versions of this character.

  • Which by the way, are not necessarily

  • an evolutionary development from an earlier form that

  • is more representational, such as this one,

  • to something that's a little bit more abstract.

  • Rather these are roughly simultaneous during the Bronze Age.

  • So I give you this little bit of dating here.

  • Bronze Age pictographs from circa 13th century BCE.

  • So there's no standardized written form.

  • This is actually one of the contributions

  • of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.

  • He is noted to have standardized the writing system.

  • So you can see all these variant forms.

  • And then down here is the regular script form

  • that emerges out of the early standard

  • and becomes later on the standard form, an image of a chariot

  • or cart.

  • Many Chinese characters are also graphs or visualization

  • of concepts.

  • And so here we have over and under, shang and xia.

  • And from the Bronze Age images, you see

  • this is a little form with a short line above it

  • and the short line is below it.

  • To suggest graphically the idea of above or underneath.

  • So sometimes those are called ideographs, graphing out of ideas.

  • You can actually combine characters to get

  • different characters by duplicating.