Monday, 21 October 2013

by Law Veng Yee, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

If you’ve seen me around school with my puny eyes and if you know my frugal ways, you’d think that I’m just another 'stereotypical Chinese'. And the truth is, I am. Growing up in a traditional home, my education was centered on the Chinese language, mainly the Cantonese and Mandarin dialects, ever since I was born up until the age 13. I can’t get more 'Cina' than that right? Wrong. 

At the ripe age of eight, my mother called me down to the study room and sat me down in front of some mysterious tools and a sheet of red paper. I looked at her, puzzled by the weird smelling ink, the brush that seemed like the conventional paintbrush but wasn’t quite so, and the dusty and crumpled red paper. 



My mother nodded at me, then nodded towards the table, indicating for me to do something with those tools but I simply opened my mouth and said: “Meh ye?” (“What?” in Cantonese). Three years later, I sat in my Standard 5 classroom, and at the count of my supervising teacher, using those mysterious tools now known to me as the Wen Fang Si Bao (文房四宝) I brought home the trophy for Chinese Calligrapher Champion of my year.

From there, my love for Chinese calligraphy, or Shu Fa (书法), sparked. Even though I lost the same competition the following year, I made the decision to take up calligraphy as a hobby. Now, every Saturday I wake up at 7:30am, get in my mother’s car and make my way to calligraphy class.

Shu Fa is a calligraphic skill involving tools known as Wen Fang Si Bao. These tools, which directly translate into the four treasures of the literary world, consist of the brush (笔), ink (墨), paper (纸) and the palette (砚). To us, it holds the same importance as it does to a knight with his sword and shield. But in calligraphy, the pen or should I say brush, is definitely mightier than the sword! Every Saturday, I take my swords and shields out, sit straight on my seat, end of the brush pointing at my nose, left hand under the right, take a deep breath and xia bi (下笔, write). 

Contrary to popular belief, Shu Fa is nothing like painting. Although a subdivision of Shu Fa includes drawing, Shu Fa usually implies writing and not drawing or painting. There are many techniques when it comes to calligraphy. Just to name a few, the calligrapher must sit straight when writing, and the pinky finger should always be against the brush when holding it. The written characters should generally have a thin figure (sometimes when my written characters are slightly on the chubbier side, my teacher would exclaim “Keep fit! Keep fit!”). When writing, the brush has to be slightly raised, or ti 提. Other than that, each stroke taken cannot be straight, otherwise the character would not have any rhythm or flow. When ending a stroke or shou bi 收笔, we have to give the character an elegant finish.



After learning 8 years worth of calligraphy, I’m confident in saying that this hobby or rather this skill, has brought me much more benefits than I had initially anticipated. Calligraphy will train your hands to be ding 定, meaning that your hands become more stable, as suitable for anyone who aspires to become a surgeon. Calligraphy can also calm you down. It is a known rule that when a person is moody, angry or frustrated they should not pick up the bi, especially if one is impatient. And if you ask me, calligraphy is a pretty good skill to wow people with. 
by Wye Mun Chin 20:58 89 comments | in , , ,

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