Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Share the Same Origin
Do you know that the earliest paintings in China were the patterns on the potteries, such as fish, frog, and bird, dating back to the Neolithic Age, about six or seven thousand years ago? And the hieroglyphs were like small drawings consisting of lines which later evolved into the current Chinese characters? Chinese calligraphy and painting both are important components of Chinese civilization. Each brush stroke demonstrates simple beauty and tranquility. Now let’s go back to the origin of Chinese calligraphy and painting.
Since the dawn of mankind, there has always been a need for human beings to record things. As the human society constantly developed and the social life got increasingly sophisticated, people abandoned the original method of tying knots and adopted the way of keeping records by using drawings, and eventually invented Chinese characters. As the oldest type of writing, Jiaguwen (inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells) is undoubtedly a highly generalized symbol for recording developed from the most primitive drawings. So it was no surprise that a large number of pictograms were found among the inscriptions on animal bones and bronze objects of the Shang Dynasty (about 1600 — 1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty (1046 — 256 BC). These pictograms gradually evolved from pictorial symbols into characters composed of lines as people’s ability to observe, think and express improved. Then the amazing and unique Chinese calligraphy art came into being.
Thus, drawings and characters as our ancestors’ tools for recording naturally share the same origin, so do Chinese painting and calligraphy based on drawings and characters.
With the development of civilization, characters and drawings are no longer just tools for recording, but provide an outlet for people expressing their feelings. Calligraphy and painting have a higher level of artistic value because they carry calligraphers and painters’ inner feelings. There is a saying in China “the style is the man”. Handwriting and painting reveal so much about a person. Take Zheng Banqiao, an outstanding poet, calligrapher and painter in the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912), as an example. He liked painting bamboo and was very good at it. In addition to showing the spirit of bamboo, he also put his thoughts in the paintings. That made his bamboo painting the most famous of its kind.
Chinese calligraphy and painting are closely related and supplement each other. This results in a prominent feature of Chinese painting, i.e. adding poems on paintings to bring out the themes and give people more wonderful enjoyment of beauty.
If you are very interested in Chinese calligraphy and painting, don’t miss Shuyuanmen Cultural Street on your trip to Xian. The street is near the south gate of the more than 600-year-old City Wall. After cycling on the top of the City Wall, you can directly walk to the street. Wandering down the flagstone street full of history, you may see old men wielding their writing brushes. You can just pop into the stores to appreciate the various calligraphy and painting works. There are also other Chinese traditional stuff like seals and four treasures of study (writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper). You will love this place very much if you are a big fan of Chinese culture.