City's flourishing calligraphy says it with style

By Song Mengxing | (China Daily)| Updated : 2018-11-06

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Noted thinker, renowned master of art form, Kang Youwei, celebrated at international event, Song Mengxing reports.

The magical, even mystical world of Chinese calligraphy - the art of converting Chinese characters, which are three millennia old, into expressive images using responsive rice paper and the pressure of a tapered brush - had a seminal moment at a global event recently.

It literally takes decades to become a master in the exquisite form of expression.

The 2018 International Symposium on Kang Youwei's Calligraphic Study, held in Qingdao in Shandong province on Oct 27, attracted more than 100 calligraphy artists, Sinologists and noted scholars from 14 countries and regions including China, Russia, the United States, Australia and Canada.

Kang Youwei (1858-1927), the now internationally renowned late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) reformer and political thinker, was also a master of Chinese calligraphic history and had a special bond with Qingdao. He lived in the city into his old age and loved its landscape of mountains and sea, leaving behind him a rich cultural heritage for Qingdao, local media reported.

This year marks Kang's 160th birthday and Qingdao held the event along with the first Qingdao International Calligraphy Biennale - to inspire the creative and innovative vitality of calligraphic culture and help promote Chinese traditional calligraphic art to a global stage.

More than 10 internationally renowned experts delivered keynote speeches at the symposium where 50-plus scholars, with a unique understanding of Kang's calligraphic study, discussed related topics.

Chen Zhenlian, vice-president of the China Calligraphers Association, said that in modern times Kang has joined the pantheon of noted political thinkers, but he also occupied an irreplaceable position in the history of calligraphy and calligraphic criticism.

"Kang's political ideas and influence have permeated the art form and his calligraphy is a unique influence in the field," Chen said, adding that "the symposium could extend research content beyond calligraphy itself".

Fan Guoqiang, president of the Qingdao Calligraphers Association, said that Kang spent his last 10 years in Qingdao and his artistic spirit was imbued with a profound appreciation of Qingdao's mountains and sea. The city organized the symposium to tell - using the art of calligraphy - Qingdao's and China's stories and promote Chinese culture.

Organizers said preparations and planning for the two-day event began about a year ago and the symposium aimed to explore and collate historical facts about Qingdao's calligraphy and develop its local calligraphic style. In addition, the event collected the calligraphic study achievements of more than 60 top experts and scholars.

Calligraphic academics from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the China Academy of Art, The Palace Museum and universities from France, Japan and South Korea expressed their views during the symposium.

Sinologists from France, the United States, Belgium and South Korea participated in discussions throughout the event which took the study of Kang's calligraphy to higher levels, the organizers added.

Participants were reportedly deeply impressed by research from Japanese and South Korean scholars on the influence of Kang's calligraphy in their respective two countries.

Through the symposium, Qingdao, as an internationalized city, has become a magnet for many foreign scholars and artists, promoting further study of calligraphy, organizers added.

Devotees from the Qingdao Calligraphers Association said the symposium will add to the 'brand name' of Qingdao as its high-quality research results attract the attention of the global calligraphic circle.

The first Qingdao International Calligraphy Biennale, hosted alongside the symposium, showcased the works of 160 calligraphers, including presidents and vice-presidents from the China Calligraphers Association and modern calligraphers from 14 countries and regions.

At the biennale, calligraphic masters at home and abroad used the art form to write about Qingdao's history and culture, including Su Shishu, president of the China Calligraphers Association.

They also joined in calligraphic communications and promotional activities held at university campuses and in communities.

At Shinan district in Qingdao, for example, the focus was on aesthetic education in its middle and primary schools.

The local authorities are planning to offer calligraphy art courses and organize related activities in schools with the help of local calligraphers.

International artists also visited a senior citizen's activity center to guide calligraphy hobbyists.

An important part of the symposium and the biennale was a contemporary calligraphy exhibition, with exhibitors ranging from those born in the 1950s to those born in the 1980s. Works displayed emphasized the tradition and inheritance and highlighted individual styles of calligraphic art.

The Qingdao Calligraphers Association's Fan said that Shandong is known as a land of calligraphy and Qingdao's calligraphic culture is also broad and profound, dating back more than 2,000 years.

In modern times, he said, many first-class scholars, artists and collectors have gathered in Qingdao, including Kang Youwei and Chinese novelist and calligrapher Shu Qingchun, also known as Lao She.

Those things have shaped the creative dimensions of Qingdao's calligraphy and have given the city certain advantages for it to become a contemporary international center focusing on calligraphy art communications, Fan said.

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Clockwise from top: Qingdao is described by Kang Youwei as "a lotus fl ower falling from the celestial world". Zhang Xiao / For China Daily; Su Shishu (left), president of the China Calligraphers Association, talks with local primary school students about the art of calligraphy. Chen Zhenlian, vice-president of the China Calligraphers Association, delivers a speech to the symposium. A display of the artform attracts many visitors. An artist introduces one of his works during the calligraphy symposium. Photos Povided to China Daily