History of Chinese Calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy has a long history dated to 4000 years ago. No one can tell exactly when Chinese written language appeared. The oldest language discovered now is Jia Gu Wen. But Jia Gu Wen is a matures written language. The language discovered before it is Tao Wen. Tao Wen is a language far more from mature. Actually it's hard to be called a language. People think there should be some written languages between Tao Wen and Jia Gu Wen. But no supporting archaeological discovery appeared so far.
Jia Gu Wen is a script used mainly in Shang dynasty (1600 B.C. -- 1046 B.C.). It's still used in West Zhou dynasty (1046 B.C.-- 771 B.C.) although Da Zhuan is also used at that time. Jia Gu Wen already was written very artistically. But we can not say at that time calligraphy had already been an art.
Qin Shi Huang united the old China in 221 B.C. The official language used in Qin dynasty is Xiao Zhuan. Calligraphy had already been an art at that time. Calligraphy works of Qin dynasty are always high evaluated by calligraphers in history.
The first blooming period of calligraphy as an art should be at Han dynasty. An calligrapher, Liang Hu went to restaurant but didn't bring money. He wrote on the wall. People there liked to pay for him by watching his calligraphy. A lot of great calligraphers appeared in Han dynasty. Unfortunately, they usually didn't sign them name after their calligraphy work. There're some great calligraphy works of Han dynasty of unknown calligraphers. Also most scripts formed at Han dynasty such as Li Shu, Cao Shu, Xing Shu, Kai Shu.
Jin is the dynasty with great achievement in calligraphy. A lot of great calligraphers appeared at this time, including Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi.
The South and North dynasty is also a dynasty with great achievement. There're a lot of tablets of North Wei (386-534) with great calligraphy. People called calligraphy works of this period as Wei Bei, which means tablets of North Wei dynasty. Like tablets in Han dynasty, the calligrapher of most of them are unknown.
Tang dynasty is the dynasty that calligraphy is taken most serious. As a result, a lot of great calligraphers appeared, including Yan Zhenqing.
After Tang dynasty, the calligraphy as an art declined. The worst period is Ming dynasty. From Song dynasty to Qing dynasty, the greatest calligraphy works in paper were kept in house of the emperor family. People rarely have the chance to see them. The only available calligraphy works available to them are the tablets. In Qing dynasty, a lot of tablets were discovered. That's one of the reason why calligraphy is better in Qin dynasty.
Today, most calligraphy works are stored in museums. A lot of calligraphy books devote to calligraphy appeared in the market. The Capital Teacher's University even has calligraphy department now. China now is much better than the Qing dynasty. Hopefully, there will be a lot of great calligraphers appear.
The articles below are the detail calligraphy history by dynasty.
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