Calligraphy and poetry

Francois Cheng [tooltip content= “Chinese Poetic Writing: With an Anthology of Tang Poetry (Indiana Univ Press, 1982)”] [source][/tooltip] [green_message] It is no accident that calligraphy, which exalts the visual beauty of the ideograms, became a major art. In the practice of this art, the calligrapher seeks to rediscover the rhythm of his deepest being, and to enter into communion with the elements. Through the signifying strokes, he may completely surrender himself. Their thickness and their slenderness, their contrasting and balancing relationships, permit him tc express the multiple aspects of his own sensibility: forcefulness and tenderness, abandon and quietude, tension and harmony. In the accomplishment of the unity of each character and in the balance among them, the calligrapher, even in the act of expressing things, achieve; his own unity. These immemorial and always restrained gestures pro vide the cadence, instantaneously achieved with the strokes, which, a in a sword dance, thrusts and crosses, soars and plunges, holding meaning of its own, and adding another to that one, codified, of the word. It is appropriate, when we speak of calligraphy, to speak o meaning; its gestural and rhythmic nature must not make us forget that it works on signs. In the course of execution, the signified of the text i never completely absent from the mind and spirit of the calligrapher nor is the choice of the text either gratuitous or a matter of indifference .

The calligrapher’s preferred texts are poetic texts, poems and poetic prose. When a calligrapher begins a poem, he does not limit himself to a simple act of copying. Through his calligraphy, he attempts to revivl the entire gestural movement and imaginative power of the signs. Thi is his manner of penetrating the profound reality of each of the signs of marrying them within the uniquely physical cadence of the poem and, finally, of re-creating the poem itself. Another type of text, the sacred and no less incantatory texts of Taoism (and Buddhism), i equally attractive to the calligrapher. Here calligraphic art is seen a restoring to the signs their original magical and sacred functions. Taoist monks gauge the efficacy of a talisman (or charm) that they draw ii terms of the quality of their calligraphy, as it is that quality which assures good communication with the beyond. The Buddhist faithful believe that they may gain merit by copying canonical texts; and her too the efficacy of the result is in direct relation to the quality of the calligraphy.