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Why do foreigners adore Chinese calligraphy?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

08-21-2015 16:22 BJT

By Hu Yifeng, research director, Literary Criticism Center, Literary and Art Association

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented his own Chinese calligraphy to US President Barack Obama as a gift for his 54th birthday in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington recently.

Written on the banner was a four-character Chinese idiom: "The highest virtue is like water." Obama pointed to the character for "water" and said he recognized it and he also introduced the calligraphy on the White House website. This shows how Chinese calligraphy is increasingly charming the world.

First of all, calligraphy's charms benefit from the rise of what Chinese call "Chinese language fever" and "Chinese culture fever." Calligraphy has a long history in China and is a unique artistic form of Chinese characters. An understanding of Chinese culture is the foundation for appreciating calligraphy. 

It has become fashionable to learn Chinese in many countries. According to the 2014 Cultural Construction Blue Paper Chinese Culture Development Report, over 3,000 colleges in more than 100 countries have set up Chinese classes. In South Korea there are more than 100 universities opening Chineseclasses that have attracted more than 1 million learners. In Japan, there are more than 2 million people studying Chinese language. In the United States, nearly 3,000 high schools have set up Chinese classes and over 50,000 students are studying Chinese language in public elementary and middle schools.

Even at the headquarters of the United Nations, there is Chinese learning fever. UN employees and diplomats like to study Chinese language to learn Chinese culture through a Chinese class that opened at the United Nations.

The cultural connotation of calligraphy arouses resonance globally. As an important part of traditional Chinese culture, calligraphy bears the fundamental connotation of Chinese culture and displays the aesthetic pursuit of Chinese people. The practical value of calligraphy has become especially diluted but its charm as a cultural phenomenon is rising.

Art is the common language of human beings. Study shows that once the obstacles brought by characters are removed, Westerners' understanding of line art and the rhythm of calligraphy is almost the same as Chinese people. In the globalization era, foreigners want to understand Chinese people's thoughts towards nature, society and life by virtue of calligraphy.

Practicing calligraphy can also enlighten people and lead them to a peaceful realm away from disturbance.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's father is a calligrapher, and Ban Ki-moon himself is also a calligraphy fan. He works hard to practice calligraphy and often exchanges views with Chinese calligraphers. His works have been displayed in calligraphy exhibitions many times and he often shows his calligraphy at diplomatic occasions.

Ban Ki-moon once said practicing calligraphy can help him balance his mind and work with greater focus, and there are similarities between calligraphy and diplomacy. Maybe this is why Ban Ki-moon and many foreigners like calligraphy. 


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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