A Night of Cultural Experience: Chinese Calligraphy


What better way to experience true Chinese culture than delving into traditional Chinese calligraphy? On November 14th at 7pm, international students gathered in H-214 to experience an authentic Chinese tradition. This wonderful cultural experience is prepared and sponsored by the Campus Advisor (CA) program.

CA Conan Jiang began the night with a short but interesting introduction to the wonders of Chinese characters. For instance, the Chinese characters for ‘love’, ‘poor’, and ‘intimate’ have simplified forms but their traditional counterparts are more interesting and correspond more to their meanings.

Benedikt Bevec, a first-year PHBS student from Germany, said that he enjoyed learning some background information about the Chinese characters, and it was interesting to know “that people prefer to write traditional characters because they look better. Also that traditional characters are more like pictures and even if you don’t know the exact meaning, you can guess it by interpreting the meaning from each individual character. That was new to me.”

For beginners in calligraphy, holding the calligraphy brush (maobi) can be hard enough. That’s why the CAs started off by teaching students how to hold the maobi properly. It might seem hard to write a Chinese character with many strokes, but if we break it down into vertical and horizontal strokes, it is much more manageable. That’s why the CAs asked everyone to practice individual strokes first.

After some attempts, the international students started to get the hang of using the brush so some less complex Chinese characters were introduced. The CAs also invited some Chinese students who are skilled at Chinese calligraphy to assist the international students with their writings. With their help, the students adjusted to the brush quickly and improved a great deal.

Closer to the end of the event, red square calligraphy papers were given to students and they started to practice the hardest character of the night, 福 (happiness and fortune). This character is usually written on red paper during the Chinese New Year and is hung upside down to symbolize that happiness and fortune have arrived. For the night’s finale, everyone wrote 福 on the red papers and brought them back as souvenirs for the night.

Events such as these are definitely a great way to learn about Chinese culture. Benedikt says he would “love to attend a workshop that focuses on Chinese (traditional) music and learn about the history of, and try traditional instruments. A fashion workshop would be nice, too”. We can definitely look forward to the next event hosted by the CA program.


Reported by Wandong Yang