A Splash of Ink Is a Wave Riding to the Past

Andrea HuangSeptember 13, 2021The Media That Raised Us

During the early 1900s, my great-grandparents and their children fled from Mao’s communist regime in China and plotted their exhausted feet in the small, sweet-potato-shaped island of Taiwan. Once an affluent big family in China with a house that extended hundreds of acres, they had lost every piece of their wealth and had to start building from the first brick all over again. Landing on Taiwan should have meant an erasure of the past along with the tears contaminated by the salts of hatred, starting with a blank piece of paper ready to be painted with new experiences and smiles. However, not only did my grandfather not forget his roots, he decided to dedicate his life to understanding and following traditional Chinese culture. Being a professional artist and writer, my grandfather has over hundreds of projects all in relation to the minutiae of traditional Chinese culture. What stands out from his diverse stack of work is his scraps of calligraphy written in various styles, scattered across his wooden desk. With a sheet of parchment scribbled artistically in black ink, calligraphy has embodied the Chinese essence for thousands of years.

Through the common societal lens, calligraphy is the symbol of the value of education. In traditional Chinese societies, education is the key to social mobility, as schools and jobs are offered in accordance with one’s academic achievements. Being able to write and read is undoubtedly the code to unlock the door to the sea of knowledge. Throughout history, the changing of calligraphy fonts and writing methods show just how Chinese literature has evolved over time. It is a way to trace back to our ancient roots, I remember my grandfather once said. From carving in oracle script on bones to brush-lettering in regular script on parchment, calligraphy is found everywhere, assisting us in discovering and understanding who we are and how we came to be, collectively, as Chinese.

History may have been in black and white, yet through the artistic lens, these two seemingly simple colors tell a story that is far from simple. If you mix every color in the world together, the resulting color is black; if you mix every visible wavelength of light in the world together, the resulting color is white. Calligraphy is, therefore, the tangible expression of every light and color and all the beauty of the world. The turn of the brush pen, the dip into the inkwell, and the weight applied to each stroke are measured with extreme precision. It is through the mere act of writing characters that the sophisticated intertwining of Chinese virtues with artistic expression is able to be displayed. The variety of calligraphy styles represents different eras and figures in Chinese history. Learning how to write Chinese calligraphy today demonstrates the effort of passing down the stories of many people at once, amplifying their voices to the future in hopes of being heard — just like what my great-grandparents taught to my grandfather, and what my grandfather taught to me.

There may be many wavelengths of light and millions of colors in the world, but only two colors are able to deliver the story of every single one of them — black and white. Calligraphy happens to have both. With a swift twirl of the brush, calligraphy recites the tales of sorrow and joy of ancient China and guides us, the descendants, on the path to find where we belong.

Andrea Huang, a 16-year-old Taipei student, enjoys using her creativity to assist her in discovering the world.