The Way of Calligraphy
This term refers to an artistic state wherein a calligraphic artist pursues a unity between body and soul through calligraphic creation, so that he may embrace the truths about the universe and life. It was influenced by Confucius (551-479 BC) who said: “[Cultivated people] aspire to follow the great Way, act according to morality, have compassion for all fellow humans and are well versed in various arts and skills.” It was influenced even more by Zhuangzi’s (369? -286 BC) aesthetic view, “If we can achieve perfection in a particular area of skill, we come close to the great Way itself.” The calligrapher aims higher than the mere art of calligraphy, aspiring to attain the great Way by transcending calligraphy as a mere skill or form of art. By the Tang Dynasty, because calligraphers put more emphasis on the different forms and skills of calligraphy, they started to use a new term “calligraphic technique.” Calligraphic technique represented an initial stage of calligraphy – a tangible, superficial and somewhat “lower” level. The calligraphic Way, on the other hand, was an advanced stage of calligraphic technique, paying attention to universal, abstract and therefore much “higher” aspects of calligraphy. This latter concept spread to Japan and took on the broader implications of self-cultivation and enlightenment later on. It, in turn, influenced the development of modern Chinese calligraphic art.
After the mid-Tang Dynasty, the way of calligraphy started to decline, and excellent works of calligraphy became scarcely available. (Huang Bosi: A Chief of Imperial Archives’ Other Works Appended to a Collection of Essays)
Clerical script was derived from seal script. It was an “unfilial son” of seal script. Why? In seal script, the execution of each horizontal or vertical line, hook or dot is governed by certain reasons and laws. They are ideographic, pictographic, ideophonetic, associative compound, or with transferred meaning and borrowed meaning, hence the term “six ways of constituting characters.” The clerical script, by changing seal script from smooth roundness to angular abruptness, transforms the structural pattern altogether and violates the methodology of forming seal script. Thus, the reasons and laws implicit in the six ways of forming characters became lost as clerical script came to prevail. (Qian Yong: Collected Writings on the Study of Calligraphy at Lüyuan)