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Chinese Calligraphy Spread in Canada in an Amazing Speed

Two months may elapse rapidly amid busy life, but in two months, Halifax entered into early summer featured by dark green from withered and yellow winter. For students taking the calligraphy course, it’s nothing but a trip of “thorough reshaping”. Kristin said “I’m the laziest student here because I’m very busy without time for practices. All studies about calligraphy were finished at class. And I can come only once for every two courses.” But nobody can imagine that her work is so exquisite through short time practice at class. She was very serious and asked the teacher Rui Mei to justify that she only learned calligraphy at class and even showed her maiden work: the Chinese character “Zheng” (upright). When we praised her great changes, she said all achievements shall be attributed to the Confucius Institute at Saint Mary’s University as it provides such a great platform and excellent teacher. She copied the character reversely when she learned to write “Zheng” for the first time, a totally random practice. We cannot help by commenting her like this: making the ugly beautiful as if she has gained the canon.

Comparison of the works written between the final and first class


If Kristin said she is a “lazy” student, then Shannon must be one of the most industrious students. She attended almost all of the classes in the past two months and finished every assignment very seriously. In fact, she isn’t an idler. On top of computer network maintenance work, she teaches karate over weekends. She is also somewhat famous for her oil painting and has had her works displayed on some exhibitions. When being asked whether her excellent calligraphy has something to do with her previous oil painting practice, she told us that “now I’m practicing regular script and copying little by little, which is similar to my study on oil painting. It might be different when I learn cursive handwriting and grass script in the future.” Although it’s copy, she asks the meaning of every character she learns. At the last class when the teacher asked every one to choose their favorite characters, Shannon seriously asked the meaning of every poem and idiom. Her name Shannon means a river in Ireland and she accepted with pleasure “Siyuan” as her Chinese name after learning its meaning. Lifting, pausing, hiding and revealing techniques are used to the point which can be shown by her delicate handwriting. She has learned a lot from initial in the dark to understanding today after two months of calligraphy study. When knowing that Rui Mei has a background in Chinese traditional painting, she strongly suggested a painting class be opened. Now she’s considering on how to buy Chinese art paper and brush pen from China.

Students of the course cover all ages from the elderly in their sixties to children, but the schedule wasn’t affected at all, even adding happier atmosphere to the course. Caroline is slightly silent and elder, but she hasn’t missed any courses and has been practicing silently. When we asked her whether we can take a photo, she said shyly that if possible, she preferred not. But when we talked about calligraphy and life, she spoke with fervor and assurance. She told us that compared with simple Chinese characters, she likes characters which are ever-changing and complicated and likes writing big and powerful characters, in particular, the character “Zhi” as it is magic and changing. When listening to her narration, we couldn’t help but thinking of “Bi Zou Long She” (Dragons and snakes follow one's writing brush, which means good penmanship) in Chinese as the artistic concepts are the same. She said she enjoyed every class and practice which make her feel the calmness.

Sitting on the opposite side of Caroline is Anthony who is only 6 years old. His Chinese name is Ma Haotong and came to Canada with his parents after his birth. Against the backdrop where English is a dominant language, if parents don’t intentionally train their children, it’s difficult for the second generation of immigrants to acquire Chinese language. Anthony is lucky and at ease with Chinese and English speaking, from which we can see his parent’s attention. His mother, who came to every class with him, told us that “when it comes to why we ask him to attend the calligraphy class, first and foremost, he is a Chinese and shouldn’t forget his own culture; second, he doesn’t like writing and his writing is often unstable. But after taking the class, his hard-nib pen works are very beautiful. Something you learn at the tender age would be forgotten, but calligraphy will be a lifelong memory.” Anthony lived up to his mother’s hardships and practiced at every class. There are two teachers in the kindergarten he likes very much. So he requested Rui Mei to write “Xin Xiang Shi Cheng” (May all your wishes come true) so that he can copy it for several weeks and present the work with childlike innocence and strength to his teachers.

Anthony talking with Rui Mei about his calligraphy story

Anthony and his mom

When walking out of the classroom, all are waving their hands. We believe every one comes back with fruitful results. We are deeply touched as we always believed that only Chinese people can have good handwriting. But today we understand that all arts know no boundary.