Dal students learn the art of calligraphy

Chinese studies program celebrates Chinese New Year with cultural workshop

Winners hold up their calligraphy: Ravee Chen, Gladys Leung, Sheren Anwar Siand, Kaylin Dean, Wolim Lee, Laurie Therrien, Florence Wong, Sarah Mackelvie Jessica Phomsavanh (first place second from left)
Lei Jiang demonstrates traditional Chinese calligraphy
A poem
Students practice writing the character 'yong' meaning 'forever'

Students have a lot to learn about the art of calligraphy, especially when they’re writing in a different language.

The Chinese studies program at Dalhousie held a calligraphy workshop and competition as part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Second-year Chinese studies and political science student Sage Camozzi said she’s in love with the culture. She wanted to study Chinese because of her parents.

“They’re really diverse so they always wanted to involve all cultures in my life when I was growing up. So this is one of them that they introduced and I thought it was cool,” she said.

This is her first time trying Chinese calligraphy and she thinks it went OK.

My writing’s very dainty,” she laughed. “I can’t push too hard. I’m too gentle with the pen.”

Lei Jiang was teaching the students to write calligraphy. Jiang has practised Chinese calligraphy for 40 years and he began learning in elementary school. He wrote several phrases and poems for the students as part of his demonstration. Jiang said calligraphy is an art form and there are many different styles.

“It is like a painting. You can feel the power and the emotion of the artist,” he said.

50 students watched quietly as Jiang demonstrated the flying, sitting and walking styles of writing calligraphy. Jiang said it can also provide light physical exercise and calms the mind which can have a positive effect on an individual’s health.

He taught the students how to write the character ‘yong’ which means ‘forever’ and contains all of the basic brushstrokes used in calligraphy. Then the students got a chance to practise writing ‘forever’ themselves.

Sarah Mackelvie is studying community design at Dalhousie and she’s taking intermediate level Chinese. Her calligraphy won third place in the competition. She said she’s written Chinese characters before but she hasn’t tried calligraphy.

“It’s way different. It looks way more eloquent and fancy when you do it with the brushes,” she said.

She’s interested in travel and wanted to learn new things. “China seems like a really really interesting place especially from a planning perspective and even on campus there are so many Chinese students in my classes that I can now talk with and understand what they’re saying,” she said.

Zac Chartier, a third-year economics student at Dal, is in the Chinese minor program. Chartier said he’s involved in the Chinese society but he’s never tried calligraphy before. He started studying Chinese because it was “pretty useful for economics” and then became interested in the culture.

Adam Burke gets some pointers from economics professor Kuan Xu as chinese language professor Chuan Xu watches them.
Adam Burke gets some pointers from economics professor Kuan Xu as chinese language professor Chuan Xu watches them. (Photo: Melissa Shaw)

The co-ordinator of the Chinese studies program, professor Shao-Pin Luo, organized the event. She said more and more students are interested in learning Chinese. Overall enrolment in Chinese studies has grown 23 per cent since the program began. Language classes attract the highest number of students out of all the courses offered.

It provides them with opportunities for later on when they want to go travel in China,” she said, or, “ teach English in Asia.”

Luo adds that Mandarin is also spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and other Asian countries.

Political science student Adam Burke is taking a Mandarin class at Dal. He’s tried calligraphy in class and has a brush of his own but he said he needs a lot more practice.

“My hand’s not used to that. It’s used to holding pens so they’ll be at an angle. I have to hold this [brush] straight,” he said.

Luo said the Chinese studies program began in 2005 and two new courses have just been added.

Literature of the Asian Diaspora will start in September 2013 and East meets West in popular culture starts in January 2014.

Starting in July 2013 students will have the option to minor in Chinese studies.