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roddy

Learning to read handwriting

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OneEye

I think you're confused, hedwards. It isn't "improper" to write in 行草書. On the contrary, the ability to read and write cursive has long served as a mark of an educated person, making it the common form of writing amongst Chinese literati. It may have fallen out of favor somewhat recently, but Chinese people still view it as a good skill to have. If I write in the lazy way recommended above, people tell me I have "authentic" handwriting ("ugly, but an authentic, Taiwanese kind of ugly"). If I write correctly in cursive, I'm complimented in a much different way ("Wow, you have better handwriting than most Taiwanese people"). It's a much more impressive skill. Not that impressing people should be the goal, but people do view it as a much more refined way of writing. It takes real effort to change the way I write though, so it's something I'll need to keep working on.

 

I'm taking a class on cursive in my department this semester, and it has been fantastic. The teacher has broken down the rules for us very clearly (mostly using examples from 智永's 真草千字文) and I'm a whole lot better at reading this stuff as a result. We did 蘇東坡's 寒食帖 for the midterm, and it was mostly pretty easy. The teachers in my department all write in cursive on the board, so I had gotten somewhat used to it before taking the class, but having it explained systematically has really been an eye-opener.

 

The interesting thing is that there are four Western grad students in my department, and all four of us are taking the class. Some of us want to be able to read old documents written in cursive, some of us just want to be able to read modern handwritten notes, and some of us are there to improve our own handwriting. I think this demonstrates a real desire among students of Chinese in general (not just on this forum) to be able to learn to read handwriting, and there's unfortunately very little out there aimed at non-native speakers who didn't grow up seeing Chinese handwriting all around them. Fred Wang's book is the best thing out there, unfortunately.

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hedwards

OneEye, you're correct about my confusion. I've done only a tiny amount of reading on the topic and there seems to be several different formal scripts,  that could be loosely described as cursive. Then there's the version that appears to be what I'm used to confronting when handed hand written notes.

 

I tend to think more of the writing that I see people writing rather than the caliigraphy as the calligraphy seems to show up more in formal settings, old writings, signs and such, and is often times easy enough to ask about. Whereas the written notes are usually something I have because I need to give it to somebody or look at.

 

Calligraphy is something I could get into, it's just not high on my todo list until I can pick up a newspaper and expect to be able to read it with minimal consultation to a dictionary.

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AdamD

Harking back to imron's post from 2007:

 

I was out book-shopping today, and I came across this book - 实用硬笔字60小时训练. It's basically a book on how to write cursive chinese characters, and has copious examples and exercises for you to do. 190 pages, 50 chapters and at RMB 15.50 quite the bargain :mrgreen:

 

北京图书大厦 in 西单 had four or five of the latest edition in the calligraphy section last week. If you print imron's 当当网 link and take it in, the people there can point you to it. (God I love this site. So helpful, and I've got a handful of updates to make to other threads.)

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imron

Could you post a picture here so people know what to look for (my copy is not on hand at the moment).  I also look forward to a hearing your thoughts on the book in a few weeks/months time.

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AdamD

It's this edition:

 

s26588914.jpg

 

I've not opened it yet (I'm hitting reading and listening particularly hard right now) but will in a few weeks. I want to be able to write in this way, and I think this book is my best way into that.

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imron

Thanks.  From memory, that cover is quite different from my version which has a yellow cover.

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anonymoose

Yes, the one pictured above was published in 2013 whereas yours is the 1994 edition. There seems to also be a 2004 edition with a red cover.

 

Anyway, how do Chinese people learn to write in cursive script? Do they have formal lessons in this at school, or do they just pick it up by watching others (teachers) write? I guess they don't all study books like the one mentioned above.

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skylee

You just have to write fast, and don't lift your pen away from the paper, and the strokes will flow. Not sure if that is "cursive", though.

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imron
I guess they don't all study books like the one mentioned above.

In the introduction I believe the book actually mentions how most people don't have any sort of training in this and so develop their own style based on what works for them.  The book also has samples of such writing styles.

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oceancalligraphy

Since it hasn't been mentioned, the books are practice books for 硬筆書法 (hard pen calligraphy), in contrast to 毛筆書法 ( brush calligraphy). When we learn calligraphy, we learn by emulating the masters. Traditionally, calligraphy was practiced with brush and ink. However, with the change in writing utensils, more people are forgoing the brush and turning to 硬筆, which can be pencil, ball point pen, or ink pen. I believe it is now being taught in schools in Taiwan instead of 毛筆. So these are books to emulate the master's writing, but with a regular pen or pencil instead of brush. Practicing calligraphy goes beyond the characters - it's really a form of training.

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