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Does anyone know where this unusual form of 两 comes from?


黄有光
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It’s just a guess, but maybe Japanese? There was a lot of influence in terms of writing styles and simplification coming back from Japanese into Chinese. 
 

They write it as 両 in standard Japanese and when I googled the character this image popped up on the front page; though it’s not the exact same as the 草书 variant you are looking for, this kind of looks like it could be the 行草 of the same character and that the 草书 might actually look like the one you are searching for.

1F6D2F9B-4952-491C-A365-44ABB3A2BDDA.jpeg

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韩道亨 is a bit of an unfortunate example to begin with, as his 草诀 is written with the shortcuts for 偏旁 as if they are full characters in themselves. In fact, the character 月 should be written out in full even in 草书, but because the rhyme in this piece of calligraphy is teaching 偏旁 shortcuts, the rhyme for 月 uses the 偏旁 version, not the full version.

 

So we know that 月 can be written in full when on its own. But what about when it is a 偏旁? Lets take a look at 脱 and 明 as examples. The characters below are all written by 孙过庭, all taken from the same work (书谱) for consistency:

 

chrome_2NOnqlcl2E.jpg.1055b843c75f201937f4d08a2c7610c4.jpg

Here is 月 in full

 

chrome_lYQ6mNX1nu.thumb.jpg.03d290e831e98c518cb8a8a3897a62d2.jpg

Here is 脱. The stroke circled in red is the first stroke of 月 - 丿. Instead of lifting the brush and returning to the top, he makes a little turn and then carries on down. The dash is then added to represent the two 横 inside 月. 

 

chrome_YfNAjNuM4F.thumb.jpg.060fad57386daa84d9f7fa09bf8a72f6.jpg

Here is 明. We can see the little turn again, circled in red. All the strokes are there, they are just stacked vertically, instead of in their normal positions in 楷书. Now lets return to 韩道亨:

 

chrome_6OeiflNe2I.jpg.063121825d27e4efda2aee1ca6aa1b86.jpg

Now we can see that by the Ming dynasty, the horizontal stroke from characters like 明 has been carried into the writing of the 偏旁 form of 月. This is seen as a corruption of 草法 by many, and seen as bad, often incorrect form. 

 

Finally, if we return to the character 有, we can actually see the 月 in its 偏旁 form in there at the bottom:

 

chrome_6tFKSlByqy.thumb.jpg.5e180b2ca7ca0bb568a5114768ce633d.jpg

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Uhhhhhhhh....I'm sorry, you probably thought that was a clear explanation, but it kind of just made me want to bash my head into a wall. I feel so much more lost now than when I started.

 

The two characters you gave (脱,明) don't make any sense at all.

 

And the textbook I have for cursive writing gives the "3" form of 月 as the main form for handwriting, and follows up with it used as such in example handwritten texts.

 

I have no idea what is going on with any of this 

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On 9/10/2021 at 12:58 AM, 黄有光 said:

I'm sorry, you probably thought that was a clear explanation,

 

I think it was a great explanation, and the characters know make at least some sense to me. This is how I understood the explanation (bear in mind I have zero experience of cursive, so there is a risk I got everything wrong):

 

1. How 月 looks when written in proper cursive. I think this needs no further explanation as all strokes all there and visible.

chrome_2NOnqlcl2E.jpg.1055b843c75f201937f4d08a2c7610c4.jpg.8d6306989cc89562df08f8191bc92ad0.jpg

 

2. From Tomsima's explanation, I think this is how 脱 has been written.

bild1.png.9bf595831b194a70539ba0ec67893b30.png

 

3. Which would make at least some sense if this is how 明 should be understood. I've blacked out what I'm guessing is a result of not lifting the pencil between components(?).

2.png.6e280b0078c97f43d4fd90a54090efe8.png

 

4. The 月 isn't "supposed" to be written shorthand (looking like 了), unless it's used as a component, but has been written like that anyway by one/a few people. Here I've crossed out the hand component in 有.

4.thumb.png.a94ccf8e042a69a3e3195e92cd10b649.png

 

Did I get this at least somewhat right?

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I hope you did, because your explanation makes it make more sense to me. Although I get really hung up on Photo #2 in your post, @Insectosaurus -- isn't the whole point of cursive that you try to evoke the general form of the underlying 楷体 without necessarily having to faithfully reproduce every stroke? So I have a lot of trouble with 脱 because...it doesn't do that. It doesn't look even the slightest bit like itself, not even if I drink lots of alcohol and squint really really hard.

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On 9/10/2021 at 9:34 AM, 黄有光 said:

isn't the whole point of cursive

 

I think your understanding of what 草书 is needs some reassessment. Yes, in English the point of 'cursive' is what you have stated, but the English concept of 'cursive' =/= 草书. We use the translation 'cursive' for 草书 for convenience (as a rough equivalent), and then 'semi-cursive' for 行书. However, sometimes you will see terms like 'Chinese shorthand' being used for 草书. This is because 草书 is a system of writing that seeks to achieve two things: speed in writing and effortlessness in artistic production. It is ultimately not concerned with legibility per se, but rather uses often arbitrary signs to 'point' to what the character might be (in a similar way to Western shorthand systems). The bulk of the comprehension work is put on the reader - do they know what the arbitrary signs are? Have they learnt by heart the phrases and poems that are being quoted? 

 

The second important point that needs to be addressed is the fact that 草书 did not evolve from 楷书, in fact the opposite is likely true. 草书 existed far earlier than 楷书, and is a rendering of an earlier 章草/隶书 script from the Han dynasty. This means it can never 'reproduce' the strokes of 楷书, as these strokes were decided at a much later stage. Instead of seeing the goal of 草书 as a rendering of 楷书, we should see it as a mature system in its own right. If you study it at any length you will find far more divergent forms than those shown in this thread - forms that often point to an earlier history of 汉字, before they became solidified in their 楷书 forms. 

 

In a recent thread @OneEyes recommendation of 十七贴 was mentioned on the recommended list of books to study for understanding how to write 'cursive characters'. The value of this collection of texts is immense, but it must be remembered that 王羲之s letters were written first and foremost to display his learning and artistic ability to his friends, not because he wanted to communicate really quickly and with ease. 智永千字文 is a much better recommendation from the list, but again, it is teaching artistic forms, and you will come across plenty of seemingly random rules in this text too, just because the author seems to have thought a character would 'look nicer' written in a certain way. If you want a clearly laid out system, with obvious links to the 楷书 you are familiar with, neither of these texts will do you many favours (even 智永千字文 is not so useful, as many of the 楷书 forms are 异体字 popular in the Sui dynasty, reformed after its fall soon after this copybook entered into circulation).

 

If this thread has ignited your interest, thats great - I suggest you read more about earlier character primers such as 急就章 or 仓颉篇. If it has made you reassess 草书 as a practical tool for learning Chinese, thats fine too - I would recommend you study 行书, which is a system that developed out of 楷书, and serves the purpose of writing 楷书 without writing all the strokes. Some feel that it is not quick enough, though, and so they habitually borrow from the 草书 system to increase speed - and thus confusion arises! Take what you want and try not to get confused by the rest - be assured that it looks entirely different because it is an entirely different system designed to serve a different purpose.

 

 

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Which makes me wonder: if my priority isn't to write cursive (although it sure would be fun, but rather to be able to understand it), what resources are the best ones? The explanations you provided for 月 were very useful to me, and I would love to see similar explanations for most characters, which I'm guessing has been done either online or in book form.

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@Tomsima Thanks so much for that write-up. It cleared up so many things for me and I feel so much less frustrated now. My goals are as follows:

 

(1) develop the skills necessary to read other people's handwriting, especially when they use cursive forms

(2) in so doing, develop in myself the skill to write quickly, consistently, neatly and cleanly in a 行书 style. I am not looking for mastery of calligraphy at this stage, merely practical competence.

(3) in accomplishing (1) and (2), lay the foundations for the formal study of calligraphy as a hobby, most likely starting with 楷体, then progressing to 行书 and then 草书

 

I asked about the 草书 forms in this thread because they appear almost immediately in Introduction to Chinese Cursive Script by 王方宇. The principle purpose of that textbook is to teach comprehension of other people's handwriting, so it seemed like a natural first-choice for accomplishing (1) in my list.

 

Based on my goals, do you have any recommendations?

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Im glad it helped clear things up. Introduction to Chinese Cursive Script by 王方宇 is a good place to start, although be aware that the author is writing from an educated background for an educated audience (perhaps even the 'elite') - the forms in the book range from totally normal all the way to illegible to the everyday Chinese person. If you study the book, I recommend going through it with a teacher you know well, so they can show you which forms are still in regular use.

 

I have been waiting for the Pleco 4.0 release for years now, as that will allow for pictures to be put into user dictionaries from what I understand. In that case, I could happily build my own 草书 user dictionary. Until then, there really is no good handwriting dictionary beyond calligraphy dictionaries. Check out 以观书法 if you want to look up 硬笔字.

 

I would love to build an accessible 草书 'super-cursive' dictionary like Outlier has done for scripts like 金文/甲骨文, where you can trace the development of characters as writing styles change. But yeah, unless I get a big grant from some philanthropic organisation to do so, I don't think its happening any time soon, unfortunately.

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On 9/10/2021 at 1:06 PM, Tomsima said:

If you study the book, I recommend going through it with a teacher you know well, so they can show you which forms are still in regular use.

Unfortunately hiring a tutor is out of the question for me right now. Got any Plan B's?

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On 9/10/2021 at 1:20 PM, 黄有光 said:

Unfortunately hiring a tutor is out of the question for me right now. Got any Plan B's?

 

There are a lot of cursive fonts (especially FounderType for some professional ones). Perhaps some of these fonts primarily uses ones that are still in regular use? It would of course take someone with knowledge (like Tomsima) to look through them, which might be a lot of work.

 

Edit: Most fonts seem a bit tto easy (i.e. no special practice needed), but they do actually have a  孙过庭 font, which (as could be expected) looks a lot like the real examples provided by Tomsima. Here are 月脱明有 written with that font:

 

font.thumb.png.8a362557d0f1c8964b9df3c28afad27b.png

 

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