The Art of Calligraphy in Asia
Calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, was long considered the supreme art form in China, Japan, and Korea. This elevated status reflects the importance of the written word in East Asian cultures. In ancient China, early emperors asserted their power by engraving edicts or pronouncements on stone in their own calligraphic script. The elite members of society were scholarofficials, whose status was attained by their command of the written word. In addition to the central role played by writing in Chinese culture, the visual form of the language also contributed to the distinctiveness of the calligraphic tradition. The vast number and complexity of the characters that make up the Chinese script presented artists with a unique platform on which to explore the creative possibilities of design.
The writing of Chinese characters-which was then widely adopted in Korea around the fourth century and in Japan in the mid-sixth century-was thought to be the purest visual manifestation of the writer's inner character and level of cultivation. It was the medium through which a person's thoughts, feelings, and artistry were best conveyed. In looking at a piece of calligraphy, we may admire the way a calligrapher manipulated the brush to create an object of beauty in which rhythmic energy is conveyed through strokes and dots done with ink. Changes in ink gradation, the relationship between characters, and the elegance of a single line can entice viewers regardless of the legibility of the text. The calligraphy on display in this installation, dating from the fourth century to the present day, demonstrates the written language's lasting appeal as a vehicle for creating highly individualized works of art.