Par­ents see value in cal­lig­ra­phy

Tra­di­tional writ­ing styles are thought to foster chil­dren’s pa­tience, self-dis­ci­pline, re­straint

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING zhaoxiny­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Af­ter don­ning an apron and fold­ing a piece of pa­per both hor­i­zon­tally and ver­ti­cally, 10-year-old Jia Jia stood in front of his desk, dipped a writ­ing brush in ink and be­gan to form the Chi­nese char­ac­ters for zheng zhi — in­tegrity.

This is the sec­ond time the fourth-grade pupil has taken a cal­lig­ra­phy class and he is cur­rently learn­ing seal script, an an­cient style of writ­ingChi­nese char­ac­ters that arose dur­ing the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC). In the eyes of Jia Jia’s teacher, he is pro­gress­ing quickly.

In re­cent years, an in­creas­ingnum­berof stu­dents like Jia Jia have been flock­ing to cal­lig­ra­phy in­sti­tutes, as tra­di­tional Chi­nese writ­ing styles gar­ner more at­ten­tion both at home and abroad.

Li Xiaoya, founder and pres­i­dent of Han Cal­lig­ra­phy Ed­u­ca­tion, a lead­ing teach­ing in­sti­tute in Bei­jing, said that when she started the busi­ness seven years ago, it mainly fo­cused on teach­ing adults. Soon they started to add cour­ses for chil­dren, how­ever, af­ter they no­ticed a gap in the mar­ket.

“Aseries of pref­er­en­tial poli­cies car­ried out in re­cent years have also helped cal­lig­ra­phy at­tract at­ten­tion and in­ter­est from more chil­dren and their par­ents,” Li said, cit­ing as an ex­am­ple an Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry di­rec­tive, first is­sued in 2013, that urges China’s pri­mary and mid­dle schools to make cal­lig­ra­phy part of their cur­ricu­lum.

To date, the in­sti­tute has reg­is­tered up­ward of 10,000 learn­ers and more than half are chil­dren. The sum­mer va­ca­tion brought even more young learn­ers, Li said.

Ben­e­fits of cal­lig­ra­phy

Jia Jia was one of them. His mother, Li Li, be­lieves that prac­tic­ing cal­lig­ra­phy will help im­prove her son’s knowl­edge, hand­writ­ing, learn­ing habits and state of mind.

“Cal­lig­ra­phy, as a type of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, con­tains a lot of phi­los­o­phy and wis­dom,” she said.“My son can learn many things dur­ing the whole process, whether it’s a lec­ture on tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture or hold­ing and wield­ing the writ­ing brush.”

Liu Chen, a teacher at HCE who has been prac­tic­ing cal­lig­ra­phy since he was a first­grader, said learn­ing tra­di­tional writ­ing styles can help with young peo­ple’s de­vel­op­ment.

“It can make chil­dren who are mis­chievous more calm and com­posed. Also, be­cause learn­ing cal­lig­ra­phy re­quires ob­ser­va­tion skills, chil­dren will be­come more at­ten­tive to details in daily life,” the 26-year-old said.

“In ad­di­tion, as cal­lig­ra­phy has its own stan­dards and em­pha­sizes self-dis­ci­pline, chil­dren will be­come more self-re­strained af­ter prac­tic­ing it for a pe­riod of time.”

Liu has also no­ticed that chil­dren re­quire a dif­fer­ent teach­ing ap­proach than would be used with adults.

“You need to be more pa­tient and car­ing, and sim­ple words that they un­der­stand,” he said.

Ap­peal to chil­dren

use can

In or­der to meet these spe­cial de­mands, Li Xiaoya said they had de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive teach­ing sys­tem for young learn­ers.

It di­vides all the re­quired cal­lig­ra­phy tech­niques into smaller mod­ules that are taught to chil­dren one at a time, us­ing sim­ple, un­der­stand­able words.

“We also hold a strong be­lief that when learn­ing cal­lig­ra­phy, chil­dren should learn­how to use their eyes to ob­serve be­fore they use their hands to write. They should know what cal­lig­ra­phy is good and what is not good enough,” Li said.

As well as class­room teach­ing, HCEalso or­ga­nizes events to make cal­lig­ra­phy more ap­peal­ing to young­sters.

Dur­ing the sum­mer va­ca­tion, for ex­am­ple, the in­sti­tute took young learn­ers to Xi’an, Shaanxi prov­ince, to visit the Beilin Mu­seum, or For­est of Stone Ste­les, which houses the work­sof­many well-known cal­lig­ra­phers from an­cient China.

“We also hold ex­hi­bi­tions an­nu­ally to dis­play our stu­dents’ works,” said Ning Ke­jun, an­other HCE teacher. “The ex­hi­bi­tions make them very proud and more con­fi­dent in their learn­ing of cal­lig­ra­phy.”

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PHO­TOS BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Chil­dren learn cal­lig­ra­phy at a train­ing course held by Han Cal­lig­ra­phy Ed­u­ca­tion this sum­mer in Bei­jing. More and more chil­dren take the train­ing dur­ing their sum­mer va­ca­tion.

Stu­dents dis­play their cal­lig­ra­phy at a Han Cal­lig­ra­phy Ed­u­ca­tion train­ing ses­sion.

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