International Student Trips Powered By Discovery Education
China Adventure

Putting Brush to Paper

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yesterday was so amazing, where to begin? I guess with one of my favorite activities!

One of our trip highlights that will forever stay near and dear to my heart was our visit to one of Beijing's oldest Hutongs- narrow street communities lined with very small businesses and siheyuan (small courtyard homes typically shared by numerous families). Hutongs are almost entirely unique to Beijing, so when their numbers began to drastically decline in recent years in order to make way for urban planning, a few of the citie's oldest Hutongs became protected areas in an attempt to preserve this important aspect of Chinese cultural history.

As we strolled past an endless line of red canvas covered rickshaws lining the riverside, I was amazed by what seemed to be a beautifully controlled chaos. Cars, bikes, mopeds, rickshaws and pedestrians all danced around each other from all directions in a single lane road. And not a single person yelling at each other!

Suddenly, we turned off onto one of the "residential" alleys and before I knew it, we were at our destination- the home of a master calligrapher. The home itself was interesting and unique- a maze within a maze- walkways twisting and turning, from a tiny entrance way, to an open air courtyard, to the main room where we gathered and were greeted by the teacher and his wife (who served us amazing homemade treats). I couldn't believe it- 6000 miles away from my own home in the home of a complete stranger who spoke a completely foreign language, and I felt entirely at ease. Ironically, we have all felt that way the entire trip- embraced, welcomed and appreciated everywhere we've been.

The master graciously sat us down, then our calligraphy lesson began. He started by telling us (through one of our ever-present and life-saving interpreters!) A brief history of the art and its significance in Chinese history. Then he explained the four basic tools of the trade: paper, brush, ink and ink stone. Today, pre-made ink is very affordable, but true artisans still make their own with an ink stone.

After a demonstration of brush holding, ink dabbing and stroking technique, the master said we were ready to try it for ourselves. We all gathered around the table and did our best to create the Chinese symbol for longevity.
It looked much easier than it was! I am so very grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to TRULY become immersed in a cultural art form admired throughout the entire world. There's no doubt that I now have a much greater appreciation for Chinese calligraphy.

If you ever get the chance to take a lesson, go for it!

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Rachel Castlen said...

Fascinating! :)

Geoff Webb said...

I have always loved Chinese calligraphy. You don't need to know the characters to appreciate it.

JKeith said...

It is quite an art. Wish I were there!

Karen Wells said...

Don't you love how when you're on a DSA you feel like you're exactly where you are supposed to be in that exact moment of time - totally at ease and totally embraced (I know this is your word, but it's a good one!). I have thought about our conversation in Maryland many times and laughed to myself about the similar reactions we got from family and friends. I'm excited that you are there and you're having a great time. Have you figured out the next DSA destination you are going on? By the way, tell the kids they are doing a great job on their blogs.

Jenn said...

We studied the country of Japan in my third grade classroom. I had several Japanese immigrants share and teach us their cultural passions - the Tea Ceremony and Calligraphy. The students loved those lessons and the quiet careful nature of the instructors.

MiketheMovieFanatic said...

Sounds like you are having a great time. See you in September!

rozie13 said...

Just want to tell you how thrilled I am that you and your students are having the time of your lives! I am so glad you got this opportunity(as well as my son)to experience this wonderful adventure. I love reading everyones blog...enjoy ; )
Rozanne Regino

lauren rose said...

That's amazing! I've always admired Chinese calligraphy....happy to hear everyone having a truly unique experience!

Anonymous said...

Heather- I am soo excited for you! I love seeing your smiling face in the photos... Enjoy every moment!

Essential Programs Details

Duration 15 days
When August 1st - 14th, 2009
Focus History/Culture
Martial Arts
Modern/Ancient Architecture