The evolution of Chinese calligraphy | Part 1 - Introduction

China proudly cites a continuous cultural history that stretches back around 5000 years. 'Continuous' here, referring to the cultural items and evidence that have appeared continually throughout, and allow it to lay claim to, that long and rich history; clothing, music and calligraphy.  

Calligraphy is intimately linked to the evolution of Chinese and the dissemination of Chinese culture. From its inception, Chinese calligraphy has been a marriage between artistic expression and the recording of information. Throughout its history, the action of writing calligraphy has been viewed as an art form in and of itself. As with any cultural product, calligraphy is also a mirror of the culture that produced it. 

In this mini-series on the evolution of Chinese calligraphy, we're going to be briefly exploring the following seven major stages of its development and using them to understand some more about Chinese culture and history. 

Examples of various calligraphy scripts and styles

Examples of various calligraphy scripts and styles

  • Oracle bone script (甲骨文 jiǎgǔwén), 1400-1200 BCE 

  • Bronze script (金文 jīnwén), 1100-256 BCE 

  • Large seal script (大篆 dàzhuàn), 1100-256 BCE 

  • Small seal script (小篆 xiǎozhuàn), 221-207 BCE 

  • Clerical script (隶书 lìshū), 207 BCE - 220 AD 

  • Standard script (楷书 kǎishū), 207 BCE - 220 AD 

  • Simplified script (简体字 jiǎntǐzì), 1949 AD 

We're really looking forward to the journey and hope our readers will enjoy learning more about fascinating language.  

The next part of this series will cover some of the earliest examples of written language – the oracle bone script.