Reputed to be one of the most ancient artistic type in oriental world history, Chinese calligraphy is the writing of Chinese characters as an art form, combining purely visual art and interpretation of the literary meaning. Christine Wong, a civil lawyer with the Department of Justice, shares how she got into this unique art form and why she still finds time to practice it.
Wong did not enjoy Chinese calligraphy as a primary school student when it was a mandatory part of her homework. Her fondness for it only grew at university. “I only started to enjoy it when it became one of my leisure activities in university,” Wong shares. “One of my best friends Emily asked me to join a Chinese calligraphy class to learn “Official Script” with her, and during the class I got the chance to create a piece of artwork by writing on a big piece of paper and arranging the characters in a way that looks nice to me,” she adds. Her thorough enjoyment of the activity led her to sign up for more classes. “Afterwards, I joined another class with Emily and started to learn “Regular Script” by imitating the calligraphy piece “Xuan Mi Ta Bei” of Liu Gongquan”, she shares.
Around two years ago, Wong decided to pursue her interest more seriously and signed up for classes at HKU Space. “Apart from writing, I also got to learn the history and theory Chinese calligraphy from my respectable teacher, Mr. Fung Yee Lick, who is also a solicitor in Hong Kong,” Wong explains. “Mr. Fung taught me how to appreciate art and in particular Chinese Calligraphy from different angles. He is enthusiastic about Chinese Calligraphy and occasionally led our class to different Chinese calligraphy exhibitions. As times goes by, I started to realize that Chinese Calligraphy has become an integral part of my life,” she adds.
In Wong’s five to years of practicing Chinese calligraphy, she has found her niche areas of interest that she would like to focus on. “In recent years, I mainly focused on learning and practicing “Regular Script” by imitating the calligraphy pieces of different masters including Zhi Yong, Zhu Suiliang, Ouyang Xun, Zhao Mengfu, and Yan Zhenqing. I enjoyed writing Yan Ta Sheng Jiao Xu of Zhu Suiliang as it inspires me on the structuring of a character,” she shares. “When judging the structure of a character, it is always interesting to observe where the spirit of each character is”, she adds.
Wong finds practicing the art form extremely beneficial towards her life and work. “I love how Chinese calligraphy improves my temperament and manage my thoughts. When I am focusing on writing, I enjoy how my mind is connected with my hand which further connects with the Chinese writing brush and the paper,” she explains. “My mind becomes peaceful when I am writing, and the satisfaction after I completed a piece of Chinese Calligraphy is huge. I also love exchange ideas on Chinese Calligraphy appreciation with my peers,” she adds. She also finds that it brings a positive impact on her work and professional life too. “It improves my temper and helps me to focus when I am doing my legal work. As it requires persistence and loads of time for practice, I also become more patient with my clients at work. It also helped me to relieve stress,” she shares. Wong believes that her day-to-day work with the Civil Litigation Unit and Chinese calligraphy both require patience and persistence and is glad she is able to hone these traits on a daily basis. Further, she finds the activity extremely relaxing. “Practicing Chinese calligraphy is beneficial to our health as it carries meditation effect, which helps us to relax and control our thoughts. The tools are simple – a brush, some ink and a piece of paper. It can be enjoyed by everyone,” she shares.
Thanks to these substantial positive effects of Chinese calligraphy, Wong is able to find time to practice it regularly, even during periods of over-time work. “Sometimes when I need to work over-time, I find it difficult to attend to Chinese calligraphy. Yet, I appreciate how important it is to maintain my commitment to Chinese calligraphy in order to sustain at work. One has to strike a work life balance in order to sustain at work,” she shares. “There is no need to intentionally balance time. It is only about time allocation. If you love Chinese Calligraphy enough, there is always time for it. Some of my classmates in the HKU Space class practice after midnight after they have finished work and family time,” she adds. Moreover, Wong also enjoys working on festive pieces of Chinese calligraphy during Chinese New Year. “Every year I write Fai Chun during Chinese New Year and share my work with friends. It is satisfying to see how other people appreciate my writing and display my Fai Chun at their homes and offices,” she shares.
While Wong understands that finding time for Chinese calligraphy may be difficult, she hopes that more lawyers would find an interest in the activity. “I hope Chinese Calligraphy will become a more common activity in Hong Kong in future, and there would be more occasions for people to exchange ideas and appreciate the works of each other,” she shares. “Knowing more about the history of Chinese Calligraphy and exchanging ideas with others would help you to appreciate Chinese Calligraphy and differentiate good pieces,” she adds.
Ultimately, Wong’s personal satisfaction and appreciation of the activity has kept her dedicated to it. “When I compare my works at the beginning and that after certain practice, the improvement that I saw from myself definitely brings me much satisfaction, which further drives me to practice more to achieve further improvement,” she explains. Wong also finds that practicing Chinese calligraphy allows her to be a part of something timeless and share a common experience with ancient masters of this art form. “Chinese calligraphy transcends time”. When you are imitating the calligraphy pieces of different masters and trying to observe the spirit of each character, your mind comes close to that of the master as if you are writing with him or her,” she explains. “You can imagine the motion of his or her hands and feel how he or she wrote each stroke,” she adds.