by Tracy Timson
A visiting professor of communication from China is spending the year on Cabrini’s campus. On Wednesday, November 29 Cabrini’s own Ray Matzelle introduced Hong Zhao at a seminar on traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. At this seminar Zhao showed that the Chinese still use feather quilts to write calligraphy, even in this age of computers.
Zhao will be teaching a course at Cabrini this spring titled “Chinese history and culture.” He is a noted lecturer, author and has won many awards. In the past 15 years this talented individual has published 48 academic papers on linguistics, mass communications and Chinese culture. Along with these works came nine books, four translations of literature from Russian to Chinese, three books on cultural linguistics, two books on mass communication and two dictionaries. He has won seven awards for his works from the Chinese national government totaling over $12,000.
Currently, Zhao is taking a computer graphics course at Rosemont College and planning on teaching here in the spring. While at home in China, Zhao is an associate professor at Central China Normal University teaching theoretical linguistics, sociolinguistics, language and culture. He was also a student at CCNU from 1986 to 1989 when he graduated with an M.A. in linguistics.
The November 29 seminar began with a showing of pictures from China. According to Zhao, “the great wall is one of the only structures that can be seen from the moon.” It is about 4,000 miles long. Then Zhao got down to business. The discussion of calligraphy and painting began. “In Europe people once used feathers to write,” Zhao said. “In China we still use writing brushes to write letters.”
Zhao went on to explain the different types of materials used when doing calligraphy and what the Chinese calligraphers prefer. He discussed ink sticks with the audience. An ink stick is a material used by Chinese calligraphers that is made of ink dye, glue and fragrant materials. The “better ink sticks are added with some precious materials, gold, silver, pearl, or jade,” Zhao said. He also added that most “calligraphers prefer to make the ink themselves.”
He discussed the most important things for calligraphers are stroke, structure and composition. For experienced calligraphers, “the most and only important thing is composition,” Zhao said. Beginners should concentrate on their stroke, their structure and last but not least their composition.
“Sometimes people after dinner, drink wine, watch T.V for about 20 minutes and then write.” Zhao stressed the importance of calligraphy and art in China. Calligraphy is an art. ” We don’t look at this as writing something, we look at this as rest and enjoyment,” he said with a smile.
Many people look at this Chinese art and question what the characters mean. They feel that they need to know what the characters are to enjoy the art. “To appreciate one must not know what Chinese characters are, just look at is as abstract art.” With this Zhao wrote out a Chinese poem on the board. While no one in the audience understood what each character stood for the faces looked on with awe at what was such a beautiful way of writing.