To welcome the Chinese New Year, Year of Water Snake (sometimes called junior dragon), I have been practicing some calligraphy and painting to create some little new year's cards with snake motifs to send to all the people who sent me Christmas cards, but to whom I failed to reciprocate. Am I ahead or behind?
My Chinese painting class resumed this week, and my Manchu teacher, unlike the Korean nun, has encouraged calligraphy study, said I should do caoshu, not kaishu. Caoshu is the flowing flourishy style--"running", although there is also a "walking" style, and a "lying down" style-- as opposed to kaishu, which is much more controlled. (Like the difference between Taoism and Confucianism; modern dance and classical ballet?) "You have a freehand style," he said, "in your painting and this." He pretty much gave me permission to do this, and to copy great caoshu masters like Huai Su, the Tang dynasty monk who wrote while drinking and couldn't even read his own calligraphy the next morning. (Haven't we all done this, drunk or not?) But it is very beautiful. My teacher is very sensitive to personality and how it comes out in the brush. "You don't have to know what it means, anyway," he said. "Hardly anyone can read caoshu."
So brush in hand, I channel snakes. The character is actually reminiscent of the snake, which as I was doing it I realized is just like the caduceus, the medical symbol, and also the rising of kundalini.
|Snakes in my brush. There's a couple of horses there too, but snake, she, 蛇, is what I'm working on.|