Calligrapher burns midnight oil to copy ancient classics

Updated 2017-02-24 15:25:27
Zhou is engaged in the copying of Si Ku Quan Shu.

Zhou is engaged in the copying of Si Ku Quan Shu.

Zhou Baoxiang, 53, received a special task last September which was to copy Si Ku Quan Shu, an ancient encyclopedia compiled under the edict of Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of Qing Dynasty (1644-1919).

Since that day, Zhou has spent endless nights accompanied only by a writing brush. Recently, the philosophy ("zi") part he was in charge, which includes 40,000 Chinese characters and written on more than 800 pieces of paper, has been completed. Soon, the Si Ku Quan Shu, which gathers over 200 people's handwritings, will be permanently displayed by the National Museum of China.

"I copy everyday and don't feel tired at all"

Zhou is the director of Calligraphy Reported newspaper's Zhuzhou branch in Zhuzhou, Hunan province, the deputy chairman of Zhuzhou Calligraphers' Association, and runs a calligraphy and painting academy. As he was busy with his post during the day, he worked on the special task during the nights. The Si Ku Quan Shu is written with complex characters, so before he began writing he had to thoroughly read the chapter, analyze the structure of each character and arrange the layout of each character on the paper.

The paper he used to copy is very precious, and is created after going more than 80 processes. If Zhou makes a mistake, he has to start all over again and a piece of paper is wasted. Zhou feels bad when paper is wasted, so he is very careful in writing.

The copying process is quite tedious and Zhou has to sit still for two to three hours before he gets a chance to stand up and take a rest. Sometimes he was so immersed into his work that when his employee came to work in the morning the next day, he was still writing.

Thus, from the end of summer, to golden autumn, chilly winter, and to early spring this year, he finished all the 40,000 characters in the philosophy ("zi") part of Si Ku Quan Shu, which was more than six months ahead of the schedule. "I'm very interested in this task, and don't feel tired at all," Zhou said.

Zhou is engaged in the copying of Si Ku Quan Shu.

Zhou is engaged in the copying of Si Ku Quan Shu.

Influenced by his father, Zhou sticks to practicing calligraphy

Zhou said that copying Si Ku Quan Shu is a public service and there's no payment involved. He was invited to copy the classic as he writes regular script in small characters well, which shows Zhu's calligraphy level. One of Zhou's friends surnamed Wang said that Zhou not only writes well but also has the discipline to sit still for a long time. "Many people can write well, but only few people have the mental strength."

Zhou has copied more than 30 calligraphy works in regular script including The Classic of Tea, Diamond Sutra and Tao Te Ching.

Zhou began writing calligraphy under the influence of his father. In his childhood, each year before the Spring Festival, his father helped neighbors and relatives write new year couplets (to post on doors for auspicity) and he was his assistant. He first took up the brush to practice writing when he was seven years old. His father died of illness when Zhou was 16, and it was then he felt that sticking to calligraphy was an inheritance from his father.

Zhou has worked as a decorator, a teacher, a worker and a salesman, but he never gave up his writing brush. He said calligraphy makes him happy and cheers him up.

Currently, there are 200 calligraphers copying Si Ku Quan Shu across the country, and after the entire work is completed the giant piece will be permanently displayed by the National Museum of China.

The original Si Ku Quan Shu includes 3,461 classical works arranged under the four divisions of Chinese literature, known as the classics ("jing"), history ("shi"), philosophy ("zi"), and arts and letters ("ji").

The book series represent the essence of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization covering history, astronomy, geography, economy, society, laws, politics, science and technology and philosophy.

A series of Si Ku Quan Shu

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