A survey on Chinese cultural symbols has identified the followings as the top 10 symbols: Chinese characters, Confucius, Chinese calligraphy, the Great Wall, the Chinese national flag, the traditional Chinese medicine, Mao Zedong, the Forbidden City, Deng Xiaoping, and the Terracotta warriors.
The Chinese cultural symbol refers to the symbolic sign or system that is highly influential in and that can represent the Chinese culture. The cultural soft power is said to be expressed through the cultural symbols.
The Chinese calligraphy has the honour of being the only fine art to be included in the top ten symbols. It is interesting to note that the Chinese writing system (the Chinese characters) which is closely associated with the Chinese calligraphy is placed at top position. The fact that both are being selected provides food for though.
Xiong Binming (1922-2002), a Chinese who lived in France once said, “The core of Chinese culture is philosophy, and at the centre of the core is Chinese calligraphy.” After his death, a famous Chinese calligrapher questioned this observation in an article published in the “Chinese Calligraphy” magazine, and this was responded almost immediately by another famous calligraphy theorist and educationist.
The Chinese calligraphy is indeed uniquely Chinese, and it occupies a special position in Chinese culture. Because it is special, it cannot be viewed and explained by using the Western yardstick. Instead, one should view it with a Chinese mindset. In the West, fine art is never placed at the core of its philosophy. The western aesthetic theories of such as art as imitation (mimesis), formative art, ontology etc may be good references for study, but they cannot be used as basis in developing the creative works of Chinese fine arts. By doing so, one loses the substance by grasping the shadow.
Coincidentally, a scholar from Hebei Province of China promotes Chinese calligraphy as an art of freehand expression in his book “Ten Lectures on Chinese Calligraphy”. He said, “Chinese calligraphy is philosophical, it is also a freehand expression. It is a philosophical art of freehand expression.”
Well said, indeed.