A portrait painting of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, from an 18th-century album of Chinese emperor's portraits. Wikimedia.org.

A portrait painting of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, from an 18th-century album of Chinese emperor’s portraits. Source: Wikimedia.org

Chinese typographical style is a communicated system composed of logographs. It is a visual language deciphered by graphic signs and characters together to create a word. Logographs and phonographs are combined to emerge a Chinese character (word), but the words are not connected to the Chinese word when you say it out loud. They are two separate things, independent from one another. The aesthetic of Chinese book culture engages individuals with expressive characters that convey a meaning. The characters are not in alphabetical order instead, they are visual pictures of nouns or abstract designs of objects representing emotions, feelings and self-expression.

 

Seal Script from Qin dynasty, c.221 BC. Wikimedia.org.

Seal Script from Qin dynasty, c.221 BC. Source: Wikimedia.org.

For instance, the “small seal” style. The characters were written in small scales and each stroke in Chinese characters have a different starting point, the lines were thicker and uniformed. Qin Shi Huang standardized Chinese ideographs and this style was used to express government, medical, agreements, diplomacy documents etc. It was an important role in the writing system. The characters fit inside an invisible square outline around the characters, this makes sure the scale is uniform throughout and the strokes are thick, but more importantly the ends of each stroke are slightly curved. This emphasizes a delicate feeling to the words. The seal style was during the Qin Huang period and it was very common to use this style on bamboo as a substrate. Not only was it a light material but the style of the characters written on it was known as a cultural technique in China as a system of writing.

Li Fangying, Album of Eight Leaves, 1742. Wikimedia.org.

Li Fangying, Album of Eight Leaves, 1742. Source: Wikimedia.org.

These characters are expressive and very much controlled. The strokes are very poetic, it is a visual language projecting individuals personal feelings to one another hence, poetic. An art form of writing that is rendered, the aesthetics of each character is carefully written because the strokes from the stylus expresses the meaning and language behind the characters. They are in relation to one another, like the Album of eight leaves by Li Fangying showcases a poem and an illustration in relationship with one another as a unified visual piece. The strokes of each character is expressive, thick strokes used in a very carefree manner. Fangying showcased this inspiration of nature with combinations of pictographs and calligraphy and used bamboos to draw illustrations of the bamboo itself

Peter Griffin, A student doing calligraphy. Public Domain Pictures.

Peter Griffin, A student doing calligraphy. Source: Public Domain Pictures.