In this book, Jean Long introduces us to Chinese calligraphy. As he explains, even though "calligraphy" only means "words written by hand", to the Chinese it is an art with a long history. He affirms that "the characters not only convey the language of thought but also, in a visual way, the artistic beauty of the thought".
In the introduction to "The Art of Chinese calligraphy", the author says that the purpose of the book is allowing the readers to delight in the intrinsic beauty of Chinese calligraphy, even if they haven't yet mastered the Chinese language. Also, J. Long points out that in this book he provides the instructions that allow the readers who want to try their hands at Chinese calligraphy to do so. The instructions include a step by step guide to using the necessary equipment, and all that is needed to learn the different brushwork techniques. Finally, he also expresses his hope that "a greater understanding of the art of Chinese calligraphy will provide a clearer insight into the character of the Chinese people themselves".
The book is very well divided into interesting chapters that are easy to read and contain a lot of information even though they aren't overly long. The 1st chapter is titled "The development of Chinese calligraphy", and deals with the history of this art. It is worthwhile mentioning that this chapter and all the others include many useful illustrations, specially photographs (for example, a photograph of a ritual vessel from the 10th century BC, inscribed with characters). The 2nd chapter, "Chinese calligraphy as an art form", explains how it developed to an art form, from the merely functional act of writing. The 3rd chapter is "Language as a way to the understanding of Chinese thought", and the 4th is "The calligraphic seal". Chapters 5 and 6 deal with "Chinese porcelain and ceramics" and "Inscriptions on paintings" respectively, and chapter 7 centers on "Chinese painting equipment and how to use it". Lastly, chapter 8 is about "The techniques of Chinese calligraphy".
When I bought this book I was not exceedingly interested in attempting Chinese calligraphy, but I wanted to know more about it and the importance it has for Chinese culture. I decided to buy "The Art of Chinese calligraphy" because I considered it would be able to answer my questions... And thankfully, I was right!. This book is a great introduction to the subject, and it is highly likely to be useful not only to artists but also to readers like me who don't want to paint but love to learn about other cultures.
On the whole, I think this book is a keeper, and I highly recommend it :)