By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:
- Summarize the categories of Chinese characters and list the basic stroke order of character construction.
- Discuss the ways the power and authority of religious officials and the ruling class relates to knowledge of and skill in writing.
- Explain how adoption of a unified written language contributed to the political structure of China and shaped its society.
- Describe the factors that contributed to the development of different Chinese writing scripts and styles.
- Discuss the compositional qualities of Chinese calligraphy that allow it to be appreciated as an art form even when the viewer doesn’t understand the meaning.
- Discuss the reasons why China has retained its logographic writing system rather than adopting an alphabetic system.
Your online learning will include the following methods:
- Articles and other course material
- Participation in written discussions with other students
- Participation in videoconference seminars
For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.
Week 1: The origins of writing: Pre-history through unification
We consider the mythological origins of Chinese characters and review the earliest surviving examples from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600 - 1046 BCE). Unification of China by the Qin dynasty (c. 221 - 206 BCE) included standardizing the written language – a decisive moment in the development of the Chinese writing system.
Week 2: The culture of calligraphy: Han and Tang dynasty developments
Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE) advancements in social development, technology and language included the invention of paper and the first “modern” Chinese script. Perfection of Regular Script during the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) brought writing to stability and maturity, and provided rules and standards that other styles elaborate.
Week 3: Dialectic of diversity: Cursive styles to innovations in printing
Initially developed to increase writing speed, the abbreviated, dynamic nature of Running (semi-cursive) and Cursive styles fosters creative expression, sometimes at the expense of legibility. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chinese printing technology reached a milestone during the Song dynasty (960 - 1127) with the invention of movable type.
Week 4: Writing landscape: Literati art and beyond
The art of calligraphy influenced Chinese aesthetic taste and has a fundamental relationship to ink landscape painting. We consider the impacts of modernization and Western influences on Chinese writing and calligraphy, from ballpoint pens to computer fonts, and discover how contemporary artists approach this ancient art form.
Books, materials and resources
You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.