Learning Calligraphy

17 Feb

Calligraphy is respected as a required subject for cultivating the mind and for success in life, whether for a king or for a layman.

It is “a drawing of a mind”. The character itself is not simply a code for meaning. It conveys the spirit of the calligrapher, expressing the endless possibilities in the balance of the characters.

I learned this when I was suspended from school in grade five. My father took me to Ma Do-Sung, a Chinese classical scholar who lived in our village. The master too his brush and ink and then wrote four Chinese letters as an example. He asked me to copy it.

He watched me write and told my father, “This boy will make a good calligrapher because he does not touch up or correct what he has written.”

My father then sought out the most highly recognized calligrapher he could find, 24 kilometers away from our village, Han Il-Dong. He invited this master to be my live-in tutor, paying a fee equal to that of ten apprentices. From that day forward, I focused on the basics. I practiced hard and developed calluses on my fingers.

The master was also good at Taek-Kyun, a traditional Korean martial art. It mostly incorporated leg moves. Like my father, my teacher worried about my weak body; he talked about his victories in various fights and taught me some basic moves.

When Master Han Il-Dong had to return home to manage his personal affairs, my father begged him to take me along and continue my lessons. The Master agreed.

When I was in my Master’s house, I practiced my letters without copying his originals. I could visualize the whole structure of the characters alone. My focused practice allowed me to master the printed style within a year. From there, I learned the introductory basics of ornamental style, correspondence style an in drawing the four basic plants – plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo.

When my lessons finished, I returned home. The local masters praised me for my work. From then on, I was asked to write the epitaphs for the notable dead in our area. I even taught calligraphy to younger apprentices. My father was happy.

To this day, I remind Taekwondo instructors “only under a great teacher will you find an excellent apprentice.”


One Response to “Learning Calligraphy”


  1. Learning Calligraphy « The Constant Critic - February 17, 2013

    […] Learning Calligraphy. […]

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