Chinese calligraphy is writing with brush and ink on absorbent paper. The ink penetrates the paper instantly and fuses indelibly. Writing happens in the present moment, without hesitation, without correction, without regret. When writing with a brush, a trace of ink is laid on the paper in rhythm with the character. (bokuseki, «ink trace» is used for calligraphy by Zen monks, especially before death.) This type of writing has parallels with dance.
Chinese calligraphy has always been understood as education in the broadest sense, as gaining a deep understanding of a spiritual culture and personal character development. The Chinese word «shufa» or the Japanese equivalent «shodô» means «way of writing», way is understood here as a way of life and as a lifelong effort to realize one’s ideals. This shows the proximity to the meditation practises, especially to the Zen way. This is how you practice the art of writing self-forgotten, fully concentrated and present.
Jean François Billeter says about Chinese calligraphy:
Chinese calligraphy is neither accurate nor a nice way of writing. It avoids the arbitrary stylization of the forms and even more the decorative additions. The Chinese calligrapher’s only concern is to animate his characters, to bring them to life without forcing them into anything. He puts his sensibility at the service of writing and then, through a subtle twist, comes to use writing to express his personal sensibility. Thanks to this reversal, Chinese calligraphy becomes a means of expression of extraordinary richness and great delicacy.
It lends itself to this kind of development for two reasons: first, because it offers a practically inexhaustible wealth of forms that no alphabet can match, and second, because the brush is not such a primitive tool as the pen, but an instrument that can be used with the attention to detail of a seismograph registering the subtlest changes in direction of the gesture, as well as its abrupt swerves. The Chinese calligrapher uses it to capture the forces that come from deep within. While the western calligrapher creates persistent forms, Chinese calligraphy is essentially an art of movement. («Essai sur l’art chinois de l’écriture et ses fondements», S11)
Because Japanese and Chinese use largely the same characters and writing styles, both types of calligraphy are very similar.