February 8 1981: Mr. Huang Yao's unique calligraphic skills



Chuyun Shu

Mr. Huang Yao’s unique calligraphic skills

Chen Ganyi Posted from Malaysia

Nanyang Siang Bao (Singapore) on 8-2-1981

Q: Mr. Huang, we heard from our television station’s interview with you that you mentioned “Oriental Art Simplified Explanation (II) on Calligraphy". When you touched on “Zuo Shu” (Left Writing) and “Fan Shu” (Reverse Writing). We also understand that you have an extraordinary calligraphic skill in the “Dao Shu” (Inverted or Upside down Writing), where you wrote the characters upside down from the bottom of the page up, and without any trace of you actually writing it in the inverted manner. Everybody termed it as: " Chuyun Shu". What does this mean?

A: In ancient times there was a curtain called “Juan Lian Ge” (Rolling curtain). As the curtain was rolled from bottom up, it was proposed to me to name such "inverted writing” as “Juan Lian shu” (Rolling curtain writing). Later, I read Tao Qian’s (also known as Tao Yuanming) famous quote: "Clouds are naturally rising out of the mountains, tired birds know how to return home”. As clouds rise upward from below, they condense in the sky, in the morning and evening they become colourful clouds. Besides, a clouds’ formation is "non-deliberate". As such, in order to be good in writing such inverted script, being "non-deliberate" is the key to artistic conception.


Q: What is being "non-deliberate"?

A: The Chinese have a two-sentence proverb: "Purposely plant flowers but flowers do not blossom, yet when there is no intention to plant willows they turned into shade”. Very philosophical indeed. If one  deliberately plans for a matter, it may turn out to be fruitless as being too calculative will become scheming. "Racking the brains" will be futile. If we take it that writing “inverted writing” is a pleasurable activity, then we should not approach it with a bunch of nerves. We must first relax ourselves and our moods, calm our minds, free our hearts; and using our most skillful brushstrokes to write our favourite poetry. Definitely everybody can do it. However, inverted writing  is a form of game in brush and ink, and I do not expect everybody to learn it.


Q: When you use "Chuyun Shu", which type of scripts do you use to write?

A: The “Chuyun Shu” itself is an unfettered form of calligraphy and I think the best is to use "Cursive” script. This is because cursive script is one of the most unrestrained forms of artistic expression. In Japan, there were already many posh buildings decorated with paintings using "cursive" script, fitted on clearly visible and strategic spots on the walls. These are comparable with the trendy Western Art and not below par. Unfortunately it is a pity that this unique Oriental Art has remained untapped. As for the scripts I used for my writings, they remain unrestricted. Be it Cursive, Hanbei or Zhongding... scripts, what matters most is how to write it to perfection, to the best that is possible.


Q: So when you write “Chuyun Shu”, is there any secret to it?

A: There is no secret. Originally I tried writing Chuyun Shu because I thought as one   gradually grows up, one first attends school before stepping into the working world, and whatever one comes into contact with on the round-the-clock basis, gradually become very "hypocritical". I deeply felt that my calligraphy had also gone into a state of "hypocrisy", losing its "natural appeal". It is a very sad thing when a person loses the "natural appeal",  more so when one even loses one’s “natural appeal” in one's works, it is most upsetting. Then in an accidental event, I saw a child’s writing. His writings had not lost the "natural appeal", they were especially “lively” and certainly not what any adult or so-called masters can produce. For example, the word "安" meaning safe, we adults will tend to write the upper portion "宀" smaller, and for the character "女" for woman, it will be written bigger. However in the child's mind, it is often the reverse case where "宀" portion is written bigger and the "女" word written smaller. Some are written so tiny that they shrunk under the big hat, such that the "natural appeal" exudes. I was inspired by this unpretentious writing and decided to give it a try by writing upside down and then turn the paper back up. The writing looked "good" with an unusual attractiveness to it. Hence, I began corresponding with the children. The use of this "inverted writing" method resonated with my readers. Subsequently, I used it for illustrations in my cartoons. That was why in my cartoons, all the inscritptions  were written in this manner.


Q: How come your writing has an “ancient awkward” look?

A: It was because my calligraphic and painting skills were taught by my father. I started using big brush to write big Chinese characters since young. At the beginning, I used rain water to practice writing  on the smoothened city-wall brick. I practiced  ancient writings such as Weibei, oracle  and bell-cauldron scripts; all the way to clerical script to produce the big “Chuyun Shu”. Hereafter, as there were more and more requests for me to write from all   places, it becomes natural for me to continue to write, write and write... "Accumulating over time, practice makes perfect”, and there is no secret to it. I practice every day up till now, so much so that no matter what size, what content, what script, I am dexterous. All of this was achieved "non-deliberately", and not “deliberately” planned. If you are interested, you may wish to give it a try. It will be extremely delightful.


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