Haichao Wu ’12 Brings Calligraphy to Swarthmore

While dreaming about going to college, Haichao Wu ’12 wrote his admission essay about his love for Chinese calligraphy. Now that he’s here, though, this passion hasn’t just helped fulfill one dream. With his creation of a calligraphy club, he’s fulfilled another.

“It’s [been] my dream to set up this kind of club,” said Wu, a first-year international student from Shanghai, China. “I want to share this fantastic, interesting art with the guys here.”

The club has an informational meeting this Sunday from 7 to 8 p.m. at Kohlberg 116. Despite its recent creation, the club has a mailing list with 28 interested members. And, Wu said with a smile, most of those interested are American. There are even two Chinese professors who are interested in joining the group.

Calligraphy is an ancient form of Chinese writing that not only is an intricate art but also holds a special place in Chinese culture and history. In ancient China calligraphy was the way of writing. Today, Wu said, it’s become an art.

“It’s totally different from normal writing,” he said, explaining that “you use some special brush to write down words with special ink.” The symbol for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wu pointed out, is derived from the word for “people.”

Calligraphy as a hobby is demanding. Wu started classes when he was seven-years-old, moving slowly from painting simple shapes to drawing simple words.

“We just practiced, in class and at home,” Wu said of his daily two hours of commitment to an art that has eight different styles. “It’s hard work, and if you really want to do good writing you should spend a lot of time on it.”

Calligraphy isn’t just aesthetic and complex, though. It carries special cultural importance and history, said Wu.

“If you learn to write calligraphy, you can get much more insights on culture,” he said. “The guys who have learned how to write calligraphy will get a peace [of] mind, a special feeling.”

And, it seems, Wu has learned quite well. He won a silver medal at a national calligraphy competition when he was eleven-years-old. The next year, he struck gold.

“I don’t know if [the medal]’s truly made of gold,” said Wu with a laugh.

These competitions are for children from five-years-old to fifteen-years-old. As children in China get older, said Wu, they are forced to focus more on schoolwork, only having time on the weekends for hobbies and interests.

Wu said that though this happened to him, that doesn’t mean that things can’t change here.

“This club will be the most important task for my first semester,” said Wu. “I love this art and maybe it’s a good opportunity [for others],” he said. “I also miss this.”


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