pen, pencil, or maobi

before we communicated electronically, we used to write letters.

or, if you lived in China, you would take time to find the exactly right  毛笔 máo bǐ – writing brush,

find the perfect inkstone   , do some breathing exercises for serenity before you picked up your inkstick from it’s brocade-covered box, grind the inkstone ( adding a bit of water to make the texture just so),

breathe again before picking up brush and calmly, with intent, paint/draw/write/form



or   山 shān  , mountain. No, the calligraphy is not mine, but that of   Zhang Zhengyu.


Then, you would write the same character again and again, to contemplate it’s form, to find new expressions, to find perfection in the moment in the painting/drawing/writing/forming  the word you wanted to write.

It’s a meditation of sorts. What does it mean to be a mountain, to write the word mountain, to contemplate the order and format of the strokes….

Then of course, there is always the old folk you will see in the streets, parks, walkways, using a large brush almost as tall as themselves, with water for ink, making water words on the pavement.

It’s an art form, a beauty, a practice of serenity.

All from the humble 毛笔 máo bǐ



<a href=””>Pens and Pencils</a>







Author: Debbie

immersed in the ancient culture of china, and its constantly changing facades.... a traveller through time and space landing in suzhou of the 21st century.... australian by birth, traveller by nature, mother of a beautiful ten-year-old

13 thoughts on “pen, pencil, or maobi”

  1. When you began to explain how some scripts came to be, I was fascinated , it drew my attention to your blog. I am so enjoying finding out about China.


  2. What a wonderful meditation on what it means to write in pictographs, rather than alphabetic, arabic characters! Much food for contemplation here – thank you very much! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for this lovely meditation about intentional writing and drawing as an art form and portal to discovery. Soul-stirring and informative without being long-winded!


    1. Thank you Leslie for your comments. i was trying not to be too longwinded but to get the message across, so i do appreciate your comments.
      calligraphy – of chinese characters – when i practiced it is very very peaceful. the choice of the word to write is also significant
      as in the writing/drawing/forming of it, it allows one to contemplate the pictograph and attempt to capture the essence of the concept….
      thanks for dropping by!


      1. In the movie “Hero” (one of my favorite movies), I am always deeply moved by the scenes at the calligraphy school, and also the Emperor’s deep reading of one caligraphic character. So deep, so profound. As is said, “a picture tells a thousand words” – it seems to me that pictographs are like this too, when one understands their meaning (and levels of meaning).

        Thank you, Debbie, for embarking upon this exploration with us!



      2. Hero is my favourite movie too, Anna. I have seen it many times.

        the character that the calligraphers write is that of Jian – meaning Sword.

        I guess another blog post is in the wings, about the word Jian!


      3. I’ve seen “Hero” so many times I prractically know the script dialogue! *grin* The meditation on the character Jian while writing, and the Emperor’s energetic ‘reading’ of how the character was written has always been deeply moving to me..

        Yes, another blog post about the word Jian definitely seems to be in order – especially since I’ll be receiving one more Sword: my soon to be ‘former’ housemate is sending our late Swordmaster’s Wakazashi with me when I move to Virginia! So this study seems to be in order, indeed.

        Thank you for what you are offering, here.



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