Monday, November 17, 2008

Remembering a Famed Chinese Calligrapher

Wify has been looking for a Tampa-based teacher for Chinese calligraphy for some time now. It's actually not an active search, but rather one based on word of mouth or chance encounter. We met Mr. Godwin Kou two weeks ago at a local Arts Festival who seems to fit the bill except that he is domiciled in Atlanta.

Then last Saturday, we were at Brother Yang's house to participate in the Tzu Chi Tampa training camp. We have been to his house before and have seen the various posters of Chinese calligraphy adorning the walls of his house but it has never entered our minds to ask him whose works these were.

This is "Buddha" written by Brother Yang's uncle, Master Yap. Wify's own version is here.

"Mesmerized by the Waves", another of Master Yap's work, here shown with his pseudonym, Amazing Cloud.

This is a popular poem penned during the Tang Dynasty by Jiǎ Dǎo entitled Looking for the Hermit And Not finding.

This time though, he volunteered that the Chinese calligraphy was by his late uncle when he saw me looking admiringly at one of the wall posters. Wify got excited and immediately asked Brother Yang for any published calligraphy anthology by his uncle. He answered in the negative but did hand over an old invitation card announcing the calligraphy exhibition held in commemoration of his uncle. When pressed further, he acknowledged that he was under his uncle's tutelage when young but added modestly he was not good.

We could not make out the Chinese calligraphy. Anybody?

The next day, and reminded by the popular Chinese saying that Famed Teachers Produce Excellent Students, we started speculating that perhaps Mr. Yang could perhaps be the one that Wify has been looking for. I made a mental note that we would bring up the matter with him the next time we meet again.

Around noon, we decided to do our weekly grocery shopping, starting at Publix and double-backing to Oriental after that. While in the car, Wify decided to reverse the order, and to drop by Oriental first. When we were getting out of the car at the Oriental's parking lot, out stepped a familiar face from a car nearby. It was none other than Brother Yang.

Wasting no time, we tendered our request that we had just discussed in the morning. After some hesitation, Brother Yang agreed to our proposal, but only as a fellow companion in learning, saying that being a teacher is too onerous a duty.

After a quick round at Oriental, Brother Yang followed us to our house so as to give him an idea of Wify's present level of attainment in Chinese calligraphy and preparedness in terms of the four treasures of Arts room in Chinese parlance: brushes, ink, paper, and ink stone.

At home, Wify took out all her collections of the four treasures and the various calligraphy anthologies sourced through all her friends from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia, including her works in Chinese calligraphy, and laid them all on the table for Brother Yang to view. Visibly impressed by Wify's talent, especially since she has been learning on her own all this while (save learning some of the calligraphy basics from her late father when young), mimicking the anthologies without the benefit of instructions from a learned teacher, Brother Yang gave his critiques on the spot, while offering some fundamentals of Chinese calligraphy. The stage was then set for the first Chinese Calligraphy class to be held in Brother Yang's house on the coming Saturday. And best of all, he welcomed Wify to bring along her friends who would like to “dabble” in Chinese calligraphy as well.

This is the best illustration of what the mind desires, manifests. In turn, we would always be grateful for the opportunity to embark on an artistic journey with a dear friend.


Kitty Girl said...

Aww! That is such a great story! That is really super that Mom has a new class to take, more people to meet, new artwork to be done! I have a guess as to the mystery calligraphy... Well, the character on top looks like it could either be "an" as in 'safe' or "li" as in our surname. No idea about the bottom character... My rudimentary knowledge of Chinese tells me that it resembles "nian" ('year')... On the other hand, it also looks like 'car' to me... Eh.

Say Lee said...

They do look like anyone character that you said, based on our layman's preception. However, this is akin to the "sketchy" script (much like a heap of random grass) that defies clear interpretation.