Women and Winning in Traditional Chinese Calligraphy

Women and Winning in Traditional Chinese CalligraphyLearning how to write Traditional Chinese characters can be really tedious and not fun. I always have to preface my students with a disclaimer that learning the art of Traditional Chinese calligraphy requires a lot of patience and discipline. They instantly get it once they start practicing; and they easily understand why people dedicate their entire lives to mastering this complex art form. I always say this and I will say it again here. I am by no means a master of this incredibly challenging art. I am still a student and always will be. Honestly, nothing in life has humbled me more than this art form.

I can be incredibly impatient (I grew up in a restaurant and everything had to be done quickly) so practicing calligraphy actually forces me to be more patient. This art form can be so frustrating from the incessant practice of ugly-looking (this is me judging my own writing, by the way) characters but once I achieve that balance in brush strokes, I swear the joy is euphoric. I almost want to cry at times.

It’s not just about getting the balance right though. I get a lot of joy from digging deep into the history of the character and exploring the radicals within the characters. For example, I was writing the character for “to win”. It’s an older variant and I couldn’t help but notice the 女 radical embedded in the character (I wrote this out in pink to make the distinction, by the way). 女 means female. A female is embedded in the character for winning! My obvious interpretation is that in order to win, women are required. I just find this so fascinating. Our ancestors must have known a thing or two when they were in the process of developing characters. I couldn’t find more about the etymology of the character but this definitely has me thinking about our current political climate and women’s rights. I also think about what all the nations with the best Coronavirus response have in common. Women leaders. And I’ll just end this post with a quote from Barack Obama:

“Now women, I just want you to know; you are not perfect, but what I can say pretty indisputably is that you’re better than us men. I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.”

Yes. If we are able to raise our living standards and save lives, we all truly do win.

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