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Different Chinese calligraphy scripts

In a long history of Chinese language, Chinese characters evolved and are simplified. We say there are five scripts. Actually there are more but we don't know much about the scripts before Jia Gu Wen so we call all scripts at and before Qin dynasty as Zhuan Shu.

Jia Gu Wen.

Jia Gu Wen is the Chinese calligraphy script used by Shang (also is called Yin) dynasty (2100 B.C.-1600 B.C.). The characters are carved on bones or tortoise shells. That's why it's called Jia Gu Wen. Jia means tortoise shells and Gu means bone in Chinese.

Typical Jia Gu Wen calligraphy.

Zhou Wen.

According the literature, Shi Zhou of Zhou Xuan Wang (827 B.C.- 782 B.C.) created Zhou Wen. Zhou is his name.

Jin Wen.

Jin Wen is the scripts carved on bronze wares during Shang (2100 B.C.-1600 B.C.) and Zhou dynasty (1600 B.C.- 221 B.C.).

Da Zhuan.

Usually by Da Zhuan we mean Zhou Wen or Jin Wen. At that period, there's no standard for scripts yet. Almost all piece we still have is in different scripts. We call all of these scripts Da Zhuan.

Typical Da Zhuan calligraphy.

Xiao Zhuan.

Qin Shi Huang defeated all other countries in China in 221 B.C. Then he made a standard of the scripts. The scripts at that time is called Xiao Zhuan.

Typical Xiao Zhuan calligraphy.

Zhuan Shu.

Actually, we call all of the scripts before and include Xiao Zhuan. But sometimes, some people call Da Zhuan and Xiao Zhuan as Zhuan Shu.

Li Shu.

Although Xiao Zhuan is the official written language in Qin dynasty (221 B.C - 206 B.C.), it can not be written efficiently. So another script, Li Shu became popular since it is much easier to write. Li Shu was the official written language in Han (206 B.C. - 265). And the best Li Shu calligraphy is in Han Dynasty.

Typical Li Shu calligraphy.

Cao Shu. (cursive script)

According to Xu Shen <<Shuo Wen Jie Zi>>, Cao Shu appeared in Han dynasty. Cao Shu is the simplified script from Li Shu. Can Shu also can be divided into Zhang Cao and Jin Cao. Zhang Cao is close to Li Shu. We can see it keep some stroke from Li Shu. Huang Xiang's "Ji Jiu Zhang" is a typical Zhang Cao piece. Jin Cao is much more simple than Zhang Cao. It's said Jin Cao is created by Zhang Zhi, who is called Cao god by calligraphers after him.

Famous Cao Shu calligraphers at the end of Han dynasty include Du Du, Cui Yuan, Cui Shi and Zhang Zhi. 

Typical Cao Shu calligraphy.

Kai Shu. 

Kai means standard. It's also called Zhen Shu or Zheng Shu. Kai Shu is evolved from Li Shu. The shape of Kai Shu is square. The strokes are staight. The rules to write it is strict. It appears at the end of Han dynasty.And it's the official written language since then.

Typical Kai Shu calligraphy.

Wei Bei.

Wei bei is all of the calligraphy of Bei Wei dynasty. They belong to Kai Shu. 

Typical Wei Bei calligraphy.

Xing Shu.

Cao Shu can be written fast but it's hard to read. Kai Shu can be read easily but can not be written efficiently. Xing Shu is the script between Cao Shu and Kai Shu. It's easy to write and easy to read. 

Typical Xing Shu calligraphy.

Now almost all Chinese handwritings are in Xing Shu and all printed materials are in Kai Shu.

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