CULTURE Practicing Chinese calligraphy on an iPad


Practicing Chinese calligraphy on an iPad


03:11, December 11, 2018


(Photo: File)

TAIPEI, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- "Everyday when I go out, I bring an iPad and an Apple Pencil with me," said Chang Ping-huang, a renowned calligrapher from Taiwan, when introducing his new toolkit for practicing Chinese calligraphy.

Chang, 69, is best known in Taiwan as host of a TV program that aired back in the 1980s where he taught the audience to write one Chinese character with ink and brush every day. The show aired for some 20 years, and Chang taught nearly 7,000 characters.

With the advent of the digital era, the calligrapher and educator sought to marry modern technology with the ancient wiring art.

Chang has been a professor of Chinese language at Tamkang University for many years. He found the students nowadays tend to spend much more time on computers and cell phones than writing on paper, and even less time on calligraphy.

"It was quite a blow to me," Chang said. "So I started to think about how to use technology to rekindle the interest of calligraphy among young people."

Starting from the very basics, Chang himself learned to use a computer and worked with the department of information engineering at Tamkang University. Six years since after they began working on the initiative in 2001, they came up with a system they call "e-pen."

However, this system was not perfect. With a computer and a trackpad, the movement of the strokes could be captured, but the eyes must focus on the screen instead of the hands. It did not feel like writing calligraphy.

Thanks to the invention of the tablet computer, an updated "e-pen" was born. Equipped with pressure sensors, the tablet detects the tiniest details of each stroke of the stylus and visualizes it on the screen in real-time. What's even better is that people can now look at the screen and their hands at the same time.

The new "e-pen" app was launched in September and soon topped Taiwan's weekly download ranking. It also became popular in China's mainland, the United States, Japan, Canada and South Korea.

The e-pen App is not only for the Chinese people, but anyone with an interest in learning Chinese characters from any corner of the world can also use it, Chang said.

When practicing Chinese calligraphy traditionally, people have to take time to prepare the ink, brush and paper. Chang believes that with this convenient digital toolkit, people who used to have no interest or were not willing to learn will be able to take the first step into the world of calligraphy.

"We did not digitalize Chinese calligraphy to make brush and ink obsolete," Chang said, pointing to scrolls of calligraphy works hanging on the walls inside his studio in Taipei.

For Chang's own calligraphy class, he combines the traditional teaching method with modern technology. "The students' spirits are much higher," Chang said.

Chang decided to be an educator for Chinese calligraphy very early on. When he was a child, Chang had very poor handwriting. It was the encouragement from his teacher that set him on the path of calligraphy.

He has been a keen promoter for this art, teaching on TV and by correspondence and taking part in various activities to pass this tradition forward.

He also said that he was impressed by the efforts to promote Chinese calligraphy on the mainland, where many students get to learn about calligraphy in classrooms.

To keep the tradition alive, Chang hopes more young people across the Taiwan Strait will learn more about calligraphy with the help of new technology, and maybe even fall in love with it.

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