Natural Flow of Movement

Yutang Lin

Only natural flow of movement constitutes beauty
Lively as a whole and conveys intents and feelings
Slightest modification only adds damaging strokes
Couldn't survive adjustments that rendered it petrified


Disciple Wang Hao is working on how to carve my calligraphy of "Fang Xin" (Let Mind (worries) Rest) and "Qing Feng Xu Lai, Shui Po Bu Xing" (Clear Wind Gently Arrived, Water Ripples Not Arise) onto stone seals. (The latter calligraphy had been done once with fountain pen and once with Chinese brush pen.) As soon as I saw the draft for the Fang Xin seal, I felt that the arrangement of the Xin character is not good. Later I learned that the character inside the draft was not an exact copy of my calligraphy but only an imitation. The original one contains continuous flow of movement and looks lively, and hence is without problems of arrangement arising. The imitation was constituted by strokes put together artificially, and thus immediately yielded a sense of deficiency in its arrangements.

The draft for the Qing Feng seal was written in two columns. Hao again followed the rules of patterns that he had learned in the past and moved the characters up or down. The seal draft thus obtained looks stiff at first sight because the natural flow of writing the calligraphy had been broken up and hence completely lost. When the original draft was adopted as it is, the problem of arrangement that he was worrying about does not show up—— contrary to what he suspected. This is because the sense of a whole that comes about from the natural and fluent flow in the calligraphy completely absorbed and covered possible problems of imbalances of local arrangements.

Thus we have learned that the lively force, that is natural and fluent, is revelation of mind free from worries, and among the calligraphy strokes it naturally formed a lively flow of movement, without being confined by artificial regulations. Any addition or subtraction out of calculation would be a damaging stroke. Slightly rearranging it would yield a dead object in a stiff position, contrary to all good intentions. As we apply our minds and move our pens we should let it follow the natural flow, without being hindered here and there by preconceptions, so that true feelings could be lively revealed. If we could do so, then there would be abundance of beauty in our daily lives!

Written in Chinese and translated on April 22, 2009
El Cerrito, California

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