Hua Rende: Learn From Nature and Cherish Chinese Tradition

Hua Rende, born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province in 1947, is a researcher in library science at Soochow University Library, the doctoral supervisor inthe School of Art of Soochow University, the president of Suzhou Calligraphers Association, a scholar at Jiangsu Institute of Culture and History, and the deputy director of Chinese Calligraphers Association Official Script Committee. Winning the "Chinese Calligraphy Lanting Award" for four times, Hua is the most awarded calligrapher since the establishment of the award.


Preface and Postscript of Viewing the Sea, a Carving Stone in Han Dynasty



Preface of Getting Official Ranking and Salary,a Carving Stone in Han Dynasty

 

Peace

At this senior age, Hua Rende, lives in an apartment in Mudu, Suzhou, away from the hustle and bustle of thecity. Although his daughter says he lives in a place as desolate as a village, he still likes it. Rising at dawn, he makes the bed and cleans the house. In the morning, he practices calligraphy, reads or writes, and continues to read and write in the afternoon. After dinner, he goes out for a walk, then goes back to watch TV or continues to read.

He repeats this quiet and regular schedule day by day.

From 1969 to 1978, Hua worked in the countryside of Yancheng, Jiangsu Province. After work, he didn't drop around and play cards like most of the school graduates, but practiced calligraphy or read the Analytical Dictionary of Characters, the History of the Han Dynasty, and The History of the Three Kingdoms. Even when going for a walk, he would take a book with him.

Reading not only enhanced his cultural accomplishments, but also helped him find his true love. In 1974, Hua met Li Qinhua on a ship. At that time, Li felt that this young man was different from other school graduates since what he carried was just a string bag which contained a washbasin full of books.

The long-term persistence of reading enabled Hua to be admitted to Peking University in 1978, with the highest score in Yancheng city. During the four years at the university, library became his favorite place since there were abundant resources like Oracle Bone Inscriptions and ancient books.

After graduation, Hua worked in Nanjing University Library for a year, then was transferred to collate and compile ancient books in Soochow University Library. Accompanied with a houseful of ancient books and a wooden desk, he worked at this post for twenty years with the passing of time.

Hua is fond of Suzhou. At an early age, he liked to stroll in the alleys and lanes in Suzhou after work. Standing on those ancient bridges, he liked to look down to the silent running water, look up at the low tiles, walls and the twitter of birds on branches, or stare at historic sites of celebrities to recollect their past glories.

Hua admires "Wumen Calligraphy School" represented by Shen Zhou, Zhu Yunming, Wen Zhengming and Wangchong. Although what he learns is ancient stone tablets calligraphy, he is attracted by these elegant interests of literary men in the Ming Dynasty.

In an interview, Hua interpreted "Wumen Calligraphy School" in this way— "advocate an elegant, flat, detached and lordly aesthetic idea without fantastic wildness; emphasize but not constrained by tradition, pursue for freedom of personality and dare to break the rules and innovate in calligraphy idea; totally abandon the constraint of Taige script in the early Ming Dynasty and go after a free and easy character in calligraphy style. They stress to express the beauty of nature and seek for relaxed and happy interests of scholars." In fact, his opinion speaks for himself to some degree.

 

Breakthrough

At the age of 14, Hua began to learn calligraphy, and practiced after the model of famous calligraphers like Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan. But as time passed by, he gradually felt that his calligraphy was just the duplicate of these calligraphers, which made him determine to break down this barrier.

When Hua was working in the countryside of northern Jiangsu Province and the craft factory in Dongtai County, he learned calligraphy from copybooks to tablet inscriptions by practicing the rubbings from stone inscriptions before the Tang Dynasty, such as Longcang Temple Epigraph, Three Northern Wei Epigraphs, Ode to Shimen, etc.

In the university days, Hua read a mass of ancient rubbings unsold in the market, including thousands of collections of Miao Quansun's"Yifeng Hall", thousands of collections of Zhang Zhidong's"Liufeng Hall", rubbings from bronze mirrors and epigraphs of generations in the central Shaanxi plain, rare books and books of rubbings in the period of Ming and Qing Dynasties, which greatly widened his horizons.

Not constrained by certain styles and tablet inscriptions, Hua made up his mind to widely collect unknown calligraphy in inscriptions, bamboo scripts, eaves tiles and inscriptions for the Buddhistic sculptures from the Qin and Han Dynasties to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, conclude the general characteristics of official script among them and weaken concrete characteristics, and finally form his ancient, quiet, elegant and natural style.

Some calligraphy amateurs like to practice after Hua's official scripts, but Hua encourages them to find directions in the steles of Han Dynasty and bamboo scripts instead of following his style, since those are the source of Chinese official script calligraphy.

Once Hua read Stone Tells of Ye Changzhi, he was told that the reason why the epitaph in the Eastern Jin Dynasty only recorded dates of birth and death, name and native place of a person with hasty style of calligraphy and simple shape and structure was that southeast China hadn't been enlightened. He didn't agree with this opinion since the epitaph in the Eastern Jin Dynasty could not fall behind that in the Western Jin Dynasty. The latter was standing in the tomb in the form of stele, so in terms of artistic rules, the latter artworks would be more exquisite than the form one.

Therefore, Hua read all the unearthed epitaphs in the Eastern Jin Dynastyand discovered that except Zhang Zhen, the owner of epitaph in a noble family in regions south of the Yangtze River, other owners were prominent families moved from north China to Nanjing City. They wanted to recover north China and hoped their graveyards could be moved to ancestors' cemeteries by their offspring, whereupon the epitaph acted as a sign which could be written and carved by craftsmen rather than written by calligraphers.

This stereotype-breaking thought inspired him to write a calligraphy paper named On Epitaph of over ten thousand words. In 1983, this paper was published on Hong Kong magazineCalligraphy Manual, and was praised as the "foundation" of his calligr

Breaking through the limit of ancient calligraphers demands talent, knowledge and insight, while breaking through the existing practices needs more courage. Canglang Academy, a civil calligraphy group launched by Hua in 1987 is a proof of that. As an elite group, new members could be admitted with the approval of two thirds of academy members. Even to today, this academy only has 44 members, including famous calligraphers such as Hua himself, Bai Qianshen, Cao Baolin, Xu Benyi, Wang Yong, Huang Chun, Liu Heng, Sun Xiaoyun, etc.

Hua was naughty in his childhood. He was often criticized by his teachers after class since he was restless in class and always affected other students. Although he is a gentle man after being an adult, his active personality became implicit rather than falling away.

Peace provides him with a wide view in calligraphy and helps him find the part unfit for his personality, at variance with artistic rule and in disregard of art. Discontent helps him develop his own style, explore truth and respect art, which needs perception, talent, courage and insight.

 

Nature

Hua loves nature. Seasons have distinctive charms in his eyes -- spring is radiant, summer is untrammeled, autumn is fresh and winter is chilly. When winter comes, he will put on thick clothes and hat even at home. The cool temperature in the air-conditioned room is just like spring, it is dull to enjoy it every day.

During the communication with Hua, it can be strongly felt that learning from nature helps him gain accomplishments in calligraphy in a larger sense. He has left footprints in the Zhao Mausoleum and Qian Mausoleum in Shaanxi Province, Bingling Temple Grotto in Gansu Province, Mount Tai in Shandong Province and Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.

"Taking a fresh look at nature, feeling awful for it after experiencing its brilliance, then you will be more serious-minded when practicing calligraphy. Moreover, you are supposed to remove all the distractions when writing, since fame and wealth are nothing when compared with the grandeur of nature." Hua says.

In 2013, on the awarding party of the fourth "Lanting Award", the committee invited each award winners to practice calligraphy on the scene, so as to enable the tele viewer to feel the charm of calligraphy through live broadcast. However, Hua refused this invitation and said: "calligraphy is not a performing art, I think this arrangement is a disgrace to me. In reverence of calligraphy, I need to be calm when practicing calligraphy."

Hua is kind to friends and filial to his mother, but he doesn't show his concerns over the telephone. He is used to show filial piety with actions--each year when steamed crab, Biluochun tea and other Soochow cuisines come into season, he will buy the favorite one of each friend and send to them. Every other month, he will go to Wuxi City to visit his mother.

A teacher in Peking University likes drinking Biluochun tea, each year when the tea come into market, Hua will buy it and send to him. Hua kept this habit for many years until one day he received a message from the teacher's daughter, which said: "my father receives your tea every year, he was very glad to drink it. But this year, he can't drink it anymore, for he passed away... I will take the tea to his tomb in this Tomb-sweeping Day."

Hearing this story, the author is inexplicably moved. A classic manner comforts the loss of life with permanent warmth and transcends the limit of time.

When interpreting "like calligrapher, like calligraphy", Hua says, "I always think that a calligrapher must have a high style or be gentle and graceful, which is related to one's mood and mental state and must be cultivated ordinarily." He doesn't learn formulaic expressions on purpose, but pursues for elegant languages and meaningful implications, which has lingering and unfading charm other than sensational effects.

Hua's calligraphy works have nothing to do with shallowness, but about popular ancient poems or self-made poems. A writer once took his master work to ask Hua to do a calligraphy work, but Hua said after reading his essay, "I can't write for you in case of misunderstanding of other people. You can take other essays to me, I will write for you if I recognize one of your works." Later on, Hua chose another essay about the childhood story of this author: in the 1960s, the author starved in kindergarten and still felt hungry after eating like a bird. Once he was scrambling for porridge in the bucket, his hand was scald and a permanent scar was left.

This vivid story moved Hua with precious simplicity, so he transcribed this essay to a seven-inch hand scroll, which is one of his few calligraphy works of contemporary literature.

It is his classical, natural and peaceful mind that helps him get rid of the earthly ties and noise, devote himself to calligraphy and ancient books, and have a successful career. The author once asked him a question: what kind of life do you want at present? He answered without hesitation, "the traditional life of scholars, just as the former owner of Suzhou traditional gardens."

What kind of life is it? The author thinks it might be the life that one would no longer worry about trivial affairs and administrative affairs, get along with men of insight, practice calligraphy, explore and think lightheartedly, stick to inner faith with writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and inkstones, use the ink brush to express reverence toward nature and culture, create a world in small characters and show the broad and profound Chinese traditional culture with endless charm.