Dreams of White Tiles . . .


Pavement Calligraphy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Roddy @ 8:39 pm

I went to the China Art Gallery at the weekend. There were some pretty pictures there.

Between the gallery and dinner, I managed to get a few photos of something I’ve seen quite often before, but never with my camera handy. It’s one of the few things I could sit and watch all day. Basically, you get a bunch of old Chinese men, some massive brushes (I thought they were mops first time I saw them), some water and a pavement. And then you watch them write Chinese calligraphy on the pavement, in big watery characters.

I like this for a number of reasons. One is that old Chinese people are cool, and have a never ending variety of ways to amuse themselves outside. There’s also something I like about the simplicity of it. Brush, water, pavement. I especially like the special brushes they sometimes have, where you screw a bottle of water into the top, and the water gurgles its way down to the brush proper. It’s also beautiful – calligraphy’s pretty to look at anyway, but when you get the old guy walking backwards, tracing new characters onto the paving stones as the ones he did 10 minutes ago evaporate off into the air 6 feet away. Ephemeral.

I wonder how the physics of this work in winter. Maybe they use thermos flasks. . .


  1. I too enjoy watching the old guys writing with water and brush on the street. I am in China about 10 days every month. As I watch some of the locals are surprised/puzzled as I am not Chinese.

    My chinese is still very poor but I do find the guys are often very kind. I try to read and as I get 25%-50% the people are amazed and help with the rest in Chinese. Then of course the real fun begins what does it mean and where did it come from.

    But I recommend it as a great way to meet people. Just watch stay quiet ‘mouth ‘ the words you know and you will meet some very nice people.

    Comment by mike — 11/3/2004 @ 8:12 am

  2. That is really beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed watching chalk artists doing their work on the sidewalks, but this is just as beautiful in a simple way.

    Comment by Jamie — 11/8/2004 @ 6:15 am

  3. Roddy:
    I like to look at your web, very good!

    Comment by snowball — 11/24/2004 @ 3:33 am

  4. I asked a Chinese teacher at my school about this and she told me that they’re practicing large characters before they make banners. Not as romantic an explanation as doing it simply to amuse themselves, but I’m sure its a little of both.

    Comment by terrell — 8/13/2005 @ 8:59 pm

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