Chinese netizens vote in support of calligraphy classes

Xinhua, August 28, 2011

A recent ministry order that obliges the nation's elementary schools to increase calligraphy classes has triggered widespread discussion, amid extensive concern that keyboard use has cramped children's penmanship.

According to a notice issued by the Ministry of Education on its website Friday, senior elementary school students will have one hour of calligraphy class every week, and high schools should set up calligraphy as an optional course.

The news ranked as the most popular topic on Weibo, China's Twitter-style microblog site. And as of Sunday morning 88 percent of 9,069 Internet users, who took part in a survey hosted by the website on making calligraphy classes compulsory at school, voted in support of the penmanship-reviving policy.

Among the supporters, some wrote they believe calligraphy education introduces pupils to Chinese traditional aesthetics, some hailed the policy as they posted that their handwriting had suffered from lack of practice since childhood, and most wrote they worry about the decline of calligraphy which they regard as one of the fundamentals of Chinese culture.

Microblogger Guchengzhongsheng posted on the voting board, "China should have long ago made calligraphy compulsory at school, now there's a possibility that our generation will forget the thousand-year-long art practice."

Another microblogger, Lewale, wrote, "I firmly support the policy. Due to popular use of computers, even well-educated Chinese fall short of writing presentable characters. Chinese should work on their penmanship from childhood."

Opposition to the policy was also posted. Some frowned upon enforcing it on schools and students, and some argued it would only add pressure on the already over-stretched students.

Microblogger Hanchuangjianyue wrote, calligraphy is a form of art, the attainment of which depends on different people's aptitudes, so it cannot be taught in such mass-production style.

Most of the surveyed expressed their concerns that in an education system where students are pushed to excel in exams so as to enter key schools, children are already overloaded with academic work, and compulsory calligraphy education only will makes things worse.

According to the Education Ministry order, calligraphy courses will teach students to write standard Chinese characters in a proper way, using the right gestures. Students in higher grades should also learn to appreciate the work of ancient calligraphers.

The ministry also urges schools to train teachers and establish specific plans for calligraphy instruction, and to host various calligraphy-related activities after school such as inviting calligraphy experts to give lectures.

According to the ministry, regions with adequate education resources should start calligraphy lessons in September, the beginning of the fall semester.