Cursive Script

Cǎo shū (cursive hand), is rapid and used for making quick but rough copies. The essence of Cǎo shū is that the characters are executed swiftly with the strokes running together. The characters are often joined up, with the last stroke of the first merging into the initial stroke of the next. They also vary in size in the same piece of writing, all seemingly dictated by the whims of the writer.

Cursive script - Treatise on Calligraphy - detail - Sun Guoting
Cursive script in ‘Treatise on Calligraphy’ – detail – Sun Guoting

A great master at Cǎo shū was Zhang Xu (early 8th century) of the Tang Dynasty, noted for the complete abandon with which he applied the brush. It is said that he would not set about writing until he had got drunk. This he did, allowing the brush to “gallop” across the paper, curling, twisting or meandering in one unbroken stroke, thus creating a completely original style.

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