Chinese calligraphy styles for tattoos

Chinese calligraphy is the art of writing Chinese characters, mainly using a brush pen with ink. The different styles of Chinese calligraphy depend on how the brush pen is held, how it is moved, the structure and the composition of the character and the type of ink used.

Due to its appealing aesthetics, Chinese calligraphy naturally lends itself to use in tattoo art works.

Please note that in modern day China people do not write in this fashion , i.e. with a brush pen, when doing everyday writing, or rather, typing. Chinese calligraphy is more commonly associated with Chinese painting and carving art.

Each style of writing is in itself a form of art, commonly used in art work, advertisement and tattoos for different types of impact.

Following are four commonly used Chinese writing styles:

Lishu, or the Clerical Script (隶书)



Clerical Script

As seen from the example above, each character is written in a clear, regular style, i.e. the horizontal and vertical strokes tend to be relatively flat. The shape of the character tends to be squared or wide. This calligraphic style is nowadays widely used for headlines. Because of its regular and simple style, the invention of Lishu greatly improved the efficiency of written communication in the old days.

Kaishu, or the Regular Script (楷书)



Regular Script

Kaishu was used as the official calligraphic style in the Sui and Tang dynasties. Kaishu, as its English name suggested, has very regular strokes. Each character written in this style can fit into a box of the same size. It is commonly used in modern writings and publications. Famous Kaishu calligraphers are Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan from the Tang Dynasty and Zhao Mengfu from the Yuan Dynasty.

 Caoshu or the Cursive Script (草书)


Cursive Script

Caoshu is the most artistic calligraphic style and it is faster to write than the other styles. The strokes are usually connected and it is therefore difficult to read. Famous Caoshu calligraphers are: Zhang Xu and Huai Su from Tang Dynasty, Huang Tingjian from Song Dynasty, Zhu Yunming from Ming Dynasty and Mao Zedong in Modern China.

Xingshu or the Semi-Cursive Script (行书)


Semi Cursive Script

Xingshu is a style between Kaishu and Caoshu, i.e. the regular and the cursive script. The work of Wang Xizhi from the Eastern Jin Dynasty provide the best examples of Xingshu.

My Chinese tattoos book includes designs from six calligraphic styles. Please check it out.

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Comments: 2

  1. Linda January 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm Reply

    Hi, i saw a great video where they show the word love being written, check it out on

  2. Linda January 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm Reply

    sorry, can you check the video on to see if in fact the word they write is Love? thanks so much

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