This past semester I decided to attend an Arabic calligraphy event, because I had some experience with Chinese calligraphy and I was curious to find experience a new culture and language, and see how it compared with Chinese.
A room full of students sat around and watched as a middle-aged man began to write in Arabic on a chalk board. He wrote a few different scripts, and each one became more decorated and complicated than the one before it. The first difference between Arabic and Chinese calligraphy became quickly obvious, as I had no idea what was being written, or even the names and boundaries of the Arabic letters. That made it slightly more difficult as the swirly script carried no meaning for me. But I could still appreciate the amount of time and detail that went into drawing each letter.
Sitting in a classroom drawing in Arabic reminded me of when I took a calligraphy class in China, where my professor was an old Chinese man with a round face and deep voice who spoke melodically about Chinese history as he carefully painted beautiful Chinese characters stroke by stroke. For a single character, he demonstrated at least 4 or 5 different scripts, some readable, others unrecognizable. But even the unrecognizable script had its own specific design and stroke pattern, despite its apparent sloppiness. As I watched the Arabic calligrapher draw out the different scripts with letters of a specific shape and size (measured by the the unit of a little diamond), I was reminded of the detailed rules involved in Chinese calligraphy.
Another point that impressed me was how much school and training the calligrapher went though to master the art of calligraphy. He went to two different schools in two different countries and studied for many years to attain to such a level of calligraphy mastery. Maybe after medical school, I can attend a calligraphy school in Morocco (after I learn Arabic).