Inquisitive Ink – A Study of Contemporary Practices of Calligraphy in China

Inquisitive Ink – A Study of Contemporary Practices of Calligraphy in China
Laura Vermeeren


This study investigates contemporary practices of
calligraphy in China. It starts by locating calligraphy,
approached as both an act of writing and an art-form
endowed with cultural and historical significance, in a
precarious position as people are increasingly writing
less due to digitization. At the same time, I demonstrate
how calligraphic practices are increasingly prevalent
due to current governmental directives that promote
“creativity” as a powerful discourse contributing to
economic and urban development. The consumption
of calligraphy is further dispersed due to increased
demand for nostalgic calligraphic content and private
calligraphy education as well as the development of
vernacular practices of calligraphy that are sprouting
up in the grassroots. In this context, this dissertation
unfolds how calligraphy is imagined, negotiated and
performed in five different visual cultural fields in China:
calligraphy education, water calligraphy in public parks,
modern calligraphic art, digital calligraphy APPs, and
WeChat groups and calligraphic font design. Through
an interdisciplinary focus on cultural studies and Chinese
studies, this dissertation posits that calligraphy effects
technologies of the self, government, and society.


Laura Vermeeren

Defended in


PhD defended at

University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities, ASCA