This article explains the xing (form) of Chinese calligraphy, proposing that calligraphic xing is inseparable from shi (force), a key aesthetic concept in Chinese calligraphy criticism and Chinese aesthetics at large. The first part of this article starts with a discussion of xing in early Chinese aesthetic discourses before turning to the term’s usages in texts on calligraphy. The second and the third parts discuss shi as it is used in classical calligraphic theory, clarifying how calligraphic shi, as a kind of directional force, persists through the three aspects of calligraphic form: brushstrokes, characters, and compositional structure. This article explicates how calligraphic xing and shi are mutually dependent. On the one hand, calligraphic shi, as an aesthetic effect, is attached to the visible xing. On the other, the forms of successful calligraphic works are never static; rather, they should be filled with internal force (shi). I conclude that understanding Chinese calligraphy as “force-form” has clear implications for calligraphic education and appreciation. The abstract quality of Chinese calligraphy in large measure consists of the aesthetic effect of shi actualized in calligraphic form. Thus, to appreciate this art, we must retrace the visible force-form of a piece of calligraphy.

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