In China cosmogony, the square or ‹di› represents the earth and the circle
represents the sky; ‹shu› signifies book, writing by association. The expression ‹dishu› literally means square calligraphy, i.e. earth calligraphy: practicing ephemeral calligraphy on the ground, using clear water as ink.
Very popular nowadays, this recent phenomenon appeared in the beginning of the 1990s in a park in the north of Beijing before spreading in most of major Chinese cities. Thousands of anonymous street calligraphers operate daily in parks and streets, the different pavements becoming a large paper surface. Displaying literature, poetry or aphorisms, these monumental letterings, ranging from static regular to highly cursive styles, convoke the whole body in a spontaneous dance and infinite formal renewals. The calligraphic practice corresponds to a research of self accomplishment or improvement, this improvement modifying our perception of the world.*
This non-abrasive, temporary and perhaps more beautiful form of expression is an interesting counterpart to Western graffiti, which is often damaging to property and offensive to aesthetic sensibilities.
Calligraphers use hand-made brushes of sticks and foam sponges:
Videos of Dishu Calligraphy can be found HERE.
Read more HERE.
*Opening statements on this post credited to Francois Chastenet, who created a photographic and video documentary on the subject of Chinese ground calligraphy in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, and Shenyang in 2011. To learn more, visit his website HERE.