More youth 'brush up' on Chinese culture

(Above, from left) Joshua Poh, Ajay Bhattarai and Kody Ronald Kwok attending a youth calligraphy class at the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore.
(Below) Six-year-old Chloe Chia (in green) joining her classmates in cleaning the ink off their br
(Above, from left) Joshua Poh, Ajay Bhattarai and Kody Ronald Kwok attending a youth calligraphy class at the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore. (Below) Six-year-old Chloe Chia (in green) joining her classmates in cleaning the ink off their brushes after a calligraphy class.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
(Above, from left) Joshua Poh, Ajay Bhattarai and Kody Ronald Kwok attending a youth calligraphy class at the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore.
(Below) Six-year-old Chloe Chia (in green) joining her classmates in cleaning the ink off their br
(Above, from left) Joshua Poh, Ajay Bhattarai and Kody Ronald Kwok attending a youth calligraphy class at the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore. (Below) Six-year-old Chloe Chia (in green) joining her classmates in cleaning the ink off their brushes after a calligraphy class.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN

Calligraphy classes for the young drawing a growing number of participants

With his back straight and arm poised over a sheet of rice paper, seven-year-old Joshua Poh diligently traced out Chinese characters like "sheng", which means life, with a writing brush known as the mao bi.

He did this repeatedly during a 90-minute session under the guidance of his Chinese calligraphy teacher, Madam Chang Ong Ying, 65, who taught him the strokes and how to hold the brush.

"The classes are fun as I get to write words that I'm learning in school with a brush," the Zhangde Primary School pupil said yesterday.

Together with his five-year-old brother Ian, Joshua was attending a youth calligraphy class at the Waterloo Street premises of the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore (CCSS). The new term commenced yesterday.

An art form with its roots in the Shang Dynasty more than 3,000 years ago, Chinese calligraphy is gaining popularity among the young in Singapore.

CCSS president Tan Siah Kwee told The Sunday Times that attendance at youth Chinese calligraphy classes offered by the society is rapidly growing.

When the programme first started in 1985, there was only one class of six students.

But this year, the CCSS offered about 20 youth Chinese calligraphy classes, which were attended by some 180 students every weekend. And Mr Tan is anticipating at least "30 to 50 more students" next year.

CCSS will have nine teachers - all Singaporeans - to conduct the youth classes next year. All of them have previously exhibited their works here and overseas in countries like China, Japan and South Korea.

"Once society reaches a certain level of development, we need culture to show we are not just animals of the economy," said Mr Tan, 65, who has been president of the non-profit society for 43 years.

Students pay a $140 fee each semester, which amounts to $560 for the four semesters each year.

Aside from a brush which students can buy on their own for about $20 each, other materials such as ink and rice paper are provided in class.

Although the youth Chinese calligraphy classes are open to those under the age of 18, about four in five students are below 15.

Older students, Mr Tan said, are usually busy preparing for major examinations like the O levels or have co-curricular activities on weekends.

Parents such as Madam Poh Yu Ching, 42, said the classes give her two sons - Arun, nine, and seven- year-old Ajay Bhattarai - greater exposure to Chinese culture. Her husband is Nepalese.

Madam Poh, a teacher, said: "Most subjects in school are taught in English, so Chinese calligraphy classes can help them stay connected to their culture."

audreyt@sph.com.sg