National Chinese calligraphy competition draws more than 600 submissions

(From left) Chinese calligraphy competition participants Shambhavi Raut, Soong Jia Ying, Soong Jia Xian and Ang Kwang Hua. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A cultural exchange trip to China in 2014 ignited Ms Shambhavi Raut's interest in Chinese calligraphy.

Despite not knowing the language, Ms Raut found herself drawn to the elegant brush strokes and literary meanings of the art form.

The postgraduate law student at National University of Singapore (NUS) joined the university's Chinese Calligraphy Club last year.

The 26-year-old is one of more than 600 participants taking part in the ongoing N Cube National Chinese Calligraphy Competition, organised by PAssionArts and Braddell Heights Community Club in partnership with NUS, Nanyang Technological University and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Ms Raut said that while living with a local family during her immersion programme in Changchun, China, she would sit next to a senior member of the family and observe his brush strokes as he practised calligraphy at home.

"At that tim,e I had no knowledge of Mandarin and found it difficult to communicate. The first time I put brush to paper, it was a mess!" she said.

"But ever since I joined the calligraphy club, my peers have been very supportive, translating the teacher's instructions so I can keep pace. They encouraged me to take part in this competition, which has been a challenging but valuable experience," she added.

The theme for this year's competition is "Inkception", where participants use their creativity to express hopes for the new year and motivate Singaporeans to look forward to a prosperous new year through the form of words.

The calligraphy competition, which opened for mail-in submissions in January, has received 642 entries. Two of the youngest participants are sisters Soong Jia Ying, 10 and Soong Jia Xian, seven.

Ms Raut found herself drawn to the elegant brush strokes and literary meanings of the art form. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Having grown up watching their grandfather practice calligraphy, both girls love the art form.

Jia Ying, a student from Raffles Girls' Primary School, was encouraged by her teacher to take part in the competition.

"I was initially nervous to take part, but when my sister joined me in support, I felt very excited. We might not win, but it's a great experience," she said.

Sisters Soong Jia Ying and Jia Xian are two of the youngest participants. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Mr Daniel Yip, deputy director of the Community Arts and Culture Division at People's Association, said the competition is an opportunity to bring the traditional art form closer to the community amid the pandemic.

Mr Yip said: "Practising this art form at home gives Singaporeans of all ages, especially those who are isolated, the opportunity to embrace creativity and make good use of their time. It also helps them link up with the rest of the larger community when they take part in initiatives together online."

Finalists will participate in the final round of the competition over Zoom on Saturday (March 13) and the winners will be announced on March 27.

There are four categories: primary school, secondary school, junior college and polytechnic, and public. Members of the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore are the judging the competition.

The final winning artworks will be exhibited at Braddell Heights CC and the three partner educational institutions next month.

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