While waiting for a pair of VERY SLOW friends to get ready for a badminton game, I found myself in the ‘reception area’ of a block of flats near Wujiaochang. Every block of flats in Shanghai seems to have at least one (but up two three) people who hang around near the door almost 24/7, usually doing nothing.


The woman who ‘lives’ near the door of our flat is one of the most unfriendly people in the world. She never says hello, sits in the shadows and generally acts a bit like The Crow…


I was extremely suprised, therefore, when the two women in my friend’s block were very friendly! We chatted for a few minutes (Women: You’re tall! Me: Yes! Women: How tall? Me: 2 metres! Women: Really? Me: Yes! etc…) and then they told me they wanted to introduce me to a super-calligrapher, an 82 year old who was in the next room! Grabbing the opportunity, I went in…


welcome to shanghai calligraphy

…and he was busy drawing up some super-characters! I looked so scared…because I knew what was coming…he challenged me to a Pokemon-style calligraphy battle!


eagle eye shanghai calligraphy

…I scribbled away…emptying my vast knowledge of complex Chinese characters into the paper. I reckon it’s been about 12 years since I touched a paintbrush (1997 11DF QEHS Art class), so it felt a bit strange…

…我潦草地书写…我挖空心思地想复杂的中文字写在纸上。我意识到我有12年没有碰画笔了(1997年11DF QEHS美术班),所以我觉得有点怪怪的…

successful calligraphy

…but at least I made it to 12 characters!


Shanghai calligraphy master continues

He went back to his desk, and began training for the next round: BIG CHARACTERS! He drew out his 4 biggest and best, and then turned over the brush to me…


calligraphy battle shanghai round 2

…I was in the zone…


calligraphy focus

My focus was so great that even the calligr-oupie couldn’t avert my gaze…


shangahi calligraphy side by side

And here was the final result…I’m banking on the ‘untrained eye’ to not notice any of the mistakes in mine :)


calligraphy letter writing competition

When we were done, the guy decided to write out a letter of recommendation for me to go and study in the School of Calligraphy in a Shaolin Temple somewhere on top of a mountain in the heart of China…


calligraphy team shanghai photo

…unfortunately it was only valid for 10 seconds before (using secret Kung-Fu powder and magic) it self-destructed. The chance gone, I decided to say my goodbyes to the team, and head out to the badminton court. I do have his phone number though, so if anyone else wants to do a calligraphy battle against him in Shanghai, let me know!



  1. one must learn the proper way to hold the brush when brush writing…

    but hey…at least ur better than a lot of chinese i know…u can be proud of yourself.

    • Haha thanks! You’re too kind. A lot of people mentioned that I used the ‘fat fingered laowai’ approach to brush holding. I like it!

  2. ah, my friend, this a funny post, I like it. :-)

    I give you a link regarding the #secret Kung-Fu powder and magic”.

    You can use it in computers in our 21st century http://lifehacker.com/5331359/vanish-gives-your-message-an-expiration-date

  3. Ha ha… We used to have to do Chinese calligraphy at school.
    We even had to do it for our ‘O’ Level Chinese in Malaysia…

    Great fun but I hate it!

  4. Ah excellent work Oli

  5. omg you’re so handsome *swoons*

  6. You got the skills to pay the bills. Did they let you take the sheets home to put up on the fridge?

  7. I like the photo where you learn supermans ray gun eyes technique

  8. 龍鳳呈祥
    These Chinese characters looks much more better than what you put on OPT form~

  9. having seen this post, i just can’t help leaving a comment. :p
    as a foreign friend, you do seem to have some talent there, i mean in terms of tradional chinese calligraphy~
    and it’s been 3 years since you wrote the blog. i doubt if you could notice this piece of comment.
    but i’ll comment anyway. :D

    • That’s very kind of you to say, Alfie! I have to admit my handwriting in English is pretty terrible, but I found Chinese fun to practice.

      I think if you saw some of my more ‘natural’ attempts at writing in Chinese you might not feel the same, however. My handwriting is definitely best on computer :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *