A 90-year-old Swiss man who has been spreading calligraphy for more than 30 years, despite his advanced age, went to Shaoxing to acquire additional knowledge in the field of calligraphy.
He was born in Switzerland. He used to work as the head of the economics department at Nestlé. Since several decades of his life were connected with a great love for the art of Chinese calligraphy, 25 years ago he took on his real Chinese name – Xia Zhungong (Jean Sahil).
Xia Zhungong has been studying calligraphy for many years, and from the moment he fell in love with this art, Zhungong devotes a part of his time every day: every day he diligently performs this task. In addition, he also studies stamp engraving and Chinese painting.
The town of Vevey, where Xia Zhungong lives, is surrounded by mountains and lakes; it is a city with a magnificent landscape where cinema master Charles Chaplin spent the last years of his life. Xia Zhungong really likes the parks of Suzhou city, so he planted trees, bamboo and laid out stones at home, imitating the design of such parks. We can say that Xia Zhungong is a Chinese-style culture man.
Engaged in calligraphy and trying not to bother his family, he turned the garage into a personal calligraphy workshop, where there are such wonderful things as brushes, ink, paper and ink well. In his free time, he often comes here and does calligraphy until late at night. This hobby of his united around a large number of Chinese calligraphy fans. They often come together to study Chinese calligraphy.
In the summer, they write large characters on the shore of the lake, dipping their brushes in the lake. In other seasons, they give lectures and organize exhibitions of Chinese calligraphy in various cultural centers. Through instruction and personal example, they helped to make Chinese calligraphy take root and flourish in Switzerland.
There are four difficulties in spreading Chinese calligraphy abroad: the first is speech and writing, the second is writing accessories, the third is mastery of various techniques and the fourth is a way of expression. There are four language regions in Switzerland, and after 30 years of the calligraphy spread in the country in the French-speaking region, this art is flourishing every day. Many people have been doing this writing for over 30 years, and the above difficulties are gradually being overcome.
In addition to spreading calligraphy in Switzerland, since 2014, Xia Zhungong has visited the sacred land of Chinese calligraphy, Shaoxing in Zhejiang province many times, to study calligraphy and communicate with those who are knowledgeable in this field. Throughout the period, he continued to study copybooks daily until late at night, and the next day he still got up early in the morning, not resting at noon and never indulging in laziness when studying calligraphy.
In addition, he greatly appreciated the rice wine produced in Shaoxing, so even in his habits he resembled the inhabitants of this city. A few years ago, while studying in Shaoxing, at one of the lessons he had a heart attack, and he was hospitalized. After staying in the hospital for two days, Xia Zhungong could no longer be there, he was only thinking about how to return to the Arbor of Orchids school of calligraphy soon to continue his studies. He was afraid that he was wasting time that was allotted for study, and said: “Whoever has made the bed should now have to lie in it. After I take the brush in my hands, my heart will calm down immediately. ”
When he turned 80, every time before going to Shaoxing, he began to write a will, apparently emotionally and spiritually considering Shaoxing and calligraphy as his haven.
Xia Zhungong began to study calligraphy from the kaishu style of Yan Zhenqing, and then went on to the styles of kaishu, lishu, sinshu and taoshu. He likes the pretty loose calligraphy style. Each time he writes, he devotes all his energy to this activity, not caring much about technology. Using a quote from ancient work, we can say: “The lion grabbed the elephant” (that is, the main thing is to use all your strength).
During calligraphic exercises, Xia Zhungong always puts a dictionary of hieroglyphs on the table so that at any time he can clarify what he does not understand. He believes that the highest state in calligraphy is respect and sincerity; therefore, each time before writing hieroglyphs, he sits in silence for a while to calmly reflect. It seems that this foreigner has a very deep understanding of the statement from the Shulun work: “A man who wants to do calligraphy must first devote all his strength to rubbing the ink, focusing his attention on calm thoughts.”