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Feb 25, 2013 4:56 PM

UA professor: Chinese calligraphy still relevant in digital age

TUCSON - The beautiful black strokes mark an ancient art.

It's an art, thousands of years old, Chia-lin Pao Tao learned as a young girl growing up in China. "Once you learn Chinese calligraphy, you can use it the rest of your life," Pao Tao says.

She is a professor of East Asian Studies at The University of Arizona, where one of her classes is Chinese Calligraphy.

Pao Tao says while the form of expression may be old, it's relevant even in today's digital age. "No it's not dying," Pao Tao says. "It has a lot of artistic value."

The ink is made out of burnt pine trees. Several strokes create a symbol that can represent one English word. Pao Tao says students who have at least two years of Chinese language training can learn how to write after one semester. But it takes a lot of practice.

"I enjoy it because I think it gives you an aesthetic appreciation of Chinese characters," says Chris Oakden, one of Pao Tao's students.

Like most twenty-somethings, Oakden is in to social media, but sometimes he prefers the written word. "When you're writing out the characters yourself and you're using the brush, it causes you to ponder on the meaning in the words," Oakden says. "If you just type something out on a keyboard, there's a lot that can be lost."

Pao Tao also says the writing can help relieve stress. "When you write, you leave those bad feelings behind and you get good feelings in your body," Pao Tao says.

Even though it may be easier to text your message, a brush of calligraphy in any of its forms makes it personal.

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