Still strong at 100

Updated: 2013-06-09 07:50

By Zhuan Ti (China Daily)

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In long life of creativity and accolades for centenarian Yao Dianzhong, the artist is still producing his unique brushwork, Zhuan Ti reports.

An old Chinese adage says that the style is the man - a man's handwriting is a window into his personality and character.

Now at the age of 100, renowned calligrapher and painter Yao Dianzhong is living proof. His work reflects his deep strength.

The centenarian has been practicing Chinese calligraphy every day since he was very young and is still doing it today.

Still strong at 100

It is a gift he showed very early in life.

His uncle was a noted scholar who often helped others in his village to read and write.

Under his guidance, Yao received systematic education in Chinese culture.

His interests in calligraphy also grew day by day. It was to become his lifelong calling.

But the person that has the most important influence on Yao is Zhang Taiyan, one of the best-known masters of ancient Chinese culture in modern history.

Yao was among Zhang'a students back in the 1940s and is the only one still alive today.

Zhang, who was also a calligrapher, offered valuable help.

Due to that influence, Yao devoted himself to teaching ancient Chinese culture his entire life.

He taught courses on ancient Chinese culture for more than 70 years and his students are now all over the country.

And in his spare time, he always continued his hobbies.

He is now famous for his calligraphy, poems, paintings and seals - but he is best known for his unique calligraphy.

"Yao has injected his deep understanding of the ancient Chinese culture and his spirit into his calligraphy works," said Huang Jun, a member of the China Calligraphers Association.

"Yao's scripts are natural and imposing, and full of variety," he said. "It is obviously a result of his decades-long practice and remarkable self-cultivation."

Yao has assimilated the refined essence of many famous calligraphers and developed his own style, said Huang.

A personal interest developed since he was a child is a special penchant for scripts carved on ancient stele. He likes to copy those words.

It helped him to learn scripts of each dynasty, which in turn assisted him greatly in developing his own scripts.

Bai Jingfeng, a director of the China Calligraphers Association, said he is amazed at Yao's long and strong creative force even at 100 years old.

In 2010, Yao damaged his lower back in a small accident. He was forced to spend most his time in bed for six months, according to Bai.

But he miraculously regained his health a year later and can now walk with ease.

He picked up writing brush and resumed practicing scripts and even created many works last year.

Last June, Yao traveled the long distance from his hometown in Shanxi province to Beijing, to unveil an exhibition of his calligraphy and that of his mentor Zhang Taiyan at the National Museum of China.

"These works are still full of energy and spirit," Bai said. "You will be surprised to find out they were created by a centenarian."

Still strong at 100

The Villa at West Mountain (four scrolls from right to left).

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