City Weekend

Taiwan master offers handwriting with a human touch

Ye Ye honed his Chinese character skills after he was told at school that he was the ugliest writer in class

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2017, 7:02pm

There is no chasm that cannot be bridged by sincerity, especially when it’s conveyed in a handwritten letter. Handwriting compels you to revisit the basics and helps build bridges between people by putting pen to paper. This is what 30-year-old Taiwan-born handwriting expert Ye Ye wants to focus on.

Ye was recently in the city for the annual Hong Kong Book Fair, gracing visitors with his live demonstrations.

He started off as a teacher of fine arts, but is now a full-time instructor of handwriting skills for both adults and children.

Ye’s determination to improve his handwriting was spurred after he was ridiculed by a classmate back in Secondary Three.

“The reason I started to practice writing was due to someone who I feel is an important benefactor.

Back then, a classmate said that my writing was the ugliest of all in the class. I felt really hurt at the time, but on the other hand, I wanted to make some improvements, so it was an important starting point and inspiration.”

With only a simple goal in mind, Ye started off his journey, which is to “make sure that [his] handwriting is not the ugliest in class”.

It was not until much later that he felt writing’s healing effect, especially when he “focuses on getting every stroke down in a slow and steady manner in a bid to improve the writing.”

Echoing the same sentiments as his followers who view his videos religiously, Ye said: “Sometimes when I watch my own videos, I feel strangely at peace.”

Of the many tools he uses, his choice of sticking with the simplicity of a ballpoint pen comes to many as a surprise.

He started using such pens in school and still prefers them because of their accessibility and cheapness.

“Afterwards, when I took up pointed pen calligraphy, I realised there were certain limitations, which is why I started to learn brush calligraphy. In the learning process, regardless of your origin or nationality, everyone at the very beginning encounters the fonts used in ancient times, which in a way gives you the opportunity to attain a deeper understanding of traditional Chinese characters.”

Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan use traditional characters, whereas mainland China created a simplified system in the 1950s to lift the majority of the population out of illiteracy.

There are also different ways of writing characters, including running and cursive script.

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“If we look at the structural beauty of the characters, I feel that traditional Chinese characters have an obvious advantage,” Ye said.

“However, I realise there are many parts in simplified Chinese characters which are adopted from the running and cursive scripts, and this is something that I really appreciate.”

The inventors of the simplified script borrowed some characters from running script to reduce the number of strokes in the traditional system. Both the running and cursive script are preferred over standard script for their efficiency.

Watch: Examples of Ye Ye’s style

Bearing this in mind, I personally hope that when we write, we are able to explore and embrace the versatility and all-encompassing nature of Chinese characters,” Ye said.

However, he adopts a conciliatory approach in the competition between simplified and traditional characters, urging everyone to appreciate the charm of both.

When asked how he would judge the beauty of someone’s handwriting, Ye said: “There are only a number of fixed rules and techniques that I can impart to my pupils, and ultimately it is up to them to develop their own style.

“To be able to express one’s state of mind in the flow of one’s writing and in terms of whether one’s writing is comfortable to the eyes, to have that delivered to the reader, that would be the true definition of beauty.”

Ye encourages everyone to pick up a pen to write as it is never too late to start. But he sees technology as one of the main factors in the decline of handwriting.

“I feel that many processes will be replaced by technology. Despite this, things that come with a human touch can’t be replaced.”