Nicknamed the “human printer” because of his perfect Chinese handwriting, a teacher in central China has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers online and hopes to inspire the younger generations. Zhang Shifeng, who teaches art and calligraphy in Henan province, has also gathered widespread support because his talent is becoming increasingly rare in China . Vast swathes of society primarily communicate digitally, and practising their handwriting is not necessary for most people’s day-to-day life. Zhang, 45, has 560,000 followers and millions of likes on Douyin, China’s TikTok, and he publishes videos that explain how he makes the characters . Zhang writes most of his posts using chalk and a chalkboard, and he tends to pick Chinese proverbs or poems and uses them as a teaching tool . “Whenever I write on the blackboard, the kids see standardised, pretty characters. They become very interested, especially when I use fonts similar to printing fonts. They often say, ‘the printer teacher is coming’,” he said in one of his videos. Zhang has been interested in calligraphy since he was a child, and he said that he tried to influence his students in their daily work so they could understand the charm of Chinese writing. “I hope these chalkboard writings would subtly influence the students. They can feel the beauty of Chinese characters and the beauty of Chinese culture,” he said. “Through calligraphy, we can find peace, find the best way to communicate with ourselves … It is meaningful to students because they can only do it well by being careful, precise and patient,” he added. Having specialised in art at university, Zhang started practising his handwriting when he became a teacher over a decade ago. He hoped the skill would help make his classes more attractive. One of his students said on state television CCTV: “I used to think that handwriting is just handwriting. But now I find Chinese characters are quite good-looking.” Although Chinese handwriting has been emphasised in primary and secondary schools in China in recent years, it is common that college students and even adults have forgotten the writing principles. So much of communication in China and the world in general is digital that it is normal for the average person to go long periods without using traditional handwritten communications. About 98 per cent of 1,500 university students surveyed last year in Sichuan province, southwestern China, said they had experienced some form of character amnesia, albeit to varying degrees, according to Charming China magazine.