Zhao Yizhou is a Chinese calligrapher living in London, UK, where he teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Yizhou on Staircase

Calligraphy in China, Japan and Korea is considered the supreme graphic art, greater even than painting. This is partly because of the great variety of Chinese characters (they number in the tens of thousands, unlike the limited alphabet of, say, European or Indian languages), partly because of the great variety of styles (from seal-script to formal script to varieties cursive script), partly because of the implement used is the brush (which is far more expressive and flexible than the reed-pen or quill or other stylus used in non-East-Asian traditions of calligraphy), and partly because of the long tradition of the art in China, more than three thousand years. Chinese calligraphy is far more than “beautiful writing”, and ornament or embellishment; it is an expression of inspiration and feeling as profound as those one obtains from sculpture or drama or music.

Mr Zhao Yizhou is widely regarded as the finest contemporary Chinese calligrapher in the UK, and indeed it could well be said that he is one of the best of the younger Chinese calligraphers anywhere in the world, including China. The richness of his technique (developed through intensive study over more than two decades) is complemented by boldness in execution and an unusual aliveness to both the value of tradition and the need for innovation.As a theorist Mr Zhao displays a richness of philosophical and aesthetic thought rare in any subject. As with his own compositions, he brings to bear upon his analysis of every style of calligraphy a sense of history and tradition, while at the same time being very alive to contemporary movements in the art. His analogies between calligraphy by on the one hand and music, poetry and dance on the other, are thought-provoking and inspiring. And his love of poetry and philosophy enrich his analysis both of specific texts and of calligraphy as a whole.

Vikram SethC.B.E (Hon.)