Semi-cursive script

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Semi-cursive script, also known as running hand script, is a style of calligraphy which emerged in China during the Han dynasty. The style is used to write Chinese characters and is abbreviated slightly where a character’s strokes are permitted to be visibly connected as the writer writes, but not to the extent of the cursive style.[2] This makes the style easily readable by readers who can read regular script and quickly writable by calligraphers who require ideas to be written down quickly.[2] Chinese calligraphy is written using the Four Treasure of the Study, the writing brush, ink, ink stone and paper. Though the semi-cursive style is not taught to students officially, it is a popular style used in modern handwriting.[3] In order to produce legible work using the semi-cursive style, a series of writing conventions are followed, including the linking of the strokes, simplification and merging strokes, adjustments to stroke order and the distribution of text of the work.[3]

Semi-cursive script
Lanting P3rd.jpg
Script type
Time period
Han Dynasty to present
LanguagesOld Chinese, Middle Chinese, Modern Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Regular script
Simplified Chinese
Chu Nom
Khitan script
Jurchen script
Tangut script
4E00–9FFF, 3400–4DBF, 20000–2A6DF, 2A700–2B734, 2F00–2FDF, F900–FAFF
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Semi-cursive script
Semi-Cur Eg.svg
Traditional characters for "semi-cursive script" written in regular script (left) and semi-cursive script (right).
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese行書
Simplified Chinese行书
Literal meaningwalking/running script[1]
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabethành thư
chữ hành
Korean name
Japanese name

One of the most notable calligraphers who used this style was Wang Xizhi, known for his work Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection (Lantingji Xu), produced in 353 CE. This work remains highly influential in China, as well as outside of China where calligraphy using Chinese characters are still in practice, such as Japan and Korea.[3] Although the original work is long lost, the work has been copied multiple times, even the mistakes within the work due to its high regard. [4]

Due to the decrease of calligraphy practitioners in response to the introduction of alternative writing instruments such as pens and pencils (instead of the writing brush) and computer typing technologies, there have been efforts aiming to preserve the methods of handwriting with the writing brush through the use of a robotic arm.[5][6] Another method proposed is the “track and point set” method, using multiple sets of coordinates to obtain a pathway of the Chinese character and the location of “hairsprings”, the subtle ink smear produced by the ink and brush when transitioning between strokes. [5]

Japanese calligraphy written in the semi-cursive style.


The Chinese writing system has been borrowed and used in East Asian countries, including Japan, Korea and Vietnam for thousands of years. Due to similarities in cultures, beliefs and vocabulary, Chinese writing was able to assimilate into these areas. China’s extensive culture, technology and large territory at the time influenced the emergence of calligraphy culture and its various styles.[3][7]


The semi-cursive style was developed in the late-Eastern Han Dynasty. It is said that the style was derived from the clerical script by Liu Desheng due to the need for a faster way to write. The style was further developed by notable calligrapher Wang Xizhi and his son Wang Xianzhi, also a calligrapher.[2] Script in this style is written in a more curvaceous style than the regular script, however not as illegible as the cursive script.[1]

One of the most notable calligraphers to produce work using the semi-cursive style is Wang Xizhi, where his work, Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection was written in 353 AD.[3] The work included the character 之 (zhi), a possessive particle, twenty-one times all in different forms. The difference in form was generated by Wang under the influence of having alcohol with his acquaintances. He had wanted to reproduce the work again since it was in his liking, but to no avail. Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Collection is still included in the some of the world’s most notable calligraphy works and remains highly influential in the calligraphy world.[3]

The semi-cursive style was also the basis of the techniques used to write with the fountain pen when Western influence was heavy in China, in the early 20th century.[3]


Calligraphy culture from China was introduced to Japan in around 600 CE and have been practiced till today. Although Japan originally used Chinese characters (kanji) to represent words of the spoken language, there were still parts of the spoken language that could not be written using Chinese characters.[1] The phonetic writing systems, hiragana and katakana were developed as a result of the semi-cursive and cursive styles.[1] During the Heian Period, a large amount of calligraphy works was written in the semi-cursive style because the roundedness of the style allowed for a natural flow between Chinese characters (kanji) and hiragana.[8][9]


Chinese calligraphy appeared in Korea at around 2nd or 3rd century CE. Korea also used Chinese characters (hanja) until the invention of the Korean alphabet, hangul, in 1443.[10] Even then, many calligraphers did not choose to use the newly created hangul writing system and continued to write calligraphy and its various styles using Chinese characters.[11]

  1. ^ a b c d Sato, Shozo (2014). Shodo : the quiet art of Japanese Zen calligraphy : learn the wisdom of Zen through traditional brush painting. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-4-8053-1204-9. OCLC 1183131287.
  2. ^ a b c Calligraphy, Beyond. "Semi-cursive script (行書, gyousho) - Beyond Calligraphy". Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Li, Wendan (2010-05-31). Chinese Writing and Calligraphy. University of Hawaii Press. doi:10.1515/9780824860691. ISBN 978-0-8248-6069-1.
  4. ^ "Chinese Calligraphy, the ancient art of handwriting in China". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  5. ^ a b Wu, Yao; Jiang, Jie; Li, Yi (December 2018). "A Method of Chinese Characters Changing from Regular Script to Semi-Cursive Scrip Described by Track and Point Set". 2018 International Joint Conference on Information, Media and Engineering (ICIME). IEEE: 162–167. doi:10.1109/icime.2018.00041. ISBN 978-1-5386-7616-5.
  6. ^ Yao, Fenghui; Shao, Guifeng; Yi, Jianqiang (January 2004). "Trajectory generation of the writing–brush for a robot arm to inherit block–style Chinese character calligraphy techniques". Advanced Robotics. 18 (3): 331–356. doi:10.1163/156855304322972477. ISSN 0169-1864.
  7. ^ Li, Yu (2020). The Chinese writing system in Asia : an interdisciplinary perspective. London. ISBN 978-1-000-69906-7. OCLC 1114273437.
  8. ^ Bernard, Kyoko; Nakata, Yujiro; Woodhill, Alan; Nikovskis, Armis (1973). "The Art of Japanese Calligraphy". Monumenta Nipponica. 28 (4): 514. doi:10.2307/2383576. ISSN 0027-0741. JSTOR 2383576.
  9. ^ Boudonnat, Louise (2003). Traces of the brush : the art of Japanese calligraphy. Harumi Kushizaki. San Francisco: Chronicle. ISBN 2-02-059342-4. OCLC 51553636.
  10. ^ Choi, Yearn-hong (2016). "Choe Chi-won, great Tang and Silla poet". The Korean Times. Retrieved 2021. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ Brown, Ju (2006). China, Japan, Korea : culture and customs. John Brown. North Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge. ISBN 1-4196-4893-4. OCLC 162136010.