3 brilliant calligraphy classes to try in Shanghai

Try your hand at the ancient art regardless of your Chinese level

Photograph: Cecilia Bian
From mahjong to cooking classes, there’s plenty of Chinese culture classes to be found in Shanghai, and here are a few more. Whether you’ve always wanted to dabble in calligraphy without having to put in all the hours of learning Chinese or you’re a veteran Mandarin scholar looking to delve deeper into your culture studies, here are three classes to check out to get your feet – or should we say your brush? – wet.

InkMoon Workshop

Run by Shanghai native Lucy Wang, InkMoon Workshop has been in business since 2016, offering both one-time and long-term calligraphy courses. The class starts with a basic introduction to the history of calligraphy and its evolution over the millennia. You’ll learn how to identify different calligraphy styles and see a few examples of great calligraphy works throughout history during the presentation.

Afterward, you’ll learn about the various tools used in calligraphy and practise holding and using the brush. When you’re more familiar with using the brush, you’ll select a character to copy onto a fan that you’ll take home (options include ‘love’, ‘faith’, animals of the Chinese zodiac and the like). When your fan is complete, you’ll finish things off with a tea break. The whole class runs two to three hours, with a maximum of six per class (280RMB per person). Visit its website to book. 

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182 Fumin Lu
Cecilia's 'The Art of Chinese Calligraphy'

Cecilia's 'The Art of Chinese Calligraphy'

Cecilia Bian runs her calligraphy classes out of her quiet and cosy flat in Putuo district. Though not a certified calligraphy instructor, she’s studied the art since the age of seven and passes on the basics to participants. Classes start by first learning how to hold the brush, after which you’ll practise the 20 or so different kinds of strokes found in calligraphy: dian, heng, shu and so on. 

Once you’ve more or less got the hang of it, you’ll write out a famous Chinese poem or two to take home. Though not strictly necessary, this class is better suited for those who already have some familiarity with proper stroke order and writing Chinese characters – for the best experience, bring along a Chinese-speaking friend if possible. Classes are 1 to 1.5 hours, with a maximum of six people (178RMB per person). Visit Airbnb Experiences to book. 

Shanghai Pathways

Shanghai Pathways offers a whole litany of services from food tours and factory visits to business consulting and cultural activities, among which include its calligraphy courses. This class takes the cake in terms of how much you’ll learn about calligraphy, as its detailed PowerPoint presentation explains everything about the ancient art – how it began, how it’s evolved over time, important calligraphers throughout Chinese history… it’s all laid out.

The calligraphy work itself is fairly straightforward. You practise holding the brush and drawing out a few of the basic strokes, getting plenty of feedback on proper form and how to improve your technique. Once you’re somewhat proficient, you’ll practise writing actual characters. The whole class is about three hours, and is suitable for both small and large groups (500RMB per person). Visit its website to book.

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319 Changde Lu

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