Shopaholic (血拚): Calligraphy as Mode of Expression of Hong Kong Slang and Vernacular Culture

Chak Kwong LAU (Art Historian)

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


Calligraphy as Mode of Expression of Hong Kong Slang and Vernacular Culture. This work was conducted in conjunction with a fully illustrated book manuscript under preparation (Project title: Calligraphic Materiality and Multimodality: Modes of Expression and Representation in Chinese Calligraphy and their Dynamics with Contexts of Use in the City of Hong Kong, Project Number: 12600521, General Research Fund (GRF), Research Grant Council, Hong Kong) Abstract:
Little research has been conducted on Hong Kong calligraphy. Previous works have largely treated calligraphy as a form of high art, produced and appreciated by only a small community of literati. As a result, it has been generally assumed that calligraphic art is of little importance except to a restricted circle of specialists. To compensate for this neglect of Hong Kong calligraphy’s wider significance, the PI’s previous GRF research, titled ‘Social and Cultural Implications of Chinese Calligraphy in Public Venues in Hong Kong’, examined calligraphic works in public venues around Hong Kong. Research findings revealed that this specific type of calligraphy has been playing a pivotal role in highlighting the cultural and historical significance of ancestral shrines, charity organisations, historic sites, temples, or Christian churches and other public venues. Beyond the scope of the PI’s previous research, this book examines calligraphic materiality and multimodality, and interprets modes of expression and representation in Chinese calligraphy and their dynamics with contexts of use in the city of Hong Kong. Inspiring calligraphic expressions in various sites signify a wide spectrum of traditional cultures, contemporary thoughts, city life, people’s aspirations, thus shedding light on people from different walks of life who make up Hong Kong society and on what has shaped their thoughts and values. Hence, this project will offer a significant contribution to the reconstruction of identity embodied in public calligraphy.
The book’s methodology offers a more encompassing approach for examining and interpreting the relationships and synergistic effects of the following factors: 1) calligraphic aesthetics and style as semiotic resources for meaning making; 2) calligraphic expressions manifested in a wide range of material forms in physical and cyber spaces; 3) alternative modes of calligraphic expression; and 4) calligraphy’s social and cultural contexts and contexts of use in Hong Kong. Scrutinizing calligraphy as a form of aesthetic-object-cum-public-message that connotes more profound meanings pertinent to the city and city life, the new methodology will thereby illuminate how calligraphy has been transformed from a literati-oriented, rarefied form of art with a restricted audience into a more accessible form of visual culture that reaches wider audiences.

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese calligraphy
  • calligraphic materiality and multimodality
  • Modes of Expression and Representation in Chinese Calligraphy


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