A Sketching Tour to Shaoxing

Sketching in the picturesque environment

Kevin Lee, Student of Chinese Language Studies and Chinese Language Education Programmes

Thank you, S.H. Ho College. Thank you Prof. Ng, who held my hand and brought me to picturesque Shaoxing where I was embraced by the cultural atmosphere of Lingnan school of Chinese painting. Without any aesthetics sense but my passion for Chinese culture, I submitted my application to the College in a hope to be part of the trippers. After being admitted, I started to worry if my inadequate Chinese painting knowledge would be a burden to the team composed of members with flair of artistic sense.

Despite my worries, I expelled my tiredness and got myself ready for the sketching tour to Shaoxing. From the flight journey to arrival, I guessed most travelers were hasty in taking a cursory observation of the destination——but I proved that I was wrong. Prof. Ng and her amateurs immediately looked through their carry-on baggage and took out painting brushes and sketchbooks, not cameras as I expected. It toppled my imagination about Chinese painting masters. I was used to imagining that they would sit in front of Xuan paper attentively for their impromptu painting. Prof. Ng told me that sketching was not about skills or perfecting the sketch work, but the sensitivity to observe the daily life. Even twigs or leaves would be good objects for sketching. More practices on speed sketching would help enhance our skills.

Prof. Ng taught us to slow down, and I have transformed myself from a fast-walking tripper to be a stroller who appreciated the willows and flowers along the way attentively. Having appreciated so many beautiful objects in nature, I was eager to sketch them but was too hesitated to start a stroke because of my lack of confidence. At that time, my sketching tutor Margaret observed my hesitation and came to assist me. Her encouragement boosted my confidence and I was motivated to sketch the leaf in front of me. Prof. Ng said, ‘Painting and photography are too different things. You have to patiently observe the object, including the vein of a lotus leaf and the direction of a twig.’ I learnt that each sketching experience was a creation itself. When I learnt to appreciate the beauty of a leaf and permanently left it on a piece of paper, the happiness engraved in my heart was invaluable.

We also paid visits to former residences of Lu Xun and Qiu Jin, Orchid Pavilion, East Lake and so on. All of them have been recorded in my ‘camera’ composed of my sketching memories with my painting brush and sketchbook. Would I have a chance to view the magnificent sceneries in Shaoxing if I travelled on my own? I felt I was blessed to have such a valuable opportunity to tour around the beautiful sceneries with slow pace. It was not about the joy of merely having toured around, but the eye-opening opportunity to record the beauty with my painting brush. I could even taste the drinking game ‘Floating Wine Cups in a Winding Stream’ which was more than a thousand year ago played by the calligrapher Wang Xizhi and other literati. Sitting on both riversides waiting for the wine cup being flowed from the upstream, imaging the way the literati composed poems upon receiving a wine cup. The poetic moments were so appealing to me that I would not choose to be back to the fast-paced Hong Kong packed with skyscrapers.

What S.H. Ho College, Prof. Ng and her amateurs brought to me was not confined to sketching skills, but the pace of living. If I slow down, I could ruminate on each expression in a book, appreciate every twig in a painting, and discover everything bright and beautiful in a community.

Visitations of various literati spots

Floating wine cups along the river

Chinese painting