#69 Monthsary: Learning Chinese Calligraphy With You At Summer School In Tianjin

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”
Chinese proverb
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
“One happiness scatters a thousand sorrows.”
Chinese proverb
“In a painting, you can’t make out whether the artist painted the left eye before the right eye. In Chinese calligraphy, you can see the progression of the artist’s stroke.”
Vikram Seth


This monthsary, I decided to take a time machine back to the year 2014. As we SONEs all know, 2014 was a controversial year for SNSD and especially Taeyeon who had suffered a great deal from the backlash of her dating news with Baekhyun from EXO that broke out sometime in June that year. That aside, I want to bring the focus on what I was doing in my life that year.

One of the few significant things that I did in 2014 was a decision to join a 5-week summer school program at Nankai University in Tianjin, China with a friend during our university term break. That happened shortly after Taeyeon’s dating news came out. As heartbroken as I was, I decided to take this trip to Tianjin as a getaway to heal emotionally and mentally while still trying to figure out the mystery behind my onset of schizophrenia in 2013 and my special connection with Taeyeon since then. Read the background story of my unforgettable summer school experience in China at this post (link coming soon).

Before I set off on this trip though, I was very worried about how my 5-week stay in China would be like. I had never been to China before. What’s more, Tianjin, to me and my family at that time, was a city that was unheard of, unlike the other more well-known cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai. I wondered if it’s a place that is rather backward, lack of amenities and less modern as compared to Singapore. Would it be safe enough to roam around on the streets at night or even in the day? Would I be able to get used to not being able to access my favourite sites and social media like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram? Would I be able to survive in an unfamiliar place for 5 long weeks?

All my fears and worries faded away within the first week of my arrival in China. My impression of China completely changed. Not only was it comfortable and safe, the people there were generally very nice, approachable and helpful too. The food was cheap, generous and delicious. The school put us to stay at a 4-star hotel near Nankai University which was very modern and had all the facilities I needed. The local Chinese students in our program also helped us to get around the firewall so I could still stay connected with the rest of the world on social media too. Everything seemed so good that there wasn’t actually much to complain about, except for an issue that happened with my friend which I would talk about in the background story in the link above (coming soon).

Besides the core subjects like literature, geography and philosophy that we had to take as part of the program, the school also organised various extra-curricular activities to introduce us, the foreign students (besides Singaporeans, there were also students from countries like Sweden, America, UK, Australia etc), to the chinese culture. And one of the memorable ones that we had was chinese calligraphy lessons!

Before this, I used to learn writing chinese calligraphy when I was very young during a few of those chinese language lessons we had in primary school. But that was it. So it didn’t feel all that unfamiliar to be picking up a chinese brush again and dipping it into chinese ink and writing a few strokes. Haha but to write the chinese characters well would definitely need constant practice and skills.

During my first calligraphy lesson, I focused on writing my Chinese name, 许瑗芯.

*answer to my instagram post: the one at the centre was written by my teacher

During the second lesson, I practised some strokes and wrote random words.

希望 = Hope
永远 = Forever
爱与和平 = Love & Peace (Girls’ Generation were having a Love & Peace Japan 3rd tour at that time.)
永远相信我的爱 = Forever believe in my love
*I originally intended these words as a shoutout to Taeyeon and Girls’ Generation at that time.

2.5 months later, on 30 September 2014, a significant day SONEs could never forget, the day when Jessica was forced to leave the group, the rest of Girls’ Generation were scheduled to attend a fan meeting in Shenzhen, China. During the fan meeting, they had a segment where the host got each member to write a piece of chinese calligraphy of the words “少女时代”, the chinese name for Girls’ Generation.

(p.s. Taeyeon really wrote it very well, didn’t she? How could she be so good in everything she does? 😱😍)

It felt strange to see her learning chinese calligraphy on stage in China just a couple of months after I did like it was a meaningful coincidence. I felt like there was a connection in us learning the same thing in the same country albeit at slightly different times in the same year. Could I have indirectly passed on the chinese calligraphy skill I just learned to her?? Keke that could be something worth fantasising about.

So that was what motivated me to make this artwork this monthsary just to share this little story that happened between us in China that 2014. A simple artwork that features us writing chinese calligraphy of our chinese/hanja names! 🖌

Here’s the process of me practising chinese calligraphy on a piece of waste paper first before the actual thing.

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Video process of actual chinese calligraphy writing – Short Edited Version

Video process of actual chinese calligraphy writing – Full Unedited Version

More detailed photos of my final completed artwork! 📸

Dear Taeyeon / 金泰妍, ⁣⁣⁣
I realised 2014 was a year that I hadn’t talked much about and yet it was also an important eventful year too. And learning chinese calligraphy asynchronously with each other in the same country in the same year was one of the fun facts from 2014 that we both shared!⁣⁣
Hope you like this artwork!⁣⁣
Handmade with love,⁣⁣⁣⁣
Celeste Koh⁣⁣⁣⁣ / 许瑗芯

Listen to: “中国话 (Chinese)” by S.H.E

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