On the Theory of Regular Script in Uighur Calligraphy

On the Theory of Regular Script in Uighur Calligraphy

Liu Ge

Shaanxi Normal University, China

(59th Annual Meeting of  the PIAC, 2016)

Uighur calligraphy is an important part of the study on Uighur cultural history. Moriyasu Takao, the Japanese scholar, has the largest body of work in this respect. He divides the calligraphy in Uighur literature into four styles: regular script, semi-regular script, semi-cursive, and cursive, and he has made special descriptions on the characteristics of each style. Based on the theory of regular script as an example, this paper points out that this classification and appellation is not appropriate.

1. The basic characteristics of Chinese regular script

There are many rules in Chinese regular script. Compared with the Uighur writing styles, the main characteristics of Chinese regular script are as follows.First, the Chinese regular script is made up of square characters, using horizontal, vertical, left-falling, right-falling, dot, and hook strokes. Furthermore, there is no round stroke in Chinese regular script. Second, of each Chinese regular script character, the number of strokes is fixed, and the strokes cannot be omitted. If a stroke is omitted, the character or phrase cannot be found anywhere in etymology dictionaries compiled according to the stroke order.

Due to strokes omitted or lost, or those linked together which shouldn’t be, from the structure of Chinese character, this writing style cannot be called regular script. Third, the stroke configuration of regular script Chinese characters is relatively fixed. If horizontal strokes are not horizontal and vertical not vertical (relatively speaking), or straight characters are written into a round, oval, or irregular shape, it cannot be called regular script.

2. The basic characteristics of Uighur script

From the respect of the word structure, Uighur and Chinese are totally different. First, Uighur scripts are not square characters, and most Uighur letters assume round forms, such as b, p, d, t, o, u, ö and ü. There are not horizontal or vertical strokes in Uighur as in Chinese.Second, most Uighur words are made up of two or more letters (discussed in another essay).And most letters have three forms: initial, medial, and final, while a few letters only have two forms. The style of each letter varies due to the location in the word. Third, according to the restriction of language regulation, some Uighur vowels and consonants can be omitted in the spelling of the word, resulting in the connection of letters which are not to be connected in writing form.

In Chinese calligraphy, it is not regular script if a stroke is omitted. From the above points, Chinese and Uighur are of an entirely different language structure. Therefore it is not appropriate to define Uighur writing style using the concept of Chinese calligraphy. The statement about “book style” in Uighur writings is also not appropriate, because it only focuses on the religious content of the writing materials, but not on the language structure and the stroke features of it.