This is the character "Dao" which is sometimes written as "Tao" but pronounced like "dow".
This is the base of what is known as "Taoism". If you translate this literally, it can mean "the way" or "the path".
Dao is believed to be that which flows through all things, and keeps them in balance. It incorporates the ideas of yin and yang (e.g. there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female.)
The beginning of Taoism can be traced to a mystical man named Lao Zi (604-531 BC), who followed, and added to the teachings of Confucius.
I met Cao Bin years ago, and long before his fame. At that time, his wife was running a small house cleaning business. One day she was tidying up my mother-in-law's home in Beijing and overheard that I am in the business of selling Chinese calligraphy and artwork. She asked if I'd like to meet her husband who was a pretty good calligrapher as she described him with modesty.
The next evening, I visited his modest studio and saw some really nice calligraphy and great black ink bamboo paintings that he'd just finished. After a lot of tea drinking and chatting, I asked if I could commission a few pieces.
Through the years, I would occasionally buy a few more pieces, not realizing how famous he had become. I might pop by his studio, only to hear from his wife that he was down in Anhui receiving an award for his calligraphy (calligraphy competitions are comparable to the fervor that sports championships have in the rest of the world). It finally dawned on me that this man I had known for about 7 years was a premier calligrapher for whom books had been published featuring his work, and the recipient of numerous awards.
The best part is that I have guanxi (a word that kind of means "special relationship" in Chinese), he gives me better prices than anyone else. This really fits well with my philosophy to offer high quality Asian artwork that everyone can afford.
When I first met him, Cao Bin had a shaved head like a Buddhist monk. Years later, he has traded in that look for the ponytail that is expected of the eccentric Chinese artist
A frenzy of people watch Cao Bin create his calligraphy during a special event
Cao Bin at his studio
Full view of Cao Bin's calligraphy studio
More about the artwork:
This is painted on xuan paper (often incorrectly called "rice paper"). The raw artwork was then taken to my workshop in east Beijing where the master mounter built it into a handmade wall scroll.
The wall scroll that Sandy is holding in this picture is a "large size" single-character wall scroll. We also offer custom wall scrolls in small, medium, and an even-larger jumbo size.
Professional calligraphers are getting to be hard to find these days. Instead of drawing characters by hand, the new generation in China merely type roman letters into their computer keyboards and pick the character that they want from a list that pops up.
There is some fear that true Chinese calligraphy may become a lost art in the coming years. Many art institutes in China are now promoting calligraphy programs in hopes of keeping this unique form
of art alive.
Even with the teachings of a top-ranked calligrapher in China, my calligraphy will never be good enough to sell. I will leave that to the experts.
The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also
attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over
6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers
in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt
such a feat.