Mi Fu's On Calligraphy, a written discourse about the cursive style
|Literal meaning||sloppy/scrawled script|
Cursive script (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ), often mistranslated as grass script, is a script style used in Chinese and East Asian calligraphy. Cursive script is faster to write than other styles, but difficult to read for those unfamiliar with it. It functions primarily as a kind of shorthand script or calligraphic style. People who can read standard or printed forms of Chinese or related scripts may not be able to comprehend this script.
The character ? (sh?) means script in this context (it can also mean "book"), and the character ? (c?o) means quick, rough or sloppy. Thus, the name of this script is literally "rough script" or "sloppy script". The same character ? (c?o) appears in this sense in the noun "rough draft" (, c?og?o), and the verb "to draft [a document or plan]" (, c?on?). The other indirectly related meaning of the character ? (c?o) is grass, which has led to the mistranslation "grass script".
Cursive script originated in China during the Han dynasty through the Jin period, in two phases. First, an early form of cursive developed as a cursory way to write the popular and not-yet-mature clerical script. Faster ways to write characters developed through four mechanisms: omitting part of a graph, merging strokes together, replacing portions with abbreviated forms (such as one stroke to replace four dots), or modifying stroke styles. This evolution can best be seen on extant bamboo and wooden slats from the period, on which the use of early cursive and immature clerical forms is intermingled. This early form of cursive script, based on clerical script, is now called zh?ngc?o (), and variously also termed ancient cursive, draft cursive or clerical cursive in English, to differentiate it from modern cursive ( j?nc?o). Modern cursive evolved from this older cursive in the Wei Kingdom to Jin dynasty with influence from the semi-cursive and standard styles.
Beside zh?ngc?o and the "modern cursive", there is the "wild cursive" (Chinese and Japanese: ; pinyin: kuángc?o; r?maji: ky?s?) which is even more cursive and difficult to read. When it was developed by Zhang Xu and Huaisu in the Tang dynasty, they were called Di?n Zh?ng Zuì Sù (crazy Zhang and drunk Su, ?). Cursive, in this style, is no longer significant in legibility but rather in artistry.
Cursive scripts can be divided into the unconnected style (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese and Japanese?; pinyin: dúc?o; r?maji: dokus?) where each character is separate, and the connected style (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: liánmián; Japanese: ; r?maji: renmentai) where each character is connected to the succeeding one.
Cursive script forms of Chinese characters are also the origin of the Japanese hiragana script. Specifically, the hiragana characters developed from cursive forms of the man'y?gana script, called s?gana (). In Japan, the s?gana cursive script was considered to be suitable for women's writing, and thus came to be referred to as women's script (. This term was later applied to hiragana, as well. In contrast, kanji themselves were referred to as men's script onnade) (. otokode)
Cursive script in Sun Guoting's Treatise on Calligraphy.