Since we’re trying to teach our kids Chinese as a second language, we’re always looking for fun learning tools for our home. This magic water cloth 水写布 / 水寫布 (shuǐ xiě bù) has been really fun for our whole family. Also known as a water calligraphy mat, it’s been an effective way to learn Chinese characters and practice writing in any language!
Turns out, water writing has been popular in China since the 1990s. The history of Chinese water calligraphy and ground calligraphy 地书 / 地書 (dìshū) is fascinating. I’ll share some fun facts plus my review of the magic water writing cloth for Chinese writing practice.
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What is Chinese water calligraphy or ground calligraphy 地书 / 地書?
地书 / 地書 (dìshū) literally translates to ground (Earth) book, or ground calligraphy. In China, people can be found in Chinese parks and streets practicing 地书 / 地書 (ground calligraphy), walking around with their long foam brush, writing beautiful poems on the ground!
When we did our Water Painting Raindrops outdoor literacy activity, I had not heard of 地书 at the time!
I’m impressed by this eco-friendly and economical way to write and share the experience with the community! This video of an adorable 5-year-old calligrapher is fascinating to watch!
In the following video, the Chinese gentleman writes “欢迎美国朋友到北京” (Huānyíng měiguó péngyǒu dào Běijīng / Welcome to Beijing, American friends!)
For those who are interested, François Chastanet wrote a documentary about 地书. If you want to go down a water calligraphy rabbit hole, his Vimeo page is filled with cool videos of amazing Chinese calligraphers!
Anyway, back to my review about the magic water writing cloth set!
What is 水写布 / 水寫布 magic water writing cloth?
The magic water writing cloth is a special mat that can be used for practicing Chinese writing and calligraphy.
In contrast to traditional Chinese calligraphy which involves brush and black ink, water calligraphy with this special cloth requires no ink.
When a wet brush touches the cloth, black lines are formed and resemble ink.
After writing, the water gradually fades away.
Benefits of a Chinese magic water calligraphy for writing practice
There’s so much to love about Chinese water calligraphy with these magic water cloths! Not only are they fun for kids, they are a great activity for adult learners, too.
Water calligraphy can be a nice break from tedious Chinese writing worksheets. Plus, painting is an excellent way to practice learning how to write Chinese. Each stroke has varying thickness depending on the weight applied to the brush!
As new Chinese characters are written, prior characters begin to fade! Observing this interesting process can help with memorizing Chinese characters.
In the picture, my daughter is using Montessori Chinese stroke order cards with the water calligraphy activity.
The combination of the water calligraphy plus flash cards gave my daughter a solid foundation in following Chinese stroke order!
And here are my kids have fun trying Chinese ground calligraphy with our magic water writing cloths! They were really inspired by the 地书 videos!
Here are just a few more perks that we appreciate:
- Environmentally-friendly (saves paper)
- Reusable (apparently up to 1000 times, but who’s actually keeping track?)
There are various types of magic water writing cloth sets available. Depending on which set you order, the mat might be blank or come with square 米 (mǐ) grids.
I recommend getting the grids to guide Chinese writing and calligraphy practice.
Downsides of magic water calligraphy practice cloth
We have used the Chinese magic water writing cloth intermittently over one year, and the cloth and brush have held up quite well! During the time, we have had only a few faint water stains.
According to the instruction manual, it’s okay to spot wash stains gently with soap and water, but we haven’t needed to do this.
Just be cautious if you have little kids in your home. When we first got the set, my daughter accidentally wrote on the magic water cloth with a pen, not realizing there were special rules for water calligraphy. Oops!
Also note that some Chinese magic water cloths come with wood scrolls at the end, which we prefer because it keeps the mat flat.
But most of the options online seem to have simple rectangular water clothes with no scrolls. You can see how the cloth looks wrinkly in the next photo of my daughter painting a heart.
To prevent the cloth from bunching up, you may need to lay some books along the edges to keep your Chinese calligraphy surface flat.
Where to buy 水写布 / 水寫布 magic water writing cloth
I purchased our magic water calligraphy set from Amazon which included the following:
- Water cup
- Blank water writing cloth
- Stroke order water writing cloth
- Water writing cloth with grids and thick scroll frame
- Calligraphy booklet
Although the exact set is no longer available, there are many similar options. Please read the product description carefully prior to purchasing.
Be sure to choose a version with 米 (mǐ) grids such as in the button below.
Does your family have this magic Chinese water calligraphy practice cloth?
What does your child think of the magic water cloth? Was it helpful for practicing Chinese characters? We’d love to learn more about your experience. Please share in the comments below!
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