Last year, I bought a 水写布 / 水寫布 (shuǐ xiě bù / water writing cloth) set for my daughter to explore Chinese writing. I saw a magic water writing cloth set on Amazon and thought it was a brilliant way to practice writing in any language! Turns out, water writing has been a popular practice in China since the 1990s. In this post, I will first share about the history of water writing and 地书 / 地書 (dìshū / ground calligraphy). Then I will share my review of the magic water writing cloth for Chinese calligraphy practice.
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地书 / 地書 (dìshū / ground calligraphy)
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 (dìshū / 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! But 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!)
Anyway, back to my review about the magic water writing cloth set!
What is 水写布 / 水寫布 magic water writing cloth?
Magic water writing cloth is a special material that can be used for practicing strokes of brush calligraphy and painting. When a wet brush meets the cloth, black lines are formed and resemble ink.
Where to buy 水写布 / 水寫布 magic water writing cloth set
I purchased the Master Chinese brand from Amazon, but the exact set is no longer available. Our set 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
I have not been able to find a comprehensive set like the one we have, but here are similar water writing cloths on Amazon:
- Easyou Gridded Magic Water Writing Cloth for Chinese Calligraphy Practice Thick Scroll with Frame
- Teagas Reusable Chinese Calligraphy Brush Water Writing Magic Cloth for Chinese Calligraphy Practice, 2 Pcs Set
- Rewritable Water Writing Chinese Calligraphy Cloth Fabric with Brush Rack and Water Dish Quick Drying Fabric Cloth Paper for Beginners Practice Set (5 Items)
***Please read the Amazon product descriptions carefully prior to purchasing. Amazon has a tendency to change the links to different products when the prior product is no longer available.
***Please also note that these are less inexpensive at Taobao, but I did not buy them there so I don’t have a recommended seller. However, you can search key words like “儿童 毛笔 水写布” (Kid’s calligraphy water cloth). On English websites like AliExpress or EBay, search key words “magic calligraphy cloth”
Review of magic water writing cloth 水写布 / 水寫布 for Chinese calligraphy practice
We have used the magic water writing cloth intermittently over one year, and the cloth and brush have held up quite well! When we first got the set, my daughter traced over one stroke with a pen, not realizing there were special rules for the cloth! Since then, we have continued to use water only. After writing, the water gradually fades away. Occasionally, we have had faint water stains, but according to the instruction guide, it is okay to wash it away gentle with soap and water.
- Environmentally-friendly (saves paper)!!!
- Can see outline of brushstrokes
- Reusable (apparently up to 1000 times, but who’s counting?!)
- Cloths may e blank or come with grids and/or stroke order.
- Grids serve as a guide for character spacing and arrangement
- Stroke order has arrows to indicate writing direction
Cons: Needs support to lay flat
Here is a video of my daughter practicing stroke order when she was 4 years old:
When comparing magic water cloth options, I recommend getting one with a scroll frame. I believe that the scrolls helps the cloth lay flat; our 2 other cloths bunch up a bit!
As new characters the written, prior characters begin to fade! As you can see in this photo, my daughter was writing in random order, but since then, I have encouraged her to develop the important habit of following an orderly progression.
More characters fading and appearing… We used our Montessori Chinese sandpaper stroke order cards as the writing guide, and the combination of these two gave my daughter a solid foundation in following stroke order!
I love that each stroke has varying thickness depending on the weight applied to the brush!
Here’s a look at the blank magic writing cloth. My daughter used this to doodle hearts, flowers, and other random things! In my opinion, this cloth is not necessary because you can use the blank backside of the other clothes for this purpose. Also, please note the folds in the water cloth.
Finally, here are my kids pretending to do 地书 with the magic calligraphy cloth! They were inspired by the videos above!
Comparison with Buddha Board
We also have the lovely and popular original Buddha Board, which we received as a gift a couple of years ago. If I had to choose between the two, I would recommend the Magic Writing Cloth because of the aforementioned “pros”. On Amazon, the cost of the water cloths typically range from about $8 to $20. Therefore, they are relatively less expensive compared to the Buddha Board. Also, because my daughter likes to write many characters at a time, the Buddha board does not give enough space for writing practice. The upside of the Buddha board is that it is perfectly flat and can be easily oriented to provide a vertical writing surface at eye-level.
Despite these wonderful indoor resources, I am still most intrigued by 地书! I really love the idea of exploring literacy in the great outdoors!!!
RECOMMENDED ARTICLES ABOUT HOW TO TEACH KIDS CHINESE
If you need tips on how to teach your child Chinese, these posts are for you!
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- How To Get Your Child To Speak the Minority Language
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent
- 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Read Throughout the Day
- 6 Fun Ways to Assess Reading Comprehension With Kids!
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I also recommend these Facebook groups:
- Raising Bilingual Parents in Chinese & English
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Happy learning, friends!