[A-Z April Blogging] [P] Pastimes

The cultivated Chinese gentleman-scholar is expected to master four pastimes:

1 — Calligraphy (書 shū)
2 — the Game of Go (圍棋 wéiqí)
3 — Painting (畫 huà)
4 — Playing the Lute (琴 qín)

Calligraphy falls under the skill of Literacy (Classical Chinese), as explained on p59 of The Celestial Empire. One's calligraphy is thought to convey one's personality. As a result, an ugly writing is a social catastrophe. There are many different calligraphy styles, corresponding to different time periods and/or to different expectations (a regular style will convey mastery of the brush strokes, a cursive style manual dexterity). The brush, ink, paper, and ink stone are the essential implements of calligraphy. They are known together as 'the Four Treasures/Jewels/Friends of the Study'. The GM may want to add exceptional implements that give a bonus to the character's Literacy (Classical Chinese) skill.

The relevant skill is Gaming. The game of go predates the Táng dynasty. In Imperial China, for some reason, the game of go is considered as a refined pastime, whereas chess (象棋 xiàngqí) is the game of the masses. See also the section titled 'Entertainment' on p17-8 of TCE.

The relevant skill is Art (Chinese Painting). Chinese painting is mostly an extension of calligraphy since its highest form, brush painting, uses a single brush and black ink only. Other styles add colour and usually concentrate on a recurring theme: birds and flowers, landscapes, the four seasons...

Playing the Lute
The relevant skill is Perform (Play: Lute). Contrary to other popular Chinese instruments, rumoured to be of Central Asian origin, the Chinese lute is felt as both a native instrument, and as the province of the literati. Countless books have been written by gentlemen-scholars on the art of playing the lute, and inability to play it correctly can bring social stigma. Like-minded performers gather in qín schools. The GM may develop these in a way similar to clan associations or secret societies.

The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar (四藝 sìyì)

Success in any of the above skills can give a bonus to an Etiquette or a Status roll, if the target is a cultivated person, of course — a bandit isn't likely to be impressed by a beautiful piece of calligraphy.
Playing the Lute can also relax one's mind, and success in this skill can give a bonus to a Mental skill roll.

Obviously, failing any of the above yields a negative modifier equal to the expected bonus.

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