The first day of Spring (ipchun) in calligraphy

At this time of year anyone who is into calligraphy may well be practising to write 吉 ip-chun-dae-gil to wish for good luck in the coming year. The finished masterpiece should be put on the front door in time for the first day of spring which is Feb 4 in the lunar calendar. 

Since the paper can stay up for the whole year, it’s good incentive to practise hard to write it as beautifully as possible!

I’ve been practising too, but rather than subject you to my amateur efforts I’ve found some videos demonstrating how this spring wish for good luck can be written in some of the different calligraphy styles. The meaning of the characters is at the end of the post.


There are 5 styles of calligraphy. Seal script (전서) is the oldest style and taken from the curvy pictographs found carved into shells and stone in ancient China. Last year I tried to write in seal script. Here’s an example of 吉 written in calligraphy in seal script.

Seal Script 전서

But this style had variations and was not always easy to read so later the standardised and simpler clerical and printed styles were developed for writing documents.

Printed Style 해서

The printed style of calligraphy (해서) is the one which calligraphy students have to spend many years mastering before they can move on to the cursive styles. Here’s an example of 吉 written in the printed style

Finally the semi-cursive and cursive styles were developed for artistic self expression. Since the characters or individual strokes can be joined together, they are harder to read but look more artistic.

It used to be common practice for households to put this wish at the entrance to their home but now that most people live in apartments (and don’t practise calligraphy) the custom is dying out.

To see what this spring wish looks like in ‘real life’ take a look here . The blogger writes that he has been writing this every year for the last ten years trying different styles. There are 4 different styles on the post.

semi-cursive style 행서

I found this video which was taken during a calligraphy class. At the end of the clip the teacher is asked what style this is and he replies haeng-seo (행서 semi-cursive style). The characters are still separate but some of the strokes within each character are more joined together.

meaning of characters +Korean pronunciation

吉 (입춘대길 ip-chun-dae-gil)

 stand  spring  big 吉 happiness

The first two characters together represent the first day of spring 立春 ip-chun.

慶 (건양다경 keon-yang-ta-gyoung)

 build  sunshine 🌞  many  joyous occasion

The character for sun 陽 pronounced Yang (as in yin and yang) represents positive energy hoping for many bright days and good fortune in the year to come.

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