The Five Major Calligraphy Styles of Chinese Writing:

Xiaozhuan, Li, Cao, Xing, and Kai.

Chinese calligraphy style called Xiaozhuanshu.
Chinese calligraphy style called Xiaozhuanshu.

Xiaozhuan Script

Lesser Seal Script is a simplified form of the Greater Seal Script and started developing in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). During the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 B. C.) Xiaoxhuan script was standardized and legislated as the official written language.
Xiaozhuan is a tall, thin script with characters that are usually symmetrical. Strokes are uniform in thickness. Although more linear than preceeding scripts they still do not have the angular look of the more modern scripts. Although most people today are completely unable to read Xiaozhuan script, it is still used in the production of Seals, or Name Chops. These chops act as a kind of legal signature on Chinese contracts; seals are also traditionally used to sign works of art. It is the oldest regularly used style in China today.
(Also called "Lesser" or "Small Seal Style". Chinese name is 小篆书, pinyin is Xiǎozhuànshū.)
Chinese calligraphy style called Lishu.
Chinese calligraphy style called Lishu.

Li Script

Clerical Script replaced Xiaozhuan style after the collapse of the Qin Empire. Government bureaucrats needed a more efficient style as their workload increased. This style reached its zenith in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), where it was the dominant day to day calligraphy style.
Li shu has more curves than Kai shu and stokes often begin thin and end quite thick. This can often be seen in the dominant horizontal or diagonal stroke and is called the "silkworm head and wild goose tail". It is wider than it is tall. Although early forms of Li shu can be difficult for modern-Chinese readers to understand, the later forms are quite easy to read, being similiar to kai shu.Although not in widespread use in modern times Clerical script remains a commonly used style when decoration or demarcation is needed, as in headlines and advertisements.
(Also called "Clerical script". Chinese name is 隶书, pinyin is Lìshū.)
Chinese calligraphy style called Caoshu.
Chinese calligraphy style called Caoshu.

Cao Script

The Grass script came into being during the Han to Jin dynasties (206 B.C.-420 A.D.) and developed as a kind of shorthand to speed up writing times of the popular Li style. This style came into being in two distinct steps, the ealier zhāngcǎo (章草) style which then led to the more modern jīncǎo (今草) style. It reached prominence during the Tang Dynasty.
Cao shu is a cursive style of writing that often joins seperate characters together. Strokes can also be modified or left out completely. This simplification is most commonly seen on the characters left component, while the right component is more clearly rendered. The brush very seldom leaves the paper so there is very little seperation between individual strokes. This all contibutes to a very rounded style that has high artistic value but is generally illegible to the common reader.
Many of today's simplified Chinese characters were based on the character's cursive form.
(Also called "Grass script" or "Cursive script". Chinese name is 草书, pinyin is Cǎoshū.)
Chinese calligraphy style called xingshu.
Chinese calligraphy style called xingshu.

Xing Script

Xing style developed in the first to third century A.D. along side the Kai style.
If Kai shu can be compared to English printing then Xing shu may be compared to English cursive hand writing. Much less angular than Kai, with the brush spending more time on the paper; it is much more of a free hand type style. Strokes are often simplified and may be written out of standard order. Falling between the Kai style and the Cao style; fluent Chinese readers will, except for the occasional stumbling block, generally have relatively little trouble reading this style.
Xing style can be difficult to distinguish from the Cao style and both may be seen as ends of a continuom.
(Also called "Running script" or "Semi-cursive script". Chinese name is 行书, pinyin is Xíngshū.)
Chinese calligraphy style called Kaishu.
Chinese calligraphy style called Kaishu.

Kai Style

Kai shu has roots in the Three Kingdoms and Western Jin era (220–316 A.D.) when writers began simplifying the Li script. It became the most prominent style during the Tang dynasty. It is currently the main style throughout the world; whether writing traditional characters or simplified. Government documents, mass media, computers and educational systems world wide all use kai shu.
It is characterised by a square shape and carefully placed and distinct angular strokes.
(Also called "Standard script" or "Regular script". Chinese name is 楷书, pinyin is Kǎishū.)