Japanese calligraphy, shodô

In this era dominated by keyboard and screen, does the visual art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner, calligraphy,  still remain ? In Japan, calligraphy is still a popular activity, art placed alongside with famous painting. Japanese calligraphy is particularly beautiful from its alliance between line, point, cleverly written and the meaning of calligraphy character. In Japan, calligraphy is a philosophy of harmony, of balance and proportionality.

It has now been two and half years that I have learned how to write Japanese. Remembering more and more kanji everyday, I begin to have quite an instinct in my writing. But I’m still annoyed to see that despite my efforts, and deep concentration, my kanji always have that little wobbly air, although charming, they keep some sort of clumsiness. Japanese Calligraphy (Shodô) tempts me and torment me, as I would like to understand it and grasp the spirit of it.

Between China and Japan, it seems that the sole difference is the brush used, bold one prefered by the first, the latter enjoying thin brushes. In any case, it is a shared culture, the Japanese ideograms being from China (and kanji meaning “the writing way of the Huns”).

The Japanese calligraphy is not only the beauty, but also the sense more complex frequently, than value of written by brush hieroglyph. Harmony and elegance of lines create not only aesthetic pleasure but transfer also thousand-year wisdom. Each line is meaningful; each movement of calligrapher’s brush creates something fine.
Japanese calligraphy

This Youtube video (thank you internet!) Allows you to experience a little better the spirit of Japanese calligraphy, thanks to a very interesting show.

Beginning in elementary school, students learn the basics of calligraphy in penmanship classes. At the beginning of each calendar year the children gather to take part in an activity known askakizome, where they create calligraphic works symbolizing their wishes for the new year. Students practice their penmanship to improve their calligraphy, sometimes copying out works by famous calligraphers from the past. Some elementary and middle school students even go to special schools to learn the art, attending classes in the evenings and on the weekends to become able to write beautiful characters.
What is shodô ? 

When I visit temples, I collect the seals of the temples in a book called shuincho (“the book of red seals“). A few hundred yens and the monks will realize their temple’s calligraphy before affixing their red seal.


15 June 2015


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