What is Japanese Calligraphy

The art calligraphy wasn introduced to Japan by Chinese Buddhist monks who practiced it as a means to spiritual enhancement. During the Heian period the Calligraphy became more popular by the exquisite mastership of three men, who were later called Sanpitsu or the three brushes. These early Heian contemporaries Emperor Saga, Kukai, and courtier Tachibana no Hayanari are respectfully known as the Sanpitsu (Three Great Brushes), and their calligraphy is considered a true representation of Chinese calligraphy's everlasting beauty. It wasn't until much later that the Japanese calligraphy characters of Hiragana or cursive Japanese alphabet were develloped and intergrated into the art of calligraphy.

Calligraphy in the tearoom

The hanging scrolls in the Tokonoma alcove have either a calligraphy poem, a calligraphic phrase, or just one character written with a calligraphy brush on it. On other hanging scrolls there might be a picture of the season or theme of the tea ceremony meeting. The tea ceremony masters of the past and present have always preferred in-perfection of the tearoom, tea utensils, ceramics, and the calligraphy scroll. It is widely accepted if the ink has bleeded deeply into the paper of the scroll and created and almost unreadable character. This is done on purpose and can only be perfectly executed by a true master of calligraphy.

Calligraphy is called Shodo (shodou) in Japan...

Here are some writing style examples as they can be found in daily life in Japan. In the following examples the Kanjis for "Shodo" (shodou) are used to illustrate various writing styles.

Normal Kanji found in daily life called Kaisho

normal kanji found in newspaper, magazines, and publications etc

Gyosho semi-cursive Kanji

semi-cursive Gyosho Kanji style

Edo style Kanji

Edo style Kanji example

Pen writing style Kanji, written by all Japanese in daily life

Kanji written with a pen by most Japanese

Sosho kanji used for calligraphy

The following is an expression often used in the world of tea "ICHIGO ICHIE". This hanging scroll on the left has Ichigo-Ichie written in Sosho style. It means that an event or meeting is always unique and will never happen the same way again. On the right is another popular Kanji "Wa"written in Sosho calligraphy style.

ichigo ichie hanging scroll calligraphy writing        wa kanji in calligraphic Sosho style


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