Japanese calligraphy   書道

Date of publication :

Calligraphy

A Japanese inkstick and inkstone with brushes

Japanese calligraphy

Brush strokes

In Japanese, shodo literally means "the way of writing". More than just an aesthetic, it's an expression of the inner spirit of the calligrapher.

Beyond writing

In Japan , there are many "ways" (道): kado 花道 (the way of flower arranging), sado 茶道 (tea ceremony), or even budo,武 道 (martial arts). Some are even integrated into the English language: judo (柔道) for example.

These different practices are considered a means to achieve a harmony that aims to maximise human capacities. This harmony is achieved by the coordination of body and mind in action.

As for Japanese calligraphy, the "way of writing", it isn't just about the resulting beautiful work, it's also an expression of the inner spirit of the calligrapher, his being. A Japanese proverb comes to mind: "if your brush is straight, the spirit will be right". The Japanese don't just think that the brushstrokes can reflect the weaknesses of the mind, but that the mind can be improved by copying exemplary calligraphy.

Japanese writing

The Japanese writing system originates from sinograms, or kanji (漢字). These Chinese characters were introduced to Japan around the fifth century AD. Nowadays, the Japanese still use these sinograms but also two syllabaries, hiragana and katakana, simplified forms of Chinese characters. Each of these syllabaries is made up of 46 characters.

Japanese calligraphy thus expresses these different characters, in a variety of styles: fluent brushstrokes or - conversely - unusually angular lines.

The tools

Japanese calligraphy requires the "four treasures of the study" that are the paper (和紙 washi), the brush (筆 fude), the inkstick (墨 sumi) and the inkstone (硯 suzuri). While the first two "treasures" are probably familiar to you, the last two may not be.

In Asia, to produce ink for the art of calligraphy, an inkstick is rubbed on a rough inkstone, on which a little water has been poured beforehand. The inksticks for calligraphy are black, but there are also other colors available, used for painting.

Comments Read comments from our travellers