Exploring the Beautiful Art of Japanese Calligraphy
Writing is usually only considered to be an art form when one is discussing works of fiction. But in some cases, the letters and words themselves can become dazzling artworks. The art of Japanese calligraphy has been practiced for centuries by people of all ages, of all social classes, and from all walks of life.
The High Regard for Accomplished Calligraphers
The Chinese and Japanese cultures alike regard calligraphy with great respect. Some hold it in higher esteem than sculptures and paintings. Pablo Picasso once said that if he had been Chinese, he would have become a calligrapher instead of a painter. And according to the China Institute, an ancient Chinese scholar is recorded as having said, “Calligraphy is images without real features, music without real sounds.” In Japan, you’ll find many homes with sets of calligraphy tools. In primary schools, calligraphy is a required subject. In Japan, calligraphy is regarded as being a practice of philosophies as much as an art form.
The History of Japanese Calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy is referred to as “shodo,” which means “the way of writing.” Shodo was introduced to Japan from China during the fifth century. Calligraphy became more widely used with the introduction of Buddhism, as it was used to print the Buddhist sutras. Copying these sutras by hand, rather than merely reading them, was used as a form of meditation. During the Heian Period, from 794 to 1185, shodo began to evolve and look distinctive from Chinese calligraphy. This deviation continued and expanded during subsequent centuries.
The Styles of Japanese Calligraphy
Three primary styles of shodo are practiced today. Kaisho is the standard or square style. It features “blocky” characters that most closely resemble Chinese calligraphy styles. Since it’s the easiest style to learn, most beginners start with kaisho. The second style, gyosho, is semi-cursive and more artistic, with strokes that flow together. Sosho is cursive and abstract. The strokes are done quickly and gracefully. There is an emphasis on aesthetics over legibility.
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