Japanese Calligraphy styles
"Shodou" calligraphy writing styles
The word Shodou consists of two characters pronunced "Sho" (meaning writing) and "dou" (meaning way) which translates to "The way of writing", and can broadly be referred to the art of beautiful hand writing.
Beautiful handwriting is heavily focused on in the Japanese schooling system, paricularly in regards to getting the stroke order correct when studying KANJI and the phonetic alphabets HIRAGANA & KATAKANA , so most kids are equipped with a calligraphy set from an early age. Although time consuming calligraphy is one of the best ways to LEARN KANJI, but is also great as a hobby.
But what exactly does a calligraphy set consist of? And what kind of writing styles are applied? Japanese calligraphy has three basic styles KAISHO, GYOSHO and SOSHO, and with some debate it actually has four, with the fourth being KANA (Hiragana & Katakana writings).
Here's an overview of the KAISHO, GYOSHO and SOSHO writing styles as well as an explanation of what you can expect to find in a standard calligraphy set.
The kanji "Kai" ( meaning block) + "Sho" (meaning writing) literally means block writing, and is the most easy-to-read writing style. It's very similar to a newspaper print and it's the easiest style to start with when learning calligraphy.
The writing style is very clear as each stroke is clearly separated compared to the flowing strokes of the Gyosho and Sosho writing styles.
Image credit: WikiCommons / Kanko
Great How-to books on Japanese calligraphy
The characters "Gyou" (meaning going or journey) + "sho" (meaning writing) forms the word Gyousho, which is often referred to as the SEMI-CURSIVE writing style. It is more of an everyday quick writing style, which some older Japanese people still use today as a form of shorthand, as the strokes are more coherent compared to the Kaisho style where each stroke is clearly separated.
When using the Gyousho style the strokes flow into each other making it harder to read for foreign students of the Japanese language, but for native Japanese and Chinese speakers reading characters in the Gyousho style is usually not causing any problems.
Japanese calligraphy art books
"Sou" + "Sho" literally means grass writing but is more commonly referred to as the fully cursive writing style.
The Sousho writing style is the most abstract form which allows the individual artist to fully explore the artistic potential of each character. Individual artists' interpretation of characters can differ tremendously, and readability can even for a trained eye be extremely difficult. Characters flow into each other and sometimes one entire character may even be drawn without lifting the brush.
Attempting this style is generally not recommended for at first time calligrapher as it requires a lot of skill and practice, so start with the Kaisho style to avoid any disappointment :-).
Image credit: WikiCommons / Minagawa Kien
Calligraphy rice paper
What is in a calligraphy set?
Some of the most common calligraphy tools are:
Shitajiki: Soft pad
Bunchin: Metal stick that holds down the paper when writing.
Hanshi: Thin paper which is used especially for calligraphy.
Suzuri: Tray for ink.
Sumi: Ink stick which is mixed with water in the tray to create ink. Today ready to use ink bottles are often used as a replacement.
Fude: Brush. One larger brush for writing the main characters and a smaller brush for writing the artist's name. The small brush can also be used for writing characters.
Can anyone learn calligraphy?
I have done a fair few calligraphy courses and I'm far off from calling my self an artist :-), but I believe that anyone can learn the techniques with practice and dedication.
On a basic level it is not as difficult as it may seem, so just take it step by step and take it as it comes. But once and for all - Have some fun with it!
Calligraphy ink & brushes
Meditation & Zen
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Any thoughts? Have you ever tried calligraphy or would you like to start? I appreciate your comments.