Shodo

Though I am merely a novice or beginner when it comes to Shodo, I will attempt to provide a brief overview for interested readers.

Shodo means "The Way of Calligraphy (Sho)."  The art of shodo originated in China and came to Japan in the sixth or seventh century, along with methods for making brushes, ink, and paper. In those days, calligraphy was an essential part of the education of members of the ruling noble families. But as time went by, the art spread among the common people as well. Today Shodo is one of many Japanese cultural arts (as are kado, or flower arrangement; chado, or tea ceremony; and budo, the martial arts).

The above calligraphy was produced by B. Denison, it reads "Budo".

The following introduction was written by Graham Hawker (1996):

Calligraphy began to filter into Japan during the seventh century A.D. Buddhism from India had traveled via China and was making many converts in Japan, including the Emperors. Buddhist scriptures were recorded in Chinese writing. This was produced by priests and was aesthetically very pleasing. The most famous Japanese calligrapher was probably the Buddhist monk Kukai. One story records how the Emperor Tokusokutei asked him to rewrite a section of a badly damaged five paneled screen. Kukai is said to have picked up a brush in each hand, gripped one between the toes of each foot, placed another between his teeth, and immediately written five columns of verse simultaneously!

There are five basic scripts in Chinese calligraphy: tensho (seal style), reisho (scribe's style), kaisho (block style), gyosho (semi-cursive style), sosho (cursive style, literally "grass writing"). These had all appeared before the end of the fourth century. In addition to these the Japanese developed the kana characters during the eighth century, characters that express sounds in contrast to characters used ideographically. Three types of kana have been developed, manyogana, hiragana, and katakana. The manyogana are certain chinese characters (kanji) used phonetically to represent the syllables of Japanese, and are named after the eighth century poetry collection Manyoshu. At the time this collection was compiled the Japanese had no writing system of their own. Some of the Japanese poems were rendered in Chinese characters used phonetically, and in others the Chinese characters were used sometimes phonetically and sometimes ideographically. Out of this, by way of drastic simplification, came hiragana and katakana. In the hands of Japanese noblewomen, hiragana developed into a beautiful script which is the unique calligraphic style of Japan. 

The following diagram shows the basic materials needed in shodo:

All Japanese cultural arts have a strong interrelationship, and require/utilize very similar characteristics, i.e. hara, ki, fudoshin, .  As stated by Eri Takase, "...with the calligraphy brush, as with the sword, one cannot escape from the effects of indecisiveness and hesitation. One cannot start over. One cannot change what has already been done. With calligraphy as with the tea ceremony as with the Martial Arts, all movements are visible and an integral part of the art. The speed with which the line is drawn. The pause. The fluidity of one movement into the next. A powerful line. A gentle line. All visible. All an integral part of the art".

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