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Traditional Culture Experiences

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Traditional Culture Experiences

Japanese calligraphy, Shodo, is one of Japan’s most popular fine arts. Calligraphic works are appreciated as much as the products of painting. This kind of art possesses a philosophical sense as well.

Around the 6th or 7th century, shodo was introduced to Japan from its origin, China. Initially, it was an essential part of education among noble families, but soon spread to common families as well. Today, it is not only an art to admire. Shodo is used in everyday life, such as New Year’s cards, and is a popular hobby among adults.

Students learn the basics of shodo in the beginning of elementary school and practice their penmanship to improve their calligraphy. Some elementary and middle school students even attend special schools to be able to create beautiful characters.

The art of using an ink-dipped brush to artistically create Chinese kanji and Japanese kana characters remains a tradition in Japan’s culture. These works are admired for the accurate composition of characters, moreover, how the brush is handled during their creation, the shading of the ink, and the balanced placement.

To put it simply, shodo is an art to write beautifully. The master creates a work of art using a calligraphy set.

A soft, black mat called shitajiki provides a comfortable surface. The bunchin is a metal stick used to weigh down the paper during writing. The special, thin calligraphy paper is known as hanshi. A fude is the brush that creates mesmerizing art, including both large and small brushes. The heavy black container that contains the ink is known as a suzuri. Sumi is solid black material that must be rubbed in water in the suzuri to produce the black ink. There is, however,"instant ink" in bottles available.

There are different types of calligraphy including kaisho (block/regular script), gyosho (semi-cursive script), and sosho (cursive script). Kaisho uses precise strokes in a printed manner, while gyosho is written faster and loosely. Sosho is a much more fluid method where the characters can bend and curve.

Shodo transfers harmony and beauty. Simplicity and gracefulness is embodied in calligraphic works as one of the main principles in Japanese aesthetics, known as wabi sabi.

In spite of its clarity, there is nothing casual in Japanese calligraphy. Every element, the direction, the form and the ending of lines, the balance between elements, and even the empty space disclose many things. The scripts are harmonious, proportional, and balanced.

photo of Japanese Calligraphy