Towards the end of the Han dynasty (漢朝, 206 B.C. – 220 C.E.) and first years of The Three Kingdoms period (三國時代, 220-280 C.E.) calligraphy became a major form of art in China. Two styles matured: clerical (隷書, reisho) and cursive (草書, sousho), and a new one emerged on the horizon – standard script (楷書, kaisho).
The legend says that kaisho was created by a minister of the Cao Wei dynasty (曹魏, 220 -265) named Zhong Yao (鍾繇 151-230), after years devoted to perfecting his brush techniques, and deeply influenced by a book written by Cai Yong (蔡邕, 133-192 C.E.), titled “Nine Forces Essay” (九勢, Jiu Shi.)
Still, the creation of any script (perhaps with exception of flying white (飛白, kasuri) cannot be attributed to one person. The earliest records of pre-kaisho are bamboo books (木簡, mokkan) from 170 B.C. unearthed in 1972 in Hunan province (湖南). They represent a clear transition from reisho to kaisho, where both of its most characteristic features (“silk worm head” and “goose tail”), were simplified into a straight and simple, yet still thicker than other, lines.
During 4th century C.E. calligraphy flourishes and its importance is growing, eventually to become one of only six subjects at the National Academy during the Tang dynasty (唐朝, 618 – 907 C.E.). Shodo became a tool for selecting talents and evaluating people, laying foundations for the modern science of graphology, leading further to development of studying human psychology and behavior reasoning or prediction through handwriting analysis.
There are countless forms of regular script. Some are very powerful, strong and massive, yet well balanced, where others are more agile, fresh and springy, resembling a light weight boxer getting ready for the first round.
One of the most powerful and radiant styles was developed by a politician, Yan Zhenqing (顏真卿 709-785). His kaisho was as mighty as an iron tower, omnipotent and proud as mythical Huang Long (黄龍, Yellow Dragon). Studying his style always means a great adventure for me, as well as phenomenal training for controlling the tip of the brush.
Characters in kaisho have a rectangular form, and are governed by very strict rules of writing. There are many calligraphic theories, but one of the most important is 永字八法 (eiji happou, lit. “eight laws of the character 永”, which means “eternity”) developed by the Buddhist monk Zhi Yong (智永, birth and death dates unknown) from the Sui dynasty period (隋朝, 581 – 618), who was related to calligraphy sage Wang Xizhi (王義之 303 – 361).
永is an extremely important character in both Chinese and Japanese languages. It is not only a synonym of endurance and perseverance, but also includes eight fundamental brush strokes, so called eight rules (八法, happou). All in all, there are thirty seven brush strokes in total applied in kaisho, however 29 of them are derived from the basic 8, and these are: