What is
Calligraphy - Part 1

The commonly-known word “calligraphy” has Greek etymology, and it derives from κάλλος kallos "beauty" + γραφή graph "writing". However, in a way, this is a very unfortunate translation in regards to calligraphy based on the Chinese writing system (on this site, also referred to as kanji, 漢字 – i.e characters from China’s Han dynasty). The difference between the Western and Eastern arts of writing is as significant as that between the Earth and the Sun, and yet the historical and theoretical information available, be it in books or on various websites, is somewhat misleading or mistaken. For this reason Chinese or Japanese calligraphy is misunderstood and its fascinating secrets remain hidden for those who have no access to texts written in kanji.

魂 (Soul), calligraphy by Takahashi Sougen (高橋蒼玄), cursive script

Far Eastern calligraphy is an art within art, a way of life, and a path to immortality. Just like love fills the heart, calligraphy fills our souls, nourishing a new sense of life born out of selflessness, absence of pride in the fertile soil of a pure mind. We believe that through this website we can not only share our passion, but also intrigue you by stimulating the deepest layers of sensitivity accessible to a human being.

Calligraphy in Japanese is read: shodo (書道i.e. a way of writing), when in Chinese it is shufa (書法, i.e. method of writing). The word shodo, or “sho” consists of two characters; (to write) and (a path), thus it would suggest that calligraphy is a way of being through writing, a path that one chooses not as an art or endeavour, but a sense of being. Sho matures with us, becoming fuller and richer. Life experience adds a lot of flavour to one’s work. In this capacity, sho cannot be learned, and it ought to be experienced, it cannot be rushed, but it must be earned.

All Japan Calligraphy Art and Literature Association exhibition, National Art Gallery of Tokyo.

Calligraphy is based in a logographic writing system (i.e. kanji, which are also referred to as sinographs), and in the case of Japanese calligraphy also on syllabaries (currently there are two: hiragana and katakana, although historically there were more). There is also one exceptional syllabary in the Chinese language called nushu (女書, lit. “women’s writing”), although it is not applied in classical calligraphy. However, due to its unique character, nushu is discussed in the calligraphy styles menu.

Unlike its western counterparts, a single character (kanji) can depict a word, phrase, scene, mood, and also be a poem and a painting all in one. This cannot possibly be achieved through the Latin alphabet or even painting. For instance, a Japanese phrase “matsukaze” (松風), composed of only two characters “pine” () and “wind” (), yet it will translate into: “the sound of the wind roaming through pine tree tops”. Watching the maze of spiritually enchanted black lines, you suddenly feel the fresh breeze, and hear the hum of the air rubbing against the green needle leaves. Admiring expressive work full of vigour and passion is a truly hypnotizing experience.


Contiune to What is Calligraphy - Part 2

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