SHODO – The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy –
The author, Shozo Sato is a master of traditional Zen arts, and has received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan for his contributions in teaching Japanese traditions. He is also specialised in ikebana (生け花), sado (茶道), Japanese theatre as well as sumi-e (墨絵).
Calligrapher is my another profession. I started reading this book as a part of my calligraphy practice. It explains the history of Kanji (漢字) and how Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ) have developed from Kanji. Kanji means "word from China" because it came from China. It was during the Han dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE). Han in Chinese is written as 漢 and this character was applied to a Japanese sound, Kan and therefore it´s Kanji. Kanji spread all East Asia. Even Korea was using Kanji until 1443 until they switched to Hangeul.
The book tells you all the basics to start calligraphy as the introduction. Each Kanji used for examples is explained with the idiogram, meanings and the stroke order. In this way, all the Zengo (禅語 /Zen words) are analysed.
It also teaches you all three types of writing, Kaisho (楷書/printed style), Gyosho (行書/semicursive) and Sosho (草書/cursive or grass style). The images above are a kanji, Mu (無/nothingness) in three different writing. Technically talking, it´s good to practice the same character in all three styles to understand how to simplify a Kanji. This is what I like about this book.
I have never practiced Zen but I suppose we have a lot of influences of Zen philosophy as we grew up in Japan. It´s not that we read something or learn something special but day by day, we hear or sense it at every single corner. We live in it. I must say that this book is my very first book written about Zen and I didn´t know most of Zengo until then. However, the explanations were quite familiar to me.
Senshin (洗心) for instance means to "wash the dirt and dust from your heart and soul". I know in Zen teaching, Mu (無), emptiness is very important. One by one you need to get rid of excess such as confusion, selfishness or thoughts. As the book says it´s easy to clean our body, you just need to take a bath or a shower. Then how can you clean your soul? This is a little more difficult.
I guess it´s a discussion of an egg or a chicken. You have a clean environment therefore you have a clean soul or vice versa? I don´t know but someone who leaves everything in the middle, maybe that person has a chaotic mind and can´t finish each task. I´m not a big fan of cleaning or tidying up but trying to put a little more effort to complete the action. I mean, instead of throwing a spoon into the sink and wash it later, I walk over to the sink and wash it. Then I look at the empty shiny sink. Somehow I feel lighter because I have nothing on hold.
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