Japanese Calligraphy



Japanese Calligraphy in the news

Calligraphy contest held in Tokyo 

NDTV - Jan 07 7:37 PM
Japan's first calligraphy contest of the year has been held in Tokyo. The first calligraphy of the year, called Kakizome is considered the most apt in Japan for New Year's resolutions.
Surface Appeal 
The Nation via Yahoo! News - Jan 11 10:17 AM
The Nation -- "When philosophy paints its grey in grey," Hegel wrote in his Philosophy of Right, "then has a shape of life grown old.

Asian style and taste 
Calendarlive.com - Jan 12 11:34 AM
Artists explore the many facets of food in "Banquet." Food is our daily bread — or rice, as the case may be. It is also tradition, community and culture.

New York Post - Jan 12 2:36 AM
DANCE NEW AMSTERDAM: Through Sunday, Clare Byrne Dance performs the world premiere of "Rounds," exploring the boundaries of movement, ritual, mythology and spiritual practices. Tickets are $15 and $20. 280 Broadway, at Chambers Street; (212)...

- Japanes Calligraphy

Here is an article on Japanese Calligraphy.

Chinese name
Hanzi (Chinese) 書法
Simplified Chinese 书法
Pinyin Shūfǎ
Japanese name
Kanji 書道
Hepburn Romaji Shodō
Korean name
Hangul 서예
Hanja 書藝
Revised Japanesse Calligraphy Romanization Seoye
McCune-Reischauer Sŏye

The art of Japanes Calligraphy calligraphy is widely practiced and revered in the East Asian civilizations that use Chinese characters. These include Japanees Calligraphy China, Japan, and Korea. In addition to being an artform in its own Japnese Calligraphy right, calligraphy has also Jappanese Calligraphy influenced ink and wash painting, which is accomplished using similar tools and techniques. The East Asian tradition of calligraphy originated Japanse Calligraphy and Japannese Calligraphy developed from China, specifically the ink and brush writing of Chinese characters. There is a general Japanee Calligraphy standardization of the various styles of calligraphy in the East Asian tradition. Calligraphy has Apanese Calligraphy also led to the development of many other forms Japaese Calligraphy of art in East Asia, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.


  • 1 Styles
    • 1.1 Seal Japamese Calligraphy Script
    • 1.2 Clerical Japanesee Calligraphy Script
    • 1.3 Semi-cursive Script
    • 1.4 Cursive Script
    • 1.5 Regular Japnaese Calligraphy Script
    • 1.6 Edomoji
    • 1.7 Munjado
  • 2 Tools
    • 2.1 Paper
    • 2.2 Ink
    • 2.3 Brush
    • 2.4 Inkstone
    • 2.5 Paperweight
    • 2.6 Desk Jpanese Calligraphy pad
    • 2.7 Seal
  • 3 Study
  • 4 Noted calligraphers
    • 4.1 China
    • 4.2 Japan
    • 4.3 Korea
  • 5 References
  • 6 See also
  • 7 External links


The main styles of Chinese character calligraphy
English name Chinese (Hanzi - traditional);
Japanese (Kanji);
Korean (Hanja)
Chinese (Hanzi - simplified) Chinese, Mandarin (Pinyin) Japanese (Hepburn Romaji) Korean (Hangul) Korean (Revised Romanization) Vietnamese (Quốc ngữ)
Seal script
(Small seal)
篆書 篆书 Zhuànshū Tensho 전서 Jeonseo Triện thư
Clerical script (Official script) 隷書 隶书 Lìshū Reisho 예서 Yeseo Lệ thư
Semi-cursive script
(Running script)
行書 行书 Xíngshū Gyōsho 행서 Haengseo Hành thư
Cursive script (Grass script) 草書 草书 Cǎoshū Sōsho 초서 Choseo Thảo thư
Regular script (Standard script) 楷書 楷书 Kǎishū Kaisho 해서 Haeseo Khải thư

From the seal script was derived the clerical script; and from the clerical script were derived both the regular script and the cursive scripts.

Characters are often written in ancient variations or simplifications that deviate from the modern standards used in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Modern variations or simplifications of characters, akin to Chinese Simplified characters or Japanese shinjitai, are occasionally used, especially since some simplified forms derive from cursive script shapes in the first place.

As katakana are derived from regular script shapes and hiragana from characters in the cursive script, those can also be used in calligraphy.

In Korea, the post-war Republican period saw the increased use of hangul in calligraphy.

Seal Script

Main article: Seal script

The Seal Script (often called Small Seal Script) is the formal script of the Qin system of writing, the informal script of which was precursor to the Clerical Script. Seal script is the oldest style that continues to be widely practiced. Today, this ancient style of Chinese writing is used predominantly in seals, hence the English name. Although seals (name chops), which make a signature-like impression, are carved in wood, jade and other materials, the script itself was originally written with brush and ink on paper, just like all other scripts.

Most people today cannot read the seal script, so it is generally not used outside the fields of calligraphy and carved seals. However, because seals act like legal signatures in Chinese culture and (to a lesser extent in modern times) Japanese culture, and because vermillion seal impressions are a fundamental part of the presentation of works of art such as calligraphy and painting, seals and therefore seal script remain ubiquitous.

Clerical Script

Main article: Clerical script

The Clerical Script (often simply termed lìshū; and sometimes called Official, Draft or Scribal Script) developed from the Seal Script. In general, characters are often "flat" in appearance, being wider than they are tall. The strokes may appear curvy, and often start thin and end thick. Most noticeable is the dramatically flared tail of one dominant horizontal or downward-diagonal stroke, especially that to the lower right. This characteristic stroke has famously been called 'silkworm head and wild goose tail' (蠶頭雁尾 cántóu yànwěi)in Chinese due to its distinctive shape.

The archaic Clerical Script of the Chinese Warring States period to Qin Dynasty and early Han Dynasty can often be difficult to read for a modern East Asian person, but the mature Clerical Script of the middle to late Han dynasty is generally legible. Modern works in the Clerical Script tend to use the mature, late Hàn style, and may also use modernized character structures, resulting in a form as transparent and legible as Regular (or standard) Script. The Clerical Script remains common as a typeface used for decorative purposes (for example, in displays), but it is not commonly written.

Semi-cursive Script

Main article: Semi-cursive script

The Semi-cursive Script (also called Running Script, 行書) approximates normal handwriting in which strokes and, more rarely, characters are allowed to run into one another. In writing in the Semi-cursive Script, the brush leaves the paper less often than in the Regular Script. Characters appear less angular and rounder.

In general, an educated person in China or Japan can read characters written in the Semi-cursive Script with relative ease, but may have occasional difficulties with certain idiosyncratic shapes.

Cursive Script

Main article: Cursive script

The Cursive Script (sometimes called Grass Script, 草書) is a fully cursive script, and a person who can read the Semi-cursive Script cannot be expected to read the Grass Script without training. Entire characters may be written without lifting the brush from the paper at all, and characters frequently flow into one another. Strokes are modified or eliminated completely to facilitate smooth writing and to create a beautiful, abstract appearance. Characters are highly rounded and soft in appearance, with a noticeable lack of angular lines.

The Cursive Script is the source of Japanese hiragana, as well as many modern simplified forms in Simplified Chinese characters and Japanese shinjitai.

Regular Script

Main article: Regular script

The Regular Script (often called standard script or simply kǎishū) is one of the last major calligraphic styles to develop, emerging between the Chinese Han dynasty and Three Kingdoms period, gaining dominance in the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and maturing in the Tang Dynasty. It emerged from a neatly written, early period semi-cursive form of clerical script. As the name suggests, the Regular Script is "regular", with each of the strokes placed slowly and carefully, the brush lifted from the paper and all the strokes distinct from each other. The Regular Script is also the easiest to recognize and read, as it is the script in which most beginners learn to write East Asian scripts.

The Regular Script is usually studied first to give students a feel for correct placement and balance, as well as to provide a proper base for the other, more flowing styles.


Main article: Edomoji

There is also a large family of native Japanese calligraphic styles known as edomoji, characters created in the Edo period of Japanese history, such as sumōmoji (sumo letters) used to write sumō wrestling posters, kanteiryū, used for kabuki, higemoji, and so on. These styles are typically not taught in Japanese calligraphy schools.

Chinese people can read edomoji, but the style has a distinct Japanese feel to it. It is therefore commonly used in China to advertise Japanese restaurants.


Munjado is a Korean decorative style of rendering Chinese characters in which brush strokes are replaced with representational paintings that provide commentary on the meaning.[1] The characters thus rendered are traditionally those for the eight Confucian virtues of humility, honor, duty, propriety, trust, loyalty, brotherly love, and filial piety.


The paper, ink, brush, and inkstone are essential implements of East Asian calligraphy: they are known together as the Four Treasures of the Study (T: 文房四寶 / S: 文房四宝) in China, and as the Four Friends of the Study (Korean Hangul: 문방사우 / Hanja: 文房四友) in Korea. In addition to these four tools, desk pads and paperweights are also used by calligraphers.


Special types of paper are used in East Asian calligraphy.

In China, Xuanzhi, traditionally made in Anhui province, is the preferred type of paper. It is made from the Tartar wingceltis (Pteroceltis tartarianovii), as well as other materials including rice, the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), bamboo, hemp, etc.

In Japan, Washi is made from the kozo (paper mulberry), ganpi (Wikstroemia sikokiana), and mitsumata (Edgeworthia papyrifera), as well as other materials like bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat.


The ink is made from lampblack (soot) and binders, and comes in sticks which must be rubbed with water on an inkstone until the right consistency is achieved. Much cheaper, pre-mixed bottled inks are now available, but these are used primarily for practice as stick inks are considered higher quality and chemical inks are more prone to bleeding over time, making them less suitable for use in hanging scrolls. Learning to rub the ink is an essential part of calligraphy study. Traditionally, East Asian calligraphy is written only in black ink, but modern calligraphers sometimes use other colours. Calligraphy teachers use a bright orange ink with which they write practice characters for students and correct students' work.


The brush is the traditional writing implement in East Asian calligraphy. The body of the brush can be made from either bamboo, or rarer materials like red sandalwood, glass, ivory, silver, and gold. The head of the brush can be made from the hair (or feather) of a wide variety of animals, including the wolf, rabbit, deer, chicken, duck, goat, pig, tiger, etc. There is also a tradition in both China and Japan of making a brush using the hair of a newborn, as a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir for the child. This practice is associated with the legend of an ancient Chinese scholar who scored first in the Imperial examinations by using such a personalized brush.

Today, calligraphy may also be done using a pen, but pen calligraphy does not enjoy the same prestige as traditional brush calligraphy.


A stone or ceramic inkstone is used to rub the solid ink stick into liquid ink and to contain the ink once it is liquid. Cheaper inkstones are made of plastic.

Inkstones are often carved, so they are collectible works of art on their own.


Paperweights come in several types: some are oblong wooden blocks carved with calligraphic or pictorial designs; others are essentially small sculptures of people or animals. Like inkstones, paperweights are collectible works of art on their own right.

Desk pad

The desk pad (Chinese T: 畫氈, S: 画毡, Pinyin: huàzhān; Japanese: 下敷 shitajiki) is a pad made of felt. Some are printed with grids on both sides, so that when it is placed under the translucent paper, it can be used as a guide to ensure correct placement and size of characters. These printed pads are used only by students. Both desk pads and the printed grids come in a variety of sizes.


Main article: Chinese seal

Works of calligraphy are usually completed by the artist putting his or her seal at the very end, in red ink. The seal serves the function of a signature.


The Chinese method of holding the brush

How the brush is held depends on which calligraphic genre you are practicing. For Chinese calligraphy, the method of holding the brush is more special; the brush is held vertically straight gripped between the thumb and middle finger. The index finger lightly touches the upper part of the shaft of the brush (stabilizing it) whilst the ring and little fingers tuck under the bottom of the shaft. The palm is hollow and you should be able to hold an egg in there. This method, although difficult to hold correctly for the beginner, allows greater freedom of movement, control and execution of strokes. For Japanese calligraphy, the brush is held in the right hand between the thumb and the index finger; very much like a Western pen.

A paperweight is placed at the top of all but the largest pages to prevent slipping; for smaller pieces the left hand is also placed at the bottom of the page for support.

In China, there are many people who practice calligraphy in public places such as parks and sidewalks, using water as their ink and the ground as their paper. Very large brushes are required. Although such calligraphic works are temporary (as the water will eventually dry), they serve the dual purpose of both being an informal public display of one's work, and an opportunity to further practice one's calligraphy.

In Japan, smaller pieces of Japanese calligraphy are traditionally written seated in the traditional Japanese way (seiza), on the knees with the buttocks resting on the heels. In modern times, however, practitioners frequently practice calligraphy seated on a chair at a table. Larger pieces may be written while standing; in this case the paper is usually placed directly on the floor, but some calligraphers use an easel.

A man practicing calligraphy in Beihai Park, Beijing

Calligraphy takes many years of dedicated practice. Correct stroke order, proper balance and rhythm of characters are essential in calligraphy. Skilled handling of the brush produces a pleasing balance of characters on the paper, thick and thin lines, and heavy and light inking. In most cases, a calligrapher will practice writing the Chinese character yong (永) many, many times in order to perfect the eight basic essential strokes contained within the character. Those who can correctly write the yong character beautifully can potentially write all characters with beauty.

Basic calligraphy instruction is part of the regular school curriculum in both China and Japan.

Noted calligraphers

Nearly all traditionally educated men (and sometimes women) in East Asia are proficient in calligraphy. The most famous are:


Chinese calligraphy of mixed styles written by Song Dynasty (1051-1108 CE) poet Mifu. For centuries, the Chinese literati were expected to master the art of calligraphy.
  • Wei Shuo 衛鑠 衛夫人
  • Wang Xizhi 王羲之
  • Wang Xianzhi 王獻之
  • Huai Su 怀素 (懷素)
  • Qigong (启功)
  • Yu Shinan 虞世南
  • Zhang Xu 張旭
  • Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿
  • Liu Gongquan 柳公權
  • Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢
  • Su Shi 蘇軾
  • Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty 宋徽宗 趙佶
  • Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫
  • Liu Bingsen 劉炳森
  • Mao Zedong 毛澤東
  • Chiang Kai-Shek 蔣中正
  • Kang Youwei (possibly considered one)

See also [2]


  • Kūkai 空海
  • Emperor Saga 嵯峨天皇
  • Tachibana no Hayanari 橘逸勢
  • Ono Michikaze 小野道風
  • Fujiwara no Sukemasa 藤原佐理
  • Fujiwara no Yukinari 藤原行成
  • Hon'ami Kōetsu 本阿弥光悦
  • Konoe Nobutada 近衛信尹
  • Shokado Shojo 松花堂昭乗
  • Ryōkan 良寛
  • Yamaoka Tesshu 山岡鉄舟
  • Igaki Hokujo 井垣北城


  • Kim Jeong-hui 金正喜
  • Kim Myeong-hui 金命喜
  • Han Seok-bong 韓石峰
  • Sejong the Great 世宗大王
  • Yi I 李珥
  • Yi Hwang 李滉
  • Yi Sun-sin 李舜臣


  • Daniels O, Dictionary of Japanese (Sōsho) Writing Forms, Lunde Humphries, 1944 (reprinted 1947)
  • Deng Sanmu 鄧散木, Shufa Xuexi Bidu 書法學習必讀. Hong Kong Taiping Book Department Publishing 香港太平書局出版: Hong Kong, 1978.
  • Qiú Xīguī (裘錫圭), Chinese Writing, Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2000. ISBN 1-55729-071-7.

See also

  • Ink and wash painting
  • Songti
  • Stroke order
  • Chinese character
  • Chinese art
  • Japanese art
  • Korean art
  • Eight Principles of Yong

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
East Asian calligraphy
  • Art of Chinese Calligraphy
  • Introduction to Chinese calligraphy
  • Numerous examples of Japanese Calligraphy expressions
  • Evolution of Korean calligraphy on display
  • History of calligraphy in Korea
  • Shotai - Sljfaq

Search Term: "East_Asian_calligraphy"