Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shodo - Art of Japanese Calligraphy

On November 22 hubby and me went to see the Mainichi newspaper sponsored modern Japanese calligraphy art exhibition in Akita city (Mainichi Gendaisho Junkai-ten, Akita-ten). It was the 60th anniversary of the Mainichi calligraphy exhibition (Mainichi Shodoten dai 60 kai kinen). The exhibition was held in the ATORION building of Akita city from November 21-26.
Japanese calligraphy (shodo) is a form of calligraphy, or artistic writing, where an ink-dipped brush is used artistically to create Chinese kanji and Japanese kana characters. The art of shodo originated in China and came to Japan in the sixth or seventh century, and thus has been heavily influenced by Chinese calligraphy. The art of shodo is a part of the culture and tradition of Japan. Most children learn calligraphy in elementary school and it is a popular hobby among adults too. Works of calligraphy are admired for the accurate composition of their characters, the way the brush is handled in their creation, the shading of the ink, and the balanced placement of the characters on the paper. There are different types of calligraphy. In Kaisho (square style), the strokes in the characters are precisely drawn in a printed manner. Gyosho (semicursive) is written faster and more loosely. Sosho (cursive) is a much freer and more fluid method where the strokes of the characters can bend and curve.

First, we went to the exhibition hall where many beautiful pieces of calligraphy art-works were on display. In Japanese calligraphy, the beginning, the direction, the form and the ending of lines, the balance between elements are important for each line and point, and even the empty space signifies many things. We noted that the hieroglyphs were harmonious, proportional, and balanced, which created an aesthetic pleasure.

Next, we went to see the calligraphy training session event where about 35 Japanese children actively participated.

I noticed that in front of every participant many implements of calligraphy were kept. Hubby explained to me that a calligraphy set consists of:
Shitajiki: Black, soft mat or writing pad.
Bunchin: Metal stick to weight down the paper during writing.
Hanshi: Special, thin calligraphy paper.
Fude: Brush.
Suzuri: Heavy black container for the ink.
Sumi: Black ink. Instant ink (bokujuu) in bottles is also available.

Initially, there was a practise session (warming up exercise) for the participants, where they wrote the character of 'Ai' (love). It was amazing to see all the children busily writing 'Ai' on Hanshi with full concentration, patience, and pin-drop silence!

Since the participants were young children, the organizers of the event thought that some of the young participants might have difficulty in remembering the Kanji character of 'Ai'. Therefore to guide the children, a lady held two pieces of calligraphy art-works depicting the Kanji character and Hiragana of 'Ai'. The very young ones were allowed to write 'Ai' in Hiragana.

After finishing writing the character 'Ai', the children waited patiently for the practice session to be over. I was really impressed to see all the children sitting in the tradition formal Seiza style thoughout the session.

Three university students from Mongolia and one university student from America also participated in the event.

Next, when the actual calligraphy training session began, each person had to write Kanji or Kana characters of their choice on special lantern-shaped thick paper-sheets. Also, each person was required to write different characters on four such special paper-sheets. It was really worthwhile to watch various strokes and moves the children performed while writing the characters.

After the calligraphy session was over, these special lantern-shaped paper-sheets were tied to bamboos frames that were shaped in the form of a Kanto (a Kanto is an array of many candle-lit lanterns hung on a bamboo frame and the Kanto Matsuri held in Akita city is one of the top three festivals of Tohoku region of Japan). Two such fabulous and amazing Kantos were made. It was a great enjoyable experience to see the two Kantos containing many lantern-shaped paper-sheets on each of which was written a unique Kanji or Kana character of the childrens' choice.

Shodo - the art of Japanese calligraphy is really wonderful! I hope to learn it some day.


Gobinda Kundu said...

Thanks for information about calliography...& pictures are also nice...

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Gobinda for your comment. I like Japanese calligraphy a lot and hope to learn the basics.

Ashish said...

have you learnt anything on Japanese calligraphy till now. Happy new year 2012

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Ashish. I wish to be good at calligraphy but it is still in very basic stages. My handwriting is not good and it affects the way I write the characters.