日本語 English Русский

本文へジャンプ

I created this site in the hope that people from all over the world will learn
about Shodo (Japanese calligraphy)

The History of Shodo (Japanese Calligraphy) and the styles


China
Characters carved into tortoise shell or animal bones (Kokotsu characters) appeared around 3,500 years ago and following this characters carved into bronze ware (Kinbun characters) and characters carved into stone (Sekkobun characters) appeared. It is said that writing characters using a writing brush and ink as we do in modern Shodo began around 2,000 years ago (some historians dispute this). Furthermore, calligraphic style (the form of Kanji) has changed over the passage of time and can mainly be categorized into 5 different styles. 

5 Calligraphic Styles

Tensho (Characters used on Seals)


There are two types of Tensho: Daiten (large seal script) and Shoten (small seal script). In contrast to the calligraphic style of Daiten used in Sekkobun characters, Shoten characters were used when the unification of characters was conducted in the unification of the State by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty in 221 B.C.

This is still used on seals in Japan.

Reisho (Clerical Script)

 

As Tensho was not practical (efficient), following this, Reisho soon became widespread as a style that was quick and efficient to write.

A feature of Reisho is the tails of the horizontal strokes called Hataku, the calligraphic style is horizontal as opposed to Tensho and it was written with ink on wood strips (Mokkan) or bamboo strips (Chikkan). There were also improvements in writing brushes making it possible to represent Hataku.

This is still used on banknotes in Japan

Kaisho (Block Style)

Kaisho is a simplified version of Reisho. This is a calligraphic style in which dots and lines do not run into each other with each dot and line clearly defined and it is currently the most commonly used style.

Gyosho (Running Script)

Gyosho is based on Kaisho with some dots and lines written without pause. For this reason, it became possible to write quickly. This is a calligraphic style between Kaisho and Sosho (cursive script).

Sosho (Cursive Script)

Sosho was born of Reisho in the same way as Kaisho and, as there were less strokes than the previous Reisho, it became easy to write quickly. This is a difficult calligraphic style for ordinary people to read nowadays because there are more abbreviations than Gyosho.


Japan

With the importation of Kanji and then the importation of Buddhism in 538, Shakyo (copying of sutras) flourished. Further, in 610, formulae for paper and ink were also introduced from China and Shodo also began to flourish in Japan. Emperor Saga, Kukai and Tachibananohayanari were famous as the 3 outstanding calligraphers called the Sanpitsu in 8th – 9th centuries and they wrote Kanji works that imitated Chinese calligraphy. Following this, a Japan-specific style of  calligraphy was created with the appearance of Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) and Ononotofu, Fujiwaranosari and Fujiwaranoyukinari were known as the Sanseki calligraphers in the 10 – 11th centuries. Great advances, which are still visible today, were made in Shodo in Japan through their efforts.

Nowadays, Shodo can divided into three types: Kanji that came from China, Japan-specific Kana and Mixed Kanji-Kana.

 



   to the top of page
Hataku