Japanese Calligraphy is based upon Chinese calligraphy, but has a long and distinct history and style of its own.

History of Japanese calligraphy (日本書道史) have been heavily influenced by Chinese calligraphy. For a long time, most esteemed calligrapher in Japan had been Wang Xizhi, Chinese calligrapher in 4th century. After the invention of Kana and Katakana, Japanese unique syllables, calligraphers developed intrinsic styles to Japan.

Japanese Calligraphy - Before Nara period

The oldest existing calligraphic text in Japan is the inscription on the halo of the Bhaisajyaguru statue in Hōryū-ji Temple. This Chinese test was written in Shakeitai (写経体) style, famed in Six Dynasties. There are also bibliographic notes for the Lotus Sutra in same temple. This Hokkegisho (法華義疏) have been said to be written by prince Shōtoku in 615, but some scholars criticised this assertion.

Broken Stone in Uji Bridge(宇治橋断碑) and Stone in Nasu County (那須国造碑) are also typical examples in this time. Both of inscription were influenced by Northern Wei robust style.

In 7th century Tang Dynasty established hegemony in China. Their second Emperor Taizong esteemed Wang Xizhi's calligraphic text and this popularity influenced Japanese calligraphers. All of the original texts written by Wang Xizhi did lost, and some copies such as Gakkiron written by the Empress Komyo regard ed as important sources to know Wang Xizhi's style.

Soukou Shujitsu is the first text which shows Japanese unique calligraphic style. This Tanka text was written in 749 and shows some difference from Chinese calligraphy.

Japanese Calligraphy - Heian period

Emperor Kammu moved the capital from Heijō-kyō in Nara, first to Nagaoka-kyō in 784, and then to Heian-kyō, Kyoto in 794. This marks the beginning of the Heian era. Chinese influences in calligraphy was not changed in the early period. For example, under the Emperor Saga's reign royalty, the aristocracy and even court ladies studied copying Chinese poetry texts in artistic style.

Wang Xizhi's influences remained dominant, which are shown in calligraphies written by Kukai or Saichō. Some other Chinese calligraphers, such as Ouyang Xun and Yan Zhenqing were also became highly evaluated. Most notable admirers for each one were Emperor Saga and Tachibana no Hayanari.

At the same time Japanese unique calligraphic style was emerging. Kukai said to Emperor Saga "China is large country and Japan is relatively mall, so I suggest to write in the different way.". Cry for noble Saichō (哭最澄上人), which was written by Emperor Saga for Saichō's death, was one of the example for such a transformation.

Modern Japanese Calligraphy

Calligraphy was adopted as one of the subject in elementary school of Japanese mandatory education system. In highschool, calligraphy is one of the alternative among art subjects, with music or painting. Some universities such as University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Gakugei University and Fukuoka Kyoiku University have the branch of calligraphic study and emphasize teacher-training programs with calligraphy.

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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