Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy

In this beautiful and extraordinary book, Shozo Sato, an internationally recognized master of traditional Zen arts, teaches the Japanese art of calligraphy through the power and wisdom of Zen poetry. Single-line Zen Buddhist koan aphorisms or zengo are one of the most common subjects for the traditional Japanese brush calligraphy known as shodo. Regarded as one of the key disciplines in fostering the focused, meditative state of mind so essential to Zen, shodo is practiced regularly by all students of Zen Buddhism in Japan. After providing a brief history of Japanese calligraphy and its close relationship with the teachings of Zen Buddhism, Sato explicates the basic supplies and fundamental brushstroke skills that you’ll need. -
Year of Publication
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Tuttle Publishing
North Clarendon, VT
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Average: 5 (1 vote)


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Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy

Field of Interest/Specialty: China, Japan. Literature, History, Culture.
Posted On: 11/10/2014

This exquisite book offers the reader a glimpse into the deep and tranquil art of Japanese Calligraphy. Sato provides a short and succinct history of Calligraphy in Japan along with a brief summary of Japanese writing styles. The majority of the book is comprised of short lessons on the art of calligraphy accompanied by one or two pages of philosophy and history. Readers will learn the basics of holding the brush (fude), the composition and us of ink (sumi), a brief description of paper (washi), and the use of seals and stamps (inkani & shuniku). The chapters, or lesson, build progressively through one, two, three, four, five, seven and eight ideogram technique (that’s correct, there is no six ideogram zengo). Each section is easy to understand and the technique illustrated through instructive illustrations.
The book is attractive and instructional although some background knowledge of Zen Buddhism and Calligraphy would help prior to tackling this work. The purpose of the book is also unclear. I am not sure if it is intended as a how-to book for calligraphers or as a treatise on the impact of Zen philosophy on Japanese art. Unfortunately, in trying to be both, it falls short of being either. If used as a culminating activity for a unit on Japanese philosophy and culture, it would be very impactful. Students could reflect on there on experience while practicing Shodo and perhaps compare to reflections of earlier practitioners. I would like to see this used in an AP Art class as part of a lesson on art critique. What does the style tell us about the artist?
A great book for the intermediate or advanced level student in an AP Art, AP World History, or Asian Studies course. I wouldn’t put it in the hands of younger children.