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Calligraphy: How Japanese Symbols Can Be Artistic

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Japanese > Why Japanese Calligraphy Is an Art Form

Learning the Japanese language is not just about reading and writing Japanese, it’s much more than that…

During your Japanese calligraphy classes, in addition to learning the Japanese language, your tutor will teach you:

  • self-control,
  • respect for writing,
  • and, obviously, Japanese language.

In Japan, calligraphy is considered Art, and direct access to Japanese culture–just like painting, sculpture, or dance.

Calligraphy is used to scribe the Japanese writing system which contains logographic kanji and syllabic kana. Kana is turn contains hiragana (used for native Japanese words and grammar) and katakana (used for foreign words and names). Kanji characters, and to a lesser extent hiragana and katakana, have their roots in Chinese characters.

Because of this unusual writing system, at first glance, learning Japanese can seem insurmountable with its signs, symbols. and artistic techniques.

If you learn to speak Japanese with a tutor, it will allow you to discover all the values and methods of this ancestral art form…

You will sometimes hear the following:

  • “Japanese pronunciation is difficult,”
  • “To write Japanese is almost impossible,”
  • “Japanese vocabulary is incomprehensible,”
  • “Japanese politeness rules are very hard to follow…”

But Superprof is here to help you!

adult-hobby Calligraphy (shodo: “the way of writing”) is the art of writing beautifully. Most children learn calligraphy in elementary school. It is also a popular hobby among adults.

Calligraphy is just one example of the close ties between Japanese culture and the language, but it is an example that perfectly encapsulates the relationship. It is a relationship that the Japanese people are very proud of, and it largely dates back to the Nara period (710-784). During this period, Tokyo wasn’t the capital city, Buddhism was heavily developed, and Chinese was intensely studied.

This period saw both cultural and linguistic developments happening in tandem and at a quick pace. The writing systems in Japanese today were either developed, or influenced during this time and therefore the artwork that we see today in the form of calligraphy, also has links back to the Nara period.

In addition to informing you through this article, our site will put you in touch with dozens of  tutor profiles who can teach you Japanese calligraphy, and you will learn the beautiful language of Mishima…

The First Traces of Japanese Calligraphy Font

Japanese characters are a form of communication as well as an art form Japanese writing is a lifestyle that is passed on from generation to generation.

In Japanese, when you learn the language you learn more than just signs and letters:

  • the gift of self through calligraphy,
  • all the richness, depth, and complexity of the Japanese culture.

Japanese calligraphy even has a name, Shodo, which means “the way of writing.”

It has allowed the Japanese language to be exported around the globe, and it is just one example of what Japan has given to the world.

And to stay on this highly important topic, you should know that the tradition of calligraphy was invented and developed in China centuries ago, alongside a form of Chinese painting called Ink Wash Painting (sumi-e in Japanese), an East Asian type of brush painting using black ink.

It heavily influenced Japanese calligraphy, particular during the Chinese Tang dynasty, before the full development of hiragana and katakana, and the traditions associated with the script, such as the scroll, inks, and strokes used, can still sometimes be seen to this day.

After it was exported to Japan around 710, Japanese calligraphy started to diverge with the development of its own writing systems. Subsequently, the practice of Japanese calligraphy spread among the scholars of the imperial court.

From the 10th century, at the heart of the Heian era (794-1185), Japanese calligraphers began to invent Japanese styles based on Chinese calligraphy.

The Rules of Japanese Calligraphy

The calligrapher traces his or her work in one go, and does not make any changes to the calligraphy after.

It is the art of writing characters (kanji or kana) with a calligraphic brush and black ink.

Nowadays, calligraphy is still very popular in Japan, and people start it from an early age.

Japanese calligraphy and the Japanese language are also an art in their own right. The tools you must have during your lessons to practice the art of Shodô are called “the 4 treasures of the scholar.

In addition to the calligraphy instruments, one must also know the rules of character tracing as well as the position of the body.

Here is a little technical advice you can apply when you learn Japanese online. When you write, stand upright and press your left hand on the paper!

Since the characters (kanji and kana) are meant to be written with the right hand, you have to use the right hand to write them.

Even today, the Japanese write with a brush and ink during important family ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals.

Aesthetics, Emotions, and the Discipline of Japanese Calligraphy

Japanese calligraphy is often associated with bringing peace to the body Learning Japanese calligraphy can be hard but it promotes mental wellbeing.

Taught in all Japanese schools, but also during Japanese lessons, Shodô is more of a discipline than a simple artistic writing technique…

You should practice Japanese calligraphy and learn Japanese in order to acquire:

  • a surrender of oneself,
  • breath control,
  • a fusion with nature.

This aesthetic practice is nourished by the Zen philosophy. The Zen influence is ubiquitous when learning Japanese. Self-control is a key idea in Japanese calligraphy and Japanese learning.

A Japanese tutor who teaches calligraphy will teach his or her student the values of high spirituality and deliverance from passion.

These are the values that are conveyed when you learn the Japanese language in your Japanese classes!

In order to master this cursive script, you need to know what you are writing! Therefore you should also discover Japanese grammar and syntax in order to help you learn Japanese calligraphy.

Does Practicing Japanese Calligraphy Make you Zen?

Japanese calligraphy has calming properties Japanese calligraphy allows you to relax.

Those who know Japan know that the Land of the Rising Sun is master of the art of Zen …

From meditation to martial arts, Japan is full of incredible customs and zen habits. For this reason it is quite possible to feel a certain feeling of well-being and completeness after your first classes with your Japanese tutor.

Learning Japanese for beginners requires practising the gestures so that they become one with the chosen character.

A little more than “patience,” the first virtue of calligraphy and the Japanese language is to learn how to “adapt one’s speed.”

Here is an advantage though. With practice you can visualize your mood with each stroke on the white sheet during your calligraphic exercises in your Japanese language course.

If you have a lot of experience, you can deduct if there is tension in your painting of the stresses that live in you.

You can execute a nervous or false gesture, be too restrained or go too far, but what matters is to be aware of your state of mind.

Calligraphy reveals the hidden psychic energies of a person…

Asking yourself “where and how to find Japanese lessons near me?” Never fear, Superprof has you covered. You can learn to speak Japanese, take calligraphy lessons or practice your reading all over the UK. From Japanese lessons London to Britsol, Manchester and Belfast.

What Are the Differences Between Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Calligraphy?

Japanese calligraphy has its roots in the Chinese version There are tips and tricks to differentiate Japanese calligraphy from Chinese calligraphy.

Many English speakers seem a bit lost when it comes to distinguishing between Chinese, Korean, and Japanese calligraphy.

This is quite normal as these 3 cultures are not exactly ones we know well…

But it’s easier than you might think at first!

Without going into the technical considerations, there are some “tips and tricks” that your teacher can teach you during your Japanese lessons.

Let’s take a basic sentence like “I like vanilla.”

In Korean, this sentence translates as: 난 바닐라 좋아. The characters have few features, and consist mainly of squares and circles that are superimposed in a plethora of ways, giving the whole character a very “straight” looking aspect.

There is an exception here. The 5th character has a more complex aspect. What is the reason for this? It is because a large part of the lexicon outside the ordinary language is of Chinese origin.

Modern Korean and Chinese writings have adopted the Western reading method in most media – that is from left to right and from top to bottom – while modern Japanese is now read from right to left and from top to bottom.

In Japanese, this same sentence is written: 私 は バ ニ ラ の よ う. Here the characters are mainly composed of one to two lines with a very fluid appearance. Therefore the handwriting has a more curved feel than the linear and angular Korean calligraphy.

Here there is another exception: the 1st character. Many words are derived from the Chinese language. They are called kanjis, as opposed to kanas, the other characters mentioned above.

In Chinese, the sentence reads as 我 喜欢 香草. The sinograms are visibly more complex and have a very square appearance.

They represent ideas (so-called ideograms), unlike the Japanese and Korean characters that mainly transcribe sounds (called phonograms).

Your Japanese teacher will teach you other differences between these three calligraphies during your classes.

An important thing to understand and to learn is that this art is as complex as it is refined …

Discover how the Japanese language has spread thanks to its culture …

Shodo, or calligraphy, is the art of writing Chinese characters (known as kanji) as well as the two Japanese syllabaries (known as kana) using brushes, ink, and paper . Shodo was introduced for the first time in Japan from China in the 6th or 7th century.

Since writing was once the only way to keep records, Shodo was an essential skill.

Nowadays, people do not use Shodo for practical purposes, but it remains an important part of the Japanese culture.

Japanese calligraphy is a part of the fabric of Japanese culture Japanese calligraphy (書 道 Shodō) is a form of calligraphy or artistic writing that is part of the Japanese language.

People use Shodo on several ceremonial occasions, including writing New Year greeting cards. There are a number of places where you can try Japanese calligraphy.

It may sound complicated, but if you’re trying to work with simple characters, you’ll find it easier than you think.

Here is What You Need for Japanese Calligraphy Art:

  • Shitajiki: Black and soft carpet. It provides a comfortable and soft surface.
  • Bunchin: To put metal on paper while writing.
  • Hanshi: Special and thin calligraphy paper.
  • Fude: Brush. There is a bigger brush to write the main characters and a smaller one to write the name of the artist. The little brush, however, can also be used for characters.
  • Suzuri: Heavy black container for ink.
  • Sumi: Solid black material that must be rubbed into water in the suzuri to produce the black ink that is then used for writing. Of course, “instant ink” bottles are also available.

Learn Japanese to Excel in Japanese Lettering

As we mentioned before, writing in Japanese requires you to learn the language. There are many different ways to go about doing this.

Taking Japanese lessons, learning the Japanese alphabet, its vocabulary, its grammar, and its different pronunciation are all enriching activities.

Perhaps the best way to go about this is to take an immersive approach to learning Japanese. If you can then move to Japan, but if not, make sure that you get as much exposure to the Japanese language as you can. You can listen to Japanese music, watch Japanese films, and read Japanese newspapers and books when you reach a more advanced level.

Language schools across the world are multiplying their Japanese courses, because the Japanese language is more and more sought after in the professional world.

Some cultural Institutions even offer Japanese calligraphy classes. If you are looking for a calligraphy class, look for the following aspects:

 

  • the history of Japanese writing of Chinese origin (also discover the history of the Japanese language)
  • the evolution of Chinese writing,
  • pictograms and ideograms,
  • the different writing styles,
  • postures and ways to hold the brush.

 

What about contacting a tutor on the Superprof site? You will find many private tutor profiles with individuals teaching Japanese calligraphy.

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