Calligraphy 書道 (Shodō)

I started practicing calligraphy when I first went to Japan in 1996. I can’t say that I ever developed much skill in the art, but I sure do enjoy it. This page has a few samples of things I’ve done over the years.

calligraphy

At Play in the Year of the Sheep 羊遊 (Hitsuji asobu)

This was a two-character piece I wrote in 2105, but this time I wrote in “seal style” 篆書 (tensho). From right to left it is read as “yō-yū” or “hitsuji aso-bu”: sheep (羊) and play (遊). It means “sheep at play” or, because this is the year of the sheep, it could be read to mean that we are at play this year.

Sounds of Autumn 秋声 (Aki no koe)

This calligraphy from 2015 consists of two main characters written in the “scribe style” 隷書 (reisho) and read from right to left as “shū-sei” or “aki no koe”: autumn (秋) and voice/sound (声). I had in mind the lonely sounds of autumn like the crisp wind blowing against the shutters or the leaves rustling. In medieval poetry, the phrase was used to express a subtle and profound elegance called yūgen, a concept I’ve been fond of since being introduced to it as an undergraduate by one of my professors, Andrew Tsubaki (see his article on Zeami for more about yūgen).

Every day is a good day 日々是好日 (Hibi kore kôjitsu)

This is written in seal script 篆書 (tensho), and the passage was taken from a Buddhist text called the Blue Cliff Record 碧巌録 (Hekiganroku). I originally wrote this in 1998(?), but this picture was taken when it was on display at an exhibition of art by staff and faculty from Takada Gakuen 高田学苑 in Tsu City 津市, Mie Prefecture 三重県 in 2000.

Elegant play 雅遊 (Gayû) 1

This piece is written in seal script. I was studying Japanese with a friend in the Matsusaka City 松阪市 library one day in 1998(?) when I came across this expression. Neither of us are elegant in any sense of the word, but because both of us were interested in Japanese culture and tended to spend our freetime doing “elegant” activities like calligraphy and martial arts, I thought it fit us well.

I also chose it because it has a connection to my calligraphy teacher, who is like a father to me. The character ga 雅 is the first one in his personal name, and 遊 is one that he includes in a lot of his works. This picture was taken when it was on display at an annual exhibition in Shingû 新宮, Wakayama Prefecture 和歌山県. It is currently on display at my friend’s house in Japan.

Elegant play 雅遊 (Gayû) 2

This piece of calligraphy is exactly the same as the one above (#1), but it is written in clerical script 隷書 (reisho). It is currently on permanent display in a friend’s house.

曹全碑 (Sôzenpi)

This is written in clerical script 隷書 (reisho), and the title for the piece refers to this type of writing from the Chinese Han dynasty. This piece was chosen after many months of working through a wonderful calligraphy text (書道技法講座 2:曹全碑[隷書/後漢]) written by my teacher’s teacher, Aoyama Sanu 青山杉雨. I think I wrote this sometime in 1999, but the picture was taken when it was on display at the school festival in 2001(?) at Takada Gakuen.

Snake 蛇 (Hebi)

The large character is written in seal script, and the characters on the right are written in clerical script. I wrote this on my New Year’s cards for 2001, the year of the snake.

Horse 馬 (Uma)

This is written in seal script, and it is the character I wrote on my New Year’s cards for 2002, the year of the horse.

Goraikô 御来光

This is written in seal script. Goraikou is a sunrise, especially one seen from the top of a high mountain. This picture was taken when it was on display at an exhibition of art by staff and faculty from Takada Gakuen in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture in 2002.

Sheep 羊 (Hitsuji)

This is written in seal script, and it is the character I wrote on my New Year’s cards for 2003, the year of the sheep.

Monkey 猿 (Saru)

This is written in seal script, and it is the character I wrote on my New Year’s cards for 2004, the year of the monkey. The character for monkey has special significance for me, because the character for “big monkey” was the first one that got me interested in practicing the seal script, and it is also the first character I ever looked up in the Morohashi Character Dictionary 諸橋大漢和辞典.