Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Shodō: The Art of Writing Beautifully

Photo: Wikipedia

Shodō 書道 or Japanese calligraphy is a typically Japanese pastime in that it requires poise, posture and concentration. Shodō is taught to school children and is a popular hobby for adults. In order to write beautiful kanji or kana you should sit up straight, delicately hold your brush in a vertical position and clear your mind. The zen-like concentration, attention to detail and that shodō requires are the same as is found in other traditional pastimes like chadō 茶道 (tea ceremony) and ikebana 生け花 (flower arranging).

The kanji that make up the the word shodō are 書 which means 'writing'. It is commonly used as the verb kakimasu 書きます meaning 'to write' or makes up part of shoten 書店 which means 'bookshop'. The second kanji 道 has several meanings but in this context means 'teachings' or 'the way'. It is seen in the names of many traditional Japanese hobbies and pastimes such as kendō 剣道 'the way of the sword' and flower arranging is sometimes called kadō 花道 'the way of flowers'.

My first attempts at shodō.
Photo: Itsumo Japan

Today I learnt a little bit about shodō from a Japanese friend and practiced writing a few words. It was my first time trying Japanese calligraphy and although I found it difficult to concentrate on not only the kanji that I was writing but also the stroke order, how to write each line beautifully and whether or not I was holding the brush properly I really enjoyed it. I can understand why it is a popular hobby. The need for concentration and tranquility is very relaxing, I think it's a great way to making learning new kanji more fun too.


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