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Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy, Learn the Wisdom of Zen Through Traditional Brush Painting

Hardcover - 11 March 2014
Sato, Shozo (Author)
Roshi, Gengo Akiba (Foreword by)
Sato, Alice Ogura (Translator)
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In this beautiful and extraordinary zen calligraphy book, Shozo Sato, an internationally recognized master of traditional Zen arts, teaches the art of Japanese 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 calligraphy 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 explains the necessary supplies and fundamental brushstroke skills that you'll need. He goes on to present thirty zengo, each featuring:

  • An example by a skilled Zen monk or master calligrapher
  • An explanation of the individual characters and the Zen koan as a whole
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to paint the phrase in a number of styles (Kaisho, Gyosho, Sosho)
A stunning volume on the intersection of Japanese aesthetics and Zen Buddhist thought, Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy guides both beginning and advanced students to a deeper understanding of the unique brush painting art form of shodo calligraphy.

Shodo calligraphy topics include:

  • The Art of Kanji
  • The Four Treasures of Shodo
  • Ideogram Zengo
  • Students of Shodo

Customer Reviews

5 customer reviews Between 4−5 stars rating, 11 September 2014
By: Deborah Clearwaters, Director of Education and Interpretation

When complimented by an understanding of the literal, poetic, and philosophical meaning of the words, looking at Japanese calligraphy can be an exciting aesthetic and intellectual experience. It is with this goal in mind, of unlocking meaning and relevance to the non-Japanese speaker, that Shozo Sato presents his latest publication Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy. Sato does this by focusing on the practice of writing characters combined with a discussion of the meaning of 31 Zen phrases.(…) His inclusion of art by his students is meant to inspire us "to pick up a brush without embarrassment and to enjoy the creative process." This spirit of embracing... See More

the "beginner's mind" and celebrating earnest, if imperfect endeavor, can be found in the practice of Zen, Tea, and Shodo, living arts mastered by Sato, here effortlessly combined to give the non-specialist an entry point into their enduring power.

5 customer reviews Between 4−5 stars rating, 11 September 2014
By: Lee Gurga, Editor, Modern Haiku Press

An extraordinary book! Art and wisdom poised on the tip of a brush.

5 customer reviews Between 4−5 stars rating, 11 September 2014
By: Christy A. Bartlett, Director, Urasenke Foundation San Francisco

This book is a gift for the mind and the eyes. Thoughtful commentary provokes an ongoing consideration of the meanings of the Zen phrases, while the brilliant inclusion of calligraphic how-to educates the eyes on how to follow the lines of ink in the original free-flowing gestures of the brush. I know I will return to this book again and again.

5 customer reviews Between 4−5 stars rating, 11 September 2014
By: Janice Katz, Ph. D., Roger L.Weston

More than a primer on shodo, this book gives a thorough discussion of the practice of calligraphy as well as insight into the mindset and understanding required for writing zengo. Therefore, it should be seen as fitting into a long line of excellent publications that bring the often baffling teachings of Zen to a wide English-speaking audience.

5 customer reviews Between 4−5 stars rating, 11 September 2014
By: iromegane

This book SHODO – The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy - can be enjoyed in two ways. One is to start and to practice Calligraphy and two is as an introduction to Zen philosophy. Oh, and for those who are interested in both.

The author, Shozo Sato is a master of traditional Zen arts, and has received the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan for his contributions in teaching Japanese traditions. He is also specialised in ikebana (生け花), sado (茶道), Japanese theatre as well as sumi-e (墨絵).  

 Calligrapher is my another profession. I started reading this book as a part of my calligraphy practice. It explains the... See More

history of Kanji (漢字) and how Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ) have developed from Kanji. Kanji means "word from China" because it came from China. It was during the Han dynasty (207 BCE – 220 CE). Han in Chinese is written as 漢 and this character was applied to a Japanese sound, Kan and therefore it´s Kanji. Kanji spread all East Asia. Even Korea was using Kanji until 1443 until they switched to Hangeul. 

 The book tells you all the basics to start calligraphy as the introduction. Each Kanji used for examples is explained with the idiogram, meanings and the stroke order. In this way, all the Zengo (禅語 /Zen words) are analysed.

It also teaches you all three types of writing, Kaisho (楷書/printed style), Gyosho (行書/semicursive) and Sosho (草書/cursive or grass style). The images above are a kanji, Mu (無/nothingness) in three different writing. Technically talking, it´s good to practice the same character in all three styles to understand how to simplify a Kanji. This is what I like about this book.

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