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Brushing Zen at online Shodo

27 June 2020

Brushing Zen
The history of the styles of zen and chan, and the meanings within the kanji, brushed by Blair

At our recent Zen Brush shodo group – our first online 🙂 – we enjoyed brushing the character 禅 Zen in four very different styles, which were developed over centuries. It was really intriguing to explore the meanings of the different parts of the kanji character and how this can be understood with the reading of it as zen and the connections with awareness, coming partly from the translation of dhyana.

Brushing Zen
A participant’s meditative setup with Buddha and incense, and laptop for Zooming
Brushing Zen
Brushing Zen
One of the participants has combined the four styles of Zen with inkan hanko stamp of Zen (carved at the March Japanese garden group) a lovely setup with a variety of brushes, a nice dark smooth stone as bunchin paperweight, and photobombed by Pooka!

After some loose marks and practice of horizontal and vertical strokes, we worked with kaisho style first, before going on to the sosho. We were inspired by the Chinese calligrapher Chiei with both these styles. He wrote these in his 千字文 Senjimon or Qiānzì Wén- Thousand Character Classic – a beautiful work.

Brushing Zen
The stroke order of the kaisho which Blair brushed – based on Chiei
Brushing Zen
Zen Brush participant has nicely added his name to his piece, and stamped one too 🙂

Then we had some fun with the wider reisho and the taller more linear tensho , both fascinating styles to brush, which use a different technique from the previous two styles. 

Brushing Zen
Four styles in a single sheet of paper by one of the group

Some of us had large fude brushes and liquid ink, and some of us used smaller brushes or fudepen or brushpens, or solid ink, but we all had enough materials and time to appreciate the kanji and each stroke.

Brushing Zen
Enso zen circle by Blair

We talked a bit about how to practice shodo calligraphy to get a feel for the kanji zen, and also how to work on it more meditatively. Also we discussed how and where to write our name on the paper. So we covered a fair bit in this group, and had some fun too!

Inspiring video by participant Alan
Blair writing Zen in the old Tensho, which was originally carved
Blair showing the fun contrast of method of two styles

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